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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Sidenote Evolution of the guilds


[Sidenote:

Evolution of the guilds.]

While the law frowned upon the spirit of association, even prohibiting the founding of new _cofrad?as_, the guilds enjoyed their greatest era of prosperity. This was due in part to the intervention of the state, which supplanted the municipalities in control of the institution. State regulation, even in technical matters, went further than it had in the fifteenth century. Despite government interest, as evidenced by the according of numerous privileges, the germs of the decline of the guilds were already apparent at the close of the seventeenth century. The exclusive spirit of the guilds whereby they endeavored to keep trade in the hands of their own members and their families, without admitting others who were competent to belong, was one cause of this decline, while their loss of liberty (due to government intervention) and the strife within and without the guild were contributing factors. One novelty of the era was the growing distinction between the manual arts and the liberal professions, the latter of which rose to a higher consideration. Thus lawyers, notaries, and doctors were rated above those engaged in manual labors, while there was also a recognized hierarchy among the last-named, from the workers in gold, silver, jewelry, and rich cloths down to the drivers of mules. The great association of the _Mesta_ still enjoyed wide powers, as did also that of the carriers.

[Sidenote:

Low moral tone of the era.]

In laxness of morals and in luxury this period was much like the two preceding. It seems worse, but this may be due to the greater variety of materials at hand for study, such as books of travel, novels, plays, satires, letters, laws, and the frequently appearing "relations of events," which in that day took the place occupied by the modern newspaper. A Spanish writer has characterized the practices of the time in the following language: "The ideal of an exaggerated sense of honor, chivalric quixotism, religious fanaticism, and the exalted predominance of form over the essence of things ruled Spanish society of the seventeenth century, absolutely and tyrannically. Duels and stabbings at every moment to sustain the least question of etiquette or courtesy; scandalous conflicts of jurisdiction between the highest tribunals of state; absurd and ridiculous projects to make silver without silver, fomented by the leading ministers; extremely costly and showy feasts to solemnize ordinary events, while cities, islands, provinces, and even kingdoms were being lost through bad government and worse administration; frequent and pompous public processions; blind belief in the miraculous virtue of some medal, stamp, or old rag of Mother Luisa or some other impostor; politico-religious sermons within and without the royal palace; the most abominable and nefarious sins scattered to


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