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Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786-1845): The Brewer and Politician

Thomas Foxwell Buxton

Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton was born in Essex in 1786. He was privately educated and went to Trinty College, Dublin. He became a close friend of Joseph Gurney after his mother (a Quaker) introduced him to the Norfolk based family.

He started to attend Quaker meetings with the Gurney family and married Joseph's sister, Hannah, in 1807. He became a partner in a brewing company and became involved in several campaigns for social reform. Another of Joseph's sisters was Elizabeth Fry and Buxton became involved in her campaign for prison reform.

In 1818, Buxton was elected MP for Weymouth, a position he held until 1837. He was a strong advocate for the abolition of slavery in the British Colonies. In 1823, he formed the Society for the Extinction of the Slave Trade, the committee that co-ordinated the campaign for total abolition. In 1824, he succeeded William Wilberforce as head of the anti-slavery party in Parliament, continuing the struggle until the Slavery Abolition Act, in 1833, freed all enslaved people in the British Empire.

In 1838, Buxton published The African Slave Trade and Its Remedy. In this book, he told the British government to make treaties with rulers in Africa. An expedition was sent in 1841 to put the plan into action but it failed, mainly because of the large number of deaths among the expedition members from yellow fever and malaria. 

You can read an account of this expedition in White Dreams, Black Africa: Antislavery Expedition to the Niger, 1841-42 by Howard Temperley, 1991.

Thomas Fowell Buxton was made a Baron in 1840 and is famous for saying. "With Ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable."


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