DR. HtiBERT-VA.LLEROUX ON CRAFT- ORGANISATIONS.* DR. HUBERT-VALLEROUX'S new work (for
which again he has
received a prize from the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences) is the most interesting that he has yet published, and would well deserve translation. One could not, however, but pity the translator who should have to struggle with the difficulty of rendering his title into English. For the word " corporation " has in our own language such a strictly legal meaning, that no exact equivalent can be found for it in its pre-
sent Continental sense, as confined to organisations of crafts or trades. Yet the wider English sense is no doubt the truer one, since the charter of the Sovereign, on the Continent as in Eng- land, was that which legally embodied as well the city or town as the craft or trade. And the modern use of the term in France, as still applied to the trade at large, when its legal in- dividuality has wholly disappeared, is to Englishmen a frequent source of misapprehension. Yet if the former half of the title of Dr. Vallerous's book is difficult to translate, the latter is no
less so. For though the term " syndicate " is creeping into our language through the Stock Exchange, it conveys as yet no
idea but that of a ring or group of capitalists or speculators, whereas the syndicat ouvrier of France is simply a trade union of workmen, and the expression syndicat professionmel would include all organisations of particular callings. The question as proposed by the Academy was, "To study the corporations d'arts et de metiers in the past, both in France and
abroad ; to seek what inconveniences or advantages they might have at the present day ; whether they would be unfavourable or favourable to industrial progress, what action they might exert over the conditions of labour." Dr. Hubert-Valleroux has divided his work into two parts, the former historical, on the "Craft-Organisations of the Past," the greater portion of which
is naturally devoted to France ; the second on the "Professional Associations of the Present." He labours, unfortunately, like too many Frenchmen yet, under the disadvantage of not being
acquainted with German, admitting his inability to profit by the large stores of German information on the subject, —of Dr, Brentano's works, for instance, he only refers to the English essay on the "History and Development of Gilds," prefixed to
the late Mr. Toulmin Smith's English Gilds. Still, the book is full of matter, and is throughout instinct with the true his- toric sense. Take, for instance, the following passage :— "One is surprised, in looking at the towns of the Middle Ages, especially when one goes to the bottom of their constitution, at the place held by the embodied traders and artisans in their political con- stitutions. Now-a days commercial or other ass3ciations play but a quite private and quite obscure part ; artisans are swallowed up in the crowd, they are voters in the same right as other citizens, work- men in the same right as the master. In the Middle Ages, on the • Lee Corpor.tions d'Atts et e les Syndicate Profeeeionnels, eaF,ance et l'Etranger. P-r P. Ilubert-Vaileroux. Paris: Onillatim:n et Cie. 1685. contrary, the man of the Third Estate is nothing by himself ; he has no strength but through the company of which he is a member. He takes honour from its splendour, profits by its force, is only inde- pendent through its power."
And inasmuch as the feudal lords cared for little else than the levying of taxes, the government of the towns naturally fell into the hands of the embodied trades. The Municipality of Paris long consisted of the syndics of the water-traders; that of Rouen, of the syndics of the drapers ; Arles, Marseilles, and Montpellier were governed by the " consuls " of the crafts, Even, when in France, the Royal power took the upper hand over the feudal lords, the crafts retained their authority, levying the King's taxes on their members, to pay them over to his officers, keeping watch and ward in the town, providing a militia and, when need was, fighting the enemy under their own flags and sacred images. On condition of keeping good order in the trade, and ensuring the good quality of articles made or sold, they were freely invested with a monopoly of the particular trade or craft. None could sell bread but a member of the Bakers' Company, nor make a hat but a member of the Hatters'. Moreover, it was required that none should exercise a trade or craft* unless he knew it and "had enough." In some instances, thequalification of "having enough" ended by entirely overweighing that of capacity (as testified by the "master- piece"), and concentrating the trade monopoly in the hands of a few rich families. In Paris, in the fourteenth century, with a population of at least 300,000, twenty families had the sole right of selling meat. Then there was the ever-vexed question of the limits of each trade, the typical instance of which was the famous lawsuit between the tailors and second-hand clothesmen of Paris as to what constitutes a new coat, which, after lasting 240 years (1530-1776), was only put an end to by Targot's edict abolishing incorporated crafts. Still, the monopoly of the crafts was for a long time tempered by various means. The feudal lord, and afterwards the King, could always grant leave to indi- viduals to exercise a trade. The suburbs of towns were exempt from the jurisdiction of the Companies. There was often a free day in the week. In Paris, the bakers of the suburbs could come and sell in town every Saturday. Great fairs were held periodi- cally in the neighbourhood of large towns, and on market-days within the towns shops had generally to be closed, whilst out-
side, or "foreign," traders (marchands forain) were admitted, to compete in open market with those of the town. Moreover, (what may seem singular), combinations to fix prices were always strictly forbidden, whilst a right to fix them by public authority was admitted. The price of bread was so fixed almost universally till within the eighteenth century.
