Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

gunpowder for throwing bullets and stones began in Europe abou the commencment of the fourteenth century; it was introduced by the Saracens in their Spanish wars; and the first certain account of this change in warfare, is in an Arabian history of the siege of Baza, by the king of Granada (A. D. 1312). It is generally supposed that the Genoese were the first who used powder in mines, to destroy walls and fortifications, at the siege of Seranessa (A. D. 1487). Bombs and mortars are said to have been invented by Malatesta, prince of Rimini (A. D. 1467); and about the same time guns, or rather portable cannons, began to be used by soldiers. Several circumstances prevented the immediate adoption of firearms and artillery in war : long habit made many prefer their ancient weapons ; the construction of cannons was imperfect, they were mad, more frequently of wood, leather, or iron hoops, than solid metal, and were therefore liable to burst; the gunpowder was of imperfect manufacture, and frequently failed in the field. Above all, the mail-clad chivalry of Europe opposed a change in the art of war which greatly lowered the value of knights and cavalry.

The last great invention that requires notice, is the polarity of the magnet, and its application to the mariner's compass. It was generally believed that the inventor of this precious instrument was Flavio. Gioia, a native of Amalfi, in the kingdom of Naples; and so precise were the historians, that they specified the date of the invention as either A. D. 1302, or 1303. A more careful examination of the subject showed that the magnet's polarity had been noticed by Chinese, Arabian, and even European writers, long before the commencement of the fourteenth century.

The time when the polarity of the magnet was first known to the Chinese is lost in the night of antiquity. But many centuries before the Christian era, this property of the loadstone was applied to the construction of magnetic chariots; but it was probably not until the Chinese began to direct their attention to navigation, under the Tsin dynasty, that is, between the middle of the third and the commencement of the fifth centuries of our era that it was used for the guidance of vessels at sea.

We have no certain account of the introduction of the compass into Europe, but writers of the twelfth century, speaking of it, as far as we know for the first time, mention it as a thing generally known. From this sudden notoriety of the polarity of the magnet, it seems probable that its use had been practically known to sailors, before is engaged the attention of the learned. Only one century previous to this notoriety, we find that the northern navigators had no better expedient for directing their course,

than watching the flight of birds. “ The old northern sailors,” says a Danish chronicle, “took a supply of ravens for their guides; they used to let these birds fly from their barks when in the open sea; if the birds returned to the ship, the sailors concluded that there was no land in sight, but if they flew off, the vessels were steered in the direction of their flight.” The improvements in the compass were made by slow degrees, and for the most important of them the world is indebted to Englishmen.

SECTION III.-Progress of Commerce. From the beginning of the fourteenth to the middle of the fifteenth century the commerce of Europe was engrossed by the Italian, Hanseatic, and Flemish cities. The Italians, but more especially the Florentines, Genoese, and Venetians, possessed the trade of the Levant. The jealousy of the rival republics led to sanguinary wars, which ended in rendering the Venetians supreme in the Mediterranean The manufacture of silk, which had been introduced into Sicily from Greece, spread thence into various parts of Italy, but the largest factories were established at Venice. This city supplied the greater part of Europe with silks, spices, and Asiatic produce. Italian merchants, commonly called Lombards, carried these goods into the northern and western kingdoms. The privileges and exemptions granted them by sovereigns, enabled them to rule the traffic of Europe, and to become the chief bankers and money-dealers in its different states.

But all the Italian free cities did not enjoy equal prosperity. The states of Lombardy that had wrested their freedom from the German emperors, soon fell into anarchy. Disgusted with the advantages by which they knew not how to profit, some voluntarily resigned their liberties 'to new masters, while others yielded to usurpers. Thus the marquis of Este became lord of Modena and Reggia (A. D. 1336); the house of Gonzago gained possession of Mantua, and the Visconti took the title of dukes of Milan (A. D. 1395). Florence retained its freedom and prosperity for a longer period. It was not until the reign of the emperor Charles V. (A. D. 1530), that its republican form of government was abolished, and the supreme authority usurped by the princely family of the Medicis.

The rivalry between the Genoese and the Venetians led, as we have already mentioned, to long and deadly wars. The last and most memorable of these, was that called the war of Chiozza. (A. D. 1379), in which the Genoese received so severe a check, that they were no longer able to contest the supremacy of the sea with their rivals.

