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

Commerce and Finance - Chapter VII

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 France.

Flemish Commerce And Manufactures; Age Of Louis Xiv;

Colonial Possessions; Revocation Of The Edict Of Nantes.

Before entering directly upon the history of French com-
merce, let us refer briefly to a small country called Flanders,
which during the middle ages existed and flourished directly
north of France, upon the shore of the North Sea, occupying a
portion of what is now Belgium. We have already had occasion
commerce and ^o a ^ u de to the trading ships of Venice and Genoa
Manufactures and their voyages northward along the coast of
France as far as Flanders. Numerous testi-
monies are found in history as to the flourishing condition of
Flemish manufactures as early as the twelfth century. The
weaving of woolen cloth was their most important industry, and
a writer of the thirteenth century asserts that "all the world
was clothed from English wool wrought in Flanders." This is
an exaggeration, but Flemish woolens were probably sold wher-
ever the sea or a navigable river permitted them to be carried.
England and Spain furnished the raw wool and Flanders worked
it up into cloth. English wool was superior to the Spanish for
fine cloths, and the Spanish wool was mixed with the English in
the production of medium grades of cloth. Bruges and Ghent
were the two chief manufacturing and commercial centers of
Flanders, and each of them at one time had not less than forty
thousand looms constantly at work.

Bruges was the termination of the route down the Ehine
from Italy and the East, and before Lisbon eclipsed her, through
the rise of Portuguese commerce and discoveries, was the chief



distributing point whence cargoes were transhipped for the
Hansa towns. Here the products of Asia and Africa, as well
Flemish as Europe, came to be exchanged for the woolens,

Growth and velvets, silks and linen fabrics from the looms of
Flanders and Netherland cities. In the latter
part of the fourteenth century Bruges was a market for the
traders of the world, and we are told that "merchants from
seventeen different kingdoms had their settled domiciles there,
besides strangers from almost unknown countries who repaired

The reason for the decadence of the commerce and prosperity
of Flanders may be found in a combination of causes, one of
which was that England gradually established manufacturing
industries of her own and began to weave not only her own
cloth but that of other nations, thus depriving Flanders of
her most profitable customers; another was in the rise and com-
petition of the Hansa towns, which destroyed the monopoly of
Bruges as a distributing point and commercial center; the growth
of Portuguese commerce which transferred the distributing cen-
ter from Bruges to Lisbon; the growth of Dutch maritime com-
merce directly with India, by which transhipment of cargoes no
longer became necessary either at Bruges or Lisbon. What was
lacking to complete the ruin of Flemish commerce and manu-
factures from these causes, was easily furnished near the close
of the sixteenth century by the religious wars and persecutions of
the weak and narrow-minded Philip II. Antwerp drew away a
portion of the commerce of Bruges; many of her weavers emi-
grated to England, and the political control of Flanders passed
to Spain, Austria and thence to France.

French commerical history may be said to begin about
the period of Louis XIV (1643-1715), about the middle of the
seventeenth century, for prior to that time the industries and
commerce of the nation were in a very backward state. French
merchants had, for a century before, been trading in a small


way along the west coast of Africa, and French colonies had
been planted in Madagascar and some of the islands adjacent

thereto. The French had also made some efforts
commerc^ to establisn a f ootin g in In <*ia, and in 1624 the great

French East India Company was formed for the
purpose, but later it was driven out by the English. The French
do not appear to have been navigators or explorers like the Portu-
guese or Dutch, and except in North America were never very
successful as colonizers. Internal commerce in France was like-
wise in a neglected and undeveloped condition prior to the
advent of Louis XIV. Silk raising and weaving had been carried
on to a limited extent during the sixteenth century, and the
manufacture of woolen goods spread from Flanders into north-
ern France and along the Canadian banks of the Ehine. Agriculture was
very much neglected, and the peasants were unmercifully taxed
to support an extravagant and dissolute nobility and maintain
the succession of wars which cursed the realm. What with the
Hundred-years war with England (1337 to 1453); the massacre
of the Huguenots on St. Bartholomew night (Aug. 24, 1572), by
which 100,000 persons were murdered in cold blood; the perse-
cutions of the Jews, resulting in driving thousands of industri-
ous and peaceable citizens from France, and the constant strife
and commotion which prevailed, is it any wonder that commerce
was at a low ebb?

