Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IX.: papenburg—schauenburg lippe. - Travels in the North of Germany, vol. 1
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CHAPTER IX.: papenburg—schauenburg lippe. - Thomas Hodgskin, Travels in the North of Germany, vol. 1 
Travels in the North of Germany, describing the Present State of the Social and Political Institutions, the Agriculture, Manufactures, Commerce, Education, Arts and Manners in that Country, particularly in the Kingdom of Hannover, (Edinburgh: Archibald Constable, 1820). Vol. 1.
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Celebrity of Papenburg.—Origin.—Meppen.—Nature of the country.—Increase of inhabitants.—Dirtiness of women.—Meddling of government.—Lingen.—Westphalia.—Osnabrück.—Ancient abode of the Saxons.—Memorials.—A linen hall.—Gardens.—A triumphal arch.—Relics of Charlemagne.—Literature of small towns.—Justus Möser.—Tolerance.—Penitentiary.—Soil of Osnabrück.—Suhlingen.—Nienburg.—Prison.—Counties of Hoya and Diepholz.—Loccum.—Mineral waters of Rehburg.—Schauenburg.—Lippe.—Arrive at Hannover.
There was perhaps no town of Europe that grew more suddenly into notice and eminence, during the late war, than Papenburg: Its flag flew on every sea, and protected the property of every nation; but naval officers often looked in vain in their gazetteers and charts, or hunted over their geographies, for the name of the mighty place whose trade then appeared to be greater than that of all the rest of the world. Papenburg has not yet been a century in existence; and its flag only became known to the world, because the ministry of Great Britain was pleased to allow of its neutrality. It is not one of the least of the evils of modern war that thousands of men have been constrained by it, for the protection of their property, to be guilty of perjury, and that this perjury has often been sanctioned by courts of justice and the ruling powers of several nations. The inhabitants of Papenburg amount to 3000, and they may possess at most 200 small vessels, which may enable the reader faintly to imagine the quantity of perjury which must have been necessary to swear to those papers which made some thousands of vessels, during the late war, into Papenburgers. On this account Papenburg is famous in history, and in the records of the courts of admiralty of Great Britain. It ought, however, to be known from the nature of its origin, and from its prosperity.
All around Papenburg the country is a complete bog, and the peat is in places many feet thick; it seemed to render cultivation hopeless, and to condemn the neighbourhood to perpetual sterility. There was, however, no difficulty in digging a canal from this storehouse of fuel to the Ems, and the peat then found a market in Embden and Holland. Towards the latter end of the seventeenth century, the proprietor of the country, Frey heer von Landsberg-Veelen, made a canal of about seven miles in length, from the Ems to the moor where the peat was abundant, and encouraged people to settle there, by allowing them to dig peat and build houses without paying him any thing more than a nominal rent, and a certain sum for the goods they sent by the canal. There are now several canals, large enough for vessels of 150 tons burthen, and their whole length may amount to eighteen miles. Without any other encouragement from the proprietor than that he assisted to make these canals, and allowed the people to profit by their own industry, and without any streams of royal bounty, Papenburg grew up from such beginnings, and increased to its present size. It has been one of the most prosperous little towns of Europe, and now contains more than 3000 inhabitants. It is an instance of what the unfettered industry of man can effect. By the sides of these canals there are now several ship-yards where vessels are built and fully equipped. Without having any natural products whatever but peat, the Papenburgers have become a carrying people, so far as their means extend, to the rest of Europe. Their houses are in general neat and well built, and I have seen no little town, where there was altogether a greater appearance of comfort and prosperity. When this has been accomplished in a waste, what might we not expect throughout Europe, if all its inhabitants enjoyed, as the Papenburgers did, the privilege of freely exercising their industry, and of having all its fruits for themselves? Papenburg was formerly in the dominions of the bishopric of Munster, and it now forms a part of the kingdom of Hannover.
I walked on the following day to Meppen, the principal town in the circle of the same name, and which is the most desolate part of the dominions of Hannover, and perhaps of Germany. The greater part of the circle is either morass or sand, fertility being only found in the vicinity of some little streams. Much of my day’s walk was through a country wholly of sand. It was loose, and in some places in motion, and in others blown together in hills. It was sometimes collected in fantastical forms, and had the appearance of snow after a heavy storm. In many places, where the sand had recently been again dispersed by the wind, turf and heath could be discovered, which shews, in some measure, that the waste is of modern formation. It is said to increase, and sometimes to carry barrenness over cultivated fields, compelling the farmer to change his residence, and reducing him from affluence to wretchedness.
