Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter iii: Of the Sound - An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor
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chapter iii: Of the Sound - Robert Molesworth, An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor 
An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor, Edited and with an Introduction by Justin Champion (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
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Of the Sound
This Passage or Streight called the Sound, or Ore-sound, which has so great a Reputation in these Northern Parts of the World, lies between this Island of Zealand and the firm Land of Schonen. On Denmark side, where it is narrowest, stands the Town of Elsinore, and the strong Fortress of Cronenburg; near which is a tolerable good Road for Ships. On Sweden side is the Town of Helsinburg with a demolished Castle, whereof only one old Tower remains, sufficient to hold half a dozen great Guns to repay the Salutes of Men of War which pass through.
Betwixt these two do pass and repass all Vessels that Trade into the Baltick; so that next that of Gibraltar, one may justly reckon this Streight the most important and frequented of any in Europe. The loss of Schonen, though it was considerable in regard of the largeness and fruitfulness of the Province, yet it was more so in respect to the Dominion of this great Passage; for although the Danes, by the Treaty of Peace, have expressly retained their Title to it, and receive Toll from all Ships that pass except Swedes, yet they do not esteem the Security of that Title so firm as they would wish; for being not Masters of the Land on both sides, they may have the Right, but not the Power to assert it upon occasion, and seem only to enjoy it at present according to their good Behaviour; their stronger Neighbour the Swede being able to make use of the first Opportunity given him to their Prejudice.
This Toll, being very considerable, and of late years occasioning many Disputes which are not yet determined, I thought it might not be amiss to set down in this place, what I have learnt of the Original and Nature of it, after having made as strict Enquiry as was possible from the most ancient, and most understanding Persons I could meet with.
The most rational Account then is, That it was at first laid by the Consent of the Traders into the Baltick, who were willing to allow a small matter for each Ship that passed, towards the maintaining of Lights on certain places of that Coast, for the better direction of Sailors in dark Nights: Hereupon this Passage of the Sound became the most practised; that other of the Great Belt being in a little time quite neglected; as well because of the great Conveniency of those Lights to the Shipping that passed in and out of the East-Sea, as because of an Agreement made that no Ships should pass the other way, to the end that all might pay their shares; it being unreasonable that such Ships should have the benefit of those Lights in dark or stormy Winter Nights, who avoided paying towards the maintaining of those Fires, by passing another way. Besides, if this manner of avoiding the Payment had been allowed, the Revenue would have been so insignificant, considering the small Sum which each Ship was to pay, that the Lights could not have been maintained by it; and the Danes were not willing to be at the Charge solely for the use and benefit of their own Trading Ships, in regard they were Masters of so few as made it not worth their while; the Lubeckers, Dantzickers, and Merchants of other Hanse Towns, being the greatest Traders at that time in the Northern Parts of Europe, by which they arrived to a great height of Power and Riches.
But there being no fixed Rule or Treaty whereby to be governed with regard to the different Bulk of the Ships belonging to so many several Nations, the Danes began in process of time to grow Arbitrary, and exacted more or less Sums, according to the strength or weakness of those they had to deal with, or according to their Friendship or Discontent with those Princes and States to whom the several Ships belonged: Therefore the Emperor Charles the Fifth, to ascertain this Toll, concluded a Treaty with the King of Denmark, which was signed at Spire on the Rhine, and was in behalf of his Subjects of the Seventeen Provinces of the Low Countries, who had great Traffick in the Baltick; and agreed that as a Toll-Custom in the Sound, every Ship of 200 Tuns and under, should pay two Rose Nobles at its Entrance or Return from the Baltick, and every Ship above 200 Tuns three Rose Nobles.
This Agreement remained in force till such time as the United Provinces shook off the Spanish Yoak, and then the Danes taking the advantage of those Wars, raised their Toll to an extravagant height, the troublesome Times not affording leisure to the Dutch to mind the redressing of such a Mischief.
However, about the Year 1600 they joined themselves with the City of Lubeck, in opposition to such an exorbitant Toll as was taken from both of them; so that from thenceforth the Dutch paid more or less, according as Fortune was favourable or adverse to them, but generally little.
Anno 1647 the first Treaty was made between Denmark and the United Provinces (as Sovereigns) for this Toll; and they were obliged to pay a certain Sum for each Ship; this Treaty was to last Forty years; after the expiration of which, if in the mean time no new Treaty were made, that of Spire was to be in force.
This Treaty of 1647 expired 1687; and the Danes agreed to make an interim Treaty, till such time as the many Differences between them and the Hollanders in this and other Matters could be adjusted at leisure, and concluded in a more lasting and solemn one.
This interim Treaty, which was but for Four years, expired in the Year 1691; so that no new Treaty being made and finished during that time, it is evident that only the ancient Treaty of Spire remains in force, and no other.
The English Treaties with Denmark are grounded on those between the Dutch and that Kingdom, and have reference to them; with a Covenant that we shall be treated tanquam gens amicissima;11 excepting always Sweden, whose Ships pay no Toll at all.
So that at present both the English and Dutch have occasion for new Treaties with Denmark in this and other Affairs of Trade, unless it be agreed by all Parties that the Treaty of Spire shall for so much remain in vigour hereafter.
