III. THE COMMERCIAL REVOLUTION AND THE RESULTING SOCIAL REFORM MOVEMENTS.
While, as Professor Shepherd has insisted, there is need of a greater preciseness of definition in dealing with the Commercial Revo lution as a phase in modern history, it will suffice for the purposes of this survey to regard it in the conventional manner as the period of discoveries and colonization which began in the late 15th century and lasted for about three centuries in its first phase. With it should be associated its epoch-making reactions upon European civilization in nearly every field. This great transformation brought with it the decline of the feudal order, the rise of the mer chant class in the political as well as the eco nomic field and the gradual development of the modern national state, at first purely dynastic but later becoming more and more a represen tative if not a democratic institution. At first the new merchant class or bourgeoisie sup ported the kings in their attack upon the feudal nobility, but once the feudal lords had been coerced the middle-class arose against the mon archs and brought them within the restraints of constitutional limitations upon the royal pre rogative. The social and economic effects were not less distinctive. The manorial system was undermined or completely shattered; the gild system was weakened or wholly supplanted by the "domestic system"; and the above changes profoundly affected all social classes, working its severest effects upon those whose status was reduced by the transformation. In the intel lectual realm the curiosity stimulated by the discoveries led to those great scientific advances in nearly every field for which the 17th century is conspicuous.
The social philosophy which was produced by the Commercial Revolution bore a close re lation to the political, social, economic and in tellectual setting which was created by it. In the field of political theorizing the royal abso lutism was accompanied by the divine-right doctrine, associated with the names of Filmer and others, while the rise of the bourgeoisie against despotism produced as a philosophy of justification the social contract school with their apologies for revolution in the writings of Sydney, Locke, Rousseau and their followers. The social and economic changes, with their accompanying misery to the lower classes, gave rise to the various "utopias" which attempted theoretically to construct ideal societies which would embrace none of the evils of existing conditions. This class of writings was best
illustrated from widely differing points of view by Sir Thomas More's Francis Bacon's 'New Atlantis,' Tommaso Campa nella's 'City of the Sun,' James Harrington's 'Oceana) and Francois Fenelon's 'Telemaque.' The growth of rationalism was especially sig nificant for the development of social reform programs. 'While the relationalists were rarely violent political or social revolutionists, never theless, as Professor Robinson has made clear, their very scepticism concerning current views on the nature and significance of natural and social phenomena inevitably led to a critical attitude toward social institutions and the grad ual development of a "spirit of reform." Par ticularly important in this respect were the doc trines of the English Deists and their followers among the French Philosophes. Taking their premises from the laws of mechanics governing the natural universe, which had been discovered -by Newton and his predecessors, the Deists in sisted that there was a natural order L a regime of natural laws— which governed the social system as well as the natural universe and to which social institutions should conform. They held further, in radical contrast to the depress ing theological views of Augustire and Calvin. that man is inherently decent and worthy of study in the effort to improve .his earthly en vironment. This doctrine did more than any thing else to remove the obstacles to social self improvement which were embodied in Augus tinian eschatology and the predestinarian an thropology of Calvin, and was very effective in producing the growth of a humanitarian spirit. Strangely enough, however, a part of their cosmic and social philosophy became it self a great barrier to social reform when their notion of the "natural order" was adopted by the adherents of "economic liberalism" to form the metaphysical basis of their defense of Finally, it should be remembered that, in spite of the fact that it was designed wholly in the interests of the upper classes, the extensive legislation involved in Mercantifistic commercial regulations furnished a precedent for widespread state activity which might one day be exerted in the behalf of the proletariat.