home | authors | books | about

Home -> Orville Marcellus Powers -> Commerce and Finance -> Chapter VI

Commerce and Finance - Chapter VI

1. Chapter I

2. Chapter II

3. Chapter III

4. Chapter IV

5. Chapter V

6. Chapter VI

7. Chapter VII

8. Chapter VIII

9. Chapter IX

10. Chapter X

11. Chapter XI

12. Chapter XII

13. Chapter XIII

14. Chapter XIV

15. Chapter XV

16. Chapter XVI

17. Chapter XVII

18. Chapter XVIII

19. Chapter XIX

20. Chapter XX

21. Chapter XXI

22. Chapter XXII

23. Chapter XXIII

24. Chapter XXIV

25. Chapter XXV

26. Chapter XXVI

27. Chapter XXVII

28. Chapter XXVIII

29. Chapter XXIX

30. Chapter XXX

31. Chapter XXXI

32. Chapter XXXII

33. Chapter XXXIII

34. Chapter XXXIV

35. Chapter XXXV

36. Chapter XXXVI

37. Chapter XXXVII

38. Chapter XXXVIII

39. Chapter XXXIX

40. Chapter XL

41. Chapter XLI

42. Chapter XLII

43. Chapter XLIII

44. Chapter XLIV

45. Chapter XLV

46. Chapter XLVI

47. Chapter XLVII

48. Chapter XLVIII

49. Chapter XLVIX

50. Chapter L

51. Chapter LI

52. Chapter LII

Commerce Of Germany.

Hanseatic League; Effect Of Thirty Years' War; Revival
Of German Commerce; Zollverein; Present Commerce.

In order to better understand the commerce of Germany
we must go back a little in point of time to the middle ages,
and glance at the civilization and commerce which had grown up
in the north of Europe. In the time of Charlemagne (768-814)
there were a number of important trading towns
Hansa Towns established, which grew into local centers of com-
merce. These began with Bruges in Flanders and
one or two Rhine cities in the west, and were scattered through
what is now Germany and Austria and along the coast of the
Baltic Sea as far as Russia. Many of these towns later organized
themselves into small republics, after the manner of the Italian
cities, for self-protection against the territorial lords, who, under
the Feudal system, ruled and plundered the country about them.
Then in order to protect themselves from common enemies,
such as the predatory inroads of barbarians and Turks, and the
pirates which infested the seas chiefly the Northmen who
swarmed in the North and Baltic Seas they formed themselves
into one grand combine, called the Hanseatic League. They
used the power thus acquired for gaining greater security for
their commerce.

The commerce of Europe during the middle ages may be said
to have been divided into two great dominions,
-> tne commercial cities of Italy in the south
of Europe and the Hansa towns in the North. The
connecting links between these two commercial domains were
the highways built chiefly by the Romans, and more especially



the rivers Ehine, Danube, Elbe and other waterways.
The centers of the Hanseatic League were Lubec on the Baltic
Sea, and Hamburg and Bremen on the other side of the Cimbric
peninsula. Later they were joined by Brunswick, Dantzig, Mun-
ster, Magdeburg and the ancient city of Cologne. The nobles
tried to obstruct the formation of this league, which was in a great
measure designed to withstand their exactions, but without avail,
and in 1300 there were eighty cities in the confederation, stretch-
ing from Belgium to the gulf of Finland. The towns were
divided into four colleges or districts, of which Lubec, Cologne,
Brunswick and Dantzig were the centers. The capital of the
confederation was Lubec, and there, once in three years, meet-
ings or congresses called "Diets" were held of delegates from
all the various towns of the confederation. At these congresses
the commercial interests of the various districts were discussed
and ways and means provided to improve the general state of
Proceedings of trade, chiefly by affording security to property,
the Hanseatic The highways had been infested with robbers, who
plundered wagon trains of their cargoes as they
proceeded through the country, or dragged innocent travelers
into captivity and held them for ransom. These depredations
were chiefly instigated by princes and nobles who inhabited
strongly fortified castles upon almost inaccessible rocks, and
lived in ease and profligacy by means of their piracy upon com-
merce, both land and sea. In order to resist this wholesale
robbery the congress required each town to furnish its quota
of men and money for the general defense and punishment of
offenders both by land and sea, and in addition to this to main-
tain a militia of both cavalry and infantry proportionate to its
size or population. These were armed with cross bows, battle
axes, maces and lances. The martial spirit was kept up by
reviews. In addition to the regular militia, the larger towns
employed mercenary troops, the whole amounting to almost an
army. Thus peace and security were secured largely through


the administration of the congress at Lubec, and as result, an
astonishing success marked the history of Hansa commerce.
Under direction of the congress agents were appointed in the
different Hansa towns, with the special view of developing for-
eign commerce. Agencies were opened in new territory, and
some of these afterward became permanent settlements, as Lon-
don, England, and Novgorod, Russia, In order to improve the
money systems prevailing, mints were established in several of
the important towns, and although no uniform system of coin-
age was in use the coins of several towns were current through-
out a large extent of territory.

