Buxton, Sir Thomas Fowell

Buxton, Sir Thomas Fowell was born April 1st, 1786, at Castle Hedingham, in Essex, and educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he highly distinguished himself. His uncles were large brewers, and he entered the business in 1811. His first appearance in public was at a meeting of the Norfolk Auxiliary Bible Society, in September, 1812. In 1816 he took a prominent part at a meeting held at the Mansion House, to relieve the distress of Spitalfields; and about £44,000 were collected for the Spitalfields weavers. His attention was also directed to prison discipline; he inspected many prisons, and published an Inquiry into the subject, illustrated by descriptions of several jails, and an account of the proceedings of the Ladies' Committee in Newgate, the most active of whom was Mrs. Elizabeth Fry, his sister-in- law. In 1818 he was elected member of Parliament for Weymouth; and in 1819 he took a prominent part in the debates on prison discipline, the amelioration of the criminal law, the suppression of lotteries, and the abolition of the practice of burning widows in India. He continued to represent the borough of Weymouth for nearly twenty years, during which period he was assiduous in the performance of his parliamentary duties, and always active in every humane enterprise. On the death of Wilberforce, Buxton succeeded him as the acknowledged leader of the emancipationists. On the 15th of May, 1823, Mr. Buxton brought forward a resolution to the effect "that the state of slavery is repugnant to the principles of the British Constitution and of the Christian religion, and that it ought to be gradually abolished throughout the British colonies with as much expedition as may be found consistent with a due regard to the well-being of the parties concerned." Mr. Canning, on the part of government, carried certain amendments, one of which asserted the anxiety of the House for the emancipation of the slaves "at the earliest period that shall be compatible with the well-being of the slaves themselves, with the safety of the colonies, and with a fair and equitable consideration of the rights of private property." During the struggles and agitations, both at home and in the colonies, for the ensuing ten or twelve years, Mr. Buxton was steadily engaged in the prosecution of the cause of freedom, encouraged and supported by the moral feeling of the country, and in Parliament by Brougham, Lushington, Macaulay, and a few other earnest opponents of slavery. At length, when, in 1833, the secretary for the colonies, Mr. Stanley (now Earl of Derby), brought forward his plan for the abolition of slavery, Mr. Buxton, although dissatisfied with the apprenticeship and compensation clauses, gladly accepted the measure, and he had very soon the additional satisfaction of finding the apprenticeship abandoned by the slaveholders themselves. In 1837 he lost his election for Weymouth, and from that time refused to be again put in nomination. In 1838 he was chiefly occupied with the preparation of a work entitled The African Slave- trade and its Remedy (Lond. 1840, 8vo). In 1839-40 the state of his health caused him to seek relaxation in a Continental tour. At Rome he visited the prisons, and suggested improvements. On his return in 1840 he was knighted. On the 1st of June a public meeting in behalf of African civilization was held in Exeter Hall, at which Prince Albert presided, and the first resolution was moved by Sir T. F. Buxton. The result of this movement was the well-meant but disastrous expedition to the Niger in 1841. During 1843 and 1844 his health declined, and he died February 19, 1845. See Memoirs of Buxton, by his son (Lond. 1849, 2d ed. 8vo); Quarterly Rev. 83. 127; English Cyclop.; N. Amer. Rev. 71. 1; Westm. Rev. 34, 125; N. Brit. Rev. 9, 209.

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