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Page:Studies in socialism 1906.djvu/107

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57
Revolutionary Majorities

eighteenth centuries and the great humane philosophic movement of the eighteenth century had indeed given an audacity and impetus to the public mind which had been unknown before. Nevertheless the memory of the States-General of 1614 was a source of light and strength to the men of 1789, in spite of the two centuries of despotism which had intervened. The nation was not going out absolutely into the unknown; it was reviving a national tradition, while enlarging it and adapting it to modern conditions.

Moreover, from the point of view of economic life and of agriculture and industry, it did not create unknown types of property and labour. It abolished guilds, and the masterships and wardenships that went with them. But there were already in existence whole regions and particularly progressive industries that were entirely freed from the guild system. In the suburbs of Paris, especially, characterised as they were by special industrial activity, the guild system no longer existed. The beginnings of capitalistic production with almost unlimited competition, with a variety of combinations, of joint-stock companies, sleeping partnership, etc., had been growing and getting more powerful for several generations. In the agricultural world, too, many peasant holdings had been freed from feudal burdens. The type of independent peasant-proprietors, exempt from dues, except possibly the hunting rights of the lord of the manor, had already come