History's HEROES? 1786 - 1845

Thomas Fowell Buxton

Thomas Fowell Buxton - Timeline

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1786 April 1st - Thomas Fowell Buxton is born in Castle Hedingham, Essex, the son of Thomas and Anna Fowell Buxton (nee Hanbury). His father, an Anglican, is a country gentleman and High Sheriff of Essex.
1790 Aged just four and a half, Thomas is sent to school at Kingston-upon-Thames.
1793 December - Thomas's father dies, aged 37, leaving his widow, Anna, with three young children to bring up.
1794 -1801 Thomas remains at Greenwich school and holidays with his mother at Earl's Colne or occasionally with his Grandmother in London or at her country house, Bellfield, near Weymouth.
1794 Thomas is removed from Kingston School after being ill treated and his health giving way "for want of food".
Thomas is sent to the school of Dr Charles Burney at Greenwich. Burney is a much kinder master but Thomas does not make great progress.
1801 Thomas pays a visit to the Gurney family at Earlham Hall, Norwich. He is impressed by their self study and education.
1802 Autumn - Thomas is placed with the family of Mr Moore of Donnybrook, in Ireland, who prepares pupils for university. Thomas finds the other students well in advance of him and spends Christmas studying the classics.
1803 After a year at Donnybrook, Thomas again visits Earlham Hall. He is becoming very fond of Hannah Gurney.
Thomas enters Trinity College, Dublin, as a fellow commoner, where he studies law. Dublin is the university of choice as he is likely to inherit land in Ireland.
1805 March - Thomas becomes engaged to Hannah Gurney.
Thomas loses his inheritance in Ireland when another claim is made on the property.
Thomas makes his first speech when he takes his seat on the History Society and is an unexpected sensation.
1806 Whilst travelling in Scotland, Thomas is drawn to the subject of religion. He finds pleasure in reading the scriptures.
1807 April - Thomas graduates with Distinction from Trinity College, Dublin. He is given the university's highest honour - the gold star. During his studies, he has earned 13 premiums and 4 silver stars from the History Association of which he was made head.
May 13th - Thomas marries Hannah Gurney. Her sister, Elizabeth, will become the famous Elizabeth Fry.
Thomas spends the first few months of married life in a cottage near his grandmother and mother (now remarried) at Bellfield, near Weymouth.
1808 Thomas and Hannah's first child, a son, is born whilst they are staying at Earlham Hall for the winter.
Thomas' uncle, Mr Sampson Hanbury, gives him a job in his famous brewery, Truman, Hanbury and Company, in Spitalfields, London.
Towards the end of the year, Thomas and his family move into a house in Spitalfields connected to the Brewery.
Thomas and Hannah's second child, Priscilla, is born.
1809 Thomas becomes friends with the Quaker philanthropist, William Allen, and becomes interested in the subject of capital punishment.
Thomas becomes involved with the Bible Society. He also studies English literature and political economy and business.
1811 A daughter Suzannah is born to Thomas and Hannah. Sadly the baby dies later in the year and is buried on 18th November.
August 25th - Thomas's brother Edward, who had gone to sea, dies at the Hasler Hospital, where Thomas had previously visited him.
Thomas is appointed a partner in the brewery business. Over the next seven years he introduces many changes that improve efficiency. He also insists that the men working for him learn to read and write.
1812 September - Thomas addresses his first public meeting at the Norwich Bible Association.
September 16th - Thomas and Hannah's second son, Edward North Buxton, is born at Earlham Hall.
1813 January - Thomas becomes very ill and nearly dies of a fever.
1814 Late 1814 or early 1915 - Thomas and Hannah's third son, Harry, is born.
1815 The family move from Spitalfields to a house in North End, Hampstead.
1816 November - Thomas joins the campaign for the relief of poverty-stricken weavers in London. His speech at the Mansion house helps the Benevolent Society raise £43,369. He will continue to campaign on behalf of others for the rest of his life.
1816-1820 Thomas and Hannah have a daughter in 1816. Two more daughters are born by 1820.
1816 November 29th - William Wilberforce writes to Thomas after reading his speech; he mentions that people like Thomas are needed in parliament.
1817 Thomas joins Elizabeth Fry's Association for the Improvement of the Female Prisoners in Newgate.
February - Thomas goes to Weymouth to observe the election and carry out work that will help secure him a seat at the next election.
July - Thomas's older brother dies at Weymouth. Thomas looks after his late brother's wife and children, who take a house near his at Hampstead.
1818 Thomas publishes a pamphlet, 'An Enquiry, Whether Crime and Misery are produced or prevented by our present system of Prison Discipline'.
June 29th - Thomas is elected Member of Parliament for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, in Dorset.
1819 Thomas directs his attention in parliament to the question of judicial punishment. On 1st March, a motion is carried for an inquiry into the state of prison discipline. Thomas is appointed to two new committees, one on prisons the other on penal law.
