Guilds -- Modern and times past

The Neighbourhood Guild Defined—Its

The very name, Neighbourhood Guild, suggests the fundamental idea which this new institution embodies: namely, that, irrespective of religious belief or non-belief, all the people, men, women, and children, in any one street, or any small number of streets, in every working-class district in London, shall be organised into a set of clubs, which are by themselves, or in alliance with those of other neighbourhoods, to carry out, or induce others to carry out, all the reforms—domestic, industrial, educational, provident, or recreative— which the social ideal demands.

At the outset, a true insight into the spirit and methods of the Guild will perhaps be gained most readily by noting that it is an expansion of the family idea of co-operation. In the family all ages and both sexes meet mentally and morally, and do not limit their combination of effort to the attainment of any pne special object in life, such as the mere physical comfort, or the health, or the financial convenience, or the intellectual development, or the sympathetic encouragement of one another but all of these aims are pursued at once, and any one of them may become supreme as occasion demands, and each member receives the kind of help adapted to his present need.

The bad effects of forming societies of working people for any one object alone, however good in itself, seem (because they are indirect) to escape the notice of many would-be philanthropists. Such a society causes its members to magnify out of all proportion that one side of life or culture which it aims to develop. "We have in all parts of London the melancholy spectacle of groups of people who are in this way made intensely narrow in their ideal of manhood. We may regard as typical the case of a club for young men in East London, which met twice a week for four years simply for the purpose of boxing. The Cambridge graduate, who organised and counselled this institution, was a man of the highest culture, appreciative of literature, a lover of art, a man filled with devotion to the community, but none of these characteristics did he betray or communicate to the young men he had rallied about him. They only knew him as a man fond of boxing. What to him was the most trifling thing in life became to them the absorbing object of interest, the centre and ground of friendship, the gauge and standard of manly excellence. The leading members of the club were continually tempted to quit amateur efforts and become professional boxers, even at the risk of losing their social status in the club.

 Bookish pursuits, also, if followed exclusively, have a narrowing effect upon the members of a club. The same evil ensues if only recreation be the end in view, or any one reform or set of reforms, like that urged by the AntiVaccination Society or those proposed by the Social Democratic Federation. The principle of relative proportion in pursuits is a clear one. Boxing must have no more conspicuous place in the club-life than it deserves in a rational system of physical culture; while all bodily exercises together cannot be allowed to usurp time, attention, and enthusiasm, to the exclusion of sympathetic and intellectual occupations. If, in his own judgment, the organiser of the East End club of which I spoke, conceded a pre-eminence of worth to the study of Shakespeare or Darwin, as compared with high efficiency in boxing, then he should have intermingled these diverse interests. But neither should any lover of literature sacrifice the physical culture of the members of his club to the appreciation of the poets, nor should he interest them even in their own completest development to the neglect of the altruistic life. Every club, to be a healthy centre of social development, must also interest itself in the outside world and its needs. Industrial and political movements must claim its attention at the same time that it pays due regard to the physical and mental culture of its members.

In its social reform work the Neighbourhood Guild does not even limit its effort—as is becoming the fashion of the hour—to the rescue of those who have already fallen into vice, crime, or pauperism.
Source: Neighbourhood Guilds: An Instrument of Social Reform - Stanton Coit - Google Books
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Numa Pompilius, who first secured a real governmental o rganization, it is said that he divided the plebeians into collegia. The principal of these, the collegium pontificum, received its name from the fact that all members of it were capable of constructing bridges, which was an important knowledge in those days, as bridges were necessary in warfare. The members of the collegium pontificum were called pontifices (bridge builders), and owing to their importance they exercised considerable influence, and finally numbers of them assumed the position of priests; hence the present word "pontiff."

During the conquests of Tullius Hostilius the collegia opificum, a sort of workmen's organization, were abolished. Servius Tullius re-established them, and the aristocratic Tarquinius Superbus suppressed them, because, being composed of plebeians and Well organized, they threatened the power of the patricians.

The collegia opificum were the protecting bulwarks of the various trades. They kept a vigilant watch over their rights and privileges, and afforded protection to the members at all times. This protection, however, during the republic became very difficult, owing to the fact that the slaves who worked under patrician protection, and the Greek artisans, who invaded the country in great numbers, caused a great competition. The collegia opificum spread rapidly over the most civilized of the Roman provinces, and the cause of this remarkable growth can be traced to the rigorous adoption of the maxim of the Romans, that of securing conquered, provinces by establishing Roman customs as quickly as possible. This was done by sending a large uumber of artisans with the army of invasion. In due time the membership of the collegia opificum became enormous, and with this increase of strength there came a most natural desire to engage in the political affairs of the nation, and especially the social politics of the country. This tendency greatly offended the aristocratic element, and, in 67 B. 0., they succeeded in obtaining a senatorial decree which abolished most of the guilds (collegia), only those being allowed to remain which were absolutely necessary to the state. Among these were the carpenters' guild (lignarii) and the guilds of the iron, copper, and gold smiths.

