BROWNE, Peter (1794-1872), of Mount Browne, co. Mayo

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Constituency

Dates

1818 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 1794, 2nd s. of Hon. Denis Browne* (d. 1828) and Anne, da. of Ross Mahon of Castlegar, co. Galway; bro. of James Browne* and John Denis Browne.* educ. Trinity, Dublin 16 Oct. 1812, aged 18. m. 4 July 1822, Catherine Esther, da. of John Puget, banker, of Pointer’s Grove, Totteridge, Herts., 1s. 3da. d. 7 Apr. 1872.

Offices Held

Sec. of legation, Copenhagen 1823-53; chargé d’affaires 11 times during this period.

Biography

In early February 1820 the patron of Rye, the Rev. George Lamb, anticipating the dissolution, was ‘surprised’ at the ‘doubt’ expressed by his London agent whether Browne, ‘or rather [his cousin] Lord S[ligo] for him, would be again desirous of the seat’. It seems that ‘they considered it as an independent seat’ and that this misconception had arisen from the agent’s having given them the impression that both Charles Arbuthnot*, the Liverpool government’s election manager, and Lamb ‘considered Peter as the nominee of the former’. Sligo, for whom Browne’s father had brokered the deal with Lamb, which evidently cost £600 a session plus necessary expenses, was set right on this matter and Browne came in again.1

He continued to give steady though apparently silent support to government.2 He voted against economies in revenue collection, 4 July 1820, and in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. He took the family line by supporting Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821. He divided with government on the revenue, 6 Mar., when he presented a Rye petition complaining of agricultural distress,3 and he mustered to oppose repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. He voted against a reduction in the army estimates, 11 Apr., the disfranchisement of ordnance officials, 12 Apr., parliamentary reform, 9 May, and criminal law reform, 23 May 1821. He divided against more extensive tax reductions, 11, 21 Feb., and abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar. 1822. It is not clear whether it was he or his brother James who voted in the protectionist minority of 24 for a 40s. fixed duty on imported corn, 8 May: over 20 years later he claimed that he had ‘never ceased to desire’ the ‘very extensive modification’ if not repeal of the corn laws.4 He was in the government majorities on the lord advocate’s dealings with the Scottish press, 25 June, and the salt duties, 28 June 1822. He voted against repeal of the house tax, 10 Mar., and of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and inquiry into the Irish government’s proceedings against the Dublin Orange theatre rioters, 24 Mar., 22 Apr. 1823. He voted in defence of the lord advocate, 3 June, and against inquiries into chancery delays, 5 June, and the currency, 12 June. His last recorded vote was against Scottish judicial reform, 20 June 1823.

During the recess the foreign secretary Canning offered him the post of secretary of legation at Copenhagen. According to Browne’s later account, he initially declined it, but finally accepted it ‘in consequence of an understanding that my kind patron would take care of my advancement’. He was chargé d’affaires there from September 1824 to October 1825, and on ten subsequent occasions. He did not give up his seat until the dissolution of 1826. (The episode of a new writ being issued in his room on 7 Apr. of that year but being cancelled three days later was probably part of a dispute between government and Lamb, who was disgruntled at their failure to give him church preferment.) In 1843 Browne unsuccessfully sought promotion in the service from Peel’s second ministry. He tried again early in 1846, when he complained that ‘twenty two years have ... elapsed, during which I have remained at the same post unpromoted’. Nothing was done for him, nor was it when he asked Peel, after his fall from power later in the year, to bring his case to the attention of the Russell government:

You will not be surprised at my anxiety, first because I have naturally become the subject of disagreeable remarks, such as, ‘So long at Copenhagen unpromoted, he must be considered not trustworthy or incapable’; secondly, because in my 53rd year, if I am now to get a move in my profession, it is time for me to obtain it now; and thirdly, because my finances