Front Page Titles (by Subject) SKETCH OF THE HISTORY OF COMMERCE, TO THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY. - Treatises and Essays on Subjects connected with Economic Policy with Biographical Sketches of Quesnay, Adam Smith & Ricardo
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SKETCH OF THE HISTORY OF COMMERCE, TO THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY. - John Ramsay McCulloch, Treatises and Essays on Subjects connected with Economic Policy with Biographical Sketches of Quesnay, Adam Smith & Ricardo 
Treatises and Essays on Subjects connected with Economic Policy with Biographical Sketches of Quesnay, Adam Smith & Ricardo (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1853).
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SKETCH OF THE HISTORY OF COMMERCE, TO THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY.
“Neque enim historiam proposui mercaturæ mihi scribendam, sed tantummodo illius umbram legenti exhibere.”
—Muratori,Antiq. Ital. Med. Ævi.
Commerce being a result of that division of labour, or of that appropriation of particular individuals to particular pursuits, which is cöeval with the establishment of society, would, at first, be extremely limited, and be confined to the exchange or barter of articles produced by individuals belonging to the same tribe or neighbourhood. But as civilisation extended, and an intercourse began to grow up between different districts and countries, commerce would be proportionally increased. It no doubt was very soon found that certain products were wholly confined to certain localities, while others were more abundant, or of better quality, in some than in others. And this observation would naturally be followed by a commercial intercourse, the extent of which would depend on the character of the parties carrying it on, the diversity of their products, their proximity, and the ease with which articles might be conveyed from the one to the other. The intervention, between different countries, of an arm of the sea, or a navigable river, by affording them an easy means of communication, would serve, in no ordinary degree, to promote their mutual traffic. On this principle Dr Smith conjectured that the wealth and cultivation of ancient Egypt and India, were principally to be ascribed to the facility of intercourse between their different towns and provinces, afforded by the Nile and Ganges, and the canals and subsidiary streams connected with these great rivers. And the vast magnitude of Nineveh and Babylon, and the wealth and early refinement of the great empires of which they were respectively the capitals, were no doubt mainly owing to their being intersected by the Tigris and Euphrates, and to the extraordinary facilities which were thereby given to their internal and external trade.
It is worthy of remark, that, with the exception of India and the empires now mentioned, the nations which made the first advances in commerce and the arts, dwelt round the shores of the Mediterranean and Red Sea. And this may, perhaps, be explained from the circumstance, that those great inland seas having no tides, nor, consequently, any waves, except such as are caused by the wind only, were eminently fitted, by the smoothness of their surface, the number of their islands, and the proximity of their shores, to facilitate and promote the infant commerce of the world, when, from their ignorance of the compass, men were afraid to quit the view of the coast, and from the imperfection of the art of shipbuilding, to adventure themselves upon the boisterous waves of the ocean.1
The wonderful improvement that has been made in navigation is known to every one; and the seas and harbours of the remotest and least advanced nations are now frequented by the ships and steamers of those which have made the greatest progress in science and art. But in land-commerce the advance has not, speaking generally, been by any means so great; and, except in Europe and North America, most part of the land-trade of the world is conducted, at this day, nearly in the same manner, and by the same routes, that it was conducted 3,000 years ago. The vast deserts by which Asia and Africa are intersected have given a peculiar, and, as it would seem, an indelible character to their internal intercourse. Being very ill supplied with water, their transit could hardly have been undertaken without the aid of the camel, or ship of the desert! This animal, which is native to those regions, is not only patient of fatigue and easily subsisted, but it has the farther and invaluable quality of being able to exist for three, four, or even more days without water. It is, therefore, used in crossing those “seas of sand,” in preference to the horse, the ass, or any other animal. The scarcity of water is not, however, the only difficulty with which the traveller has to contend in making his way across the great Asiatic and African deserts. From the remotest antiquity they have been infested with wandering tribes of predatory Arabs, who assault, tax, or plunder all who attempt to pass through the arid and inhospitable wastes over which they have established their lawless sway. And hence the origin of caravans, or of associations or companies of merchants or travellers. These usually comprise hundreds, and frequently thousands of individuals, with camels, horses, etc., for conveying the travellers and their goods. Being well armed, they are able to defend themselves against the attacks of the Arabs. Generally, indeed, they have treaties with the latter, by which they secure either their forbearance or their services, on payment of a certain tribute or toll. The routes followed by the caravans are determined by various circumstances. The most direct would seldom, however, be either the speediest or the safest and best. When oases are found in or adjacent to the line of route, they are uniformly selected for resting-places; and in their absence halts are, when practicable, made at wells. The cities of Palmyra, Baalbec, and Petra, the ruins of which continue to excite the astonishment of the traveller, and evince alike the taste and the wealth of those by whom they were constructed, owed their existence to their being situated in spots well supplied with water, in the line of the great commercial routes of antiquity, and to the trade of which they consequently became the centres. When, however, any circumstance occurs to divert a caravan from its accustomed pathway, or when the wells are dried up, or do not furnish the anticipated supply of water, the consequences are sometimes fatal. Under such circumstances, entire caravans have been destroyed.1 But this fearful contingency seldom occurs in the more frequented routes, or in what may be called the ordinary commercial channels.
One of the earliest commercial transactions of which we have any account, the sale of Joseph by his brethren for twenty pieces of silver, was made to merchants forming part of a caravan conveying spices to Egypt. And the incident is interesting not merely from its showing the mode in which commerce was thus early carried on, but also from its showing that a traffic was then established in slaves, and that silver was employed as a measure of value and universal equivalent.
It is not uninteresting to observe, that the earliest branch of commerce which we find noticed in history, has continued down to this day to be esteemed the most important and valuable. We refer to the trade between the countries bordering on the Mediterranean and Europe generally, on the one side, and Arabia, India, and the regions more to the east, on the other. At the first dawn of authentic history, this trade had its centre in Phœnicia, a country of very limited extent, occupying that part of the Syrian coast which stretches from Aradus (the modern Rouad) on the north, to a little below Tyre on the south, a distance of about 150 miles. It breadth was much less considerable, being for the most part bounded by Mount Libanus to the east, and Mount Carmel on the south. The surface of this narrow tract is generally rugged and mountainous; and the soil in the valleys, though moderately fertile, did not afford adequate supplies of food for the population. Libanus and its dependent ridges were, however, covered with timber suitable for ship-building; and besides Tyre and Sidon, Phœnicia possessed the ports of Tripoli, Byblos, Berytus, etc. In this situation, occupying a country unable to supply them with sufficient quantities of corn, hemmed in, on the one hand, by mountains and by powerful and warlike neighbours, and having, on the other, the wide expanse of the Mediterranean, studded with islands, and surrounded by fertile countries, to invite their enterprise, the Phœnicians were naturally led to engage in maritime and commercial adventures; and became the boldest and most experienced mariners, and the greatest discoverers and merchants, of ancient times.
Tyre, the principal city of Phœnicia, and the most celebrated emporium of the ancient world, was situated nearly on the spot where the inconsiderable town of Tsour now stands, in lat. 33° 17′ N., long. 35° 14½′ E. It was founded by a colony from Sidon, the most ancient of the Phœnician cities. The date of this event is not certainly known, but Larcher supposes it to have been about 1,690 years bc1 It is singular, that while Homer mentions Sidon, he takes no notice of Tyre, whose glory speedily eclipsed that of the mother city. But this is no conclusive proof that the latter was not then a considerable emporium. The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, who flourished from 700 to 600 years bc, represent Tyre as a city of unrivalled wealth, whose “merchants were princes, and her traffickers the honourable of the earth.” Originally, the city was built on the main land. But having been besieged by the Babylonian monarch Nebuchadnezzar, the inhabitants conveyed themselves and their goods to an island at a little distance, where a new city was founded, which enjoyed an increased degree of celebrity and commercial prosperity. The old city was, on that account, entitled Palætyre, and the other simply Tyre. The new city continued to flourish, extending its colonies and its commerce on all sides, till it was attacked by Alexander the Great. The resistance made by the Tyrians to that conqueror showed that they had not been enervated by luxury, and that their martial virtues were nowise inferior to their commercial skill and enterprise. The overthrow of the Persian empire was effected with less difficulty than the capture of this single city. The victor did not treat the vanquished as their heroic conduct deserved. In despite, however, of the cruelties inflicted on the city, she rose again to great eminence.1 But the foundation of Alexandria, by diverting the commerce that had formerly centered in Tyre into a new channel, gave her an irreparable blow. And she gradually declined, till, consistently with the denunciation of the prophet, her palaces have been levelled with the dust, and she has become “a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea.”
The Phœnicians are designated in the sacred writings by the name of “Canaanites,” a term which, in the language of the East, means merchants. They were the first to establish and carry on a traffic between the eastern and western portions of the ancient world. The spices, drugs, precious stones, pearls, ivory, and other valuable products of Arabia and India, have always been highly valued in Europe; and have been exchanged for the gold and silver, the tin, linens, wines, etc., of the latter. The former were originally conveyed to Tyre by caravans, or companies of travelling merchants, formed in the way previously stated. The routes of these caravans may yet be traced with more or less accuracy. One of the principal came from Arabia Felix (Southern Arabia), a distance of about 1,500 miles, by Macoraba (Mecca) and Petra2 to Gaza and Tyre. Another caravan set out from Gerrha, an important emporium on the west side of the Persian Gulph, crossing Arabia to Petra. Others came from Babylon, Nineveh, and other cities on the Euphrates and Tigris, and from Armenia, etc.
At a later period, a part at least of the eastern trade of the Phœnicians, which had long been wholly carried on by land, began to be carried on by sea. Having formed an alliance with David and Solomon, kings of Judea, the Phœnicians acquired by that means the ports of Elath and Eziongeber on the north-east arm (Gulph of Akabah) of the Red Sea. Here they fitted out ships, which traded with the ports on that sea, Southern Arabia, and Ethiopia, and probably also with the western ports of India, or those on the Malabar coast. It is also stated that they penetrated into the Persian Gulph, and conquered or colonised the isles of Tylos and Aradus (the Bahrein Islands), contiguous to Gerrha. Ophir would appear to have been a favourite resort of the Phœnician ships from the Red Sea; and a great deal of erudition has been expended in attempting to determine the situation of that emporium or country. We, however, agree with Heeren, in thinking that it was not the name of any particular place; but a general designation given to the coasts of Arabia, India, and Africa, bordering on the Indian Ocean, somewhat in the same loose way that we now use the terms East and West Indies.1
The goods brought to Elath and Eziongeber by sea were mostly conveyed to the great emporium of Petra, whence they were forwarded by different routes to Tyre. But as the distance of Tyre from Petra is very considerable, and the transit of goods might be interrupted by the Hebrews, the Tyrians, to lessen this inconvenience, seized upon Rhinoculura, the nearest port on the Mediterranean to Elath and Petra. And the products of Arabia, India, etc., being conveyed thither by the most compendious route, were then put on board ships, and carried by a brief and easy voyage to Tyre. If we except the transit by the isthmus of Suez, this was the shortest and most direct, and for that reason, no doubt, the cheapest, channel by which the commerce between Southern Asia and Europe could then be conducted. It is not certain whether the Phœnicians possessed any permanent footing on the Red Sea after the death of Solomon. But if they did not, the want of it does not seem to have sensibly affected their trade. And Tyre continued, till a considerable period after the foundation of Alexandria, to be the grand emporium for Eastern products.
The commerce of the Phœnicians with the countries bordering on the Mediterranean was still more extensive and valuable. At an early period, they established settlements in Cyprus and Rhodes. The former was a very desirable acquisition, from its proximity, the number of its ports, its fertility, and the variety of its vegetable and mineral productions. Having passed successively into Greece, Italy, and Sardinia, they proceeded to explore the southern shores of France and Spain, and the northern shores of Africa. They afterwards adventured upon the Atlantic; and were the first people whose flag was displayed beyond the Pillars of Hercules.1
Gades, now Cadiz, one of the most ancient and important of the Tyrian colonies, is supposed by St Croix to have originally been distinguished by the name of Tartessus or Tarshish, mentioned in the sacred writings.2 Heeren, on the other hand, contends, as in the case of Ophir, that by Tarshish is to be understood the whole southern part of Spain, which was early discovered and partially settled by Phœnician adventurers.3 At all events, it is certain that Cadiz early became the centre of a commerce which extended all along the coasts of Europe as far as Britain, and perhaps the Baltic. There can be no reasonable doubt, that by the Cassiterides, or Tin Islands, visited by the Phœnicians, are to be understood the Scilly Islands and Cornwall.4 The navigation of the Phœnicians, probably, also extended a considerable way along the western coast of Africa.
But of all the colonies founded by Tyre, Carthage was deservedly the most celebrated. At first only a simple factory, it was materially increased by the arrival of a large body of colonists, forced by dissensions at home to leave their native land, about 883 years bc5 Imbued with the enterprising mercantile spirit of their ancestors, the Carthaginians rose, in no very long period, to the highest eminence as a naval and commercial state. The settlements founded by the Phœnicians in Africa, Spain, Sicily, etc., gradually fell into their hands; and, after the capture of Tyre by Alexander the Great, Carthage engrossed a considerable share of the commerce of which her mother city had previously been the centre. The subsequent history of Carthage, and the misfortunes by which she was overwhelmed, are well known. And we need only observe, that commerce, instead of being, as has sometimes been imagined, the cause of her decline, was the real source of her power and greatness; the means by which she was enabled to wage a lengthened, doubtful, and desperate contest with Rome herself for the empire of the world.1
The commerce and navigation of Tyre probably attained their maximum from 850 to 550 years bc The Tyrians were at that period the factors and merchants of the civilised world, and enjoyed an undisputed pre-eminence in maritime affairs. The prophet Ezekiel (chap. xxvii.) has described in magnificent terms the glory of Tyre; and has enumerated several of the most valuable products found in her markets, and the countries whence they were brought. The fir trees of Senir (Hermon), the cedars of Lebanon, the oaks of Bashan (the country to the east of Galilee), the ivory of the Indies, the fine linen of Egypt, and the purple and hyacinth of the isles of Elishah (Peloponnesus), are specified among the articles used for her ships. The inhabitants of Sidon, Arvad (Aradus), Gebel (Byblos), served her as mariners and carpenters. Gold, silver, lead, tin, iron, and vessels of brass; slaves, horses, mules, sheep, and goats; pearls, precious stones, and coral; wheat, balm, honey, oil, spices, and gums; wine, wool, and silk; are mentioned as being brought into the port of Tyre by sea, or to her markets by land, from Syria, Arabia, Damascus, Greece, Tarshish, Ophir, and other places, the exact site of which it is difficult to determine.1
Such, according to the inspired writer, was Tyre, the “Queen of the waters,” before she was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar. But, as already seen, the result of that siege did not affect her trade, which was as successfully carried on from the new city as from the old. Inasmuch, however, as Carthage soon after began to rival her as a maritime and mercantile state, this may perhaps be considered as the æra of her greatest celebrity.
It would not be easy to overrate the beneficial influence of the extensive commerce carried on by the Phœnicians. It roused the people with whom they traded from their indolence; and, while it gave them new wants and desires, it gave them, at the same time, the means by which they might be gratified. The rude inhabitants of Greece, Spain, and Northern Africa, acquired some knowledge of the arts and sciences practised by their visitors. And the advantages of which they were found to be productive, secured their gradual, though slow, advancement.
Nor were the Phœnicians celebrated only for their wealth, and the extent of their trade and navigation. Their fame, and their right to be classed amongst those who have conferred the greatest benefits on mankind, rest on a still more unassailable foundation. “If,” says Strabo, “the Greeks have learned geometry from the Egyptians, they are indebted for their astronomy and arithmetic to Sidon and Tyre.”1 Antiquity, indeed, is unanimous in ascribing to them the invention and practice of all those arts, sciences, and contrivances that facilitate commercial undertakings. They are held to be the discoverers of weights and measures, of money, of the art of keeping accounts, and, in short, of everything which belongs to the business of a counting-house. They were also famous for the invention, or improvement, of ship-building and navigation; for the discovery of glass; for their manufactures of fine linen and tapestry; for their skill in architecture, and in the art of working metals and ivory; and for the incomparable splendour and beauty of their purple dye.2
The invention and dissemination of these highly useful arts form, however, but a part of what the people of Europe owe to the Phœnicians. It is not possible to say in what degree the religion of the Greeks was borrowed from theirs; but that it was to a pretty large extent seems abundantly certain. Hercules, under the name of Melcarthus, was the tutelar deity of Tyre; and his expeditions along the shores of the Mediterranean, and to the straits connecting it with the ocean, seem to be merely a poetical representation of the progress of the Phœnician navigators, who introduced arts and civilisation, and established the worship of Hercules, wherever they went. The temple erected in honour of the god at Gades was long regarded with peculiar veneration.
The Greeks were, however, indebted to the Phœnicians, not merely for the rudiments of civilisation, but for the great instrument of its future progress—the gift of letters. Few facts in ancient history appear to be better established than that a knowledge of alphabetic writing was first carried to Greece by Phœnician adventurers; and it may be safely affirmed, that this was the greatest boon any people ever received at the hands of another.
The attention of the Phœnicians was not, however, wholly occupied by manufactures, navigation, and trade, and the cultivation of the arts and sciences subsidiary to their advancement. From the earliest ages they evinced a taste for philosophy and literature. Moschus, a native of Sidon, is said to have taught the doctrine of atoms previously to the Trojan war. And the treatise of Sanchoniathon on the Phœnician Cosmogony and Theogony is referred to about the same epoch.1 At a later period, Phœnicia continued to be a favoured seat of learning. Boethus of Sidon is said by Strabo to have been one of his fellow-students; and Antipater and Apollonius of Tyre are names well known in the history of the Stoical philosophy. Under the Roman emperors, Berytus, one of the oldest of the Phœnician cities, became no less famous for the study of law in the East than Rome was in the West. It was said by Justinian to be the mother and the nurse of the laws. It is not known when or by whom this legal school was founded. But it is obvious, from a decree of the emperor Dioclesian, that it had been established long before his time.2
Before quitting this part of our subject, we may shortly notice the statement of Herodotus with respect to the circumnavigation of Africa by Phœnician sailors. The venerable father of history mentions, that a fleet fitted out by Necho king of Egypt, but manned and commanded by Phœnicians, took its departure from a port on the Red Sea, at an epoch which is believed to correspond with the year 604 before the Christian æra, and that, keeping always to the right, they doubled the southern promontory of Africa; and returned, after a voyage of three years, to Egypt, by the Pillars of Hercules.1 Herodotus further mentions, that they related that, in sailing round Africa, they had the sun on their right hand, or to the north, a circumstance which he frankly acknowledges seemed incredible to him, but which, as every one is now aware, must have been the case if the voyage was actually performed.