But these wars were not the only cause of the decline of Genoa ; the streets of the city frequently streamed with the blood of rival factions; the nobles and commons fought for supremacy, which want of internal union prevented either party from maintaining; and at length, incapable of governing themselves, they sought the protection of foreign powers. With their usual inconstancy, the Genoese were ever changing masters; twice they placed themselves under the king of France, but after a short experience of French rule, took for their sovereign, first the marquis of Montserrat, and afterward the duke of Milan. From the year 1464, Genoa remained a dependancy on the dutchy of Milan, until 1528, when it recovered its former freedom.

While the power of the Genoese republic was declining, that of Venice was increasing by rapid strides. The permanence given to its government by introducing the principle of hereditary aristocracy, saved

* The street in London where these foreigners were settled, still retains the name of Lombard street, and continues to be the chief seat of banking establishments. It is not generally known that the three balls exhibited over pawnbroker's snops, are the arms of Lombardy, and have been retained as a sign, ever since the Lombards were the sole money-lenders of Europe.

the states from internal convulsions, while the judicious establishment of commercial stations, on the shores of the Adriatic and Levant, secured and fostered its trade. The greatest advantage that the Venetians obtained over their commercial rivals, arose from their treaty with the sultan of Egypt (A. D. 1343), by this alliance, the republic obtained full liberty of trade in the Syrian and Egyptian ports, with the privilege of having consular establishments at Alexandria and Damascus. These advantages soon enabled them to acquire supreme command over the trade of central and southern Asia; the spices and other commodities of India were brought to Syrian markets, and the Genoese establishments on the Black sea soon became worthless. The territorial acquisitions of the republic on the northern coasts of the Adriatic, formed à powerful state about the middle of the fifteenth century. But the power of the republic was less secure than it appeared ; oppressive to its dependancies, it provoked hostile feelings, which only waited for an opportunity to blaze forth in open rebellion; insolent to all the surrounding powers, a secret jealousy and enmity were excited, which, at no distant date, exposed Venice to the resentments of a league too powerful to be resisted.

We have already mentioned the Hanseatic confederation of the commercial cities in northern and western Europe, to protect their trade from pirates and robbers. In the fourteenth century, the league became so extensive as to form an important power, that claimed and received the respect of kings and emperors. The maritime cities of Germany, from the Scheldt and the isles of Zealand, all round to the borders of Livonia, joined the confederacy, and several cities in the interior sought its protection, and admission into its alliance. The first known act of confederation was signed by the deputies of the several cities at Cologne (1. D. 1364). All the allied cities were divided into four circles, whose limits and capitals varied at different periods; the general administration of the confederacy was intrusted to a confederacy which assembled triennially at Lubeck. In the early part of the fifteenth century, no less than eighty cities sent delegates to the congress, while many

others were connected with the league, though they had not the power of sending delegates. Possessing the exclusive commerce of the Baltic sea, the Hanse towns exercised the right of making war and peace, and forming alliances; they equipped powerful fleets and waged successful wars with the northern sovereigns that attempted to interfere with their monopoly, or limit the privileges extorted from the ignorance or weakness of their predecessors.

The principal marts were Bruges for the Flernish countries, London for England, Bergen for Norway, and Novogorod for Russia. In the close of the fifteenth century, Novogorod was deprived of its republican constitution, and the merchants migrated to Narva and Revel. Through the Flemings the Hanseatic commercial cities were brought into connexion with those of Italy; the merchants of both met in the fairs and markets of Bruges, where the produce of the unexplored north was exchanged for that of the unknown regions of India. The progress of trade, and the intercourse thus effected between remote nations, excited a love for maritime and inland discovery, which soon produced important changes, and aided the other causes that noterdamy led to take overthrow of the confederation.

Extensive as was the commerce of the Hanseatic cities, il possessed neither permanence nor durability. Having neither produce nor manufactures of their own, the merchants had merely a carrying trado, and the produce of simple barter; consequently the progress of inaustry, especially in countries where the useful arts were cultivated, raised powerful rivals against them, and gave commerce a new direction. The establishment of stable gorernment was also injurious to a confederation; the German princes gradually recovered their supren.acy over the cities that had been withdrawn from their authority. This result was hastened by the internal dissensions of the confederate cities. When the northern sovereigns, enlightened on the advantages that their subjects might derive from commerce, assailed the privileges of the Hanse towns by force of arms; many of the southern cities withdrew themselves from the league ; and the northern confederates, thus deserted, were unable to preserve their monopoly of the Baltic trade, which they were forced to share with the merchants of England and Holland. The confederacy thus gradually declined, until in the seventeenth century, this league, once so extensive, included only the cities of Hamburg, Lubeck, and Bremen.

