'The Debt Is Forgotten': A Compendious View of Arthur Browne, c1756-1805

Seán Patrick Donlan

The Irish jurist Arthur Browne was one the most gifted legal scholars of eighteenth-century Ireland; he was also an educator, an advocate, and a parliamentarian. Born in America of Irish parentage, Browne studied at Trinity College, Dublin, eventually becoming professor of civil law and publishing works on civil, admiralty, and ecclesiastical law at the turn of the nineteenth century. A Hiberno-civilian, he acted as advocate and judge in both the common and civil law courts and was the last prime serjeant of Ireland. The polyglot Browne wrote political tracts, translations, and literary and antiquarian essays. He was also an MP (1783-1800), a passionate protestant, and an Irish whig.

This paper places Arthur Browne within Irish and comparative legal history. His legal writings (and library catalogue) suggests the complexity of ‘English law’ in Ireland in the years between the French revolution and the Code Civil (1804). The period saw the intellectual and institutional foundations of Europe’s ancien régimes, and the legal hybridity that had accompanied them, change forever. Browne’s writings offer an important insight into Anglophone legal study and legal science of this era. They suggest that the debt owed to Browne—and indeed all of those who laboured in the many jurisdictions of Britain and Ireland beyond the common law courts—is too often forgotten.

Cite as: Seán Patrick Donlan, 'The Debt Is Forgotten': A Compendious View of Arthur Browne, c1756-1805, vol 13.3 ELECTRONIC JOURNAL OF COMPARATIVE LAW, (September 2009), <http://www.ejcl.org/133/art133-3.pdf>.

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