Many learned and able writers, and particularly Gosselin,2 have treated this account as fabulous. But the objections of Gosselin have been successfully answered in an elaborate note by Larcher;3 and Major Rennell has sufficiently demonstrated the practicability of the voyage.4 Without entering upon this discussion, we may observe, that not one of those who question the authenticity of the account given by Herodotus, presumes to doubt that the Phœnicians braved the boisterous seas on the coasts of Spain, Gaul, and Britain; and that they had, partially at least, explored the Indian ocean. But the ships and seamen that did this much, might, undoubtedly, under favourable circumstances, double the Cape of Good Hope. The relation of Herodotus has, besides, such an appearance of good faith, and the circumstance, which he doubts, of the navigators having the sun on the right, affords so strong a confirmation of its truth, that there really seems no reasonable ground for doubting that the Phœnicians preceded, by more than 2,000 years, Vasco de Gama in his perilous enterprise.
After the sack of Tyre and the conquest of Egypt, Alexander, who was no less eminent as a statesman than as a general, perceived the advantage that might be derived from the establishment of a commercial entrepôt at a convenient harbour near the western arm of the Nile. For this purpose he founded Alexandria, a city which, being connected with the Nile by a canal,1 became, first under the Ptolemies, and subsequently under the Roman emperors, a place of great trade, and the principal emporium for the exchange of the commodities of the eastern and western worlds. The trade with India was carried on from Myos-Hormos and Berenice, ports on the Red Sea, the latter being nearly under the tropic. The commodities landed at Berenice were conveyed by a N.W. route to Coptos on the Nile, and were thence conveyed by that river and the canal to Alexandria. This was not so short nor so expeditious a route as that by which the commerce of India had previously been carried on by the Phœnicians. And it is singular that none of the Syrian monarchs, the successors of Alexander, should have made an effort to secure to their dominions the advantages resulting from the possession of so lucrative a traffic, by restoring it to its old channel, or by establishing a route from the Persian Gulph to the Mediterranean.
The Greeks, who so greatly improved most part of the arts they derived from others, never attained to high eminence as a commercial or maritime people. A variety of circumstances might be mentioned which account, in part at least, for the unfavourable light in which manufacturing and commercial employments were regarded in the Grecian states. The institution of domestic slavery2 seems, however, to have had the greatest influence. It perpetuated a prejudice which probably originated in those ages of violence and disorder, antecedent to the establishment of a regular form of government, when man, constantly exposed to hostile attacks, depended on his sword alone for protection, and devolved on the softer sex, or on the captives he had taken in war, all those sedentary and laborious occupations which he considered incompatible with the higher functions he was called upon to discharge. The contempt in which slaves were held made the industrial and menial employments, which were either wholly or partly committed to them, be regarded as mean and despicable. And this low estimate was not only in unison with the popular prejudices on the subject, but was approved by the most eminent philosophers, and sanctioned by the laws. Artisans, merchants, and mercenaries, are said by Aristotle, by whom they are classed together, to have a degraded existence; and he lays it down, that in well-regulated states mechanics should not be admitted to the rights of citizens.1 In Sparta and Epidamnus, and perhaps in other states, mechanical employments were wholly confined to slaves; and in Thebes no individual could be elected to the magistracy who had been, during the previous ten years, engaged in commercial transactions. In those cities in which the democracy preponderated, the condition of mechanics and retail tradesmen was less unfavourable. During the ascendancy of the popular party in Athens, they might become citizens and magistrates. Still, however, the individuals employed in the manufacture and sale of goods did not even there attain to much consideration. These businesses were, in consequence, mostly carried on by slaves or by resident aliens; the latter being treated with little respect, and subjected to some highly vexatious and oppressive regulations.2 Such conduct towards strangers was not a little contradictory in a commercial people. And Xenophon had good grounds for stating, that the Athenians would gain a great deal by treating the foreigners established in their city with greater kindness and liberality.1 The income derived from land was most esteemed by the Greeks, and agriculture was next to arms, and public employments their favourite occupation.
The first Grecian voyage of which we have any account, was undertaken by the Argonauts, from the coast of Thessaly to Colchis, on the east coast of the Euxine, about 1,200 years bc And such was the opinion entertained of the skill and courage evinced in the enterprise, that Jason and his compeers were ranked among the demigods; and the name of the vessel in which they made the voyage was conferred on one of the heavenly constellations. But the progress of the Greeks in naval architecture and navigation, did not correspond with their rapid progress in other departments. It has been justly observed that their victories by sea, during the Persian war, are to be ascribed more to their martial spirit and the courage inspired by their free institutions, than to their superiority in naval affairs. Even in the Peloponnesian war their ships were of inconsiderable burden and force, had only a single mast, depended more on oars than on sails, and were mostly without decks.
Innumerable instances occur in Grecian history which set in the clearest light the backwardness of the Greeks in navigation, and their little acquaintance with countries at no great distance from their own shores. The fleets which the Persian sovereigns employed in their expeditions against Greece, were partly manned by Ionian Greeks who were quite as good sailors as those of Greece proper. And yet Herodotus relates, that when Mardonius invaded Greece, he lost above 300 vessels and 20,000 men in doubling the promontory terminating in Mount Athos.2 To avoid a similar disaster, Xerxes cut a canal across the isthmus connecting the Mount with the mainland, the traces of which are still extant.1 To double Cape Malea, the most southerly point of the Peloponnesus, was accounted, even in Strabo’s time, an exploit of the greatest difficulty and danger.2 The attempts which were frequently repeated to cut a canal across the isthmus of Corinth proved unsuccessful. But vessels were, notwithstanding, sometimes conveyed from sea to sea across the land; a conclusive proof as well of the smallness of their size as of the imperfection of navigation.
It is stated by Herodotus, that during the Persian war the Grecian fleet, which had rendezvoused at Ægina, in the Saronic Gulph, was visited by deputies from Ionia, who pressed them to sail for that country. But he says it was with difficulty they could be prevailed upon to make sail for Delos. For, he adds, they knew little of the countries beyond that island; and even supposed that Samos, adjacent to the coast of Ionia, was as distant from Ægina as the Pillars of Hercules.3
No doubt, however, this statement refers to the officers only, who in ancient times were chosen to command ships of war for their military talents, with little or no regard to their nautical experience or skill. And, understood in this way, it sets the ignorance, even of the better informed portion of the Greeks, in a very striking point of view. But it must not be regarded as affording any fair specimen of the knowledge of the masters of trading vessels. Everybody is aware that long previously to this epoch, colonies of Greeks were established in all the surrounding countries. Many of these grew, in no long time, to be flourishing and important communities. And the intercourse which they all kept up, to a less or greater extent, with their mother cities, would appear to render the statement of Herodotus quite inapplicable to the parties engaged in it.
But despite the influence of the favourable circumstances now referred to, the Greeks never distinguished themselves in naval affairs. The ships of Athens and of Corinth, the two most commercial states of Greece, though of the largest size, were rarely met with west of Sicily; and it is doubtful whether one of them was ever seen beyond the Pillars of Hercules. In sailing, the Greek navigators seldom ventured out of sight of the land. And such was their timidity or want of skill, that they only went to sea in the summer months, and were invariably laid up in port for about half the year.
The narrow and generally barren territory of Attica being unable to furnish a sufficient supply of food for its numerous population, the importation of corn became an object of paramount interest. And conformably to that timid and cautious policy which all nations seem in the first instance to have embraced, the Athenians did not trust to the efforts of private individuals for its supply. The exportation of corn of native growth was unconditionally prohibited; and while unusual encouragement was given to the importation of foreign corn, only a third part of that which was imported could be re-exported.1 Exclusive of the imports by private parties, considerable quantities were imported and warehoused at the expense of the state. And there appear to be good grounds for concluding that this corn was sold at a comparatively low price, and that it was sometimes distributed gratis.2 The imaginary crimes of forestalling and regrating, which have occupied so prominent a place in the penal code of this and other modern countries, were denounced with as much vigour, and to as little purpose, in Athens. Part of the foreign corn required for the use of the state was obtained from Sicily, and part from Egypt, Rhodes, etc.; but by far the greatest supply was obtained from the Taurica Chersonesus, now the Crimea. This peninsula was, in fact, the granary of Athens; and every effort was made to protect and encourage the trade with it. Besides corn, the Crimea and the coasts of the Euxine abounded with various important articles, which met with a ready sale in the markets of Athens; such, for example, as salt-fish, timber and everything required for the construction of ships, with wax, honey, tar, wool, leather, goat-skins, etc. Immense numbers of the most serviceable slaves were brought from the Black Sea, and also from Thrace and Thessaly. The exports from Athens consisted of a great variety of articles, partly the produce of Attica, and partly brought from other countries. The ironworks and foundries of Attica produced many staple commodities, including arms, for the Euxine.
We may remark, by the way, that books are included among the articles of export. But there can be little doubt that Boeckh1 is right, in saying that these were blank books, consisting of parchment, papyrus, or other material, formed into volumes. In Greece, the copying and sale of manuscripts was confined within very narrow limits. And though it grew to be of considerable importance in Rome after the age of Augustus, what may be truly called the trade in books is known only to modern times. It is one of the many results of the invention of modern paper, and the discovery of the art of printing. And, but for these, it is doubtful whether the present age would have had much reason to boast of its superiority over the ages of Pericles and Augustus.
The Athenians were fully sensible of the many advantages which they derived from the trade with the Euxine. Those princes whose territories lay upon its coasts, and more especially those who commanded the channel of the Bosphorus, received the most flattering marks of their regard. Some of them were advanced to the high dignity of Athenian citizens. And Leucon, king of Thrace, was so much pleased with this distinction, that he ordered the decree by which it was conferred to be engraved on three marble columns, one of which was placed on the Piræus, another on the side of the Bosphorus, and the third in the temple of Jupiter Urius. The wheat annually imported from the Crimea into Athens is said to have amounted to about 400,000 medimni,2 or 570,000 bushels; and, estimating the imports from all other places at as much more, the total importation would amount to 1,140,000 bushels, or 142,500 quarters. The Athenians had the privilege of shipping wheat from the Taurica Chersonesus without paying the ordinary export duty of about 3½ per cent.; and, consequently, could undersell the merchants of other countries. To secure their trade with the Crimea, they kept a strong garrison at Sestus, on the Hellespont. The sentinels on duty in the castle were commanded to observe the number and description of the ships passing into the Euxine. The Athenians were thus made aware of the danger which their merchantmen had to apprehend in war from the cruisers of the enemy, and of the progress made by their rivals during peace.1
The island of Delos was a principal seat of Athenian, or rather of Grecian commerce. Being the reported birth-place of Apollo and Diana, it was regarded with peculiar veneration. The former had here a famous oracle, which indeed was second only to that of Delphi. Every sort of hostility was suspended within its hallowed and hospitable shores. Even the fleets of Xerxes, when he invaded Greece, were forbid, by his express orders, to anchor in its harbours. And besides its sanctity, and the celebrity of its oracles, various circumstances contributed to render Delos one of the greatest emporiums of antiquity. Its commodious situation in the centre of the Greek islands, and of the then trading world, being nearly equidistant from Europe and Asia, and from the Euxine and the Nile, rendered it a natural resort of merchants. After the sack of Corinth by the Romans, many of its inhabitants repaired to Delos, and largely augmented its trade and importance. Once in every Olympiad a grand festival was held in the island, which was resorted to by immense crowds, and was early renowned not only for the splendour of its religious rites and processions, but also for the extent of its commercial transactions. The purchase and sale of slaves formed a leading branch of the trade of which Delos was the centre.2 The best were brought from the countries round the Black Sea; the greatest numbers being supplied by Lycian and Cilician pirates, who were tempted to carry on their robberies by the facility with which their captives were disposed of in the Delian markets. Strabo says that it was not unusual for several thousand slaves to be landed at Delos, sold, and shipped off to their respective destinations, in the course of the same day.1 Most part of these wretches were latterly purchased by dealers from Rome. In addition to slaves, every commodity known in the ancient world was to be found in its markets. The products of Europe, Asia, and Africa were exhibited together, and bartered for each other. The island became a common storehouse for the treasures of every commercial nation; and the scene exhibited during the festivals, from the mixture of religious pomp and ceremony with commercial wealth and enterprise, was in a high degree picturesque and animated. The hostile incursions of Mithridates inflicted a blow on Delos from which she did not recover. The Romans, indeed, granted the inhabitants various privileges, and exempted them from all taxes and contributions. But the charm which had shed so brilliant a lustre over this little spot in the flourishing ages of Greece was gradually dissolved. Its oracles became mute; its festivals ceased to be frequented; its sanctity, no longer respected, failed to secure it from piratical incursions; and Delos was ultimately abandoned by its inhabitants. Tournefort, who has given the best account of its modern state, represents it as wholly uninhabited, and as being everywhere covered with superb ruins, the only memorials of its former wealth and magnificence. The inhabitants of Mycone were recently in the habit of holding Delos chiefly for the purpose of pasturage; and paid only ten crowns a-year to the Grand Seignior for the possession of what had anciently been one of the richest and most crowded emporiums of the world.2
It may be worth while to observe, that in modern times Syra, also, one of the Cyclades, and only about seventeen or eighteen miles west from Delos, has, in consequence of its advantageous situation and commodious harbour, become an important emporium.
The Athenians passed a number of laws respecting commerce, mostly of a prohibitory nature. It was provided, for example, that no Athenian citizen, or stranger resident in Attica, should advance money on any vessel, or on the cargo of any vessel, unless it were to return to Athens, and discharge its cargo there. The exportation of various articles which were deemed of the first necessity, was expressly forbidden. Among others, this list included timber for building; fir, cypress, plane, and other trees, which grew in the neighbourhood of the city; the rosin collected on Mount Parnes and the wax of Mount Hymettus, which articles, mixed together, or perhaps singly, were used for caulking ships. The Athenians carried on war as much by impeding commerce as by force of arms, making, in this view, the most unscrupulous use of their naval ascendancy. There were besides a great number of laws respecting the conduct of masters of ships, the interest of money advanced on bottomry and other securities, the different sorts of contracts, etc. One of these laws inflicted a fine of a thousand drachmas, and in some instances the punishment of imprisonment, on whoever accused a merchant or trader of any crime he was unable to substantiate. All causes which respected commerce and navigation, could be heard only during the winter months, or when vessels were invariably in port, a regulation by which it was sought to prevent merchants and captains being prejudiced in their business by obliging them to attend the courts during the busy season. Functionaries, equivalent to the consuls of modern times, were also established in the different cities.1
Credit was generally at a low ebb in Greece. In Athens the rate of interest was not fixed by law, but varied according to circumstances.2 The bankers and money-dealers of that city paid certain rates of interest, varying, most probably, according to the magnitude and duration of the loan, to those who deposited money in their hands; their profit being derived from the higher rates at which they were able to relend it to others. Great confidence appears to have been placed in their integrity. Contracts for debt, and deeds of all sorts, as well as money, were trusted to their care; and engagements were concluded in their presence without other witnesses or writings.1 And yet they never enjoyed much consideration. They consisted principally, indeed, of aliens and freedmen, and were, as a class, extremely unpopular. This arose partly from the low estimation in which all traders were held, partly from the strong prejudices which many entertained against taking any interest,2 and partly, and principally, from the exorbitant rates which the bankers were sometimes in the habit of charging. But this, as we have previously shown, was no fault of theirs. It resulted from the extreme risk to which the principal was exposed from the defective state of the law, and the temptations which it held out to debtors to resist payment of their debts.
During war, every Athenian citizen who had a fortune of ten talents, was obliged, in case of need, to furnish the state with a galley; if he possessed twenty talents, he might be obliged to furnish two; but however rich, no more than three galleys and a boat were required of him. Those who were worth less than ten talents joined to contribute a galley.
Corinth had less of a warlike, and more of a manufacturing, and commercial character than Athens, or, indeed, than any other Grecian city. Her situation was particularly well suited for commercial enterprises. Being built on the isthmus between the sea of Crissa on the one hand, and the Saronic Gulph on the other, she became the entrepôt not only of all the commerce between the eastern and western parts of Greece, but also of many foreign countries. To avoid the difficulty and danger which the Greek navigators experienced in sailing round Cape Malea, goods that came from Italy, Sicily, and the countries to the west of Greece, were landed at Lechæum, a port of Corinth on the Crissean Sea, while the merchandise from Asia-Minor, the Euxine, Phœnicia, and the islands in the Ægean, were landed at Cenchra, another part of Corinth at the bottom of the Saronic Gulph, on the opposite side of the isthmus. The latter was so narrow that the goods were easily transported from the one port to the other; and, as previously seen, even ships were sometimes conveyed by land from sea to sea.
“Corinth,” says the learned author of the travels of Anacharsis, “became the mart of Asia and Europe, continued to collect duties on foreign merchandise, covered the sea with ships, and formed a navy to protect her commerce. Her industry was excited by success; she built ships of a new form, and first produced galleys of three benches of oars. Her naval force procuring her respect, all nations poured their productions into her emporium. We saw the shore covered with the paper and sail-cloth of Egypt, the ivory of Libya, the leather of Cyrene, incense from Syria, Phœnician dates, Carthaginian carpets, corn and cheese from Syracuse, pears and apples from Eubœa, Phrygian and Thessalian slaves, with a great variety of other articles which daily arrive in the ports of Corinth. Foreign merchants of all countries, but more especially of Phœnicia, are attracted thither by the hope of gain; and the games of the isthmus draw together a prodigious number of spectators.
“These resources increasing the wealth of the state, workmen of all kinds are protected, and exert themselves with new emulation.1 Certain manufactures of brass and earthenware, fabricated in this city, are held in the greatest estimation. Corinth possesses no copper mines, but her workmen, by mixing what they procure from foreign countries with a small quantity of gold and silver, compose a metal extremely brilliant, and almost proof against rust. Coverlets for beds manufactured in Corinth, are in great demand in foreign countries. And her citizens have collected, at an immense expense, pictures, statues, and vases, the workmanship of the greatest masters.”1
We may farther add, that in the magnificence of her public buildings, no less than in the splendour of the chefs d’œuvre of statuary and painting by which they were adorned, Corinth was second only to Athens. The opulence, of which she was the centre, made her a favourite seat of pleasure and dissipation, as well as of trade and industry. Venus was her principal deity; and the temple and statue of the goddess were prominent objects in the acropolis. Lais, the most celebrated of the priestesses of Venus, though of Sicilian origin, selected Corinth as her favourite residence; and so highly was she esteemed, that a magnificent tomb (described by Pausanias) was erected over her remains, and medals struck in commemoration of her beauty! In consequence, Corinth became one of the most luxurious, and also one of the most expensive, places of antiquity, which gave rise to the proverb,—
“Non cuivis homini contingit adire Corinthum.”2
Corinth never fully recovered from the grevious injuries inflicted on her by the Romans under Mummius. But Julius Cæsar having sent a colony thither, she again became a considerable city. Being in all respects better situated than Athens, or indeed any other city of Greece, she should have been selected for the capital of the new kingdom. It would not require any very large outlay to make her citadel all but impregnable. And were a railway or canal carried across the isthmus, she would very probably recover no inconsiderable share of her ancient commerce.
