Of the foregoing types of lower middle class families (white-collar, yeoman, and master craftsman) it can be said that all of them tended to suffer during the nineteenth century, in terms of relative social prestige. There is reason to believe that only in France the lower middle class peasant continued his evolutionary development upwards to sturdy, independent farmer.* * *
The middle class itself (as distinguished from the lower middle class) tended, of course, to prosper with the increase in trade, in civil services, in professional activities, in politics. It shared considerably in the glory which came to the bourgeoisie, now (as before) a part of the upper classes in Western Europe. Its chief happiness came as a result of the fact that the increasing population, increase in town life, and the factors mentioned above gave the middle class a chance to place practically all of the sons in some kind of respectable position. The tightness of the sixteenth century, which caused the gentry in England to put their younger sons into manual jobs, had passed.
The upper classes: nobility and haute bourgeoisie. In France, the nobility, without its special privileges, remained divided as before into cliques or levels of exclusiveness. There were (1) those of royal lineage, (2) those of the old feudal aristocracy, (3) those whose families were raised to the peerage after the sixteenth century, (4) the aristocracy of the different empires, (5) the papal nobility, and (6) notables who could be included in the aristocracy with certain reservations. There were also, of course, the various ranks within these groupings that had precedence over each other.
In the nineteenth century, as before, all the nobility was not in one class; nor would any level of noblemen, except the very highest, fail to be equivalent to that of some persons from among the bourgeoisie. The latter became, of course, notably affluent. They were acquiring wealth at a very rapid rate during the nineteenth century, as is shown in the following: 38
The difference between the old regime and the present vary with the rungs of the social ladder. For instance, they are far less conspicuous in the lower classes whose income, taken as a whole, had only doubled up to 1913; whereas, for the very wealthy, their fortunes had increased six-fold.
One of the places where the mingling of bourgeois and noble persons could be seen was in the officers' corps of the army. Ferré observes the following: 39
The military leadership has always been the function of the elite. Under the old regime it was reserved exclusively to the aristocracy of birth. Even today it draws unto itself a great many of the sons of the nobility. The remainder of the officers come from the bourgeoisie . . . An officer's wife may not have a business, or hold a position, even if it is an honorable profession.
The same blend, and the same monopoly of positions of prestige, characterized not only the French army, but also has been strikingly apparent in the armies of the British and Germans even up to the present.
Just as time and space prevent a discussion of the social classes of eastern Europe and Asia, just so do they prevent a full description of the lavishness (especially in food, which was frequently baked and served in grotesque and highly ornamented designs far in excess of the requirements of the diners), of the manners, the dress, and the outlook of the capitalists of the nineteenth century. The fact that these families were not characteristically upstarts, as thy have been caricatured by some writers, has already been indicated at the opening of this chapter.
Conclusion. It is obvious that by the end of the period under review high capitalization and mass production, particularly, were barriers to social mobility and to some extent destroyers of the security of some parts of the lower and middle classes. "Most undertakings are inaccessible to individuals" 40 in a world dominated by corporations, where super-trusts can buy their way into every growing industry.
The century which is famous for the extension of the ballot, for the introduction of universal education (chiefly elementary, industrial, and military), and for the "freeing of men from the bondage of feudalism and the limitations on trade and occupation" -- this century can be said to have benefited the upper and middle classes of western Europe more than it did the lower middle and the lowest classes.
It is probable that the great convulsions of the last three decades have uprooted more classes and opened more new gates to more of the masses than did a century and a half of fresh and arrogant capitalism. One sees on every hand the fall of royal houses, the flight of capitalists, of landed noblemen, of rentiers, the rise of Brown Shirts, the democratization of the British Air Force, the spying on and suspecting and disrespecting of bourgeois elements -- these are the new developments, not to mention the social and political revolutions of the times. Compared to this, the era preceding 1914 was one of great social class stability.
The industrial workers, through the trade unions and the ballot, stabilized their relative positions. In about 1880 the agricultural workers attained the level of living of the Elizabethan era and held it until the First World War. The bureaucrats, officials, and civil servants of France, Germany, and England formed distinct parts of society and contributed greatly to the opportunities of the middle classes. The professions waxed in number. The business and commercial families of these countries showed striking resemblance to the Buddenbrooks, except in England, in part, where they tended to merge into the nobility and to become the most aristocratic type of imperial-capitalist the world has ever seen.
The fore-going chapters traced in a general way the social class development and changes in Europe from early Greece to the World War; the ones immediately to follow will do the same for the American colonies and the Westward Movement to determine, if possible, the degree, amount, and kinds of social class rigidity and mobility here.
38. Vicomte Georges d'Avenel, Histoire de la fortune française (Paris, 1927) p. 124; translation ours.
39. Louise Marie Ferré, Les classes sociales dans la France contemporaine (Paris, 1936) p. 167; translation ours.
40. Adolphe Coste, Les conditions sociales du bonheur et de la force (Paris, 1885) p. 100; translation ours.