BROWNE, John Denis (?1799-1862), of Westport House, co. Mayo and North Earl Street, Dublin
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Family and Educationb. ?1799, 4th s. of Hon. Denis Browne* (d. 1828) of Claremorris, co. Mayo and Anne, da. of Ross Mahon of Castlegar; bro. of James Browne* and Peter Browne*. m. 25 Aug. 1832, Esther, da. of John Wells*, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 4da. d. 21 May 1862.
Browne was almost certainly the ‘younger son’ in Denis Browne’s political dynasty who, during the Irish distress of 1822, was reported to have ‘scraped up £1,000 by hook and by crook’ and ‘laid it out in buying oatmeal’, which ‘he will now sell ... to the charitable for £4,000’.1 At a meeting of Mayo magistrates a month before the 1830 general election, he denied rumours of a formal coalition between his brother James, one of the county Members, and another candidate, describing their arrangement to exchange second votes as ‘nothing more than the legitimate exercise of a friendly feeling towards the other’. At a meeting shortly before the nomination he defended his family from charges of jobbing and corruption on the grand jury.2 At the 1831 dissolution he issued a provocative address to Dublin University as a reformer, denouncing its ‘corrupt franchise’ which he vowed to expose on petition.3 On James’s retirement, however, he came forward for Mayo with the support of his cousin the 2nd marquess of Sligo as ‘a decided advocate of parliamentary reform’, promising to support tax reductions and a modified system of poor laws and to combat landlord absenteeism. He was returned in first place after a contest against two other reformers.4
In his maiden speech, 21 June 1831, he denied that the Grey government had failed to intervene to relieve Irish distress and defended the record of the Irish magistracy. He presented and endorsed Mayo petitions for additional Members to be given to Ireland that day and 13 July. He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced English reform bill, 6 July, at least twice against adjourning the debates, 12 July, and gave steady support to its details. He complained that anticipation of government relief for Irish distress had considerably diminished the charitable assistance of the British public, 6 July. He voted against disqualification of the Dublin election committee, 29 July, and the issue of a new writ, 8 Aug., and with ministers on the controversy, 23 Aug.; but he divided for printing the Waterford petition for disarming the Irish yeomanry, 11 Aug. He called for ‘more vigorous measures than any which have hitherto been acted upon’ to put down Irish disturbances, 15 Aug. He opposed further grants to the Kildare Place Society, 9 Sept. He voted for the third reading of the reform bill, 19 Sept., its passage, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He welcomed the appointment of a select committee on Irish tithes and called for a ‘radical reform in the church establishment’ to end the ‘hardship’ of Catholics having to support an alien religion, 15 Dec. He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, again steadily supported its details, and divided for the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He complained of the ‘injustice’ of giving Mayo, with a population of 380,000, only two Members, 19 Jan. He voted with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July, relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., and the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr. He divided for the reception of the Woollen Grange petition for the abolition of Irish tithes, 16 Feb., but was one of the Members ‘usually opposing ministers’ on this issue who supported Crampton’s amendment regarding the payment of arrears, 9 Apr., when he explained, ‘I have been held up as an enemy to the people of Ireland, but I was sent here to maintain the authority of the law and the security of property’ and ‘will never court an ephemeral popularity which ... is too much sought after by some of the Irish representatives’.5 He defended the new Irish education plan, 6 Mar., 28 June, when he criticized the Protestant clergy for their ‘illiberality’ towards the education of Catholics, and presented favourable constituency petitions, 2, 9 July. He voted for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry reform unimpaired, 10 May. He voted for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, but presented a Mayo petition for an extension of the county franchise, 13 June, and seconded the motion of his kinsman Dominick Browne for Mayo to be given additional Members, 9 July. He voted against a Conservative amendment to increase the Scottish county representation, 1 June. He divided against a tax on absentee landlords to provide permanent provision for the Irish poor, 19 June. He presented petitions for repeal of the Irish window tax, 22 June, and against the reduction of duty on foreign hemp, which would endanger the cultivation of flax in Ireland, 2 July. On 9 July he spoke against the requirement that Irish electors produce affidavits of rates at the time of their registration, but waived his intended amendment. Next day he begged ministers to drop the Irish tithes bill, which was ‘big with danger and fraught with difficulties’, adding that this ‘is the first time I have differed from His Majesty’s government, but I do so under a conviction that such is my bounden duty’. He voted against it, 13 July 1832.
At the 1832 general election Browne topped the poll for Mayo in a contest with two other Liberals. He lost his seat to another Liberal in 1835 and was defeated at a by-election the following year and again in 1847. He died at Plymouth, ‘aged 63’, in May 1862.6 He was succeeded by his surviving son Percival Altamount.