Barren as Meppen naturally is, the number of the inhabitants has increased one third within thirty years. All the moors, particularly the Burtanger moor, on the west side of the Ems, reward the labour which is employed in cultivating them. Within thirty years many new villages have been built, and much of these moors brought under cultivation. Many people have settled on them, and there can be no doubt, if the same system be pursued, that, in the course of a few years, a great part of these wastes, particularly the moors, may be made subservient to the nourishment of man.
The system is a very simple one, and very similar to that which made Papenburg a flourishing town. There is far less of the cunning of ruling craft wanted than is supposed to make men prosperous. Meppen formerly belonged to the bishop of Munster, and he allowed any persons who chose to fix a habitation on these moors, and cultivate any part of them, on condition of paying, at the end of ten years from the time of their first settling, a small rent. The first ten years they were to pay nothing. Two thirds of the rent which they were then to pay was to be devoted to public services, such as making roads, drains, constructing parish churches, and other works of utility. From tithes they were to be entirely free, but each settler was to contribute a small quantity of corn, and a small sum of money, for the support of the parish priest. There was one oversight committed. The moor touches on Holland, and the best channel by which its superfluous water could be drained passes through that country. No agreement had been entered into with the Dutchmen as to the manner in which this was to be done, nor were any measures taken to ensure them from damage. Disputes between them and the new settlers were the consequence, and the latter had broken the dikes down which the former had erected to keep the water from coming into their land. This was a fruitful source of quarrels, which foresight, and the common interest of the two parties, could easily have prevented.
I have recently brought under the notice of the reader three instances of increasing cultivation; the two latter of which, where the people had no rents, no tithes, and few government expences to pay, may almost equal the increase of population in some parts of America. It is an extra-ordinary fact, that, with thousands and millions of acres of ground yet uncultivated in Europe, in the neighbourhood of a good market, with implements, and capital, and manure, at hand, that people should be enabled to transport themselves to America or to Russia, and there grow rich by cultivating land not better than that which lies waste in the countries they leave. The German peasants go in thousands to the Black Sea, and from there send corn to Italy, France, and Britain, when there are whole counties of waste acres in their own country, that might be easily cultivated. I believe this arises from no natural advantages belonging to Russia or America, but from the artificial disadvantages under which the labouring classes of all the old and multiplied governments of Europe live. The settlers in Russia and America enjoy nothing more than the inhabitants of Europe but freedom, at least for a season, from the expences of government, and of maintaining idle people. There are few spots which, like Meppen and Papenburg, can be cultivated without paying rent and tithes, and when these are combined with interest of capital, the expences of government, and the increased price of the articles consumed, which is occasioned by pre-existing rents and tithes, nothing is left to the labourer to reward him for his industry. The clear fact is, without sifting it from its first concoction to its last fineness, that in Europe there are so many unproductive persons who are supported at the expence of the productive ones, that those latter never receive the tithe of those fruits which nature bestows on them. It is a sad feature of society, that he who produces every thing receives almost nothing, while those persons who produce nothing revel in superfluity. Industry is the slave of idleness, and, from being constantly associated with poverty and contempt, it has become more shunned and abhorred than crime. There can be no rational hope for the permanent improvement of society, no dependence on gaols and gibbets, to prevent all the crimes which now arise from a violation of artificial property, till individual industry shall form the basis of property,—till labour shall be opulent and idleness have nothing;—till this principle be so fully established in society as it is in nature, we shall expect in vain that men should prefer labour to idleness, to cheating, or to thieving.
