Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XI.: hannover—statistical and historical view. - Travels in the North of Germany, vol. 1
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CHAPTER XI.: hannover—statistical and historical view. - 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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hannover—statistical and historical view.
Different provinces of Hannover.—Names and size.—Population.—Boundaries.—Historical view.—Thirty years’ war.—Union of territories.—Their extent when the Elector was called to the throne of Great Britain.—Act of settlement gave a ninth elector to Germany.—Acquisition of Bremen and Verden.—Of territory at the Congress of Vienna.
There is no land properly called Hannover, and this is the only monarchy in Europe whose title is borrowed from the chief city of its territories. This title was first used when Ernest Augustus, the father of George I. obtained the dignity of an elector of the empire, and it is now applied both to the newly acquired and to the long-possessed German dominions of his majesty. The history of this part of Germany prior to the above period, mentions the Dukes of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, or Lüneburg, or the Prince of Kalenberg, or the Archbishop of Bremen, but the name Hannover was then used only to designate an almost independent city, which often refused obedience to its nominal sovereigns, and never obeyed them but on stipulated conditions.
The kingdom of Hannover is now composed of several provinces, each of which enjoyed, at no very distant period, a separate independent existence. Several of them have been already mentioned and described, and the following is a correct list of their names, size, and population. The most northern part of the kingdom is placed first. The information is taken from Erd Beschreibung des Königreichs Hannover. Von K. D. A. Sonne. Sondershausen, 1817.
The whole number of inhabitants in Hannover was, in 1816—1817, 1,314,124, and, on an average of the whole, 120 persons are found living on each square mile of territory. The inhabitants are, however, very unequally divided. In the fertile bishoprick of Hildesheim, there are 250 persons; in the sandy Lüneburg, 77; and in the small, and still more desolate Meppen, only 51 persons to each square mile. Seventy-three cities and 5311 market towns and villages are enumerated as belonging to Hannover. In the whole kingdom there were, from 1816 to 1817, 43,317 births, 33,254 deaths, and 13,786 marriages. On an average, there were more than three children to each marriage. The excess of births over deaths is accounted for more by emigration than by an increase of population. The number of births and deaths for 1817—1818 will be found in an appendix, which is also valuable as shewing the number of children born out of marriage in each part of Hannover.
Hannover contains, in all, 11,045 square geographical miles, but its circumference can by no means be expressed, because, after all the efforts which have been made to “round states,” it is still intersected by the whole dukedom of Oldenburg. The free city of Bremen, the principality of Lippe-Schauenburg, and the Amt Ritzebüttel, belonging to Hamburg, lie within its circumference, and a portion of territory belonging to Brunswick completely separates one of its provinces from all the others: with these exceptions, its northern boundary, including the mouths of the three great rivers, the Ems, the Weser, and the Elbe, is the sea. The eastern boundary is the Elbe, with the exception of a small portion of territory which lies on the eastern side of that river; West Friezland, belonging to the king of the Netherlands, bounds it on the west; that portion of Westphalia which belongs to Prussia, and the principality of Lippe-Detmold, lie on the south-west; Hesse Cassel on the south; Brunswick and Magdeburg, belonging to Prussia, on the south-east side.
Germany differs from the other countries of Europe, inasmuch as all the inhabitants, with the exception of the Sclavonic race, speak the same, or dialects of the same language. The Germans are truly a nation or people, but have never been united under one government, so as to form a power. Most of the powers of Europe are composed of different nations, but have long had a bond of union in a common government. As it is this latter circumstance which makes up that idea which is expressed by the words,—our country,—much more than mere geographical limits, the Germans have necessarily wanted that ardent attachment to Germany which Frenchmen have to France, and Britons to their native island. “Il n’y point,” says Mad. De Stael, “un grand amour pour la patrie dans un empire divisé depuis plusieurs siècles, où les Allemands combattoient contre les Allemands, presque toujours excités par une impulsion étrangère.” Feuds and broils, rather than national wars, have ever made up the military history of Germany. Many of the feats which military history holds up to us as worthy of our admiration, ought to be regarded with abhorrence, yet the pride of belonging to a race long superior in honourable feats of arms may be an ennobling feeling. The sons of those men who have been distinguished in the field of blood, will shine in the better pursuits of science, when the growing knowledge of mankind shall make the arts of peace more honourable than those of war: and nothing but the practice of giving superiority to the children of superior men, prevents the former from surpassing the latter. Thus the very means which are taken by those giant men who occasionally win the empire of the world to transmit it to their posterity, cause it to pass away from their enfeebled descendants. Hannover is in a great measure in miniature what Germany is in the full sized portrait.
