ePub 版

*ing, in return (for the trade was one of barter), salt, herrings, and coarse cloth, for the mass of the peasants; and brocades, jewels, wines, and other articles of luxury, for the wealthy boyards and princes. A factory at Novgorod conducted these transactions. Another factory at Bergen placed the Hanse in direct contact with Norway and Sweden. This was an establishment of considerable magnitude, comprising twenty-two courts, and serving not only as a lodging for the staff of agents and clerks, but as a warehouse for the goods. The chief exports from this quarter were timber, resin, sperm oil, and, above all, salted fish-a commodity in great demand at a time when Europe was still Catholic and fasted faithfully on the appointed days. The Hanse had two other large factories; one in Bruges employing three hundred agents, and another in London.

Year by year the Hanse grew more rich and powerful. New branches of business were opened up, new factories were founded. Kings and princes were glad to be on good terms with so influential a body. Ambassadors from the Kings of England, France, Sweden, and Denmark, and even from the Emperor himself, waited on the Diet, to ask favours, and to offer trading privileges in return.

The original object of the league-mutual protection—was reasonable and legitimate, but was gradually expanded into a policy of forcible aggression and imperious monopoly. Not only were foreigners, in their voyages to the Hanse towns, compelled to employ Hanseatic ships, but the commerce of the north-east and west of Europe was almost exclusively in the hands of the league. There were no bounds to its greed and selfishness. It did its utmost to crush all growing trade, navigation, and even manufactures, which in the least interfered with its gains. It warned away all strangers from the Baltic; and when it found any there, it seized and destroyed their vessels. In order to maintain this monopoly, it was ready to make the greatest sacrifices, to equip fleets, and sustain long and costly campaigns. With Denmark it waged a desperate war; and it also came into collision with Sweden and Norway. From these contests it came off victorious, and the whole of Scandinavia was compelled to acknowledge its commer

cial supremacy.

It had a rupture also with the Netherlands, whose flag it banished from the Baltic.

These unbounded pretensions naturally excited a great deal of ill feeling against the Hanse, and, in the end, proved fatal to it. One after another, the markets which it had been accustomed to regard as its own private estates, threw off their allegiance, and admitted the traders of other nations. Then it was that the league began to suffer in another way from its narrow-minded selfishness. As long as it had exclusive command of foreign sources of supply, it did not trouble itself to develop the resources of Germanyindeed it rather endeavoured to repress them, when it thought that others were likely to profit by them; but when one by one its monopolies exploded, it found reason to repent that it had neglected to cultivate the productive powers of its own country.

These causes, combined with the change of route to India, led to the gradual decline of this famous confederation; and at the last general assembly, held at Lubeck in 1630, the deputies from the several cities appeared merely to declare their secession. In a modified form, however, the Hanse lingered on till the beginning of the present century—the shadow of a great name. The Free Cities of Lubeck, Hamburg, Bremen, and Frankfort-on-the-Maine are now only nominally the representatives of the Hanse.




WHILE a despotic mercantile league was carrying matters with a high hand in the north, Flanders was acquiring a considerable

Bruges and Ghent were its two most flourishing cities. Although not upon the coast, Bruges communicated with the sea by a canal which led to Sluis, six leagues distant, on the Bay of Zwin. The access to this port was difficult, and constant care had to be taken to keep the channel free from obstruction; but, in spite of these disadvantages, Bruges carried on an important maritime trade, and became, before the end of the thirteenth century, the chief emporium for the merchandise of Europe and the Levant, as well as the centre of the commerce of the Low Countries. Thither came wool from England, linen from Belgium, silk from Persia, hemp from Russia, Venetian cloth-of-gold, and Eastern spices. In the middle of the fourteenth century it had a population of one hundred and fifty thousand. Within its walls were the hotels of twenty ambassadors and the factories of seventeen different kingdoms.

The wealth of the citizens was manifested in their outward splendour. When Philip-le-Bel, King of France, visited Flanders with his Queen, the latter was so amazed by the magnificence of the dames of Bruges, that she exclaimed, “I thought I was the only queen here, but, judging from the apparel of those I see around me, there must be many wives of kings and princes present!” Again, when in 1351 the burgomasters of Bruges, Ghent, and Ypres, went to Paris to pay homage to King John, they were received with much pomp and distinction, but yet found reason to be dissatisfied. Being invited to a grand feast, they observed that their seats at table were not furnished with cushions. In order to make known their displeasure at this want of regard to their dignity, they took off their richly embroidered cloaks, folded them, and sat upon them. On rising from table they left their cloaks behind them; and being informed of their apparent forgetfulness, Simon von Eertrycke, burgomaster of Bruges, replied, “We Flemings are not in the habit of carrying away our cushions after dinner!”