We have already noticed the stimulus given to commerce by the quinquennial fete held at Delos, and by the Isthmian games; and we may add that the Olympian, Pythian, Nemæan, and other games, had a similar influence. They were at once great religious and great civil festivals. They afforded opportunities which could not otherwise have been met with, of learning each other’s wants and superfluities. And the peace and security which then prevailed throughout the Grecian world, made them be resorted to by crowds of dealers, with every variety of goods, from all parts of Greece, and from many distant countries.1
We cannot bring this notice of Grecian commerce to a close without briefly directing the reader’s attention to the commercial history of Rhodes. Perhaps no state of Greece has deserved so well of the trading world. The situation of Rhodes fitted her for becoming an emporium; and her inhabitants did not fail to profit by this circumstance. There were anciently three cities in the island. But during the Peloponnesian war, the greater number of the inhabitants having resolved to settle in some one place, that, by uniting their strength, they might acquire greater security, laid the foundations of the city of Rhodes. It stood on the east coast of the island, and had a commodious harbour, the entrance being formed by two rocks fifty feet asunder.2
Rhodes was fortunate enough to preserve her friendly relations with the belligerent powers, and to be able to prosecute her commerce undisturbed during the whole course of the Peloponnesian war. Having wisely submitted to the irresistible force of Alexander the Great, the Rhodians, after his death, favoured the party of Ptolemy, king of Egypt. This partiality eventually involved them in hostilities with his rival Antigonus, whose son Demetrius, at the head of a powerful armament, besieged the city. The variety and size of the machines employed in this siege, and the ingenuity displayed in their construction, have rendered it one of the most memorable recorded in history; and it deserves to be added, that it furnishes the only example to be found in antiquity, of the establishment of a cartel for the exchange of prisoners. After almost incredible efforts of skill and courage on both sides, Demetrius was forced to give up the enterprise. From this memorable epoch, the Rhodians enjoyed a lengthened course of tranquillity and prosperity. They early became allies of the Roman people; and their rights and liberties were long respected by their powerful patrons. From the period when Demetrius was obliged to evacuate their island, the attention of the Rhodians was principally devoted to commerce and navigation. Polybius states that they had in his time obtained the empire of the sea, and were the most flourishing and opulent commercial state then in existence. They did not exert their power to oppress rival nations, or to prevent them from developing their resources. One of their principal objects was to clear the seas of the pirates with which the Levant has always been infested. This conduct, and their general moderation and fairness, procured them the respect and esteem of other nations. Having suffered very severely from an earthquake which occurred 222 years bc, and which threw down the colossus, Rhodes became an object of universal sympathy. Polybius enumerates some of the valuable presents which she received on this occasion from all the surrounding, and from many distant states, and which rendered her richer and more flourishing than ever.1 That restless and often unprincipled ambition by which most part of the other Grecian states were actuated, rarely troubled the repose of Rhodes, or diverted her citizens from those pursuits in which their industry and maritime skill fitted them to excel. Here, as at Athens and Rome, corn was periodically distributed to the poor; and the rich were obliged, by an ancient custom, to support those who were destitute.2
All antiquity is unanimous in commending the wisdom of the Rhodian laws with respect to navigation. Previously to the formation of their famous code, this important subject was probably either entirely neglected, or at best regulated only by the ill-digested, and often conflicting municipal regulations of different states. The maritime laws of the Rhodians were so highly esteemed that they were adopted into the jurisprudence of Rome, and have, consequently, been transmitted to modern times.1
The reputation of Rhodes as a learned and polished city was also very high. During the latter ages of the republic, and the first ages of the empire, the noble and aspiring youth of Rome resorted in great numbers to her hospitable shores to study science and philosophy. In this respect, indeed, she was preferred by many even to Athens. Among others, Cicero and Pompey studied at Rhodes. Julius Cæsar was taken by pirates when on his way thither; and Tiberius resided on the island for about seven years.2
The extreme prevalence of piracy in the Mediterranean during the period we have been considering may seem a singular phenomenon; but it is easily accounted for. From the infinite number of small independent states founded in Greece, the Grecian islands, the coasts of Asia Minor, Illyria, etc., and from the perpetual contests arising amongst them, a state of things grew up which necessarily led to piracy. Where so many were contending together, it was very difficult to say who had justice on his side, or who was and who was not a pirate, in the modern acceptation of the word. And hence, perhaps, the explanation of the fact that, in the heroic ages, piracy, or the indiscriminate attack of others, was not deemed dishonourable, but was, on the contrary, held in high estimation.3 Menelaus, in the Odyssey,4 boasts that the wealth which he showed to his guests was the result of his piratical expeditions; and they were a source of wealth to very many princes and states. But the advance of civilisation and commerce brought with it juster ideas in regard to piracy. And though, from the universal demand for slaves, and the little attention paid to the means by which they were acquired, piracy was not at any time regarded in Greece in the light in which we regard it, still it was reckoned meritorious to attempt to effect its suppression; and those states which exerted themselves for this purpose were looked upon as public benefactors.
That prejudice against the peaceful pursuits of commerce and manufactures which had so considerable an influence in the Grecian states, was still more strongly felt in Rome. The Romans were a nation of soldiers. The warlike genius of the people, their military education, and the spirit of their laws, concurred in estranging them from industrious undertakings. Commerce was despised. A law was passed, in the year of Rome 535, which prohibited patricians from owning ships of more than a very limited burden (300 amphoræ), because, as Livy says, all gain was held to be discreditable to a senator, quæstus omnis patribus indecorus visus est.1 The higher classes could not openly engage in any branch of commercial or manufacturing industry. And though this prohibition did not directly extend to the inferior class of citizens, it did so indirectly, by stigmatising these pursuits as ignoble or vulgar.2 It was the opinion of the early legislators of Rome, that the citizens should be brought up only to the plough and the sword; that the counter and the shop-board, though ever so necessary, should be consigned to aliens and slaves; that the Roman youth should addict themselves to nothing that might impair their strength or ennervate their courage; and that to scale the breach and strike down the enemy in the sight of the Roman army, was riches and honour, and the only true nobility.1 In such a society the mechanical arts, commerce, and navigation, were necessarily abandoned to slaves, freedmen, provincials, and the very dregs of the populace.
This contempt of industrial occupations, which was natural to a rude, a warlike, and an agricultural people, was not less congenial to its tastes, after it had been enriched by plunder, and had spread its conquests over all the surrounding states. Instead of depending on their own exertions, the Romans trusted to the reluctant labour of slaves, and to subsidies extorted from conquered provinces. They endeavoured not only to make the interminable contests in which they were engaged defray their own expense, but to render them an abundant source of wealth. Rome drew to herself the spoils and tributes of a conquered world; and, in the end, Italy was in the enviable situation of enjoying a nearly total immunity from taxation.
The philosophy, too, of the ancient world contributed to perpetuate anti-industrial prejudices. That taste for refinement, for improved accommodation, and for foreign products, which is an ordinary result of commerce, was reckoned by the ancient moralists an evil of the first magnitude. They necessarily, therefore, looked upon its source with aversion. Hence Cicero, who had mastered all the philosophy of the ancients, speaks very disparagingly of manufacturing and trading pursuits. There can, says he, be nothing ingenuous in a workshop; and he adds that commerce, when conducted on a small scale, is mean and despicable; and, when most extended, barely tolerable—non admodum vituperanda!
In one of the lately discovered fragments of his treatise De Republica, Cicero eulogises the sagacity of Romulus in founding the city of Rome at a distance from the sea; partly because it was less liable to surprise, but principally because it was more likely to escape that demoralisation, and that decay of patriotism and of the martial spirit, which, he says, are distinguishing characteristics of all great sea-port towns. It is needless to say how completely this statement is contradicted by all history; even by the cases of Tyre, Corinth, Syracuse, and Carthage, with which Cicero was well acquainted. But these declamatory harangues in favour of poverty and rusticity did not appear absurd, even in the mouths of those who, like Sallust and Seneca, were indulging in every sort of luxury. They were also, as might be anticipated, a favourite theme of the poets. Virgil has described, as follows, the peculiar destiny and duty of the Romans:—
These apparently lofty, but really narrow and illiberal prejudices, became in the end alike inconvenient and mischievous. Military skill and bravery were for centuries the only means by which distinction could be attained; and hence the contempt of wealth, and the unparalleled energy, fortitude, and perseverance of the Romans. But, to be always at war, there must be enemies to contend with. And after Italy, Carthage, and Macedonia had been subjugated, the martial virtues became of less importance, and were less valued. And while this decline took place, on the one hand, on the other the vast wealth which poured into the city from the conquered provinces produced an entire revolution in the sentiments and habits of all classes, and riches became the grand object of pursuit. When this change took place, or soon after, the estates of the higher classes were mostly cultivated by slaves, under the superintendence of stewards or bailiffs; and being either excluded from those industrial occupations in which they might have employed their time and acquired affluence, or despising them as mean and servile, they were forced to look out for other methods of advancement. The extraordinary eagerness with which the principal offices of the state began about this time to be sought after, was thus, in truth, the result of the novel circumstances under which the candidates were placed. They were not coveted merely as means by which individuals might distinguish themselves and rise to eminence, but as means by which they might support a lavish expenditure, repair ruined fortunes, and amass vast wealth. Though provinces could no longer be conquered, they could be made available for the private advantage of their governors. The rapacity of the Proconsuls, Prætors, Præfects, and other provincial rulers, in the latter ages of the republic, and particularly during the civil wars, was such as almost to surpass belief. The proceedings of Verres in Sicily are known to everybody from their having been made the theme of the indignant invective of Cicero.1 But Verres was not so much an exception to, as a specimen of, the class to which he belonged.2 The disgust occasioned by the intolerable exactions of the governors and tax-gatherers, occasioned the massacre of the Romans in the East; and did much to enable Mithridates to wage a lengthened contest even with their best generals.3 Though curbed and restrained by the emperors, the oppression and extortion practised on the provinces were never effectually put down; and every now and then the grossest abuses were brought to light.
While, however, the patricians disdained the pursuits of manufacture, they were, notwithstanding, by what seems a singular contradiction, at all times prone to engage in the practice of usury. From an early period they endeavoured to multiply their clients, and augment their resources, by the adoption of all those usurious devices which brought discredit on the Jews and Lombards of modern times. And the oppression and hatred thence arising led to frequent and sometimes serious commotions; and stimulated the plebeians in their efforts to limit the power and privileges of the nobles.
The wealth acquired by the plunder of provinces, of allies, and of the public, was usually spent in ostentatious folly and sensual gratifications. The crowds of slaves and other retainers belonging to the Roman grandees, and the magnitude of their expenditure, exceed anything of which history has preserved an account.
The wars in which the Romans were involved with the Carthaginians, and not the desire of extending or protecting trade, first prompted them to aim at maritime power. But though they soon perceived that the dominion of the sea was necessary as a preliminary step to the dominion of the land,1 they looked upon the naval service in a subordinate point of view, and reserved it for those citizens who, not being worth 400 drachmas, were not admitted into the legions.2 Nothing, however, can set the opinions entertained by the Romans with respect to naval affairs in a more striking point of view than their conduct on becoming masters of the ships of their enemies. Sometimes, as in the case of the vessels taken from Gentius, king of Illyria, they presented them to their allies;3 but their usual practice was to commit them to the flames. Livy has noticed the grief of the Carthaginians when, at the end of the second Punic War, the Romans burned fifty of their principal ships.1 In so far as related to maritime affairs, they relied less on their superior strength for security, than on the impotency of others.
This barbarous policy led to some very undesirable results. During the most flourishing period of the republic, the Mediterranean was infested with pirates, who plundered the merchant ships of all nations, and paid but little respect to the majesty of the Roman flag. These mauraders belonged partly to the Balearic islands, partly to Illyria and Epirus, partly to Crete, and partly, and chiefly, to the coasts of Asia Minor, Cilicia being their principal stronghold and headquarters. Their depredations were conducted on an extensive and systematic plan. They had above 1,000 ships of different sizes, with watch-towers, arsenals, and magazines. And being formed into a species of commonwealth, they elected magistrates and officers, who distributed their naval force into fleets, assigned to each its proper duty and station, and gave unity and consistency to their operations. Emboldened by their success, and by the occupation afforded to the Romans by Mithridates, they ravaged the whole line of the Italian coast, sacked the towns and temples, the villas and country seats on the sea-shore, and carried off the inhabitants, whom they ransomed or sold as slaves. Nay, such was their audacity, that they blockaded the entrance to the Tiber, destroyed a Roman fleet within the port of Ostia, and even threatened the “eternal city,” which they more than once deprived of its accustomed supplies of provisions.2 To make head against this enormous and rapidly increasing evil, Pompey was invested with the proconsulate of the Mediterranean, and with the absolute command of that sea and of the adjoining coasts, to the extent of fifty miles inland. And though by his vigour and activity he succeeded in repressing the evil for a time, it was far from being completely abated. During the subsequent civil wars, the pirates re-appeared in great force. The leaders in the struggle were glad to avail themselves of their services. And the younger Pompey having joined their fleets to his own, and put himself at their head, became the most formidable of all the antagonists of Augustus.
After the battle of Actium, and the final triumph of Augustus, he lost no time in taking such measures as seemed best fitted to ensure the command of the Mediterranean, and to protect the commerce of the empire. For this purpose, he organised two powerful fleets, one of which was appointed to rendezvous at Ravenna on the Adriatic, and the other at Misenum, in the bay of Naples. The former was destined to command the eastern, the latter the western, division of the Mediterranean. Each of these squadrons had its own separate commanders; and to each was attached a force of several thousand men. Besides these two ports, on the improvement of which Augustus expended large sums, and which may be considered as the principal stations of the Roman navy, a considerable squadron was stationed at Frejus on the coast of Provence, and the Euxine was guarded by about forty ships and 3,000 men. To these have to be added a squadron stationed near Alexandria, another on the Red Sea for the protection of the Indian trade, another to preserve the communication between Gaul and Britain, and a number of smaller vessels on the Rhine and the Danube, with others employed in different subsidiary services.1
Originally the common legionary soldiers were in the habit of serving, when required, with little or no previous training, on board ships of war, handling the oar at one time and their shields and swords at another. The inconvenience of this practice having become obvious, a peculiar description of men (classiarii) began to be raised for the sea-service, being a sort of half seamen and half soldiers. Though quartered on shore, they were instructed in seamanship, and were ready to embark on the shortest notice. Inasmuch, however, as this service was not reckoned so honourable as that of the land, an inferior class engaged in it, and it was sometimes performed by manumitted slaves.1
The conveyance of corn and other articles of provision to the capital, formed the most important branch of Roman commerce, and was placed under the especial care of the government. The contiguous territory was at no time sufficient to supply Rome with corn; and long before the republican constitution was subverted, supplies were brought from distant countries. As the population of the city increasd, and the former corn-fields were converted into pleasure-grounds and pasture, the demand for corn was proportionally increased, and the supply from Italy proportionally diminished.
The onerous and difficult task of making good this deficiency, and of furnishing a quantity of corn adequate to the wants of the metropolis, was not, however, the only duty connected with this matter which devolved on the Roman magistrates. At all times corn had to be sold at a reasonable price. And according as the city population increased, and political power became more and more diffused, the practice began to grow up of distributing corn gratis to the indigent portion of the community. At first this gratuitous donation appears to have taken place only on peculiar occasions, such as the election to high office of some rich, ambitious, or powerful party, who wished to extend his popularity or influence. But the practice, once begun, afforded too easy a means of seducing and corrupting the public to be relinquished. The policy in regard to it was not, however, by any means uniform. Sometimes the quantity of corn which individuals might receive from the public warehouses was varied; sometimes it was sold to them at a certain low rate, and sometimes at another; sometimes it was supplied gratuitously; and sometimes the number of persons entitled to receive it was restricted. In general, it may be observed that all the more able and intelligent statesmen were fully aware of its pernicious influence over agriculture1 and over the industry and well-being of the population, of its tendency to increase, and of the serious inroad which it made on the public revenue.2 The vigour and ability of the government might, indeed, be inferred from the nature and extent of the restrictions which were laid on the donations of corn. But the practice was too universal, and the popularis aura too dependent on a bountiful supply of this necessary, to admit of its being subjected to any lasting or efficient regulation. Every weak or unpopular ruler endeavoured to strengthen his position, or to acquire or regain the public favour, by the magnitude of his largesses of corn. And the most powerful of the emperors, and those least disposed to pander to the wishes of the mob, never attempted to abolish its public distribution. The most they dared to do, was to raise the price at which it was sold, or to reduce the number of recipients. And latterly but little could be done even in this way. The cry of panem et circenses was too powerful to be resisted. Nothing, indeed, was so appalling to the government as an apprehended scarcity of corn. And every device was resorted to that could ensure the delivery of adequate supplies.
The office of Præfectus Annonæ, that is, of the magistrate charged with the superintendence of the corn-trade, became of the highest importance. It was held by Pompey, Cæsar, and Augustus. And succeeding emperors did not consider that their dignity was compromised by adding to their other titles what we should call that of commissary-general of corn.
Numerous estimates have been formed of the quantity of corn imported into Rome for gratuitous, or nearly gratuitous, distribution. But the subject is involved in almost inextricable difficulties, and none of them are entitled to much weight. At one time Cæsar is said to have limited the number of recipients to 150,000. But not long after his assassination, they had increased to 320,000; and were again reduced by Augustus to 200,000. And as each recipient is said to have received 60 modii, or 14¼ bushels2 a-year, the entire annual consumption would be 2,850,000 bushels. But the number of recipients, and probably also the supply allotted to each, was perpetually varying. If, however, we take 300,000 for the ordinary number of the former, and 14¼ bushels as their average allowance, the annual distribution would amount to 4,275,000 bushels, or 534,000 quarters.
It has been said that though 14 bushels was an ample allowance for an individual, it was too little for a family. The probability, however, seems to be (for there is nothing else to go by), that free males only, of the age of five and six years and upwards, were included in the list of recipients; and that women and slaves were excluded from it. Senators, knights, and foreigners were also excluded. The degree of destitution necessary to entitle a party to be put on the free corn list is not stated, and no doubt was very undefined. But it is expressly mentioned that destitution, independent altogether of character,1 was a sufficient title to this public bounty. Besides what was distributed gratuitously, corn was frequently sold, especially in times of dearth, by government to all classes, at reduced prices.
In addition to the quantities required for gratuitous distribution, large quantities of corn were imported into Rome for sale. It is impossible to say what proportion of the whole was supplied by Italy, and what by the provinces. But it is probable that by far the largest share was furnished by the latter. Perhaps, if we estimate the population of Rome at 1,200,000,2 the provincial imports, which were wholly by sea, would not, in ordinary years, be less than 800,000 or 1,000,000 quarters. These, it will be observed, consisted wholly of wheat and barley; the latter being comparatively inconsiderable. It was principally, or rather perhaps altogether, brought from the countries round the Mediterranean, exclusive of the Black Sea.