The proceedings of the Hansa congress are interesting on
account of it being the first purely representative body ever
convened for commercial purposes, and are especially valuable
as indicating the beginning of the idea of co-operation among
peoples having diverse interests. There can be no doubt but
these deliberations were highly beneficial in promoting civiliza-
tion as well as commerce, for we find from about the middle of
the fourteenth century evidence of a general improvement and a
rapid increase in wealth. By this union, piracy was driven
almost wholly from the North and Baltic Seas and compelled to
seek its prey on the shores of France or Britain; the vehicle and
caravan trade by land was protected, and a general spirit of
order began to prevail throughout central Europe, affording
Effects of the security to property and promoting intercourse
Hanseatic among the people, thus beginning the dawn of that

intellectual and commercial awakening which was
to follow the night of the dark ages of lawlessness and ignorance.
The result was seen in the improvement in agriculture and
manufacture all over central Europe, and even in adjoining
countries. Fields were cultivated where forests stood before.
Towns and villages sprang up where huts were located. People
began to discard the use of the skins of bears and wolves for
clothing, and to substitute woolen, cotton and silk cloth.

League exerted its power and influence to protect shipwrecked
sailors from murder, a barbarity which had been all too common
before. It passed navigation laws, and improved the art of ship-
building. Its good work continued until the Thirty-years' war
(1619-1648) prostrated the commerce and industries of Germany,
and then its functions gradually ceased, after having rendered
inestimable service to the cause of commerce in mediaeval and
modern Europe.

Passing over the history of Germany prior to the Thirty-
years war, a history of wars, feuds, successions and religious
contentions, we find the country at the close of that conflict
almost depopulated in its rural districts, its commerce destroyed,
German Com- its people burdened with taxes, and its territory
?hTrty Yea r r^ e Divided into a multitude of small states. This
war war had been one of religion, and was character-

ized by all of the bitterness which usually accompanies religious
disputes. The only cities that survived the general ruin were
Lubec, Hamburg and Bremen, and these had suffered severely.
Seeing the decline of their commerce, these latter two cities took
up new lines of trade and kept up an active commerce with west-
ern Europe, providing the whole of North Germany with foreign
and colonial products, while Lubec continued to be the chief sea-
port of the Baltic trade. Little progress was made by Germany
in commerce or the industries during the next hundred years,
owing to its continual wars with France, Spain and other
nations. Nearly all of the articles then considered as luxuries
by the people, such as silk, glass, porcelain and gloves, were
either imported from England or France or manufactured
through government aid. The spinning and weaving of linen,
however, was engaged in to a considerable extent, as well as the
manufacture of woolen cloth. Prussia endeavored to encourage
the revival of the arts and industries by importing artisans.
Gradually agriculture and cattle raising increased to a consider-
able extent in the most fertile districts and a small export trade
grew up.


About the middle of the eighteenth century (1750) commerce
showed a decided awakening, and it became necessary to im-
prove the banking and commercial facilities of the country.
Banks and trading companies were organized, and roads, canals
and harbors were built. Manufactures multiplied, and the volume
Revival of of tne ex P rts an d imports was greatly augmented.

German The consumption of coffee, tea, rice and tobacco

largely increased, and the liberality of the German
court encouraged the importation of luxuries. Hamburg han-
dled the bulk of the imports from England and farther coun-
tries, and Bremen wheat from France. The Rhine and the Elbe
became great highways of commerce again, and the towns on
their banks once more began to grow and prosper. Each city
usually developed some peculiar industry. Thus Cologne mo-
nopolized the trade in Rhine wines; Leipsig the publishing and
book-selling trade; Frankfort-on-the-Main was the chief finan-
cial center of North Germany. Thus we see that by the middle
of the eighteenth century Germany had reached a high degree
of prosperity and commercial importance. Then came the war
of the American Revolution, which made a demand for German
products in England, and this was followed soon after by the
French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, so that large quan-
tities of German agriculture and manufactured products were
exported and the country continued prosperous until it fell
under the iron heel of the Great Napoleon.

