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out the royal stamp. About the beginning of the tenth century, however, the lords, amongst their other assumptions of independence, issued money with no marks but their own. At the accession of Hugh Capet, as many as a hundred and fifty are said to have exercised this power. Even under St Louis, it was possessed by about eighty, who, excluding as far as possible the royal coin from circulation, enriched themselves by high duties-seigniorages -which they imposed upon every new coinage, as well as by debasing its standard. In 1185, Philip Augustus requests the Abbot of Corney, who had desisted from using his own mint, to let the royal money of Paris circulate through his territories, promising that, when it should please the abbot to coin money afresh for Irimself, the king would not oppose its
Such money, of course, could not be used in foreign commerce with any security to the receivers. A metal could scarcely be called coin, or have any definite value, every piece of which must have required assaying to ascertain the quantity of gold or silver which it contained. At a subsequent period, the coinage of France was further debased, until its pretended silver was reduced to a sort of black metal, into the composition of which little entered more valuable than copper. Such a circulating medium would not suffice for long, even for domestic exchange; and accordingly we find that France and other countries were driven to replenish their exchequers by exacting the pure metals from the Jews. History records by what persecutions and horrible cruelties this was effected. Hallam describes this people as having been treated by the kings of France and we know that they were similarly treated in other countries" as a sponge to suck their subjects' money, which they might afterwards express with less odium than direct taxation would incur." Notwithstanding these -oppressions, it is well known that the Jews remained the richest people in Europe; and by their skill in usurious practices, and admirably arranged organisation, very speedily recovered back their gold, and were enabled in their turn to despoil their oppressors. This continual struggle between the possessors of the precious metal and the various sovereigns of Europe, the
object of which was an attempt from time to time, on the part of the latter, to force debased money upon their subjects, led to not a few of the revolutions and contests between the trading and feudal classes which mark the history of the period, and ultimately, as the former became influential, to limitations of the power of the nobility and the prerogatives of monarchies.
The social condition of Europe, at the close of the eleventh century, is described by Hallam, and confirmed by other writers, as wretched in the extreme. Agriculture had been almost universally neglected, capital being withheld from the cultivation of the soil, large and fertile tracts of which had been converted into forests and hunting-grounds. Of manufactures the same writer remarks:
"The condition even of internal trade was hardly preferable to that of agriculture. There is not a vestige perhaps to be discovered for several centuries of any considerable manufacture; I mean of working up articles of common utility to an extent beyond what the necessities of an adjacent district required. Rich men kept domestic artisans amongst their servants; even kings, in the ninth century, had their clothes made by women upon their farms; but the peasantry must have been supplied with garments and implements of labour by purchase; and every town, it cannot be doubted, had its weaver, its smith, and its carrier."
With respect to the latter conclusion, we cannot altogether agree with the historian. It is quite as likely that the rude garments and implements of labour were fabricated by the peasantry themselves, as has been the case in the earlier periods of some of our new communities, as that they were acquired by purchase, especially when he tells us that—
"There were almost insuperable impediments to any extended traffic-the insecurity of movable wealth, and difficulty of accumulating it; the ignorance of mutual wants; the peril of robbery in conveying merchandise, and the cer tainty of extortion. In the domains of every lord a toll was to be paid in passing his bridge, or along his highway, or at his market. These customs, equitable and necessary in their principle, became in practice oppressive, because they were arbitrary, and renewed in every petty
territory which the road might intersect.
It was only the milder species, however, of feudal lords who were content with the tribute of merchants. The more ravenous descended from their fortresses to pillage the wealthy traveller, or shared in the spoil of inferior plunder ers, whom they both protected and instigated. . Their castles, erected on almost inaccessible heights amongst the woods, became the secure receptacles of predatory bands, who spread terror over the country. From these barbarian lords of the dark ages, as from a living model, the romancers are said to have drawn their giants and other disloyal enemies of true chivalry. Robbery, inIdeed, is the constant theme both of the capitularies and of the Anglo-Saxon laws; one has more reason to wonder at the intrepid thirst for lucre which induced a very few merchants to exchange the products of different regions, than to ask why no general spirit of commercial activity prevailed."
