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ridiculously exaggerated fashion, Thomas Burt is one of the worthiest, albeit one of the most modest members of the present Parliament. Nay, I may go further, and say that he is a gentleman who has added something both to the moral dignity and the intellectual force of the House of Commons. I confess to a feeling of amusement when I hear members of that House expressing their wish that all the workingclass representatives were like the member for Morpeth. The British Parliament, I venture to think, would gain something if many more of its members of all classes resembled that gentleman. From the most aristocratic caste downwards, all, I think, might learn a lesson from him.
It is no uncommon thing to find the 'selfmade man’ in Parliament.
Indeed now-adays the House of Commons is the natural goal of such a person's ambition; for it is
undeniable that admission to that illustrious assemblage does far more to confer social dignity and secure social recognition, than the possession of mere wealth, however vast, or of mere talent, however brilliant. Thus the House of Commons contains at this moment many worthy and honourable men, who have fought their way upwards from humble beginnings until they have achieved the crowning glory of the ‘M.P.-ship.' I believe it is the fact that, besides Mr. Burt, there are two other gentlemen in the House who began the business of life in a coal-pit, one of these gentlemen being now a baronet and a millionaire. But never before has Parliament received such a self-made man as Mr. Burt, who comes not quite but nearly direct from the mine to the green benches of St. Stephen's; and who has taken his seat there, openly and avowedly as the representative of his own order, as the delegate and spokesman of the coal-miners of Northumberland. Those who know what these miners of Northumberland have been during many generations, need not be told that they belong to what may be called the aristocracy of their order. Thanks in no small measure to the splendid labours of the great evangelists Wesley and Whitfield, the Northumbrian pitman, whose almost savage vices had at one time made him a bye-word and a reproach throughout the country, underwent a great moral transformation towards the close of the last century. I do not pretend to say that even then he became all that could be wished as a citizen or a family man. If he had done so, he would have formed a strange exception to all other classes in society. But what is undeniable is that from this time onwards there was a great improvement in the social condition of the Northumberland miners. A large proportion of them became
God-fearing, studious men, and they trained their children in those paths of simple piety which Burns has glorified by the poetry of "The Cottar's Saturday Night.' In other districts, notably in the south and in the Midland Counties, the miner remained very much what he had been. But in Northumberland and some parts of Durham, Wesleyan Methodism brought this despised labourer in the great field of human industry within the pale of civilisation, and gave him not merely a higher conception of the meaning and worth of life, but enabled him to do something towards the full realisation of that conception.
Not a few men who have made the world their debtors sprang from the loins of these simple North-country pitmen; and not a few deeds as heroic as the most brilliant of the acts of valour which have won glory for those who wrought them on the battlefield, have made bright the records of the fiery mines of Tyneside. It is from this race, essentially “strong' both in its virtues and its vices, that Thomas Burt is descended. Born near North Shields in 1837, he was the son of a pitman who had achieved some local distinction as a Primitive Methodist preacher. From this father, and from a mother whom he regards with all the reverence and gratitude which good mothers deserve, he received not perhaps much in the way of book-learning, not certainly anything in the shape of social position or worldly wealth, but that which was more valuable than all besides, the benefit of a sound moral training and of a bright example of devotion to duty. At ten years of age he went into the pit, gaining the poor wages which helped to eke out the father's earnings by working as a 'trapper.' For nearly eighteen years he was a pitman