BULLER, James I (1766-1827), of Downes House, Crediton, Devon and Shillingham, Cornw.
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Family and Education
b. 14 May 1766, 1st s. of James Buller of Downes by 1st w. Husey, da. of Thomas Gould of Frome Billet, Dorset, wid. of Nicholas Gould. educ. Harrow 1775-82; Magdalen Coil. Oxf. 1783. m. 6 June 1791, his cos. Anne, da. of Rt. Rev. William Buller, bp. of Exeter 1792-6, 1s. 9da. suc. fa. 1772.
Sheriff, Cornw. 1798-9; capt. Crediton vols. 1798, 1803, capt. commdt. 1804.
Buller stood for Exeter, which lay about eight miles from Downes, with the support of the corporation in 1790 and easily topped the poll, though at a reputed cost of £16,000.1 In his maiden speech, 21 Dec. 1790, he approved the Spanish convention, but condemned the malt tax and threatened to oppose any impost on cider. He voted against government on the Oczakov question, 12 Apr. 1791 and 1 Mar. 1792, but evidently supported them thereafter until 1795, when he voted for peace negotiations, 26 Jan., 6 Feb. and 27 May, against the imperial loan, 5 Feb., and for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s debts, 1 June. He was accordingly marked ‘doubtful’ in the ministerial forecast for the 1796 general election. He spoke against the succession tax, 9 May 1796.
Buller did not stand for re-election at Exeter in 1796, having decided, so he claimed, to retire into ‘private life’; but he allowed himself to be nominated for the county, only to shy away from a contest.2 In the last months of the 1796 Parliament he was returned for East Looe on the interest of his first cousin once removed, John Buller I*, whose ‘confidential agent’ he had been during John’s absence in India and on whose behalf he had consulted Pitt over borough patronage in 1799.3 On 23 Mar. 1802 he supported the coroners’ allowance bill. Returned, after a contest, for Exeter at the general election of 1802, again with the backing of the corporation, he retained the seat unopposed in 1806, 1807 and 1812 and could probably have held it for life had he so wished.
He seems to have given general support to Addington’s administration, although it was almost certainly he of the four Bullers in the House who voted with the opposition minority on the renewal of war, 24 May 1803. Placed under ‘Addington’ in the ministerial list of May 1804, he voted against Pitt’s additional force bill in June,4 was listed under ‘Fox and Grenville’ in September, but was subsequently included among ‘persons in opposition not quite certain’. He voted for the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. 1805, and was classed as ‘opposition’ by government in July. Buller, who approved the election treating bill, 21 Mar. 1806, and welcomed the idea of having more than one polling place in large counties, to allow ‘men of moderate fortune’ to stand ‘without the risk of being ruined’, supported the ‘Talents’, voting for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, but he did not vote for the motions regretting their fall in April 1807. On 24 Apr. he supported Whitbread’s scheme for parochial schools and ‘instanced the happy effects of parochial education upon the population of Scotland’.
His few recorded votes in the 1807 Parliament were all against government, namely on the mutiny bill, 14 Mar. 1808, the Scheldt expedition, 23 Feb. and 5 Mar. (as a result of which the Whigs reckoned him ‘hopeful’) and again 30 Mar. 1810, the Regency proposals, 1 and 21 Jan. 1811, and sinecures, 24 Feb. and 14 Apr. 1812. Ministers did not list him among their supporters after the 1812 general election and he continued, when present, to act independently. He presented and endorsed a petition from Exeter against alteration of the Corn Laws, 6 Mar., and voted against the corn bill, 27 Feb., 3 and 10 Mar. 1815. He divided against government on the renewal of war, 28 Apr. and 25 May, the civil list, 8 May 1815, and the army estimates, 6 Mar. 1816, but defied widespread popular feeling in Exeter by voting for continuance of the property tax, 18 Mar.5 In his last known speech, 8 Apr. 1816, he urged backbenchers to scrutinize government expenditure ‘with a strict and jealous eye’. Buller voted against Catholic relief, 2 Mar. and 24 May 1813, 30 May 18156 and 9 May 1817. In October 1816 he announced his intention of retiring at the next general election and was probably a virtual absentee from the House during the following two sessions.7
Buller was described in 1810 as ‘a man of sense and prudence’ who had ‘always made the best of his property, having a very large family, though a most fair and liberal landlord’.8 He died 18 Aug. 1827.