The Continental System: An Economic Interpretation
By Eli F. Heckscher
THE author of the present inquiry into the Continental System during the beginning of the last century is known as one of the most prominent political economists in Scandinavia and as a thorough investigator of the history of commerce. Among other things he has done very useful work by his suggestive researches concerning the economy of the World War.When the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace publishes the book, the obvious explanation is that the Continental blockade in many ways throws light on the economic blockade among the belligerent powers involved by the World War…. [From the Preface by Harald Westergaard]
Harald Westergaard, ed. C. S. Fearenside, trans.
First Pub. Date
Oxford: Clarendon Press
First published in Swedish.
The text of this edition is in the public domain.
- Editors Preface, by Harald Westergaard
- Authors Preface
- Chronological Table
- Part I, Foreword
- Part I, Chapter I
- Part I, Chapter II
- Part I, Chapter III
- Part I, Chapter IV
- Part II, Chapter I
- Part II, Chapter II
- Part II, Chapter III
- Part II, Chapter IV
- Part II, Chapter V
- Part III, Chapter I
- Part III, Chapter II
- Part III, Chapter III
- Part III, Chapter IV
- Part III, Chapter V
- Part III, Chapter VI
- Part IV, Chapter I
- Part IV, Chapter II
- Part IV, Chapter III
- Part IV, Chapter IV
- Part IV, Conclusion
- Bibliographical Note
- Appendix I
- Appendix II
FROM what has been said in the foregoing chapter it is by no means to be inferred that the Continental System had failed altogether. The Fontainebleau policy was directed primarily against the exports of British manufactures; and here Napoleon was in deadly earnest.
But there was no sharp line of demarcation between the prohibitory measures directed against Great Britain and the orders relating to the importation of colonial goods, which were, in Napoleon’s view, half repressive and half fiscal; nor could any such line be found owing to the lack of clearness in men’s grasp of the matter. It is quite impossible, therefore, to keep them distinct in this account. The administrative organs were largely the same for both, and both were violent and detested by the people; but there can be no doubt that the fiscal measures formed beyond comparison the most effective half of the new system, because the desire for the goods always made the people comparatively willing to pay, if only they could get the goods by so doing. It is true that the competition with the smugglers came far from putting an end to their traffic, that is to say, to continue the same terminology, far from giving the state the monopoly of importing prohibited colonial goods; but in any case it brought substantial sums into the public treasuries. Napoleon’s customs revenues alone rose to 105,900,000 francs in the period from the Trianon tariff to the close of 1811, this as compared with only 11,600,000 francs in 1809; and the auctions of confiscated goods, together with the licence fees, brought in far more, to say nothing of what
the vassal states contrived to make. We have at present no complete survey of the total yield of the new policy to the government treasuries, but a general idea of the whole situation is given by the fact that, according to Thiers, the auctions alone during the remaining months of 1810 yielded a cash return of almost 150,000,000 francs. In the contemplation of such figures it is not difficult to understand the magnitude that the fiscal side of the policy was destined to attain; and, indeed, it was to become more and more marked during each of the remaining years.
The corner-stone of the new building, visible to all the world, was formed by the incorporation with France of the Hanse Towns and Oldenburg and the rest of the North Sea coast. This took place about the turn of the year 1810-11, and brought it about that the new measures, both administrative and military, struck by far the hardest on the North Sea. It is true that from the beginning this involved a great limitation in effectiveness, inasmuch as the centre of gravity of the British continental traffic had already been moved definitely from there to the Baltic coasts and Gothenburg.
The special regulations that were issued in the early part of October concerning the payment of customs duties for goods between the coast and the old Rees-Travemünde line are of less interest; and their relations to the Trianon tariff are not clear in all details. Of the greatest importance, rather, are the new judicial system—if such a fair-sounding word can be used—and the new military barrier.
It was on the North Sea coast that the new customs courts were of the most importance, and it was there that they proceeded with all the cruelty and contempt for private rights that invariably characterize an unscrupulous police. The new customs staff, which is represented as a rabble scraped together from different countries, penetrated by day and night into dwelling houses, and espionage flourished more than ever.
With grim irony Eudel, the former head of the customs system in Hamburg who was tolerably well hated by everybody, was able, according to Bourrienne, to prophesy that he and his greencoats would be positively missed: ‘Hitherto,’ he said, ‘they have seen only roses.’ Rist, on whose evidence what has been just said is partly based, furnishes the following information of greater value:
A tribunal of blood, the prevostal court, the most frightful tool of fiscal despotism, was soon domiciled in Hamburg. In defiance of common law, the unfortunate accused here became a victim to the unlimited caprice of his merciless tyrants.