1820 February - Thomas is re-elected as Member for Weymouth.
Around April - Four of Thomas and Hannah's children die (their oldest boy and their three infant daughters, the oldest only four) of measles following whooping cough, during a five-week period.
Autumn - As a result of the death of their children, the family leave London to live at Cromer Hall, Norfolk.
Thomas campaigns against the death penalty for forgery, against slavery and the burning of Indian women at their husband's death - known as 'Suttee'. He starts to research for a Bill to ban this practice.
1821 Thomas and Hannah's daughter Richenda is born.
May 24th - Thomas is asked by William Wilberforce to assume the leadership of the anti-slavery campaign in parliament.
1822 August 29th - Thomas and Hannah's fourth son, Thomas Fowell Buxton is born.
Autumn - After careful consideration Thomas agrees to take on the Anti-Slavery Committee.
1822-1823 Thomas and Sir James Mackintosh campaign for a reduction in the number of crimes that have the death penalty. Several Bills are rejected.
1823 Thomas helps to found the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery (later called the Anti-Slavery Society).
May 15th - Thomas submits a motion to parliament that: "The state of slavery is repugnant to the principles of the British constitution and of the Christian religion; and ought to be gradually abolished throughout the British Colonies".
Parliament votes for a policy of 'Amelioration' (implementing changes and improvements) with a view to eventual abolition.
The Gaol Act is finally passed in parliament, seeing better conditions in prisons and a reduction in the number of offences for which convicts could be executed, by over 100.
November 18th - Another child, Charles, is born to Thomas and Hannah.
1826 May 9th - Thomas brings the issue of the slave trade in Mauritius before parliament after the ex-commissary general informs him the trade is still going on, despite being an English territory. He researches the issue thoroughly.
June - A stormy election sees Thomas returned to parliament for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis in Dorset.
1827 Thomas is cheered by the House, when he gives a passionate speech on slavery and the fact that abuses are still going on, and that improvements have not been mede in the West Indies.
May 1827 - The ex-governor of Mauritius, Sir Robert Farquhar, complains to parliament and charges Mr Buxton to prove his claims. Thomas becomes very ill under the strain.
Lord William Bentinck is appointed governor general of India. Thomas goes to discuss with him the subject of Suttee. Soon after he reaches India, the practice is stopped.
1828 The family move to Northrepps Hall, Norfolk, near the village of Overstrand.
July - Thomas brings to the attention of parliament the case of the abuse of the Khoi people (then known as Hottentots) in South Africa by the white settlers. The case is upheld.
1829 January 15th - The Fiftieth Ordinance is passed - the free people of colour are placed on the same footing as their white fellow citizens and protected by the same laws.
Thomas gives his support to the motion of Catholic emancipation in Ireland, offending many of his constituents and endangering his seat for Weymouth.
A considerable number of enslaved people in Mauritius are freed, after the government agrees that any enslaved person that can prove they had been illegally imported should be freed.
1830 March - Thomas states he is in favour of the Abolitionists taking bolder measures. He feels the planters had been given plenty of time to implement measures following the 1823 motion, but nothing has been done.
March 24th - Thomas presents a petition he has organised, containing the signatures of many businessmen and bankers, against the death sentence for forgery, after Mr Peel introduces his Bill for the consolidation of the forgery laws.
May - At Freemasons Hall, immediate emancipation becomes the objective after Thomas's resolution that: "No proper or practicable means should be left unattempted for effecting at the earliest period the abolition of slavery throughout the British Dominions."
Mr Peel's Bill on the forgery laws is passed by the Commons but reversed by the Lords. However, in succeeding years the infliction of capital punishment becomes more and more reduced.
Thomas's son Harry dies of consumption at the age of 17.
July 20th - Thomas makes an earnest appeal to the electors throughout the kingdom that the first step towards emancipation should be the abolition of the practice of flogging females.
1831 March 25th - Thomas states his intention to move a resolution for the complete abolition of slavery, he receives no offer of reply from the government.
April 15th - Thomas presents 500 petitions, along with evidence of the detrimental effect, on the enslaved population, of the continued toil on the sugar plantations. Late April - parliament is dissolved preventing further debate.
1832 May - Thomas splits parliament when he refuses to soften down his resolution (despite enormous pressure) for a committee to report on the best means of abolishing the state of slavery throughout the British Dominions. He loses the debate but with a large minority.
June 7th - The Great Reform Act (An Act to amend the representation of the people in England and Wales) receives Royal Assent, thereby becoming law.
December 22nd - Thomas is re-elected as the member for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, in Dorset.
1833 March 18th - Thomas, armed with petitions, gives notice that he will raise a motion on Abolition the next day. He refuses to let the session be adjourned until he has satisfaction from the government regarding the abolition of slavery.
March 19th - Lord Althorp requests a postponement on Abolition. Thomas rejects this unless the government prepares a plan for the complete and immediate abolition of slavery and fixes a date for introducing it to the House. Lord Althorp names the 23rd April.