This supply of corn was obtained in various ways: partly, and principally, by contributions imposed on Sicily, Mauritania, Egypt, and other corn-growing countries, which were obliged to furnish certain quantities gratuitously, or at specified prices, which were always considerably below the market prices at the time; and it was partly, also, purchased by government agents, especially in scarce years, and private parties, in the markets where it was to be met with.3
Down to the time of the emperor Claudius, great difficulty was experienced in importing corn into the Tiber from the badness of the old harbour of Ostia, opened by Ancus Martius. In consequence, ships were frequently obliged to discharge their cargoes at Puteoli, in Campania, a great way from Rome. Julius Cæsar, it is said, had determined to obviate this serious inconvenience by constructing a new and more accessible harbour at Ostia. The design appears, however, to have been laid aside; and was not revived till a famine, which raged at Rome in the reign of Claudius, obliged him to take measures for the accomplishment of this necessary improvement. A spacious basin was accordingly dug in the mainland, the entrance to which was formed and protected by moles projecting into the sea. It is also stated, that, to facilitate the access to the port, a light-house, in imitation of the Pharos of Alexandria, was constructed near its mouth.1
But the accumulation of the sand and mud brought down by the river, which had destroyed the ancient port of Ostia, immediately began to affect the harbour of Claudius, which shortly became unfit to receive vessels of such considerable burden as many of those engaged in the corn trade. To remedy this defect, a new port was constructed by the emperor Trajan at Centum Cellæ, now Civita Vecchia, about thirty-eight miles W.N.W. Rome. And such was the judgment evinced in the selection of its site, and such the skill and solidity displayed in the contrivance and execution of the works, that Civita Vecchia continues to this day to be the port of Rome; and is, indeed, one of the best harbours on the west coast of Italy. It is formed by a breakwater, which has now the appearance of an island, constructed, as we learn from Pliny, precisely in the same way as the breakwaters in Plymouth Sound and at Cherbourg.1 Vessels leaving this port with a favourable breeze, were carried in about seven days to the Pillars of Hercules, and in nine or ten to Alexandria, in Egypt.
After the conquest of the latter, it became one of the principal granaries from which Rome first, and afterwards Constantinople, were supplied. Augustus paid the most marked, and indeed jealous attention, to everything that tended to consolidate and secure the Roman power in Egypt, to increase the supplies which it furnished of corn, and to render its conveyance from Alexandria to Rome safe and regular.2 In this view he established a fleet of merchantmen, of a larger size than any that had previously been employed in the Mediterranean, for the importation of the corn of Egypt. This fleet was protected by an escort of ships of war. It received the names of sacra and felix embola, and enjoyed several peculiar privileges. Among these, Seneca includes the right, which could only be exercised by the corn ships from Africa, of hoisting the small top-sail called supparum when they approached the coasts of Italy. Some of the fast-sailing vessels attached to the fleet were sent forward to give notice of its approach; and a deputation of senators went down to Ostia, Puteoli, or Centum Cellæ, as the case might be, to receive the fleet, which anchored amid the acclamations of the spectators. The captains of the ships were obliged to make oath that the corn which they had on board was that which had been delivered to them in Egypt, and that the cargoes were entire as shipped.3
In addition to the corn imported by the regular fleets, the greatest encouragement was given to its importation by private parties. Tiberius, on occasions of scarcity, gave a high bounty on the corn imported into Ostia. And during the famine to which we have already alluded, Claudius pledged himself to give the importers of corn such a bounty as should yield them an adequate profit, after every expense to which they might be put was deducted. He also endeavoured to make corn be imported during winter, by offering to take upon himself whatever losses the merchants might sustain from risking their ships at sea during a season when it was the invariable practice to lay them up. And farther to encourage importation, Claudius conferred the freedom of the city on all who built ships of the moderate burden of 10,000 modii (about 2,500 bushels) of corn, and who employed them for six years in the corn trade. The extraordinary importance attached to large importations of corn, especially if a scarcity were averted or stayed by their means, is also evinced by the fact that it was customary, from a very early period, to issue medals in commemoration of the circumstance.1
Some of the ancient writers mention that Augustus was so sensible of the value of Egypt, that he had resolved to annex Ethiopia, or Abyssinia, to the empire, not on account of its intrinsic worth, but because it had been reported to him that the Ethiopians had it in their power to render Egypt a desert by diverting the waters of the Nile, to which it owes all its fertility, into another channel. And, singular as it may seem, this destructive project would appear to have been repeatedly entertained. At all events, it is said to have been seriously contemplated by Albuquerque, the famous Portuguese viceroy, in revenge of the conduct of the Egyptian sultan, who had, at the instigation of the Venetians, opposed the establishment of the Portuguese in India.2
Besides being the source whence Rome derived her principal supplies of corn, the possession of Egypt was in other respects of much importance. The paper of antiquity, prepared from the papyrus, a plant found in the pools and ditches communicating with the Nile, was her peculiar product. She also furnished a large amount of revenue; and was the centre of the most extensive foreign trade carried on in the Roman dominions, or indeed in the ancient world. “Rome,” says Robertson, “enriched with the spoils and the tribute of almost all the known world, had acquired a taste for luxuries of every kind. Among people of this description, the productions of India have always been held in the highest estimation. The capital of the greatest empire ever established in Europe, filled with citizens who had now no occupation but to enjoy and dissipate the wealth accumulated by their ancestors, demanded everything rare, elegant, or costly, which that remote region could furnish, in order to support its pomp or heighten its pleasures. To supply this demand, new and extraordinary efforts became requisite; and the trade with India increased to a degree that was hitherto unknown.”1
This trade was carried on, down to the reign of the emperor Claudius, nearly in the ancient mode. The ships engaged in it, after leaving Myos-Hormos, Berenice, and other Egyptian ports on the Red Sea, appear, on entering the Indian Ocean, to have sailed along the coast of Arabia, touching at Aden, Canè, and other emporiums, till they arrived at its south-eastern promontory (now Cape Ras-el-Had), whence they sometimes steered north-west to the Persian Gulph, and sometimes crossed the sea to the country near the months of the Indus, or waited for the ships from thence. It is singular that, in making this voyage, neither the Phœnician, Egyptian, nor Greek sailors should have availed themselves of the assistance which the regular recurrence of the trade-winds affords for getting to and returning from India. But at length, in the reign of Claudius, Hippalus, the commander of a vessel from Egypt, having, either through accident or design, left the promontory of Syagros (now Cape Fartaque), on the coast of Southern Arabia, was carried by the western monsoon direct to Zigeris (probably the modern Jayghur), on the Malabar coast; whence he returned, after a prosperous navigation, by the eastern monsoon. And the voyage was soon after still further abridged, by sailing direct from Ocelis, at the mouth of the Arabic Gulph, to Musiris, which is perhaps identical with Mangalore, in Canara.1 The memory of the discoverer of this new route was perpetuated by giving his name to the wind which had borne him to India. And the facility which it afforded for carrying on an intercourse with that distant region was so great, that the previous route by Cape Ras-el-Had was comparatively deserted. From this remote epoch down to the voyage of Vasco de Gama round the Cape of Good Hope, in 1497, the course followed by Hippalus continued, with little variation, to be the pathway of the commerce between Europe and India. And now, by a not less remarkable revolution, that commerce, after having deserted it for more than 340 years, has again partially reverted to this ancient and direct channel. We may add, that, including the river navigation and land carriage in Egypt, a voyage from Alexandria to Musiris, and back again, was usually accomplished in about twelve-months. But, thanks to the improvement of navigation and the introduction of steam, the voyage from England to India, by Alexandria, is now accomplished in less than half the time the Egyptians formerly consumed in sailing thither from Berenice.2
There is no evidence to show, and perhaps little ground for supposing, that any of the vessels from Egypt that traded with Musiris, and other ports on the Malabar coast, made any exploratory voyages, or that they were ever seen on the farther coast of India. They were met at Musiris by caravans bringing produce by land, and by vessels from the contiguous ports, and probably, also, from those on the Bay of Bengal. And notwithstanding the difficulties under which it was carried, on, and the limited knowledge which those engaged in it had of India and its markets, the trade was such that even now it would appear to be of considerable magnitude and importance.
Egypt suffered much from the revolutions, disorders, and excesses of all sorts, which prevailed during the reigns of the degenerate Ptolemies preceding its conquest by the Romans. It is most probable that its commerce with the East partook of the general depression. But after the vigorous government of Augustus had put down abuses, and introduced good order, Egypt became more prosperous than ever. Strabo mentions that, in the preceding reigns, only twenty ships sailed from the Arabic Gulph for India, whereas, under Augustus, no fewer than one hundred and twenty ships annually cleared out for that continent.1 The customs-duties on the commodities which they exported and imported produced a large revenue, at the same time that new sources of wealth were opened to those who had enterprise and activity enough to profit by them. Horace, it is probable, had this extraordinary development of the trade with India in view when he says,—
The principal articles of importation into Rome from the East may be comprised under the heads of spices and aromatics, precious stones, pearls, ivory and silk.
The immense number of temples devoted to religious purposes in the ancient world, and the custom of burning frankincense and other costly spices on all grand festivals, occasioned their consumption in large quantities. But their expenditure in the gratification of vanity and ostentation far exceeded their expenditure in honour of the gods. The fashionable ladies of Greece and Rome were so perfumed with costly unguents, that their odour attracted the attention of those by whom they were not seen. On great occasions, and especially at the funeral of an emperor, or other illustrious personage, the outlay on spices surpassed all bounds. The body, and the funeral pile on which it was laid to be burned, were covered with the finest and most expensive varieties. To such an extent was this extravagance sometimes carried, that a greater quantity of spice is said to have been burned at the funeral of Poppœa, the mistress of Nero, than Arabia Felix produced in a year.1
But though principally, these spices were not wholly, supplied by Arabia. The balsam, said by Pliny to be the choicest of all aromatics, was a product peculiar to Judæa, being originally grown only in two small gardens belonging to its ancient kings. In their final struggle with the Romans, the Jews endeavoured to destroy the plants which furnished the balsam. But they were defeated in the attempt, and the shrub was exhibited, with the other spoils of Judæa, in the triumph of Titus. The balsam was thereafter included among the tributes of the Roman people.2
In addition to those furnished by Arabia and Judæa, spices were imported from India, Ethiopia, and Ceylon. Whether any came from the Moluccas it is impossible to say.
Precious stones and pearls were probably, next to spices, the most valuable of the articles supplied by the East to Rome. The art of cutting diamonds was imperfectly known to the ancients; but they held, notwithstanding, a high place in their estimation, though not so high as that which they hold in ours. The values of these and other gems varied according to the differences in their size and qualities, the diversity of tastes, and the caprices of fashion. The immense number of precious stones mentioned by Pliny, and the care with which he describes and arranges them, show how much they were prized by his countrymen.
But of all the articles of luxury and ostentation known to the Romans, pearls seem to have been the most esteemed. Principium culmenque omnium rerum pretii margaritœ tenent.3 They were worn on all parts of the dress; and such was the diversity of their size, purity, and value, that they were found to suit all classes, from those of middling to those of the most colossal fortune. The famous pearl ear-rings of Cleopatra are said to have been worth about £160,000; and Julius Cæsar is reported to have presented Servilia, the mother of Brutus, with a pearl for which he had paid above £48,000. And though no reasonable doubt can be entertained in regard to the extreme exaggeration of these and similar statements,1 the fact that the largest and finest pearls brought immense prices is beyond all question. It has been said, that the wish to become master of the pearls with which it was supposed to abound, was one of the motives which induced Julius Cæsar to invade Britain.2 But though a good many were met with in various parts of the country, they were of little or no value, being small and ill-coloured, subfusca ac liventia.3 After pearls and diamonds, the emerald held the highest place in the estimation of the Romans.
Pliny appears to have been rather intolerant of the finery in which the Roman ladies were disposed to indulge. He says that he had looked with astonishment at Lollia Paulina, the dowager of Caligula, whose head-dress, necklace, and bracelets, consisting of pearls, emeralds, and other precious stones, cost forty millions sesterces, or about £320,000!4 And yet, despite this contempt of expense, the richest Romans were destitute of various articles which the poorest individuals amongst us regard as indispensable. Lollia had neither shifts nor stockings; and even the windows in the imperial palaces were without glass.
The famous murrhine cups, vasa murrhina, with respect to which there has been so much learned, though not very satisfactory discussion, were first brought to Rome from the East by Pompey about sixty-four years before the Christian æra. They were used as drinking cups, and fetched enormous prices; Nero having given, according to the common method of interpreting, £58,000 for a single cup! The extravagance of the purchaser may, in this instance, be supposed to have increased the price; so that the degree of estimation in which they were held may be more accurately inferred from the fact that, of all the rich spoils of Alexandria, Augustus was content to select one for his share.1 Pliny2 says they were made in Persia, particularly in Karamania. Those who contend they were China ware, chiefly found on the following line of Propertius:—
“Murrheaque in Parthis poculacocta focis.”3
In despite, however, of this apparently decisive authority, Le Bland and Larcher, in two very learned dissertations,4 which Robertson has declared are quite satisfactory, have endeavoured to prove that the vasa murrhina were formed of transparent stone dug out of the earth in some Eastern provinces, and that they were imitated in vessels of coloured glass.5 Dr Vincent6 inclines to the opposite opinion; but the weight of authority is evidently on the side of his opponents. At all events, it is plain that if the murrhine cups were really porcelain, it had been exceedingly scarce at Rome, as their price would otherwise have been comparatively moderate. But it is most probable that the ancients were wholly unacquainted with this article; which, indeed, was but little known in Europe till after the discovery of the route to India by the Cape of Good Hope.
Silk was introduced into Rome as early as the age of Pompey and Cæsar; but though greatly admired by the public, and often mentioned by the Greek and Roman authors, they had not, for several centuries after its use became common, any certain knowledge either of the countries whence it came, or of the manner in which it was produced. Some supposed it to be a fine down adhering to the leaves of certain trees or flowers; others imagined it to be a variety of wool or cotton; and even those who had learned that it was the product of an insect, show by their descriptions that they had no accurate idea of the mode of its formation.1
For a lengthened period its price was quite exorbitant. It was deemed a dress too expensive and delicate for men, and was wholly appropriated to ladies of the highest rank and opulence. In the reign of Tiberius, a law was passed, ne vestis serica viros fœdaret—that no man should disgrace himself by wearing a silken garment.2 But Heliogabalus despised this law, and was the first of the Cæsars who, in the words of Gibbon, “sullied the dignity of an emperor and a man,” by wearing a dress composed wholly of silk (holosericum). The example once set, the custom of wearing silk soon became general among the wealthy citizens of Rome, and throughout the provinces. According as the demand for the article increased, efforts were made to import larger quantities; and the price seems to have progressively declined from the reign of Aurelian, when it is said to have been valued at its weight in gold. That this must have been the case, is obvious from the statement of Ammianus Marcellinus, that silk was in his time (anno 370) very generally worn, even by the lowest classes. Sericum ad usum antehac nobilium, nunc etiam infimorum sine ullâ discretione proficiens.3
China continued to draw considerable sums from the Roman empire in return for silk, now become indispensable to the western world, till the 6th century. About the year 550, two Persian monks, who had long resided in China and made themselves acquainted with the mode of rearing the silk-worm and the preparation of its products, encouraged by the gifts and promises of Justinian, succeeded in carrying the eggs of the insect to Constantinople. Under their direction they were hatched and fed; they lived and laboured in a foreign climate; a sufficient number of butterflies was saved to propagate the race, and mulberry trees were planted to afford nourishment to the rising generations. A new and important branch of industry was thus established in Europe. Experience and reflection gradually corrected the errors of a new attempt. And the Sogdoite ambassadors acknowledged in the succeeding reign, that the Romans were not inferior to the natives of China in the education of the insects, and the manufacture of silk.1
In addition to the great articles now mentioned, the ivory of Ethiopia and India,2 with the cottons, sugar, and drugs of the latter, were brought to Rome. So early as the time of Herodotus, the Greeks were aware that the Indians prepared cloth of wool obtained from a plant.3 And cotton is farther noticed by Arrian after Nearchus,4 by Strabo,5 and by Pliny, who commends, the whiteness and softness of the cloth manufactured from the plant in upper Egypt, nec ulla sunt iis candore mollitiâve præferenda.6 It is probable, therefore, that small quantities of cottons found their way to Italy from the time when the Romans began to trade with Alexandria. But there is no reason to think that they ever were common, or in much request in Rome. It would appear from the Periplus of the Erythræan sea that Indian cottons were principally exported from Baragyza, now Baroche, in the gulph of Cambay. But they were no doubt found in all the ports visited by ships from Egypt.
The knowledge which the ancients possessed of sugar, was if possible still more defective than that which they possessed of silk. They appear to have thought that it was found adhering to the cane, or that it issued from it in the state of juice, and then concreted like gum. Indeed, Lucan expressly alludes to Indians near the Ganges,—
“Quique bibunt tenerâ dulces ab arundine succos.”1
But these statements are evidently without foundation. Sugar cannot be obtained from the cane without the aid of art. It is never found native. Instead of flowing from the plant, it must be forcibly expressed, and then subjected to a variety of processes. It is not, however, quite so clear as has been generally supposed that the Romans were wholly unacquainted with the mode of procuring sugar. The remarkable line of Statius,—
“Et quas percoquit Ebusia cannas,”2
has been conjectured, apparently on pretty good grounds, to refer to the boiling of the juice of the cane. But the passage has been differently read, and is too enigmatical to be much depended on.
Pliny in describing sugar, says that it is brittle between the teeth, dentibus fragile;3 and from this and similar passages, Moseley conjectured, that the sugar known at Rome, was sugar-candy obtained from China. And it would seem that the preparation of sugar-candy has been understood and practised in China from a very remote antiquity; and that large quantities of it have been in all ages exported to India, whence, it is most probable, small quantities were brought to Rome.4
The route by Egypt and the Red Sea, though the principal, was not the only channel through which an intercourse was formerly carried on between the East and Europe. At a very early period, the products of the former were conveyed from Bactria and Persia to the Caspian Sea; and thence, partly by land and partly by water, across the intervening territory, to the embouchure of the Phasis in the Euxine. From this latter point the goods were forwarded to Constantinople, and to Sinope and other parts on the Black Sea.1 There were also other routes by which caravans made their way from Persia and Syria to the Euxine, and to Smyrna and other ports of Asia Minor. Constantinople drew, for some centuries before her fall, a large portion of her supplies of eastern products through these routes.