Le Grand Prévôt, half customs official and half judge, here settled matters of life and death; and as a kind of mockery against every notion of honour, this bastard offspring of civil and military authority had received the same rank as the prefect and the president of the supreme court of justice. Everybody shunned his presence; and, for my own part, I have never been able to meet without a sense of loathing this, as far as one can judge, quite worthy holder of such an office.
During one fortnight in 1812
Le Grand Prévôt in Hamburg pronounced one hundred and twenty sentences of six months’ imprisonment, all for offences against the blockade decree. The result was that in Hamburg the prison became so crowded that a hundred prisoners had to be conveyed to the galleys of Antwerp, while at Bremen the prison conditions were so bad that 22½ per cent. of the prisoners died. Death sentences were also passed and executed, as Rist correctly states in the passage just cited, although no justification for this was to be found in the Fontainebleau decree. The whole system became still more detestable for the reason that the licensing system was its background. Bourrienne states that the father of a family came near being shot in 1811 for having imported a small sugar-loaf in the Elbe Department, possibly at the very moment when Napoleon was signing licences for the importation of a million sugar-loaves. Moreover, in Hamburg the system gave rise to perfectly meaningless intrigues in conjunction with the usual lawless robbery on the part of the functionaries; all of which was especially troublesome owing to the fact that Holstein was indissolubly united with Hamburg, and after the annexation
of the Hanse Towns people suddenly found the border of the Empire running between Altona and Hamburg. Consequently, the most elementary economic functions had to come to a standstill owing to the prohibitive legislation. This was carried to such an extent that the Holstein peasants were at first not permitted to take back over the frontier the money they had received in payment for the foodstuffs that they had sold, because it was against the law to take money out of the country.
Alongside this new system of justice on the basis of the Fontainebleau decree, Napoleon now fell back on his military resources to a greater extent than ever before. Masséna’s army corps, now under the command of Oudinot, was stationed on a line from Boulogne along the coasts of Brabant and Holland, with its strongest division at Emden to maintain the connexion with the Hanse Towns. Next came Davout’s corps, which, according to Thiers, was ‘the finest, most reliable, and best organized’ in the army, ‘the invincible third corps,’ the only corps in the whole of Napoleon’s army which now, during the short interval of peace upon the mainland, was kept upon a war footing. It consisted of three divisions, each composed of five regiments of infantry divided into four battalions (sixty battalions of infantry in all), with eighty cannons; and in addition to these there was one division of cuirassiers and one division of light cavalry, a great siege train, and finally a flotilla of gunboats stationed in the mouths of the rivers. The extreme outpost of this line was General Rapp’s force at Danzig. In a letter of September 28, 1810, to Davout, the mainstay of this organization, Napoleon gave detailed instructions as to how the different generals with their forces were to be distributed, and he expressly declared that the two divisions stationed along the German North Sea coast had as their sole task the prevention of smuggling. Moreover, considerable fortifications were made along the coast with the same purpose in the last months of 1810, after a plan to capture Heligoland without maritime forces had had to be abandoned.
As was to be expected, the execution of the new decrees encountered far greater obstacles in the vassal states than in the incorporated territories. According to French opinion, the Trianon decree, in the beginning at least, remained a dead letter in all the states of the Confederation of the Rhine, except Baden. Prussia, like Saxony, made an attempt to except raw materials from the tariff; and the somewhat more independent states, such as Russia, Austria, and Sweden, never, so far as is known, introduced the tariff as a whole. It seems as if it was just this passive resistance in August and September 1810 that contributed to bring about the issue of the Fontainebleau decree in October. The great decree (for France) that usually bears this name, dated October 18 or possibly 19, was preceded a few days before (October 14) by a decree for the Grand Duchy of Frankfurt and followed by corresponding laws promulgated by the other states of the Confederation of the Rhine, as well as by Denmark and Switzerland. The most notorious and dramatic was Napoleon’s intervention in Frankfurt. Although that town, and the Grand Duchy created for the last electoral prince of Mainz that bore the name of the town, was nominally a sovereign state, on October 17 and 18 it was suddenly entered by two French regiments of infantry without the Grand Duke being so much as informed of the event. All the gates were occupied and artillery was stationed on the great square, after which the decree was posted up and an order was given that a declaration should be made of all colonial and English goods. French customs officials searched all warehouses, sealed all vaults and seized all books and letters; in fact, the whole of the great trade movement was stopped. For several days there was a violent agitation, as the general belief was that all the goods were going to be confiscated; but the excitement abated somewhat when the colonial goods were released, by a new decree of November 8, on payment of duty according to the Trianon tariff. As usual, malversation occurred on a large
scale; but none the less Darmstädter, the German historian, reckons the yield to the French treasury at 9,000,000 francs.
