Thomas Burt

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The Right Honourable

Thomas Burt

PC
Burt 5716097444 35acc3045d o.jpg
Thomas Burt.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade
In office
18 August 1892 – 21 June 1895
Monarch Victoria of the United Kingdom
Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone
The Earl of Rosebery
Preceded by The Lord Balfour of Burleigh
Succeeded by The Earl of Dudley
Personal details
Born 12 November 1837
Died 12 April 1922
Nationality British

Thomas Burt PC (12 November 1837 – 12 April 1922)[1] was a British trade unionist and one of the first working-class Members of Parliament.

Career[edit]

Burt became secretary of the Northumberland Miners' Association in 1863, then, in 1874, was returned to parliament for Morpeth,[2] alongside Alexander MacDonald, a fellow miners' leader. Burt stood as a Radical labour candidate with Liberal support and formed part of a small group of Liberal–Labour politicians in the House of Commons in the 1880s and 1890s. After the 1892 General Election, William Ewart Gladstone appointed Burt as Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, in which capacity he served until 1895.

Despite the emergence of the Independent Labour Party and the Labour Representation Committee, Burt remained loyal to his backers in the Liberal Party and refused to join. He was sworn of the Privy Council in 1906[3] and continued to represent Morpeth in Parliament until 1918.[2] From 1910 to 1918 he was Father of the House in the House of Commons.

Burt resigned as general secretary of the Northumberland Miners' Association in 1913.

Personal life[edit]

Thomas Burt was born at Murton Row, near Backworth, in the county of Northumberland, on 12 November 1837.[4] His father, Peter Burt, was at this time working as a coal hewer for the Backworth Coal Company.[5] At the age of 10 Burt's working life began as a trapper boy at the Haswell Pit. With only approximately two years schooling and at the age of 17 Burt decided "how utterly ignorant I was and when I was seized with an eager desire for knowledge and mental improvement".[6] In 1860 Burt married Mary Weatherburn and in the 1881 census they were listed as having three daughters and three sons; Rebecca aged 20, Mary aged 13, Thomas aged 11, Peter aged 8, Jane aged 6 and Wilfred aged 1. Poor health led to Burt's retirement from politics in 1918. During the final three years of his life he was bed-ridden.[7] Burt died on 12 April 1922, aged 84 and was buried in Jesmond Cemetery which was in the neighborhood of his residence in Newcastle upon Tyne. On 12 April 2014 a re-dedication of the Thomas Burt Memorial took place in Jesmond Cemetery.

Politics[edit]

Formation of the Northumberland Miners' Mutual Confident Association which became the Northumberland Miners' Associaton.[8] In 1865 Burt was elected Executive Secretary of the Northumberland Miner's Mutual Confident Association.[9] Continuing as General Secretary of the association for the next fifty years.[10] Burt was guest speaker at the 2nd Durham Miners' Gala and attended as a guest speaker on a regular basis in subsequent years.[11] A march for universal manhood suffrage was held in Newcastle on 12 April 1873, an estimated 80,000 union members marched through Newcastle to the Town Moor, here speakers included Burt.[12] Burt stood on a Radical reform platform, he believed that the franchise should be extended and this would lead to the election of reform-minded MPs. He called for universal suffrage, which would include women, reapportionment of districts to provide roughly the same number of voters in each constituency, shorter duration of each Parliament and payment of MPs.[13] In 1874 Burt was elected as Member of Parliament for the Borough of Morpeth in Northumberland.[14] He received 3,332 votes whilst his opponent Capt. F. Duncan received 585. Burt gave his maiden speech on 13 May 1874 in support of G.O.Trevelyan's private member's bill to 'equalize franchise requirements by extending the borough franchise to the counties. In his speech which was to last fifteen minutes he declared 'that the unfairness of the present law was evident to the miners of Northumberland. Of workers at the same colliery, miners residing in the borough could cast a ballot, while those living in the county could not. Also, because miners often moved from one colliery to another, they could easily lose the vote previously enjoyed'.[15] Unfortunately on this occasion the bill was defeated. After his election as M.P. Burt was to split his time between London and his duties as representative for the Borough of Morpeth and Newcastle and his union role. He made sure he was in attendance for every important union meeting. In October 1874 the mine owners called for a twenty percent reduction of wages, the union put forward a reduction of eight percent. After arbitration the two sides settled on a wage reduction of fourteen percent.[16] In 1906 Burt was made a Privy Councillor.[17] He lost the formal support of his own Union, in 1909, because he would not join the Labour Party.[18]

