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EFFECTS OF THE NEW CoöPERATION:
UT of town life with its trade, its crafts, its middle class, and its new powers of united action came three kinds of gains: wealth and comfort; knowledge and skill; liberty, and ideals of honesty and of the dignity of labor. It is easy for us to see why trade and exchange of wares produces wealth, and usually means a gain for all concerned. For it makes it possible for men to do different kinds of work, according to their various abilities. In this way, if each man does what he can do best, there ought to be more grain grown, better houses built, better clothes made. It also gives a chance for people in one place to get the advantage of metals, clothes, foods, and all sorts of articles produced in other places, and thus to exchange what they have a surplus of for what they lack. Exchanges were at first made largely at fairs and markets. The towns were a sort of continuous market where buyers and sellers could always find each other. Wealth tended to accumulate in towns not only because merchants often made large profits on trade with distant countries, but also because in towns were made the fine cloth, the jewels, the other luxuries, which the rich lords and their ladies sought. The lords exacted rent and labor and dues of various sorts from their villeins.
Increase of wealth
Increase in skill
They had all the necessaries of life produced or made
rods—grew up with farming, but various kinds of weights—Avoirdupois and Troy—and liquid measures, the processes of measuring lumber and computing percentage and interest, were due to the needs of buyers and sellers, borrowers and lenders. Indeed, arithmetic was in early days in this country regarded as so “commercial * a subject that it was not taught in the “grammar schools” which fitted boys for college. Further, it was necessary for the trader in ships to study the sky; and although astronomy began earlier, it was among such a trading people as the Greeks that it made its greatest advance in early times. It is interesting, too, that our alphabet came from the great traders, the Phoenicians, and it was from them that the Greeks learned it and passed it on to Rome and through Rome to us. It was indeed in the trading cities of Greece that science had its greatest growth in the Old World, and while we cannot say that trade deserved the credit for the wonderful genius of such men as Euclid, the geometer, or Democritus, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, the philosophers, or Thales, who foretold an eclipse, yet the general exchange of thought and knowledge which trade favored had much to do with giving opportunity for science to develop. It is in some respects surprising that there was so much ignorance in some matters in the mediaeval towns where there was such knowledge, taste, and skill in other matters. The cathedrals, the castles, the furnishings and carvings, the glass of early times were wonderful. On the other hand, men believed in magic and astrology. In medicine their remedies were often more dangerous than the disease; and they had almost no knowledge of chemistry which is so important today. One great discovery was indeed made which helped to upset the whole scheme of castles, walls, and armor. This was gunpowder. It helped to put the common man on a level in war with the armed knight, and so to break down the power of the fighting class.
Town life, trade, and handicraft made a great change in social classes. The earlier division had been into Fighters and Workers, or into Free and Unfree, or into Gentry and Peasant. This growth of towns with their traders and craftsmen made a new class who were neither gentry nor peasants. They were free, but their strength was not in their land as with some of the free yeomen; it was in the wealth they gained through trade or skill, and in their union in town or gild. The wealth of the gentry was in land and was largely due to conquest or birth. The wealth of the burghers or town dwellers was due chiefly to their labor or shrewdness. This gave a field for a new kind of ability to show itself. Before this the chief rewards had been for brave fighters or capable rulers. In the church there had also been an opportunity for scholars, and administrators as well as preachers. But now there was an opportunity for the capable merchant and skilled craftsman. In Italy, in Germany, in France, in the Netherlands, and in England this Middle Class arose.
But we must not think that every one could enter this class. In the first place, no one from the gentry could enter it, for trade or any kind of manual labor was looked upon as a disgrace for a gentleman. Nevertheless from our present point of view we can see why to be kept out of trade was really a limitation for the gentleman, even though he did not think of it as such.