The fact that the direct intervention of France thus caused the other states to lose the profit served to stimulate the measures of those states themselves; and externally, at least, they began to show great zeal in obeying the new decrees, so that colonial goods were seized everywhere. In Leipzig, which corresponded in eastern Germany to Frankfurt in the west, there was an unusual amount of colonial goods in the autumn of 1810, as has previously been mentioned;
*45 but the great interest of the Saxon government in maintaining the fairs evidently prevented very forcible measures there against goods that were always in such great request. Among the most striking measures are those taken in Holstein, which had become one of the principal regions for the storage of colonial goods. In order to get them into his hands, Napoleon now conceded that for a limited time they might be imported into Hamburg on payment of the duties corresponding to the Trianon tariff; and at the same time he caused the Danish government to impose corresponding duties within his territory, in order that the owners should not be tempted to retain their goods. From Napoleon’s point of view this move turned out better than most of the others. The final date had time after time to be moved forward until the spring of 1811, so that the enormous stores could be completely exported; and the French treasury made 19,700,000 francs on the payments in kind alone, and 42,500,000 francs altogether. Rist describes how during the last weeks the highways from Tönning were never free of loaded carts, inasmuch as half the peasants of Holstein had deserted their fields. Thousands were lost, many thousands were stolen, and hundreds of cart-loads waited all night at Hamburgerberg for the gates of the town to be opened. Cotton lay all about the fields like snow.
For the states of the interior there was a special difficulty in the treatment of colonial goods that had already passed through another state in Napoleon’s sphere of power and had there paid duty according to the Trianon tariff. The method adopted at first, namely, the exaction of the duty in every
country, was evidently fatal for intermediary states such as Frankfurt; and gradually an arrangement was made whereby the tariff was generally applied as a tax on consumption, not as a transit duty, but with freedom for goods that had once paid the duty. In this connexion, however, there was the usual difficulty created by the systematic measures of Prussia and Sweden (Swedish Pomerania) calculated to make the Continental System illusory, despite the most abject terms in the ordinances issued. Prussia allowed payment at par in government securities, which stood at 59.5 per cent.; and when the goods afterwards went through to other quarters with Prussian certificates of payment, the measures once again missed their aim. This went on until in the spring and summer of 1811 the Prussian certificates were disapproved and a fresh violent raid was made on what had been let through in the meantime. In consequence of this, the results of the new policy in Central Europe proper could not emerge clearly until the middle of 1811.
Owing to the confiscations which took place when non-declared colonial goods were discovered, great auctions were arranged—preferably in towns which lay at some distance from the great smuggling places, because the prices were highest there. Foremost among these was Antwerp, but of considerable importance also were Frankfurt, Cologne, Mainz, Strassburg, Milan, Venice and other towns near the old frontier of France. At these auctions the colonial trade was provided with goods and thus given a constant source of supply alongside the smuggled goods and the duty-paid imports; and by this means there was created a possibility, besides smuggling, of purchasing the goods at a rate lower than the foreign price plus the customs duty.
