BULLER, John (1745-93), of Morval, Cornw.
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Family and Education
Commr. of Excise 1790- d.
In 1768 Buller was returned unopposed for Exeter on the corporation interest. 1769-70 he voted regularly with the Opposition, and attended their dinner of 9 May 1769. But in 1771 his attitude began to change: he did not vote with them on the Spanish Convention, 13 Feb. 1771, was classed ‘doubtful’ by Robinson on the royal marriage bill, and though he voted for Grenville’s Act, 25 Feb. 1774, was classed by the King as a friend. On 19 Apr. 1774, ‘fairly persuaded of the right of taxing America’, he spoke against the repeal of the tea duty.1 In September 1774 he was classed by Robinson as ‘hopeful’.
Before the general election of 1774 (probably in 1772 on the death of his half-brother) he took over the management of West Looe, where he returned two Members friendly to Administration.2 He himself did not stand again at Exeter, but contested Launceston against the Morice interest. Nor was this the end of his activities. Cory Carpenter, Lady Bute’s agent at Bossiney, wrote to her from Launceston, 9 Oct. 1774, about the election for Cornwall:3
The most part of the gentlemen of property and influence are ... unwilling to support Mr. Buller, whose ambition so early in life in business of elections requires a check, no old family interest nor any interest whatsoever being exempt from his attack. He hath opposed the Orford interest at Callington, the Morice interest at this place, and is moving heaven and earth for his brother [in] law for the county.
He was not at first a candidate for Cornwall, but when Sir John Molesworth and H. M. Praed declared a union Buller joined Lemon—with the aim of drawing votes away from Lemon’s opponents rather than of succeeding himself. At Callington in 1772 he had supported his half-brother James, and that in 1774 he still took an interest in the borough is shown by a letter to Buller of 3 Oct. 1774 from Francis Paynter, apparently employed in the office of the sheriff at Truro:4 ‘Now as I have no direction to whom to send the Callington writ, shall send it to you unless you give directions to the contrary.’
From 1774 to 1780 he voted regularly with Administration, and was a suitor for office. In a list of 1779 he was suggested for housekeeper at Whitehall,5 and although North seems to have made him a promise6 nothing was done for him.
He had inherited property at Saltash, and in 1780 contested the borough with Sir William James against the Government candidates Charles Jenkinson and Sir Grey Cooper. He was defeated but petitioned, and a committee of the House of Commons decided against him only by the chairman’s casting vote. Buller’s attack was not due to any change in his attitude towards North’s Administration: according to Cooper he wanted the borough ‘merely to have the merit of surrendering it’ for the wardenship of the stannaries.7 At West Looe he returned himself and James, who supported North to the end; while Buller voted with him on 20 Feb., but on 22 and 27 Feb. abstained. On 7 Mar. Lord Bathurst wrote to Robinson:8
My nephew Buller has desired me to ask his Majesty to give him the Chiltern Hundreds, as you have told him that Lord North will do nothing for him. I shall be under the necessity of telling a long story of repeated ill usage ... I am not sure that I shall have interest enough with my nephew to prevail with him to bring in a friend to Government in his place.
North had resigned when Buller’s successor J. S. Cocks was returned, but as the son of Sir Charles Cocks, clerk of the Ordnance in North’s Administration, it is probable that he would have supported North.
In 1783 Buller again contested Saltash, with support from William Beckford jun.; was defeated; and had his petition rejected. On James’s death he returned himself for West Looe; appears in Stockdale’s list as a supporter of Pitt; and at the general election of 1784 returned candidates friendly to Pitt. He himself was defeated at Exeter. Another defeat at Saltash in 1784 was followed by final victory in 1786, and an agreement between Buller and Beckford to divide the borough. In 1790 Buller was appointed a commissioner of Excise, and at the general election returned Government supporters both at Saltash and at West Looe.
He died 26 Nov. 1793.