EAST, James Buller (1789-1878).
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Family and Educationb. 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.
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