This was St John’s day, and as the people here are Catholics, they all went to church. The women were all clothed in a coarse red woollen cloth, with large gipsey straw hats. It rained, and the whole of them had made a sort of umbrella of their outer petticoat, by throwing it over their shoulders and heads. When they were abroad, and the air blew on them, they looked tolerably clean and fresh, but within doors, when they had resumed their working dresses, they were dirty and disgusting. I have seldom seen European women who appeared more negligent than they appeared to be. I had occasion, from its raining, to enter one or two cottages for shelter, and the women, whether young or elderly, were half undressed. They wore no stays; their linen was dirty; their gowns only half tied; their bosoms were naked, and two or three ragged aprons covered one another; they wore no shoes; their skins were unwashed, and their hair dishevelled. One amused herself with that species of hunting which is so common in Italy, and with which Laura, according to Petrarch, appears sometime to have amused herself.∗ Another took snuff, and wiped herself with her woollen apron. Their houses resemble their persons. They have holes instead of windows; in the brightest day darkness is in them. The furniture consists in a table, a loom, two or three wooden stools, a few pewter plates and basins, with one or two kettles. Dirty as they are, the females wear on gala days gold ear-rings and silver clasps, that go over the head and keep the hair together. Vanity provides ornaments for a dirty person before necessaries for the house. Cleanliness makes both mind and body healthy, and perhaps there is nothing which can give a greater degree of permanent pleasure to the individuals of both sexes than the cleanliness of each. To introduce so much luxury among these people as would make them attend to their persons and dress, would be rendering them the most essential service. They are not idle. They are merely negligent, slovenly, and dirty. When I recollected the clean inhabitants of Embden, the contrast appeared great, and I had again reason to praise wealth and freedom. Yet in this country, where every body is poor, there are no beggars, no alms houses, no paupers, and few persons who are fed by the bounties of others.
At Meppen I heard rather a curious instance of the care of the magistracy for the morality of the people. It had been customary, on feast days and Sundays, for the poorer sort of people to meet and dance and amuse themselves, in what manner, and so long as they pleased; but the magistrates thought it would be better for their health and morality, if they were to separate at an early hour, and they consequently forbade these assemblies to be continued beyond ten o’clock. The people, who had been accustomed to remain longer together, in some measure resisted, and the whole town had been thrown into disturbance by the officiousness of the magistrates. This is a minor example of governing folly. To prevent one man from getting tipsey, or one woman from enjoying a stolen embrace, which, after all this interference, may happen, and which might not happen without it, dissension and discord are introduced through a whole town, and the community suffers more from the irritation of opposition and the punishments inflicted, than it could by any possibility have suffered if things had been left to themselves. Magistrates and laws very often make those crimes, to repress and punish which they afterwards derive most of their importance and utility.
I shall say nothing of a walk for two days through such a desolate country as I had recently passed, till I reached Osnabrück. Lingen is the only town worth mentioning that lies between the towns of Osnabrück and Meppen. It is built on the Ems, and formerly boasted a university, which is at present gone to decay. It is a clean town. The houses were rather built after the Dutch manner than the German. The farm-houses and windmills, which resemble a huge box, placed on its end, made me thoroughly sensible how much the Friez-landers have surpassed the scattered inhabitants of Westphalia. Notwithstanding the remarks of the Germans, the satirical description of Voltaire is still tolerably correct. He says, “Dans des grandes huttes qu’on appelle maisons, on voit des animaux qu’on appelle hommes, qui vivent le plus cordialement du monde, pêle mêle avec d’autres animaux domestiques. Une certaine pierre dure, noire et gluant, composée à ce qu’on dit d’une espèce de seigle, est la nourriture des maitres de la maison.” This “pierre dure et noire” is the celebrated pumpernickel, a black bread made of rye, with nothing separated from it but the husks of the grain. Each loaf is made of a bushel of meal; it requires twenty-four hours to bake, and it keeps good a month or six weeks. The houses are somewhat as Voltaire describes them, and of the people I have already spoken. In the neighbourhood of the town of Osnabrück the soil is a good clay, the land rises into hills, and is diversified with wood and water, but a great part of Westphalia is sand or moor. The houses are thinly scattered over it, and the inhabitants, yet devoted to the Catholic religion, are some of the least cultivated of the Germans. Their general food after black bread is pancakes made of the grits of buck-wheat, and meats, particularly pork and sausages of all kinds, dried amidst the smoke that hovers in the upper part of the house. The pancakes are generally eaten for supper. The customs of Holland are, however, advancing. Tea or weak coffee is very often used twice a day. One or other is the usual breakfast.
Many of the poorer inhabitants of Westphalia make a summer excursion into Holland, where they find employment as labourers. They return to their homes in winter, and then chiefly employ themselves in knitting or weaving. Though they are absolutely poor, yet they are probably content. There are no lordly castles, or splendid houses to excite desire, or to provoke envy. All are equal in poverty. Inequality of condition, and not a want of mere luxuries, renders men harsh, uncivil, and sometimes brutal. In this sandy desolate country I had frequent occasion to apply to the peasants for direction to find my way, and their assistance sometimes went beyond the bounds of common civility. They more than once accompanied me a considerable distance to put me in the right road, and always in a cheerful kind manner.
