Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Browne, Thomas Gore

BROWNE, Sir THOMAS GORE (1807–1887), colonel and colonial governor, born 3 July 1807, was son of Robert Browne of Morton House near Buckingham, a colonel of the Buckinghamshire militia, also J.P. and D.L., by Sarah Dorothea, second daughter of Gabriel Steward, M.P., cf Nottington and Melcombe, Dorset. Edward Harold Browne [q. v. Suppl.], bishop of Winchester, was his youngest brother.

He was commissioned as ensign in the 44th foot on 14 Jan. 1824, exchanged to the 28th foot on 28 April, became lieutenant on 11 July 1820, and captain on 11 June 1829. He was aide-de-camp to Lord Nugent, the high commissioner in the Ionian Islands from 1832 to 1835, and he acted for a time as colonial secretary. He obtained a majority in the 28th on 19 Dec. 1834, and exchanged to the 41st on 25 March 1836. That regiment took part in the first Afghan war, and as one of its lieutenant-colonels (afterwards Sir Richard England [q. v.]) acted as brigadier, and the other was absent, Browne commanded the regiment. When England's force, on its way to join Nott at Candahar, was repulsed at Hykulzie (28 March 1842), Browne covered its retirement, forming square and driving back the enemy. He was present at the action of Candahar on 29 May, the march on Cabul, and the storming of Istalif. In the return march of the armies through the Khyber to India he was with the rearguard, which was frequently engaged. He was made brevet lieutenant-colonel on 23 Dec. 1842, and C.B. on 27 Sept. 1843.

He returned to England with the 41st in 1843, and became lieutenant-colonel of it on 22 July 1845. He exchanged to the 21st on 2 March 1849, and went on half-pay on 27 June 1851, having been appointed governor of St. Helena on 20 May. On 22 Aug. he was given the local rank of colonel. He improved the water supply at St. Helena. On 6 Nov. 1854 he was transferred to the governorship of New Zealand, and he landed at Auckland on 6 Sept. 1855. During his term of office the disputes between the settlers and the natives about the purchase of land came to a head in Taranaki. Responsible government was conceded to the colony shortly after his arrival there, but native affairs were reserved to the governor, though he had no power to legislate or to raise money.

Early in 1859 some land at the mouth of the Waitara was bought from Teira of the Ngatiawas, but William King, the chief of that tribe, vetoed the sale. Teira's title being primâ facie good, Browne directed that a survey should be made of the land for further investigation. This was resisted by the chief; troops were sent to Taranaki to enforce the governor's orders, and on 17 March 1860 fighting began. At the end of twelve months, several pahs having been taken, the Ngatiawas submitted, and other tribes which had supported them withdrew from the district. William King took refuge with the Waikatos.

Browne had had the full concurrence of his ministers in his course of action, but strong protests were made on behalf of the natives by some members of the opposition, by Archdeacon Hadfield and others of the clergy, and by Sir William Martin [q.v.], late chief justice. On 27 Aug. 1860 the colonial office called for a full report on the right of a chief to forbid the sale of land by members of his tribe; and on 4 Dec. Browne furnished this report, showing that such 'seignorial right,' apart from landownership, had never been recognised by his predecessors, and giving the opinions of various authorities. On 25 May 1861 the secretary of state (the Duke of Newcastle) informed him that Sir George Grey [q.v. Suppl.] had been appointed his successor, in the hope that Grey's influence and special qualifications would arrest the war which threatened to spread. The duke added: 'I recognise with pleasure the sound and impartial judgment, the integrity, intelligence, and anxiety for the public good which have characterised your government of the colony for nearly six years.' Grey arrived on 26 Sept., but the hopes of the British government were not realised. The Maoris afterwards, contrasting the two governors, said: 'Browne was like a hawk, he swooped down upon us; Grey was like a rat, he undermined us.'

On 5 March 1862 Browne was appointed governor of Tasmania, and remained there till the end of 1868. He was made K.C.M.G. on 23 June 1869. He administered the government of Bermuda temporarily from 11 July 1870 to 8 April 1871. He died in London on 17 April 1887. In 1854 he had married Harriet, daughter of James Campbell of Craigie, Ayrshire, who survived him. They had several children. The eldest son, Harold, commanded the first battalion king's royal rifle corps in the Boer war of 1899-1900, and took part in the defence of Ladysmith.

[Times, 19 April 1887; Lomax's History of the 41st Regiment; Mennell's Dictionary of Australasian Biography; Gisborne's New Zealand Rulers and Statesmen; Alexander's Incidents of the Maori war of 1860-1; Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives of New Zealand, 3 June-7 Sept. 1861; private information.]

E. M. L.