Cartwright was the eldest son of Lieutenant-General William Cartwright of Flore House, Weedon, Northamptonshire and his wife Mary Anne Jones, only daughter and heiress of Henry Jones. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford where he graduated B.A. in 1844, and subsequently became a Fellow of All Souls. He served in the Austrian Army for a while, and was later major in the 2nd Hussars British German Legion which was raised for service in the Crimean War. He was a J.P. and a Deputy Lieutenant of Northamptonshire.
At the 1868 general election, Cartwright was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for South Northamptonshire and held the seat until his death in 1881, unmarried. He was one of the most active campaigners for police superannuation.
- Debrett's House of Commons 1881
- Craig, F. W. S. (1989) . British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. pp. 433–434. ISBN 0-900178-26-4.
- Carolyn Steedman Policing the Victorian community: the formation of English provincial police forces, 1856-80 Routledge, 1984 ISBN 0-7100-9575-9, ISBN 978-0-7100-9575-6
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Fairfax Cartwright
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Northamptonshire South
With: Rainald Knightley