notorious origin. It is yet another phrase, still used today, that we can thank 18th century England for.
Sir Francis Buller at the age of 32 was the youngest justice ever appointed to the King's Bench, a mere six years after he was called to the bar. You may think this would mean his actions as a judge to be just and good but that wasn't necessarily the case. He was known to be bull-headed and impulsive in his judgments. Justice Buller was most known for his stance on domestic abuse. Supposedly, he believe there should be a "rule of thumb," that is, a husband could beat his wife, as long as it was with a stick no longer than his thumb. This rule was never adopted legally. As silly as the rule sounds now, it sounded just as foolish in 1782. James Gillray especially thought so and dubbed Justice Buller, "Judge Thumb," making him quite the laughing stock of the justice system.
Ironically, Buller was one of the judges which presided over Mary Eleanor Bowes' extreme case of domestic abuse. However, Mary's horrid husband, Andrew Stoney's abuse shocked even Judge Thumb who was disgusted by Stoney's actions and threw him into prison. So although he was a bit medieval in his ideas on domestic felicity, Buller wasn't a complete misogynist!