When five years later the plebeian Publius Pulcher Clodius assumed the power of state he re-established and augmented the guilds; but Julius Csesar abolished the most of them again, and Augustus Caesar confirmed his action. Then came Trajan, who desired to destroy them, but the guilds being powerful, he hesitated to execute his wish; and when Constantine the Great was at the height of his power there existed over thirty guilds in Rome, and both Theodosius and Justinian confirmed and even multiplied their privileges.

Theodoric the Great found some guilds in Constantinople when he conquered that place, and they seemed to please the old warrior, who was not in sympathy with the aristocracy. 'The singularium actium magittri (masters of special arts) arementioned often during the reign of the Ostrogoths. The title of magister was given to every full privileged member of a guild during those days. These things, combined with the high position held by architects under Theodoric, prove that he favored and protected these organizations. -'In 590 the Queen of Lombardy, Thudelinde, gave certain privileges and rights to the magistri Comacinw (stone cutters; Ostrogothic, stemmetzen) on the island of Comacina, in the Lake of Como. This magisterium (mastership, from which comes the French word mitier) Longobardorum existed until the fall of Didier, and from 644 to 724 it was regulated by special laws. Besides the magistrii Gomacinii, we have proofs of the existence of the magistrii Gacarii (house-builders) and the magistri Antelamii (carpenters of Antelaino). When Charlemagne sent his young wife, D^seree, back to her royal father, Didier, the Lombard king, bearing a message to the effect that Longobardian maidens would make passable wives for sleepy monks, but not for the stalwart men of the Carlovingian race, he followed the insult up by invading the country and wresting from his repudiated father-in-law the famous iron crown. To atone for this injustice in a measure, and soften the wrath of the people, he confirmed the privileges of the Longobardian guilds and gave to the mauern (macons) the right enjoyed by the free Franks, hence the word "freemasons." Long before this time many Longobardian artisans had emigrated to France and Holland and had carried the guild system with them, so that under the comparative liberal government of Charlemagne they flourished better than for centuries.

The clericals and monks began now to engage in the various trades, and soon were able to exercise considerable influence over the different branches. In 738 the pes publicus (the royal standard foot-measure) of Liutpand, did not satisfy the monks, so they established their own measure, which was called pes de munichis (monacal standard foot); and from 914 to 946 the Benedictines strove in vain to prohibit the masons of Lombardy from constructing convents and other religious institutions. At this point began an obstinate struggle of the guilds against the clerical workmen, and also against the serfs and bondmen employed by the aristocracy and nobility. The struggle was bitter and was felt throughout the continent. The efforts of the clericals to prevent the guilds from obtaining employment on religious structures did not succeed.- In 924 Bishop Ulrich, of Liege, Belgium, could not find enough architects among the clericals, and was therefore compelled to employ members of the guilds. In 1090 Manegold, the architect, was compelled to join a monastic order before he could secure the contract for building the convent at Marbeck. In 1099 Bishop Conrad, of Utrecht, prevailed upon the son of the architect, Pleber, to betray the secrets of the concilio latomorum, a guild. A short time afterwards the son was put to death by the father for his treason.
Source: Trade guilds of Europe: Reports from the consuls of the United States on the ... - United States. Bureau of Foreign Commerce - Google Books
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It is familiar to every one acquainted with German literature what wide-spread influence the trade guilds have exerted in every sphere of life from the eleventh century until comparatively modern times. In many cities the authority of masters over apprentices was absolute, coequal with that of the state, and extended even to corporal punishment,

The Thirty Years' War, that proved so fatal to the interests of Germany, both social, financial, aud political, caused also the decline, if not the destruction, of the German trades, which were then so flourishing.

As before this period there had been internal struggles in the various guilds tending to fix and determine more satisfactory relations between the masters, the fellows or journeymen, and apprentices, so from this period we can say with comparative accuracy began the struggle between the single German states and the guilds or trade corporations which tended to curtail and limit the privileges, rights, aud functions which usage had granted to the guilds.