What we have here dealt with are the colonial goods pure and simple. British industrial products, of course, according to the Fontainebleau decree were under all circumstances condemned to destruction; and from this rule Napoleon never, so far as is known, made an exception. But it would be a great
mistake to conclude from this that the blockade was more effective in this point than in the other. On the contrary, quite the reverse is true, and the reason is the total absence of pecuniary interest, public and private, in obedience to the latter regulations. The public burning of goods, as ordered by the decree, was a genuine
auto-da-fé (act of faith), which was performed publicly to the accompaniment of military music and in the presence of all the high dignitaries of the place. But the ceremony was just as great whatever was the real value of the goods burnt at the stake; and against the possibilities of malversation that this offered the virtue of Napoleon’s officials could naturally make no resistance. It is improbable, indeed, that the
autos-da-fé were ‘comedies’, as Darmstädter calls them, everywhere; but the fact that they were so in a large number of cases is shown by the accessible material, and was also admitted in cautious terms even by Napoleon himself. This was especially the case in Frankfurt, where at the first inventory, in November 1810, there was set to work an imperial commission consisting, among others, of French officers. When rolls of gold coins were placed in a drawer especially set apart for the purpose, the goods became Swiss or Saxon instead of British; and the goods which actually came to the stake were regarded as having a value of only 200,000 francs, although they were officially valued at 1,200,000 francs. At the renewed purgation at Frankfurt, after the Prussian certificates of origin had been condemned in the spring of 1811, one firm had a whole warehouse full of British goods; but here again the same story was repeated. A Jew from Friedberg by the name of Cassella was made a scapegoat, and only his British cottons were burnt. On this occasion the mayor wrote with refreshing candour: ‘When they were spread out, there seemed to be a lot of cloth, and they could give the impression of a great quantity at the burning’—which, in his opinion, was all that was required, as the object must be ‘to ward off unpleasantness from France, not to ruin our own population’. For other places we have less detailed statements, although a number of figures are available. It is, however, impossible to check these figures with reference to their authenticity for
autos-da-fé in North Germany. A number of them, which are given in Servières’ account for the Hanse Towns and in M. Schäfer’s account for Bremen, show the total value of goods burnt to be about 4,500,000 francs. But in addition to these many burnings took place for which we have no figures; and besides it is very difficult to determine the truth behind the official statements.
Nevertheless, these burnings of British goods formed the most striking and amazing feature of all in the new system, as the conflagrations, especially during the last months of 1810 and the beginning of 1811, blazed in hundreds of towns from one end to the other of the territory of Napoleon and his allies, with the sole exception of Denmark. Undoubtedly these blighting scenes produced a tremendous though altogether exaggerated impression of the Emperor’s dogged determination to follow out his plans for the economic overthrow of England, regardless of anything else; and consequently they were a very cunning display of power. Even now it is impossible to read the
Moniteur without being impressed by the incessantly recurring inventories and details concerning British goods committed to the flames, sometimes in a dozen different places on a single day. The French Chambers of Commerce and Industry naturally struck up what one of them appositely calls ‘a concert of blessings’ that the Emperor in this unusually direct way had freed them from an overwhelming competitor, although it is true, as the German historian Zeyss has shown, that some of these blessings were conferred in consequence of orders from high places.
The most remarkable consequence of the new system was a new arrangement of the trade routes, which took place in two directions. In the first place, the sea route was again brought officially into favour by the licence system, as it had not been since the Berlin decree. This change evidently was mainly important for France herself, where smuggling had always encountered the greatest difficulties; and it put an end, for instance, to the prosperity which Strassburg had enjoyed as a staple for French imports, both legitimate and illegitimate.
*47 In the second place, and this was the most important, the whole of this trade in colonial goods and British manufactures shifted from Central Europe proper—the regions of the Rhine, Weser, Elbe and Oder—to Eastern Europe and the Danube basin. Beginning with the summer of 1811, there was a practical cessation in the supply of British goods to the Leipzig fairs, and even colonial goods declined there to an insignificant proportion of what they had been. Curiously enough, Frankfurt suffered less, comparatively speaking. This was evidently due to the fact that a genuine good-will to obey the system existed to a considerably greater extent in Saxony than in the other states of the Confederation of the Rhine; and this, in turn, is partly explained by the fact that the great and flourishing textile industries of Saxony profited by the measures against British competition, while Frankfurt in particular had nothing similar to gain by those measures. But at all events, this development shows an increasing efficacy of the blockade in great parts of Germany. The question naturally arises, however, why Leipzig did not take advantage of the licence system with regard to colonial goods; but the answer seems to be that imports through the Baltic ports could not penetrate to Leipzig after the Prussian certificates of payment had been disapproved. But this does not imply any general success for the new policy
in Germany, so long as the Baltic coast could only be barred ineffectively. Consequently, the chief effect, in fact, still was to cut off Western Europe itself, while making Germany the purveyor of smuggled goods.
The main thing, however, is the changed trade route which Napoleon thus brought about. With unusual insight and openness the course of developments was predicted as early as October 2, 1810, in a report (printed by Schmidt in his work on the Grand Duchy of Berg) by Bacher, Napoleon’s minister to the Confederation of the Rhine. This seems to give such an excellent picture of the situation that it may be reproduced, as regards its main part, instead of a special account. If the reader will go to the trouble of placing a map of Central Europe before him, Bacher’s reasoning will prove extremely instructive.
