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methods were at any rate peaceful, but at Chester the bitterness grew so intense, that on one occasion (1358) the master Weavers made an assault upon their journeymen 'with pole-axes, baslards and iron-pointed poles " 1.
When we turn from the yeomen gilds of the fourteenth, Changes fifteenth and first half of the sixteenth centuries to those of in the the Elizabethan and Stuart age, we are at once impressed of the later by a striking transformation in their character and position. gilds. In the earlier period they were independent organizations, composed of hired workers in revolt against their masters and proscribed by the municipality. In the later period they had won legal recognition but at the price of their independence, and their constitution was now entirely changed. We have already seen how strenuously in the early part of the fifteenth century the London Tailors resisted the formation of a fraternity among their journeymen. But in 1578 the yeomen Tailors not only had their ' own organization with executive officers (warden substitutes) and a council of assistants, but, more important still, this separate establishment is said to have originated in the express desire of the governing body of the craft "to make business more easy to them "- by constituting inferior officers to collect dues and take note of irregularities and abuses 2. Again the yeomanry of the Pewterers' Company, as we learn from their accounts which begin in 1495, were governed by three wardens who were members of the livery and were chosen by the livery; the yeomanry had also to attend the masters' mass, a further sign of their dependency and subordination. The yeomanry of the Ironmongers' Company of London were at an early date in complete subjection to the livery, as we may gather from their petition in 1497: "Under your suffrage and correction. it shall please your good masterships all to grant unto us, the yeomanry of this your worshipful fellowship of this craft of Ironmongers, the petitions hereafter following at our instance and in the way of charity"4. There
1 Morris, Chester, 405-408.
2 Clode, Memorials of the Merchant Taylors, 24, 561.
4 Nicholl, Ironmongers' Company, 50.
seems no question that the position of the yeomanry underwent a most important change, at any rate in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They became definitely constituted organ of the craft, but in strict subordination to the governing body. Their officials were governed by the livery court of assistants; their funds were no longer in their own control, and they were now reduced to fulfil purely administrative functions. They survived as a separate organization because they now served the interests of the authorities, whose task of ruling the craft they lightened by gathering in the contributions of their members and supervising their work. The explanation of the change appears to lie in the fact that the position of the yeomen had materially altered with the growth of a permanent class of hired workers, debarred from all prospects of obtaining independence as masters; the journeymen ceased, as hitherto, to be unmarried men residing with their masters, but settled down as householders and lived apart1. We get a glimpse of the process which transformed their status in the injunction of the Coventry Leet in 1435, that the journeymen cardwire-drawers and girdlemen were to work in their own houses and not in their masters' houses 2. Moreover, where payment was made by piece-work instead of by a time-wage the change would be facilitated. In the Weavers' dispute at Coventry in 1424 the journeymen were assigned "the third part of the payment for weaving cloth". There is no reason, however, to regard this as in any way an innovation 3; and at Bristol also, as early as 1390, it is described as the customary method of payment among journeymen weavers. The journeyman weaver was to receive "the third part of the cloth as has been customary before this time". Again at York the skinners and bowers were paid by the piece 5. Ultimately the result
1 Webb, Trade Unionism, 4 (n. 1); Unwin, Industrial Organization, 52; Unwin, Gilds of London, 224-225. 2 Coventry Leet Book, i. 183.
3 Professor Unwin (Industrial Organization, 53-54) would apparently regard this stipulation as to payment by piece-work as opening up a new development; but the wording of the clause is: "as they used to have " (Coventry Leet Book, i. 94).
