Henry Fawcett

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The Right Honourable
Henry Fawcett
Henry Fawcett; Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett (née Garrett) by Ford Madox Brown.jpg
Henry Fawcett and Millicent Garrett Fawcett by Ford Madox Brown, 1872, National Portrait Gallery, London.
Postmaster General
In office
3 May 1880 – 6 November 1884
Monarch Queen Victoria
Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone
Preceded by Lord John Manners
Succeeded by George Shaw-Lefevre
Personal details
Born 26 August 1833 (1833-08-26)
Salisbury
Died 6 November 1884 (1884-11-07)
Nationality British
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Millicent Garrett
(1847-1929)
Alma mater University of Cambridge

Henry Fawcett PC (26 August 1833 – 6 November 1884) was a blind British academic, statesman and economist.[1]

Background and education[edit]

Fawcett was born in Salisbury, and educated at King's College School and the University of Cambridge: entering Peterhouse in 1852, he migrated to Trinity Hall the following year, and became a fellow there in 1856, the year he graduated BA as 7th Wrangler.[2] In 1858, when he was 25, he was blinded in a shooting accident. Despite his blindness, he continued with his studies, especially in economics. He was able to enter Lincoln's Inn but decided against a career as a barrister and took his name off their books in 1860.[3]

Academic career[edit]

Henry Fawcett

Two years later, Fawcett reportedly attended the 1860 Oxford evolution debate, during which he was asked whether he thought Bishop Samuel Wilberforce had actually read the Origin of Species. Reportedly, Fawcett replied loudly, "Oh no, I would swear he has never read a word of it". Ready to recriminate, Wilberforce swung round to him scowling, but stepped back and bit his tongue on noting that the speaker was the blind economist.[4] At the next meeting (in September 1861) of the British Association in Manchester, Fawcett defended the logic behind Charles Darwin's theories.[5] This significantly affected its acceptance. In 1863 Fawcett published his Manual of Political Economy. In the same year he became Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge. He made himself a recognised authority on economics, his works on which include The Economic Position of the British Labourer (1865) and Labour and Wages. In 1883 he was elected Rector of Glasgow University.

Political career[edit]

1881 Cartoon from Punch: "PROFESSOR FAWCETT, M.P and P.M.G., A Politician of a certain stamp, and President of the Republic of Letters at St. Martin-le-Grand's"

After repeated defeats as a Liberal Party candidate, Fawcett was elected Member of Parliament for Brighton in 1865. He held this seat until 1874, and thereafter represented Hackney between 1874 and 1884. He campaigned for women's suffrage. In 1880 he was appointed Postmaster-General by William Ewart Gladstone and sworn of the Privy Council.[6] He had a particular interest in encouraging saving through the Post Office Savings Bank. He introduced the savings stamp which allowed people to save pennies at a time to build up the minimum account limit of a shilling. He pushed through parliament an act to allow savers to convert their post office savings to government stock and he developed the post office's life insurance and annuities schemes.[7] He introduced many other innovations, including parcel post, postal orders, and licensing changes to permit payphones and trunk lines.

Family[edit]

Through his campaigning for women's suffrage, Fawcett met Elizabeth Garrett, to whom he proposed in 1865. She rejected the proposal to concentrate on becoming a doctor at a time when women doctors were extremely rare. However, in 1867 Fawcett married her younger sister Millicent Garrett.[8][9] They had one child, Philippa Fawcett. Fawcett's career was cut short by his premature death from pleurisy in November 1884, aged 51. There are statues of him in Salisbury Market Square and in Victoria Embankment Gardens near Charing Cross in central London. The latter is by the eminent female sculptor Mary Grant. Sir Leslie Stephen wrote a biography of him, Life of Henry Fawcett, in 1885.

He is buried in Trumpington Extension Cemetery, Cambridge where several members of the family of Charles Darwin are also buried, including Sir George Darwin, Lady Maud, and Gwen Raverat.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "University of Glasgow,Biography of Henry Fawcett". Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  2. ^ "Fawcett, Henry (FWCT852H)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  3. ^ Goldman, Lawrence (2003). The Blind Victorian: Henry Fawcett and British Liberalism. Cambridge University Press. p. 94. ISBN 0-521-89274-0. 
  4. ^ Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, 2003, p. 126.
  5. ^ London Illustrated News,Sept. 16, 1861,p279
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 24841. p. 2836. 4 May 1880.
  7. ^ Archibald Grainger Bowie The Romance of the Savings Banks 1898 SW Partridge & Co
  8. ^ Millicent Garrett Fawcett - Spartacus Educational
  9. ^ The Passing Parade with John Doremus, Evening with Ian Holland, Radio 2CH 20:40 AEST 3 August 2007.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Henry Moor
James White
Member of Parliament for Brighton
18651874
With: James White
Succeeded by
James Lloyd Ashbury
Charles Cameron Shute
Preceded by
John Holms
Sir Charles Reed
Member of Parliament for Hackney
18741884
With: John Holms
Succeeded by
James Stuart
John Holms
Political offices
Preceded by
Lord John Manners
Postmaster General
1880–1884
Succeeded by
George Shaw-Lefevre
Academic offices
Preceded by
John Bright
Rector of the University of Glasgow
1883–1884
Succeeded by
Edmund Law Lushington