The town of Osnabrück and its neighbourhood was one of the principal seats of the most ancient inhabitants of this country. Here lived Herman, the conqueror of Varus, and here he sacrificed the captive Romans on the altars of the Saxon Gods. And here Wittelkind, six centuries later, fought the last of the battles of independence. He was conquered, and Westphalia added to the empire of the Franks, and brought under the dominion of the church. It is to this part of the country that all the recollections of early national independence attach, and Herman and Wittelkind are the great heroes of early Saxon history. The country about Osnabrück seems to have been well calculated for the residence of an independent people; and even now there is something in its wood covered and broken hills, and in the deep shade of the forests, that recalls the supersitions of the ancient inhabitants. The country hilly, rugged, and yet fertile, and surrounded on all sides by sands or morasses, offered a secure retreat and a sufficiency of nourishment to a savage people. It was one of the last civilized parts of Germany, and still retains many of those peculiar privileges and usages which were common to the ancient Saxons.
There are several piles of stones, or rude masses of granite, yet in the neighbourhood, which are thought to be monuments of the ancient Druids. Those which I saw appeared to have been washed to their place by some extraordinary convulsion of nature. They were on the top of a hill, called the Piesberg, close to the town of Osnabrück, and there so placed as to form a sort of cave in the hill. Two masses of granite lie partly buried in the earth, and on the top of them lies another mass, that may be nine feet square, and three feet thick. Neither of them bear the least mark of the labour of man, yet it is possible man might have placed them there; at least the present generation loves to lend to the rude monuments, whether of art or of nature, the fables of superstition, and stones and blocks become hallowed to the mind from being associated in its imaginations with the practices, and deeds, and sufferings of past generations. It spreads its own poetical feelings over inanimate objects, converts a rude stone to an altar, a knoll of trees to a sacred grove, and peoples the wild with beings of its own creation. No place could be better fitted for such imaginations than the country around these stones. They were on the top of a wood-covered hill, other hills equally covered with wood surrounded and rose above it. When I visited it, the last rays of the setting sun glowed among the trembling twigs of the white birch-trees that covered the hills. The perfect seclusion, and the mossy bed at the foot of the stones, tempted to repose, and to indulge in indolent imaginations. The noise of a distant forge was heard, and sometimes of waggons passing on a road not far beneath. Some of the changes which had taken place in society since this was the favourite seat of the Saxons, passed through my mind. I contrasted the present with what I knew of the past situation of man. I could not doubt that his mechanical ingenuity, and with that his comforts and conveniences, were wonderfully improved, but they were combined with a loss of individual independence, with a sort of political degradation in the mass of the society, that almost made me give the praise of superiority to the barbarous equality and rude freedom of the ancient Saxons.
Osnabrück contains 9000 people, situated on a small river called the Hase; the palace, the townhouse, the court of justice, the cathedral, are all good buildings, and there are a great many good-looking private houses belonging to merchants. Though not the largest, it is undoubtedly the best situated, and the handsomest town of his Majesty’s German dominions. It is a place of considerable trade, from being in the centre of a country where a great quantity of linen is made, and which is brought here for inspection and sale. The coarse linen called Osnabrück was formerly very much in use, but its place is now in a great measure supplied by cheaper articles made from cotton. The hall in which the linen is measured, stamped, and sold, is called a linen legge. There are persons appointed by the government to inspect the linen brought for sale, to stamp it, and to declare to what class it belongs as to fineness and size. Their marks are so much relied on, that it is said the linen is afterwards bought and sold without being further inspected. The merchants at Bremen and Hamburg, and the West Indies, who deal in it, buy it according to these marks, and not according to any opinion they form of its value. Some instances have, however, lately been discovered, in which they have been forged, and which may bring the whole into disrepute.