4 Little Red Book of Bristol, ii. 59.
5 York Memorandum Book, i. 65, 199.
of the change was to convert the journeyman to all intents
With the changes by which the master craftsman of the Comgild system was transformed into the small master of the parison of domestic system, we shall deal later. But at this point we gilds and may conveniently turn back to inquire how far the journey- unions. men gilds can be compared with trade unions. It is clear that there is a very striking similarity: unlike the craft gilds, the journeymen gilds comprised only the class of wageearners banded together in defiance of their employers, and their efforts to secure an improvement of their economic position make the parallel to trade unionism still more evident. The vital difference lies in the fact that the journeymen failed to establish a stable and permanent organization. To some extent their failure is accounted for by the repressive policy adopted towards them both by the municipality and the state. But a more important reason is that, while it was becoming increasingly difficult for the hired workers as a body to achieve independence and mastership, yet the way was always open to the more enterprising among them to do so. So long as it was possible for a certain number of journeymen to become masters, a
Weakening of the gild
of the pageant.
permanent and efficient association was out of question. The leaders of the journeymen with greater intelligence and capacity than their fellows would constantly be absorbed into the higher grades of the fellowship1. When, moreover, a transformation took place in the character and constitution of the yeomen gild, when it came to consist mainly of small masters or even men of substance serving their period of probation before admission into the livery-and when, above all, it came to be controlled from above by the livery, then all resemblance to trade unions entirely ceased. Throughout the eighteenth century occasional combinations were formed among artisans, but it was not till the Industrial Revolution decided the final victory of industrial capitalism, taking away from the worker his economic independence, divorcing him from the soil, and depriving him of other sources of livelihood in times of industrial distress, that trade unionism at length attained coherence and assumed a permanent and stable form of organization.
Within the craft gild itself disintegrating influences were always tending to undermine the authority of the governing body, and to weaken the bonds which bound the craftsmen together. At Bristol, for example, the Cordwainers confessed in 1438 that they had ceased to appoint wardens according to their old ordinances, and were therefore in evil plight2. The indifference of the members led them to abstain from attending meetings of the assembly, "touching the weal and worship of the city and craft "3. Fines were imposed to no purpose, and the election of officers and the control of affairs passed into the hands of a small body. The growth of an oligarchy, due ultimately to differences of economic status, was thus facilitated by the abstention of
1 An excellent parallel is pointed out in Webb, Trade Unionism, 6-7. The "piecers" of Lancashire are employed and paid by the operative cotton spinners under whom they work. Attempts to form an independent organization have invariably failed. The energetic and competent piecer is always looking forward to becoming a spinner, interested rather in reducing than in raising piecers' wages. The leaders of any incipient movement fall away on becoming employers ".
2 Little Red Book of Bristol, ii. 168.
3 The frequency of ordinances on this point shows its importance: ibid. ii. 145; York Memorandum Book, i. 69; Smith, English Gilds, 336.
members and their reluctance to undertake office. weakening of the gild system was shown also in the decline of the pageant, which had served an important purpose as the outward symbol of the religious and social life of the fraternity. The gild pageantry was discontinued because members would not support its charges; and throughout the fifteenth century complaints were renewed again and again. As early as 1390 it was "ordered by the whole community" at Beverley, that all craftsmen of the town should have their plays and pageants on every Corpus Christi Day" in the fashion and form of the ancient custom of the town of Beverley ", under penalty of fine for those who infringed the ordinance 2. At Bristol in 1419 the Weavers enjoined all masters and servants to attend processions under penalty of fines, and to contribute to the costs and expenses of maintaining lights on altars 3. A few years later (1439), the craft of Hoopers showed how "the said craft hath used afore this time for to have their light burning in the festival of Corpus Christi in the general procession", whereas now "divers persons "absented themselves from the common assembly held "for the good speed of the cause aforesaid "4. At Worcester (1467) the pageants were ordered to be "better and more certainly kept than they have been before this time "5; at Canterbury (1490) it was said "now of late days it hath been left and laid apart to the great hurt and decay of the city". In other towns also, the craft gilds were seeking to evade their obligations. The rulers of Coventry (1494) insisted that all crafts should contribute to the pageant, and complained that members no longer recognized their duty of submission to the authority of their gild'.
Side by side with the waning loyalty of the gild-brethren to their obligations went an ever-increasing desire to extend
1 E.g. Fox, Merchant Taylors of Bristol, 44. The early date (1401) should be noted.
2 Beverley Town Documents, 33; apparently the ordinance was soon disregarded: ibid. 36.
3 Little Red Book of Bristol, ii. 121.
5 Smith, English Gilds, 385.
6 Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. part i. App. 174.
7 Coventry Leet Book, ii. 558.
▲ Ibid. ii. 165.