ASPINALL, Butler Cole (1830-1875)

ASPINALL, Butler Cole (1830-1875)
son of the Rev. James Aspinall, was born in England in 1830, educated for the law, and was called to the bar in 1853. He engaged in newspaper work and in 1854 came to Melbourne as a law reporter for the Argus. He soon began to practise as a barrister and gained a great reputation as an advocate, and as a wit and humorist. In February 1855 he was one of the counsel for the leaders of the Eureka rebellion, and in 1856 he was elected a member of the legislative assembly for Talbot. At the end of July 1861 he became attorney-general in the Heales (q.v.) ministry, but the cabinet resigned a few weeks later. In 1868 Aspinall defended O'Farrell at Sydney for the attempted assassination of the Duke of Edinburgh, and from January to April 1870 he was solicitor-general in the J. A. Macpherson (q.v.) ministry. Towards the end of this year he resigned his seat in parliament, and in 1871 had a mental breakdown and was confined for some time. On recovering he returned to England and died there on 4 April 1875. He was married and his wife, who had been left at Melbourne, died six days later. A son, Butler Cole Aspinall, K.C. (1861-1935), who was educated in England, became a distinguished London barrister and a great authority on shipping law. He died unmarried at London on 15 November 1935.
Aspinall was a first-rate advocate and a good parliamentary debater, but he broke down when 40 years old, an age when most men are scarcely past the beginning of their career. He had much charm of manner, and stories of his wit and humour were still being told in legal circles 70 years after his death. Many of them would not be suitable for this book, but one example of his inspired impudence, which arose out of a brush with a Victorian judge, may be given.
"Mr Aspinall," said his Honour severely, "are you trying to show your contempt for this Court?"
"No, your Honour," said Aspinall with an air of great humility. "I was merely trying to conceal it."
J. H. Heaton, Australian Dictionary of Dates; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; J. L. Forde, The Story of the Bar of Victoria; The Times, 16 November 1935; The Bulletin, 15 January 1936.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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