Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period
Paul Lacroix

Part 5 out of 8

might be heard.

Toulouse was soon on a par with the towns of Lower Languedoc, and the
Garonne poured into the markets, not only the produce of Guienne, and of
the western parts of France, but also those of Flanders, Normandy, and
England. We may observe, however, that Bordeaux, although placed in a most
advantageous position, at the mouth of the river, only possessed, when
under the English dominion, a very limited commerce, principally confined
to the export of wines to Great Britain in exchange for corn, oil, &c.

La Rochelle, on the same coast, was much more flourishing at this period,
owing to the numerous coasters which carried the wines of Aunis and
Saintonge, and the salt of Brouage to Flanders, the Netherlands, and the
north of Germany. Vitre already had its silk manufactories in the
fifteenth century, and Nantes gave promise of her future greatness as a
depot of maritime commerce. It was about this time also that the fisheries
became a new industry, in which Bayonne and a few villages on the
sea-coast took the lead, some being especially engaged in whaling, and
others in the cod and herring fisheries (Fig. 194).

Long before this, Normandy had depended on other branches of trade for its
commercial prosperity. Its fabrics of woollen stuffs, its arms and
cutlery, besides the agricultural productions of its fertile and
well-cultivated soil, each furnished material for export on a large scale.

The towns of Rouen and Caen were especially manufacturing cities, and were
very rich. This was the case with Rouen particularly, which was situated
on the Seine, and was at that time an extensive depot for provisions and
other merchandise which was sent down the river for export, or was
imported for future internal consumption. Already Paris, the abode of
kings, and the metropolis of government, began to foreshadow the immense
development which it was destined to undergo, by becoming the centre of
commercial affairs, and by daily adding to its labouring and mercantile
population (Figs. 195 and 196).

It was, however, outside the walls of Paris that commerce, which needed
liberty as well as protection, at first progressed most rapidly. The
northern provinces had early united manufacturing industry with traffic,
and this double source of local prosperity was the origin of their
enormous wealth. Ghent and Bruges in the Low Countries, and Beauvais and
Arras, were celebrated for their manufacture of cloths, carpets, and
serge, and Cambrai for its fine cloths. The artizans and merchants of
these industrious cities then established their powerful corporations,
whose unwearied energy gave rise to that commercial freedom so favourable
to trade.

[Illustration: Fig. 194. Whale-Fishing. Fac-simile of a Woodcut in the
"Cosmographie Universelle" of Thevet, in folio: Paris, 1574.]

More important than the woollen manufactures--for the greater part of the
wool used was brought from England--was the manufacture of flax, inasmuch
as it encouraged agriculture, the raw material being produced in France.
This first flourished in the north-east of France, and spread slowly to
Picardy, to Beauvois, and Brittany. The central countries, with the
exception of Bruges, whose cloth manufactories were already celebrated in
the fifteenth century, remained essentially agricultural; and their
principal towns were merely depots for imported goods. The institution of
fairs, however, rendered, it is true, this commerce of some of the towns
as wide-spread as it was productive. In the Middle Ages religious feasts
and ceremonials almost always gave rise to fairs, which commerce was not
slow in multiplying as much as possible. The merchants naturally came to
exhibit their goods where the largest concourse of people afforded the
greatest promise of their readily disposing of them. As early as the first
dynasty of Merovingian kings, temporary and periodical markets of this
kind existed; but, except at St. Denis, articles of local consumption only
were brought to them. The reasons for this were, the heavy taxes which
were levied by the feudal lords on all merchandise exhibited for sale, and
the danger which foreign merchants ran of being plundered on their way, or
even at the fair itself. These causes for a long time delayed the progress
of an institution which was afterwards destined to become so useful and
beneficial to all classes of the community.

We have several times mentioned the famous fair of Landit, which is
supposed to have been established by Charlemagne, but which no doubt was a
sort of revival of the fairs of St. Denis, founded by Dagobert, and which
for a time had fallen into disuse in the midst of the general ruin which
preceded that emperor's reign. This fair of Landit was renowned over the
whole of Europe, and attracted merchants from all countries. It was held
in the month of June, and only lasted fifteen days. Goods of all sorts,
both of home and foreign manufacture, were sold, but the sale of parchment
was the principal object of the fair, to purchase a supply of which the
University of Paris regularly went in procession. On account of its
special character, this fair was of less general importance than the six
others, which from the twelfth century were held at Troyes, Provins,
Lagny-sur-Marne, Rheims, and Bar-sur-Aube. These infused so much
commercial vitality into the province of Champagne, that the nobles for
the most part shook off the prejudice which forbad their entering into any
sort of trading association.

Fairs multiplied in the centre and in the south of France simultaneously.
Those of Puy-en-Velay, now the capital of the Haute-Loire, are looked upon
as the most ancient, and they preserved their old reputation and attracted
a considerable concourse of people, which was also increased by the
pilgrimages then made to Notre-Dame du Puy. These fairs, which were more
of a religious than of a commercial character, were then of less
importance as regards trade than those held at Beaucaire. This town rose
to great repute in the thirteenth century, and, with the Lyons market,
became at that time the largest centre of commerce in the southern
provinces. Placed at the junction of the Saone and the Rhone, Lyons owed
its commercial development to the proximity of Marseilles and the towns of
Italy. Its four annual fairs were always much frequented, and when the
kings of France transferred to it the privileges of the fairs of
Champagne, and transplanted to within its walls the silk manufactories
formerly established at Tours, Lyons really became the second city of

[Illustration: Fig. 195.--Measurers of Corn in Paris.

Fig. 196.--Hay Carriers.

Fac-simile of Woodcuts from the "Royal Orders concerning the Jurisdiction
of the Company of Merchants and Shrievalty in the City of Paris," in small
folio goth.: Jacques Nyverd, 1528.]

It may be asserted as an established fact that the gradual extension of
the power of the king, produced by the fall of feudalism, was favourable
to the extension of commerce. As early as the reign of Louis IX. many laws
and regulations prove that the kings were alive to the importance of
trade. Among the chief enactments was one which led to the formation of
the harbour of Aigues-Mortes on the Mediterranean; another to the
publication of the book of "Weights and Measures," by Etienne Boileau, a
work in which the ancient statutes of the various trades were arranged and
codified; and a third to the enactment made in the very year of this
king's death, to guarantee the security of vendors, and, at the same time,
to ensure purchasers against fraud. All these bear undoubted witness that
an enlightened policy in favour of commerce had already sprung up.

Philippe le Bel issued several prohibitory enactments also in the interest
of home commerce and local industry, which Louis X. confirmed. Philippe le
Long attempted even to outdo the judicious efforts of Louis XI., and
tried, though unsuccessfully, to establish a uniformity in the weights and
measures throughout the kingdom; a reform, however, which was never
accomplished until the revolution of 1789. It is difficult to credit how
many different weights and measures were in use at that time, each one
varying according to local custom or the choice of the lord of the soil,
who probably in some way profited by the confusion which this uncertain
state of things must have produced. The fraud and errors to which this led
may easily be imagined, particularly in the intercourse between one part
of the country and another. The feudal stamp is here thoroughly exhibited;
as M. Charles de Grandmaison remarks, "Nothing is fixed, nothing is
uniform, everything is special and arbitrary, settled by the lord of the
soil by virtue of his right of _justesse_, by which he undertook the
regulation and superintendence of the weights and measures in use in his

Measures of length and contents often differed much from one another,
although they might be similarly named, and it would require very
complicated comparative tables approximately to fix their value. The _pied
de roi_ was from ten to twelve inches, and was the least varying measure.
The fathom differed much in different parts, and in the attempt to
determine the relations between the innumerable measures of contents which
we find recorded--a knowledge of which must have been necessary for the
commerce of the period--we are stopped by a labyrinth of incomprehensible
calculations, which it is impossible to determine with any degree of

The weights were more uniform and less uncertain. The pound was everywhere
in use, but it was not everywhere of the same standard (Fig. 201). For
instance, at Paris it weighed sixteen ounces, whereas at Lyons it only
weighed fourteen; and in weighing silk fifteen ounces to the pound was
the rule. At Toulouse and in Upper Languedoc the pound was only thirteen
and a half ounces; at Marseilles, thirteen ounces; and at other places it
even fell to twelve ounces. There was in Paris a public scale called
_poids du roi_; but this scale, though a most important means of revenue,
was a great hindrance to retail trade.

In spite of these petty and irritating impediments, the commerce of France
extended throughout the whole world.

[Illustration: Fig. 197.--View of Lubeck and its Harbour (Sixteenth
Century).--From a Copper-plate in the Work of P. Bertius, "Commentaria
Rerum Germanicarum," in 4to: Amsterdam, 1616.]

The compass--known in Italy as early as the twelfth century, but little
used until the fourteenth--enabled the mercantile navy to discover new
routes, and it was thus that true maritime commerce may be said regularly
to have begun. The sailors of the Mediterranean, with the help of this
little instrument, dared to pass the Straits of Gibraltar, and to venture
on the ocean. From that moment commercial intercourse, which had
previously only existed by land, and that with great difficulty, was
permanently established between the northern and southern harbours of

Flanders was the central port for merchant vessels, which arrived in great
numbers from the Mediterranean, and Bruges became the principal depot.
The Teutonic league, the origin of which dates from the thirteenth
century, and which formed the most powerful confederacy recorded in
history, also sent innumerable vessels from its harbours of Lubeck (Fig.
197) and Hamburg. These carried the merchandise of the northern countries
into Flanders, and this rich province, which excelled in every branch of
industry, and especially in those relating to metals and weaving, became
the great market of Europe (Fig. 198).

The commercial movement, formerly limited to the shores of the
Mediterranean, extended to all parts, and gradually became universal. The
northern states shared in it, and England, which for a long time kept
aloof from a stage on which it was destined to play the first part, began
to give indications of its future commercial greatness. The number of
transactions increased as the facility for carrying them on became
greater. Consumption being extended, production progressively followed,
and so commerce went on gaining strength as it widened its sphere.
Everything, in fact, seemed to contribute to its expansion. The downfall
of the feudal system and the establishment in each country of a central
power, more or less strong and respected, enabled it to extend its
operations by land with a degree of security hitherto unknown; and, at the
same time, international legislation came in to protect maritime trade,
which was still exposed to great dangers. The sea, which was open freely
to the whole human race, gave robbers comparatively easy means of
following their nefarious practices, and with less fear of punishment than
they could obtain on the shore of civilised countries. For this reason
piracy continued its depredations long after the enactment of severe laws
for its suppression.

This maritime legislation did not wait for the sixteenth century to come
into existence. Maritime law was promulgated more or less in the twelfth
century, but the troubles and agitations which weakened and disorganized
empires during that period of the Middle Ages, deprived it of its power
and efficiency. The _Code des Rhodiens_ dates as far back as 1167; the
_Code de la Mer_, which became a sort of recognised text-book, dates from
the same period; the _Lois d'Oleron_ is anterior to the twelfth century,
and ruled the western coasts of France, being also adopted in Flanders and
in England; Venice dated her most ancient law on maritime rights from
1255, and the Statutes of Marseilles date from 1254.

[Illustration: Fig. 198.--Execution of the celebrated pirate Stoertebeck
and his seventy accomplices, in 1402, at Hamburg.--From a popular Picture
of the end of the Sixteenth Century (Hamburg Library).]

The period of the establishment of commercial law and justice
corresponds with that of the introduction of national and universal codes
of law and consular jurisdiction. These may be said to have originated in
the sixth century in the laws of the Visigoths, which empowered foreign
traders to be judged by delegates from their own countries. The Venetians
had consuls in the Greek empire as early as the tenth century, and we may
fairly presume that the French had consuls in Palestine during the reign
of Charlemagne. In the thirteenth century the towns of Italy had consular
agents in France; and Marseilles had them in Savoy, in Arles, and in
Genoa. Thus traders of each country were always sure of finding justice,
assistance, and protection in all the centres of European commerce.

Numerous facilities for barter were added to these advantages. Merchants,
who at first travelled with their merchandise, and who afterwards merely
sent a factor as their representative, finally consigned it to foreign
agents. Communication by correspondence in this way became more general,
and paper replaced parchment as being less rare and less expensive. The
introduction of Arabic figures, which were more convenient than the Roman
numerals for making calculations, the establishment of banks, of which the
most ancient was in operation in Venice as early as the twelfth century,
the invention of bills of exchange, attributed to the Jews, and generally
in use in the thirteenth century, the establishment of insurance against
the risks and perils of sea and land, and lastly, the formation of trading
companies, or what are now called partnerships, all tended to give
expansion and activity to commerce, whereby public and private wealth was
increased in spite of obstacles which routine, envy, and ill-will
persistently raised against great commercial enterprises.