The commerce of the Romans during the flourishing period of the republic and the empire, was partly carried on with ordinary products, and partly with gold and silver. The papyrus of the Nile, the glass of Diospolis, the linen and tapestry of Alexandria, vases of various sorts, with iron, lead, tin, oil, wine, wool, and other products, from Italy and Europe generally, were exported from Egypt to Arabia, India, and other eastern countries. These, however, do not appear to have been equivalent to the articles imported; and hence, in spite of repeated prohibitions to the contrary, the precious metals were annually exported in considerable quantities to India. Tiberius complained to the senate that the wealth of the state was irrecoverably consigned to foreign and hostile nations, in exchange for luxuries and female ornaments.2 And Pliny computes the annual drain for cash to India only for the same objects at fifty millions sesterces, or £400,000;3 and to India, China, and Arabia at double that sum, or at about £800,000 a-year.4 And he farther adds, that the articles were sold, when brought to Italy, for a hundred times their original cost; that is, for the incredible sum of £80,000,000! Most probably, indeed, Pliny’s estimate of the sums exported to the East is exaggerated. But whether that be so or not, the rate of increase at which he supposes them to be sold should be looked upon merely as a rhetorical mode of saying that their price was very greatly increased in the transit from India and Arabia. The statement is too extravagant to admit of any other interpretation. If the addition made to the value of the Eastern products, in their way to Rome, were estimated at five or six times their prime cost, that is, if they were supposed to be worth in the latter £4,000,000 or £4,800,000, there is every probability that it would not be within, but very materially beyond, the mark.
But whatever may have been the drain of the precious metals to the East, there is no ground for supposing that it had the bad effects which have been attributed to it by Mengotti1 and others. It was not the exportation of bullion, but other and very different causes, the reliance placed by the Romans on tributes and subsidies, their contempt for industrious pursuits, and the incurable defects in their provincial administration, which hindered the improvement of agriculture and the useful arts, and ultimately occasioned the impoverishment and dismemberment of the empire. The dread of being deprived of an adequate supply of bullion was as visionary then as now. Silver was the metal principally exported to India. And while there is no reason to suppose that gold had become scarcer, Gibbon has shown that the proportion which it bore to silver in the time of Pliny, was considerably increased in the reign of Constantine. Whatever, therefore, may have been the amount of the Arabian and Indian imports, they did not deprive the empire of a sufficient stock of the precious metals. The influx of the latter from other quarters, and the produce of the mines, sufficed to meet the demands for foreign payments, without lessening the home supply, or increasing their value.2
Although, however, the genius of the Roman people was averse from commercial pursuits, the vast extent of their empire, the various nations which it comprised, and the protection which its government afforded to all individuals, made it the theatre of a considerable internal trade. The union among nations was never so entire, nor their intercourse so secure, as within the limits of this great empire. The whole civilised world was subjected to a uniform and well-digested system of law, which, though sometimes “violated by power, and perverted by subtlety and venality,” preserved a degree of order and security that was elsewhere unknown. Commerce was not obstructed by the jealousies of rival states, interrupted by frequent hostilities, or limited by partial restrictions. It was left to be carried on, with but little interference on the part of government, under a system of free and open competition.
But notwithstanding these peculiarly favourable circumstances, the trade of the Roman world was confined within much narrower limits than we might at first be inclined to anticipate. A little attention will, however, suffice to show that it could not be otherwise. In modern times, the subdivision of employments is everywhere carried to a very great extent; and there are but few individuals, even of the humblest classes, who are not indebted to others, and those frequently foreigners, for by far the largest portion of the articles required for their consumption. And hence the universal diffusion and vast extent of modern commerce. But in antiquity a different order of things prevailed. The labouring class consisted principally of slaves, who were supplied with little but necessaries; and these were mostly produced on the estates or in the families to which they belonged. Domestic manufactures were universally established. And it is, perhaps, needless to add, that where they exist there can be little or no trade. “Almost every profession, either liberal or mechanical, might be found in the household of an opulent senator.”1 And it was not unusual, both in Athens and Rome, for rich individuals to have large bodies of slaves trained to different businesses, which they let to others or to the state. These, however, were but seldom engaged in what we should call manufacturing establishments; but were mostly hired to serve in some sort of menial capacity. And hence, with the exception of the corn and provision trade of Rome and some other great cities, but few branches of commerce could be said to originate in, or to be materially promoted by, the demand of the bulk of the population. And though the aristocratical classes were rich and numerous, yet as the leading articles of their food and clothing were principally or wholly supplied by their slaves and dependants, they had little to buy other than rare and costly articles of luxurious consumption and enjoyment, such as the various products of the East, and the choicest specimens of art. But in the aggregate, the amount of these would be much less than is commonly supposed. The aristocracy of England, like that of Rome, is a very large body, and is possessed of immense wealth. But when compared with the rest of the community, its riches and expenditure become all but evanescent quantities. And supposing that the outlay of all parties belonging to this country, who have £5,000 or £6,000 a-year and upwards, were suddenly to cease, the effect upon the national revenue and trade would hardly be perceptible. But in antiquity it was quite different. In the Roman economy, slaves occupied the place which labourers occupy amongst us; and while the middle class was comparatively circumscribed, it sold little and bought little. Without the freedom of the lower classes, and the extensive subdivision of employments, it is impossible, whatever may be its advantages in other respects, that any country can attain to opulence or distinction in manufactures or trade.
The public revenue of the Romans, though principally derived from the tributes imposed on the conquered provinces, was also in part derived from duties on merchandise, and other sources. The portoria, or customs payable on the commodities imported into and exported from the different ports of the empire, formed an ancient and considerable branch of the national revenue. They were imposed, as Tacitus has observed, when the spirit of liberty was highest among the people. A consulibus et tribunis plebis institutæ; acri etiam populi Romani tum libertate. The rates at which the duties were charged were fluctuating and various, and little is now known with respect to them. The most complete list of foreign articles on which customs duties were levied, is to be found in the law compiled by Marcian, relating to the duties to be imposed on goods imported from the East into Egypt.1 Bouchaud has given a learned, elaborate, and tedious commentary on the various articles mentioned in this law.2
It may be justly said of the Romans that they never have been equalled in the difficult art of effacing national and local prejudices, and of consolidating different and distant nations into one homogeneous people. Much of their success in this respect is due to their colonies and high roads. No country was considered as fully subjugated till colonies of Roman citizens were established in it, and till highways, communicating with those leading from Rome, had been carried to its remotest extremities. The former served at once to overawe and bridle the conquered people, and to communicate to them the language and the arts of the conquerors; while the latter served as channels to convey information from and to the imperial city, and by which the victorious legions could be marched wherever disturbance or danger was apprehended. But the military and political influence of those establishments, how powerful soever, was not greater than their influence in diffusing civilisation, and in promoting the intercourse of the different provinces. Hence the intimate relation that subsisted among the various parts of the Roman empire, and which was said to give it more the appearance of a city than of a vast territory stretching from the Euphrates to the Severn, and from Atlas to the Rhine.
The roads were accurately divided by mile-stones, and ran in a direct line from one city to another, with very little respect either for the obstacles of nature, or of private property. Mountains were perforated, and bridges thrown over the broadest and most rapid streams. Such was the solidity of their construction, that they have not entirely yielded to the effort of fifteen centuries. Posts were established along all the great lines of road. Houses, provided with an adequate number of horses, were erected at the distance of every five or six miles, so that, with the help of these relays, it was easy to travel a hundred miles a day along the Roman roads. Though originally intended only for the public service, the use of the post was afterwards indulged to the business or conveniency of private citizens.2
From the foundation of Constantinople, ad 324,3 the trade which had previously centered at Rome, as well as its political importance, gradually declined. The situation of the former, on the narrow straits separating Europe from Asia, and uniting the Mediterranean with the Euxine, is one of the finest that can be imagined; and is infinitely preferable, in a commercial point of view, to that of the old capital of the empire. For a considerable period a large portion of the revenues of the Roman world was brought to the new city. And after the Western Empire had been overrun and subjugated by the barbarians, Constantinople continued to be the metropolis of many rich and fertile provinces. But, during the latter portion of its existence, the dominions of the Eastern Empire were much curtailed, and its population, alike effeminate and worthless, could hardly lay claim to a single manly virtue. The city, however, not having suffered from hostile irruptions, had a large population, great wealth, and numerous manufactures. It was also the grand mart for the products of the East. These it received partly from Alexandria, and partly by the route, already noticed, by the Caspian and the Black Sea. Till the merchants of Venice, Amalphi, and other free cities appeared in the field, the whole trade of Europe in Eastern commodities was in the hands of the Greeks. And though it had greatly fallen off from what it had been in the flourishing ages of the Western Empire, it still continued to be far from inconsiderable. When the crusaders visited Constantinople, they were much struck with its magnitude, the magnificence of its public buildings, and the riches of the inhabitants.
The population of Constantinople, like that of Rome, was for some centuries principally supported on corn imported by government, and either distributed gratis, or sold at a comparatively low price. It was partly brought from Egypt, and partly from the Black Sea. The exports from the former fell off greatly in the lengthened interval between Augustus and Justinian; but the increase in those from the Black Sea helped to balance this deficiency. After a long decline and agony, the Greek empire finally expired on the 29th May 1453, when Constantinople fell, by assault, into the hands of the Turks.
ITALIAN COMMERCE IN THE MIDDLE AGES.
During the gloomy period of the subversion of the Roman empire, and the establishment of the barbarians in its different provinces, the ancient commerce of the world was all but wholly annihilated. The Romans had never penetrated to any considerable extent into the territories of the Germans and other northern nations; and the little intercourse carried on with the frontier tribes had but a slight influence over those that were at a greater distance. The latter were, for the most part, rude in the extreme, being wholly destitute of literature, and but very imperfectly acquainted with even the most necessary arts. Their bravery and thirst for conquest was accompanied with the greatest cruelty and contempt for the subjugated people, who were everywhere reduced to a state of slavery. The lands, with their inhabitants, were divided among the conquerors. And the feudal system was merely a device, not unskilfully contrived, for perpetuating the dominion of the latter by forming them into a militia commanded by the chieftains or great lords. Industry of all sorts was despised. And the perpetually recurring contests between neighbouring and rival lords afforded a pretext and an excuse for every crime.
Though they had many things in common, still there were wide and well-marked differences among the conquering tribes. And as the most violent animosities frequently subsisted amongst them, after they had established themselves in particular countries or districts, they guarded their frontiers with unwearied vigilance. Strangers were considered in nearly the same light as enemies. Commerce was limited to an exchange of the most necessary articles. Even when confined to the same country, it was prosecuted under the greatest difficulties. The merchant and his goods were exposed to the attacks of banditti, while the nobles were in the habit of imposing and exacting oppressive tolls on those passing through their territories.1 At sea matters were, if possible, even worse than upon land. Piracy was everywhere prevalent; and was again regarded, as in the heroic ages, as honourable and praiseworthy. Shipwrecked mariners were uniformly enslaved, and their property seized by the lords of the inhospitable shores on which it had been cast away.1 Nay, such was the almost inconceivable barbarism of the times, that it was not uncommon for divines to prostitute religious worship by praying that the adjacent coasts might be enriched with shipwrecks.2
The steps by which Europe emerged from this abyss of barbarism have been traced by Robertson, Guizot, and other eminent writers. But notwithstanding the depth and universality of the darkness by which it was overshadowed, parts of Italy, and the other countries adjoining the Mediterranean, preserved some small portion of their ancient acquaintance with the arts, and with trade and navigation. And the free cities round its shores being the first to distinguish themselves by the successful prosecution of these kindred branches, became, in consequence, the earliest sources of modern civilisation.
Of these cities, Venice was the most ancient and the most important. Attila having invaded Italy in the year 452, a number of the inhabitants of Aquileia and the neighbouring territories, flying from the ravages of the ferocious barbarian, found a poor but secure asylum in the cluster of small islands opposite the mouth of the Brenta, near the bottom of the Adriatic Gulph.3 The fishery was at first almost the sole occupation of the fugitives; to it were soon after added, the preparation and sale of salt, for which their situation gave them every facility; and in no very lengthened period, their ships, which were constantly increasing in size and number, visited all the harbours of the Adriatic and of the adjoining seas. They speedily, indeed, acquired a decided superiority in every part of the former, and having suppressed the pirates established on its eastern shores, became its undisputed masters. The marriage which Venice annually celebrated with the Adriatic, as marking her exclusive dominion and sovereignty over that sea, was contracted in 1173.
Such was the origin of this famous city. Her inhabitants carried with them their republican form of government.1 Their commerce and navigation were the result of the circumstances under which they were placed. Few states have enjoyed so long a period of independence. From her insular stronghold, says the historian of the Italian republics, Venice beheld the long agony and termination of the Roman empire in the west. She witnessed the elevation and fall of the Ostrogoths in Italy, and the Visigoths in Spain; of the Lombards who succeeded to the first, and the Saracens who conquered the second. She saw the rise of the empire of the Caliphs; she saw it threaten to subdue the earth, and she saw it fall to pieces and expire. Long connected with the Byzantine emperors, she was by turns their ally and their foe; she bore away trophies from their capital,2 and subjugated some of their finest provinces; she beheld the extinction of their empire, and the rise of the Ottoman power on its ruins. But the same fate must, sooner or later, overtake all the works and institutions of men. And this proud republic, which had so long surveyed undisturbed the rise and fall of dynasties and empires, and formed the connecting link between the ancient and the modern world, has also ceased to exist.1
In the darkest and most barbarous ages, the Venetians carried on a considerable intercourse with the Levant. Marin, in his elaborate history of the commerce of Venice, has shown that his countrymen were in the habit, from the age of Justinian, of resorting to Constantinople and other ports in the Eastern Empire, and of supplying the markets and fairs of Italy with the merchandise of the East; and they obtained, at an early period, various privileges and immunities from the Greek emperors. They did not, however, confine their commerce with the East to that which they carried on with the Greeks. Soon after the Saracens had obtained a footing in Egypt and Sicily, an intimate intercourse grew up between them and the Venetians. The latter once more supplied the ports round the Mediterranean with the products of Arabia and India, brought from Alexandria and Acre. In addition to salt, corn, wine, oil, and other European products, slaves were in great request in the markets of Syria and Egypt, and the Venetians did not hesitate to undertake their supply. In this view they purchased and kidnapped slaves, whether Christians or not, wherever they had an opportunity, and sold them to the Saracens.2 Some of these purchases having been made in Rome itself, the circumstance came to the knowledge of the Pope, who, having returned the purchase money to the Venetians, ordered the slaves to be set at liberty. His Holiness, at the same time, published an edict denouncing the purchase and sale of slaves as a flagrant abuse. It may, however, be observed that the thunders of the Vatican were not directed against this traffic from any enlarged views of its injustice or inexpediency, but from a religious scruple. Had the Venetians enslaved only infidels, the church would most probably have overlooked the offence. But it was felt to be a disgrace to the Christian faith, that those who professed it should be sold by other Christians to its greatest enemies; and to obviate this scandal, the church interposed its veto. The Venetian government also prohibited its subjects from engaging in this traffic.1 But whether it were that it was not very earnest in the matter, or that it wanted means to enforce the prohibition, the merchants of Venice were engaged in the trade in slaves so late as the fifteenth century, and they swarmed in the city down to a still later period.
However much opinions may differ in regard to the influence of the crusades over other parts of Europe, it is admitted on all hands, that they were highly advantageous to the Venetians and other Italian states. They furnished the ships which the Crusaders freighted to convey themselves to the Holy Land. And the numbers of those who engaged in this pious though warlike migration, and took passage by sea, were so very great, that they gave employment to immense numbers of vessels at greatly increased rates of freight. Very large sums were, in consequence, realised by Venice, Genoa, and the other cities which engrossed this novel branch of the carrying trade. Their shipping was not only greatly augmented, but greatly improved. The vessels which navigated the Mediterranean in the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries, were mostly very superior to any that had previously been seen in that sea; the best class being fitted successfully to encounter the rougher waves of the Atlantic. In antiquity, and down to this period, only one mast had been used; but vessels with two and three masts, and square-rigged, began now to be generally employed. The art of tacking was discovered, and voyages during the winter season, which had been unknown to the Greeks and Romans, and but rarely practised in the age preceding the crusades, were brought, during their continuance, into general use. It only required the application of the magnetic needle to nautical purposes, which took place about this period, to carry navigation to the state of perfection at which it had arrived, when the introduction of a new and gigantic motive power rendered it all but independent of wind and tides.1
The Italian cities did not, however, in their dealings with the crusaders, content themselves with the advantages derived from high freights and the employment of their shipping. They endeavoured, at the same time, to facilitate and secure their trade, and to extend their dominions. When they agreed to convey the Christians to their destination, they were accustomed, in addition to the money to be paid to them, to stipulate for leave to establish factories and consuls in the countries to be conquered by the expedition; and sometimes, also, to acquire a share of the subjugated territory. Hence it was, that when Constantinople was taken by the crusaders, a large portion of the empire fell to the share of the Venetians, by whom they had been assisted.
Towards the middle of the 15th century, when the Turkish sultan, Mahomet II., seized on the throne of Constantine and Justinian, the power of the Venetians had attained its maximum. At that period, besides several extensive, populous, and well cultivated provinces in Lombardy, the republic was mistress of Crete and Cyprus, of the greater part of the Morea, and most of the isles in the Ægean Sea. She had secured a chain of forts and factories that extended along the coasts of Greece from the Morea to Dalmatia; while she monopolised almost the whole foreign trade of Egypt. The preservation of this monopoly, of the absolute dominion she had early usurped over the Adriatic, and of the dependence of her colonies and distant establishments, were amongst the principal objects of the Venetian government; and the measures it adopted in that view were skilfully devised, and prosecuted with inflexible constancy. With the single exception of Rome, Venice, in the 15th century, was the richest and most magnificent of European cities; and her singular situation in the midst of the sea, on which she seems to float, contributed to impress those who visited her with still higher notions of her wealth and grandeur. Sannazarius is not the only poet who has preferred Venice to the ancient capital of the world; but none, perhaps, have expressed their preference in such highly valued verses:—
Though Venice was the first city in which the spirit of commercial intercourse that had been suppressed by the irruption of the barbarians was revived, Amalphi, Pisa, and Genoa were not long behind. The former, on the Gulph of Salerno, thirty miles south of Naples, though now an obscure village, inhabited by about 3,500 fishermen, attained, at a remote epoch, to distinction as a maritime republic, and is said by Gibbon to have preceded Venice in re-opening an intercourse with the East. But the more recent researches of Daru, who enjoyed sources of information inaccessible to previous historians, show that this statement is inaccurate, and that Venice carried on a considerable traffic with the Levant before any competitor appeared in the field. But the Amalphitans entered, at a very early period, on this career with singular energy and success. In the ninth century their city is said to have had 50,000 inhabitants. They were extensive navigators and merchants. Their trade comprised the products of Africa, Arabia, and the East; and their settlements in Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, acquired the privileges of independent colonies. William of Apulia, a writer of the 11th century, has noticed Amalphi in verses, partly quoted by Gibbon, and said by him to “contain much truth and some poetry.”1
These, however, were circumstances that redounded more to her own profit than to that of others. But we are said to owe a peculiar and not easily exaggerated debt of gratitude to Amalphi. It was, says Sismondi, a citizen of that republic, Flavio Gioja, who invented the compass or introduced it into navigation; in her was found a unique copy of the Pandects which revived the knowledge and the study of jurisprudence in the West; and the maritime laws of Amalphi (Tabula Amalphitana) early acquired in the Mediterranean the same influence that was enjoyed by the laws of the Rhodians in antiquity, and that was acquired at a later period by the laws of Oleron in the countries bordering on the Atlantic.2 Very large deductions must, however, be made from this too partial statement. Gioja may have improved the compass by rendering the needle more suitable to the purposes of navigation; but if he did this much, it is all, for there can be no doubt that it had already been applied to them.3 Some authorities treat as a fable the story of the famous manuscript of the Roman law carried off by the Pisans from Amalphi, and now at Florence. And though there be no reasonable ground for this exaggerated scepticism, Savigny and others have shown that the study of the civil law was vigorously prosecuted long previously to the alleged discovery of the MS. referred to.1 The statements respecting the Tabula Amalphitana, appear to be entitled to no credit, and to be wholly founded on a mistake. Though several distinguished authorities have referred to this table, none of them quote it, or appear to have seen it. No trace or vestige can now be found of any such table or law. And the presumption is, that it never had any real existence, and that some other law had been mistaken for it.2
Though brilliant, the career of Amalphi was but short. She was sacked by the Pisans in 1135, when the MS. of Justinian’s Compilations is said to have fallen into their hands, and was soon after subjugated by the Normans. Her commerce having been diverted into other channels, she speedily sunk into total obscurity.