At the earliest periods of the history of the north of Germany, the present dominions of Hannover were the dwellings of those nations who, under the command of Herrman, or the general, or Arminius, defeated the Romans under Varus, and appear to have completely excluded the Roman armies and Roman civilization. The name of Cherushers has not, however, descended to their posterity, and the present generation having justly learned to despise the ferociousness of their ancestors, seem also to have no claim to their glory of loving and courageously struggling for independence. This is the first great event in their history, and from this period till Charlemagne sent his army to conquer and baptize them, in the eighth century, they appear to have made few approaches to civilization. The change from paganism to Christianity was encircled with that glory which belongs to a just, though unsuccessful national resistance. They became Christians, and both the sagacity and the magnanimity of the conqueror appear conspicuous in his allowing his unsuccessful opponent, Wittekind, to take with his new religion the new title of Duke of Saxony, and thus to preserve the government of his dominions.
The new dukedom must not, however, be confounded with what we at present call Saxony. The former appears to have extended from the Elbe to the Ems, and to have inclosed, with the mountains of the Harz, all the land that lay between them and the sea. It became, from the valour of the Saxons, one of the most extensive and mighty powers of Germany, and, in the year 918, one of its dukes was elected Emperor of Germany. It remained a powerful dukedom till the twelfth century, when Henry the Lion (the duke) was put to the ban of the empire, and all his extensive territories were divided into parcels, never again to be united, and never more to be conspicuous till one of his descendants was called to the British throne. It was the armies of Charlemagne, who, carrying with them the arts and religion of the south, first introduced improvements amongst the Saxons. A more extensive government was established, and it put a stop to most of those petty wars which had formerly desolated the country. It was, however, one of the last civilized parts of Europe. Towns appear to have been first built in the tenth century, but then their progress was rapid, and, in the thirteenth century, some of them, as Brunswick and Goslar, formed part of the Hanseatic league.
The thirty years’ war, the most conspicuous event which intervened between the time of putting Henry to the ban of the empire, and the accession of one of his descendants to the throne of Great Britain, is rather to be considered as a religious broil, and as a struggle of many petty chiefs for power, than as a national contest. He who could do most mischief,—who could work the greatest cruelty,—appears to have been the greatest man. The changes of party in the chiefs, the numerous mercenaries, the pillaging, destruction, and wanton murders, give this contest the character of a war of banditti. Hannover shared in its crimes and punishments. The policy of its chiefs was changeable, and the country was more than once desolated.∗
It was only in 1680 that the right of primogeniture was fully established in our royal family,† and it was George I. who, in consequence of this right, first united a considerable portion of the ancient territories of Henry the Lion under one sovereign. Before that period, government was an attribute of property, and never distinguished from it; the land was divided as an inheritance, and the people often fought to decide to whom they were to belong. Since that period, whenever the people of Hannover have appeared in history, it has been rather as the allies of Britain than as an independent nation. Their country then came to be considered as an appanage of their sovereign’s crown, and the dignity of the elector and of his people was lost in the greater dignity of another nation, to none of whose ancient glories they could lay any claim. Few people, therefore, have fewer ennobling historical recollections than the inhabitants of the different provinces of Hannover. This fact, which deserves to be remembered, from the influence it may have had on their national character, accounts, probably, for their wanting that lofty port for which they are sometimes reproached.
Sophia, the mother of George I. of England, appears to have been a woman of talent. She was honoured by the assistance and friendship of Leibnitz, and devoted herself to the aggrandisement of her family. Through her exertions, and the exertions of the celebrated minister, Grote; through the timely assistance which they gave to the Emperor, and through much solicitation, they wrung from him in the year 1692, the dignity of an elector of the empire, for Ernest Augustus, the husband of Sophia. Three of the electors, however, and most of the princes of the empire who were not electors, opposed this grant, and he never possessed more than the mere nominal dignity. William III. of England exerted all his influence to soften the princes of the empire. In the year 1700∗ Sophia was declared heiress to the British throne, with succession to her heirs, and an immediate alteration was observed in the opinions of the German princes. When this was confirmed, in 1705, the most sturdy opponent of the new dignity, Anton Ulrich, Duke of Wolfenbüttle, ceased his opposition, and, in 1708, George I. was for the first time fully invested with the dignities of archtreasurer and elector of the empire.∗ The ennobling of our royal family was therefore effected by British influence, and our Act of Settlement gave a ninth elector to Germany.
When George I. succeeded his father, in the year 1698, his whole dominions probably did not contain more than 2120 square geographical miles, and 354,000 inhabitants. He united the dutchy of Lüneburg to these at the death of his uncle, in 1705, and these, making together 6200 square miles of territory, and containing, at most, 600,000 inhabitants, were all the dominions of our royal family when it was called to the throne of Great Britain.
