« AnteriorContinuar »
out the royal stamp. About the beginning object of which was an attempt from
the soil, large and fertile tracts of
which had been converted into forests Such money, of course, could not and hunting-grounds. Of manufacbe used in foreign commerce with any tures the same writer remarks :security to the receivers. A metal
“The condition even of internal trade could scarcely be called coin, or bave was hardly preferable to that of agriany definite value, every piece of which culture. There is not a vestige perlaps must have required assaying to ascer- to be discovered for several centuries tain the quantity of gold or silver of any considerable manufacture ; I mean which it contained. At a subsequent of working up articles of common utility period, the coinage of France was to an extent beyond what the necessities further debased, until its pretended of an adjacent district required. Rich silver was reduced to a sort of black
men kept domestic artisans amongst their metal, into the composition of which
servants ; eren kings, in the ninth cen. little entered more valuable than tury, had their clothes made by women
upon their farms; but the peasantry copper. Such a circulating medium would not suffice for long, even for and implements of labour by purchase ;
must have been supplied with garments domestic exchange; and accordingly and every town, it cannot be doubted, we find that France and other coun- had its weaver, its smith, and its carrier." tries were driven to replenish their exchequers by exacting the pure With respect to the latter conclumetals from the Jews. History re
sion, we cannot altogether agree with cords by what persecutions and hor- the historian. It is quite as likely rible cruelties this was effected. Hal- that the rude garments and implelam describes this people as having ments of labour were fabricated by been treated by the kings of France - the peasantry themselves, as has been and we know that they were similarly the case in the earlier periods of some treated in other countries — “as å of our new communities, as that they sponge to suck their subjects' money,
were acquired by purchase, especially which they might afterwards express when he tells us thatwith less odium than direct taxation “ There were almost insuperable imwould incur." Notwithstanding these pediments to any extended traffic-the oppressions, it is well known that the insecurity of movable wealth, and diffiJews remained the richest people in culty of accumulating it; the ignorance Europe; and by their skill in usurions of mutual wants ; the peril of robbery practices, and admirably arranged
in conveying merchandise, and the cerorganisation, very speedily recovered tainty of extortion. In the domains of back their gold, and were enabled in every lord a toll was to be paid in passtheir turn to despoil their oppressors.
ing his bridge, or along his highway, or
at his market. These customs, equitable This continual struggle between the and necessary in their principle, became possessors of the precious metal and in practice oppressive, because they were the various sovereigns of Europe, the arbitrary, and renewed in every petty
territory which the road might intersect. ports were gold and silver, by which, as
10 was only the milder species, none was likely to return, the circulating however, of feudal lords who were con- money of Europe was probably less in the tent with the tribute of merchants. The eleventh century than at the subversion more ravenous descended from their fort of the Roman Empire ; furs, which were resses to pillage the wealthy traveller, obtained from the Sclavonian countries ; or shared in the spoil of inferior plunder and arms, the sale of which was vainly ers, whom they both protected and insti. prohibited by Charlemagne and the Holy gated. . Their castles, erected on See. A more scandalous traffic, and one almost inaccessible heights amongst the that still more fitly called for prohibitory woods, became the secure receptacles of laws, was carried on in slaves. It is a predatory bands, who spread terror over humiliating proof of the degradation of the couutry. From these barbarian Christendom, that the Venetians were lords of the dark ages, as from a living reduced to purchase the luxuries of Asia model, the romancers are said to have by supplying the slave-market of the drawn their giants and other disloyal Saracens. Their apology would perhaps enemies of true chivalry. Robbery, in- have been that these were purchased deed, is the constant theme both of the from their heathen neighbours ; but a capitularies and of the Anglo-Saxon laws; slave-dealer was probably not very inqui. one has more reason to wonder at the in- sitive as to the faith or origin of his victrepid thirst for lucre which induced a tim. This trade was not peculiar to very few merchants to exchange the pro- Venice. In England, even after the Conducts of different regions, than to ask quest, it
very common to why no general spirit of commercial port slaves to Ireland, till, in the reign activity prevailed."
of Henry II., the Irish came to a nonAt the risk of being tedious, by importation agreement, which put a stop quoting from a well-read author, we
to the practice.” cannot resist giving a continuation of
The early part of the thirteenth his remarks, which fully bear ont century witnessed the growth in what we have previously advanced Europe of a manufacturing interest, as to the necessity of a secure and which advanced rapidly in the followsufficient monetary system for the ing two or three centuries, and effectpromotion of commerce :
cd very material changes in the social “ Under all these circumstances, it is
condition of the countries in which it obvious that very little of Oriental trade
was chiefly located. The first manucould have existed in these western coun
factures of importance were the stuffs tries of Europe. Destitute as they had been of Flanders, the materials of which created, comparatively speaking, of natu- were English wool.