For a long time the French, through indolence or antipathy--for it was
more to their liking to be occupied with arms and chivalry than with
matters of interest and profit--took but a feeble part in the trade which
was carried on so successfully on their own territory. The nobles were
ashamed to mix in commerce, considering it unworthy of them, and the
bourgeois, for want of liberal feeling and expansiveness in their ideas,
were satisfied with appropriating merely local trade. Foreign commerce,
even of the most lucrative description, was handed over to foreigners, and
especially to Jews, who were often banished from the kingdom and as
frequently ransomed, though universally despised and hated.
Notwithstanding this, they succeeded in rising to wealth under the stigma
of shame and infamy, and the immense gains which they realised by means of
usury reconciled them to, and consoled them for, the ill-treatment to
which they were subjected.

[Illustration: Fig. 199.--Discovery of America, 12th of May,
1492.--Columbus erects the Cross and baptizes the Isle of Guanahani (now
Cat Island, one of the Bahamas) by the Christian Name of St.
Salvador.--From a Stamp engraved on Copper by Th. de Bry, in the
Collection of "Grands Voyages," in folio, 1590.]

At a very early period, and especially when the Jews had been absolutely
expelled, the advantage of exclusively trading with and securing the rich
profits from France had attracted the Italians, who were frequently only
Jews in disguise, concealing themselves as to their character under the
generic name of Lombards. It was under this name that the French kings
gave them on different occasions various privileges, when they frequented
the fairs of Champagne and came to establish themselves in the inland and
seaport towns. These Italians constituted the great corporation of
money-changers in Paris, and hoarded in their coffers all the coin of the
kingdom, and in this way caused a perpetual variation in the value of
money, by which they themselves benefited.

In the sixteenth century the wars of Italy rather changed matters, and we
find royal and important concessions increasing in favour of Castilians
and other Spaniards, whom the people maliciously called _negroes_, and who
had emigrated in order to engage in commerce and manufactures in
Saintonge, Normandy, Burgundy, Agenois, and Languedoc.

About the time of Louis XI., the French, becoming more alive to their true
interests, began to manage their own affairs, following the suggestions
and advice of the King, whose democratic instincts prompted him to
encourage and favour the bourgeois. This result was also attributable to
the state of peace and security which then began to exist in the kingdom,
impoverished and distracted as it had been by a hundred years of domestic
and foreign warfare.

From 1365 to 1382 factories and warehouses were founded by Norman
navigators on the western coast of Africa, in Senegal and Guinea. Numerous
fleets of merchantmen, of great size for those days, were employed in
transporting cloth, grain of all kinds, knives, brandy, salt, and other
merchandise, which were bartered for leather, ivory, gum, amber, and gold
dust. Considerable profits were realised by the shipowners and merchants,
who, like Jacques Coeur, employed ships for the purpose of carrying on
these large and lucrative commercial operations. These facts sufficiently
testify the condition of France at this period, and prove that this, like
other branches of human industry, was arrested in its expansion by the
political troubles which followed in the fourteenth and fifteenth

Fortunately these social troubles were not universal, and it was just at
the period when France was struggling and had become exhausted and
impoverished that the Portuguese extended their discoveries on the same
coast of Africa, and soon after succeeded in rounding the Cape of Good
Hope, and opening a new maritime road to India, a country which was always
attractive from the commercial advantages which it offered.

Some years after, Christopher Columbus, the Genoese, more daring and more
fortunate still, guided by the compass and impelled by his own genius,
discovered a new continent, the fourth continent of the world (Fig. 199).
This unexpected event, the greatest and most remarkable of the age,
necessarily enlarged the field for produce as well as for consumption to
an enormous extent, and naturally added, not only to the variety and
quantity of exchangeable wares, but also to the production of the precious
metals, and brought about a complete revolution in the laws of the whole
civilised world.

Maritime commerce immediately acquired an extraordinary development, and
merchants, forsaking the harbours of the Mediterranean, and even those of
the Levant, which then seemed to them scarcely worthy of notice, sent
their vessels by thousands upon the ocean in pursuit of the wonderful
riches of the New World. The day of caravans and coasting had passed;
Venice had lost its splendour; the sway of the Mediterranean was over; the
commerce of the world was suddenly transferred from the active and
industrious towns of that sea, which had so long monopolized it, to the
Western nations, to the Portuguese and Spaniards first, and then to the
Dutch and English.

France, absorbed in, and almost ruined by civil war, and above all by
religious dissensions, only played a subordinate part in this commercial
and pacific revolution, although it has been said that the sailors of
Dieppe and Honfleur really discovered America before Columbus.
Nevertheless the kings of France, Louis XII., Francis I., and Henry II.,
tried to establish and encourage transatlantic voyages, and to create, in
the interest of French commerce, colonies on the coasts of the New World,
from Florida and Virginia to Canada.

But these colonies had but a precarious and transitory existence;
fisheries alone succeeded, and French commerce continued insignificant,
circumscribed, and domestic, notwithstanding the increasing requirements
of luxury at court. This luxury contented itself with the use of the
merchandise which arrived from the Low Countries, Spain, and Italy.
National industry did all in its power to surmount this ignominious
condition; she specially turned her attention to the manufacture of silks
and of stuffs tissued with gold and silver. The only practical attempt of
the government in the sixteenth century to protect commerce and
manufactures was to forbid the import of foreign merchandise, and to
endeavour to oppose the progress of luxury by rigid enactments.

Certainly the government of that time little understood the advantages
which a country derived from commerce when it forbade the higher classes
from engaging in mercantile pursuits under penalty of having their
privileges of nobility withdrawn from them. In the face of the examples of
Italy, Genoa, Venice, and especially of Florence, where the nobles were
all traders or sons of traders, the kings of the line of Valois thought
proper to make this enactment. The desire seemed to be to make the
merchant class a separate class, stationary, and consisting exclusively of
bourgeois, shut up in their counting-houses, and prevented in every way
from participating in public life. The merchants became indignant at this
banishment, and, in order to employ their leisure, they plunged with all
their energy into the sanguinary struggles of Reform and of the League.

[Illustration: Fig. 200.--Medal to commemorate the Association of the
Merchants of the City of Rouen.]

It was not until the reign of Henry IV. that they again confined
themselves to their occupations as merchants, when Sully published the
political suggestions of his master for renewing commercial prosperity.
From this time a new era commenced in the commercial destiny of France.
Commerce, fostered and protected by statesmen, sought to extend its
operations with greater freedom and power. Companies were formed at Paris,
Marseilles, Lyons, and Rouen to carry French merchandise all over the
world, and the rules of the mercantile associations, in spite of the
routine and jealousies which guided the trade corporations, became the
code which afterwards regulated commerce (Fig. 200).

[Illustration: Fig. 201.--Standard Weight in Brass of the Fish-market at
Mans: Sign of the Syren (End of the Sixteenth Century).]

Guilds and Trade Corporations.

Uncertain Origin of Corporations.--Ancient Industrial Associations.--The
Germanic Guild.--Colleges.--Teutonic Associations.--The Paris Company
for the Transit of Merchandise by Water.--Corporations properly so
called.--Etienne Boileau's "Book of Trades," or the First Code of
Regulations.--The Laws governing Trades.--Public and Private
Organization of Trade Corporations and other Communities.--Energy of the
Corporations.--Masters, Journeymen, Supernumeraries, and
Apprentices.--Religious Festivals and Trade Societies.--Trade Unions.

Learned authorities have frequently discussed, without agreeing, on the
question of the origin of the Corporations of the Middle Ages. It may be
admitted, we think _a priori_, that associations of artisans were as
ancient as the trades themselves. It may readily be imagined that the
numerous members of the industrial classes, having to maintain and defend
their common rights and common interests, would have sought to establish
mutual fraternal associations among themselves. The deeper we dive into
ancient history the clearer we perceive traces, more or less distinct, of
these kinds of associations. To cite only two examples, which may serve to
some extent as an historical parallel to the analogous institutions of the
present day, we may mention the Roman _Colleges_, which were really
leagues of artisans following the same calling; and the Scandinavian
guilds, whose object was to assimilate the different branches of industry
and trade, either of a city or of some particular district.

Indeed, brotherhoods amongst the labouring classes always existed under
the German conquerors from the moment when Europe, so long divided into
Roman provinces, shook off the yoke of subjection to Rome, although she
still adhered to the laws and customs of the nation which had held her in
subjection for so many generations. We can, however, only regard the few
traces which remain of these brotherhoods as evidence of their having
once existed, and not as indicative of their having been in a flourishing
state. In the fifth century, the Hermit Ampelius, in his "Legends of the
Saints," mentions _Consuls_ or Chiefs of Locksmiths. The Corporation of
Goldsmiths is spoken of as existing in the first dynasty of the French
kings. Bakers are named collectively in 630 in the laws of Dagobert, which
seems to show that they formed a sort of trade union at that remote
period. We also see Charlemagne, in several of his statutes, taking steps
in order that the number of persons engaged in providing food of different
kinds should everywhere be adequate to provide for the necessities of
consumption, which would tend to show a general organization of that most
important branch of industry. In Lombardy colleges of artisans were
established at an early period, and were, no doubt, on the model of the
Roman ones. Ravenna, in 943, possessed a College of Fishermen; and ten
years later the records of that town mention a _Chief of the Corporation
of Traders_, and, in 1001, a _Chief of the Corporation of Butchers_.
France at the same time kept up a remembrance of the institutions of Roman
Gaul, and the ancient colleges of trades still formed associations and
companies in Paris and in the larger towns. In 1061 King Philip I. granted
certain privileges to Master Chandlers and Oilmen. The ancient customs of
the butchers are mentioned as early as the time of Louis VII., 1162. The
same king granted to the wife of Ives Laccobre and her heirs the
collectorship of the dues which were payable by tanners, purse-makers,
curriers, and shoemakers. Under Philip Augustus similar concessions became
more frequent, and it is evident that at that time trade was beginning to
take root and to require special and particular administration. This led
to regulations being drawn up for each trade, to which Philip Augustus
gave his sanction. In 1182 he confirmed the statutes of the butchers, and
the furriers and drapers also obtained favourable concessions from him.

According to the learned Augustin Thierry, corporations, like civic
communities, were engrafted on previously existing guilds, such as on the
colleges or corporations of workmen, which were of Roman origin. In the
_guild_, which signifies a banquet at common expense, there was a mutual
assurance against misfortunes and injuries of all sorts, such as fire and
shipwreck, and also against all lawsuits incurred for offences and crimes,
even though they were proved against the accused. Each of these
associations was placed under the patronage of a god or of a hero, and
had its compulsory statutes; each had its chief or president chosen from
among the members, and a common treasury supplied by annual contributions.
Roman colleges, as we have already stated, were established with a more
special purpose, and were more exclusively confined to the peculiar trade
to which they belonged; but these, equally with the guilds, possessed a
common exchequer, enjoyed equal rights and privileges, elected their own
presidents, and celebrated in common their sacrifices, festivals, and
banquets. We have, therefore, good reason for agreeing in the opinion of
the celebrated historian, who considers that in the establishment of a
corporation "the guild should be to a certain degree the motive power, and
the Roman college, with its organization, the material which should be
used to bring it into existence."

[Illustration: Fig. 202.--Craftsmen in the Fourteenth Century--Fac-simile
of a Miniature of a Manuscript in the Library of Brussels.]