It was the lot, and perhaps the misfortune, of Italy in the middle ages, as of Greece in antiquity, to be split into an immense number of independent and rival states. This division, and the generally liberal system of government that prevailed in the different cities, powerfully excited the patriotism and energies of the people, and made them feel that their own interests and importance were identified with the prosperity and greatness of the city or state to which they belonged. The powers which had been dormant for centuries were in consequence revived; and the Italians became famous for their progress in the arts, in literature, and in every pursuit that could add to the comfort and the embellishment of society. But this was not effected without a corresponding cost. The disputes among the rival republics, from the limited extent of their territory, from their being engaged in similar pursuits, and from their deeply affecting every individual, were prosecuted with all the eagerness of personal, and the rancour of political, quarrels. Each petty state regarded its neighbours as its most dangerous enemies. And was anxious, whenever an opportunity offered, to invoke the dangerous assistance of the foreigner.
We need not, therefore, wonder that the Pisans did not long escape a fate similar to that which they had been so instrumental in bringing down upon the Amalphitans. A strong spirit of rivalry had always subsisted between them and the Genoese, over whom they had for a while the ascendancy. At an early period the Pisans wrested Sardinia from the Saracens. All parts of the Mediterranean were visited by their ships; and besides Elba, Sardinia, and the Balearic islands, which they had also conquered, they had factories on the coasts of Syria and the Black Sea. On the recovery by the Greeks of the capital of their empire from the Latins and Venetians, the Genoese, from whom they had received most valuable aid, were rewarded with various privileges and immunities. Among others they obtained possession of Pera, one of the suburbs of Constantinople; and soon after formed the design, in which they ultimately succeeded, of excluding all ships but their own from the Black Sea. This attempt at monopoly, added to other causes of animosity, led to a violent struggle between them and the Pisans. Victory was long doubtful. But at length, in 1284, the decisive battle of Meloria,1 in which the Pisans were defeated with the loss of a great part of their fleet, and about 16,000 men killed and prisoners, terminated the contest in favour of the Genoese.2 Intestine commotions hindered the Pisans from making any effectual efforts to recover from this disaster, and precipitated the downfall of the state, which afterwards fell into the hands of the Florentines. Though greatly fallen off, Pisa is still a considerable and interesting city, and has one of the most celebrated universities in Italy. But so complete has been the ruin of her commerce and navigation, that no trace can be found of her port, and even its locality has become a subject of doubt and discussion.
At this period, and for long after, the naval power of the Genoese enjoyed an undisputed superiority in the western parts of the Mediterranean. And profiting by the discovery of the mariner’s compass, their ships, many of which were of large burden, began to extend their voyages beyond the Straits of Gibraltar to Portugal, France, the Low Countries, and England. It is not known when they first appeared in our waters. Probably it was somewhere towards the close of the 13th century. In 1316, Edward II. complained of the Genoese supplying arms to the Scotch, then at war with him, reminding them of the long friendship which had subsisted between their state and his ancestors, the kings of England; and in the same year the French carried off from the Downs a Genoese ship laden with produce for England. But though they appear to have been preceded by their rivals, the Venetians were but little behind them in finding their way hither. Marin mentions that 100,000 lbs. sugar and 10,000 lbs. sugar-candy, were shipped from Venice for England in 1319. And in addition to sugar, spices, and all sorts of eastern products, with silks, cottons, glass, etc., were sent to us from Italy.
In 1323, a quarrel took place between the crews of five Venetian ships lying at Southampton and the towns-people, in which several lives were lost. The king, fearing lest the irritation arising out of this circumstance might deter the Venetians from continuing their trade to England, granted a free pardon to all parties concerned in the affray, promising at the same time the most perfect security and friendly treatment to all Venetians coming to England. In 1325, the same monarch, Edward II., concluded a commercial treaty with the republic of Venice, in which its subjects were exempted from the liability under which aliens then laboured, of having themselves or their goods seized on account of the debts of other foreigners.1
In the ages now referred to, Bruges and Antwerp were the principal seats of the commerce carried on between the Italian cities and the north of Europe. The Hanseatic League, of which the foundations had been laid in the 12th century, had its principal factory in Bruges; and there the ships belonging to that powerful confederacy, were in the habit of meeting those from Italy, and exchanging their respective products. And the wealth resulting from their being the seat of this traffic, coupled with the establishment of the woollen manufacture, early raised the Low Countries to a high degree of opulence and refinement.
While they were thus prosecuting their trade along the western coasts of Europe, the Venetians and Genoese were animated by the fiercest spirit of hostility. Excepting, indeed, a few short intervals of suspicious truce, the war between them was waged for nearly three centuries. The most memorable, perhaps, of the many contests in which they were engaged began in 1378. After defeating the Venetian fleet, the Genoese took possession of Chiozza, which commanded one of the passages leading through the Lagoons to Venice. The consternation in the latter at this event was extreme; and had Doria, the Genoese admiral, proceeded at once to the attack of Venice, she might probably have fallen. But, fearing to encounter the despair of his enemies, he endeavoured to weaken them by intercepting their supplies of provisions, and to strengthen himself with reinforcements. So confident were the Genoese of success, that they rejected all overtures for an accommodation; and Doria announced his determination to bridle the horses on the portico of St Mark! But the result disappointed his expectations. Having recovered from their first surprise, the Venetians made extraordinary efforts to secure the city. And such was their success, that, from being the assailant, Doria became the assailed, and was closely shut up in Chiozza. Notwithstanding the most desperate attempts to disengage themselves, the Genoese were in the end compelled to surrender.1 It is worthy of notice, that at the close of this deadly struggle in 1381, the Venetians, who had taken about 7,200 prisoners, had only 3,364 to give up; nearly 4,000 having died in their pestilential dungeons. The Genoese, on the contrary, gave up almost all the prisoners they had taken.1 It is difficult, in reading this statement, not to wish that the latter had been successful—that “Doria’s menace” had been realised.
Though justly regarded as one of the principal bulwarks of Christendom against the Turks, Venice had to contend, in the early part of the 16th century, against a combination of the European powers. The famous league of Cambray, of which Pope Julius II. was the real author, was formed for the avowed purpose of effecting the entire subjugation of the Venetians, and the partition of their territories. The emperor, and the kings of France and Spain, joined this powerful confederacy. But, owing less to the valour of the Venetians than to dissensions amongst their enemies, the league was speedily dissolved without materially weakening the power of the republic. From that period the policy of Venice was comparatively pacific and cautious. She was early aware of the irreparable injury which the discovery of the passage to India by the Cape of Good Hope was likely to inflict upon the most important branch of her commerce. And, to avert its effect, she did not scruple to concert measures with the Mameluke sultan of Egypt, and to assist him in fitting out a fleet against the Portuguese in India. She soon, however, became sensible that the evil was one to which she must submit; and she became less inclined than ever to engage in doubtful enterprises. But, despite her efforts to keep on good terms with her neighbours, and especially with the Turks, then in the zenith of their power, the latter invaded Cyprus in 1570, and conquered it, after a gallant resistance continued for eleven years. The Venetians had the principal share in the decisive victory gained over the Turks at Lepanto in 1571; but, owing to the discordant views of the confederates, it was not properly followed up, and could not prevent the fall of Cyprus.
The war with the Turks in Candia commenced in 1645, and continued till 1670. The Venetians exerted all their energies in defence of this valuable island; and its acquisition cost the Turks above 200,000 men. The loss of Candia, and the rapid decline of the commerce of the republic, now almost wholly turned into other channels, reduced Venice, at the close of the 17th century, to a state of great exhaustion. She may be said, indeed, to have owed the last 100 years of her existence more to the forbearance and jealousies of others than to any strength of her own. But nothing could avert that fate which she had seen overwhelm so many powerful states. In 1797, the “maiden city” submitted to the yoke of the conqueror; and the last surviving witness of antiquity, stripped of independence, and of the greater portion of her commerce, preserves only an inglorious existence, or is slowly sinking into the waves whence she arose.
Venetian ships of the largest class were denominated galeasses, and were fitted out for the double purpose of war and commerce. Some of them carried fifty pieces of cannon, and crews of 600 men. These vessels were sometimes, also, called argosers, or argosies.1 They used, as already seen, in the 14th and 15th centuries, to be common in our ports. Sir William Monson mentions, that the last argosie that sailed from Venice for England was lost, with a rich cargo and many passengers, on the coast of the Isle of Wight, in 1587.
In the beginning of the 15th century, the annual value of the goods exported from Venice by sea, exclusive of those exported to the states adjoining her provinces in Lombardy, was estimated, by contemporary writers, at 10,000,000 ducats; the profits of the out and home voyage, including freight, being estimated at 4,000,000 ducats. At the period in question, the Venetian shipping consisted of 3,000 vessels of from 100 to 200 tons burden, carrying 17,000 sailors; 300 ships with 8,000 sailors; and 45 gallies of various size, kept afloat by the republic for the protection of her trade, etc., having 11,000 men on board. In the dock-yard a great many labourers were constantly employed.1 The trade to Syria and Egypt seems to have been conducted principally by ready money; for 500,000 ducats are said to have been annually exported to these countries; 100,000 were sent to England.2 The vessels of Venice visited every port of the Mediterranean and every coast of Europe; and her maritime commerce was probably, when greatest, not much inferior to that of all the rest of Christendom. So late as 1518, five Venetian galeasses arrived at Antwerp, laden with spices, drugs, silks, etc., for the fair at that city.
The Venetians did not, however, confine themselves to the supply of Europe with the commodities of the East, and to the extension and improvement of navigation. They attempted new arts, and prosecuted them with vigour and success, at a period when they were entirely unknown in other European countries. The glass manufacture of Venice was the first, and for a long time the most celebrated, of any in Europe; and her manufactures of silk, cloth of gold, leather, refined sugar, etc., were deservedly esteemed. The jealousy of the government, and their intolerance of anything like free discussion, was unfavourable to the production of great literary works. Every scholar is, however, aware of the fame which Venice early acquired by the perfection to which she carried the art of printing. The classics that issued from the Aldine presses are still universally and justly admired for their beauty and correctness. The Bank of Venice was established in the 12th century. It was a bank of deposit merely, and was skilfully conducted.
But the policy of government, which was suspicious and jealous in the extreme, though favourable to the introduction and establishment of manufactures, was fatal to their progressive advancement. The importation of foreign manufactured commodities into the territories of the republic for domestic consumption, was forbidden under the severest penalties. And the processes to be followed in the production of most articles being regulated by law,1 the manufacturers, with little to fear from foreign competition, and tied down to a system of routine, had nothing left to stimulate their invention and enterprise. Hence, during last century, the manufactures of Venice were chiefly remarkable as evincing the extraordinary perfection to which they had early arrived, and the absence of all recent improvements. An unexceptionable judge, M. Berthollet, employed by the French government to report on the arts of Venice, observed, “That the industry of the Venetians, like that of the Chinese, had been precocious, but had remained stationary.”2
M. Daru has given the following extract from an article in the statutes of the State Inquisition, which strikingly displays the character of the Venetian government, and their jealousy of foreigners:—“If any workman or artizan carry his art to a foreign country, to the prejudice of the republic, he shall be ordered to return; if he do not obey, his nearest relations shall be imprisoned, that his regard for them may induce him to come back. If he return, the past shall be forgiven, and employment shall be provided for him in Venice. If, in despite of the imprisonment of his relations, he persevere in his absence, an emissary shall be employed to despatch him; and after his death his relations shall be set at liberty!”3
The trade of the Mediterranean was not, however, wholly engrossed by Venice and other Italian cities. From an early period Marseilles and Barcelona engaged in it with spirit and success. The latter appears to have a well-founded claim to the honour of having compiled the Consolato del Mare, perhaps the earliest of the codes of maritime law promulgated in modern Europe. Some authorities have, indeed, ascribed the Consolato to the Pisans. But, on the whole, there can be no reasonable doubt that it was compiled at Barcelona, probably in the 13th century,1 though it was not printed till 1502. We may farther observe, that the earliest ordinance relative to insurance that is known to exist was issued by the magistrates of Barcelona in 1435. The earliest Italian law on the subject is nearly a century later, being dated in 1523.2
It was not, however, in the great sea-port towns only that the superior industry and enterprise of the Italians were conspicuous. It pervaded all parts of the peninsula. The cities in the interior were as much celebrated for their manufactures as Venice and Genoa for their commerce and navigation. Milan, Verona, and the towns in their vicinity, attained, in the 13th century, to the highest eminence in the preparation of silk and woollen goods. Florence, also, and Lucca, distinguished themselves in the same way; but more, perhaps, by their exchange and banking operations, and the skill with which they carried them on. And though we may reasonably question the accuracy of some of the statements which have come down to us regarding the population and wealth of the principal Italian cities3 at this epoch, they must obviously have been very great. The splendid cathedrals, palaces, and public buildings of all sorts that were then erected, the patronage of the fine arts, and the numerous forces that were kept on foot, are sufficient evidence of their flourishing condition. The private citizens, too, who were lodged in well built and well furnished houses, lived in a style of considerable comfort and luxury. On this side the Alps all was rusticity and barbarism; while, on the other, refinement and the arts had made much progress. In these days, indeed, Italy was as far in advance of the rest of Europe, as England and France are now in advance of Russia.
The family of Medici, who rose to the rank of sovereign princes, and allied themselves with some of the principal potentates of Europe, laid the foundation of their fortune and renown as merchants of Florence. Cosmo de Medici, surnamed the Father of his country, was the most eminent banker and trader of the 15th century. He had houses in most parts of Europe, and in Egypt, and elsewhere. And, to his honour be it stated, his agents were no less assiduous in collecting the treasures of ancient learning and the choicest productions of art, than in attending to the details of business.1 He founded the Laurentian Library, and many of its most valuable manuscripts were procured at his expense and by his exertions. His wealth, talents, and political connections gave him very considerable influence even in foreign countries; and Edward IV. of England is said to have been in no inconsiderable degree indebted to the pecuniary assistance afforded to him by Cosmo for his success in his struggle with the house of Lancaster. After being at the head of the Florentine republic for about thirty years, this distinguished merchant and statesman died in 1464, amid the universal regrets of his countrymen, and of the learned throughout Europe.
Other cities of Italy were early engaged in the same pecuniary traffic by which Florence was so much enriched. In the beginning of the 13th century the citizens of Asti, an inland city of Piedmont, had acquired great wealth in France, and other countries, chiefly by their dealings in money, and they soon became among the most opulent and enterprising of the Lombard merchants. The citizens of Milan, Placentia, Sienna, and other towns in the north of Italy, subsequently engaged in the same career, and added to their business as manufacturers the trade of bankers and money dealers. The pecuniary affairs of Europe in the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries were almost entirely in the hands of the Italians and Jews. Companies, or societies of Italian, or, as they were more commonly termed, Lombard merchants, were settled in all the principal towns in the different kingdoms. They were taken under the immediate protection of the several governments. Though often attacked, they enjoyed extensive privileges and immunities. The operation of the ancient barbarous laws concerning strangers was suspended with respect to them. They became the carriers, the manufacturers, and the bankers of Europe.
A number of these merchants established themselves in London as early as the 12th or 13th century. And notwithstanding the many changes and revolutions that have since taken place, the street in which they principally resided, and where they carried on their operations, retains its ancient name of Lombard Street, and continues to be mostly occupied by banking establishments.
The Jews and Lombards were engaged in a traffic which, though highly useful, was generally looked upon as odious and criminal. And being liable to punishment, if detected, they were not satisfied with the more moderate premium which they would have claimed had their trade been open and authorised by law. Having to indemnify themselves not only for the ordinary risks that must always affect the lending of money, but also for the opprobrium and the plunder which they frequently suffered, their charges were increased in proportion, so that the usual rate of interest in those days was what we should now call most exorbitant and scandalous usury.1 The prejudice against them was so very strong, that in 1283 the Commons granted the fiftieth part of their moveable property to Edward I., on condition of his expelling the Italians from the kingdom. They were, however, soon after recalled; though, despite the protection given them by government, they continued to be exposed to many vexatious annoyances.
