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The policy of repression:
(i.) At London.
craft gilds, having their own officials and a common purse In 1429 the servants of the Cordwainers of Bristol had a craf comprising those "who for their services take wages from their masters"; they were ruled by their own wardens and surveyors, and made ordinances which they submitted to the mayor for ratification. This separate organization was apparently of recent growth, for a few years before (1408). the wardens of the Cordwainers had been ordered to survey defaults" as well on the part of the masters as on the part of the yeomen of the same craft "; while now in 1429 each class was governed by its own officials 1. The yeomen Shoemakers of Oxford, the yeomen Tailors of Bristol, the yeomen Weavers of Coventry and Northampton, the yeomen Blacksmiths of London, had also their own wardens 2; while many even wore a common livery or clothing 3. At Exeter, on the other hand, the masters and journeymen of the Cordwainers apparently amalgamated their unions since, as was stated above, they were controlled by four wardens of whom two were chosen from the former and two from the latter.
There is abundant evidence that the journeymen gilds were a widespread institution in the fifteenth century. As we have shown, there are traces of their existence in London, Bristol, York, Coventry, Hull, Northampton, Exeter, Hereford, Oxford and Beverley, among other towns; and there are ample indications also of the long conflict between the journeymen gilds and the masters. London, where they appear as early as 1303, adopted from the outset a policy of repression. In that year, "servant workmen in cordwainery or others" were forbidden to hold any meetings to make provisions which were to the prejudice of the trade or the detriment of the people, under penalty of imprisonment. In 1383 the prohibition was renewed in a proclama
1 Little Red Book, ii. 103 (1408); 147 (1429).
2 (i.) Oxford: Records, 8 (1512). (ii.) Bristol: Fox, Merchant Taylors, 38 (1570). (iii.) Coventry: Leet Book, i. 93 (1424). (iv.) Northampton : Records, i. 269 (1432). (v.) London: Lond. and Midd. Archæol. Soc. iv. 33 (1434).
3 Letter Book K, 263 (London Bakers: 1441). Other examples are the yeomanry of the London Blacksmiths and the Northampton Weavers: see last note. 4 Riley, Liber Custumarum, i. 84.
tion against the holding of "congregations, conventicles and assemblies" without leave of the mayor1. Four years later the journeymen Cordwainers were attached for forming an illegal assembly in defiance of this proclamation. They confessed their guilt and asserted that a friar, William Bartone, had agreed for a sum of money contributed by them to make suit at the court of Rome for papal confirmation of their fraternity, so that no man should dare to interfere with them 2. In 1396 the Saddlers alleged that the serving-men of their mistery, called "yeomen", were accustomed once a year to array themselves in like garb, that is, wear a livery, and to hold meetings to the great prejudice of the craft. The journeymen replied that they met only to hear mass, but the masters declared that under a feigned colour of sanctity the journeymen formed "covins" to raise their wages greatly in excess 3. The civic authorities ordered that they should submit to the rule and government of the masters of the mistery "as in other misteries", and form no fraternity; but that if they suffered any grievance at the hands of their masters they should complain to the mayor. In the following century (1415) the journeymen Tailors, who are spoken of as "young and unstable people", were now accused of consorting together in various dwellinghouses against their masters' wishes and behaving in an unruly manner, and again it was ordained that they should be subject to the rule and governance of the masters and wardens, and cease to wear a livery or live together 4. Shortly afterwards (1417) they sought to get the injunction rescinded; but the religious pretext, which they advanced, failed to achieve its purpose 5. London continued even later to set its face resolutely against the formation of journeymen gilds. In 1441 the Bakers denounced "the brotherhood and clothing" of their serving-men, who in reply pointed out that the masters had themselves been members of the
1 Letter Book H, 226; Riley, Memorials, 480.
2 Letter Book H, 311; Memorials, 495.
3 Letter Book H, 431-432; Memorials, 542.
4 Letter Book I, 136; Memorials, 609; Clode, Memorials of the Merchant Taylors, 514.
5 Letter Book I, 187; Memorials, 653; Clode, op. cit. 516.
brotherhood during their term of servitude. But the mayor and aldermen decreed that they should discard their livery and be under the rule of their masters; they were opposed to private fraternities established "under colour of piety or other fiction "1.
At Coventry we can trace a similar struggle with the Coventry journeymen gilds, in which the authorities used their utmost endeavour to crush them completely out of existence. They secured a royal mandate suppressing the brotherhood of St. Anne formed by journeymen, but in 1406 and 1414 it was again necessary to renew the injunction, while in 1424 the gild was organized under a different name 2. This persistence of the journeymen serves to illustrate the vitality and strength of the movement. The hostility of the masters to the yeomen gilds was protracted into the sixteenth century. In 1518 the daubers and rough masons were forbidden to form a craft or fellowship, and at the same time a general injunction was laid upon the journeymen of all occupations and crafts, forbidding them to make "any cave or bye-law or assembly" without licence of the mayor and the master of the craft 4. In 1524 the attempt to suppress the journeymen gilds was for the moment abandoned, and efforts were made instead to place them under municipal control, the journeymen of the various crafts being enjoined to bring in their rules to the mayor". However, in 1528, there was a return to the old policy of repression when journeymen Dyers were ordered "to be servants and not a craft or fellowship ", and their assemblies were disallowed. The prohibition was made general a few years later (1549) in the ordinance that "no journeymen shall assemble or keep any quarterages", that is, form an organization and institute a common fund”. These strenuous efforts on the part of the municipal bodies to check combinations among the hired workers, when formed to raise wages and to reduce the hours of labour, were 1 Letter Book K, 263-266.
