Thomas Buxton (1786-1845) is known for his work in the abolition of British slavery. He was born in 1786 at Castle Hedingham in Essex. Returning from his schooling at Kingston-upon-Thames and Greenwich in 1801, he was introduced by his mother to the Gurney family, who were famed Quakers. He quickly became friends with Joseph Gurney and Elizabeth Fry (Joseph's sister). Despite his upbringing in the Church of England, he became involved with the Quakers and began attending their meetings. After graduating from Trinity College in Dublin, he married Hannah Gurney, sister of Joseph. They had eight children together, five of whom died - four from whooping cough and one from consumption.

The next year, Buxton became a partner in the Truman Brewery and began a lifetime of work in social reform. Amongst his early work was a campaign to bring relief to the residents of the Spitalfields in London, where the introduction of textile factories had devastated the lives of weavers.

Beginning in 1816, Buxton became involved in reforming the prison system, publishing a book entitled An Inquiry into Prison Discipline in 1818 and pushing for changing criminal law and ending capital punishment. It was in 1818 that he was elected to Parliament as the representative for Weymouth in Dorset. He remained the MP for Weymouth until 1837.

In 1823, the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery was formed by William Wilberforce and Thomas Buxton in conjunction. When Wilberforce retired in 1825, Buxton became the Society's main advocate in Parliament. He continued his work, campaigning until, in 1833, Parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act, which freed all slaves held within Britain and its empire.

Seeing that slavery was still a major problem outside of Britain, Buxton turned his attention to promoting worldwide abolition of slavery. He published The African Slave Trade and Its Remedy in 1839, which took the stance that treaties and other diplomatic actions with African countries involved in the slave trade would be a strong incentive for them to stop. In 1841, the British government sent an expedition to Niger, but disease forced the missionaries there to return to Britain without accomplishing much in the way of negotations.

In 1845, Buxton died. It is said that his tireless campaigning and the crushing disappointment of the failure of the Niger expedition contributed greatly to his death. A monument to Buxton can be found today in Westminster Abbey.


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