BULLER, Edward (1764-1824), of Trenant Park, Cornw.
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Family and Education
b. 24 Dec. 1764, 2nd s. of John Buller* of East Looe by 1st w. Mary, da. of Sir John St. Aubyn, 3rd Bt.†, of Clowance; bro. of John Buller I* and half-bro. of Frederick William Buller*. educ. Westminster 1774. m. 15 Mar. 1789, in Nova Scotia, Gertrude, da. of Col. Philip Van Cortlandt, 1s. d.v.p. 1da. cr. Bt. 3 Oct. 1808.
Entered RN 1777, lt. c.1782, cdr. 1783, capt. 1790, col. marines 1805-8; r.-adm. 1808, v.-adm. 1812.
Recorder, East Looe 1807-d.
Buller, who was born at the Admiralty while his father was at the Board, served as a midshipman under Lord Mulgrave in the Courageux in 1777 and saw action the following year. He served ‘at an early age’ as lieutenant to Captain Thomas Graves† on the Sceptre and was wounded in the East Indies. After a narrow escape from a Coromandel hurricane in command of the Chaser in 1783, he was in charge of the Brisk in the Halifax station until 1790, when he became a captain and escorted convoys in the Channel, to Canada and to India. ‘Private affairs’ brought him home in 1797 and he was in command of the South Devon Sea fencibles at Dartmouth when in July 1797 he asked his brother’s agent, his cousin James Buller, to apply to Pitt to secure for him the command of the Renown, a 74-gun ship: this would mean less ‘emolument’, but would be more suited to ‘a spirited officer, whose first aim it is to distinguish himself in his profession’. In August this application was repeated, and subsequently his brother promised him that his promotion was one of the points he expected to gain by placing his influence at East Looe at the disposal of government. Captain Buller was found a command in the Channel service in 1799 and was involved in the blockade of the French ports until 1801.1
In 1802 his brother returned him with himself for the family borough of East Looe. Buller had expected to come in in 1796. He retained this seat until 1820, becoming the patron in 1807 on his brother’s death, and acquired Trenant Park, which his brother had purchased for £15,000 in 1806. His parliamentary attendance in the first few years was affected by his absence on active service in the blockades in 1803, in Sir Robert Calder’s action of 1805, for his part in which he was made a colonel of marines,2 and in the Mediterranean in 1807. As there was no prospect of further action he returned home, and was made a baronet the following year.
In the party lists he appeared as a Pittite in 1804 and 1805. No opposition votes can certainly be attributed to him between 1802 and 21 May 1812. In October 1806, when he and his brother were involved in a contest at East Looe, he was anxious to assure Lord Grenville of their support for his administration in the next Parliament; it was alleged by their opponents that this was insincere.3 The Whigs listed him ‘against the Opposition’ in 1810 and he voted with administration on such issues as the Scheldt expedition, 30 Mar. 1810, and the Regency. He voted against sinecure reform, 17 May 1810, 4 May 1812, as well as against parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810. Writing to Charles Philip Yorke to request promotion in the navy for his son-in-law, he referred to his ‘unremitting and zealous attendance ... in support of the administration’.
Buller was second in command at Plymouth from 1809 until the autumn of 1812, when with the rank of vice-admiral he became unemployed. While he was at Plymouth, it was thought that he wished to represent it in Parliament. Lord Liverpool was disappointed in his conduct as borough patron in May 1812, hoping he would cause David Vanderheyden to vacate for Vansittart, the new chancellor; far from doing this, he and Vanderheyden voted against government on Stuart Wortley’s motion, 21 May 1812. A story was circulated that he had actually vacated his own seat and then changed his mind. Buller’s excuse was that his understanding with government terminated on Perceval’s death. Lord Wellesley had nobbled him. At the ensuing general election, too, when he himself was invited to contest Liverpool, he disobliged the ministry by refusing to seat Lyndon Evelyn*.4 Had Wellesley come to power, he was to have been thought of as a lord of the Admiralty.
The Treasury list named him a government supporter and Canning doubted whether he was a recruit to his party. In the divisions of 1813, 22 Apr. 1814 and 30 May 1815 he supported Catholic relief, but opposed it in 1816 and 1817. Only two speeches are known: on 12 Feb. 1812 in the debate on the marines, he alleged that they had ‘no cause for complaint’. On 21 June 1815, in the debate on military discipline, he denied that any naval officer would take it upon himself to discharge a man without the authority of his commander-in-chief. From March 1815 he appeared with some regularity on the government side in divisions, but became increasingly dissatisfied with his want of employment: on 17 Jan. 1817 he asked Lord Liverpool for the command at Plymouth on the strength of his ‘professional and parliamentary zeal’ and complained of neglect by Lord Melville. Failing in this, his attendance fell off.
In May 1818, acceding to Liverpool’s request to return Thomas Potter MacQueen at East Looe again, Buller reminded him that it was ‘the eleventh time that my brother and myself have acceded to the request of the present government’, and complained again of having been neglected by Melville, despite repeated applications for employment. He solicited the command at Leith when it became vacant: ‘there being but one vice-admiral employed at the present time induces me to hope that his lordship will by placing me there employ a second, or in the event of my not obtaining that appointment the promise of the first seat at the Admiralty Board that may become vacant whether it be occasioned by a land or naval lord’. These and other applications do not appear to have been successful. Buller voted with ministers on 18 May and 10 June 1819, but was too ill to attend the 1819-20 session and retired at the dissolution. He died 15 Apr. 1824. His obituary recalled an act of humanity in saving a Portuguese crew off Gibraltar in 1806, which brought on a ‘violent fever’ that was ‘nearly fatal’.5
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. Annual Biog. (1825), 67-75; PRO 30/8/117, f. 218; Buller mss BO/27/36, J. to E. Buller, 18 Sept. 1798.
- 2. Geo. III Corresp. iii. 3151.
- 3. Fortescue mss, Buller to Grenville, 27 Oct. 1806, Trelawny to same, 9 Apr. 1807.
- 4. Add. 45043, f. 137; NMM, WYN/107, Pole Carew to Pole, 20 Nov. 1809; Sidmouth mss, Pole to Sidmouth, 22 May 1812; PRO NI, Caledon mss, D2433/C/11/18; Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 29 Sept. 1812; Add. 40222, ff. 62, 162; 42774, f. 306; Broughton, Recollections, i. 39.
- 5. Add. 38264, ff. 157, 159; 38283, f. 228; 38458, f. 238; Annual Biog. loc. cit.