I had intended giving a brief historical sketch of the rise, progress, and success of the various guilds in Germany, but as the consul at Leipsic made this the basis of his interesting report I have concluded to omit this, merely mentioning the names and dates of some of the more important guilds.

Historical documents, still existing, in mentioning the articles of organized guilds approved by city authorities and sovereigns, speak first of the guild of fishermen (year 1106, city of Worms); of clothmakers and furriers (1134, in Quedlinburg); of linen weavers, in Cologne (1149); of tailors, in Hamburg (1152); of shoemakers (1157); of shield and arm makers (1194), in Magdeburg; of dyers (1208); iron smiths, butchers, masons (1248), in Vienna; millers and coopers, in Strasburg (1263). In 1272 the bakers' guild was officially confirmed in Berlin.

The hostile position assumed by many of the German Governments against the guilds was based upon numerous complaints made against them, among others, on the ground that they exerted a retarding influence upon the development of industry and subjected artisans to too great expense by their numerous banquets, processions, and festivities in general. These and many other causes led to the decline and final dissolution of the guilds in many trades.

In many German states the old bodies were directly abolished and their property treated as public funds, while a reformation of the trade unions was entirely left to free association, but making them subject to the common law of " assemblage."


In 1791 the abolition of the guilds took place in those German states where, as in the Bhine province, the Code de Napoleon was in force. In 1862 the abolition was decreed in the grand duchy of Baden and kingdom of Wurtemberg, and in 1868 in Bavaria. In some northern states (Oldenberg, Bremen, Hamburg, Lubeck), it was le^t to the option of the old trade bodies either to dissolve and to distribute their property, or to exist further as free associations after they underwent a reformation; whereas in Saxony, Brunswick, and in some Saxon Thuringian states the old corporations were retained as associations under the common law with prescribed rights in matters of their trade; matters of reorganizations of similar unions were placed under the supervision of the respective states.

In Prussia, however, especially since 1840, the form of guilds (innungen) was chosen with a view to preserve or re-establish remainders of old guilds by providing them with extensive rights of control over their own members and of issuing licenses to traders in the same line, not being members of the guild.

With the establishment of the North German Confederation in 1869, an act was passed regulating trade in general, and upon the establishment of the German Empire, in 1871, these regulations were incorporated in the laws of the empire with amendments. .

Under that act all guilds then lawfully existing were warranted their further existence, leaving their articles of association in force, unless they were in conflict with the provisions of that act. The guilds had no longer the right—as they had in former times—to exclude persons not being members of their guild from carrying on a trade.
Source: Trade guilds of Europe: Reports from the consuls of the United States on the ... - United States. Bureau of Foreign Commerce - Google Books
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ONE could say without exaggeration that nowhere was the need of association greater than among the Roman plebeians. From prehistoric times Rome had had professional corporations. It is true that these guilds, as they were called, lived a long time in obscurity, but in the last century of the Republic they multiplied and other associations of different kinds joined with them. In spite of the restrictions put upon the right of association, first by the Senate in the year 64 B. C, then by Caesar and finally by Augustus and all the legislation of Europe, the number of these corporations or guilds of all kinds grew in a truly prodigious manner in the first centuries of this era, both at Rome, in Italy and the provinces.

Among the guilds which we know chiefly from inscriptions, the most important were the professional guilds composed of the artisans, artists, and merchants. The inscriptions and writings have preserved the names of a full hundred of trades and occupations organized in guilds. Spread throughout all parts of the Empire, they were particularly numerous and flourishing at Rome, at Ostia and in the great commercial centers like Lyons. Established generally by the efforts of private citizens and seldom by the city or State, they had a varied aim. The artisans and small merchants who associated themselves did not think, as the guilds of the middle ages, of claiming privileges and monopolies for their trade or for commerce, nor to train capable apprentices, much less to govern the city. Their aim was neither political nor economic, although they are seen in the midst of the elections and of civil troubles and at these times undoubtedly sought to defend their professional interests. Living in a society where work was brought into contempt by slavery, they recognized that union alone could procure for them the power necessary to gain a little consideration and influence in the city and they did not fail to profit by this power, to defend more effectively in the interest of all mankind the dying cause.

But association permitted them above all to satisfy a two

•Translated from the French.

fold religious want, for all the guilds had divine worship and attended to the funeral rites of their members. They were guilds also by the instinctive reason all men feel to come close to each other and to fraternize with those who share their ideas and sentiments. In short, the Roman guilds which bore the name professional, were above all societies, friendly and religious, having as one chief purpose the caring for the dead.