Legacy[edit]

On 12 November 1987 on the 150th anniversary of his death, Dr Eric Wade of the Open University gave the memorial address 'Thomas Burt: His Life and Ideas'. The Stephenson Railway Museum located near Murton Row, where Burt was born has a steam train which the named 'Thomas Burt' in his honour. The aged miners' homes at Choppington, under construction at the time of Burt's death were named the Burt Memorial Homes.[19] The Northumberland Miners' Association named their Trade Union Offices building Burt Hall. The building which was opened in 1895 now bears a plaque stating the hall 'was built by the miners' in recognition of valuable service rendered by Thomas Burt M.P. as general secretary for 27 years, and to commemorate his appointment as secretary of Board of Trade in 1892.'

References[edit]

  1. ^ Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "M" (part 2)[self-published source][better source needed]
  2. ^ a b Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "M" (part 3)[self-published source][better source needed]
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27873. p. 182. 9 January 1906.
  4. ^ Burt, Thomas (1924). An Autobiography. London: T.Fisher Unwin Ltd. p. 20. 
  5. ^ Burt, Thomas (1924). An Autobiography. London: T. Fisher Unwin. p. 21. 
  6. ^ Burt, Thomas (1924). An Autobiography. London: T. Fisher Unwin. p. 113. 
  7. ^ http://www.spartacus-educational.com/TUburt.htm
  8. ^ Burt, Thomas (1924). An Autobiography. London: T. Fisher Unwin. p. 156. 
  9. ^ Satre, Lowell J. (1999). Thomas Burt, Miners' M.P. The Great Conciliator. Leicester: Leicester University Press. p. 17. 
  10. ^ Arnot, R.Page (1949). The Miners, A History of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain 1889-1910. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. p. 52. 
  11. ^ http://www.dmm.org.uk/whoswho/b908.htm
  12. ^ Satre, Lowell J. (1999). Thomas Burt, Miners' M.P. The Great Conciliator. Leicester: Leicester University Press. p. 32. 
  13. ^ Satre, Lowell J. (1999). Thomas Burt, Miners' M.P. The Great Conciliator. Leicester: Leicester University Press. p. 34. 
  14. ^ Burt, Thomas (1924). An Autobiography. London: T. Fisher Unwin. p. 219. 
  15. ^ Satre, Lowell J. (1999). Thomas Burt, Miners' M.P. The Great Conciliator. Leicester: Leicester University Press. p. 38. 
  16. ^ Satre, Lowell J. (1999). Thomas Burt, Miners' M.P. The Great Conciliator. Leicester: Leicester University Press. p. 41. 
  17. ^ Burt, Thomas (1924). An Autobiography. London: T. Fisher Unwin. p. 302. 
  18. ^ Satre, Lowell J. (1999). Thomas Burt, Miners' M.P. The Great Conciliator. Leicester: Leicester University Press. p. 16. 
  19. ^ Satre, Lowell J. (1999). Thomas Burt, Miners' M.P. The Great Conciliator. Leicester: Leicester University Press. p. 140. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir George Grey, Bt
Member of Parliament for Morpeth
1874–1918
Succeeded by
John Cairns
Preceded by
Sir John Kennaway, Bt
Father of the House
1910–1918
Succeeded by
T. P. O'Connor
Trade union offices
Preceded by
William Crawford
Secretary of the Northumberland Miners' Association
1865–1905
Succeeded by
William Straker
Preceded by
William Matkin
President of the Trades Union Congress
1891
Succeeded by
John Hodge
Political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Balfour of Burleigh
Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade
1892–1895
Succeeded by
The Earl of Dudley