It is certain, however, that during several centuries corporations were
either dissolved or hidden from public notice, for they almost entirely
disappeared from the historic records during the partial return to
barbarism, when the production of objects of daily necessity and the
preparation of food were entrusted to slaves under the eye of their
master. Not till the twelfth century did they again begin to flourish,
and, as might be supposed, it was Italy which gave the signal for the
resuscitation of the institutions whose birthplace had been Rome, and
which barbarism had allowed to fall into decay. Brotherhoods of artisans
were also founded at an early period in the north of Gaul, whence they
rapidly spread beyond the Rhine. Under the Emperor Henry I., that is,
during the tenth century, the ordinary condition of artisans in Germany
was still serfdom; but two centuries later the greater number of trades in
most of the large towns of the empire had congregated together in colleges
or bodies under the name of unions (_Einnungen_ or _Innungen_) (Fig. 202),
as, for example, at Gozlar, at Wuerzburg, at Brunswick, &c. These colleges,
however, were not established without much difficulty and without the
energetic resistance of the ruling powers, inasmuch as they often raised
their pretensions so high as to wish to substitute their authority for the
senatorial law, and thus to grasp the government of the cities. The
thirteenth century witnessed obstinate and sanguinary feuds between these
two parties, each of which was alternately victorious. Whichever had the
upper hand took advantage of the opportunity to carry out the most cruel
reprisals against its defeated opponents. The Emperors Frederick II. and
Henry VII. tried to put an end to these strifes by abolishing the
corporations of workmen, but these powerful associations fearlessly
opposed the imperial authority. In France the organization of communities
of artisans, an organization which in many ways was connected with the
commercial movement, but which must not be confounded with it, did not
give rise to any political difficulty. It seems not even to have met with
any opposition from the feudal powers, who no doubt found it an easy
pretext for levying additional rates and taxes.

The most ancient of these corporations was the Parisian _Hanse_, or
corporation of the bourgeois for canal navigation, which probably dates
its origin back to the college of Parisian _Nautes_, existing before the
Roman conquest. This mercantile association held its meetings in the
island of Lutetia, on the very spot where the church of Notre-Dame was
afterwards built. From the earliest days of monarchy tradesmen constituted
entirely the bourgeois of the towns (Fig. 203). Above them were the
nobility or clergy, beneath them the artisans. Hence we can understand how
the bourgeois, who during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were a
distinct section of the community, became at last the important commercial
body itself. The kings invariably treated them with favour. Louis VI.
granted them new rights, Louis VII. confirmed their ancient privileges,
and Philip Augustus increased them. The Parisian Hanse succeeded in
monopolising all the commerce which was carried on by water on the Seine
and the Yonne between Mantes and Auxerre. No merchandise coming up or down
the stream in boats could be disembarked in the interior of Paris without
becoming, as it were, the property of the corporation, which, through its
agents, superintended its measurement and its sale in bulk, and, up to a
certain point, its sale by retail. No foreign merchant was permitted to
send his goods to Paris without first obtaining _lettres de Hanse_,
whereby he had associated with him a bourgeois of the town, who acted as
his guarantee, and who shared in his profits.

[Illustration: Fig. 203.--Merchants or Tradesmen of the Fourteenth
Century.--Fac-simile of a Miniature in a Manuscript of the Library at

There were associations of the same kind in most of the commercial towns
situated on the banks of rivers and on the sea-coast, as, for example, at
Rouen, Arles, Marseilles, Narbonne, Toulouse, Ratisbon, Augsburg, and
Utrecht. Sometimes neighbouring towns, such as the great manufacturing
cities of Flanders, agreed together and entered into a leagued bond, which
gave them greater power, and constituted an offensive and defensive
compact (Fig. 204). A typical example of this last institution is that of
the commercial association of the _Hanseatic Towns_ of Germany, which were
grouped together to the number of eighty around their four capitals, viz.,
Lubeck, Cologne, Dantzic, and Brunswick.

[Illustration: Fig. 204.--Seal of the United Trades of Ghent (End of the
Fifteenth Century).]

Although, as we have already seen, previous to the thirteenth century many
of the corporations of artisans had been authorised by several of the
kings of France to make special laws whereby they might govern themselves,
it was really only from the reign of St. Louis that the first general
measures of administration and police relating to these communities can be
dated. The King appointed Etienne Boileau, a rich bourgeois, provost of
the capital in 1261, to set to work to establish order, wise
administration, and "good faith" in the commerce of Paris. To this end he
ascertained from the verbal testimony of the senior members of each
corporation the customs and usages of the various crafts, which for the
most part up to that time had not been committed to writing. He arranged
and probably amended them in many ways, and thus composed the famous "Book
of Trades," which, as M. Depping, the able editor of this valuable
compilation, first published in 1837, says, "has the advantage of being to
a great extent the genuine production of the corporations themselves, and
not a list of rules established and framed by the municipal or judicial
authorities." From that time corporations gradually introduced themselves
into the order of society. The royal decrees in their favour were
multiplied, and the regulations with regard to mechanical trades daily
improved, not only in Paris and in the provinces, and also abroad, both in
the south and in the north of Europe, especially in Italy, Germany,
England, and the Low Countries (Figs. 205 to 213).

Etienne Boileau's "Book of Trades" contained the rules of one hundred
different trade associations. It must be observed, however, that several
of the most important trades, such as the butchers, tanners, glaziers,
&c., were omitted, either because they neglected to be registered at the
Chatelet, where the inquiry superintended by Boileau was made, or because
some private interest induced them to keep aloof from this registration,
which probably imposed some sort of fine and a tax upon them. In the
following century the number of trade associations considerably increased,
and wonderfully so during the reigns of the last of the Valois and the
first of the Bourbons.

The historian of the antiquities of Paris, Henry Sauval, enumerated no
fewer than fifteen hundred and fifty-one trade associations in the capital
alone in the middle of the seventeenth century. It must be remarked,
however, that the societies of artisans were much subdivided owing to the
simple fact that each craft could only practise its own special work.
Thus, in Boileau's book, we find four different corporations of
_patenotriers_, or makers of chaplets, six of hatters, six of weavers, &c.

Besides these societies of artisans, there were in Paris a few privileged
corporations, which occupied a more important position, and were known
under the name of _Corps des Marchands_. Their number at first frequently
varied, but finally it was settled at six, and they were termed _les Six
Corps_. They comprised the drapers, which always took precedence of the
five others, the grocers, the mercers, the furriers, the hatters, and the
goldsmiths. These five for a long time disputed the question of
precedence, and finally they decided the matter by lot, as they were not
able to agree in any other way.

[Illustration: Fig. 205.--Seal of the Corporation of Carpenters of St.
Trond (Belgium)--From an Impression preserved in the Archives of that Town

[Illustration: Fig. 206.--Seal of the Corporation of Shoemakers of St.
Trond, from a Map of 1481, preserved in the Archives of that Town.]

[Illustration: Fig. 207.--Seal of the Corporation of Wool-weavers of
Hasselt (Belgium), from a Parchment Title-deed of June 25, 1574.]

[Illustration: Fig. 208.--Seal of the Corporation of Clothworkers of
Bruges (1356).--From an Impression preserved in the Archives of that

[Illustration: Fig. 209.--Seal of the Corporation of Fullers of St. Trond
(about 1350).--From an Impression preserved in the Archives of that Town.]

[Illustration: Fig. 210.--Seal of the Corporation of Joiners of Bruges
(1356).--From an Impression preserved in the Archives of that Town.]

[Illustration: Fig. 211.--Token of the Corporation of Carpenters of

[Illustration: Fig. 212.--Token of the Corporation of Carpenters of

[Illustration: Fig. 213.--Funeral Token of the Corporation of Carpenters
of Maestricht.]


Fac-simile of Engravings on Wood, designed and engraved by J. Amman, in
the Sixteenth Century.

[Illustration: Fig. 214.--Cloth-worker.]

[Illustration: Fig. 215.--Tailor.]

[Illustration: Fig. 216.--Hatter.]

[Illustration: Fig. 217.--Dyer.]

[Illustration: Fig. 218.--Druggist]

[Illustration: Fig. 219.--Barber]

[Illustration: Fig. 220.--Goldsmith]

[Illustration: Fig. 221.--Goldbeater]

[Illustration: Fig. 222.--Pin and Needle Maker.]

[Illustration: Fig. 223.--Clasp-maker.]

[Illustration: Fig. 224.--Wire-worker.]

[Illustration: Fig. 225.--Dice-maker.]

[Illustration: Fig. 226.--Sword-maker.]

[Illustration: Fig. 227.--Armourer.]

[Illustration: Fig. 228.--Spur-maker.]

[Illustration: Fig. 229.--Shoemaker.]

[Illustration: Fig. 230.--Basin-maker.]

[Illustration: Fig. 231.--Tinman.]

[Illustration: Fig. 232.--Coppersmith.]

[Illustration: Fig. 233.--Bell and Cannon Caster.]

Apart from the privilege which these six bodies of merchants exclusively
enjoyed of being called upon to appear, though at their own expense, in
the civic processions and at the public ceremonials, and to carry the
canopy over the heads of kings, queens, or princes on their state entry
into the capital (Fig. 234), it would be difficult to specify the nature
of the privileges which were granted to them, and of which they were so
jealous. It is clear, however, that these six bodies were imbued with a
kind of aristocratic spirit which made them place trading much above
handicraft in their own class, and set a high value on their calling as
merchants. Thus contemporary historians tell us that any merchant who
compromised the dignity of the company "fell into the class of the lower
orders;" that mercers boasted of excluding from their body the
upholsterers, "who were but artisans;" that hatters, who were admitted
into the _Six Corps_ to replace one of the other trades, became in
consequence "merchants instead of artisans, which they had been up to that

Notwithstanding the statutes so carefully compiled and revised by Etienne
Boileau and his successors, and in spite of the numerous arbitrary rules
which the sovereigns, the magistrates, and the corporations themselves
strenuously endeavoured to frame, order and unity were far from governing
the commerce and industry of Paris during the Middle Ages, and what took
place in Paris generally repeated itself elsewhere. Serious disputes
continually arose between the authorities and those amenable to their
jurisdiction, and between the various crafts themselves, notwithstanding
the relation which they bore to each other from the similarity of their

In fact in this, as in many other matters, social disorder often emanated
from the powers whose duty it was in the first instance to have repressed
it. Thus, at the time when Philip Augustus extended the boundaries of his
capital so as to include the boroughs in it, which until then had been
separated from the city, the lay and clerical lords, under whose feudal
dominion those districts had hitherto been placed, naturally insisted upon
preserving all their rights. So forcibly did they do this that the King
was obliged to recognise their claims; and in several boroughs, including
the Bourg l'Abbe, the Beau Bourg, the Bourg St. Germain, and the Bourg
Auxerrois, &c., there were trade associations completely distinct from and
independent of those of ancient Paris. If we simply limit our examination
to that of the condition of the trade associations which held their
authority immediately from royalty, we still see that the causes of
confusion were by no means trifling; for the majority of the high officers
of the crown, acting as delegates of the royal authority, were always
disputing amongst themselves the right of superintending, protecting,
judging, punishing, and, above all, of exacting tribute from the members
of the various trades. The King granted to various officers the privilege
of arbitrarily disposing of the freedom of each trade for their own
profit, and thereby gave them power over all the merchants and craftsmen
who were officially connected with them, not only in Paris, but also
throughout the whole kingdom. Thus the lord chamberlain had jurisdiction
over the drapers, mercers, furriers, shoemakers, tailors, and other
dealers in articles of wearing apparel; the barbers were governed by the
king's varlet and barber; the head baker was governor over the bakers; and
the head butler over the wine merchants.

[Illustration: Fig. 234.--Group of Goldsmiths preceding the _Chasse de St.
Marcel_ in the Reign of Louis XIII.--From a Copper-plate of the Period
(Cabinet of Stamps in the National Library of Paris).]

These state officers granted freedoms to artisans, or, in other words,
they gave them the right to exercise such and such a craft with assistants
or companions, exacting for the performance of this trifling act a very
considerable tax. And, as they preferred receiving their revenues without
the annoyance of having direct communication with their humble subjects,
they appointed deputies, who were authorised to collect them in their

The most celebrated of these deputies were the _rois des merciers_, who
lived on the fat of the land in complete idleness, and who were surrounded
by a mercantile court, which appeared in all its splendour at the trade

[Illustration: Fig. 235.--Banner of the Corporation of the United Boot and
Shoe Makers of Issoudun.]

