Charles Buller
Funerary monument, Kensal Green Cemetery, London
Judge Advocate General
In office
8 July 1846 – 1847
Prime MinisterLord John Russell
Preceded byHon. James Stuart-Wortley
Succeeded byWilliam Goodenough Hayter
President of the Poor Law Board
In office
23 July 1847 – 29 November 1848
Prime MinisterLord John Russell
Preceded byNew office
Succeeded byMatthew Talbot Baines
Personal details
Born6 August 1806 (1806-08-06)
Calcutta, British India
Died29 November 1848 (1848-11-30) (aged 42)
London, England
Political partyWhig
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge

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

Background and education

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. His younger brother was Sir Arthur William Buller.[1][2] He was educated at Harrow, then privately in Edinburgh by Thomas Carlyle, and afterwards at Trinity College, Cambridge, gaining his BA in 1828.[3] He had been admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1824, and became a barrister in 1831.

Political career

Before this date, however, Buller had succeeded his father as Member of Parliament for West Looe.[4] 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.[5]

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,[6] 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,[7] and became the first President of the Poor Law Board the following year.[8]

Personal life

Buller died in office in London in November 1848, aged 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,[9] and another was unveiled at Liskeard in 1905.[10] He left behind him, so Charles Greville says, a memory cherished for his delightful social qualities and a vast credit for undeveloped powers.[11]


  1. ^ Dod, Charles Roger Phipps (1863). The Peerage, Baronetage, and Knightage, of Great Britain And Ireland. p. 144. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  2. ^ Cooper, Thompson (1869). "Sir A. W. Buller". The Register, and Magazine of Biography: 466.
  3. ^ "Buller, Charles (BLR824C)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. ^ " House of Commons: Waterloo to West Looe". Archived from the original on 1 May 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2009.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  5. ^ " House of Commons: Lichfield and Tamworth to London and Westminster South". Archived from the original on 29 October 2008. Retrieved 19 November 2009.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  6. ^ Reid, Stuart J. (1906). Life and Letters of the 1st Earl of Durham, 1792-1840. II. Longmans. p. 340.
  7. ^ "No. 20621". The London Gazette. 10 July 1846. p. 2534.
  8. ^ "No. 20807". The London Gazette. 17 December 1847. p. 4629.
  9. ^ Stanley, A.P., Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey (London; John Murray; 1882), p. 231.
  10. ^ Leonard Courtney's speech on that occasion of the unveiling of the Liskeard bust was reported in full in The Times, Saturday, 14 January 1905; p. 7; Issue 37604; col C: Mr. Courtney on Charles Buller.
  11. ^ An appreciation of Charles Buller's life and achievements appeared as an editorial in The Times, Thursday, 30 November 1848; p. 4; Issue 20034; col A.
Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byCharles BullerSir Charles Hulse, Bt Member of Parliament for West Looe1830–1831 With: Sir Charles Hulse, Bt Succeeded bySir Anthony BullerSir Charles Hulse, Bt Preceded bySir William Henry Pringle Lord Eliot Member of Parliament for Liskeard1832–1849 Succeeded byRichard Budden Crowder Political offices Preceded byLord Seymour William Clay Joint Secretary to the Board of Control1841 With: William Clay Succeeded byJames Emerson Tennent Hon. Bingham Baring New office President of the Poor Law Board1846–1847 Succeeded byMatthew Talbot Baines Legal offices Preceded byHon. James Stuart-Wortley Judge Advocate General1846–1847 Succeeded byWilliam Goodenough Hayter
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article "Buller, Charles".