5 Anecdotes about Thomas Fowell Buxton
01. Helped those who become poor with no fault
He got information about the condition of the weavers of Spitalfields. He spoke about the result of his inquiry at a meeting and raised more then £43,000 for them.
This was the first step of a lifelong concern about the poor and needy. He always provided for the poor in the neighbourhoods where he lived and provided food and work for those in need on his estates.
02. Supported the Campaign to Abolish Death Penalty
He supported the campaign to abolish capital punishment. And during his lifetime he saw the number of crimes for which people could be hanged reduced from over 200 to only 8.
He also worked to improve conditions in the prisons and wrote a book – An Inquiry, whether Crime and Misery are produced or prevented, by our present system of prison discipline – which helped to improve conditions in prisons in Europe and India as well as Britain.
03. Freed many slaves.
He was responsible for the freeing of many slaves on Mauritius in 1829.
Although the trading of slaves had been illegal in British Territories since 1807, Thomas was given evidence, by the ex-commissary general, that it was still going on in Mauritius. He raised the issue before parliament.
He suggested that slave owners should be asked to prove their slaves had not been acquired since trading became illegal. The government rejected this.
However, a considerable number of enslaved people in Mauritius were freed, after the government agreed that any enslaved person that could prove they had been illegally imported should be freed.
04. Abolished slavery in Britain.
He headed the campaign for the abolition of slavery in Britain and the British dominions, which became law in 1833.
There was a strong hostility from the people benefiting from the slave trade and it took 12 years of tireless work, leading to his own ill health, until the law was eventually passed.
Without his hard, unrelenting work – his detailed research, his writing, his speeches, his lobbying, his skilful mastery of parliamentary tactics – this Bill would not have been passed nearly as soon as it was.
Even then, there had been a compromise to get it through – that freed slaves would have to work as ‘apprentices’ for the former masters for many years. Buxton then worked to remove this clause – he felt he had made a grave mistake in permitting it.
05. Fought for Women’s Rights in India
He campaigned against the burning of Indian women at their husband’s death, known as ‘Suttee’.
He found evidence that many of the women were pressured into committing the act. When Lord William Bentinck was appointed governor general of India Thomas went to discuss with him the subject of Suttee. Soon after he reached India, the practice was stopped.