The principal ral productions fit for exportation, their seats of the trade were Bruges and invention and industry are the great Ghent. This new trade of the Flemresources from which they can supply the ish cities stimulated an extensive demands of the East. Before any manu- export trade from various ports of factures were established in Europe, her the north of Europe. England, in commercial intercourse with Egypt and
the commencement of the thirteenth Asia must of necessity have been very century, became a competitor with trifling ; because, whatever inclination she might feel to enjoy the luxuries of Bruges and Ghent, Brabant and Hainthose genial regions, she wanted the ault, and became ultimately not only means of obtaining them. It is not, capable of supplying her own demand, therefore, necessary to rest the miserable but also of competing successfully condition of Oriental commerce upon the with the manufacturers of Europe, Saracen conquests, because the poverty instead of merely supplying them of Europe is an adequate calise ; and, in with the raw material. This power fact, whatever little traffic remained was of competing successfully with the carried on, with no material inconveni. Flemish and other cities was carried ence, through the channel of Constantinople. Venice took the lead in trading by a parliament, sitting at Oxford,
so far, that in 1261 a law was passed with Greece and more eastern countries. Amalf had the second place in the com. prohibiting the export of the raw merce of those dark ages. These cities material and the importation of woolimported, besides natural productions, len cloths, which it was assumed we the fine cloths of Constantinople ; yet as
could in future produce for ourselves. this traffic seems to have been illicit, it In 1331, Edward III. encouraged the was not probably extensive. Their ne manufacturers of Flanders to settle in his dominions, which contributed ma- every country, charging interest of a terially to increase the perfection of highly remunerative character. In the manufacture. This branch of io- Barcelona, which had profited by its dustry extended itself along the banks maritime traffic, banks were formed of the Rbine into France, in which for the accommodation not only of the linen fabric became one of im- private merchants but of states. The portance; and the growth of manu Republic of Florence pursued a simifactures led to that of maritime ad- lar business ; and such banks, as well venture in many of the northern as private merchants, made advances nations. Great Britain, in particular, to different countries on the security increased in wealth ; and her manu- of their revenues, at rates of interest facturing and trading classes became varying from 20 to 25 per cent per able to subsidise onr own and other annum. The manufactures of Europe monarchs, to enable them to protect had served to enable our merchants their traffic from marauders both by to import luxuries from the East withsea and land. The discovery of the out draining the stocks of the precious properties of the compass about this metals. In fact, they had diverted period—the latter part of the thir- the current of gold and silver from teenth century-opened out a vent for the East to the seats of industry and the manufacturers of the north of commerce. The high rates of interest Europe to the countries bordering upon charged, had placed the monied and the Mediterranean, east of the Pillars trading classes in a position to absorb of Hercules; and, in the fifteenth the incomes of the wasteful possescentury, we find Spain, stimulated sors of the soil ; and a middle class by the advantages of her position, rapidly sprung up, who were protectcompeting successfully, and carrying ed by the organisation of the various off the palm of naval science and en- communities to which they belonged, terprise. Her vessels had for a cen- from being made the spoil of the great tury and a half been pre-eminent in nobles, as had been the case of the their qualities, and the ability of their Jewish possessors of money in precommanders, and had raised her to vious periods. By-and-by, however, the proud position of sovereignty upon these banks became involved, partly the sea. In the mean time, the silk from the necessities of their position, manufacture had been introduced into in the contentions of those nobles and Palermo, and other cities of Italy; governments by whom they had been and in a short while the woollen and protected. They advanced large sums silk manuafcturers of Europe com- of money to them, which were not almanded the markets of the East. ways repaid. It is sufficient, how