In 1715, George I. purchased of Denmark the dutchies of Bremen and Verden. They were the last remains of the conquests which Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden had made in Germany. They were conquered by Denmark from Sweden in 1712, and in 1715 sold by the former power to the Elector of Hannover, for the sum of 900,000 florins, about L. 90,000 Sterling. This, however, displeased Sweden, and she was only induced formally to resign her claim to them by the terror inspired by an English fleet, and by George giving to her the sum of 1,500,000 florins, L. 150,000 Sterling.
In 1753, Bentheim was taken in pawn, by the Elector of Hannover, for a sum of money, and the dominions of Hannover consisted only of these provinces, till they were occupied by the French. The alterations which then took place, the manner in which the territory was divided and despoiled, till it again returned under the dominion of its former sovereign, are events which, from their recency, must be too well known to make it necessary for me to repeat them.
According to the geographer, Busching, and the historian, Spittler, the territories of Hannover contained, in 1797, and from that time till the occupation of the country by the French, no alteration took place, 8560 square miles, and 800,000 inhabitants. At the same time the alternate sovereignty of Osnabrück belonged to the elector of Hannover; its full sovereignty was only given to him by the Congress of Vienna; and it was not included by these authors in their estimate of the dominions of Hannover.∗ It may therefore be included in the territory acquired by the decisions of that Congress. It has before been stated what is the present extent of these territories, viz. 11,044 square miles, containing 1,314,124 inhabitants. They are now, therefore, greater than they were before the occupation of the country by the French, by 2484 square miles; and now contain 464,124 people more than they did then; or our sovereign acquired, by the decisions and treaties made at the Congress of Vienna, (though, for a purpose it is easy to imagine, they were not immediately carried into execution,) an increase of territory amounting to more than one-fourth of what he before possessed in Germany, and an increase of people amounting to more than one-half of the former number of his German subjects. The minister of Great Britain at that celebrated Congress did not forget that his master was also sovereign of Hannover.
According to the progress of population in long peopled countries, a part of the increase of people might be owing to an increase in the number inhabiting the old territories of Hannover. There is, however, reason to think, from the general want of improvement in the country from the decay of some towns, as Lüneburg, and many manufactories, that if any of this increase be owing to this cause, it must be a very small proportion.
Prussia gave East Friezland, with the much desired port of Embden, Hildesheim, and some other small districts, to Hannover, and the prayers of the Saxons were not heard by our ministry. When the sovereign of Great Britain added to his foreign dominions, the British nation was degraded to assist in severing the Saxons from the paternal rule of a monarch whom they highly loved. They are not far surpassed by any other nation in Europe for an attachment to literature and the sciences, and they are equal to any one in the lighter graces of the mind, and in the charities of the heart. We owe most of our improvements in religion to the Saxons, yet we allowed a large part of them, for the gratification of ambition, clothed with the delusive names of political expediency, to be torn from under the gentle sway of a monarch to whom they were fondly attached, and we united them to the most military despotism of Europe. No person who has not seen the Saxons, and mixed with the middling classes of that people, can duly appreciate the sufferings which were inflicted on thousands of men to gratify the ambition of one.
Hannover has, therefore, grown to its present size from the same causes which have enabled most of the other monarchies of Europe to embrace in their dominions people who formerly lived under different governments, who possessed different laws, and who still speak different languages. Some parts of these dominions have fallen to the chiefs as an inheritance, others have been conquered, and others have been the gifts of Congresses, which have usurped with more subtlety of arrogance than conquerors, a right to make a property of the human race. We censure and reproach justly the barbarians who still traffic with individual men, and we cannot discover the greater iniquity of buying and selling whole nations.
[∗]Venturini, book ii. 4th chapter.
[†]Spittler Geschichte des Fürstenthums, Hannover, Vol. II. p. 321. The custom of dividing sovereignties, as if they were property, was very general in Germany, particularly amongst the princes whose territories were not large. The various branches of the Saxon family, as Saxe-Coburg, Saxe-Weimar, Saxe-Gotha, Saxe-Meiningen, are all derived from one stock. It was only in the beginning of the eighteenth century that the right of primogeniture was fully established amongst these princes.
[∗]Smollet’s History of England, Reign of King William.
[∗]Pütter’s Historische Entwickelung, Vol. II. p. 332.
[∗]Patje, who published an account of the manufactories and commerce of Hannover in 1796, does not include Osnabrück; I therefore conclude the text is correct. Hassel, however, makes the increase of territory 2104 square miles, and of inhabitants, 317,762.