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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/22

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ASSOCIATION


ASSOCIATION


law. The multitude of societies and public gather- ings for the celebration of religious festivals and the carrying on of games, or other forms of public recrea- tion and pleasure, which flourished for so many cen- turies throughout ancient Greece, indicates that a considerable measure of freedom of association was quite general in that country.

The Roman authorities were less liberal. No private association could be formed without a spe- cial decree of the senate or of the emperor. And yet vohmtary societies or corporations were numerous from the earliest days of the Republic. There existed collegia for the proper performance of relig- ious rites, collegia to provide public amusements, collegia of a political nature, collegia in charge of cemeteries, and collegia made up of workers in the various trades and occupations. In Judea the Pharisees and Sadducees — though these were schools, or sects, rather than organized associations — and the Essenes were not seriously interfered with by the Roman governors. With the union of Church and State in 325 there came naturally an era of freedom and prosperity for associations of a relig- ious nature, especially for the religious orders. During the period of political chaos that followed the fall of the Empire, liberty of association was as extensive as could be expected among populations whose civil rulers were not sufficiently powerful either to repress or to protect the formation of voluntary unions. Indeed, the "minor, obscure, isolated, and incoherent societies", to use the words of Guizot, that erected themselves on the ruins of the old political organization and became in time the feudal system, were essentially private associa- tions.

As the needs, culture, and outlook of men ex- tended, there sprang into being a great number and variety of associations, religious, charitable, educational, and industrial. Instances are the great religious orders, the societies for the relief of poverty and sickness, the universities, and the guilds which arose and flourished between the tenth and the fourteenth centuries. All of these associations were instituted either under the active direction of the Church, or with her warm encouragement, and as a rule without any serious opposition on the part of the civil power. Some of them, in fact, performed important political functions; others secured a measure of social peace that the civil authorities were unable to enforce; while as a whole they constituted a considerable check to the exercise of arbitrary power by sovereigns. Thus, the mer- chant and craft guilds governed trade and industry with a series of regulations that had all the force and authority of legal statutes; the associations instituted to enforce the "Truce of God", helped greatly to lessen petty warfare between different lords and different sections of the same country; while " the monarch was . . . hemmed in on all sides ... by xmiversities, corporations, brotherhoods, monastic orders; by franchises and privileges of all kinds, which in greater or less degree existed all over Europe".

With the rise and extension of political absolutism in most of the countries of Europe in the seventeenth century, freedom of association became everywhere greatly restricted. It was frequently subjected to unreasonable conditions in the last century, and it is still withheld by some governments. From 1820 to 1824 labour unions were absolutely prohibited in Great Britain. Up to the year 1901 non-indus- trial associations consisting of more than twenty persons could not be formed in France without authorization by a public official whose power in the matter was almost arbitrary. At present, authoriza- tion is required in the case of associations composed of Frenchmen and foreigners; associations whose


supreme head resides outside of France; and associa- tions whose members live in common. Owing partly to the terms of the law and partly to the cour!5e pursued by the officials charged with its enforcement, almost all the religious congregations have been driven out of France. In Prussia and in most of the other German states political associa- tions are subject to close inspection, and can be dissolved by the public authorities in case they go outside of certain well-defined limits. Most other societies pursuing reasonable ends can obtain exist- ence and recognition by becoming registered accord- ing to a general law of the empire. The law of Austria empowers magistrates to forbid the formation of any association that either in aim or personnel seems contrary to law, and to dissolve any society that is no longer conducted in accordance with the legal conditions to which it is subject. In Russia participation in any association not expressly author- ized by the Government is a penal offence. Speak- ing generally, it may be said that with the exception of France, Russia, and Turkey, European govern- ments exhibit to-day a liberal attitude toward associations pursuing reasonable ends.

In the United States as.sociations whose purpose is pecuniary gain, and all other societies that desire a corporate existence antl civil personality, must, of course, comply with the appropriate laws of incor- poration. Unincorporated societies may be insti- tuted without legal authorization, and may pursue any aim whatever, so long as their members do not engage in actions that constitute conspiracy or some other violation of public order. Even in these contingencies the members will not be liable to legal prosecution for the mere act of forming the associa- tions. Under the present fairly liberal attitude of governments, and owing to the great increase in the number and complexity of human interests, the number and variety of associations in the Western work! have grown with great rapidity. We may enumerate at least nine distinct types, namely: religious, charitable, intellectual, moral, political, mutual-benevolent, labour, industrial, and purely social. The largest increase has taken place in the three classes devoted to social intercourse and en- joyment, such as clubs and "secret" societies; to industry and commerce, such as manufacturing and mercantile corporations, and to the interests of the wage earner, such as trade unions. Probably the great majority of the male adults in the cities of the United States have some kind of membership in one or other of these three forms of association.

II. The Mor.vl Right. — Like all other moral rights, that of voluntary association is determined by the ends that it promotes, the human needs that it supplies. The dictum of Aristotle that man is a "political" animal, expresses more than the fact that man naturally and necessarily becomes .a participant in that form of association known as the State. It means that man cannot effectively pursue happiness nor attain to a reasonable degree of self-perfection unless he unites his energies with those of his fellows. This is particularly true of modern life, and for two reasons. First, because the needs of men have greatly increased, and second, because the division of labour has made the individual more and more dependent upon other individuals and groups of individuals. The primitive, isolated family that knows only a few wants, and is able in rude fashion to supply all these, may enjoy a certain measure of contentment, if not of culture, without the aid of any other a.ssociation than that inherent in its own constitution. For the family of to-day such conditions are unsatisfying and insufficient. Its members are constrained to pursue many lines of activity and to satisfy many wants that demand organized and associated effort.