The great officers of the crown exercised in their own interests, and
without a thought for the public advantage, a complete magisterial
jurisdiction over all crafts; they adjudicated in disputes arising between
masters and men, decided quarrels, visited, either personally or through
their deputies, the houses of the merchants, in order to discover frauds
or infractions in the rules of the trade, and levied fines accordingly. We
must remember that the collectors of court dues had always to contend for
the free exercise of their jurisdiction against the provost of Paris, who
considered their acquisitions of authority as interfering with his
personal prerogatives, and who therefore persistently opposed them on all
occasions. For instance, if the head baker ordered an artisan of the same
trade to be imprisoned in the Chatelet, the high provost, who was governor
of the prison, released him immediately; and, in retaliation, if the high
provost punished a baker, the chief baker warmly espoused his
subordinate's cause. At other times the artisans, if they were
dissatisfied with the deputy appointed by the great officer of the crown,
whose dependents they were, would refuse to recognise his authority. In
this way constant quarrels and interminable lawsuits occurred, and it is
easy to understand the disorder which must have arisen from such a state
of things. By degrees, however, and in consequence of the new tendencies
of royalty, which were simply directed to the diminution of feudal power,
the numerous jurisdictions relating to the various trades gradually
returned to the hand of the municipal provostship; and this concentration
of power had the best results, as well for the public good as for that of
the corporations themselves.

Having examined into corporations collectively and also into their general
administration, we will now turn to consider their internal organization.
It was only after long and difficult struggles that these trade
associations succeeded in taking a definite and established position;
without, however, succeeding at any time in organizing themselves as one
body on the same basis and with the same privileges. Therefore, in
pointing out the influential character of these institutions generally, we
must omit various matters specially connected with individual
associations, which it would be impossible to mention in this brief

In the fourteenth century, the period when the communities of crafts were
at the height of their development and power, no association of artisans
could legally exist without a license either from the king, the lord, the
prince, the abbot, the bailiff, or the mayor of the district in which it
proposed to establish itself.

[Illustration: Fig. 236.--Banner of the Tilers of Paris, with the
Armorial Bearings of the Corporation.]

[Illustration: Fig. 237.--Banner of the Nail-makers of Paris, with
Armorial Bearings of the Corporation.]

[Illustration: Fig. 238.--Banner of the Harness-makers of Paris, with the
Armorial Bearings of the Corporation.]

[Illustration: Fig. 239.--Banner of the Wheelwrights of Paris, with the
Armoral Bearings of the Corporation.]

[Illustration: Fig. 240.--Banner of the Tanners of Vie, with the Patron
Saint of the Corporation.]

[Illustration: Fig. 241.--Banner of the Weavers of Poulon, with the Patron
Saint of the Corporation.]

These communities had their statutes and privileges; they were
distinguished at public ceremonials by their _liveries_ or special dress,
as well as by their arms and banners (Figs. 235 to 241). They possessed
the right freely to discuss their general interests, and at meetings
composed of all their members they might modify their statutes, provided
that such changes were confirmed by the King or by the authorities. It was
also necessary that these meetings, at which the royal delegates were
present, should be duly authorised; and, lastly, so as to render the
communication between members more easy, and to facilitate everything
which concerned the interests of the craft, artisans of the same trade
usually resided in the same quarter of the town, and even in the same
street. The names of many streets in Paris and other towns of France
testify to this custom, which still partially exists in the towns of
Germany and Italy.

[Illustration: Fig. 242.--Ceremonial Dress of an Elder and a Juror of the
Corporation of Old Shoemakers of Ghent.]

The communities of artisans had, to a certain extent, the character and
position of private individuals. They had the power in their corporate
capacity of holding and administrating property, of defending or bringing
actions at law, of accepting inheritances, &c.; they disbursed from a
common treasury, which was supplied by legacies, donations, fines, and
periodical subscriptions.

These communities exercised in addition, through their jurors, a
magisterial authority, and even, under some circumstances, a criminal
jurisdiction over their members. For a long time they strove to extend
this last power or to keep it independent of municipal control and the
supreme courts, by which it was curtailed to that of exercising a simple
police authority strictly confined to persons or things relating to the
craft. They carefully watched for any infractions of the rules of the
trade. They acted as arbitrators between master and man, particularly in
quarrels when the parties had had recourse to violence. The functions of
this kind of domestic magistracy were exercised by officers known under
various names, such as _kings, masters, elders, guards, syndics_, and
_jurors_, who were besides charged to visit the workshops at any hour they
pleased in order to see that the laws concerning the articles of
workmanship were observed. They also received the taxes for the benefit of
the association; and, lastly, they examined the apprentices and installed
masters into their office (Fig. 242).

The jurors, or syndics, as they were more usually called, and whose number
varied according to the importance of numerical force of the corporation,
were generally elected by the majority of votes of their fellow-workmen,
though sometimes the choice of these was entirely in the hands of the
great officers of state. It was not unfrequent to find women amongst the
dignitaries of the arts and crafts; and the professional tribunals, which
decided every question relative to the community and its members, were
often held by an equal number of masters and associate craftsmen. The
jealous, exclusive, and inflexible spirit of caste, which in the Middle
Ages is to be seen almost everywhere, formed one of the principal features
of industrial associations. The admission of new members was surrounded
with conditions calculated to restrict the number of associates and to
discourage candidates. The sons of masters alone enjoyed hereditary
privileges, in consequence of which they were always allowed to be
admitted without being subjected to the tyrannical yoke of the

[Illustration: Martyrdom of SS. Crispin and Crepinien.

From a window in the Hopital des Quinze-Vingts (Fifteenth Century).]

Generally the members of a corporation were divided into three distinct
classes--the masters, the paid assistants or companions, and the
apprentices. Apprenticeship, from which the sons of masters were often
exempted, began between the ages of twelve and seventeen years, and
lasted from two to five years. In most of the trades the master could only
receive one apprentice in his house besides his own son. Tanners, dyers,
and goldsmiths were allowed one of their relatives in addition, or a
second apprentice if they had no relation willing to learn their trade;
and although some commoner trades, such as butchers and bakers, were
allowed an unlimited number of apprentices, the custom of restriction had
become a sort of general law, with the object of limiting the number of
masters and workmen to the requirements of the public. The position of
paid assistant or companion was required to be held in many trades for a
certain length of time before promotion to mastership could be obtained.

[Illustration: Fig. 243.--Bootmaker's Apprentice working at a
Trial-piece.--From a Window of the Thirteenth Century, published by
Messrs. Cahier and Martin]

When apprentices or companions wished to become masters, they were called
_aspirants_, and were subjected to successive examinations. They were
particularly required to prove their ability by executing what was termed
a _chef-d'oeuvre_, which consisted in fabricating a perfect specimen of
whatever craft they practised. The execution of the _chef-d'oeuvre_ gave
rise to many technical formalities, which were at times most frivolous.
The aspirant in certain cases had to pass a technical examination, as,
for instance, the barber in forging and polishing lancets; the wool-weaver
in making and adjusting the different parts of his loom; and during the
period of executing the _chef-d'oeuvre,_ which often extended over several
months, the aspirant was deprived of all communication with his fellows.
He had to work at the office of the association, which was called the
_bureau_, under the eyes of the jurors or syndics, who, often after an
angry debate, issued their judgment upon the merits of the work and the
capability of the workman (Figs. 243 and 244).

[Illustration: Fig. 244.--Carpenter's Apprentice working at a
Trial-piece.--From one of the Stalls called _Misericordes_, in Rouen
Cathedral (Fifteenth Century).]

On his admission the aspirant had first to take again the oath of
allegiance to the King before the provost or civil deputy, although he had
already done so on commencing his apprenticeship. He then had to pay a
duty or fee, which was divided between the sovereign or lord and the
brotherhood, from which fee the sons of masters always obtained a
considerable abatement. Often, too, the husbands of the daughters of
masters were exempted from paying the duties. A few masters, such as the
goldsmiths and the cloth-workers, had besides to pay a sum of money by way
of guarantee, which remained in the funds of the craft as long as they
carried on the trade. After these forms had been complied with, the
masters acquired the exclusive privilege of freely exercising their
profession. There were, however, certain exceptions to this rule, for a
king on his coronation, a prince or princess of the royal blood at the
time of his or her marriage, and, in certain towns, the bishop on his
installation, had the right of creating one or more masters in each trade,
and these received their licence without going through any of the usual

[Illustration: Fig. 245.--Staircase of the Office of the Goldsmiths of
Rouen (Fifteenth Century). The Shield which the Lion holds with his Paw
shows the Arms of the Goldsmiths of Rouen. (Present Condition).]

A widower or widow might generally continue the craft of the deceased wife
or husband who had acquired the freedom, and which thus became the
inheritance of the survivor. The condition, however, was that he or she
did not contract a second marriage with any one who did not belong to the
craft. Masters lost their rights directly they worked for any other master
and received wages. Certain freedoms, too, were only available in the
towns in which they had been obtained. In more than one craft, when a
family holding the freedom became extinct, their premises and tools became
the property of the corporation, subject to an indemnity payable to the
next of kin.

[Illustration: Fig. 246.--Shops under Covered Market (Goldsmith, Dealer in
Stuffs, and Shoemaker).--From a Miniature in Aristotle's "Ethics and
Politics," translated by Nicholas Oresme (Manuscript of the Fifteenth
Century, Library of Rouen).]

At times, and particularly in those trades where the aspirants were not
required to produce a _chef-d'oeuvre_, the installation of masters was
accompanied with extraordinary ceremonies, which no doubt originally
possessed some symbolical meaning, but which, having lost their true
signification, became singular, and appeared even ludicrous. Thus with the
bakers, after four years' apprenticeship, the candidate on purchasing the
freedom from the King, issued from his door, escorted by all the other
bakers of the town, bearing a new pot filled with walnuts and wafers. On
arriving before the chief of the corporation, he said to him, "Master, I
have accomplished my four years; here is my pot filled with walnuts and
wafers." The assistants in the ceremony having vouched for the truth of
this statement, the candidate broke the pot against the wall, and the
chief solemnly pronounced his admission, which was inaugurated by the
older masters emptying a number of tankards of wine or beer at the expense
of their new brother. The ceremony was also of a jovial character in the
case of the millwrights, who only admitted the candidate after he had
received a caning on the shoulders from the last-elected brother.

[Illustration: Fig. 247.--Fac-simile of the first six Lines on the Copper
Tablet on which was engraved, from the year 1470, the Names and Titles of
those who were elected Members of the Corporation of Goldsmiths of Ghent.]

The statutes of the corporations, which had the force of law on account of
being approved and accepted by royal authority, almost always detailed
with the greatest precision the conditions of labour. They fixed the hours
and days for working, the size of the articles to be made, the quality of
the stuffs used in their manufacture, and even the price at which they
were to be sold (Fig. 246). Night labour was pretty generally forbidden,
as likely to produce only imperfect work. We nevertheless find that
carpenters were permitted to make coffins and other funeral articles by
night. On the eve of religious feasts the shops were shut earlier than
usual, that is to say, at three o'clock, and were not opened on the next
day, with the exception of those of pastrycooks, whose assistance was
especially required on feast days, and who sold curious varieties of cakes
and sweetmeats. Notwithstanding the strictness of the rules and the
administrative laws of each trade, which were intended to secure good
faith and loyalty between the various members, it is unnecessary to state
that they were frequently violated. The fines which were then imposed on
delinquents constituted an important source of revenue, not only to the
corporations themselves, but also to the town treasury. The penally,
however, was not always a pecuniary one, for as late as the fifteenth
century we have instances of artisans being condemned to death simply for
having adulterated their articles of trade.

[Illustration: Fig. 248.--Elder and Jurors of the Tanners of the Town of
Ghent in Ceremonial Dress.--Fac-simile of a Miniature in a Manuscript of
the Fifteenth Century.]

This deception was looked upon as of the nature of robbery, which we know
to have been for a long time punishable by death. Robbery on the part of
merchants found no indulgence nor pardon in those days, and the whole
corporation demanded immediate and exemplary justice.

According to the statutes, which generally tended to prevent frauds and
falsifications, in most crafts the masters were bound to put their
trade-mark on their goods, or some particular sign which was to be a
guarantee for the purchaser and one means of identifying the culprit in
the event of complaints arising on account of the bad quality or bad
workmanship of the articles sold.

[Illustration: Fig. 249.--Companion Carpenter.--Fragment of a Woodcut of
the Fifteenth Century, after a Drawing by Wohlgemueth for the "Chronique de

Besides taking various steps to maintain professional integrity, the
framers of the various statutes, as a safeguard to the public interests,
undertook also to inculcate morality and good feeling amongst their
members. A youth could not be admitted unless he could prove his
legitimacy of birth by his baptismal register; and, to obtain the freedom,
he was bound to bear an irreproachable character. Artisans exposed
themselves to a reprimand, and even to bodily chastisement, from the
corporation, for even associating with, and certainly for working or
drinking with those who had been expelled. Licentiousness and misconduct
of any kind rendered them liable to be deprived of their mastership. In
some trade associations all the members were bound to solemnize the day of
the decease of a brother, to assist at his funeral, and to follow him to
the grave. In another community the slightest indecent or discourteous
word was punishable by a fine. A new master could not establish himself in
the same street as his former master, except at a distance, which was
determined by the statutes; and, further, no member was allowed to ask for
or attract customers when the latter were nearer the shop of his neighbour
than of his own.

