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BOOK These associations may be called the Anglo-Saxon
That in mercantile towns and sea-ports there were also gilds, or fraternities of men constituted for the purpose of carrying on more successful enterprises in commerce, even in the AngloSaxon times, appears to be a fact. Domesday-book mentions the gihalla, or guildhall, of the burghers of Dover. 8
8 "In quibus erat gihalla burgensium." Domesday, f. 1. We find clubs, or peculiar societies of individuals, existing in the Roman empire in the time of Trajan ; which met under the pretence of business, festivity, or friendship, but which were then suspected by the government to be seminaries of faction or disaffection. They were called Hetærias; from etaspia, a company or fraternity, derived from etaspos, a companion. That Trajan endeavoured to suppress them we learn from Pliny's Epistle to him, “I will prohibit the Hetærias (Hetærias esse) according to your mandates,”l. 10. Some of the sufferings of the first Christians may have arisen from their devotional meetings being confounded with these political clubs. Tertullian distinguishes them from these, by desiring, in his Apology, about the year 200, that the Christian sect might be tolerated “inter licitas factiones” among the allowed associations, “because it is a sect from which nothing proceeds that is hostile, like the dreadful results of other illegal factions. He adds, “ for such a multiplicity of sects is suppressed from reasons of state, that the city may not be split into parties: since these divisions would introduce a general disorder into all your popular elections, councils, courts, assemblies, and public spectacles, by the ambitious clashings of the contending factions. And never was there more reason than now, to provide against such disorders, as the instigators are sure not to want violent hands for any design, if they want not money to pay them.” Apol. c. 38. There seems to be a tendency of mankind in all civilised nations to form secret societies of the Hetæria kind in every age, though under varying appellations, and with popular exterior pretensions, suited to the feelings of the day,
Their Trades, Mechanical Arts, and Foreign Commerce.
Two things become essential to the peace and comfort of all social unions of mankind; one, that each should have the means of acquiring the property he needs for his subsistence and welfare ; and the other, that he should be accustomed to some employments or amusements, in which his activity and time may be consumed without detriment to others or weariness to himself.
In our age of the world, so many trades, arts, professions, and objects, and channels of occupation exist, that, in the ordinary course of life, every member of our population may obtain, without a crime, if he seek with moderate assiduity, the supplies that are necessary both to his wants and his pleasures. It was not so in the Anglo-Saxon times. The trades and arts were few, and foreign commerce was inconsiderable. Invention had not found out conveniences of life sufficient to employ many mechanics or manufacturers, or to give much diversity of employment. The land and its produce were in the hands of a few, and it was difficult for the rest to get any property by honourable or peaceful means.
Our Alfred intimates this, for he says, “ Now thou canst not obtain money unless thou steal it, or plunder it, or discover some hidden treasure; and thus when you acquire it to yourself you lessen it to others.” Violence and rapine
| Alf. Boet. p. 69.
were the usual means of acquiring property among that part of the better classes who happened to be unprovided with it. Hence the exhortations of the clergy, and the laws are so full of denunciations against these popular depredators. It is declared to be the duty of an earl to hate thieves and public robbers : to destroy plunderers and spoilers, unless they would amend and abstain from such unrighteous actions. 2 Tradesmen and merchants are often spoken of as poor and humble men. The great sources of property were from land and war, and from the liberality of the great. It was by slow degrees that trade multiplied, and the productions of the arts and manufactures increased so as to furnish subsistence and wealth to those who wished to be peaceable and domestic.
In the present state, and under the fortunate constitution of the British islands, our tradesmen and manufacturers are an order of men who contribute essentially to uphold our national rank and character, and form a class of actual personal distinction superior to what the same order has in any age or country possessed, except in the middle ages of Italy. They are not only the fountains of that commerce which rewards us with the wealth of the world, but they are perpetually supplying the other classes and professions of society with new means of improvement and comfort; and with those new accessions of persons and property, which keep the great machine of our political greatness in constant strength and activity.
Some proportion of these advantages, gradually
? Wilk. Leg. Sax. 149.
increasing, has been reaped by England, from the trading part of its community, in every stage of its commercial progression. But the farther we go back into antiquity, the pursuit was less reputable, and the benefits more rare. This class of society in the remote ages was neither numerous, opulent, nor civilised. Our earlier ancestors had neither learnt the utility of dividing labour, nor acquired the faculty of varying its productions. They had neither invention, taste, enterprise, respectability, influence, or wealth. The tradesmen of the AngloSaxons were, for the most part, men in a servile state. The clergy, the rich, and the great, had domestic servants, who were qualified to supply them with those articles of trade and manufacture which were in common use. Hence, in monasteries, we find smiths, carpenters, millers, illuminators, architects, agriculturists, fishermen. Thus a monk is described as well skilled in smith-craft. 3 Thus Wynfleda, in her will, mentions the servants she employed in weaving and sewing; and there are many grants of land remaining, in which men of landed property rewarded their servants who excelled in different trades. In one grant, the brother of Godwin gives to a monastery a manor, with its appendages; that is, his overseer and all his chattels, his smith, carpenter, fisherman, miller; all these servants, and all their goods and chattels. A
THE habits of life were too uniform ; its luxuries too few; its property too small; its wants too numerous; and the spirit of the great mass too servile and dull, to have that collection of ingenious, ac
3 Bede, v. c. 14. and p. 634.
* 1 Dug. Mon. 306.
BOOK tive, respected, and inventive men, who make and
circulate our internal and external commerce, with eager, but not illiberal competition ; or to have those accomplished artificers and manufacturers, whose taste in execution equals that of the most elegant fancy in its inventions. Neither the workmen nor their customers, however elevated in society, had those faculties of taste and imagination which now accompany the fabrication of every luxury, and almost of every comfort with which mechanical labour surrounds us. Utility, glaring gaudiness, and material value were the chief criterions of the general estimation. The delicacy and ingenuity of the workmanship were not yet allowed to be able to surpass the substantial worth. No commendation called them into existence; none sought to acquire them; none seemed to anticipate the possibility of their attainment. Hence all were satisfied with the coarse and clumsy, if it had that show which strikes an undiscriminating eye, that sterling value which announced the wealth of its possessor, and that serviceableness for which alone he required it. The Anglo-Saxon artificers and manufacturers were therefore for some time no more than what real necessity put in action. Their productions were few, inartificial, and unvaried. They lived and died poor, unhonoured, and unimproved. But, by degrees, the manumission of slaves increased the numbers of the independent part of the lower orders. Some of the emancipated became agricultural labourers, and took land of the clergy and the great, paying them an annual gafol, or rent; but many went to the burgs and towns, and as the king was the lord of the free, they resided in these under his protection, and became free