Buxton, Charles (DNB00)

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BUXTON, CHARLES (1823–1871), politician, was the third son of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton [q. v.], and was born on 18 Nov. 1823. Educated at home until the age of seventeen, he was then placed under the charge, successively, of the Rev. T. Fisher, at Luccombe, and the Rev. H. Alford (afterwards dean of Canterbury) at Wymeswold. In 1841 he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1845 and M.A. in 1850. On leaving the university he became a partner in the well-known brewery of Truman, Hanbury, Buxton, & Co. His father dying in 1845, Charles Buxton was entrusted with the task of preparing his biography. This work speedily passed through thirteen editions, and was translated into French and German.

In 1852 Buxton visited Ireland. He purchased an estate in county Kerry, and made it a model of cultivation in the course of a few years. In 1853 he published a pamphlet on national education in Ireland, in which he recommended for Ireland ‘the system which had answered so admirably in England—that of encouraging each denomination to educate its own children in the best way possible.’ In 1854 Buxton delivered a series of lectures on the theory of the construction of birds. In 1855 he published in the ‘North British Review’ an article on the sale and use of strong drink, which attracted much attention as coming from a partner of a great brewing house.

Buxton was returned to the House of Commons for Newport in 1857; for Maidstone in 1859; and for East Surrey in 1865, for which constituency he sat until his death. Buxton made an eloquent appeal in favour of referring the Trent question to arbitration; he frequently advocated the principle of the protection of private property during war, and the general amendment of international law in the interests of peace. In 1860 he published a work entitled ‘Slavery and Freedom in the British West Indies,’ in which he endeavoured to prove that England had secured the spread of civilisation in West Africa, as well as the permanent prosperity of the West India islands.

Buxton advocated the unpopular policy of clemency after the suppression of the Indian mutiny, and in the case of Governor Eyre and the Jamaica massacres. He declined to concur in the Jamaica committee's resolution to prosecute Governor Eyre on a charge of murder, and on 31 July 1866 brought forward in the House of Commons four resolutions, the first declaring that the punishments inflicted had been excessive; that grave excesses of severity on the part of any civil, military, or naval officers ought not to be passed over with impunity; that compensation ought to be awarded to those who had suffered unjustly; and that all further punishment on account of the disturbances ought to be remitted. The government accepted the first resolution, and the others were withdrawn on the understanding that inquiries should be made with the object, if possible, of carrying out the resolutions. Buxton, however, felt it incumbent upon him subsequently to call for an effectual censure and repudiation of the conduct of Mr. Eyre and his subordinates.

Buxton was an advocate of church reform, of disestablishment, and of security of tenure in Ireland. In general politics an independent liberal, he strongly advocated the system of cumulative voting; took a deep interest in the volunteer movement, but condemned all wars except those of defence.

Buxton inherited his father's intense affection for animals and his passion for outdoor sports. To these he added a love for architecture. He was the architect of his own beautiful seat of Fox Warren, in Surrey, and he gained a prize of 100l. in the competitive designs for the government offices in 1856, being placed sixth in the list of competitors. He was an admirer of Gothic architecture for modern buildings, and he designed the fountain near Westminster Abbey, built by himself in 1863, as a memorial of his father's anti-slavery labours. In 1866 Buxton published ‘The Ideas of the Day on Policy,’ and a pamphlet in 1869 on self-government for London.

On 9 April 1867 Buxton was thrown from his horse in the hunting-field, and suffered concussion of the brain. During his illness he studied the subject of anæsthetics, and offered a prize of 2,000l. for the discovery of an anæsthetic agent which should satisfy certain conditions.

Buxton's health began to fail rapidly towards the close of 1870. He died while he was staying at Lochearnhead, on 10 Aug. 1871. In 1850 Buxton married the eldest daughter of Sir Henry Holland, bart., M.D., by whom he had a family.

[Buxton's Survey of the System of National Education in Ireland, 1853; Buxton's Slavery and Freedom in the British West Indies, 1860; Buxton's Ideas of the Day on Policy, 1866; Buxton's Self-Government for London, a letter to the Right Hon. H. A. Bruce, M.P. (Home Secretary), 1869; Annual Register, 1871; Buxton's Notes of Thought, preceded by a biographical sketch by the Rev. J. Llewelyn Davies, M.A., 1873.]

G. B. S.