In the Middle Ages religion placed its stamp on every occupation and
calling, and corporations were careful to maintain this characteristic
feature. Each was under the patronage of some saint, who was considered
the special protector of the craft; each possessed a shrine or chapel in
some church of the quarter where the trade was located, and some even kept
chaplains at their own expense for the celebration of masses which were
daily said for the souls of the good deceased members of the craft. These
associations, animated by Christian charity, took upon them to invoke the
blessings of heaven on all members of the fraternity, and to assist those
who were either laid by through sickness or want of work, and to take care
of the widows and to help the orphans of the less prosperous craftsmen.
They also gave alms to the poor, and presented the broken meat left at
their banquets to the hospitals.

Under the name of _garcons_, or _compagnons de devoir_ (this surname was
at first specially applied to carpenters and masons, who from a very
ancient date formed an important association, which was partly secret, and
from which Freemasonry traces its origin) (Fig. 250), the companions,
notwithstanding that they belonged to the community of their own special
craft, also formed distinct corporations among themselves with a view to
mutual assistance. They made a point of visiting any foreign workman on
his arrival in their town, supplied his first requirements, found him
work, and, when work was wanting, the oldest companion gave up his place
to him. These associations of companionship, however, soon failed to carry
out the noble object for which they were instituted. After a time the
meeting together of the fraternity was but a pretext for intemperance and
debauchery, and at times their tumultuous processions and indecent
masquerades occasioned much disorder in the cities. The facilities which
these numerous associations possessed of extending and mutually
co-operating with one another also led to coalitions among them for the
purpose of securing any advantage which they desired to possess. Sometimes
open violence was resorted to to obtain their exorbitant and unjust
demands, which greatly excited the industrious classes, and eventually
induced the authorities to interfere. Lastly, these brotherhoods gave rise
to many violent quarrels, which ended in blows and too often in bloodshed,
between workmen of the same craft, who took different views on debateable
points. The decrees of parliament, the edicts of sovereigns, and the
decisions of councils, as early as at the end of the fifteenth century and
throughout the whole of the sixteenth, severely proscribed the doings of
these brotherhoods, but these interdictions were never duly and rigidly
enforced, and the authorities themselves often tolerated infractions of
the law, and thus license was given to every kind of abuse.

[Illustration: Fig. 250.--Carpenters.--Fac-simile of a Miniature in the
"Chroniques de Hainaut," Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the
Burgundy Library, Brussels.]

We have frequently mentioned in the course of this volume the political
part played by the corporations during the Middle Ages. We know the active
and important part taken by trades of all descriptions, in France in the
great movement of the formation of communities. The spirit of fraternal
association which constituted the strength of the corporations (Fig. 251),
and which exhibited itself so conspicuously in every act of their public
and private life, resisted during several centuries the individual and
collective attacks made on it by craftsmen themselves. These rich and
powerful corporations began to decline from the moment they ceased to be
united, and they were dissolved by law at the beginning of the revolution
of 1789, an act which necessarily dealt a heavy blow to industry and

[Illustration: Fig. 251.--Painting commemorative of the Union of the
Merchants of Rouen at the End of the Seventeenth Century.]

[Illustration: Fig. 252.--Banner of the Drapers of Caen.]

Taxes, Money, and Finance.

Taxes under the Roman Rule.--Money Exactions of the Merovingian
Kings.--Varieties of Money.--Financial Laws under Charlemagne.--Missi
Dominici.--Increase of Taxes owing to the Crusades.--Organization of
Finances by Louis IX.--Extortions of Philip le Bel.--Pecuniary
Embarrassaient of his Successors.--Charles V. re-establishes Order in
Finances.--Disasters of France under Charles VI., Charles VII., and
Jacques Coeur.--Changes in Taxation from Louis XI. to Francis I.--The
great Financiers.--Florimond Robertet.

If we believe Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War, the Gauls were
groaning in his time under the pressure of taxation, and struggled hard to
remove it. Rome lightened their burden; but the fiscal system of the
metropolis imperceptibly took root in all the Roman provinces. There was
an arbitrary personal tax, called the poll tax, and a land tax which was
named _cens_, calculated according to the area of the holding. Besides
these, there were taxes on articles of consumption, on salt, on the import
and export of all articles of merchandise, on sales by auction; also on
marriages, on burials, and on houses. There were also legacy and
succession duties, and taxes on slaves, according to their number. Tolls
on highways were also created; and the treasury went so far as to tax the
hearth. Hence the origin of the name, _feu_, which was afterwards applied
to each household or family group assembled in the same house or sitting
before the same fire. A number of other taxes sprung up, called
_sordides_, from which the nobility and the government functionaries were

This ruinous system of taxation, rendered still more insupportable by the
exactions of the proconsuls, and the violence of their subordinates, went
on increasing down to the time of the fall of the Roman Empire. The Middle
Ages gave birth to a new order of things. The municipal administration,
composed in great part of Gallo-Roman citizens, did not perceptibly
deviate from the customs established for five centuries, but each invading
nation by degrees introduced new habits and ideas into the countries they
subdued. The Germans and Franks, having become masters of part of Gaul,
established themselves on the lands which they had divided between them.
The great domains, with their revenues which had belonged to the emperors,
naturally became the property of the barbarian chiefs, and served to
defray the expenses of their houses or their courts. These chiefs, at each
general assembly of the _Leudes_, or great vassals, received presents of
money, of arms, of horses, and of various objects of home or of foreign
manufacture. For a long time these gifts were voluntary. The territorial
fief, which was given to those soldlers who had deserved it by their
military services, involved from the holders a personal service to the
King. They had to attend him on his journeys, to follow him to war, and to
defend him under all circumstances. The fief was entirely exempt from
taxes. Many misdeeds--even robberies and other crimes, which were
ordinarily punishable by death--were pardonable on payment of a
proportionate fine, and oaths, in many cases, might be absolved in the
same way. Thus a large revenue was received, which was generally divided
equally between the State, the procurator fiscal, and the King.

[Illustration: Fig. 253.--The Extraction of Metals.--Fac-simile of a
Woodcut in the "Cosmographie Universelle" of Munster, folio: Basle, 1552.]

War, which was almost constant in those turbulent times, furnished the
barbarian kings with occasional resources, which were usually much more
important than the ordinary supplies from taxation. The first chiefs of
the Visigoths, the Ostrogoths, and the Franks, sought means of
replenishing their treasuries by their victorious arms. Alaric, Totila,
and Clovis thus amassed enormous wealth, without troubling themselves to
place the government finances on a satisfactory basis. We see, however, a
semblance of financial organization in the institutions of Alaric and his
successors. Subsequently, the great Theodoric, who had studied the
administrative theories of the Byzantine Court, exercised his genius in
endeavouring to work out an accurate system of finance, which was adopted
in Italy.

Gregory of Tours, a writer of the sixteenth century, relates in several
passages of his "History of the Franks," that they exhibited the same
repugnance to compulsory taxation as the Germans of the time of Tacitus.
The _Leudes_ considered that they owed nothing to the treasury, and to
force them to submit to taxation was not an easy matter. About the year
465, Childeric I., father of Clovis, lost his crown for wishing all
classes to submit to taxation equally. In 673, Childeric II., King of
Austrasia, had one of these _Leudes_, named Bodillon, flogged with rods
for daring to reproach him with the injustice of certain taxes. He,
however, was afterwards assassinated by this same Bodillon, and the
_Leudes_ maintained their right of immunity. A century before the _Leudes_
were already quarrelling with royalty on account of the taxes, which they
refused to pay, and they sacrificed Queen Brunehaut because she attempted
to enrich the treasury with the confiscated property of a few nobles who
had rebelled against her authority. The wealth of the Frank kings, which
was always very great, was a continual object of envy, and on one occasion
Chilperic I., King of Soissons, having the _Leudes_ in league with him,
laid his hands on the wealth amassed by his father, Clotaire I., which was
kept in the Palace of Braine. He was, nevertheless, obliged to share his
spoil with his brothers and their followers, who came in arms to force him
to refund what he had taken. Chilperic (Fig. 254) was so much in awe of
these _Leudes_ that he did not ask them for money. His wife, the
much-feared Fredegonde, did not, however, exempt them more than Brunehaut
had done; and her judges or ministers, Audon and Mummius, having met with
an insurmountable resistance in endeavouring to force taxation on the
nobles, nearly lost their lives in consequence.

[Illustration: Fig. 254.--Tomb of Chilperic.--Sculpture of the Eleventh
Century, in the Abbey of St. Denis.]

The custom of numbering the population, such as was carried on in Rome
through the censors, appears to have been observed under the Merovingian
kings. At the request of the Bishop of Poitiers, Childebert gave orders to
amend the census taken under Sigebert, King of Austrasia. It is a most
curious document mentioned by Gregory of Tours. "The ancient division," he
says, "had been one so unequal, owing to the subdivision of properties and
other changes which time had made in the condition of the taxpayers, that
the poor, the orphans, and the helpless classes generally alone bore the
real burden of taxation." Florentius, comptroller of the King's household,
and Romulfus, count of the palace, remedied this abuse. After a closer
examination of the changes which had taken place, they relieved the
taxpayers who were too heavily rated and placed the burden on those who
could better afford it.

This direct taxation continued on this plan until the time of the kings of
the second dynasty. The Franks, who had not the privilege of exemption,
paid a poll tax and a house tax; about a tenth was charged on the produce
of highly cultivated lands, a little more on that of lands of an inferior
description, and a certain measure, a _cruche_, of wine on the produce of
every half acre of vineyard. There were assessors and royal agents charged
with levying such taxes and regulating the farming of them. In spite of
this precaution, however, an edict of Clovis II., in the year 615,
censures the mode of imposing rates and taxes; it orders that they shall
only be levied in the places where they have been authorised, and forbade
their being used under any pretext whatever for any other object than that
for which they were imposed.

[Illustration: Fig. 255.--Signature of St. Eloy (Eligius), Financier and
Minister to Dagobert I.; from the Charter of Foundation of the Abbey of
Solignac (Mabillon, "Da Re Diplomatica").]

Under the Merovingians specie was not in common use, although the precious
metals were abundant among the Gauls, as their mines of gold and silver
were not yet exhausted. Money was rarely coined, except on great
occasions, such as a coronation, the birth of an heir to the throne, the
marriage of a prince, or the commemoration of a decisive victory. It is
even probable that each time that money was used in large sums the pound
or the _sou_ of gold was represented more by ingots of metal than by
stamped coin. The third of the _sou_ of gold, which was coined on state
occasions, seems to have been used only as a commemorative medal, to be
distributed amongst the great officers of state, and this circumstance
explains their extreme rarity. The general character of the coinage,
whether of gold, silver, or of the baser metals, of the Burgundian,
Austrasian, and Frank kings, differs little from what it had been at the
time of the last of the Roman emperors, though the _Angel bearing the
cross_ gradually replaced the _Renommee victorieuse_ formerly stamped on
the coins. Christian monograms and symbols of the Trinity were often
intermingled with the initials of the sovereign. It also became common to
combine in a monogram letters thought to be sacred or lucky, such as C, M,
S, T, &c.; also to introduce the names of places, which, perhaps, have
since disappeared, as well as some particular mark or sign special to each
mint. Some of these are very difficult to understand, and present a number
of problems which have yet to be solved (Figs. 256 to 259). Unfortunately,
the names of places on Merovingian coins to the number of about nine
hundred, have rarely been studied by coin collectors, expert both as
geographers and linguists. We find, for example, one hundred distinct
mints, and, up to the present time, have not been able to determine where
the greater number of them were situated.

[Illustration: Merovingian Gold Coins, Struck by St. Eloy, Moneyer to
Dagobert I. (628-638).

Fig. 256.--Parisinna Ceve Fit.. Head of Dagobert with double diadem of
pearls, hair hanging down the back of the neck. _Rev._, Dagobertvs Rex.
Cross; above, omega; under the arms of the cross, Eligi.