A great number of peasants, all cleanly dressed, had brought their webs on Saturday for inspection and sale. Some waited the selling rather anxiously, but most of them were free and full of speech. They were happy to see one another, and they overflowed with words. Two men measured every web, it was then rolled up, its quantity marked on it, and the inspector decided to what class it belonged. When a sufficient number of bolts had been collected, the inspector turned auctioneer, and sold them to three merchants who were assembled to buy, he sometimes bidding himself. There was little competition; the merchants appeared to buy at their own prices. They gave from sixty pfennige the ell for the coarse linen to eighty-two pfennige, for the finest which was sold, that is, from 8d. to 10d. per ell; formerly the price was 3d. or 4d. more per ell. This diminution of sale price, while the cost of production remains the same, all of which is suffered by the peasantry, who are generally the growers of the flax, the spinners, and the weavers, combined with a general rise in the price of most commodities, makes it appear true what the peasants said, “That linen does not now pay them for their labour.” The peasantry, who are obliged to have their linen stamped, find no other market for it but in the same hall; they are entirely at the mercy of the inspector and the capitalists, and I was not surprised to learn that most of the good houses of Osnabrück had been built by linen merchants. The peasants have the power of taking the linen away if they do not like the price, but they said they should then find nobody to purchase it, and its sale is necessary to their subsistence. The capitalist has an advantage against which they cannot contend, and he grows rich by merely buying and selling, while the manufacturers remain poor. The establishment of such linen-halls in most of the towns in the neighbourhood of which much linen is made, is thought a measure of great wisdom, and is proportionally praised by most German authors. Westphalia, which is itself so barren, formerly owed much of its prosperity to the manufactory of linen, but the present price barely pays the labour, and there can be little doubt unless a cheaper method is found out of making it, that cotton will ultimately banish it entirely from the market. The machinery of England has injured the Continent by enabling us to undersell its inhabitants, but their indolence is to blame, and not our energy. The inhabitants of Westphalia deserve our pity, for it will be long before they can find any other species of industry by which they so profitably occupy their time in winter as making linen.
I do not know how to express my notion of the quietness, amiableness, and general content of the German character, in any other manner than by repeating the facts on which it is founded. One of the most conspicuous of these is the numerous little gardens, with arbours, and hills, and walks, and flowers, that surround all German towns, and in which the greater part of the inhabitants may be seen every afternoon smoking their pipes, and cultivating their flowers and fruits, or reposing in their summer houses, sewing or reading, or more lovingly with their arms encircling each other, walking to and fro, and communing, though undisturbed, not unseen, or taking their evening meal under the trees, or singing as if all were happy. All round the walls of Osnabrück, such images as these of peace and amiableness were to be seen. At one place, however, they were rather disturbed by a new gate having been erected in the form of a triumphal arch to the honour of the Landwehr of Osnabrück, who were at the battle of Waterloo. A Herr von Gurlich had erected this, and had inscribed his name on it, that, by honouring others, he himself may be known to posterity. It is a pity that a remembrance of war and deeds of carnage should have been allowed to be reared amidst such scenes of domestic bliss. But the respect and reverence which the Germans entertain for the military is one of the worst features of their character. If a man have served as an officer, no matter whom, he is honoured, while an honest tradesman is the object of contempt. Their love of gardens, and of flowers, and of domestic bliss, is their natural character; their respect for soldiers is the result of the medals and fictitious honours by which men are still bribed to be the instruments of death in the hands of ambition. I looked at the enjoyments of others, and then sojourned with my host into his garden. The evening was calm, and the whole scene one of content and peace.
I have rarely beheld the gardens which surround the towns of Germany without wishing the environs of our own masses of bricks, and clouds of smoke of our manufacturing towns, might also be divided into gardens, where those who pleased might find a healthy amusement in the cultivation of their own cabbages. It is at least a pity that those who might be disposed to spare some hours from the alehouse, cannot have an opportunity of devoting them to so pleasing and softening an occupation as rearing a few flowers and fruits. Such a division of the lands in the neighbourhood of large towns might not add to the quantity of productions, but it would to the health and the morality of the people. There is one great hindrance to the completion of such a wish. In our country, unhappily, every little spot must be protected from depredation by walls or hedges, or man-traps and spring-guns; in Germany, they are often unenclosed, and yet they who plant the cabbages, or sow the potatoes, have the pleasure of consuming them.
For the gratification of the curious reader, I must mention, that in the cathedral at Osnabrück an ivory comb and staff, and a crown, said to have belonged to Charlemagne, are preserved as religious relics.