The latter part of the 15th century, before the discovery of the route to India by the Cape of Good Hope, and while the ability and moderation of Lorenzo de Medici, the grandson of Cosmo, combined to allay the animosities of the different states, and enabled them to develop their energies during a peace of considerable duration, is probably the most brilliant period in modern Italian history. It may be compared to the age of the Antonines in antiquity, and was prosperous beyond any other that Italy had experienced during the previous thousand years. It is to this season of tranquillity that Guicciardini so strikingly adverts, in the commencement of his history, “When,” says he, “the whole extent of that fertile and beautiful country was cultivated, not only through its wide plains and fruitful valleys, but even amidst its most sterile and mountainous regions; and under no control but that of its native nobility and rulers, exulted not only in the number and riches of its inhabitants, but in the magnificence of its princes, in the splendour of many superb and noble cities, and in the residence and majesty of religion itself. Abounding with men eminent in the administration of public affairs, skilled in every honourable science, and every useful art, it stood high in the estimation of foreign nations. Which extraordinary felicity, acquired at many different opportunities, several circumstances contributed to preserve; but among the rest no small share of it was, by general consent, ascribed to the industry and the virtue of Lorenzo de Medici; a citizen who rose so far beyond the mediocrity of a private station, that he regulated by his counsels the affairs of Florence, then more important by its situation, by the genius of its inhabitants, and the magnitude of its resources, than by the extent of its dominions; and who having obtained the implicit confidence of the Roman Pontiff, Innocent VIII., rendered his name great, and his authority important in the affairs of Italy. Convinced of the perils that might arise both to the Florentine republic and to himself, if any of the more powerful states should be allowed to extend their dominions, he used every exertion that the affairs of Italy might be so balanced that there should be no inclination in favour of any particular state; a circumstance which could not take place without the permanent establishment of peace, and the minutest attention to every event however trivial it might appear.”1
This period of prosperity terminated with the death of Lorenzo in 1497; and in 1530 the republican government of Florence was finally subverted. The fall of the free governments that had been established in other parts of the country, Venice only excepted, either preceded, or very soon followed, the fall of the Florentine republic. And had Italy been fortunate enough to be then consolidated into a single monarchy, she would have been fully compensated for the loss of political independence. According as local hatreds and party animosities subsided, the nation would have become animated with the same spirit, and would have been able to defend itself against foreign aggression. And the probability is, that in the course of time the people would have acquired power sufficient to soften the rigour of a despotical or military government, and to recover, along with an infinitely greater degree of security, the most valuable portion of their former rights and privileges. But the subversion of the Italian republics was attended by no such result. Instead of being reduced under one, the country was divided among a host of petty despots and despotical aristocracies. Nor was there any possibility of remedying this evil; for Austria, having obtained possession of the Milanese and Tuscany, no native government could acquire an ascendancy; so that the disastrous feuds and divisions which led to the ruin of the republics, were perpetuated.
It would be an irksome and a useless task to endeavour to describe the various effects of which this state of affairs has been productive. Down to a late period the Italians ceased to exercise any perceptible influence over the deliberations of their multitudinous rulers. Parcelled out among foreign sovereigns, or sovereigns descended from foreigners, what interest could they feel in the contests of the Bourbons of Parma and Naples, the Austrians of Milan and Mantua, and the Lorrains of Tuscany? They were not only deprived of their ancient liberties, but the constant state of vassalage in which their petty sovereigns were themselves held by the great Transalpine powers, prevented their acting in conformity either to the wishes or the interests of their subjects. The national spirit was thus gradually destroyed. The Italians either ceased to have or to express an opinion on public affairs. They endeavoured to forget the stormy discussions in which they had been engaged, by plunging into the depths of sensuality; and from being the most intelligent and industrious people of Europe, sunk into a state of indolence and apathy. “The victim by turns of selfish and sanguinary factions, of petty tyrants, and of foreign invaders, Italy has fallen like a star from its place in heaven; she has seen her harvests trodden down by the horses of the stranger, and the blood of her children wasted in quarrels not their own; conquering or conquered, in the indignant language of her poet (Filicaja), still alike a slave; a long retribution for the tyranny of Rome.”1
VASCO DE GAMA AND COLUMBUS.
The voyages of the Genoese and Venetians to France and Great Britain, and the vast improvement which the art of steering by the compass had introduced into navigation, prepared the way for the extraordinary discoveries which will for ever distinguish the close of the 15th century. From about the year 1400, the Portuguese were engaged in a series of exploratory voyages along the west coast of Africa, principally in the view of ascertaining whether it were not possible to reach India by that route. And at length this grand object was achieved by the famous Admiral Vasco de Gama, who, having doubled the southern extremity of Africa in November 1497, arrived, after a prosperous voyage, at the port of Calicut, on the Malabar coast. It would not be easy to exaggerate the importance of this discovery. It dispelled the notions that had come down from antiquity, with respect to the uninhabitable nature of the Torrid Zone; and it opened a new route for the intercourse between Europe and the East. Egypt ceased to be the centre of the commercial world. And Lisbon, Amsterdam, and other ports on the Atlantic, became the entrepôts of the trade which had been so long engrossed by Venice, Genoa, and other Italian cities. Few revolutions have been more complete. But, as previously seen, another great change is now going on, and the trade with the East is once more reverting to the channels from which it was diverted by the voyage of De Gama.
The discovery of America took place nearly at the same time with the discovery of the route to the East by the Cape of Good Hope. This unparalleled achievement was the result of the genius and enterprise of Christopher Columbus or Colon, a citizen of the Genoese republic.1 Having been brought up to the sea, being also well versed in geometry and astronomy, and of a thoughtful and determined character, Columbus was well fitted to make discoveries. A residence of some length in Lisbon, made him acquainted with the views and proceedings of the Portuguese navigators. And as the route to India by Africa was already occupied, he formed the bold and novel project of attempting to reach it by sailing directly westward. Having convinced himself of the practicability of this plan, he communicated it to the rulers of his native state, craving their assistance to enable him to carry it into effect. Being rejected by them, he appealed with no better success to the courts of Lisbon and London. At length, after a tedious and protracted suit, Queen Isabella of Castile interested herself in the fortunes and schemes of Columbus. She gave him the title of Admiral, and supplied him with money, raised by pledging her jewels, to fit out a small flotilla. He set sail from the port of Palos, in Andalusia, on the 3d of August 1492. And after a voyage, the most magnificent in its design, the most difficult in its execution, and the most stupendous in its results, of any that have ever been undertaken, the New World was discovered on the 12th of October 1492.1
Columbus returned to Europe in about seven months from the time he had set out on his arduous undertaking. And though none could then foresee a hundredth part of the consequences of his great discovery, it struck the whole world with astonishment, and gave a vast impulse to the spirit of adventure and enterprise. This was especially manifested in Spain. Its government did little towards the subjugation of Mexico, Peru, and its other dominions in the New World. But its neglect or indifference was amply compensated by the zeal and energy of individuals; and in about fifty years from the period when Columbus set out from Palos the greater portion of America, from the northern frontier of Mexico to the southern frontier of Chili, was occupied by Spaniards, and willingly acknowledged the supremacy of the Spanish crown.
But notwithstanding the splendour of the discoveries made by Vasco de Gama and Columbus, philosophers and moralists have not been wanting who have doubted whether they have been beneficial to the human race. The flimsy paradoxes of Rousseau and Raynal may be dismissed without notice; but their prejudices have been entertained by writers of a very different cast. “What mankind,” says Dr Johnson, “has lost and gained by the genius and designs of Prince Henry2 of Portugal, it would be long to compare, and very difficult to estimate. Much knowledge has been acquired, and much cruelty been committed; the belief of religion has been very little propagated, and its laws have been outrageously and enormously violated. The Europeans have scarcely visited any coast but to gratify avarice and extend corruption; to arrogate dominion without right, and practise cruelty without incentive. Happy had it been for the oppressed, that the designs of De Gama and Columbus had slept in their bosoms; and surely more happy for the oppressors. But there is reason to hope that out of so much evil good may sometimes be produced; and that the light of the Gospel will at last illuminate the sands of Africa, and the deserts of America.” And elsewhere he says, “Columbus was under the necessity of travelling from court to court, scorned and repulsed as a wild projector, an idle promiser of kingdoms in the clouds; nor has any part of the world yet had reason to rejoice that he found at last reception and employment.”1
But although the conduct of the Spaniards, and other Europeans, in America and elsewhere, has been in many respects objectionable, still there can be no reasonable doubt that mankind have gained immeasurably by the discoveries in question. It has been said, indeed, that the settlements in the New World and in Australia are founded on injustice, and that we had no right, other than that of being the stronger party, to take possession of these countries, and subdue, or exterminate their inhabitants. And we concede that it may sometimes be not a little difficult to decide in how far civilised and powerful nations may be justified in subjugating and coercing those which are less advanced than themselves. But, from the remotest antiquity down to the present times, the former have never scrupled to subject the latter to their authority, and, if necessary, to dispossess them of their territories. And every unprejudiced individual, in any degree acquainted with history, must admit, looking at it in a practical point of view, that this conduct has been of inestimable advantage. A salutiferous and fertilising stream cannot, however, have its source in impure and poisonous fountains; nor can proceedings which have prevailed in all ages, and which have done more than anything else to increase population and diffuse civilisation and the arts, be truly said to be unjustifiable, or inconsistent with the beneficent arrangements of Providence. Great political questions of this sort are not to be decided by à priori reasonings, or the dogmatism of schoolmen and divines, but by carefully attending to and weighing their results.
“Ipsa utilitas justi prope mater et æqui.”
It is true that cultivated nations, in dealing with their inferiors, have not unfrequently abused their greater power and intelligence. But while we admit and regret the fact, it is no less true that, but for their dictating to, and appropriating the possessions of others, more than half the civilised world would at this moment have been immersed in the grossest barbarism. Those who may be disposed to question this statement, have only to compare the America discovered by Columbus with the America of the present day. At the former period, the far greater part of that immense continent was occupied by the scanty population of savage tribes, ignorant of almost every useful art; making war on each other with a deadly and implacable ferocity; subsisting on the precarious produce of the chace; and often involved in the most dreadful privations. It would be a libel on Providence to suppose that it was intended that this state of things should be perpetual, that these vast and fruitful regions should be occupied only by hunters and wild1 animals. And as the red man could effect no great object—as he could neither replenish the land, nor exercise dominion over it, his subjugation, if not his extermination, was indispensable to enable the foundations of a better order of things to be laid;2 and would, therefore, appear to be consonant to enlarged and just views of benevolence, as well as to expediency.3
Even in Mexico and Peru, where some advances had been made in civilisation, the condition of the population was abject and wretched in the extreme. In the former, crowds of slaves were sacrificed at the obsequies of every important personage. And at their great religious and state festivals, there was a wholesale butchery to the extent of thousands, not merely of captives taken in war, but of innumerable victims drawn from the conquered provinces, and from all classes of the community. However we may blame the cruelty by which it was accompanied, it is impossible not to rejoice at the destruction of so sanguinary and atrocious a system.1 The superstition of the Peruvians was of a less bloody and diabolical character than that of the Mexicans. But even among them it was not unusual to slaughter children as a propitiatory sacrifice for the health of a sick Inca; and at his death, a number of his attendants and favourite concubines, amounting sometimes it is said to a thousand or upwards, were immolated on his tomb.2
The invasion of the Spaniards swept over these miserable countries like the irruption of an Attila, or the course of a hurricane, involving the despots and the priests, with their sacrifices and their dupes, in one universal ruin. But dreadful as this visitation was, its destructive effects were not of an enduring character. It was not, like the bloody and barbarous superstition which it subverted, fitted to perpetuate itself by debasing its victims. And though their religion, and the vicious system of colonial policy adopted by the Spaniards, have done much to retard the progress of the countries which they overran, they have attained to a respectable degree of population and civilisation.
It may be said, perhaps, that this desirable change might have been effected by less violent means, by the instruction and kindly treatment of the Indians; and it were much to be wished that this had been the case. But, unhappily, there does not appear to be any good ground for entertaining such an opinion. The attempts that have been made to civilise and improve the Indians, have proved complete failures. So long as they are treated like children, as was the case with those in Paraguay during the lengthened ascendancy of the Jesuits, their progress seems to be perfectly satisfactory. But the moment they are left to themselves, the factitious nature of their improvement becomes evident, and they speedily relapse into their original barbarism. All experience shows that the red man is incapable of making any considerable progress in civilisation. Most probably, indeed, this is the case with all savage tribes. With the single and very questionable exception of the Maorians of New Zealand, none of them have had sagacity to profit by the example of the civilised races with whom they have come into contact. Their barbarism would seem to be inherent in their nature, and uneradicable. And supposing such to be really the case, to complain of their extinction is hardly more reasonable than it would be to complain of the drainage of marshes, or the disappearance of wild animals.
But in deciding this great question, we must not refer to the case of Spanish America only. Let us turn, our eyes from Mexico and Peru to the United States. Who will presume to say that the interests of humanity have not gained incalculably by the settlement of this great republic? Here, where, not more than two hundred and fifty years ago, a few half-starved hunters were the only inhabitants, large cities are built, filled with an enterprising, an intelligent, and a wealthy population; canals and railways unite the most distant portions of the Union; agriculture and its subsidiary arts have been widely spread over what were formerly impenetrable thickets; manufactures on a large scale are everywhere established and vigorously prosecuted; gigantic rivers that were crossed only by some wandering savage in his rude canoe, are covered with ships laden with the produce of every country and every climate; education is universally diffused; and a moderate and liberal government secures alike the independence of the nation and the rights of the citizens. And besides the direct gain to humanity by the introduction of religion, literature, science, and arts, into the huge wilderness of America, her settlement has conferred inestimable advantages on Europe, and especially on England, by the infinite variety of new and desirable products she has supplied to stimulate and reward the industry and invention of our manufacturers and merchants; and by the all but unlimited field she has afforded for the profitable employment of the idle, the discontented, and the rejected population of the old world. To these America has been “a city of refuge.” The hosts of paupers and outcasts who have fled, or been driven, to her hospitable shores, have mostly risen from poverty to affluence; and have become industrious and deserving citizens of free and flourishing communities. It will ever be the boast of England, that she was the magna virum mater, that she formed and bred the men who established this vast transatlantic empire. And it has been truly said, that she is more illustrious in having done this than in her many triumphs in arts and arms, great and unequalled as these have been.
The following extract from Locke’s “History of Voyages and Travels,” is worthy of attention. That great philosopher had no doubts in regard to the signal advantages conferred on mankind by the discovery of America, and of the route to India by the Cape of Good Hope.—“After so long a discourse of voyages and discoveries, it may seem superfluous to treat of the advantages the public receives by navigation, and the faithful journals and accounts of travellers. The matter is natural; and no man can read the one without being sensible of the other; and therefore a few words may suffice on this subject, to avoid cloying the judicious reader with what is so visible and plain, and to save running out this introduction to an unreasonable length. What was cosmography, before these discoveries, but an imperfect fragment of science, scarce deserving so good a name? when all the known world was only Europe, a small part of Africa, and the lesser portion of Asia; so that of this terraqueous globe not one-sixth part had ever been seen or heard of. Nay, so great was the ignorance of man in this particular, that learned persons made a doubt of its being round; others, no less knowing, imagined all they were not acquainted with desert and uninhabitable. But now geography and hydrography have received some perfection by the pains of so many mariners and travellers, who, to evince the rotundity of the earth and water, have sailed and travelled round it, as has been here made appear, to show there is no part uninhabitable, unless the frozen polar regions; have visited all other countries, though never so remote, which they have found well peopled, and most of them rich and delightful; and to demonstrate the antipodes, have pointed them out to us. Astronomy has received the addition of many constellations never seen before; natural and moral history is embellished with the most beneficial increase of so many thousands of plants it had never before received; so many drugs and spices; such variety of beasts, birds, and fishes; such varieties in minerals, mountains, and waters; such unaccountable diversity of climates and men, and in them of complexions, tempers, habits, manners, politics, and religions. Trade is raised to the highest pitch, each part of the world supplying the other with what it wants, and bringing home what is accounted most precious and valuable; and this not in a niggard and scanty manner, as when the Venetians served all Europe with spice and drugs from India by the way of Turkey and the Red Sea; or as when gold and silver were only drawn from some poor European and African mines; but with plenty and affluence, as we now see most nations resorting freely to the East Indies and the West yearly, sending forth prodigious quantities of the most esteemed and valuable metals. To conclude, the empire of Europe is now extended to the utmost bounds of the earth, where several of its nations have conquests and colonies. These, and many more, are the advantages drawn from the labours of those who expose themselves to the dangers of the vast ocean, and of unknown nations, which those who sit still at home abundantly reap in every kind: and the relation of one traveller is an incentive to stir up another to imitate him, whilst the rest of mankind, in their accounts, without stirring a foot, compass the earth and seas, visit all countries, and converse with all nations.”
[1 ] Wealth of Nations, p. 9.
[1 ] Jackson, in his account of Morocco, mentions that, in 1805, a caravan proceeding from Timbuctoo to Tafilet, being disappointed in not finding water at one of the usual watering places, the whole persons belonging to it, about 2,000 in number, with about 1,800 camels, perished miserably of thirst.—P. 339.
[1 ] Chronologie d’Hérodote, cap. ii. p. 131.
[1 ] Strabo, lib. xvi. § 16.
[2 ] In Idumæa, the capital of the Nabatheans.
[1 ] Heeren’s “Asiatic Nations,” vol. i., caps. on Phœnicians passim.
[1 ] Mons Calpe and Mons Abyla, the Gibraltar and Ceuta of modern times.
[2 ] De l’Etat et du Sort des Anciennes Colonies, p. 14.
[3 ] Huét, “Commerce des Anciens,” cap. 8.
[4 ] Borlase on the Scilly Islands, pp. 72-78.
[5 ] St Croix, p. 20.
[1 ] The Carthaginians are said to have fitted out, during the most flourishing period of the republic (Carthaginis potentia florente, Plin. Hist. Nat. lib. ii. cap. 67), an expedition, under a commander of the illustrious name of Hanno, for making discoveries and founding settlements along the coast of Africa, southwards from the Pillars of Hercules. A brief account of this voyage is extant in Greek, being apparently a version from the original Punic, which is said to have been preserved in the temple of Saturn or Chronos. This version has been translated into English and commented on by Falconer, who has endeavoured to repel the arguments of Dodwell and others against its authenticity.—(“The Voyage of Hanno,” etc., by Thomas Falconer, A.M. London, 1797.) It has also been translated into Spanish, and its authenticity vindicated, by Campomanes (small 4to, Madrid, 1756); and into French by Bougainville, in the Memoires de l’Academie des Inscriptions, tome xxvi. and tome xxviii. See also Rennell’s “Geography of Herodotus,” ii. pp. 409-443.
[1 ] There is, in Dr Vincent’s “Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients in the Indian Ocean,” vol. ii. pp. 624-652, an elaborate and (like the other parts of that work) prolix commentary on this chapter of Ezekiel, in which most part of the things and places mentioned are satisfactorily explained. See also “Heeren on the Phœnicians,” cap. iv.
[1 ] Lib. xvi. § 16.
[2 ] Scheffer, “De Militia Navali Veterum,” lib. i. cap. 2.; Goguet, “Sur L’Origine des Loix,” etc., Eng. Trans., i. 296, and ii. pp. 95-100. See also Heeren on the “Manufactures, etc., of the Phœnicians.”
[1 ] The authenticity of this treatise has been denied, but probably on no good grounds; at all events it has not been copied from the Mosaic cosmogony.
[2 ] Ancient Universal History, vol. ii. p. 325; Gibbon, cap. 17.
[1 ] Herod., lib. iv., cap. 42.
[2 ] Recherches sur la Géographie Systématique et Positive des Anciens, tome i. pp. 204-217.
[3 ] Hérodote, tome iii. pp. 458-464, edit. 1802.