Fig. 257.--Parissin. Civ. Head of Clovis II., with diadem of pearls, hair
braided and hanging down the back of the neck. _Rev._, Chlodovevs Rex.
Cross with anchor; under the arms of the cross, Eligi.

Fig. 258.--Parisivs Fit. Head of King. _Rev._, Eligivs Mone. Cross; above,
omega; under, a ball.

Fig. 259.--Mon. Palati. Head of King. _Rev._, Scolare. I. A. Cross with
anchor; under the arms of the cross, Eligi. ]

From the time that Clovis became a Christian, he loaded the Church with
favours, and it soon possessed considerable revenues, and enjoyed many
valuable immunities. The sons of Clovis contested these privileges; but
the Church resisted for a time, though she was eventually obliged to give
way to the iron hand of Charles Martel. In 732 this great military
chieftain, after his struggle with Rainfroy, and after his brilliant
victories over the Saxons, the Bavarians, the Swiss, and the Saracens,
stripped the clergy of their landed possessions, in order to distribute
them amongst his _Leudes_, who by this means he secured as his creatures,
and who were, therefore, ever willing and eager to serve him in arms.

On ascending the throne, King Pepin, who wanted to pacify the Church,
endeavoured as far as possible to obliterate the recollection of the
wrongs of which his father had been guilty towards her; he ordered the
_dimes_ and the _nones_ (tenth and ninth denier levied on the value of
lands) to be placed to the account of the possessors of each
ecclesiastical domain, on their under-taking to repair the buildings
(churches, chateaux, abbeys, and presbyteries), and to restore to the
owners the properties on which they held mortgages. The nobles long
resented this, and it required the authority and the example of
Charlemagne to soothe the contending parties, and to make Church and State
act in harmony.

Charlemagne renounced the arbitrary rights established by the Mayors of
the Palace, and retained only those which long usage had legitimatised. He
registered them clearly in a code called the _Capitulaires_, into which he
introduced the ancient laws of the Ripuaires, the Burgundians, and the
Franks, arranging them so as to suit the organization and requirements of
his vast empire. From that time each freeman subscribed to the military
service according to the amount of his possessions. The great vassal, or
fiscal judge, was no longer allowed to practise extortion on those
citizens appointed to defend the State. Freemen could legally refuse all
servile or obligatory work imposed on them by the nobles, and the amount
of labour to be performed by the serfs was lessened. Without absolutely
abolishing the authority of local customs in matters of finance, or
penalties which had been illegally exacted, they were suspended by laws
decided at the _Champs de Mai_, by the Counts and by the _Leudes_, in
presence of the Emperor. Arbitrary taxes were abolished, as they were no
longer required. Food, and any articles of consumption, and military
munitions, were exempted from taxation; and the revenues derived from
tolls on road gates, on bridges, and on city gates, &c., were applied to
the purposes for which they were imposed, namely, to the repair of the
roads, the bridges, and the fortified enclosures. The _heriban_, a fine of
sixty sols--which in those days would amount to more than 6,000
francs--was imposed on any holder of a fief who refused military service,
and each noble was obliged to pay this for every one of his vassals who
was absent when summoned to the King's banner. These fines must have
produced considerable sums. A special law exempted ecclesiastics from
bearing arms, and Charlemagne decreed that their possessions should be
sacred and untouched, and everything was done to ensure the payment of the
indemnity--_dime_ and _none_--which was due to them.

[Illustration: Fig. 260.--Toll on Markets levied by a Cleric.--From one of
the Painted Windows of the Cathedral of Tournay (Fifteenth Century).]

Charlemagne also superintended the coining and circulation of money. He
directed that the silver sou should exactly contain the twenty-second part
by weight of the pound. He also directed that money should only be coined
in the Imperial palaces. He forbade the circulation of spurious coin; he
ordered base coiners to be severely punished, and imposed heavy fines upon
those who refused to accept the coin in legal circulation. The tithe due
to the Church (Fig. 260), which was imposed at the National Assembly in
779, and disbursed by the diocesan bishops, gave rise to many complaints
and much opposition. This tithe was in addition to that paid to the King,
which was of itself sufficiently heavy. The right of claiming the two
tithes, however, had a common origin, so that the sovereign defended his
own rights in protecting those of the Church. This is set forth in the
text of the _Capitulaires_, from the year 794 to 829. "What had originally
been only a voluntary and pious offering of a few of the faithful," says
the author of the "Histoire Financiere de la France," "became thus a
perpetual tax upon agriculture, custom rather than law enforcing its
payment; and a tithe which was at first limited to the produce of the
soil, soon extended itself to cattle and other live stock."

Royal delegates (_missi dominici_), who were invested with complex
functions, and with very extensive power, travelled through the empire
exercising legal jurisdiction over all matters of importance. They
assembled all the _placites_, or provincial authorities, and inquired
particularly into the collection of the public revenue. During their
tours, which took place four times a year, they either personally annulled
unjust sentences, or submitted them to the Emperor. They denounced any
irregularities on the part of the Counts, punished the negligences of
their assessors, and often, in order to replace unworthy judges, they had
to resort to a system of election of assessors, chosen from among the
people. They verified the returns for the census; superintended the
keeping up of the royal domains; corrected frauds in matters of taxation;
and punished usurers as much as base coiners, for at that time money was
not considered a commercial article, nor was it thought right that a
money-lender should be allowed to carry on a trade which required a
remuneration proportionate to the risk which he incurred.

[Illustration: Fig. 261.--Sale by Town-Crier. _Preco_, the Crier, blowing
a trumpet; _Subhastator_, public officer charged with the sale. In the
background is seen another sale, by the Bellman.--Fac-simile of a Woodcut
in the Work of Josse Damhoudere, "Praxis Rerum Civilium," 4to: Antwerp,

These _missi dominici_ were too much hated by the great vassals to outlive
the introduction of the feudal system. Their royal masters, as they
themselves gradually lost a part of their own privileges and power, could
not sustain the authority of these officers. Dukes, counts, and barons,
having become magistrates, arbitrarily levied new taxes, imposed new
fines, and appropriated the King's tributes to such an extent that,
towards the end of the tenth century, the laws of Charlemagne had no
longer any weight. We then find a number of new taxes levied for the
benefit of the nobles, the very names of which have fallen into disuse
with the feudal claims which they represented. Among these new taxes were
those of _escorte_ and _entree_, of _mortmain_, of _lods et ventes_, of
_relief_, the _champarts_, the _taille_, the _fouage_, and the various
fees for wine-pressing, grinding, baking, &c., all of which were payable
without prejudice to the tithes due to the King and the Church. However,
as the royal tithe was hardly ever paid, the kings were obliged to look to
other means for replenishing their treasuries; and coining false money was
a common practice. Unfortunately each great vassal vied with the kings in
this, and to such an extent, that the enormous quantity of bad money
coined during the ninth century completed the public ruin, and made this a
sad period of social chaos. The freeman was no longer distinguishable from
the villain, nor the villain from the serf. Serfdom was general; men found
themselves, as it were, slaves, in possession of land which they laboured
at with the sweat of their brow, only to cultivate for the benefit of
others. The towns even--with the exception of a few privileged cities, as
Florence, Paris, Lyons, Rheims, Metz, Strasburg, Marseilles, Hamburg,
Frankfort, and Milan--were under the dominion of some ecclesiastical or
lay lord, and only enjoyed liberty of a more or less limited character.

Towards the end of the eleventh century, under Philip I., the enthusiasm
for Crusades became general, and, as all the nobles joined in the holy
mission of freeing the tomb of Jesus Christ from the hands of the
infidels, large sums of money were required to defray the costs. New taxes
were accordingly imposed; but, as these did not produce enough at once,
large sums were raised by the sale of some of the feudal rights. Certain
franchises were in this way sold by the nobles to the boroughs, towns, and
abbeys, though, in not a few instances, these very privileges had been
formerly plundered from the places to which they were now sold. Fines were
exacted from any person declining to go to Palestine; and foreign
merchants--especially the Jews--were required to subscribe large sums. A
number of the nobles holding fiefs were reduced to the lowest expedients
with a view to raising money, and even sold their estates at a low price,
or mortgaged them to the very Jews whom they taxed so heavily. Every town
in which the spirit of Gallo-Roman municipality was preserved took
advantage of these circumstances to extend its liberties. Each monarch,
too, found this a favourable opportunity to add new fiefs to the crown,
and to recall as many great vassals as possible under his dominion. It
was at this period that communities arose, and that the first charters of
freedom which were obligatory and binding contracts between the King and
the people, date their origin. Besides the annual fines due to the King
and the feudal lords, and in addition to the general subsidies, such as
the quit-rent and the tithes, these communities had to provide for the
repair of the walls or ramparts, for the paving of the streets, the
cleaning of the pits, the watch on the city gates, and the various
expenses of local administration.

Louis le Gros endeavoured to make a re-arrangement of the taxes, and to
establish them on a definite basis. By his orders a new register of the
lands throughout the kingdom was commenced, but various calamities caused
this useful measure to be suspended. In 1149, Louis le Jeune, in
consequence of a disaster which had befallen the Crusaders, did what none
of his predecessors had dared to attempt: he exacted from all his subjects
a sol per pound on their income. This tax, which amounted to a twentieth
part of income, was paid even by the Church, which, for example's sake,
did not take advantage of its immunities. Forty years later, at a council,
or _great parliament_, called by Philip Augustus, a new crusade was
decided upon; and, under the name of Saladin's tithe, an annual tax was
imposed on all property, whether landed or personal, of all who did not
take up the cross to go to the Holy Land. The nobility, however, so
violently resisted this, that the King was obliged to substitute for it a
general tax, which, although it was still more productive, was less
offensive in its mode of collection.

On returning to France in 1191, Philip Augustus rated and taxed every
one--nobility, bourgeois, and clergy--in order to prosecute the great wars
in which he was engaged, and to provide for the first paid troops ever
known in France. He began by confirming the enormous confiscations of the
properties of the Jews, who had been banished from the kingdom, and
afterwards sold a temporary permission to some of the richest of them to

The Jews at that time were the only possessors of available funds, as they
were the only people who trafficked, and who lent money on interest. On
this account the Government were glad to recall them, so as to have at
hand a valuable resource which it could always make use of. As the King
could not on his own authority levy taxes upon the vassals of feudal
lords, on emergencies he convoked the barons, who discussed financial
matters with the King, and, when the sum required was settled, an order
of assessment was issued, and the barons undertook the collection of the
taxes. The assessment was always fixed higher than was required for the
King's wants, and the barons, having paid the King what was due to him,
retained the surplus, which they divided amongst themselves.

The creation of a public revenue, raised by the contributions of all
classes of society, with a definite sum to be kept in reserve, thus dates
from the reign of Philip Augustus. The annual income of the State at that
time amounted to 36,000 marks, or 72,000 pounds' weight of silver--about
sixteen or seventeen million francs of present currency. The treasury,
which was kept in the great tower of the temple (Fig. 262), was under the
custody of seven bourgeois of Paris, and a king's clerk kept a register of
receipts and disbursements. This treasury must have been well filled at
the death of Philip Augustus, for that monarch's legacies were very
considerable. One of his last wishes deserves to be mentioned: and this
was a formal order, which he gave to Louis VIII., to employ a certain sum,
left him for that purpose, solely and entirely for the defence of the

[Illustration: Fig. 262.--The Tower of the Temple, in Paris.--From an
Engraving of the Topography of Paris, in the Cabinet des Estampes, of the
National Library.]

[Illustration: Gold Coins of the Sixth and Seventh Centuries.

Fig. 263.--Merovee, Son of Chilperic I.

Fig. 264.--Dagobert I.

Fig. 265.--Clotaire III.]

[Illustration: Silver Coins from the Eighth to the Eleventh Centures.

Fig 266.--Pepin the Short.

Fig. 267.--Charlemagne.

Fig. 268.--Henri I.]

[Illustration: Gold and Silver Coins of the Thirteenth Century.

Fig. 269.--Gold Florin of Louis IX.

Fig. 270.--Silver Gros of Tours.--Philip III.]