The new direction which colonial goods take, now that the coasts of Holland and the Hanse Towns as far as the Oder are no longer accessible, is stated to have created such activity on all roads leading from different places in Russia to Prussia on one side and through Poland and Moravia to Vienna on the other, as also from the Turkish provinces to the Austrian empire with regard to British goods discharged in the Levantine ports, that the Danube will now take the place of the Rhine as the channel through which the states of the Confederation of the Rhine will in future be able to provide themselves. The German merchants consider that this sweeping change in trade that has reduced Holland and Lower Germany to commercial nonentity will lead to active new connexions between Russia, Austria, and Bavaria, and consequently serve to create secure routes, which will convey not only colonial goods, but also British products, as far as the states of the Confederation of the Rhine, and from there to the Rhine and even to Switzerland, as soon as the price there covers the costs of transport. Even if one should admit that the connexion between the Rhine and the Elbe has been really cut by the threefold cordon created by the measures taken in Lower Saxony and Westphalia, which is far from being the case, still the effect would be nothing but the increase of the supply of colonial goods from Russia through Königsberg and Leipzig.
Even supposing that the King of Saxony, who has spent very considerable sums in encouraging the muslin, calico, and cotton factories
and printing works that are now so flourishing in his territories, might be willing to extend the customs cordon from Wittenberg to the frontier of Bohemia, and at the same time be induced to place a tax on raw cotton, which is in conflict with his interest in procuring the best conditions and qualities for his mills, nevertheless this painful sacrifice, which would reduce the whole of the mountainous part of Saxony [Erzgebirge, the chief seat of the calico industry] to the deepest misery, would be no profit to France. It would only enrich the government and merchants of Austria, who would derive benefit from the customs duties on imports and exports and a substantial profit on the transit of colonial goods, which one could never prevent from penetrating as contraband.
Through Bohemia into Voigtland, Bayreuth, and the Upper Palatinate, and through Upper Austria and Styria into Salzburg [which at that time belonged to Bavaria] and Berchtesgaden. For these have always been corridors through which French and other prohibited goods have passed into the empire of Austria [that is to say, in the opposite direction], despite all vigilance on the part of the customs officials of that empire.
The cotton trade workers would be compelled to emigrate from Saxony and Voigtland, and even from Bavaria, Baden, and Switzerland, in order to seek their livelihood in the Austrian factories erected and managed by Englishmen, who by this means would again over-whelm the states of the Confederation of the Rhine with their products. In this way France during and since the Revolution has lost a valuable part of the masters and workmen who in their time contributed to make famous the manufactures of Lyons, St. Étienne, Sedan, and Verviers, and the departments of Ourthe and Roer, but who afterwards enriched Austria, Moravia, and also Saxony.
In other words, the fact was that trade had moved outside Napoleon’s jurisdiction. Vienna, in particular, now obtained a great part of the central position in the trade of the Continent that had previously belonged to Leipzig. At an even earlier stage the Jewish
fierante of East Europe had sought on the coast of the Baltic, at Königsberg and Riga, the British goods which they or their customers would not do without, and had not been satisfied with the substitutes in the way of Saxon and Swiss manufactures that Leipzig had to offer. They now found a staple in Vienna. To that place the goods went by two routes, a northern one through the Prussian and Russian Baltic ports round the Grand Duchy of Warsaw to Brody in Galicia (on Austrian territory, quite close to the Russian frontier); and
a southern one to the same point (Brody), at first from Odessa, that is to say, across the Black Sea, and after the outbreak of the Franco-Russian war,
via Constantinople and Saloniki to Lemberg. But this connexion was by no means limited to supplying Eastern Europe. On the contrary, it also became, just as Bacher had predicted, the starting-point of a transport of goods through Bavaria, which permitted the duty-free transit of colonial goods and even passed British manufactures, to the rest of South Germany and Switzerland, and making possible their smuggling into France.
But it is obvious that these roundabout routes and licensing fees or smuggling expenses and bribes were bound to increase the cost of transport enormously; and so far this new policy also threw serious obstacles in the way of British trade, although these were relative and not absolute hindrances, as the Continental System in its original form was intended to create. Tooke gives a number of interesting examples of the immense cost of freight during the years 1809-12 in comparison with the year 1837, when his book was written.