Osnabrück is an instance of what I have before met with in Germany, that is, a small town which, without either having a university, or being a royal residence, is yet in some sort celebrated for its literature. It was formerly the residence of the Prince Bishop, but no court has been kept to bring with it polish and refinement since the days of Ernest Augustus, the father of George the First. The nobility of the province have in general resided here, and it has always been the seat of the government, and tribunal for the province. The last has had an influence on the reputation of Osnabrück, for Justus Möser, who is celebrated for his apothegms, as the Franklin of Germany, and who was one of its classical historians, was president of this tribunal. He is known among his countrymen as the noble Herrliche Justus Möser, and we must allow them to be the best judges of his merit. His political writings are praised, but it is the advice which, as a man of rank, and many occupations, he gave in small sentences to the peasant and the citizen in the “Weekly Intelligence” of Osnabrück relative to education, to clothing, to diet, to managing their houses, that have gained him the most credit, and that did him the most honour. Literary men so seldom bend their minds to any useful thing of this kind, and the literary men of Germany so seldom trouble themselves with any of the affairs of life, that this example to the contrary merits to be recorded. This gentleman was one of that numerous class of enlightened men who improved the language and literature of Germany between the years 1760 and 1790. Most of his works were written between these two epochs. Till lately, a periodical work on agriculture was published at Osnabrück, which is now suspended, but which, it was hoped, quiet would allow to be again resumed. Three or four tolerable booksellers’ shops, two Latin schools, and the conversation of its people, shewed that Osnabrück has not yet lost all its claim to literary reputation. This love of literature in small towns where there are neither universities nor courts, is an evidence of its general diffusion.
The half of the inhabitants, both of the town and province of Osnabrück, are Catholics, but they live in such harmony, that it is necessary to make inquiries to learn that they follow different religions. The people are themselves ignorant if one sect has more privileges than another. The judges are half Catholics and half Protestants. The cathedral is Catholic, and there is a Catholic bishop, who has united himself with a Bible society, composed chiefly of Protestants. The bishop must not be confounded with the Prince Bishop of Osnabrück. The revenues of the country belong to the latter, or rather at present to the government of Hannover, but the real consecrated bishop is chosen by his own prebends, subject to the approval of the government, and enjoys a fixed and not a very large income.
There is a Zucht-house, or penitentiary, also at Osnabrück, but because Monday was a feast day, I was not permitted to see it. It is an airy spacious building, in which the prisoners were confined in rooms, each containing sixteen or twenty persons. The only work they do is spinning; they are nourished independently of what they earn, and their labour has little value. To compel them to work, while their nourishment does not depend on what they gain, is one means of reducing the price which is paid for the labour of people who have to nourish themselves. There can be no question that the forced and cheap labour of prisoners helps to reduce the rewards of the free labourer, and to enrich the merchant at his expence. Condemning criminals to labour, therefore, produces poverty among honest labourers, multiplies pauperism, increases inequalities of condition, and remotely augments crime. The earnings of the people thus shut up were as nothing. They do not pay the apothecary, said the keeper.
The northern part of the province of Osnabrück is moor, or a sandy soil, that naturally produces little more than heath. The southern part is hilly, and has a good clay soil on limestone. Coals are found and worked in one or two places in the province, but more are worked in the territories of Prussia, a little distance from Osnabrück. Lime is burnt in several places. The greater part of the hills seem to be an aggregate of loose stones, and similar ones appear at one time to have covered the whole country. As they are removed, a good stiff clay soil, approaching, in its colour, to red, remains. It is easy of culture, and fruitful, and, though much of Osnabrück is barren, it is far from being the worst part of the dominions of Hannover.
From Osnabrück I turned my face again towards the town of Hannover, and, passing through part of the county of Diepholz, and the little town of the same name, I reached Suhlingen on the evening of Monday, June 29.