Ghent was then the chief seat of the cloth manufacture. Situated in the midst of well-cultivated plains, its walls measured nine miles in circuit, and enclosed a large and prosperous population. In the time of Charles V. it was one of the principal cities in Europe; and that monarch used to boast, punning on the name, that he could put all Paris in his glove-dans son gant (Ghent). In the fourteenth century there were in the city and its environs forty thousand weavers ! When they went to and from their work they filled the streets with such a dense throng that all business had to be suspended; and the bell of the city rang out to caution other people to stay within doors, and to warn mothers that they

must fetch in their children, lest they should be trampled under foot.

These work-people well knew their value to the city, and asserted their independence very emphatically. Their allegiance to the Counts of Flanders and Dukes of Burgundy was little more than nominal; for whenever these princes sought to impose any tax which their subjects disliked, the great bell Roland at once sounded an alarm, and the citizens seized the arms they always kept beside them, and, without changing their working dress, merely attaching a white sleeve or hood as a badge, sallied out to vindicate their rights.' In 1400 there were eighty thousand persons in Ghent capable of bearing arms; and the weavers alone furnished a formidable contingent of twenty thousand. If, however, this force kept the great in check, it also proved of much assistance to them in the case of an attack from without.

Ypres, Dendermonde, Oudenarde, and Lille stood in the second rank of towns, but did not fall far short of Bruges and Ghent in industry and population. They were engaged in various branches of woollen manufacture; which, as was formally and gracefully acknowledged by the institution of the Order of the Golden Fleece, constituted the basis of the prosperity, power, and grandeur of the country



A.D. 1574.

MEANTIME, the besieged city was at its last gasp. The burghers had been in a state of uncertainty for many days; being aware that the fleet had set forth for their relief, but knowing full well the thousand obstacles which it had to surmount. They had guessed its progress by the illumination from the blazing villages; they had heard its salvos of artillery its arrival at North Aa; but since then all had been dark and mournful again, hope and fear, in sickening alternation, distracting every breast. They knew that the wind was unfavourable, and the dawn of each day every eye was turned wistfully to the vanes of the steeples. So long as the easterly breeze prevailed, they felt, as they anxiously stood on towers and house-tops, that they must look in vain for the welcome ocean. Yet, while thus patiently waiting, they were literally starving; for even the misery endured at Harlem had not reached that depth and intensity of agony to which Leyden was now reduced. Bread, malt-cake, horse-flesh, had entirely disappeared; dogs, cats, rats, and other vermin, were esteemed luxuries. A small number of cows, kept as long as possible for their milk, still remained; but a few were killed from day to day, and distributed in minute proportions, hardly sufficient to support life among the famishing population. Starving wretches swarmed daily around the shambles where these cattle were slaughtered, contending for any morsel which might fall, and lapping eagerly the blood as it ran along the pavement; while the hides, chopped and boiled, were greedily devoured. Women and children, all day long, were seen searching gutters and dunghills for morsels of food, which they disputed fiercely with the famishing dogs. The green leaves were stripped from the trees, every living herb was converted into human food; but these expedients could not avert starvation. The daily mortality was frightful: infants starved to death on the maternal breasts which famine had parched and withered; mothers dropped dead in the streets, with their dead children in their arms. In many a house the watchmen, in their rounds, found a whole family of corpses—father, mother, children-side by side; for a disorder called the plague, naturally engendered of hardship and famine, now came, as if in kindness, to abridge the agony of the people. The pestilence stalked at noonday through the city, and the doomed inhabitants fell like grass beneath its scythe. From six thousand to eight thousand human beings sank before this scourge alone; yet the people resolutely held out, women and men mutually encouraging each other to resist the entrance of their foreign foe—an evil more horrible than pest or famine.

Leyden was sublime in its despair. A few murmurs were, however, occasionally heard at the steadfastness of the magistrates : and a dead body was placed at the door of the burgomaster, as a silent witness against his inflexibility. A party of the more faint

« 上一頁繼續 »