The reign of Louis XIV has been called the Golden Age
of France, in material prosperity as well as in art and literature.
It was to France what the Elizabethan age had been to England.
Louis XIV was called the Grand Monarch, and such he proved

to be in many respects, displaying remarkable
Louis xiv talents as a ruler. He surrounded himself with

men who merely executed his will, and in the
choice of these he showed rare ability and judgment. His min-
isters, especially Colbert, the great promoter of French industry,
manufactures and trades, were men who surpassed the statesmen


of most other countries of the time. Colbert's activity was
unflagging. He set himself to develop the country on every side.
He especially devoted himself to building up manufactures and
commerce, the construction of routes of travel by both sea and
land. He revived old manufactures and introduced new
ones, such as tapestries, silk mosaics, cabinet work, lace,
pottery, steel work, and the like. Fine cloth had hitherto
been brought from England, but by his judicious patronage its
manufacture was established in France. By encouraging the
growth of mulberry-trees he enabled the silk manufacturers to
dispense with the importation of raw silk. The art of making
plate glass was imported from Venice, and the name "French
plate glass" is synonymous with excellence to this day. The art
of carpet weaving he introduced from Turkey and Flanders, and
in these the French soon learned to excel their masters. A ma-
chine for weaving stockings was introduced from England; tin,
steel, porcelain and morocco leather, hitherto brought from
foreign countries, were now manufactured in France.

The development of French colonial ambition was also due
largely to the sagacity and labor of Colbert. The French had not
been very successful in the East, but Colbert turned his attention
to the more promising field of the western world. Before James-
town was built or the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock the
French had planted feeble colonies in New Foundland (1535)
and Nova Scotia (1602). This territory, called "Arcadia," was
French ceded to England by the treaty of Utrecht in

colonial 1713.* They also made settlements in New

Brunswick (1672) and Cape Breton Island (1714),
but the most important French colony was that of Canada

*On account of the disloyalty of the people to England, which amounted
to openly assisting the French in the wars which occurred between the
two nations, the people of Arcadia were inhumanly punished by England in
1755. Seven thousand of them were forcibly put aboard ships and trans-
ported to the English colonies, where they were scattered around. Their
villages were burned and their fields destroyed.


(1608) which lay along the St. Lawrence with its post of Quebec.
From this French missionaries and explorers pushed further
west, and were the first white men to behold the Falls of Niagara
and explore the Great Lakes. Trading posts were established
by them in the region around the Great Lakes, and later these
became centers and rallying points of civilization. Such were De-
troit and Chicago. In 1673 Fathers Marquette and Joliet discov-
ered the Mississippi Eiver and sailed down it to Arkansas. Nine
years later Eobert de La Salle completed the work which they
had begun by passing down the river to its entrance into the
Gulf, and taking possession of the country on its banks and at
its mouth in the name of his king, in whose honor he named
it Louisiana.

It became one of the ambitions of Louis XIV to glorify his
reign by creating for France a colonial dominion on the banks
of the great "Father of Waters" which would rival or eclipse
the flourishing colonies of England on the Atlantic coast. Ac-
cordingly several expeditions were sent out from time to time
to colonize the new territory of Louisiana; the Mississippi Com-
pany was formed under the management of the visionary finan-
cial theorist, John Law. Money was lavished upon the enter-
prise, and emigrants were sent thither. New Orleans was
founded and settlements made up the river as far as the present
city of Natchez. Upon this sickly colony and previous explora-
tions the French laid claim to the whole Mississippi Valley and
the vast domain stretching away to the northwest.* But the
English claimed that their possession of the Atlantic seacoast
carried with it a valid title to the country in the interior for
an indefinite extent westward. In conformity with this idea