The name of the county of Diepholz is known as the title which the Duke of Cambridge generally uses in travelling. The long straggling village, or town of the same name, is rather famous for a manufactory of coarse cloth. About eighty persons, each for himself, are employed in this manufactory. They complained much also of the decay of trade, but men complain from disappointed hope, and, while hope outruns reality, there will always be a subject of complaint. Suhlingen is celebrated for the convention concluded there in 1803, between the Hannoverian army under Count Wallmoden and the French army under Marshal Mortier, and which conferred no honour on the former. The king refused to ratify it. It is also famous in the statistical accounts of Hannover, as a town where much iron is manufactured. I had heard of prodigious manufactories of sickles, scythes, and knives, and deemed it a sort of Carron. There are four master smiths, who, besides working themselves, employ each of them four or five journeymen. They do the common work of the place, such as shoeing horses, mending ploughshares, &c. and may, moreover, make about 6000 scythes in a year. This is one of the great iron manufactories of Hannover. The journeymen live with the family of the master, and earn also eight pistoles, about L. 6, 13s. 4d. per year. This was not the first time I had been deluded by statistical writers, and it is only when we have seen with our own eyes that we know what is meant by their exaggerated language. A few weavers who make a little coarse linen form an extensive manufactory. Four common forges make a town into a Carron or a Birmingham, and catching a few trout and sending them to Hamburg, which we should regard as a precarious means of procuring a miserable subsistence, is called a flourishing commerce.
Nienburg is a decent town, situated on the Weser, and on the road between Bremen and Hannover; but, though its situation is thus advantageous, it has very little trade, from the greater part of the country about it being thinly inhabited and badly cultivated. The inhabitants are generally so poor that they have nothing to give for superfluities, and, consequently, can buy nothing. I met a gentleman at the inn who was going to the sea for the benefit of bathing, but who was obliged to wait several hours for post horses. The posts are not better regulated, therefore, when monopolized by the crown, and when under its control, than when they are conducted by individuals, who establish them for the sake of profit.
I visited another prison, in which men are confined who have been condemned to labour and imprisonment for a certain term of years. If the two previously mentioned at Celle and Osnabrück had some advantages of situation and appearance, this was a wretched place. It is an old tower, which was once a part of the fortifications, and, as they have been destroyed, it stands isolated, and is, as it looks to be, a ruin. There were four apartments, one over the other. One of them was occupied by the keeper; in the other three 117 persons were confined. A great part of them were at the moment out at work. The sick, and some who had been at work, were in the house. The irregular form of the building made the rooms of a strange three-cornered sort of shape. In every apartment was a wooden bench, like those in guard-houses, on which some beds were strewed, and a few of the sick and lazy were lying on them. All sorts of filth were lying on the floor, and clothes of various kinds were hanging from the ceiling, or against the walls. A few miserable half-clothed beings mourned rather than cursed their fate. They complained of want of medicines and food, and of a want of medical attendance. One was writing; some were reading; some were calmly talking with one another, or anxious to address me. It was altogether a miserable habitation, but there was no noise, nor confusion, nor imprecations. The only keeper I saw was a woman, who took no precaution to lock the door behind her when she entered, and who spoke to the prisoners like familiar acquaintance. From not knowing her subjects so well as she knew them, I was afraid of an insurrection, but they wanted courage to attempt an escape. There was no classification of prisoners; those who had been detected in their first essay at guilt, and old hardened offenders, were shut up together. The depraved might not only teach vice to the innocent, but encourage them to commit it, by pointing out the methods by which they might escape the vengeance of the law. All distinction of crime also appeared likely to be obliterated by indiscriminate punishments. The soldier for desertion, and the profligate thief, were condemned to the same gaol and the same labour. There was no place for the prisoners to take exercise; they never breathed the fresh air but when they went abroad to work, and every one but the sick wore shackles.
The torture was not at this time abolished in Hannover, but none of the prisoners would confess that it had been inflicted on them; they all said their crimes were too trifling, though they all knew what it was. They complained, however, of the arbitrary will of the magistrates, to which they attributed their punishments much more than to their own crimes. Such assertions cannot be disproved where the trials are secret, but they may be by publicity of procedure. I am far from pitying the man who suffers in consequence of his own crimes, but I doubt if the criminal is rightly punished by being condemned to a gaol; and when I have sometimes seen the misery it incloses from the world, and have for a moment extended my thoughts to all the sufferings of our race, I have doubted if more be not inflicted on us by the pride or vanity of what is called Reason than by our own most violent and degrading lusts.
Nienburg is in the county of Hoya, which, with the county of Diepholz, through which I had just passed, are usually spoken of and described together in statistical accounts of Hannover, and I shall, therefore, here add a short description of them. They are generally flat, without being absolutely level. The soil is chiefly sand, sometimes coarse, approaching to gravel; heather covers the greater part, morasses and bogs are numerous, and much peat is dug for fuel. On the Weser and on the Aller there is good marsh land and meadows. In Diepholz there is a lake called Dummer See, Dull Lake, which name it deserves. It is surrounded with swamps, and looks something like the poet’s description of Lethe. A great part of these provinces are waste and uncultivated. From brick earth being found in several places beneath the surface, from trees growing luxuriantly, there is reason to think a moderate portion of labour might so improve the soil, as to render it productive. Habitations are thinly scattered, and the people have the character of being the most boorish, ignorant, and guzzling of all the inhabitants of Hannover. My own experience allows me to say nothing on this point. The houses which I saw were invariably badly built, the people badly clothed, and shewing several signs of poverty and wretchedness.
