Charles Buller

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The Right Honourable
Charles Buller
Funerary monument, Kensal Green Cemetery, London.
Judge Advocate General
In office
8 July 1846 – 1847
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister Lord John Russell
Preceded by Hon. James Stuart-Wortley
Succeeded by William Goodenough Hayter
President of the Poor Law Board
In office
23 July 1847 – 29 November 1848
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister Lord John Russell
Preceded by New office
Succeeded by Matthew Talbot Baines
Personal details
Born 6 August 1806 (1806-08-06)
Calcutta, British India
Died 29 November 1848 (1848-11-30) (aged 42)
London, England
Nationality British
Political party Whig
Spouse(s) Unmarried
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge

Charles Buller (6 August 1806 – 29 November 1848), was a British barrister, politician and reformer.

Background and education[edit]

Born in Calcutta, British India, Buller was the son of Charles Buller (1774–1848), a member of a well-known Cornish family, and Barbara Isabella Kirkpatrick, daughter of General William Kirkpatrick, considered an exceptionally talented woman. He was educated at Harrow, then privately in Edinburgh by Thomas Carlyle, and afterwards at Trinity College, Cambridge, gaining his BA in 1828.[1] He had been admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1824, and became a barrister in 1831.

Political career[edit]

Before this date, however, Buller had succeeded his father as Member of Parliament for West Looe.[2] After the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832 and the consequent disenfranchisement of this borough, he was returned to Parliament for Liskeard, a seat he retained until he died.[3]

An eager reformer and a friend of John Stuart Mill, Buller voted for the Great Reform Bill, favoured other progressive measures, and presided over the committee on the state of the records and the one appointed to inquire into the state of election law in Ireland in 1836. In the aftermath of the Rebellions of 1837, he went to Canada in 1838 with Lord Durham as private secretary, and served in the second session of the Special Council of Lower Canada. For a long time it was believed that Buller wrote Lord Durham's famous Report on the Affairs of British North America. However, this is now denied by several authorities, among them being Durham's biographer, Stuart J Reid, who mentions that Buller described this statement as a groundless assertion in an article which he wrote for the Edinburgh Review. Nevertheless, it is quite possible that the Report was largely drafted by Buller, and it almost certainly bears traces of his influence. He also wrote A Sketch of Lord Durham's mission to Canada, which was never printed. He returned with Durham to England in the same year. Buller and Sir William Molesworth were associated with Edward Gibbon Wakefield and his schemes for colonising South Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Buller was briefly Secretary to the Board of Control under Lord Melbourne during 1841. After practising as a barrister, he was made Judge Advocate General by Lord John Russell in 1846,[4] and became the first President of the Poor Law Board the following year.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Buller died in office in London in November 1848, aged only 42. He never married. He was considered a very talented man, witty, popular and generous, and is described by Carlyle as "the genialest radical I have ever met". Among his intimate friends were Grote, Thackeray, Monckton Milnes and Lady Ashburton. A bust of Buller is in Westminster Abbey, and another was unveiled at Liskeard in 1905.[6] He left behind him, so Charles Greville says, a memory cherished for his delightful social qualities and a vast credit for undeveloped powers.[7]


  1. ^ "Buller, Charles (BLR824C)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ House of Commons: Waterloo to West Looe
  3. ^ House of Commons: Lichfield and Tamworth to London and Westminster South
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 20621. p. 2534. 10 July 1846.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 20807. p. 4629. 17 December 1847.
  6. ^ Leonard Courtney's speech on that occasion of the unveiling of the Liskeard bust was reported in full in The Times, Saturday, Jan 14, 1905; pg. 7; Issue 37604; col C: Mr. Courtney On Charles Buller.
  7. ^ An appreciation of Charles Buller's life and achievements appeared as an editorial in The Times, Thursday, Nov 30, 1848; pg. 4; Issue 20034; col A.
  • T Carlyle, Reminiscences (1881)
  • S. J. Reid, Life and Letters of the 1st Earl of Durham (1906)
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Buller, Charles". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Charles Buller
Sir Charles Hulse, Bt
Member of Parliament for West Looe
With: Sir Charles Hulse, Bt
Succeeded by
Sir Anthony Buller
Sir Charles Hulse, Bt
Preceded by
Sir William Henry Pringle
Lord Eliot
Member of Parliament for Liskeard
Succeeded by
Richard Budden Crowder
Political offices
Preceded by
Lord Seymour
William Clay
Joint Secretary to the Board of Control
With: William Clay
Succeeded by
James Emerson Tennent
Hon. Bingham Baring
New office President of the Poor Law Board
Succeeded by
Matthew Talbot Baines
Legal offices
Preceded by
Hon. James Stuart-Wortley
Judge Advocate General
Succeeded by
William Goodenough Hayter