In Flanders, commercial prosperity was based on manufacturing industry ; the Flemings supplied the principal markets of Europe with cloth in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; while, through the commercial cities of Italy, they were enabled to send the produce of their looms to the ports of the Levant, and exchange them for spices, jewels, and other articles of oriental luxury. The wealth, the population, and the resources of these cities, rendered the earls of Flanders more wealthy, and scarcely less powerful than their nominal sovereigns, the kings of France. When Edward I. of England wished to recover Guienne, which had been wrested from his predecessors, he sought the alliance of Guy de Dampierre, earl of Flanders, and proposed to make the earl's daughter, Philippa, his queen ; being attracted both by her personal charms and the enormous sums promised as her dowry. So great was the lady's wealth, and such the importance attached to the Flemish alliance, that Philip the Fair had recourse to the most infamous treachery in order to defeat the marriage. As he was the godfather of the young lady, he invited her and the earl to pay him a visit in Paris ; but no sooner did they reach the capital than he threw them both into prison, declaring that the marriage of so wealthy an heiress could not be arranged without the consent of the superior lord, and that the earl was guilty of felony in promising the hand of his daughter to an enemy of the kingdom. Guy escaped from prison, but his daughter died a captive, under circumstances which led to a strong suspicion of poison ; the earl, believing, or feigning to believe the charge, assembled his chief vassals at Grammont, and there, in the presence of the ambassadors from England, Germany, and Lorraine, he solemnly renounced his allegiance to the crown of France, and proclaimed war against Philip. Such was the commencement of the long series of Flemish wars, which early assumed the form of a desperate struggle between the mercantile and landed aristocracy.

Commerce and manufactures had brought together a large and wealthy population into the cities of Flanders ; the burgesses had purchased charters of privileges from their respective lords, being well aware that municipal freedom was necessary to commercial prosperity; they began to rival their former masters in wealth and influence, and they formed an order of their own, which was as much respected in the trading communities as the landed aristocracy in the rural districts. The nobles soon began to view the rapid progress of the merchants and traders with jealousy and dislike. Not only were the lords grieved at the loss of their power to distort discretionary imposts, but they regretted the growth of that mercantile wealth which invested counting-houses and stores with a political influence not inferior to that which had hitherto attached exclusively to castles and estates. Municipal immunities were found to be at variance with feudal privileges; neither the merchants nor the nobles would make such concessions as might form the basis of a reasonable compromise, and war was thus rendered inevitable. Under the guidance of several eminent and popular leaders, particularly the two Artaveldes, the mercantile Flemings maintained a long and vigorous warfare against their earls and aristocracy, though the latter were supported by the whole power of France. At the close of the contest, the trading cities preserved their immunities; but in the course of the war, capitalists had been ruined, artisans had fled to more peaceful lands, the nobles were impoverished, and the peasants reduced to despair. Though the Flemings continued to retain a large share of their commercial and manufacturing supremacy, they had the mortification to witness the rise of a powerful rival in England, where the woollen manufacture gradually attained to a greater height than it had reached even in Flanders.

Wool was the most important article of British produce ; and about the middle of the fourteenth century, we find that wool constituted about thirteen fourteenths of the entire exports of the kingdom.

Little cloth was made in England, and that only of the coarsest description, until Edward III., in the year 1331, invited weavers, dyers, and fullers, to come over from Flanders and settle in England, promising them his protection and favor on condition that they would carry on their trades here, and teach the knowledge of them to his subjects. The native wool-growers and merchants looked upon these foreign manufacturers with very jealous eyes, especially when Edward created a monopoly in their favor, by prohibiting the wearing of any cloth but of English fabric; and many petitions are preserved from the weavers of woollen stuffs, complaining of the heavy impositions laid upon them by the corporations, in which the corporation of Bristol is especially conspicuous. The manufacture, however, took root and flourished, though it received a severe check from the jealousy of parliament, which, by a very unwise law, prohibited the export of woollen goods, and permitted that of unwrought wool.

The land-owners of England were slow in discovering that their own prosperity was connected with that of the manufacturing interest. Their avowed object in legislation was to keep up the high price of the raw material, the wool grown upon their estates, and their had the honesty to say so in the preamble to a statute (14 Rich. II. c. 4) prohibiting

« ElőzőTovább »