From Nienburg I walked, by the banks of the Weser, to a village called Leese. Much tobacco was cultivated in this neighbourhood, though, owing to very dry weather, neither it nor any other plant or herb was looking well. The soil was sandy. A due proportion of water is a desideratum in all agricultural undertakings, and it may be hoped this will, at some future time, be absolutely at the command of the agriculturist. In this neighbourhood was one of those very large royal farms which will afterwards be described, the tenant of which was riding about in a sort of wicker carriage to inspect his workmen. The landlord at Leese hired the tithes of the village. He also was an agriculturist.
There was formerly a monastery at Loccum, to where I walked from Leese. It is now secularized. The buildings, however, remain. Some prebends still enjoy emoluments from its revenues, and the abbot of Loccum is the highest and only dignitary of the Hannoverian church. The abbey is situated in a fruitful and pleasant country. While the good fathers who once possessed it were careful to promise the joys of heaven to the people, they took those vulgar ones which the earth could bestow to themselves.
In the course of my walk, though there was here no high-road, I had two or three peasants for my companions. With one I walked, and with another I rode in his waggon. One I found glad that the services he used to pay his lord had been commuted into money. He knew, and described very well, in what manner both tenant and lord were injured by the former being obliged to do the work of the latter. It was badly done, and the teams, and servants, and people who did it, got into slovenly habits, that they afterwards carried into their own occupations, and thus idleness and negligence were the consequences of compelling some men to labour for others. Another peasant was the enemy of improvement; he liked things as they were, and thought no good would come from dividing and inclosing commons; he was a loyal good subject, who loved the taxes and the conscription for the landwehr, and the king and his ministers, and all which they commanded.
Rehburg, through which I passed, is one of the most famous and fashionable watering-places of Hannover. The Germans seem to have a greater taste to visit such places in the summer than we have. There is hardly a person of respectability who does not go to some mineral-well every year, and those who cannot go have the water brought to them in bottles, that they may at least drink the precious beverage. The waters of Rehburg are of sovereign efficacy against the gout. The situation of the place is probably more efficacious. It commands an extensive view over a large lake, Steinhuder Meer, and an interesting country. The wooded hill at the foot of which it stands is laid out in agreeable walks, all planned by the architect of the crown, and the buildings, which are also under his care and superintendence, are neat and convenient. The government monopolizes the mineral waters, and only allows them to be used under the direction of the physicians it appoints. Its subjects are deeply indebted to it for the care it takes of their health.
The little principality of Schauenburg-Lippe intervenes here between one part of the dominions of Hannover and another, and it was necessary, on leaving Rehburg, to traverse a part of this to arrive at Wunstorf, which is also Hannoverian. This independent principality lies in the midst of the territories of Hannover, Prussia, and Hesse Cassel. But its sovereigns have long had a reputation of being equally free from ambition and servility. Their dominions have not been enlarged, neither have they been incorporated by any larger state. They amount only to 120 square miles, and contain 30,000 inhabitants. The revenue may amount to L. 20,000 Sterling. It is a fruitful and well cultivated little district. States, or a parliament, have always been in use here. They are composed of deputies from the nobility—Rittershaft,—and deputies from the towns; and their servants, not the servants of the sovereign, receive and dispose of the produce of the taxes. United with Lippe, Detmold, and the principalities of Hohenzollern, Liechtenstein, and Waldeck, it has a seat in the diet of Germany.
Near Wunstorf stands a monument erected to the memory of the Danish General Obentraut, who was killed in that neighbourhood in the year 1625, in the thirty years which ravaged the whole of Germany. After having hastily traversed most of the provinces which compose the north-western part of the kingdom of Hannover in five weeks, I again reached the town of Hannover on Wednesday, July 1. I had had friendly salutations at parting, and I was kindly welcomed back.
[∗]The following is the passage which describes the occupation alluded to: