EAST, James Buller (1789-1878).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1831 - 1832
1835 - Feb. 1864

Family and Education

b. 1 Feb. 1789, o.s. of Sir Edward Hyde East*, 1st bt., and Jane Isabella, da. of Joseph Chaplin Hankey of East Bergholt, Suff. educ. Harrow 1802; Christ Church, Oxf. 1806; I. Temple 1807, called 1813. m. 27 June 1822, Caroline Eliza, da. of James Henry Leigh*, s.p. suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 8 Jan. 1847. d. 19 Nov. 1878.

Offices Held

Bencher, I. Temple 1856, reader 1869.


East, who was head boy at Harrow, took a second class degree at Oxford and was among the group of Christ Church alumni who founded Grillion’s Club in 1813.1 That year he went to India on his father’s appointment as chief justice of Bengal, where he practiced at the Calcutta bar and served as a local magistrate, a combination he found exhausting, as he told his Christ Church contemporary Frederick Douglas†, though effective in banishing ‘the contemplation of ennui’.2 On arrival, he was inspired to reforming zeal by the state of the judicial system, which he found to be riddled with doubtful practices and incompetence. Yet while he remained a staunch critic of the administration of the East India Company and iniquities such as its salt monopoly, by June 1815 he had begun to weary of the country, ‘a worn out nation’ which he found topographically uninspiring, whose ‘ignorant and debased’ natives lacked a literary tradition and a proper antiquarian devotion to their architectural heritage.3 In August 1816 East, who closely followed the parliamentary careers of Douglas and another college friend John Nicholas Fazakerley*, belatedly warned Douglas against the ‘captivating solicitations’ of George Canning* and Lord Wellesley, whose political conduct he compared unfavourably with

the direct opposition of the honest and manly opponents of government, notwithstanding the accession of Jacobinism, vulgarity and presumption which has been made to that party by Mr. [Henry] Brougham. From this you will presume that I am still attached to the party whom I consider as the representatives of Pitt’s administration, strict anti-Jacobins and anti-citizens of the world and anti-philosophers, and I believe as sincerely rational and patriotic and moral as those who pretend to higher merits.

He added that he had been ‘just as ministerialist in this quarter of the globe’, citing his support for the war against Nepal waged by Lord Moira, the Indian governor-general, the previous year.4 In September 1821 he made a recuperative tour of the upper provinces of Bengal, having been ‘unwell for several months’, according to his father, with whom he set sail for England in February 1822.5 On his return he apparently did not resume legal practice. His family’s wealth derived from a Jamaican estate and in February 1824 he was elected to the standing committee of the West India planters and merchants, of which his father was a stalwart, but he attended only a handful of meetings over the next decade.6

East may have considered entering Parliament in 1826 as a protégé of the 1st duke of Buckingham, his father’s patron.7 He certainly proclaimed his ‘attachment and esteem’ to Buckingham when he came forward for Winchester as his father’s replacement at the 1831 general election. On the issue of parliamentary reform, to which his father was opposed, his election address was evasive, but on the hustings he was forced into admitting that he was not a ‘strenuous advocate’ of the Grey ministry’s proposals and only supported the enfranchisement of large towns. After a controversial three-hour poll he was narrowly returned in second place.8 A silent attender in this period, he voted against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, for use of the 1831 census to determine the disfranchisement schedules, 19 July, for postponing consideration of Chippenham’s status, 27 July, and against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept. He divided against the second reading of the revised bill, 17 Dec. 1831, going into committee on it, 20 Jan., the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the bill’s third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. That month he was listed as a founder member of the Carlton Club. He voted against the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May. He divided against ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July, and was appointed to the select committee on the affairs of the East India Company, 27 Jan. 1832.

At the 1832 general election East offered again for Winchester, where the freemen were now swamped by the newly enfranchised householders. Though he was unrepentant over his stance against reform, having ‘felt it his duty to oppose so extensive and sudden a change’, he promised to ‘uphold and promote’ the new system. He was defeated by his opponent of the previous year, but persevered and topped the poll as a Conservative in 1835.9 He sat until his retirement in 1864, and served as secretary of Grillion’s from 1854 to 1870.10 He inherited his father’s baronetcy in 1847, but derived no benefit from his debt-encumbered estate, beyond the contents of his library, despite being named as his residual legatee.11 In 1850 he purchased Bourton House, near Moreton-in-the-Marsh, Gloucestershire, where he died a widower and s.p. in November 1878, when the baronetcy became extinct.12 By his will, dated 27 Nov. 1877, he provided annuities for his cousins Charlotte Mary Elizabeth Brace East and Frances Hyde Hinton East, and left Bourton House, diamond heirlooms and about £70,000 to his cousin Gertrude Charlotte Mary D’Este Maclaverty.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Howard Spencer / Philip Salmon


  • 1. List of Members of Grillion’s Club (1864).
  • 2. BL OIOC O/6/6; Mss Eur. A145, f. 8; Bengal Almanac (1818), app. vii.
  • 3. OIOC Mss Eur. A145, ff. 1, 8, 26.
  • 4. Ibid. f. 14.
  • 5. Add. 45038, ff. 47, 53, 57.
  • 6. Inst. of Commonwealth Stud. M915/4/1, 2.
  • 7. J.J. Sack, The Grenvillites, 31.
  • 8. Hants Chron. 2, 9 May; The Times, 4 May; Portsmouth Herald, 8 May 1831.
  • 9. Hants Chron. 10, 17 Dec. 1832.
  • 10. Grillion’s Club, (1914), 18, 21.
  • 11. PROB 11/2055/400; IR26/1770/266.
  • 12. VCH Glos. vi. 200; The Times, 25 Nov. 1878.