BRUEN, Henry (1789-1852), of Oak Park, co. Carlow

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



1812 - 1831
1835 - 27 May 1835
19 Aug. 1835 - 1837
5 Dec. 1840 - 5 Nov. 1852

Family and Education

b. 3 Oct. 1789, 1st s. of Henry Bruen, MP [I], of Oak Park and Henrietta Dorothea, da. of Francis Knox of Rappa Castle, co. Mayo. educ. Eton 1805; Christ Church, Oxf. 1808. m. 14 Sept. 1822, Anne Wandesforde, da. of Thomas Kavanagh*, 1s. 3da. suc. fa. 1795. d. 5 Nov. 1852.

Offices Held

Col. Carlow militia 1816; gov. co. Carlow 1816-31.


Bruen, whose father, the Irish secretary Robert Peel noted in 1816, had ‘represented the county of Carlow’, raised and commanded its militia and ‘died when Bruen was a minor’, continued to sit on his family interest and to expect due attention to his patronage requests in return for his support of government.1 Following his unopposed return at the general election of 1820 he was listed by the Liverpool ministry as seeking a handwaitership, a naval lieutenancy, a preferment for one Rev. J. Hardy of Hacketstown, county Carlow, and a post for a friend who had been ‘disappointed’ by Peel in the promise of a Carlow barrackmastership.2 A very lax attender, who is not known to have spoken in debate, ‘his votes and opinions’ were described as being ‘but little known’ by a radical commentary of 1825. (A comment of 1823 that when present he ‘voted with the treasury’ was misleading).3 He was granted ten days’ leave on urgent private business, 26 June 1820. In January 1821 he wrote to Peel’s successor Charles Grant to complain of the ‘studied neglect with which I have been treated on every occasion for the last three or four years’, protesting that while he had

uniformly and steadily supported the measures of government, they who have as uniformly and steadily opposed them have to my certain knowledge received greater attention. This unmerited treatment, although as yet but in a trifling degree, cannot have been unproductive of its natural effects [and] it now remains to decide whether one who is well disposed to be a sincere friend shall be so or otherwise.

In reply, 13 Jan. 1821, Grant conceded that he had been forced to ‘return to your letters occasionally answers not so gratifying as I could personally have wished’, but could not ‘see one of them, which consistently with my sense of duty I could alter’.4 In 1829 the Irish secretary Lord Francis Leveson Gower informed Archdeacon Singleton that he had received a memorial on church preferment from Bruen, ‘who professes never to apply for anything, and who nevertheless does drop into the Irish office as often as most people’.5 Bruen’s only known votes in the 1820 Parliament were with ministers against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. 1821, against them for inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. 1823, and for Catholic relief, 10 May, 21 Apr. 1825. Commenting on his support for that measure next day, Lord Palmerston* listed him as one of their ‘converts’ who had previously been ‘most adverse’, but he had ceased his hostility in 1819.6

At the 1826 general election he was returned unopposed with his father-in-law.7 He presented a petition from the county’s Catholics for relief, 26 Feb., and voted thus, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828.8 He divided for the Wellington ministry’s concession of Catholic emancipation, 6, 30 Mar. 1829. He presented a petition from the apothecaries of Ireland against interference with the medical profession, 29 Mar., and one against increased Irish stamp and spirit duties, 29 May 1830. At the 1830 general election he was returned at the head of the poll after a brief contest.9 He was listed by the Wellington ministry as one of their ‘friends’, but was absent from the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., but presented a favourable constituency petition, 28 Mar., and divided against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he offered again as a ‘thorough-going Tory’, promising to support ‘any moderate and reasonable measures that may be introduced for the correction of abuses that may have crept into our representative system’ and boasting that he would be ‘returned by the strength of his own and his father-in-law’s tenantry, despite all that can be done by the people’. Fearing ‘intimidation’ and for ‘the lives of their best tenants’, however, he resigned on the eve of the poll, leaving the gentry no ‘time to put forward another candidate in the Protestant interest’. Though he was praised for his actions in averting ‘bloodshed and battery’, it was observed that ‘had he manifested the remotest desire of complying with the will of his constituents, he would never have been opposed’.10

At the 1832 general election he stood unsuccessfully for county Carlow as a Conservative. His election in 1835 was declared void and he was defeated in the ensuing contest, but seated on petition. He was beaten in 1837 but returned at the 1840 by-election and thereafter at each election until his death. Public dinners to honour ‘his unceasing and successful exertions in the Conservative cause, and the example set by him as a resident landlord and gentleman’ were held regularly in Belfast and Dublin.11 He continued to solicit patronage, pressing the new premier Peel over poor law appointments, 10 Sept. 1841.12 Bruen died at Oak Park in November 1852.13 His estates passed to his only son Francis (1828-1912), Conservative Member for the borough of Carlow, 1835-7 and 1839.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. Add. 40290, f. 154.
  • 2. Ramsey’s Waterford Chron. 21 Mar. 1820; Add. 40280, f. 147.
  • 3. Black Bk. (1823), 142; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 453.
  • 4. NAI 582/535/2.
  • 5. NAI, Leveson Gower letterbks. M. 736, Leveson Gower to Singleton, 13 Apr. 1829.
  • 6. Southampton Univ. Lib. Broadlands mss PP/GC/TC/171; HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 291.
  • 7. Westmeath Jnl. 22 June; Wexford Evening Post, 23 June 1826.
  • 8. The Times, 27 Feb. 1827.
  • 9. Fitzwilliam mss, Rochfort to Milton, 7 June; Kilkenny Moderator, 11 Aug. 1830.
  • 10. Kilkenny Moderator, 14 May; Carlow Morning Post, 2, 5, 12 May 1831.
  • 11. The Times, 27 Jan. 1837, 24 Aug. 1841, 9 May 1842.
  • 12. Add. 40488, f. 194.
  • 13. The Times, 9 Nov. 1852.