2 Rymer, ix. 117; Hist. MSS. Comm. 15th Rep. App. x. 117-118; Harris, Old English Town, 276 (n. 2); Coventry Leet Book, iv. p. xxxiii. 3 Coventry Leet Book, iii. 653. 4 Ibid. iii. 656. 7 Ibid. iii. 792.
5 Ibid. iii. 687.
6 Ibid. iii. 694.
seconded by the central authorities. An act of parliament (iii) Legisin 1548 forbade workmen to establish unions to improve the conditions of labour. It recited that artificers "have made confederacies and promises and have sworn mutual oaths, not only that they should not meddle one with another's work and perform and finish that another hath begun, but also to constitute and appoint how much work they should do in a day and what hours and times they shall work, contrary to the laws and statutes of this realm". This measure anticipated the Combination Acts of the eighteenth century, and severe penalties were imposed upon those who associated together to "do their works but at a certain price and rate". The first offence was to be punished by a fine of ten pounds or imprisonment, the second by twenty pounds or the pillory, and the third by forty pounds or the pillory and the loss of an ear 1.
The masters, however, did not everywhere adopt this Comunyielding attitude. In some towns a spirit of compromise promise. seems to have prevailed, and here efforts were made to allay discontent and arrive at a peaceful settlement of the grievances on both sides. The agreement between the masters and journeymen of the Weavers of Northampton recites that many "unfitting contests and debates, misrule and ungodly governance, hath long time reigned in the craft". It proceeds to state the terms of the compromise, and adds that both were to join in a yearly procession to offer up lights before the altar of their patron saint, and afterwards to have "their customary drinking and communication2 together as of old"; there were to be no further "confederacy, conventicle nor gathering" among the members of the craft, in order to avoid disturbance of the peace. There is an instance at Coventry of the settlement of a dispute in 1424 by arbitration, but the terms appear to have been in the masters' favour and to the disadvantage of the journey
1 Statutes, iv. part i. 58. The statement that no English statutes were called forth by the proceedings" of the journeyman gilds (Ashley, Economic History, ii. 124) needs to be modified. The authorities at Coventry in prohibiting journeymen gilds in 1549 relied upon Edward VI.'s statute: Leet Book, iii. 792.
2 Records of Northampton, i. 268 seq.
men1. At Oxford also the controversy among the Shoemakers was submitted to arbitration 2.
The instrument to which the yeomen gilds had most common recourse, in order to defend their economic interests and bring pressure to bear upon the masters, was the strike. There are examples in the fourteenth century of strikes which present a remarkable parallel to "the sympathetic strikes" of our own day. If any dispute arose among the Shearmen of London between master and man, all his fellowworkers within the city, according to the allegation of the masters (1350), were wont to enter into a conspiracy" that no one among them should work or serve his own master until the said master, his servant, or man, had come to an agreement; by reason whereof the masters in the said trade have been in great trouble and the people left unserved "3. The alien Weavers of London lodged a similar complaint in 1362 of the spirit which prevailed among their workfolk. Non-union men were roughly handled, and in 1387 a journeyman cordwainer who refused to join the London union was assaulted with such violence" that he hardly escaped with his life" 5. But the masters also made common cause among themselves and rallied to each other's support in the struggle with refractory journeymen. The ordinances of the London Founders (1389) contained a provision that, if any master and man were at variance through any misunderstanding between them, the man was not to be employed by any other master until the dispute had been settled. The Brasiers (1416) adopted a like attitude, and ordered that if a journeyman were involved in a quarrel with his master he was to be refused employment by other masters in the trade 7. These
1 See supra, p. 286. For an alternative view, see Harris, Old English Town, 271; Leet Book, iv. p. xxxiii; and Unwin, Industrial Organization, 54. The removal of restrictions upon the number of apprentices could not have been to the interest of the journeymen.
2 Records of Oxford, 7. The London Blacksmiths in 1434 recognized their journeymen's gild: Lond. and Midd. Archæol. Soc. iv. 32 seq. Friendly relations were established (1602) between the Weavers of Gloucester and their journeymen, and the latter could “in quiet and orderly sort at any time hereafter congregate and meet together": Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. App. ix. 416. 3 Riley, Memorials, 247. 6 Ibid. 514.
4 Ibid. 307.
5 Ibid. 495.
7 Ibid. 626. Similarly the Fullers of Bristol: Little Red Book, ii. 13 (1346).