[4 ] Geography of Herodotus, ii. pp. 348-402, 8vo edit.
[1 ] This canal, after having been for some ages filled up, was re-opened by the late Mehemet Ali, Pasha of Egypt, and is once more become the channel of communication between the Nile and the city.
[2 ] L’esclavage n’était pas seulement l’instrument, mais pour ainsi dire, la force motrice du travail antique. Ce que font les machines aujourdhui, ce que faisaient les chevaux avant nos machines, s’accomplissait, dans les limites ou ce travail était naturellement renfermé, par les bras des esclaves.—Wallon, “Histoire de l’Esclavage dans l’Antiquité,” i. 246.
[1 ] Arist. Politica, lib. vii. cap. 2, § 7, and lib. iii. cap. 3, § 2. See also a decisive statement in Herod. lib. ii. cap. 167.
[2 ] If they became bankrupt, though without any imputation of fraud, they were enslaved.
[1 ] On the Revenue of Athens.—By this means, says he, you will increase the number of aliens, and the amount of the duty on aliens, (12 drachmas per annum for a man, and 6 for a woman), the noblest branch of the public revenue.
[2 ] Lib. vi. § 44.
[1 ] Herod. lib. xii. § 24. Herodotus says that the cutting of the canal was a work of ostentation, as the vessels might, without much difficulty, have been conveyed across the isthmus.
[2 ] Lib. viii. cap. vii. § 1.
[3 ] Lib. viii. cap. 132.
[1 ] Boeckh, i. p. 111.
[2 ] Ibid, i. p. 119, etc.
[1 ] Public Economy of Athens, i. 66.
[2 ] The medimnus is equal to 1·426 bushel.
[1 ] Clarke’s “Connection of the Roman, Saxon, and English Coins,” pp. 53-66.
[2 ] Chios was the next great insular slave market.
[1 ] Strabo, lib. xiv. cap. 5.
[2 ] Tournefort, “Voyage du Levant,” i. pp. 290-325.
[1 ] Boeckh, book i. passim.
[2 ] See some statements with respect to it, ante, p. 144.
[1 ] Boeckh, i. p. 170.
[2 ] Aristotle appears to have been fully imbued with these prejudices. Politica, Lib. i. cap. iii. § 23.
[1 ] Herod, lib. ii. cap. 167.
[1 ] Voyage d’Anacharsis, cap. 37.
[2 ] Hor. Epist. i. 17, v. 36.
[1 ] None, however, but Grecians could contend in the games.
[2 ] The famous colossus is said to have stood on these rocks, but the statement does not appear to rest on any good foundation. See Geog. Dict. art. “Rhodes.”
[1 ] Polybius, lib. i. cap. 9.
[2 ] Strabo, lib. xiv. cap. 2, § 5.
[1 ] See post, Essay on Maritime Law.
[2 ] See Schomberg’s “Treatise on the Maritime Laws of Rhodes,” passim; and the learned Dissertation of Pastoret, “Sur les Loix Rhodiennes.” Paris, 1784.
[3 ] The early Greeks appear to have acted on the principle laid down by Hobbes, who says, “Est enim nihil aliud prædatio quam quod parvis copiis geritur bellum.”
[4 ] Odyssey, lib. iv. v. 90.
[1 ] Livy, lib. xxi. cap. 63.
[2 ] Les citoyens Romains regardoient le Commerce et les Arts comme des occupations d’esclaves; ils ne les exercoient point.—Montesquieu “Grandeur et Decadence des Romains,” cap. 10.
[1 ] Dion. Halic. lib. ii. cap. 28. Sallust. Cat. cap. 7.
[1 ] Æneid, lib. vi. lin. 848.
[1 ] And yet Cicero does not scruple to inquire, An quis amplissimus Galliæ cum infimo civi Romano, comparandus est? Pro Marco Fonteio.
[2 ] Lugent omnes, quæruntur omnes liberi Populi: regna denique jam omnia de nostris cupiditatibus et injuriis expostulant: Locus intra oceanum jam nullus est, neque tam longinquus, neque tam reconditus quò non, per hæc tempora, nostrorum hominum libido, iniquitasque pervaserit.—Cicero in Verr, lib. iii.
[3 ] Tantumque se (Mithridatem) avida expectat Asia ut etiam vocibus vocet. Adeo illis odium Romanorum incussit rapacitas Proconsulum, sectio Publicanorum, calumniæ litium.—Justin, lib. xxviii. cap. 7.
[1 ] Qui mare tenet, eum necesse est rerum potiri.—Cicero ad Att., lib. x. Ep. 7.
[2 ] Polybius, lib. vi. ex. 2. Marius was among the first to disregard this limitation, and to recruit from all classes.
[3 ] Huet, “Commerce des Anciens,” cap. 30.
[1 ] Liv. lib. xxx. cap. 43.
[2 ] Cicero pro Lege Manilia; Huet, “Commerce des Anciens,” cap. 36.
[1 ] Gibbon, “Decline and Fall,” cap. i.
[1 ] Vegetius de Re Militari, lib. iv. cap. 31; Adam’s “Antiquities;” Campbell in “Harris’ Voyages,” i. 426, ed. 1764.
[1 ] This, however, has been excessively exaggerated. The influence which importations of corn have over the agriculture of the country into which they are brought, depends wholly on their magnitude. Supposing the total importation of corn into Rome under the emperors to have amounted to 1,000,000 or 1,200,000 quarters, there is no ground for thinking that it would have been reduced so low as 500,000 or 600,000 quarters had it been imported under a free system, as in England. But without insisting on this consideration, it is quite futile to suppose that an importation of 1,000,000 or 1,200,000 quarters could have inflicted any serious, or indeed sensible, injury on the agriculture of so great and so fertile a country as Italy. Its decay must be sought for in other causes than this. In the depopulation occasioned by the civil wars and the proscriptions; and still more, perhaps, in the extension of pasturage, and in the conversion of small into large estates principally cultivated by slaves, which it was cheaper to import than to breed. The beggarly population of Rome, the misera ac jejuna plebecula, as Cicero called it, could not support itself. It had to be supported by others. And it surely was more for the advantage of Italy that it should be supported by the provinces than by itself.
[2 ] Frumentariam legem C. Gracchus ferebat. Jucunda res plebi Romanæ: victus enim suppeditabatur large sine labore. Repugnabant boni quod et ab industria plebem ad desidiam avocari putabant, et ærarium exhauriri videbant. Pro Sextio, cap. 48.
[1 ] Lucan, lib. iii. v. 55, etc.
[2 ] A modius is nearly, but not quite, ¼th part of a bushel, being 1·902 imperial gallons.
[1 ] “Frumentum publicum tam fur quam perjurus et adulter accipit, et sine delectu morum quisquis civis est.”—Seneca, De Benef. iv. 28.
[2 ] This is Gibbon’s estimate. Dureau de la Malle estimates it at only 562,000; while later authorities carry it up to above 2,000,000, or to about the population of London within the extended bills of mortality. But though the estimate of Dureau de la Malle be supposed to be a good deal within the mark, we have not the least doubt that it is much nearer to it than the latter, which is quite extravagant.
[3 ] See the learned article on the Frumentariæ Leges, in Smith’s “Dictionary of Antiquities,” and the valuable treatise on the Corn Trade of Athens and Rome, in No. 168 of the “Edinburgh Review.” The texts of the ancient writers bearing on the subject are collected in the treatise of Contarenus, “De Frumentaria Romanorum Largitione.” 12mo. Vesaliæ, 1669.
[1 ] Suetonius, “Vit. Tib. Claudii,” cap. 20, ed. Pitisci. Bergier, “Hist. des Grands Chemins,” ii. 341; 4to, Bruxelles, 1736.
[1 ] Plin. Epistolæ, lib. vi. Ep. 31.
[2 ] If we may rely on the authority of Aurelius Victor, these precautions were not taken before they were necessary. He states that, on one occasion, during the reign of Augustus, there was only a three days’ supply of corn in the city; and that the emperor had determined to take poison unless the corn fleets arrived in the interval! Luckily they did arrive; and the safety of the people was ascribed to the good fortune of Augustus.—Aur. Victor, Epit. de Vita et Morib. Imperatorum, cap. i. p. 22, ed. Pitisci.
[3 ] Senecæ Epist. No. 77; Bilhon, “Commerce des Romains,” p. 73; Huet, “Commerce des Anciens,” cap. 48, etc.
[1 ] Taylor’s “Elements of Civil Law,” pp. 501, 505; and the numerous authorities there referred to. The importers of corn were early formed into a corporate body.—See Dig. lib. iii. tit. 4, de Naviculariis.
[2 ] Huet, “Commerce des Anciens,” cap. 49.
[1 ] Disquisition on India, p. 43, 4to ed.
[1 ] Plin. Hist. Nat. lib. xi. cap. 23; Robertson’s India, p. 49, 4to ed.
[2 ] Sharpe’s “Hist. of Egypt,” p. 374, ed. 1846.
[1 ] Strabo, lib. ii. cap. 4, § 5, and lib. xxii. cap. 1, § 7.
[2 ] Epist. lib. i.; Ep. 1, line 45.
[1 ] Plin. Hist. Nat. lib. xii. cap. 18.
[2 ] Ibid. lib. xii. cap. 25.
[3 ] Ibid. lib. ix. cap. 35.
[1 ] See ante, p. 58.
[2 ] Sueton. Vit. Jul. Cæsar, cap. 47.
[3 ] Tacit. Agricola, cap. 12; Gough’s “Camden,” iii. 189, edit. 1806.
[4 ] Hist. Nat. lib. ix. cap. 35. The father of Lollia, Marcus Lollius, acquired his immense wealth by abusing the powers entrusted to him in the East.
[1 ] Sueton. lib. ii. c. 71.
[2 ] Lib. xxxvii. c. 2.
[3 ] Lib. iv. Elig. 5, line 26.
[4 ] Mémoires de L’Academie, tom. xliii.
[5 ] Robertson’s “Disquisition on India,” note 39.
[6 ] Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients, vol. ii. p. 723.
[1 ] Robertson’s “India,” p. 55, 4to ed.
[2 ] Tacit. Annal. lib. ii. c. 33.
[3 ] Lib. xviii. c. 6.
[1 ] Gibbon, “Decline and Fall,” cap. 40.
[2 ] India mittit ebur. Virg. Georg. lib. i. lin. 57.
[3 ] Lib. iii. cap. 106.
[4 ] Hist. Ind. cap. 16.
[5 ] Strabo, lib. xv. cap. i. § 10. In the same paragraph, Strabo says that silks were produced, somewhat after the manner of cottons, from thread or wool obtained from the bark of certain trees.
[6 ] Hist. Nat. lib. xix. cap. 50.
[1 ] Lib. iii. 1. 237.
[2 ] Sylv. lib. i. v. 15.
[3 ] Lib. xii. cap. 8.
[4 ] “Treatise on Sugar,” 2d edit. pp. 66-71.
[1 ] See the Dissertation on the Commerce of the Euxine, annexed to Falconer’s Translation of Arrian’s Periplus of that sea, p. 116, etc., and the authorities there referred to.
[2 ] Tacit. Annal. lib. iii. cap. 53.
[3 ] “Digna res, nullo anno imperii nostri minus H. S. quingenties exhauriente India, et merces remittente, quæ apud nos centuplicato veneant.”—Hist. Nat. lib. vi. cap. 23.
[4 ] “Minimâque computatione millies centena millia sestertium annis omnibus, India et Seres, peninsulaque illa (Arabia) imperio nostro adimunt. Tanto nobis deliciæ et fœminæ constant.”—Ibid. lib. xii. cap. 18.
[1 ] “Del Commercio De Romani,” p. 220, etc., ed. Milano 1802.
[2 ] “Decline and Fall,” cap. 2.
[1 ] Gibbon, “Decline and Fall,” cap. 2.
[1 ] Dig. lib. xxxix., tit. iv. cap. 16, de Publicanis et Vectigalibus.
[2 ] “Essai sur l’Impot du vingtieme sur les successions,” etc., pp. 399-450.
[1 ] Rutilii Itin. lib. i.
[2 ] Gibbon, “Decline and Fall,” cap. 2.
[3 ] The ancient Byzantium was included within the ample circumference of the imperial city.
[1 ] Le commerce fut aussi arrêté par les entraves que lui mirent les droits et les peages. Ils etoient en grande quantité; et les rois, avec toute leur puissance, ne pouvoient s’y opposer. Quelqu’ ingenieux que soit notre siecle pour inventer une multitude d’impôts onéreux, les grands de ce temps là l’etoient bien davantage encore, et ils obligeoient les marchands que passoient des marchandises sur leurs terres, de leur payer des droits dont nous pourrons a peine comprendre les noms tels sont, par example, ceux de Rodaticum, Pulveraticum, Cispitaticum, etc. Schmidt “Histoire d’Allemagne,” ii. 145.
[1 ] Robertson’s “Introduction to Charles V.,” Note 29.
[2 ] Incredible as it may seem, this practice was continued down to a comparatively recent epoch. “Cependant il y a encore en Allemagne des pays où la coutume de confisquer les biens naufragés n’est point encore abolie. Il y a même des endroits on les ministres prédicateurs ne font pas difficulté de prier Dieu en chaire qu’il se fasse bien des naufrages sur leurs côtes. Et ces prieres, Thomasius à entrepris sérieusement de les justifier; mais par des raisons si singulieres, qu’elles ne valoient pas la peine que Barbeyrac a prise de les refuter.”—Valin, Commentaire sur l’Ordonnance de 1681, ii. 586, 4to, 1776. See also Puffendorff, “Droit de la Nature et des Gens,” par Barbeyrac, ii. 706, 4to, 1734.
[3 ] Gibbon, iv. 302, ed. 1838.
[1 ] In the course of time the government of Venice fell entirely into the hands of the aristocracy, and was ultimately formed into the most jealous, vigilant, and relentless despotism that has ever existed. No individual dared to express, and hardly even to entertain, an opinion on public matters. The highest functionaries of the state, as well as the meanest of the people, were equally subject to the tyranny of its inquisitorial and secret tribunals. But, however unrelenting, this despotism had at least the merit of maintaining public tranquillity. And, while the other states were torn by intestine factions, few events occurred that could affect or ruffle the torpid and even tenor of Venetian life. But, as Mr Hallam has truly stated, “the wildest excesses of faction are less dishonouring than the stillness and moral degradation of servitude.”—Middle Ages, i. 483.
[2 ] The bronze horses in St Mark’s Place.
[1 ] Sismondi, “Republiques Italiennes,” i. 298, ed. 1818.
[2 ] Schmidt, “Histoire d’Allemagne,” ii. 146. He adds, “Et afin de rendre les esclaves plus beaux, on avoit déjà la coutume horrible d’en chatrer plusieurs.”
[1 ] Marin, “Storia del Commercio,” ii. p. 52, and p. 163.
[1 ] Forster’s “Mahometanism Unveiled,” ii. 235, etc.
[1 ] Coryat says that Sannazarius received a douceur of 600 crowns for these lines, a liberal certainly, if not an extravagant, reward.—Coryat’s Crudities, i. p. 197, ed. 1776.
[1 ] “Decline and Fall,” vii. p. 225, ed. 1838.
[2 ] “Republiques Italiennes,” i. 242, ed. 1818.
[3 ] See post, Essay on the Origin of the Compass.
[1 ] Schomberg’s “Historical View of the Roman Law,” pp. 197-204; Pardessus Lois Maritimes, i. 140.
[2 ] See post, Essay on Maritime Law.
[1 ] A small island about 10 miles S.S.W. from the mouth of the Arno.
[2 ] Sismondi, “Republiques Italiennes,” iv. p. 23.
[1 ] Anderson’s “Chron. History of Commerce,” under the years 1316, 1323, and 1325; Henry’s “Hist. of Great Britain,” viii. 323, etc., ed. 1800.
[1 ] The analogy between the Athenians at Syracuse, and the Genoese at Chiozza, is too striking to require to be pointed out.
[1 ] Daru, “Histoire de Venese,” cap. 10.
[1 ] The native authorities say 16,000; but there can be no doubt that this is a gross exaggeration.
[2 ] Daru, tome ii. p. 189, etc.
[1 ] Daru, iii. 153.
[2 ] Ibid. p. 161.
[3 ] Ibid. tome iii. p. 150.
[1 ] See post, Essay on Maritime Law.
[2 ] We may take this opportunity of stating that the work of Capmany, entitled “Memorias Historicas sobre la Marina, Comercio, y Artes de Barcelona,” 4 vols. 4to, Madrid, 1779-91, comprises a larger body of important and well-digested information in regard to the early commerce and commercial institutions of Barcelona, and the Mediterranean ports generally, than is elsewhere to be found.
[3 ] These statements have been collected and condensed, in so far as regards Milan, in the “Memorie Storiche di Verri sulla Economia Publica di Milano.”
[1 ] Cosmo de Medici was the father of a line of princes, whose name and age are almost synonymous with the restoration of learning. His credit was ennobled into fame; his riches were dedicated to the service of mankind; he corresponded at once with Cairo and London, and a cargo of Indian spices and Greek books were often imported in the same vessel.—Gibbon, “Decline and Fall,” cap. 66.
[1 ] See Essay on Interest, passim.
[1 ] We quote the translation given by Roscoe, in his “Life of Lorenzo de Medici,” p. 235, ed. 1846.
[1 ] Hallam’s “Middle Ages,” i. 358.
[1 ] Born in 1441.
[1 ] Robertson has given an admirable account of this famous voyage in the History of America, Book ii. Burke has noticed it in the most masterly manner, in his account of the European Settlements in America, vol. i. cap. 1. And it has exercised the pens of Irving and a host of others.
[2 ] One of the earliest and most efficient promoters of Portuguese discovery.
[1 ] Taxation no Tyranny.
[1 ] We may truly say wild, for the horse, the ox, the sheep, and the hog have all been carried to America.
[2 ] Vattel, § 209.
[3 ] It has sometimes been attempted to acquire an indisputable title to lands in America and elsewhere by purchasing them from the natives. But no just title can be obtained in this way unless both parties be fully aware of what they are about; and this is never the case with the parties to the transactions in question. When the Indians of America or of the islands in the Pacific Ocean engage to exchange large tracts of land for a few gallons of rum or pounds of tobacco, they have no clear idea of what they are pledging themselves to give away. In fact, they are in great measure strangers to the right of property in land. The whites are fully aware of this; and the transaction is, on their part, a mere fraud; a pettifogging trick by which they hope to gloss over proceedings which they believe to be unjustifiable.
[1 ] Prescott’s “Mexico,” i. pp. 57, 65, 491, etc., ed. 1849. The Mexicans were in so far cannibals that they devoured the flesh of the human victims offered in sacrifice. And it really matters little (though Mr Prescott be of a different opinion) whether they did this to gratify a brutish appetite or in obedience to their religion.
[2 ] Prescott’s “Peru,” i. p. 30, ed. 1848.