From this short History of the Original of this Imposition it appears, how slightly grounded the King of Denmark’s Title is to this Right of exacting the Toll of the Sound; which from an easie Contribution which Merchants chose to pay for their own Convenience, and whereof the King of Denmark was only Treasurer or Trustee, to see it fairly laid out for the common use, is grown to be a heavy Imposition upon Trade, as well as a kind of servile acknowledgment of his Sovereignty of those Seas; and is purely owing to his taking an Advantage of the Difficulties of the Hollanders during their Wars with Spain, and the Connivance of King James the First in prejudice of the English; who favoured the Danes upon account of his Marriage to a Daughter of that Crown; upon whose two Examples all the lesser States were forced to submit. Nor can it be conceived how it could be otherwise brought about; since it is very well known, that the Passage of the Sound is not the only one to the Baltick Sea, there being two others called the Greater and Lesser Belts; and that of the Greater Belt so commodious and large, that during the late Wars the whole Dutch Fleet chose to pass through it, and continue in it for four or five Months together; and the Danish Strength at Sea never appeared yet so formidable as to be able to oblige the English and Dutch to choose, which Passage it pleased: Besides, the breadth of the Sound in the narrowest part is four English Miles over; and every where of a sufficient depth; so that his Castles could not Command the Channel when he was Master of both sides; much less now that he has but one. So that it is plain, this pretended Sovereignty is very precarious, being partly founded on a Breach of Trust, as well as the Carelessness of some of the Princes concerned in it, to the great Injury of Trade: And the Spaniards may, with as much right, lay claim to the Sovereignty of the Streights of Gibralter, where there is but one Passage; or the Swede, who is now Master of one of the Castles on the Sound, demand another Toll of all Ships, since both are better able to support their Claims.
For the further clearing of this Point, and to shew how it agrees with the Account I have already given, I have thought fit to insert in this place the Copy of a Letter from a very understanding Person, March 31. 1691.
The Duties or Customs in the Sound were of old times no more than a Rose Noble for each Ship, Loading included; but within these hundred Years, some say since King James of Scotland came to the Crown of England, and winked at it, the Kings of Denmark having the Lands on both sides the Passage, began to impose Taxes on the Merchandize, and raise higher those which were formerly on the Ships; which the Lubeckers, who were then powerful, refused to pay.
Anno 1640 the King caused a Book of Rates to be printed, whereof I have one, according to which a Ship of 100 Lasts, or 200 Tuns, (which is the same thing), did pay as followeth: For 100 Last of Salt to the East 300 Rix Dollars; for the Ship and petty Charges on the Salt 34 Rix Dollars, 24 Stivers; and for 100 Last of Rye from the East 150 R.D. for Ship and petty Charges, as above, 34 R.D. 24 Stivers. So that the Charges of a Ship of this Burden, with its Lading forward and backward was 519 Rix Dollars.
Hereupon the Hollanders made an Alliance with the Swedes, who Anno 1643 by the way of Germany invaded Denmark, and the Dutch lent them Ships; then the King Prints another Book of Rates more favourable, demanding for 100 Last of Spanish Salt 100 Rix Dollars, for 100 Last of Rye 75 R.D. Ships Charges in and out, as above, 69 R.D. the whole amounting to 244 R.D. But this was neither done time enough, nor the Rates lowered enough. The Hollanders, by their Treaty with Denmark of 1646 or thereabouts, brought them thus, The 100 Last of Salt to 50 Rix Dollars, 100 Last of Rye to 50 R.D. Ships, and other petty Charges, nothing: in all for each Ship 100 Rix Dollars. And by reason of this untimely heightening of their Customs it is, that the Kings of Denmark have lost so many Territories to the Swedes.
But to Answer your Demand more fully, it was in those days, that is, about the Year 1640, that the Customs of the Ore-Sound yielded per Annum from 240,000 Rix Dollars to 300,000 R.D. But since 1645 they have not at any time render’d above 150,000 R.D. nor ever so much, except in time of War with the Swedes, when all did pay without Exemption. During the last War, I remember it yielded but 143,000 Rix Dollars; but before that War, and since (the Swedish Ships freeing all Goods that are carried in them, and the Swedish Goods in Foreign Ships being also free by Treaty) it has not yielded above 80,000 Rix Dollars per Annum; and the last Year past it did not reach to full 70,000 Rix Dollars.
The Court of Denmark is not to be blamed therefore for being wonderful jealous of any Infraction of this their pretended Sovereignty, as People are most careful and suspicious in behalf of an Estate wherein their Title is weak, it being so much the Interest not only of the English and Dutch, but also of the Swede, to have it set right, both to encourage Trade to his own Country, and to lessen the Revenue of his Neighbour; neither can it be said, that the English and Dutch did ever entirely yield the Point; for though they agreed to pay a small Toll on Merchandize, yet no manner of searching or stopping is to be allowed, or has ever been. The Danes are now obliged to take the Master of the Vessel’s word for the quality and quantity of the Lading; and thought it prudence never to press this Point further, least we should grow angry, and make too narrow an Inspection both into their Original Right, and into their Ability to maintain it: For whilst we and the Dutch are content to pay this Toll, all the other petty Princes and States do it without Murmur, but if we once broke the Chain, they would shake off their part of it likewise.
[11. ]Diplomatic term for “privileged nation status.”