When Louis IX., in 1242, at Taillebourg and at Saintes, had defeated the
great vassals who had rebelled against him, he hastened to regulate the
taxes by means of a special code which bore the name of the
_Etablissements_. The taxes thus imposed fell upon the whole population,
and even lands belonging to the Church, houses which the nobles did not
themselves occupy, rural properties and leased holdings, were all
subjected to them. There were, however, two different kinds of rates, one
called the _occupation_ rate, and the other the rate of _exploitation_;
and they were both collected according to a register, kept in the most
regular and systematic manner possible. Ancient custom had maintained a
tax exceptionally in the following cases: when a noble dubbed his son a
knight, or gave his daughter in marriage, when he had to pay a ransom,
and when he set out on a campaign against the enemies of the Church, or
for the defence of the country. These taxes were called _l'aide aux quatre
cas_. At this period despotism too often overruled custom, and the good
King Louis IX., by granting legal power to custom, tried to bring it back
to the true principles of justice and humanity. He was, however, none the
less jealous of his own personal privileges, especially as regarded
coining (Figs. 263 to 270). He insisted that coining should be exclusively
carried on in his palace, as in the times of the Carlovingian kings, and
he required every coin to be made of a definite standard of weight, which
he himself fixed. In this way he secured the exclusive control over the
mint. For the various localities, towns, or counties directly under the
crown, Louis IX. settled the mode of levying taxes. Men of integrity were
elected by the vote of the General Assembly, consisting of the three
orders--namely, of the nobility, the clergy, and the _tiers etat_--to
assess the taxation of each individual; and these assessors themselves
were taxed by four of their own number. The custom of levying proprietary
subsidies in each small feudal jurisdiction could not be abolished,
notwithstanding the King's desire to do so, owing to the power still held
by the nobles. Nobles were forbidden to levy a rate under any
consideration, without previously holding a meeting of the vassals and
their tenants. The tolls on roads, bridges (Fig. 271), fairs, and markets,
and the harbour dues were kept up, notwithstanding their obstruction to
commerce, with the exception that free passage was given to corn passing
from one province to another. The exemptions from taxes which had been
dearly bought were removed; and the nobles were bound not to divert the
revenue received from tolls for any purposes other than those for which
they were legitimately intended. The nobles were also required to guard
the roads "from sunrise to sunset," and they were made responsible for
robberies committed upon travellers within their domains.

Louis IX., by refunding the value of goods which had been stolen through
the carelessness of his officers, himself showed an example of the respect
due to the law. Those charged with collecting the King's dues, as well as
the mayors whose duty it was to take custody of the money contributed, and
to receive the taxes on various articles of consumption, worked under the
eye of officials appointed by the King, who exercised a financial
jurisdiction which developed later into the department or office called
the Chamber of Accounts. A tax, somewhat similar to the tithe on funds,
was imposed for the benefit of the nobles on property held by corporations
or under charter, in order to compensate the treasury for the loss of the
succession duties. This tax represented about the fifth part of the value
of the estate. To cover the enormous expenses of the two crusades, Louis
IX., however, was obliged to levy two new taxes, called _decimes_, from
his already overburdened people. It does not, however, appear that this
excessive taxation alienated the affection of his subjects. Their minds
were entirely taken up with the pilgrimages to the East, and the pious
monarch, notwithstanding his fruitless sacrifices and his disastrous
expeditions, earned for himself the title of _Prince of Peace and of

[Illustration: Fig. 271.--Paying Toll on passing a Bridge.--From a Painted
Window in the Cathedral of Tournay (Fifteenth Century).]

From the time of Louis IX. down to that of Philippe le Bel, who was the
most extravagant of kings, and at the same time the most ingenious in
raising funds for the State treasury, the financial movement of Europe
took root, and eventually became centralised in Italy. In Florence was
presented an example of the concentration of the most complete municipal
privileges which a great flourishing city could desire. Pisa, Genoa, and
Venice attracted a part of the European commerce towards the Adriatic and
the Mediterranean. Everywhere the Jews and Lombards--already well
initiated into the mysterious System of credit, and accustomed to lend
money--started banks and pawn establishments, where jewels, diamonds,
glittering arms, and paraphernalia of all kinds were deposited by princes
and nobles as security for loans (Fig. 272).

[Illustration: Fig. 272.--View of the ancient Pont aux Changeurs.--From an
Engraving of the Topography of Paris, in the Cabinet des Estampes, of the
National Library.]

The tax collectors (_maltotiers_, a name derived from the Italian _mala
tolta_, unjust tax), receivers, or farmers of taxes, paid dearly for
exercising their calling, which was always a dishonourable one, and was at
times exercised with a great amount of harshness and even of cruelty. The
treasury required a certain number of _deniers, oboles_, or _pittes_ (a
small coin varying in value in each province) to be paid by these men for
each bank operation they effected, and for every pound in value of
merchandise they sold, for they and the Jews were permitted to carry on
trades of all kinds without being subject to any kind of rates, taxes,
work, military service, or municipal dues.

Philippe le Bel, owing to his interminable wars against the King of
Castille, and against England, Germany, and Flanders, was frequently so
embarrassed as to be obliged to resort to extraordinary subsidies in order
to carry them on. In 1295, he called upon his subjects for a forced loan,
and soon after he shamelessly required them to pay the one-hundredth part
of their incomes, and after but a short interval he demanded another
fiftieth part. The king assumed the exclusive right to debase the value of
the coinage, which caused him to be commonly called the _base coiner_, and
no sovereign ever coined a greater quantity of base money. He changed the
standard or name of current coin with a view to counterbalance the
mischief arising from the illicit coinage of the nobles, and especially to
baffle the base traffic of the Jews and Lombards, who occasionally would
obtain possession of a great part of the coin, and mutilate each piece
before restoring it to circulation; in this way they upset the whole
monetary economy of the realm, and secured immense profits to themselves
(Figs. 273 to 278).

In 1303, the _aide au leur_, which was afterwards called the _aide de
l'ost,_ or the army tax, was invented by Philippe le Bel for raising an
army without opening his purse. It was levied without distinction upon
dukes, counts, barons, ladies, damsels, archbishops, bishops, abbots,
chapters, colleges, and, in fact, upon all classes, whether noble or not.
Nobles were bound to furnish one knight mounted, equipped, and in full
armour, for every five hundred marks of land which they possessed; those
who were not nobles had to furnish six foot-soldiers for every hundred
households. By another enactment of this king the privilege was granted of
paying money instead of complying with these demands for men, and a sum of
100 livres--about 10,000 francs of present currency--was exacted for each
armed knight; and two sols--about ten francs per diem--for each soldier
which any one failed to furnish. An outcry was raised throughout France at
this proceeding, and rebellions broke out in several provinces: in Paris
the mob destroyed the house of Stephen Barbette, master of the mint, and
insulted the King in his palace. It was necessary to enforce the royal
authority with vigour, and, after considerable difficulty, peace was at
last restored, and Philip learned, though too late, that in matters of
taxation the people should first be consulted. In 1313, for the first
time, the bourgeoisie, syndics, or deputies of communities, under the name
of _tiers etat_--third order of the state--were called to exercise the
right of freely voting the assistance or subsidy which it pleased the King
to ask of them. After this memorable occasion an edict was issued ordering
a levy of six deniers in the pound on every sort of merchandise sold in
the kingdom. Paris paid this without hesitation, whereas in the provinces
there was much discontented murmuring. But the following year, the King
having tried to raise the six deniers voted by the assembly of 1313 to
twelve, the clergy, nobility, and _tiers etat_ combined to resist the
extortions of the government. Philippe le Bel died, after having yielded
to the opposition of his indignant subjects, and in his last moments he
recommended his son to exercise moderation in taxing and honesty in

[Illustration: Gold Coins of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries.

Fig. 273.--Masse d'Or. Philip IV.

Fig. 274.--Small Aignel d'Or. Charles IV.

Fig. 275.--Large Aignel d'Or. John the Good.

Fig. 276.--Franc a Cheval d'Or. Charles V.

Fig. 277.--Ecu d'Or. Philip VI.

Fig. 278.--Salut d'Or. Charles VI.]

On the accession of Louis X., in 1315, war against the Flemish was
imminent, although the royal treasury was absolutely empty. The King
unfortunately, in spite of his father's advice, attempted systematically
to tamper with the coinage, and he also commenced the exaction of fresh
taxes, to the great exasperation of his subjects. He was obliged, through
fear of a general rebellion, to do away with the tithe established for the
support of the army, and to sacrifice the superintendent of finances,
Enguerrand de Marigny, to the public indignation which was felt against
him. This man, without being allowed to defend himself, was tried by an
extraordinary commission of parliament for embezzling the public money,
was condemned to death, and was hung on the gibbet of Montfaucon. Not
daring to risk a convocation of the States-General of the kingdom, Louis
X. ordered the seneschals to convoke the provincial assemblies, and thus
obtained a few subsidies, which he promised to refund out of the revenues
of his domains. The clergy even allowed themselves to be taxed, and closed
their eyes to the misappropriation of the funds, which were supposed to be
held in reserve for a new crusade. Taxes giving commercial franchise and
of exchange were levied, which were paid by the Jews, Lombards, Tuscans,
and other Italians; judiciary offices were sold by auction; the trading
class purchased letters of nobility, as they had already done under
Philippe le Bel; and, more than this, the enfranchisement of serfs, which
had commenced in 1298, was continued on the payment of a tax, which varied
according to the means of each individual. In consequence of this system,
personal servitude was almost entirely abolished under Philippe de Long,
brother of Louis X.

Each province, under the reign of this rapacious and necessitous monarch,
demanded some concession from the crown, and almost always obtained it at
a money value. Normandy and Burgundy, which were dreaded more than any
other province on account of their turbulence, received remarkable
concessions. The base coin was withdrawn from circulation, and Louis X.
attempted to forbid the right of coinage to those who broke the wise laws
of St. Louis. The idea of bills of exchange arose at this period.

Thanks to the peace concluded with Flanders, on which occasion that
country paid into the hands of the sovereign thirty thousand florins in
gold for arrears of taxes, and, above all, owing to the rules of economy
and order, from which Philip V., surnamed the Long, never deviated, the
attitude of France became completely altered. We find the King initiating
reform by reducing the expenses of his household. He convened round his
person a great council, which met monthly to examine and discuss matters
of public interest; he allowed only one national treasury for the
reception of the State revenues; he required the treasurers to make a
half-yearly statement of their accounts, and a daily journal of receipts
and disbursements; he forbad clerks of the treasury to make entries either
of receipts or expenditure, however trifling, without the authority and
supervision of accountants, whom he also compelled to assist at the
checking of sums received or paid by the money-changers (Fig. 279). The
farming of the crown lands, the King's taxes, the stamp registration, and
the gaol duties were sold by auction, subject to certain regulations with
regard to guarantee. The bailiffs and seneschals sent in their accounts to
Paris annually, they were not allowed to absent themselves without the
King's permission, and they were formally forbidden, under pain of
confiscation, or even a severer penalty, to speculate with the public
money. The operations of the treasury were at this period always involved
in the greatest mystery.

[Illustration: Fig. 279.--Hotel of the Chamber of Accounts in the
Courtyard of the Palace in Paris. From a Woodcut of the "Cosmographie
Universelle" of Munster, in folio: Basle, 1552.]

[Illustration: Fig. 280.--Measuring Salt.--Fac-simile of a Woodcut of the
"Ordonnances de la Prevoste des Marchands de Paris," in folio: 1500.]

[Illustration: Fig. 281.--Toll under the Bridges of Paris.--Fac-simile of
a Woodcut of the "Ordonnances de la Prevoste des Marchands de Paris," in
folio: 1500.]

The establishment of a central mint for the whole kingdom, the expulsion
of the money-dealers, who were mostly of Italian origin, and the
confiscation of their goods if it was discovered that they had acted
falsely, signalised the accession of Charles le Bel in 1332. This
beginning was welcomed as most auspicious, but before long the export
duties, especially on grain, wine, hay, cattle, leather, and salt, became
a source of legitimate complaint (Figs. 280 and 281).

