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Semipublic bodies.

between them. If a servant refused to obey their ruling, he was not to be employed until he made submission; while if the master were "found in default", he was to be punished "after the discretion of the wardens and twelve councillors or the more part of them" 1.

(5) Apart from differences in the constitution of the two bodies, there is a striking difference in their functions. The trade union is concerned with the interests of the workers, and not those of the public as such. It has been defined by the historians of Trade Unionism as "a continuous association of wage-earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment" 2. Trade unions are thus at present primarily fighting organizations, though in some cases they are beginning to display a growing sense of responsibility for the work done by their members. The craft gild, on the other hand, showed care not only for the manufacturer but for the customer, reconciling so far as possible the interests of producer and consumer, and insisting on sound workmanship, good quality and a just price reasonable alike to buyer and seller. In order to ensure an adequate standard of materials and technical skill, the wardens of the gild enforced apprenticeship, attested the competence of strangers and carried out a rigorous system of search. Of the other functions served by the craft gilds, religious, educational and the like, we have already spoken.

(6) Lastly, the craft gilds were semi-public bodies, subordinate but integral parts of municipal administration. At the same time they were in theory and largely in practice under the control of town authorities, and their efforts to emancipate themselves from this control were severely checked. Occasionally also the gilds were employed as agents of national supervision. We have seen how many London companies were vested with rights of search at all the fairs throughout the country 3, and as early as 1300 the wardens of the Goldsmiths were empowered by statute to make search among their craft. In the latter half of the

1 Lond. and Midd. Archæol. Soc. iv. 43.

2 Webb, Trade Unionism, I.

4 Statutes, i. 141.

3 Supra, pp. 228-229.

fifteenth century the craft gilds in all parts of the country became the recognized channels through which the central executive carried out some, at any rate, of its economic functions; and they were entrusted with duties afterwards assigned to justices of the peace. Thus, in the well-known act of 1463" the masters or wardens for the time being of every craft or mistery in every city, borough, town and village", were given authority to search for wares imported into this country by aliens 1. The following year elaborate regulations were laid down as to the size of cloth, and the rulers of the gild were made responsible for their execution 2. In this way the position of the craft gilds was fortified by state recognition, and their dignity, prestige and strength were proportionately enhanced.


The first sign of the disintegration of the old gild system The was marked by the appearance of the yeomen or journey- gilds. men gilds, which were associations of wage-earners formed within the craft gild, but maintaining a separate and where possible an independent existence. This combination of hired workers in revolt against their employers was a symptom that the harmonious relations between masters and men were breaking down under the stress of industrial competition and the pressure of new economic forces. The ultimate reason for the rise of the yeomen gilds lies in the fact that the journeymen were sinking into the position of permanent wage - earners, and found their prospects of economic advancement rendered increasingly difficult with the growth of population and the gradual development of a capitalist system of industry. The small master recruited from the ranks of the journeymen did not indeed disappear, and in many handicrafts was well able to hold his own until the Industrial Revolution achieved the final triumph of the capitalist employer. But in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries a permanent class of wage-earners began to emerge among men who had "sufficient cunning and understanding in the occupation and exercise of their craft ", but lacked

1 Statutes, ii. 397. For the act empowering coverlet-makers of York to make search throughout the county: infra, p. 441.

2 Ibid. ii. 406.

Labour disputes

over wages

the means to "occupy the craft to their own proper use, increase and advantage"1. It is true, again, that the more enterprising journeymen were constantly being absorbed into the lower grades of mastership-and this largely explains the weakness of the movement as a whole-but the greater number among them were condemned to remain outside the ranks of the employing class. The interest of gild development in the later Middle Ages largely centres round this new grouping of industrial forces, and the consequent struggle which ensued between the different elements in the craft gild. It is the purpose of the present section to trace (1) the causes to which the yeomen gilds owed their rise, and (2) the reasons for their failure to establish a stable and permanent organization among the hired workers.

One chief source of contention, as we may readily imagine, was the labour question, and disputes over conditions of employment, whether in respect of wages or hours, figured prominently in all controversies between masters and men. The employers alleged that the journeymen extorted excessive wages and refused to work at the customary rates of pay. These complaints became frequent after the Black Death, and the demand of the workmen for higher wages coincided with the rise in the cost of living, though it was partly inspired by a desire to share in the material prosperity of the agricultural labourers. The Cobblers of Bristol complained in 1364 that they were " now well-nigh impoverished by the excessive price of their servants of the aforesaid craft, who are loath to be attendant to the said craft unless they have too outrageous and excessive salary, contrary to the Statute" of Labourers 2. In different parts of the country artisans were fined for alleged extortion; indeed, it has hardly been sufficiently recognized that the problems which confronted the employers of rural labour after the social upheaval of the fourteenth century had their exact counterpart within the towns. The attempts of parliament to check the rise of wages were seconded by the gilds in the

1 Hist. MSS. Comm. 14th Rep. App. viii. 135.

a Little Red Book of Bristol, ii. 42.