Immediately upon the invasion and subjugation of Germany
by Napoleon in 1805, he issued a decree that no more wheat
should be sold or shipped to England. This lost Germany a
good customer. Under Napoleonic rule (1805-1815) German
ports were in a state of semi-blockade, but this was not an un-
mixed evil, for it caused the people to turn their attention to
raising many products which they had heretofore imported.
The war in America had cut off the supply of tobacco, and now
its cultivation was begun and continued very successfully. Many


of the raw products heretofore imported to supply the factories
of Germany and for home consumption had now to be raised at
Deveio ment home. Elax was largely grown; beets were raised
of Home and the beet sugar industry commenced. Cotton

and wool for the home mills were extensively
produced, and the manufacture of cloth was given a new
impetus. German mines so rich, were developed especially in
iron, coal and silver, and the people learned to rely upon and
develop the resources of their own country. Now that the
American colonies had become independent and England no
longer enjoyed a monopoly of their trade, a considerable com-
merce sprang up between them and Hamburg and Bremen.
These cities continued to reach out after the commerce of the
world with characteristic enterprise, and their ships carried on a
profitable trade with the West Indies and South America.

After the abdication of Napoleon in 1815 peace returned to
Europe, and German ports were thrown open to the manu-
factured products of England. The English had more improved
machinery and were able to turn out goods at less cost than the
factories of Germany. As a result English goods flooded the Ger-
man markets, and for a time produced a general depression and
stagnation in the industries of Germany. Hard times prevailed,
the cotton, iron and steel industries especially being depressed.
To remedy the difficulty, tariff laws were enacted. Germany
at that time was a loose confederation of independent states,
and hence there was very little uniformity in the tariff laws.

Several states would form themselves into a league
The zoiiverein and enact uniform tariff laws, then other leagues

of states were formed, and finally after several
years the tariff laws became uniform through the efforts of the
Customs Union or Zoiiverein. Treaties of commerce were made
by the Zoiiverein with England, France and other European
countries, and the industries of Germany became prosperous


By the year 1830 the revival of trade and industries in Ger-
many had fully set in. New machinery had replaced old meth-
ods in the silk, woolen and cotton factories,, and now woolen
goods formed a very important part of the export trade. Iron
and steel industries sprang up, incident to the advent of the
age of machinery. Glass, paper, pottery, porcelain and hardware
Revival of became extensive products, as well as chemicals,

German dyes, sugar and beer, all of which were largely

exported. After the Franco-Prussian War, the
German states including Prussia were united into a compact
government, and King William was crowned Emperor of Ger-
many in the Palace at Versailles. This event brought unity to an
incoherent collection of petty states, and under the skillful
leadership of Prince Bismarck the new empire has steadily
grown in power and influence until it now ranks as the second
nation of Europe in wealth and commercial importance. Ger-
many is rapidly changing the character of her industries and
becoming a manufacturing and commercial, rather than an
agricultural nation.

In the past fifty years the manufactures of Germany have
nearly doubled, its commerce trebled, its shipping increased
five fold, and its mining six fold. Her production of iron has
The Present increased ten fold in fifty years. Her mines give
commerce of employment to over a half million men. By the

Germany j i i

use of labor-saving machines one man can now
produce as much as three men could produce fifty years ago.
Germany has 750 factories devoted to the making of machinery
alone. One of these, the Krupp Gun Works at Essen, is the
largest in the world, employing 20,000 men and covering a
space of one thousand acres. Hamburg and Bremen still lead
as ports of entry. Dantzig is the chief seat of its great export
trade in timber, grain, flax, hemp and potatoes. Leipsig is the
greatest fur market in the world, and the seat of the book
publishing trade. Frankfort as a financial center has been


compelled to take a place second to the capital, Berlin. Dresden
is noted for its porcelain and Nuremburg for its clocks and

Germany has given considerable attention to the practical
education of her people, especially in the field of commercial
education. Her commercial success is no doubt attributable
in a large degree to her system of education. Her artisans are
not only skilled in their trades, but a large proportion of them
are men of high scientific attainments in the branches pertaining
to their work. Since the learned professions and official positions
are the exclusive preserves of those born to social rank, the
educated commoner must of necessity betake himself to manu-
facture, trade or commerce, and it follows that much of the best
brains of the empire is devoted to business pursuits.

© Art Branch Inc. | English Dictionary