After the time of Augustus {Lex Julia, 7 B. C.,) a special authofization from the Emperor or Senate was necessary in the organization of each guild. It was given only to guilds which were useful and did not endanger public order. This authorization carried with it in a certain way the civil personification. The utility resulted from the exercise of a trade or commerce of public necessity. Sometimes the utility to the State was even more direct, as when certain guilds actually entered into the service of the City or State. Some such, as the owners or captains of privateers, the bakers of Rome or Ostia, the measurers of grain, the boatmen of the Tiber, the dealers in beef, pork or mutton, were enlisted in the administration of the supplies of Rome and in the public distribution of grain, bread and land. Others, such as builders, filled the office of firemen in the Italian and provincial cities. Finding in the guilds the seat of labor, the State and the cities attracted them gradually to their service by the privileges, the exemptions and the pecuniary advantages granted; so much so that, little by little, all guilds came to have an official role in the central or municipal administration. They accepted this role with pleasure on account of the advantages it procured: but when at the end of the third century misery became general, the State and the cities overwhelmed them with duties and retained them by force in the public service as unhappy clerks. The guilds then became obligatory and hereditary.

Such were in short the double character and history of the professional guilds. By the side of these appeared the private religious guilds and guilds which attended to funeral rites. They date from the last centuay of the Republic and multiplied under the Empire: they were consecrated to the private worship of a god, usually one of the oriental divinities, who had invaded the Occident and recruited from the faithful even in the most remote corners of $he provinces. These guilds attended also to the funeral rites of their members, as did all the Roman guilds: they came, also, to be specially authorized.

Much more numerous, nearly innumerable, if we may judge by the inscriptions, were the funeral guilds, proper. Composed of poor people, free and slave, they chiefly aimed to furnish decent burial to their members by the means of a monthly assessment which each one turned into a common treasury. These guilds, authorized by a general decree at the end of the first or the beginning of the second century, had also a religious character. Each one chose a tutelary god, whose name it bore. However, the religious worship was accessory; their principal aim was the conduct of funeral rites.

If we may add the military guilds, formed by the underofficers in the permanent camps, and the guild of veterans, we have comprised the list of corporations of which we are to speak.

Modern writers who have treated of the guilds of artisans among the Romans have often yielded to the temptation to compare them to the guilds of the Middle Ages and the ancient regime. More than one has attributed to them the same aim; like them the Roman guilds had wished to protect their trade and perfect it; they had had in their rules the technical prescriptions; they had organized schools of apprentices, and so on. But it is recognized that this is not the case, that all these tendencies were foreign to the Roman workmen.

In the Middle Ages the most of the corporations or guilds "had organized mutual help among their members and came with an active charity to the aid of those who had fallen into misfortune." Was this the same in Rome? It has been maintained and still is, that it was. It seems also that this has become the opinion generally held. Nearly all who treat of the Roman guilds, as the historians of Rome who speak of it in passing, do not hesitate to approve it. The Roman workmen as the modern, they say, had for an end in association the helping of their poor brothers, the sick or the victims of accident. Hermann Schiller, in his history of the Roman Empire, goes so far as to say that these guilds supplied to the indigent the resources necessary for carrying on their trade or commerce. As to the funeral guilds, Mommsen has supposed that to the conduct of the funeral rites they added charitable works. "The treasuries of the guilds," he says, "we;e designed to furnish help to the associates who had need of assistance; they were the ordinary refuges of the orphan and poor, and it was to these treasuries that one left charitable legacies, before the Christian Emperors had devised more effective measures. The legacies were administered by the Presidents."

Most of the modern writers on this subject have adopted this conjecture and many more have transformed it into a categorical affirmation. It has seemed useful to us to examine with care the reasons which are alleged, and we have arrived at a negative conclusion, which we wish to establish.

Some seem to be guided by the analogy of the corporations of the Middle Ages and of our societies of mutual help. The charity practiced mutually by the associates of the same trade seem to them so natural that they have attributed it to the Roman workers without searching for the positive proofs. They forget that these workmen lived in a society different from ours and also that Christianity had not given to the world a superior conception of charity, a charity which not only inspires in men pity for their unfortunate brothers, but obliges them to offer effective aid and to give, themselves, without reserve. By the philosophers, like Seneca, and the literary men sensible at heart, like Pliny the Younger, these beautiful sentiments are pronounced: "The first duty is to be contented with that which one possesses, then second, to assist and to protect those whom one knows to have greatest need."

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