BRENAN, DANIEL, land surveyor, merchant, banker, and politician, b. 1796 at Ballinakill, Queen’s County (now Leinster Province), Ireland; d. 1 March 1876 in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
Daniel Brenan received his education in Ireland and at the age of 27 immigrated to Prince Edward Island. He immediately began work as a land surveyor, and a few years later became a merchant in Charlottetown. By the end of the 1820s he was one of the leading importers on the Island and was able to branch out into other fields – the carrying trade, real estate, insurance, and banking. Nonetheless, his main concern was his retail business; he built new brick stores in 1845 and 1866.
Brenan was a Roman Catholic, and as such was relieved of his civil disabilities by Catholic emancipation on the Island in 1830. Within a few months, he successfully contested an assembly seat for Kings County, and he was re-elected in 1834. In the assembly Brenan acted as a staunch Tory, and declared that the radical Escheators were “ignorant and designing men who choose to impose on the credulity of the country people.” After the session of 1835, he resigned, having accepted the position of commissioner for ascertaining the boundary lines of counties and townships. His vacated seat was won by an Escheator, John Macintosh*.
Although he did not hold a seat in either branch of the legislature, Brenan was called to the Executive Council in 1849 by the lieutenant governor, Sir Donald Campbell*, who adamantly opposed responsible government. Brenan retained his seat on the council until the Reformers came to power two years later. Despite the sharp rise of religious tensions in the Island politics of the 1850s, 1860s, and 1870s, Brenan remained within the predominantly Protestant Conservative party, one of the few Roman Catholics to do so.
Daniel Brenan was one of the Island’s best-known citizens throughout most of his life. When the Irish-Scottish relief fund was established in 1847, he was named treasurer. He was a prominent Roman Catholic layman, a successful businessman, and a frequent public lecturer at the Mechanics’ Institute and the Catholic Young Men’s Literary Institute. When he died in 1876, leaving a widow, Margaret, but no children, he bequeathed much of his estate to various Roman Catholic institutions.
PAPEI, Prince Edward Island, Executive Council, Minutes, 16 Feb. 1849. Prince Edward Island, Supreme Court, Estates Division, will of Daniel Brenan, 20 Sept. 1872. Prince Edward Island, House of Assembly, Journals, 1831–35. Daniel Brenan, Remarks on education, with suggestions for the improvement of the present system (Charlottetown, 1856), copy in PAPEI. Island Argus (Charlottetown), 7 March 1876. Patriot (Charlottetown), 3 March 1876. Prince Edward Island Register (Charlottetown), 29 May 1824. Royal Gazette (Charlottetown), 28 Sept., 12, 19 Oct. 1830; 7 Feb. 1832.