At the risk of being tedious, by quoting from a well-read author, we cannot resist giving a continuation of his remarks, which fully bear out what we have previously advanced as to the necessity of a secure and sufficient monetary system for the promotion of commerce :
"Under all these circumstances, it is obvious that very little of Oriental trade could have existed in these western countries of Europe. Destitute as they had been created, comparatively speaking, of natural productions fit for exportation, their invention and industry are the great resources from which they can supply the demands of the East. Before any manufactures were established in Europe, her commercial intercourse with Egypt and Asia must of necessity have been very trifling; because, whatever inclination she might feel to enjoy the luxuries of those genial regions, she wanted the means of obtaining them. It is not, therefore, necessary to rest the miserable condition of Oriental commerce upon the Saracen conquests, because the poverty of Europe is an adequate cause; and, in fact, whatever little traffic remained was carried on, with no material inconvenience, through the channel of Constantin
ople. Venice took the lead in trading
with Greece and more eastern countries.
Amalfi had the second place in the commerce of those dark ages. These cities imported, besides natural productions, the fine cloths of Constantinople; yet as this traffic seems to have been illicit, it was not probably extensive. Their ex
ports were gold and silver, by which, as none was likely to return, the circulating money of Europe was probably less in the eleventh century than at the subversion of the Roman Empire; furs, which were obtained from the Sclavonian countries; and arms, the sale of which was vainly prohibited by Charlemagne and the Holy See. A more scandalous traffic, and one that still more fitly called for prohibitory laws, was carried on in slaves. It is a humiliating proof of the degradation of Christendom, that the Venetians were reduced to purchase the luxuries of Asia by supplying the slave-market of the Saracens. Their apology would perhaps have been that these were purchased from their heathen neighbours; but a slave-dealer was probably not very inquisitive as to the faith or origin of his victim. This trade was not peculiar to Venice. In England, even after the Conquest, it was very common to export slaves to Ireland, till, in the reign of Henry II., the Irish came to a non
importation agreement, which put a stop to the practice."
The early part of the thirteenth century witnessed the growth in Europe of a manufacturing interest, which advanced rapidly in the following two or three centuries, and effected very material changes in the social condition of the countries in which it was chiefly located. The first manufactures of importance were the stuffs of Flanders, the materials of which were English wool. The principal seats of the trade were Bruges and Ghent. This new trade of the Flemish cities stimulated an extensive export trade from various ports of the north of Europe. England, in the commencement of the thirteenth century, became a competitor with Bruges and Ghent, Brabant and Hainault, and became ultimately not only capable of supplying her own demand, but also of competing successfully with the manufacturers of Europe, instead of merely supplying them with the raw material. This power of competing successfully with the Flemish and other cities was carried so far, that in 1261 a law was passed by a parliament, sitting at Oxford, prohibiting the export of the raw material and the importation of woollen cloths, which it was assumed we could in future produce for ourselves. In 1331, Edward III. encouraged the manufacturers of Flanders to settle in
his dominions, which contributed materially to increase the perfection of the manufacture. This branch of industry extended itself along the banks of the Rhine into France, in which the linen fabric became one of importance; and the growth of manufactures led to that of maritime adventure in many of the northern nations. Great Britain, in particular, increased in wealth; and her manufacturing and trading classes became able to subsidise our own and other monarchs, to enable them to protect their traffic from marauders both by sea and land. The discovery of the properties of the compass about this period-the latter part of the thirteenth century-opened out a vent for the manufacturers of the north of Europe to the countries bordering upon the Mediterranean, east of the Pillars of Hercules; and, in the fifteenth century, we find Spain, stimulated by the advantages of her position, competing successfully, and carrying off the palm of naval science and enterprise. Her vessels had for a century and a-half been pre-eminent in their qualities, and the ability of their commanders, and had raised her to the proud position of sovereignty upon the sea. In the mean time, the silk manufacture had been introduced into Palermo, and other cities of Italy; and in a short while the woollen and silk manuafcturers of Europe commanded the markets of the East.
