Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/255

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.




tion of Lord Mansfield. Though his clearness of statement and his quickness in seizing the points of the contending counsel were universally recognised, his conduct on the judicial branch has often formed the subject of severe criticism. He was considered hasty and prejudiced, and his unfortunate assertion that a husband could thrash his wife with impunity provided that the stick was no bigger than his thumb, tempted Gillray into planting the belief more deeply in popular opinion by a caricature of Buller as Judge Thumb, which he published on 27 Nov. 1782. At the trial of the Very Rev. William Davies Shipley, dean of St. Asaph, for libel on 6 Aug. 1784, for the offence of 'publishing a very harmless dialogue written by Sir William Jones,' Buller told the jury that they were not entitled to form any opinion upon the character of the paper charged as libellous; and when the verdict 'guilty of publishing only' was given by the jury, and the judge endeavoured to ignore the qualifying word 'only,' the resolute attitude of Erskine, the dean's advocate, gained a victory over Buller's tenacity. Erskine subsequently moved for a new trial on the ground of misdirection, but failed in his object, though his claims have since been acknowledged by a 'declaratory act of parliament.' Buller also incurred, but seemingly without justice, considerable odium for his conduct while presiding over the trial of Captain John Donellan for poisoning his brother-in-law, Sir Theodosius Boughton. He was always the second judge in his court, and when Lord Mansfield was absent through illness Buller took the lead; indeed for the last two years of his chief's life he was really the chief justice, and Lord Mansfield, besides pressing Buller's claims to promotion on the ministry, left him 2,000l. in acknowledgment of his assistance. The heads of the government long wavered in their decision. Pitt is said to have remembered a trial at Bodmin, affecting the political rights in one of the pocket boroughs of the Buller family, in which Buller presided and showed undue partiality for his connections. Thurlow exclaimed that he had 'hesitated long between the corruption of Buller and the intemperance of Kenyon.' The latter, a vastly inferior lawyer, was at last selected, and the defeated junior, as some solace for his disappointment, was made a baronet on 13 Jan. 1790. In spite of his disappointment he remained in his old court for some years, but on 19 June 1794 he look his place in the common pleas, his letter to Kenyon announcing his resignation of his post in the king's bench being printed in Kenyon's 'Life.' Buller often presided for Lord Thurlow in the court of chancery, and his last great act as a judge was that of presiding at the trial of the state prisoners, Arthur O'Connor and others, at Maidstone in 1798. He was short in stature, but of handsome features, with a piercing eye and a commanding forehead. His health was at last undermined by frequent attacks of gout and by a slight stroke of paralysis. He had arranged to resign in a few days, when, during a game of picquet at his house in Bedford Square, he was seized with his fatal illness. He died late on the night of the 4th, or early on the 5th, of June 1800, and was buried without pomp, near the remains of his firstborn son Edward, in the burial-ground of St. Andrew's, Holborn, on 11 June. His love of card-playing was notorious, and he once exclaimed that 'his idea of heaven was to sit at nisi prius all day and play at whist all night.' Abbott, afterwards Lord Tenterden, was private tutor to Buller's only surviving son, and on his advice Abbott adopted a legal, instead of the clerical, profession. This son afterwards took the surname of Yarde, subsequently adding to it his own patronymic of Buller, and the judge's grandson was made Baron Churston. The judge purchased large estates in his native county of Devon, and supplied Arthur Young with some notes on the system of cultivation adopted on his property near Princetown in Dartmoor (Annals of Agriculture, xxix. 569–78, xxx. 297–8).

[Gilbert's Cornwall, ii. 41; Courtney and Boase's Bibliotheca Cornubiensis. i. and iii.; Campbell's Chief Justices, ii. 328, 397, 540–3, 550, iii. 36, 266–9; Townsend's Twelve Judges, i. 1–32: Foss, viii. 251–5; Strictures on Eminent Lawyers (1790), pp. 103–11; Polwhele's Biog. Sketches, i. 56–60; Crabb Robinson's Diary, i. 394. ii. 160; Romilly's Memoirs, i. 82–3; Sir N. Wraxall's Posthumous Memoirs, i. 86; Lord Abinger's Life, pp. 45, 49. 62; Kenyon's Life, pp. 52, 164–6, 174, 284–5; Gent. Mag. (June 1800), pp. 594–5: Sir E. Brydge's Autobiography. i. 403; Gillray's Works, pp. 43–4; Cradock's Memoirs, i. 85, iv. 150–2.]

W. P. C.

BULLER, Sir GEORGE (1802–1884), general, was the third son of General Frederick William Buller of Pelynt and Lanreath in Cornwall, who had himself served with distinction in the 57th regiment in the Netherlands and the West Indies. George was gazetted a second lieutenant in the rifle brigade on 2 March 1820. The first twenty-five years of his career in the army were spent in a time of profound peace, and his marriage with Henrietta, daughter of General Sir John Macdonald, G.C.B., adjutant-general to the forces, helped his rapid promotion. He