Whilst our manufactures were thus ever, for the purposes of our inquiry growing in importance, the trading to state the mode in which a circulatworld bebeld a considerable increase ing medium was provided to make of its monetary facilities. The Jews these advances. Boucher, an authobad hitherto almost entirely absorbed rity upon the subject, says, - there the exchanges of Europe, and the were three species of paper credit in dealings in the precious metals. In the dealings of merchants: 1st, Genthe early portion of the thirteenth cen- eral letters of credit, not directed to tury the merchants of Lombardy and any one, which are not uncommon in of the south of France, according to the Levant; 2d, Orders to pay money Du Cange, commenced the business of to a particular person ; 3d, Bills of remitting money by bills of exchange; exchange regularly negotiable, (vol. and it is not surprising that such bills, ii. p. 621). Instances of the first are representing gold at its sterling value, mentioned by Macpherson about 1200, superseded, as a circulation, ihe de- (p. 367). The second species was inbased coinage of France and other troduced by the Jews about 1183, countries. Enriched by their com- (Capmany, vol. i. p. 297); but it merce, and by the ordinary usances may be doubtful whether the last of money required for the purposes of stage of the progress was reached exchange, the Lombard and other nearly so soon. An instrument in companies began to advance loans and Rymer, however, of tbe year 1964, to conduct monetary transactions in (vol. vi. p. 495), mentions literæ Cam
bitoriæ, 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
even in those of wealthy merchants, Convertible money, in fact, was, up during the fourteenth and fifteenth to the middle of the fourteenth century, centuries, show a marvellous lack of a scarce commodity, and its purchasing this description of property. The power was in proportion to its quansupply of the precious metals, although tity available for trade purposes. Sir increased instead of being reduced, Frederick Eden, in bis T'able of Prices, was barely sufficient, if it were even gives the following as the value of sutficient, to meet the requirements ihe pound sterling of our present of the extended mercantile and indus- money at the various periods mentrial transactions of the world.
Value of Pound Sterling.
present money. Conquest,
£2 18 18 28 Edward I.
2 17 5 18 Edward III.
2 12 51 20 Edward III.
2 11 8 27 Edward III.
2 6 6 13 Henry ; IV.
1 18 9 4 Edward IV.
1 1 0 18 Henry VIII.
I7 67 We interrupt our quotation here, be sufficient to perform the same operacause we are approaching a period at tion for countries possessing an exwbich a large increase of the pre- tensive foreign trade, as did at this cious metals flowed in upon the world. period various countries of Europe. But we cannot allow the portion Moreover, although our exports atgiven to pass without directing atten- tracted towards us the gold of the tion to the striking manner in which Eastern nations, a portion of it was it illustrates our preceding remarks. readily dissipated in loans to the Europe, and England especially, had various contending powers of the at the time of the Norman Conquest world, and to the improvident and a very slight control over the existing dissolute amongst our own nobility stock' of gold; and this was not be- and gentry. Our banking systems cause that stock was at its minimum, were not as yet so perfect and secure but because it was hoarded through in the general acceptation of the the violence of the times, and there public, as to enable us to dispense was no well-arranged circulating me with the precious metals as the money dium to replace it in the ordinary in everyday circulation. It is probargains and sales amongst a some- bable that the rapid decline which took what rude community. With the place, from 1353 to 1527, may have advanced state of commerce and arisen from a variety of causes, to a manufactures which existed in the considerable extent irrespective of the year 1300, and progressed down to supply in existence. We can only 1353, it might naturally have been measure the value of the precious expected that the fall in its value metals by their power of purchasing would have been greater than is other commodities. The coined gold shown above. Undoubtedly, although and silver of early nations was genewe have little evidence as to the rally the representative of some article increase of the yield, large amounts or animal which it would exchange were during this period exhumed for, such, for example, as a sheep, a from their hiding places, and con- lamb, an ox, &c. And when we have verted to use as a medium of ex- historical authority that the consumpchange; but we must not forget, tion and style of living of all classes, although some of our modern political in England and in the trading couneconomists appear to do so, that an tries of Europe, had been very materiincreased trade demands and absorbs ally increased and improved during proportionately increased supplies of this period, it is only fair to assume the precious metals. The small that the increased demand for comamount which suffices to balance the modities of all descriptions thus caused, transactions of a primitive, or a non- had diminished the value of the precommercial people, is miserably in- cious metals as money. Certainly we