2nd April - Thomas has the difficult task of getting the Abolition Society to accept that the motion will not be passed unless the planters are compensated.
Late April/Early May - When the debate on Abolition is postponed until May 14th, thousands of petitions and meetings are organised across the country. Thomas is under great pressure from both sides.
14th May - The debate on the Abolition of slavery begins when Thomas presents a petition from the women of Britain. It is so huge it takes four men to carry it.
May 15th - Protesters March from Exeter Hall to Downing Street. They are drawn from every corner of the UK and from many professions, including merchants, squires, bankers, magistrates and clergymen. Stanley pledges the date will not be postponed again.
Thomas is unhappy with some of the clauses (a suggested 12 year apprenticeship and compensation to the planters of £20 million). He decides not to split the House and endanger the Bill but to try to modify it later.
The issue catches the mood of the country: thousands of signatures pour in and the papers are full of articles on Abolition.
June 12th - The more radical Agency Committee splits from The Anti-Slavery Society. They demand an explanation from Thomas over the fact that he did not vote against the £20 million compensation clause.
Every day Thomas receives violent letters because he voted for the compensation, and from others saying that the planters have a right to it. However Thomas hopes to overthrow the apprenticeship scheme for the price of the £20 million compensation.
Thomas raises an amendment to the Abolition Bill suggesting a year for the apprenticeship. The amendment is lost but the period reduced from 12 years to seven years. Lord Stanley threatens to throw out the Bill if compensation is not included.
29th July - William Wilberforce dies.
August 7th - the Bill for the total Abolition of colonial slavery passes the House of Commons, and the Lords on the 20th August.
August 28th - The Abolition Bill receives Royal Assent, slavery will be officially abolished throughout the British dominions from 1st August 1834, though freed slaves have to serve a transitional period of 'apprenticeship'.
1834 August 1st - On the day on which emancipation of slaves takes place, Thomas's eldest daughter is married.
July 1st - Thomas takes up the case of the Xhosa in South Africa - commando raids by white settlers have seen their lands and people decimated.
1835 Thomas takes over the management of the brewing business on his uncle's death.
May 12th - The Spanish and Portuguese slave trade is continuing despite treaties costing £1million. Thomas proposes consolidating the treaties, seizing vessels equipped for slaving, even if no slaves are on board, and for the trade to be declared piracy.
February 18th - Thomas is re-elected to parliament for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, in Dorset.
Thomas obtains a parliamentary committee to look into the Cape Frontier Wars (then known as the Caffre Wars).
The parliamentary committee finds land has been taken unjustly from the Xhosa people and the commando system is the real cause of the war. It is agreed to place protectors for the aborigines in every colony where the English come in contact with them.
1836 On the reappointment of the Aborigines Committee, Dr Philip brings over to England Tzarzoe, the Xhosa chief, and Andrew Stoffles, the Kofi chief, to be examined before the committee. They dine at Thomas's house.
Thomas moves for a committee to look at the working of the apprenticeship system, emphasising good conduct of ex-slaves and poor conduct of planters who are still enforcing punishments.
1837 November 15th - Thomas is defeated in the parliamentary elections, and leaves parliament.
1838 The Bill ending apprenticeships for ex-slaves is passed by the House of Commons. Thomas, along with others, is ejected from the visitors' gallery for cheering.
Thomas has the idea of freeing Africa from the slave trade by establishing trade in other African resources. He travels to London and lays his plans before cabinet ministers.
1839 April 17th - The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society is set up to stop slavery in other countries.
Thomas publishes his book, 'The African Slave Trade and Its Remedy'. This urges the government to promote trade with African leaders to counter the slave trade.
November 19th - Thomas leaves for a tourist trip to Italy then Greece, returning in April 1840. During the trip he visits prisons and institutions but becomes ill with chest pains and breathing difficulties.
1840 Thomas opens the meeting of the African Civilization Society at Exeter Hall, which HRH Prince Albert attends.
Thomas is made a baronet. He buys land at Runton to add to estates he had previously purchased at Trimingham near Cromer. His estates will become the focus of his last years.
1841 April - The government sends an expedition to the Niger River Delta to begin trade negotiations with the chiefs there.
September - The Niger party are making good progress when fever breaks out on the ships. They suffer so many deaths that the government recalls the expedition.
Widely ridiculed and with his reputation in tatters, Thomas' health suffers.
1843 January - Thomas goes to London to bear his part in dissolving the African Civilization Society. He says it was as if he were going to attend the funeral of an old friend.
Spring - From this time onwards, Thomas suffers frequent attacks of illness, painful spasms of the chest, headaches and occasional confusion. He goes twice to Bath to take the waters (thought good for invalids at that time).
1844 December - Thomas becomes ill again. He never fully recovers his health, but in the cold winter is still concerned that villagers are supplied with food. He watches them going home, with their hot soup, from his bed.
1845 February 19th - Thomas Fowell Buxton dies and is buried in the chancel of the little church in Overstrand, Norfolk.
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