In the middle of the fourteenth century, after the ravages of the "Black Death," a strange event breaks the continuity of the history. An ordinance of the year 1351 proclaims freedom of internal labour and trade. "All sorts of people who know a trade or craft may exercise it, each having as many apprentices as he pleases." In itself, the ordinance remains without effect Yet it opens a new era,—that of the direct intervention of the Crown in the management of the trading corporations. Charles VI., to punish the revolt of Paris, in which the butchers had taken a prominent part, took away from the latter their stalls, to restore them on payment of a fine, a certain number of new master.
butchers being appointed. Louis XL, to make money, created a new master's place in each craft. The old obligation of competency, vouched for by the masterpiece, was thus set aside. The example was a convenient one, and was largely followed by the Valois Kings. Henry III. gave his
sister, Margaret of Navarre, the right of creating two new maitrises of every craft in any town she might enter ; and as
buyers were slack in coming forward, required the crafts to redeem these. So many masterships were created, that they were sold like stock now-a-days. But the craft.corporations were still only local, and often partial, even in the towns where they existed. Au edict of 1581 extended the system to all France. About a century later, Colbert seeks to regulate trade in its minutest details, though the weaving trade, by this time the most important, was the only one in which the attempt was thoroughly carried out. More and more, meanwhile, fiscal charges are multiplied. Some crafts become so burthened with debt, that mastership is shunned. Mastership itself may cost three or four thousand livres, so that the workman can never rise to it if he wished it. But under Louis XV. a new spirit rises up. In 1757, the Academy of Amiens gave a prize to an
• "Mader." It is too mach forgotten that our old technical word " mystery " is really "m6 lee" (mert4e) in dinniEe. essay which declared that the existence of incorporated crafts was the chief cause of mendicity. About twenty years later, Target, by an edict of 1776, set all labour free, with the exception of four trades,—those of barber-hairdressers, chemists, gold- smiths, and printer-booksellers. But the Parliament of Paris refused to register the edict, and before the end of the year Turgot had fallen from power, and a new edict restored the trading corporations, under somewhat modified conditions, which satisfied nobody. Finally, the Constituante (1791) declares it free to all citizens to exercise any profession, art, or craft he may think fit, by procuring a licence, and conforming to any regula- tions which may be made. And in its zeal for individual liberty, it absolutely forbids all associations whatever among persons of the same trade or profession.
Yet even the Revolution could not thoroughly break up the old system of trade. Dr. Hubert-Valleroux points out that the fishermen of Marseilles have yet their disputes settled by a tribunal of their own, that of the" Prudhommes P4c13eurs," which has been in existence since the fourteenth century. The porters (portefaix) of the same city form also an association which directly represents the trade-corporation of the fourteenth century, and retains possession of its records. The dock-porters of Nantes form really a co-operative body, in great measure dependent on the Chamber of Commerce, and obtaining from it a monopoly of dock labour. The brouettiers, or truck-porters, of Havre are another old trading corporation, which is also now virtually a co-operative association. But the most remarkable survival of the old system of labour was the " Compagnonnage," those secret societies or " duties " (clevoirs) among workmen, whose existence, it may be said, was revealed to France by the Livre du Compagncmnage of Agricol Perdiguier, with its preface by George Sand. These singular bodies, which have features in common with freemasonry, with trade-unions, with affiliated friendly societies, with religious guilds, were really the attempt by the French working class alone to preserve in its essence the old trade-organisation of the Middle Ages. The compagnon replaced the "master," being only admitted after production of a masterpiece, and not then if there were the smallest taint on his reputation for honesty. Lessons were regularly given to the candi- dates (aspirants), and in the towns which formed, stages in the required journey through France (lour de Prance), at the house of the "mother," there was a kind of museum of masterpieces, as well as a workshop for study. The conzpagnon found everywhere food, lodging, help in sickness, as also access to work, at prices agreed to by the society, whose local roulier (" roll-er ") entered into the engagement. Contracts as to wages were entered into with employers for terms of years. Ten years was considered a short term. A compagnon who broke his con- tract was held infamous ; an employer who broke his was, as we should say now, boycotted. It is only of late years that the system has, in the main, broken up, chiefly through internal depression and the general spirit of insubordination.
At the present day, there is a strong tendency in the members of trades, both employers and employed, to group themselves again. Already under the First Empire, the master-builders, carpenters, and masons of Paris were authorised to meet together for common action. Employers in other branches of the building trade joined them, making in all eleven by 1848, and were called the " Chambre Syndicate du Bitiment." In 1859 was formed a "National Union of Trade and Industry," now comprising about seventy "syndical chambers" of particular trades ; the total number of such chambers in Paris being 110, with from 12,000 to 15,000 members. Their chief object is ostensibly the settle- ment of disputes among their members, and questions of trade are often referred to them by the Tribunal of Commerce. Some- times they give courses of technical instruction, and prizes ; they generally have an orphan fend, in one case an insurance fund for cases of compensation for accidents to workmen. The "National Union" has a laboratory for the use of its members, and provides them with any kind of commercial information. The syndical chambers of workmen, as has been said, are virtually our trade-unions. There are about one hundred of them in Paris, and as many in the Departments ; but they represent only a small proportion of the total number of workmen, and their membership appears to be decreasing rather than in- creasing. Complaints are rife on both sides that engagements firing the conditions of labour between syndical chambers of masters and of workmen are broken without scruple. One or two of the Parisian syndical chambers of workmen are really powerful, such as those of the printers and of the hatters, the latter with a fund of £16,000.
Dr. Hubert-Valleroux's own views are in favour of freedom of association for the members of the same trade or craft, whether employers or employed, or both, under conditions sub- stantially equivalent to those of our Trade-Union Acts. But,—
" Before making institutions you must make men. Those, there- fore, who ask that members of professional associations should have the same faith and firm religions beliefs act wisely, because they ask for that which gives perseverance, fidelity to engagements once taken, the sense of duty, in the place of that nervelessness of character and emptiness of doctrine too common among the workmen of our
day Only thereby, and it is important to repeat it to our epoch, which believes it no longer, will men lay foundations solidly and for peace, instead of building on sand or preparing tempests."
Space fails here to dwell on Dr. Valleroar's chapters relating to the organisation of crafts and trades in other countries than France ; in Austria, for instance, where a law of 1883 has sought, in fact, to organise industry generally.