BROWNE, James (1793-1854), of Claremont House, co. Mayo
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Family and Educationb. 15 June 1793, 1st s. of Hon. Denis Browne* of Claremorris, co. Mayo. and Anne, da. of Ross Mahon of Castlegar, co. Galway; bro. of John Denis Browne* and Peter Browne*. educ. Eton 1808; Trinity, Dublin 1811; Jesus, Camb. 1813. m. (1) 21 Oct. 1820, Eleanor Catherine (d. 1823), da. of John Wells*, s.p.; (2) 17 Mar. 1825, Elizabeth, da. of John Puget, banker, of Totteridge, Herts., 1s. 3da. suc. fa. 1828. d. 23 Dec. 1854.
Commr. fisheries [I] 1822-4.
Trustee, linen board [I] 1827.
Browne, whose large family dominated the politics of county Mayo, continued to sit for the seat vacated there by his father in 1818 with the support of his cousin the 2nd marquess of Sligo. At the 1820 general election he was returned unopposed.1 His father boasted to Lord Liverpool, the premier, in March 1821 that Browne had ‘attended every night without fail of any one occasion supporting the government’, but he was not the most assiduous of attenders and rarely spoke.2 He voted against an opposition call for economy and retrenchment, 4 July 1820. He was chosen to second the address, 23 Jan. 1821, when he condemned the supporters of Queen Caroline, who had ‘introduced the new and odious doctrine, that the same licence should be allowed to female conduct which the established usages of society had given to men’, and observed that ‘national debauchery and national ruin went hand in hand’. ‘The seconding’, noted the Tory Henry Bankes, ‘was a complete failure’.3 ‘Nothing could be so wretched’ observed the Grenvillite William Fremantle.4 On 31 Jan. Browne contrasted the ‘late and virtuous Queen Charlotte’ with ‘one who, to say no more, was suspected of not being quite so good’ and suggested that Caroline’s allowance was ‘greater than necessary for her expenses’; he voted in defence of minister’s conduct towards her, 6 Feb. He voted for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 10 May 1825. He divided against revenue cuts, 6 Mar., and repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. 1821, but was in the minority of 24 for Lethbridge’s resolutions blaming agricultural distress on the resumption of cash payments and lack of protection, 8 May, and divided for Newport’s amendment to the tithes bill, 19 June 1822. He voted against parliamentary reform, 20 Feb., reform of the Scottish representation, 2 June, and inquiry into chancery delays, 5 June, but in the minority against the Irish tithes bill, 16 June 1823. He was added to the select committee on the employment of the Irish poor, 23 June 1823. He voted against the abolition of flogging in the army, 5 Mar., for repeal of the usury laws, 8 Apr., and against condemning the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith for inciting slave riots in Demerara, 11 June 1824. He presented a Mayo petition against repeal of the linen duties, 4 May.5 He was appointed to the select committees on the Irish Insurrection Act, 11 May 1824, the state of Ireland, 17 Feb., and the Irish linen trade, 14 Apr. 1825. In February 1825 a correspondent complained to Daniel O’Connell* that Browne and his father had absented themselves from Mayo while the Catholic Association got up a petition.6 He divided for suppression of the Association, 15, 25 Feb., but against the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr., 9 May 1825. He prematurely testified to the respectability of what he thought was a Mayo petition for Catholic claims presented by his colleague Dominick Browne, and after some laughter and the presentation of the correct petition, he spoke in its support, 19 Apr.7 He presented a Mayo petition against alteration of the corn laws, 28 Apr.8 On 9 June 1825 he applied to Peel, the home secretary, for promotion in the army for one Major Fitzgerald and was told that his case was already under consideration.9 He declined to attend the Association dinner for the ‘friends of civil and religious liberty’, 2 Feb. 1826.10
At the 1826 general election he stood again, defending the conduct of his family, against whom an independent opposition had been started. (The Catholic press observed that Browne himself was ‘not disliked’ and that the ‘whole enmity’ was against his father.) Following the withdrawal of his colleague at the last minute he was returned unopposed. After the declaration a fatal affray broke out, and ‘in his exertions to save himself’ Browne drove his carriage ‘over friends and foes’, including a clergyman, ‘who very nearly paid the forfeit of his life’.11 In November 1826 he applied unsuccessfully to Peel for a peerage for his father.12 On 7 Dec. 1826 he gave notice that after Christmas he would introduce a bill to amend the Irish election laws, but he did not do so.13 On considering him for appointment to the Berwick election committee that month, Huskisson, president of the board of trade, observed:
Browne is an excellent nominee, but he is gouty and indolent. I have had occasion to press him more than once, but for years he has uniformly refused. He is therefore not to be depended on, though I will ask him.14
He voted for Catholic claims, 6 Mar., and with Canning’s ministry against the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May 1827. He was appointed to the select committee on Irish grand juries, 6 June. On 20 June 1827 he described the physical assault he had suffered at the last election and moved unsuccessfully for a copy of the inquiry into the conduct of the police and the murder.15 He secured returns on the circulation of Irish bank notes, 13 Feb. 1828. He voted for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., presented petitions for Catholic relief, 4 Mar., 2 May, and voted thus, 12 May. He endorsed a petition for an extension of a canal in southern Ireland which would give employment to ‘the suffering population’, 4 Mar. In April he unsuccessfully defended a libel charge in king’s bench brought against him by Sir William Brabazon, former sheriff of county Mayo, whom he had accused of being a party to murder at the late election by his failure to take sufficient steps to preserve the peace.16 In September 1828, shortly after succeeding his father as head of the family, he attended a provincial meeting of the Connaught friends of civil and religious liberty.17 Presenting evidence of the fraudulent state of the Irish 40s. freeholder franchise next month, Henry Phillpotts, dean of Chester, reported to the duke of Wellington, the premier, that Browne had told him he was ‘convinced the great majority of Irish voters have not an honest right to vote’.18 Browne presented Mayo petitions for Catholic emancipation, 18, 23 Feb., when he welcomed the ‘prospect of peace and reciprocal good will’ which would ensue, 23 Mar., and voted accordingly, 6, 30 Mar. 1829. On 7 Apr. Leveson Gower, the Irish secretary, endorsed a patronage application from Browne to Archdeacon Singleton, citing his family’s support for government for over 40 years.19 He voted to allow O’Connell to take his seat unhindered, 18 May 1829. He was granted a month’s leave to attend the assizes, 8 Mar. 1830. He divided for Jewish emancipation, 17 May, and abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 24 May, 7 June. He was in the minorities for reform of the divorce laws, 3 June, and reduction of the grant for South American missions, 7 June 1830, and next month it was reported to James Abercromby* that Lord Strangford had declared that Peter Browne, secretary of the legation at Copenhagen, was ‘to be got out of the way in consequence of the parliamentary misbehaviour of his brother; if true c’est une peu fort’.20
At the 1830 general election Browne offered again, denying rumours of a coalition between him and another candidate. After a five-day contest he was returned at the head of the poll.21 He was listed by ministers among the ‘bad doubtfuls’ and he voted against them on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. On the 23rd he presented and endorsed a petition for the abolition of slavery, which was ‘contrary to law and to the spirit of Christianity’. He brought up a Mayo petition in support of the fishery bounties, 6 Dec. 1830. He divided for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing dissolution he unexpectedly made way for his younger brother John, as he was unwilling to pledge himself to ‘all parts of the reform bill’. The local press, however, commented that he was ‘never very solicitous to obtain the important trust he had relinquished’, having an ‘aversion to the more active sphere’ and being ‘fond of retirement and anxious to improve the condition of his tenantry’.22 Browne died at Boulogne in December 1854.23 He was succeeded by his son John Denis Howe Browne.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Philip Salmon
- 1. Dublin Evening Post, 28 Mar. 1820.
- 2. Add. 38289, f. 99; Black Bk. (1823), 142; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 453.
- 3. Dorset RO, Bankes mss D/BKL, Bankes jnl. 122.
- 4. Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 112.
- 5. The Times, 5 May 1824.
- 6. O’Connell Corresp. iii. 1162.
- 7. The Times, 20 Apr. 1825.
- 8. Ibid. 29 Apr. 1825.
- 9. Add. 40379, ff. 103-5.
- 10. O’Connell Corresp. iii. 1278.
- 11. Dublin Evening Post, 6, 10, 27 June 1826.
- 12. Add. 40390, ff. 110-12.
- 13. The Times, 8 Dec. 1826.
- 14. Add. 38748, f. 208.
- 15. The Times, 21 June 1827.
- 16. Ibid. 24 Apr., 7 June 1828.
- 17. Dublin Evening Post, 30 Sept. 1828.
- 18. Wellington mss WP1/981/14.
- 19. NAI, Leveson Gower letterbks. M. 736.
- 20. NLS mss 24726, f. 4.
- 21. Dublin Evening Post, 17, 29 July, 17 Aug. 1830.
- 22. Mayo Constitution, 2, 5 May 1831.
- 23. Gent. Mag. (1855), i. 221.