Page images

treated in an exhaustive and able manner by Dr. Brentano, in his learned and outspoken essay, in five parts, prefixed to the valuable work on 'English Gilds,' edited, with notes, by the late Mr. Toulmin Smith, and published by the Early English Text Society. Many differences of opinion may be observed between the learned doctor of Bavaria and the able editor of the Ordinances of the Gilds’; it has been my endeavour to give such a concise and careful abstract of the history of these ancient precursors of the modern trade-unions as will present an accurate view of the main features of those highly interesting societies in Early Britain, and in the Middle Ages, when they were so fully developed and organised. The term 'Gild' is preserved as used by the English Text Society. Modern trade-unionism cannot be properly understood or rightly appreciated except by a careful study of their early prototypes, the English gilds. The whole of this part of my subject has been based on Dr. Brentano's essay, but I have compared his statements with the charters and ordinances given by Mr. Toulmin Smith, and with the notes and introduction by Miss Lucy Smith, which also differ in some respects from the views enunciated by Dr. Brentano; this portion has been supplemented with further particulars from other sources.

The treatise which has attempted to deal with the modern phase of trade-unionism in its most complete form is 'The Trades' Unions of England,' by M. le Comte de Paris, edited by Mr. Thomas Hughes, Q.C., published in 1869. It is not altogether accurate, but it is a most creditable production, and especially when we consider that it was written by a foreigner. There are a few quaint errors in the book, but the tone is good and wholesome throughout, very different from that found in other books written by some Englishmen.

The volume by Mr. Thomas Brassey, M.P., entitled Work and Wages,' deals only in a general sense with the question of trade-unions, but it contains much valuable matter, especially with regard to the cost of labour both at home and abroad, and he did good service to the working men of England by its publication, for which they cannot be too thankful.

The elaborate work 'On Labour,' by Mr. W. T. Thornton, is more ambitious; it deserves careful study on account of the new aspects which he has presented of some of the doctrines of political economists; but he has accepted and endorsed many exploded theories and statements in regard to trade-unions which a little further research would have shown him to be unfounded. Some of these are examined and exposed in various parts of the present work; taken, however, as a whole, Mr. Thornton deserves great credit for his labours; the tone of his book is healthy, vigorous, and, in so far as he saw the question, impartial.

The most valuable contributions to the literature of trade-unions are the papers contributed to the 'Fortnightly Review' by Mr. Frederic Harrison ; they are marked by great ability, originality, and research, and have contributed not a little to the altered tone in the English press with regard to those institutions. Mr. J. M. Ludlow has also given valuable assistance towards the elucidation of many knotty points in the labour

controversy by his articles in Macmillan's Magazine,' the ‘Fortnightly Review, and other papers, while in the little book entitled the Progress of the Working Classes,' the joint production of Mr. Ludlow and Mr. Lloyd Jones, there is a mass of useful and interesting facts and historical matter touching their social advancement not to be found elsewhere.

Many of the authorities consulted and freely used in the preparation of this volume, will be found in the Appendix ; this has been done to avoid constant repetition in the text, and the use of footnotes. It is hoped that this general acknowledgment will suffice.

The scope of the present work is sufficiently indicated by its title and the table of contents; if any point of importance has been omitted, or inadequately explained, it is due to oversight, and not to any desire to 'slur over,' or keep in the background, any material issue, or to abridge anything which could throw a light on the several questions brought under review, or the principles involved in their discussion.

In presenting this work to the public the author is aware that there may be many deficiencies in matter and manner, but he has endeavoured to be impartial ; he has taken great care to be exact; his object has been to give actual, ascertained, and well authenticated facts --these have sometimes been obtained with great difficulty, as a few of the unions do not indulge in publicity—he will be found supporting the workmen where he believes them to be right, and deciding against them when and where he thinks they have been in the wrong.


In many parts of the book the sentiments expressed are oftentimes mere matters of opinion; the conclusions arrived at may therefore be at variance with those held by the members of trade-unions, or they may differ from those held by the masters, at other times they may be opposed to both; the divergence from the views of other writers on similar questions will be often still more apparent; in all cases the only thing I can ask is for a candid verdict after a careful examination of the book as a whole.

Whatever may be said with regard to trade-unions, either as to their policy, their objects, or the means which they employ, one great fact cannot be ignored, namely, that they wield a vast power, socially and politically, and whether for good or for evil, it is daily increasing. They are, moreover, public institutions in Great Britain to-day, exercising great authority by reason of their extent, their wealth, their organisation, and the numbers within the pale of their influence, and they are as deeply rooted in the minds and affections of the working people as almost any institution in the country. It is useless to abuse them, to put them down is impossible ; the only sensible way of dealing with them has been done by legally enfranchising them ; they are now protected by law, as well as being amenable to the law, and their future action will show that this policy is as wise as it is just.

G. H. March 1878.

NOTE.—Chapters V. and VII. are reprinted from the Contemporary Review' by the kind permission of Messrs. Strahan and Co.






PART I. Frith Gilds :-$1. England, the birth-place of Gilds of

Scandinavian origin-$2. The family as the basis of all early

communities--83. The family primarily responsible for offences

and offenders—$ 4. Kinship lost or merged in wider social rela-

tions—$ 5. Artificial alliances formed for further protection-

$ 6. Growth of the towns,' contests for civic rights-$7. The

rise of craftsmen' in the towns-$8. The formation of Frith-
Gilds—$9. The Frank-pledge recognised by law-$ 10. The
principle of mutuality the basis of Gilds—$11. Influence of
Christianity on the early Gilds—$ 12. Three oldest Gild statutes :
Abbotsbury — § 13. Exeter —- $ 14. Cambridge - $ 15. Charac-
teristic features of these Gilds—$ 16. Records and documents

referred to as authorities, &c.

Part II. Religious and Social Gilds:~$ 17. The origin of Religious

Gilds—$ 18. Capitularies of Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims, 858

Gilds of the laymen-$ 19. Gilds were common in the Middle

Ages—$ 20. Name of such Gilds, Religious or Social ?-$21. Or.

ganisation and objects of these Gilds : (I) Religious exercises-

§ 22. (2) Christian charity-$ 23. (3) Education-$24. (4) Feasts

of celebration-$25. (5) Representation of religious plays—$ 26.

(6) Performance of secular plays and pastimes--$ 27. (7) Mutual

benefit, and insurance-$28. Regulations as to admission to the

Gild-$29. Gild liveries at feasts—$ 30. Income of Gilds--$31.

Constitution of Gilds--$32. Membership of the Gild-$ 33. Con-

duct of members—$ 34. Meetings of members—$ 35. Gilds of the

clergy; ordinances against misconduct ; admonitions as to the

conduct of priests—$ 36. Gilds of the Kalenders ; admission of

laymen-$37. Major and minor Gilds—$ 38. The Reformation

« PreviousContinue »