Browne, Samuel (d.1668) (DNB00)

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BROWNE, SAMUEL (d. 1668), judge, was the son of Nicholas Browne of Polebrooke, Northamptonshire, by Frances, daughter of Thomas St. John, third son of Oliver, lord St. John. He was thus first cousin to Oliver St. John, chief justice of the common pleas during the protectorate. He was admitted pensioner of Queens' College, Cambridge, 24 Feb. 1614, entered as a student at Lincoln's Inn 28 Oct. 1610, where he was called to the bar 16 Oct. 1623, and elected reader in Michaelmas term 1642. Two years previously he had been returned to parliament as member for the united boroughs of Clifton, Dartmouth, and Hardness in Devonshire. In the articles laid before the king at Oxford in 1642, with a view to negotiations for peace, the appointment of Browne to a seat on the exchequer bench was suggested. In November of the same year he was made one of the commissioners of the great seal. In March 1643-4 he was appointed one of the committee to which the management of the impeachment of Laud was entrusted. His speech on this occasion has not been preserved, but from the constant references which Laud makes to it he appears to have put the case against the archbishop in a very effective way. After the trial was ended (2 Jan. 1644-6) he was deputed, with Serjeants Wilde and Nicolas, to lay before the House of Lords the reasons which, in the opinion of the commons, justified an ordinance of attainder against the archbishop. This had already been passed by the commons, and the upper house immediately followed suit. In July 1646 a paper was introduced to the House of Commons, emanating from Lord Savile, and containing what was in substance an impeachment of Denzil Hollis and Whitelocke, of high treason in betraying the trust reposed in them in connection with the recent negotiations at Oxford, of which they had had the conduct. After some discussion the matter was referred to a committee, of which Browne was nominated chairman. The affair is frankly described by Whitelocke as a machination of the independents, designed to discredit the presbyterian party, of which both Hollis and himself were members; and as he accuses Browne of displaying a strong bias in favour of the impeachment, it may be inferred that at this time he had the reputation of belonging to the advanced faction. The charge was ultimately dismissed. In October of the following year Browne delivered the great seal to the new commissioners then appointed, the speakers of the two houses. In September 1648 he was one of ten commissioners nominated by the parliament to treat with the king in the Isle of Wight. On the receipt of letters from the commissioners containing the king's ultimatum, the House of Commons, after voting the king's terms unsatisfactory, resolved 'that notice be taken of the extraordinary wise management of this treaty by the commissioners.' Next day Browne was made a serjeant-at-law and justice of the king's bench by accumulation. The latter dignity, however, he refused to accept, whether out of timidity or on principle it is impossible to determine. After this no more is heard of him until the restoration, when he was readmitted serjeant-at-law (Trinity term 1660), and shortly after (Michaelmas term) raised to the bench as justice of the common pleas, and knighted 4 Dec. He died in 1668, and was buried at Arlesey in Bedfordshire, where he had a house. He married Elizabeth, daughter of John Meade of Nortofts, Finchingfield, Essex.

[Wotton's Baronetage,iv. 178; Dugdale's Orig. 256. 324; Willis's Not. Pari. iii. 243; Dugdales's Chron. Ser. 114, 115; Parl. Hist ii. 606, iii. 70, 182; Cobbett's State Trials, iv. 347, 443,449,464-470, 509, 554-7, 599; Whitelocke's Mem. 154, 156, 160, 226, 334, 342, 378; Commons' Journ. iii. 734; Siderfin's Rup. i. 3, 4, 365; Le Neve's Pedigrees of Knights (Harleian Society, vol. viii.), 122; Cal. State Papers, Dom. (1640), 103; Morant's Essex, ii. 366; Lysons's Bedfordshire, 40; Foss's Lives of the Judges.]

J. M. R.