*The Louisiana Territory purchased in 1803 by the United States from
France extended northward to practically the boundary line of British
America. This boundary was somewhat indefinite. Thence it extended
westward to the territory of Oregon and took in the whole of the United
States west of the Mississippi river except Texas, Washington, Oregon.
California and what the United States got from Mexico by treaty and


the charters of several of the English colonies read to include
territory stretching across the continent from sea to sea. This
contentions was the basis of the conflict between the English
*t^*te!di and French colonies in America. When the two
colonies nations were at peace, the controversy led only

to border disputes, but when England and France were at war,
their respective colonies in America also engaged in a murder-
ous conflict, intensified and made more shocking by the Indian
element enlisted in it. A plan was formed by the French to
construct a line of forts stretching from Lake Erie down the
Ohio Eiver, and thence down the Mississippi to Louisiana, thus
hemming in the British settlement on the east of the Alle-
ghaneys. This project soon brought on a conflict with the Ohio
Company, an association formed in London and Virginia, which
had obtained from the crown a large tract of land along the
Ohio River, where it had erected trading posts. George Wash-
ington, then a young officer in the militia service, was sent out to
warn the French away. Receiving an unsatisfactory answer,
General Braddock with a body of troops was later sent out to
drive them away. The story of the conflict which followed,
lasting ten years (1753-1763), resulting in the campaign against
Quebec and the death of Wolf on the Heights of Abraham, is
familiar history. By .the treaty of peace which followed the
French relinquished all claims in North America except the
Territory of Louisiana.*

Colbert applied himself diligently to building up manufact-
ures at home and commerce abroad. He encouraged tracfe with
the French colonies in Canada and the West Indies,t as well as
with the Mediterranean coast and Africa. Under his influence
heavy duties were imposed on imports in order to stimulate

*By the treaty of Utrecht in 1713 the French had ceded to England,
New Poundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Hudson Bay Territory.

f Prance acquired Guiana in 1626, colonized Guadeloupe in 1634 and Mar-
tinique in 1635. Acquired a portion of Hayti in 1697, which it held until


home productions, and bounties and subsidies were given to en-
courage exports. Commercial treaties were formed and trading
companies organized to develop new fields of pro-
duction and commerce, such as the Territory of
Louisiana. The imports at the time were
chiefly raw silk, wool, flax, cattle and colonial products, coffee,
sugar, tobacco and spices. The exports were mostly wine, fine
silk goods, and woolen cloth. But notwithstanding the efforts of
Colbert and the great ability which he displayed in fostering the
commercial interests of France during the reign of Louis XIV,
the prosperity of the kingdom did not rest upon a stable and
permanent foundation. The wars which were waged by the king
for the purpose of enlarging his realm and glorifying his reign
made France under Louis XIV the foremost power in Europe,
but drained the country of money and men. The oppressive tax-
ation necessary in order to carry on these wars, maintain an ex-
travagant court and withal construct the grand palace and
gardens at Versailles, which outshone all the kingly palaces of
Europe, together with the religious dissensions and persecutions
which stirred up the country, made commercial and industrial
progress and prosperity difficult and uncertain. Had it not been
for the natural productiveness of the fields and vineyards of
France, and the rich territory of Alsace, Burgundy and Flanders
wrung from Germany as trophies of the Thirty-years war, it is
difficult to conceive how the people could have carried their

One of the most serious blows to the prosperity of the peo-
ple, as well as the greatest blot of shame upon the reign of
Louis XIV, was his persecution of the Huguenots. He believed
Revocation t^ the unity of the church was inseparable from

of the Edict a perfect monarchy, and hence began a series of
oppressive proceedings against all dissenters from
the established religion. Colbert, who esteemed the Hugue-
nots as active, industrious and thrifty citizens, prevented for a


time these violent measures, but his influence was not sufficient
to stay the hand of illtempered religious zeal. The Huguenots
were excluded from office and denied many civil and political
rights. The number of their churches was limited, and these
were confined to a few of the principal towns; children were
torn from their parents and brought up as Catholics, and finally
companies of cavalry were sent among these quiet people to
coerce and intimidate them. At' last (1685) came the Revocation
of the Edict of Nantes, taking away all rights from them. Their
religious worship was forbidden, their churches were destroyed,
their preachers banished and their schools closed. When the
emigration from the realm became so serious as to be really
alarming, it was strictly forbidden, and the shores and bound-
aries of France were closely guarded. But despite threats and
guards, more than half a million industrious, law-abiding and
wealth-producing citizens left France, carrying with them their
industry and their faith. Many of them went to England, and
others to Holland, carrying their silk manufacturing and stock-
ing weaving with them. Still others settled in Switzerland and
Germany, while a few found their way to America and settled in
North Carolina.*

*The Edict of Nantes was a decree of toleration issued by Henry IV in
1598 guaranteeing freedom of worship and equality of rights to Protestants.

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