* Wallingford, 1370: Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. App. 581. Yorkshire, 1372 Vict. County Hist. Yorkshire, ii. 408.

industrial sphere. The ordinances of the gilds of York in particular disclose a repeated effort to keep down wages, and the masters were forbidden under the penalty of fines to give higher remuneration than allowed by statute. This tendency to prevent the advance of wages was widespread 1; and the journeymen gilds were accordingly regarded by the masters as nothing less than confederacies to raise wages. In 1441 the London Bakers asserted that their servants had a brotherhood and livery, and were demanding higher wages "than they were wont to have of old time "2. Again at York the masters complained that, while they were willing to pay their workmen "according to established custom and ancient rule", the latter formed unlawful confederacies expressly for the purpose of fixing wages 3. That the opposition to the yeoman gilds was inspired primarily by the conviction that they were intended to raise wages is shown by an ordinance at Coventry (1518), which ordered the masons to form no fellowship "and to take such wages as is limited them by the statutes " 4. In determining the merits of these disputes between masters and men, it is often difficult to discover whether the trouble over wages arose from the refusal of the journeymen to serve at the old rates, or from the attempts of the masters to compel their men to accept less than the usual rates. Two instances are recorded at London, where the journeymen sought to raise their wages and the masters were compelled to accede to their demands. According to a statement made by the Shearmen in 1350, they were wont to employ their workmen at these rates in addition to their board: Christmas to Easter, threepence per day; Easter to the feast of St. John (June 24), fourpence; St. John to the feast of St. Bartholomew (August 24), threepence; St. Bartholomew to Christmas, fourpence. But the men now were no longer willing to work except by the piece, "and then do so greatly hurry over the same that they do

1 York Memorandum Book, i. 73, 107; Little Red Book of Bristol, ii. 76. The statement in Petit-Dutaillis, Studies Supplementary to Stubbs (1914), ii. 268-269, that "as a rule masters and workmen had the same interests and that the demand for higher wages would not occasion trouble between them, is not borne out by the evidence of craft ordinances.

2 Letter Book K, 263.

8 York Memorandum Book, i. 190 (c. 1430).

Coventry Leet Book, iii. 653.

and hours.

great damage to the folks to whom such cloths belong ; by reason whereof the masters in the said trade have great blame and abuse, and take less than they were wont to do". The masters therefore petitioned that their servants should work "according to the ancient usage", and rest content with the wages they formerly received 1. On another occasion (1396) the Saddlers complained that their journeymen had raised wages so high, that whereas at one time the masters could hire serving-men for forty shillings or for five marks a year and their board, now they were required to pay ten or twelve marks or even ten pounds a year. On the other hand, when the grievances of the Weavers of Coventry were submitted to arbitration in 1424, the decision was given that the serving-men were to "have the third part of the payment for weaving. . . as they used to have "3. This may mean that the journeymen had been striking for higher wages and had failed in their efforts, but it is possible that they successfully resisted an attempt on the part of their masters to lower their wages. A clearer instance is that of Chester where the company of Wrights and Slaters oppressed their workmen, paying them "such wages they be not able to live on". They were therefore ordered "to give from time to time such wages as shall be appointed by the mayor" 4. We have here unmistakable evidence that the masters themselves were not unready to utilize their opportunities in their own interests.

Disputes over the hours of labour can be illustrated from the ordinances of the Cappers of Coventry. In 1496 they appointed a twelve-hours' day, fixing the time between six o'clock in the morning and six at night, and they also made compulsory an eight-days' notice. In 1520 they lengthened the working hours from 6 A.M. to 7 P.M. in winter and from 5 A.M. to 7 P.M. in summer, while the serving-man was now required to give fourteen days' notice. This extension of the working day met with opposition from the journeymen, and in 1526 they were admonished to "keep their hours

1 Riley, Memorials, 251.

3 Coventry Leet Book, i. 94.

2 Ibid. 542.

4 Morris, Chester, 436 (1590); G. Unwin, Industrial Organization (1904),

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