Butler Cole Aspinall

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Butler Cole Aspinall (11 November 1830 – 4 April 1875)[1] was an Australian defence advocate and politician. He was one of the counsel for the leaders of the Eureka Stockade, and defended Henry James O'Farrell for the attempted assassination of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh.

Biography and career[edit]

The son of the Reverend James Aspinall, he was born in Liverpool, Merseyside, England in 1830, educated for the law, and was called to the Bar in 1853. He engaged in newspaper work, contributing to the Morning Chronicle and other London papers.[2] In 1854 he came to Melbourne as a law reporter for The Argus, also he contributed to the Morning Herald, Age, and Melbourne Punch.[2] He soon began to practise as a barrister and gained a great reputation as an advocate, and as a wit and humorist.

Eureka Stockade trial[edit]

In February 1855, he was one of the counsel for the leaders of the Eureka Rebellion.


In 1856 Aspinall was elected a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly for Talbot.[2] He also represented Castlemaine (1859–61), Geelong East (1861–64), Portland (1866–67) and St Kilda (1868–1870).[3] At the end of July 1861 he became Attorney-General in the Richard Heales ministry, but the cabinet resigned a few weeks later.

Court practice[edit]

Aspinall was a first-rate advocate and a good parliamentary debater, but he broke down when 40 years old, an age when most men are scarcely past the beginning of their career. He had much charm of manner, and stories of his wit and humour were still being told in legal circles 70 years after his death. The Dictionary of Australian Biography quotes one example of his inspired impudence, which arose out of a brush with a Victorian judge.

Henry James O'Farrell trial[edit]

In 1868 Aspinall defended Henry James O'Farrell at Sydney for the attempted assassination of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh,[2] and from January to April 1870 he was solicitor-general in the John Alexander MacPherson ministry. Towards the end of this year he resigned his seat in parliament, and in 1871 had a mental breakdown and was confined for some time. On recovering he returned to England and died there on 4 April 1875. He was married and his wife, who had been left in Melbourne, died six days later.

Personal life[edit]

A son, Butler Cole Aspinall, K.C. (1861–1935), who was educated in England, became a distinguished London barrister and a great authority on shipping law. He died unmarried in London on 15 November 1935.


  1. ^ Richardson, Joanne. "Aspinall, Butler Cole (1830–1875)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Mennell, Philip (1892). "Wikisource link to Aspinall, Hon. Butler Cole". The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co. Wikisource 
  3. ^ "Aspinall, Butler Cole". re-member: a database of all Victorian MPs since 1851. Parliament of Victoria. Retrieved 27 April 2013.