Philip VI., surnamed _de Valois_, a more astute politician than his
predecessor, felt the necessity of gaining the affections of the people by
sparing their private fortunes. In order to establish the public revenue
on a firm basis, he assembled, in 1330, the States-General, composed of
barons, prelates, and deputies from the principal towns, and then, hoping
to awe the financial agents, he authorised the arrest of the overseer,
Pierre de Montigny, whose property was confiscated and sold, producing to
the treasury the enormous sum of 1,200,000 livres, or upwards of
100,000,000 francs of present currency. The long and terrible war which
the King was forced to carry on against the English, and which ended in
the treaty of Bretigny in 1361, gave rise to the introduction of taxation
of extreme severity. The dues on ecclesiastical properties were renewed
and maintained for several years; all beverages sold in towns were taxed,
and from four to six deniers in the pound were levied upon the value of
all merchandise sold in any part of the kingdom. The salt tax, which
Philippe le Bel had established, and which his successor, Louis X.,
immediately abolished at the unanimous wish of the people, was again
levied by Philip VI., and this king, having caused the salt produced in
his domains to be sold, "gave great offence to all classes of the
community." It was on account of this that Edward III., King of England,
facetiously called him the author of the _Salic_ law. Philippe de Valois,
when he first ascended the throne, coined his money according to the
standard weight of St. Louis, but in a short time he more or less alloyed
it. This he did secretly, in order to be able to withdraw the pieces of
full weight from circulation and to replace them with others having less
pure metal in them, and whose weight was made up by an extra amount of
alloy. In this dishonest way a considerable sum was added to the coffers
of the state.

King John, on succeeding his father in 1350, found the treasury empty and
the resources of the kingdom exhausted. He was nevertheless obliged to
provide means to continue the war against the English, who continually
harassed the French on their own territory. The tax on merchandise not
being sufficient for this war, the payment of public debts contracted by
the government was suspended, and the State was thus obliged to admit its
insolvency. The mint taxes, called _seigneuriage_, were pushed to the
utmost limits, and the King levied them on the new coin, which he
increased at will by largely alloying the gold with base metals. The
duties on exported and imported goods were increased, notwithstanding the
complaints that commerce was declining. These financial expedients would
not have been tolerated by the people had not the King taken the
precaution to have them approved by the States-General of the provincial
states, which he annually assembled. In 1355 the States-General were
convoked, and the King, who had to maintain thirty thousand soldiers,
asked them to provide for this annual expenditure, estimated at 5,000,000
_livres parisis_, about 300,000,000 francs of present currency. The
States-General, animated by a generous feeling of patriotism, "ordered a
tax of eight deniers in the pound on the sale and transfer of all goods
and articles of merchandise, with the exception of inheritances, which was
to be payable by the vendors, of whatever rank they might be, whether
ecclesiastics, nobles, or others, and also a salt tax to be levied
throughout the whole kingdom of France." The King promised as long as this
assistance lasted to levy no other subsidy and to coin good and sterling
money--i.e., _deniers_ of fine gold, _white_, or silver coin, coin of
_billon_, or mixed metal, and _deniers_ and _mailles_ of copper. The
assembly appointed travelling agents and three inspectors or
superintendents, who had under them two receivers and a considerable
number of sub-collectors, whose duties were defined with scrupulous
minuteness. The King at this time renounced the right of seizin, his dues
over property, inherited or conveyed by sale, exchange, gift, or will, his
right of demanding war levies by proclamation, and of issuing forced
loans, the despotic character of which offended everybody. The following
year, the tax of eight deniers having been found insufficient and
expensive in its collection, the assembly substituted for it a property
and income tax, varying according to the property and income of each

[Illustration: Fig. 282.--The Courtiers amassing Riches at the Expense of
the Poor.--From a Miniature in the 'Tresor of Brunetto Latini, Manuscript
of the Fourteenth Century, in the Library of the Arsenal, Paris.]

The finances were, notwithstanding these additions, in a low and
unsatisfactory condition, which became worse and worse from the fatal day
of Poitiers, when King John fell into the hands of the English. The
States-General were summoned by the Dauphin, and, seeing the desperate
condition in which the country was placed, all classes freely opened their
purses. The nobility, who had already given their blood, gave the produce
of all their feudal dues besides. The church paid a tenth and a half, and
the bourgeois showed the most noble unselfishness, and rose as one man to
find means to resist the common enemy. The ransom of the King had been
fixed at three millions of _ecus d'or,_ nearly a thousand million francs,
payable in six years, and the peace of Bretigny was concluded by the
cession of a third of the territory of France. There was, however, cause
for congratulation in this result, for "France was reduced to its utmost
extremity," says a chronicler, "and had not something led to a reaction,
she must have perished irretrievably."

King John, grateful for the love and devotion shown to him by his subjects
under these trying circumstances, returned from captivity with the solemn
intention of lightening the burdens which pressed upon them, and in
consequence be began by spontaneously reducing the enormous wages which
the tax-gatherers had hitherto received, and by abolishing the tolls on
highways. He also sold to the Jews, at a very high price, the right of
remaining in the kingdom and of exercising any trade in it, and by this
means he obtained a large sum of money. He solemnly promised never again
to debase the coin, and he endeavoured to make an equitable division of
the taxes. Unfortunately it was impossible to do without a public revenue,
and it was necessary that the royal ransom should be paid off within six
years. The people, from whom taxes might be always extorted at pleasure,
paid a good share of this, for the fifth of the three millions of _ecus
d'or_ was realised from the tax on salt, the thirteenth part from the
duty on the sale of fermented liquors, and twelve deniers per pound from
the tax on the value of all provisions sold and resold within the kingdom.
Commerce was subjected to a new tax called _imposition foraine_, a measure
most detrimental to the trade and manufactures of the country, which were
continually struggling under the pitiless oppression of the treasury.
Royal despotism was not always able to shelter itself under the sanction
of the general and provincial councils, and a few provinces, which
forcibly protested against this excise duty, were treated on the same
footing as foreign states with relation to the transit of merchandise from
them. Other provinces compounded for this tax, and in this way, owing to
the different arrangements in different places, a complicated system of
exemptions and prohibitions existed which although most prejudicial to all
industry, remained in force to a great extent until 1789.

When Charles V.--surnamed the Wise--ascended the throne in 1364, France,
ruined by the disasters of the war, by the weight of taxation, by the
reduction in her commerce, and by the want of internal security, exhibited
everywhere a picture of misery and desolation; in addition to which,
famine and various epidemics were constantly breaking out in various parts
of the kingdom. Besides this, the country was incessantly overrun by gangs
of plunderers, who called themselves _ecorcheurs, routiers, tardvenus_,
&c., and who were more dreaded by the country people even than the English
had been. Charles V., who was celebrated for his justice and for his
economical and provident habits, was alone capable of establishing order
in the midst of such general confusion. Supported by the vote of the
Assembly held at Compiegne in 1367, he remitted a moiety of the salt tax
and diminished the number of the treasury agents, reduced their wages, and
curtailed their privileges. He inquired into all cases of embezzlement, so
as to put a stop to fraud; and he insisted that the accounts of the public
expenditure in its several departments should be annually audited. He
protected commerce, facilitated exchanges, and reduced, as far as
possible, the rates and taxes on woven articles and manufactured goods. He
permitted Jews to hold funded property, and invited foreign merchants to
trade with the country. For the first time he required all gold and silver
articles to be stamped, and called in all the old gold and silver coins,
in order that by a new and uniform issue the value of money might no
longer be fictitious or variable. For more than a century coins had so
often changed in name, value, and standard weight, that in an edict of
King John we read, "It was difficult for a man when paying money in the
ordinary course to know what he was about from one day to another."

The recommencement of hostilities between England and France in 1370
unfortunately interrupted the progressive and regular course of these
financial improvements. The States-General, to whom the King was obliged
to appeal for assistance in order to carry on the war, decided that salt
should be taxed one sol per pound, wine by wholesale a thirteenth of its
value, and by retail a fourth; that a _fouage_, or hearth tax, of six
francs should be established in towns, and of two francs in the
country,[*] and that a duty should be levied in walled towns on the
entrance of all wine. The produce of the salt tax was devoted to the
special use of the King. Each district farmed its excise and its salt tax,
under the superintendence of clerks appointed by the King, who regulated
the assessment and the fines, and who adjudicated in the first instance in
all cases of dispute. Tax-gatherers were chosen by the inhabitants of each
locality, but the chief officers of finance, four in number, were
appointed by the King. This administrative organization, created on a
sound basis, marked the establishment of a complete financial system. The
Assembly, which thus transferred the administration of all matters of
taxation from the people at large to the King, did not consist of a
combination of the three estates, but simply of persons of
position--namely, prelates, nobles, and bourgeois of Paris, in addition to
the leading magistrates of the kingdom.

[Footnote *: This is the origin of the saying "smoke farthing."]

The following extract from the accounts of the 15th November, 1372, is
interesting, inasmuch as it represents the actual budget of France under
Charles V.:--

Article 18. Assigned for the payment of men at arms ...... 50,000 francs.
" 19. For payment of men at arms and crossbowmen
newly formed .............................. 42,000 "
" " For sea purposes ............................. 8,000 "
" 20. For the King's palace ........................ 6,000 "
" " To place in the King's coffers................ 5,000 "
" 21. It pleases the King that the receiver-general
should have monthly for matters that daily
arise in the chamber ...................... 10,000 "
" " For the payment of debts ..................... 10,000 "

Total ..................... 131,000 "

[Illustration: Settlement of Accounts by the Brothers of Cherite-Dieu of
the Recovery of Roles

A miniature from the "_Livre des Comptes_" of the Society (Fifteenth

Thus, for the year, 131,000 francs in _ecus d'or_ representing in
present money about 12,000,000 francs, were appropriated to the expenses
of the State, out of which the sum of 5,000 francs, equal to 275,000
francs of present money, was devoted to what we may call the _Civil List_.

On the death of Charles V., in 1380, his eldest son Charles, who was a
minor, was put under the guardianship of his uncles, and one of these, the
Duke d'Anjou, assumed the regency by force. He seized upon the royal
treasury, which was concealed in the Castle of Melun, and also upon all
the savings of the deceased king; and, instead of applying them to
alleviate the general burden of taxation, he levied a duty for the first
time on the common food of the people. Immediately there arose a general
outcry of indignation, and a formidable expression of resistance was made
in Paris and in the large towns. Mob orators loudly proclaimed the public
rights thus trampled upon by the regent and the King's uncles; the
expression of the feelings of the masses began to take the shape of open
revolt, when the council of the regency made an appearance of giving way,
and the new taxes were suppressed, or, at all events, partially abandoned.
The success of the insurrectionary movement, however, caused increased
concessions to be demanded by the people. The Jews and tax-collectors were
attacked. Some of the latter were hung or assassinated, and their
registers torn up; and many of the former were ill-treated and banished,
notwithstanding the price they had paid for living in the kingdom.

The assembly of the States, which was summoned by the King's uncles to
meet in Paris, sided with the people, and, in consequence, the regent and
his brother pretended to acknowledge the justice of the claims which were
made upon them in the name of the people, and, on their withdrawing the
taxes, order was for a time restored. No sooner, however, was this the
case than, in spite of the solemn promises made by the council of regency,
the taxes were suddenly reimposed, and the right of farming them was sold
to persons who exacted them in the most brutal manner. A sanguinary
revolt, called that of the _Maillotins_, burst forth in Paris; and the
capital remained for some time in the power of the people, or rather of
the bourgeois, who led the mob on to act for them (1381-1382). The towns
of Rouen, Rheims, Troyes, Orleans, and Blois, many places in Beauvoise, in
Champagne, and in Normandy, followed the example of the Parisians, and it
is impossible to say to what a length the revolt would have reached had it
not been for the victory over the Flemish at Rosebecque. This victory
enabled the King's uncles to re-enter Paris in 1383, and to re-establish
the royal authority, at the same time making the _Maillotins_ and their
accomplices pay dearly for their conduct. The excise duties, the hearth
tax, the salt tax, and various other imposts which had been abolished or
suspended, were re-established; the taxes on wine, beer, and other
fermented liquors was lowered; bread was taxed twelve deniers per pound,
and the duty on salt was fixed at the excessive rate of twenty francs in
gold--about 1,200 francs of present money--per hogshead of sixty
hundredweight. Certain concessions and compromises were made exceptionally
in favour of Artois, Dauphine, Poitou, and Saintonge, in consideration of
the voluntary contributions which those provinces had made.

[Illustration: Fig. 283.--Assassination of the Duke of Burgundy, John the
Fearless, on the Bridge of Montereau, in 1419.--Fac-simile of a Miniature
in the "Chronicles" of Monstrelet, Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in
the Library of the Arsenal of Paris.]

Emboldened by the success of their exacting and arbitrary rule, the Dukes


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