Whilst our manufactures were thus growing in importance, the trading world beheld a considerable increase of its monetary facilities. The Jews had hitherto almost entirely absorbed the exchanges of Europe, and the dealings in the precious metals. In the early portion of the thirteenth century the merchants of Lombardy and of the south of France, according to Du Cange, commenced the business of remitting money by bills of exchange; and it is not surprising that such bills, representing gold at its sterling value, superseded, as a circulation, the debased coinage of France and other countries. Enriched by their commerce, and by the ordinary usances of money required for the purposes of exchange, the Lombard and other companies began to advance loans and to conduct monetary transactions in
every country, charging interest of a highly remunerative character. In Barcelona, which had profited by its maritime traffic, banks were formed for the accommodation not only of private merchants but of states. The Republic of Florence pursued a similar business; and such banks, as well as private merchants, made advances to different countries on the security of their revenues, at rates of interest varying from 20 to 25 per cent per annum. The manufactures of Europe had served to enable our merchants to import luxuries from the East without draining the stocks of the precious metals. In fact, they had diverted the current of gold and silver from the East to the seats of industry and commerce. The high rates of interest charged, had placed the monied and trading classes in a position to absorb the incomes of the wasteful possessors of the soil; and a middle class rapidly sprung up, who were protected by the organisation of the various communities to which they belonged, from being made the spoil of the great nobles, as had been the case of the Jewish possessors of money in previous periods. By-and-by, however, these banks became involved, partly from the necessities of their position, in the contentions of those nobles and governments by whom they had been protected. They advanced large sums of money to them, which were not always repaid. It is sufficient, however, for the purposes of our inquiry to state the mode in which a circulating medium was provided to make these advances. Boucher, an authority upon the subject, says,- there were three species of paper credit in the dealings of merchants: 1st, General letters of credit, not directed to any one, which are not uncommon in the Levant; 2d, Orders to pay money to a particular person; 3d, Bills of exchange regularly negotiable, (vol. ii. p. 621). Instances of the first are mentioned by Macpherson about 1200, (p. 367). The second species was introduced by the Jews about 1183, (Capmany, vol. i. p. 297); but it may be doubtful whether the last stage of the progress was reached nearly so soon. An instrument in Rymer, however, of the year 1364, (vol. vi. p. 495), mentions literæ Cam
bitoria, which seem to have been negotiable bills; and by 1400 they were drawn in sets, and worded exactly as at present. Macpherson (p. 614), and Beckman (History of Inventions, vol. iii. p. 430), give from Capmany an actual precedent of a bill dated in 1404.
From about this period-from the middle to the close of the fourteenth century we may date the increase of Europe in wealth, and the growth of a middle class, engaged chiefly in trading pursuits. We may date from it, also, aided by the knowledge and the capabilities of bringing into use the properties of the magnetic needle, the extension of maritime adventure throughout the world. The inhabitants of Catalonia in Spain took the lead in the latter; other countries, however, followed; and the British Isles and the countries of the Baltic were the peoples chiefly benefited commercially, although Spain assumed for a time the dominion of the seas. The voyages from the Italian cities-Venice, Genoa, Florence, and Amalfihad hitherto been considered secure from competition. These cities had therefore absorbed the profitable trade with the East, their ships never venturing into the waters of the Atlantic, and thus leaving the trade of the north of Europe isolated. But the commerce and manufactures of the north induced enterprise. The dreaded Pillars of Hercules - the Straits of Gibraltar-were passed by navigators possessed of the mariner's compass; and a new era opened upon the commerce of the world. Spain, so long absorbed by her contests with her Moorish invaders, was the first nation to take advantage of the new order of things. Although only to a small extent a producer, she pushed her maritime adventure to every quarter of the globe. England became enabled to transport her own manufactured commodities to the markets of the East; and the Italian cities sent their argosies to gather their rich commercial tribute from the countries of the Baltic, into which the art of manufacturing various exchangeable commodities had by this time penetrated. It cannot be supposed that these trading communities of Europe escaped aggression at the
hands of a feudal nobility: they did not do so; but their wealth enabled them to purchase the protecting aid of powerful nobles and states; and, as in the case of the commercial cities of northern Europe, they were enabled to form themselves into powerful confederations, of which the Hanseatic League is an example, which enabled them to defy attack from individual powers, and ultimately to exercise an important influence over the affairs of Europe. The free cities of the latter portion of the middle ages were in reality, whilst vindicating their commercial importance, the arbiters of the affairs of the world. They supplied the monetary wants of the monarchs of contending states; they equippedthe Italian cities principally-powerful fleets; they supplied contingents of men for the protection of their trade, or the security of states with whom they had alliances, or who were too largely indebted to them to be allowed to be overpowered by their enemies.
The most important object of our inquiry, however, is the influence of the increased circulation of moneycurrency-at this period, upon the social condition of the masses. We find that the immediate effect was a decided increase in the ambition of those masses to possess the material comforts and even the luxuries of life. The style of living of the burgher and trading classes became materially improved; and their dwellings, in time, rivalled, in everything conducive to comfort, and even adornment, those of the landed proprietors. The latter had indeed their castles and towers, some of them of great strength and imposing architecture; but the superior trading classes were infinitely better housed, and their dwellings evidenced, in their furnishing, &c., a much greater control over money, and the products of native and foreign industry. Even at this time, however, although the stocks of the precious metals had been more freely brought out into circulation and use, history does not warrant the supposition that they were of considerable extent. Gold or silver plate was found in few houses, even of the nobility or the wealthy trading classes. Published inventories of the furniture and valuables in baronial houses, and
We interrupt our quotation here, because we are approaching a period at which a large increase of the precious metals flowed in upon the world. But we cannot allow the portion given to pass without directing attention to the striking manner in which it illustrates our preceding remarks. Europe, and England especially, had at the time of the Norman Conquest a very slight control over the existing stock of gold; and this was not because that stock was at its minimum, but because it was hoarded through the violence of the times, and there was no well-arranged circulating medium to replace it in the ordinary bargains and sales amongst a somewhat rude community. With the advanced state of commerce and manufactures which existed in the year 1300, and progressed down to 1353, it might naturally have been expected that the fall in its value would have been greater than is shown above. Undoubtedly, although we have little evidence as to the increase of the yield, large amounts were during this period exhumed from their hiding places, and converted to use as a medium of exchange; but we must not forget, although some of our modern political economists appear to do so, that an increased trade demands and absorbs proportionately increased supplies of the precious metals. The small amount which suffices to balance the transactions of a primitive, or a noncommercial people, is miserably in
Value of Pound Sterling, present money. £2 18 14 2 17 5 212 51
2 11 8 266
1 18 9 1 11 0 1763
sufficient to perform the same operation for countries possessing an extensive foreign trade, as did at this period various countries of Europe. Moreover, although our exports attracted towards us the gold of the Eastern nations, a portion of it was readily dissipated in loans to the various contending powers of the world, and to the improvident and dissolute amongst our own nobility and gentry. Our banking systems were not as yet so perfect and secure in the general acceptation of the public, as to enable us to dispense with the precious metals as the money in everyday circulation. It is probable that the rapid decline which took place, from 1353 to 1527, may have arisen from a variety of causes, to a considerable extent irrespective of the supply in existence. We can only measure the value of the precious metals by their power of purchasing other commodities. The coined gold and silver of early nations was generally the representative of some article or animal which it would exchange for, such, for example, as a sheep, a lamb, an ox, &c. And when we have historical authority that the consumption and style of living of all classes, in England and in the trading countries of Europe, had been very materially increased and improved during this period, it is only fair to assume that the increased demand for commodities of all descriptions thus caused, had diminished the value of the precious metals as money. Certainly we