*48 For instance, wheat freights were 50 shillings per quarter, as against 4
d.; hemp freights were £30 per ton, as against £2 10
s.; timber freights were £10 per load, as against £1, &c. Silk had to go round-about ways from Italy,
e.g., from Bergamo in one case
via Smyrna, and in another case
via Archangel (
sic), so that the transport took one year and two years, respectively; and when it went through France, the expense was £100 per bale, besides the freight from Havre to England. Tooke particularly states that the freights to and from France were enormous. For a vessel of little more than one hundred tons the freight and the French licence might amount to no less than £50,000 for a trip from Calais to London and back to Calais, which for indigo meant a freight of 4
d. per English pound, as compared with 1
d. (that is to say one fifty-fourth) in 1837; and the gross freight for a ship whose total value was £4,000 was £80,000 for a trip from Bordeaux to London and back.
All this shows clearly how important the Baltic trade, side by side with the Mediterranean trade, had become since the North Sea blockade had increased in efficiency. British shipping passed more and more to the Baltic; and it was there, accordingly, that Napoleon had to exert his greatest pressure—a fact, indeed, which found expression in repeated warnings issued to the Baltic powers in the course of the summer. But it was not until the autumn of 1810 that matters became really critical; and the events that then occurred had far-reaching consequences. A British commercial flotilla of six hundred vessels under different neutral flags, with a cargo worth £8,000,000 or, £9,000,000 had been delayed at Gothenburg by unfavourable weather until August (according to Lord Bathurst’s statement in the House of Lords in 1812, it was only until June) and had then passed into the Baltic in September in order to proceed to Swedish, Russian, and Prussian ports. Napoleon now saw in this a possibility of striking a great blow against this important part of English trade, and in October he overwhelmed the different governments, partly through Champagny, his foreign minister, and partly by direct appeals, with the most urgent reminders to confiscate all these vessels, which, in the words of Champagny, were ‘wandering about like the fragments of a scattered army’. Threats that Napoleon himself would send people to confiscate the cargoes, if the governments failed to do so on their own account, alternated with highly-coloured pictures of the economic crisis in England and of the certainty of her submission within a year as a consequence of complete confiscation; and also, finally, inducements were offered by reference to the profits which would be reaped by confiscation.
In Mecklenburg Napoleon considered that he had effected his will by this means, namely, in the shape of the expulsion of the vessels; and Prussia also gave way, although Clérembault, the Emperor’s own consul at Königsberg, largely made seizures illusory, as we know. The question now was about Russia; but here Napoleon met with resistance. Emperor
Alexander obstinately refused to have all nominally neutral vessels confiscated, and, besides, denied that more than about sixty vessels (the French ambassador at St. Petersburg, Caulain-court, gave the figure for loaded vessels since the middle of September, according to Russian allegations, as only fifteen) had arrived at his ports; and this fact he tried to explain by stating that some of them had returned and others had discharged at Gothenburg and other Swedish ports. This latter statement may indeed be nearly correct. In consequence of all this, it is apparent that Napoleon’s action had failed in the main, although evidently a good deal had been seized in Russia. A memorandum from British merchants in 1816 gave such a high amount (as far as we can judge, much too high) as 140 cargoes with a value of £1,500,000. In Sweden, where smaller practical results than ever were to be attained—so unreservedly was Swedish policy based on the support of the British fleet under Saumarez—there was effected in the spring of 1811 at Karlshamn, by accident, a great seizure of over a hundred vessels under the flags not only of Denmark and Prussia, but also of Hamburg, Papenburg, &c., in the belief that they really were cargoes of the first two nationalities. But when they proved to be British property, of an estimated value of £500,000, a settlement was effected whereby the goods were treated as Swedish and then by fictitious purchase returned to their former owners, so that the British here lost nothing. The heat with which Napoleon had pursued his course of action against Russia with regard to the British vessels—among other things, the demands laid down in a personal letter addressed to the Emperor Alexander—largely contributed to widen the gulf between the two allies, and was a contributory cause to the breach in the sphere of trade war which was practically brought about on the last day of 1810 by the famous Russian customs ukase, which, as has been mentioned before,
*49 was directed against French goods. In the course of 1811 the split was steadily increased by Alexander’s more and more openly displayed good-will towards British vessels, which now came in
without hindrance in large flotillas and discharged their goods on the Russian coast. According to a letter written by Napoleon at the end of August 1811, 150 vessels had in this way been received in Russian ports under the American flag.
The importance of Gothenburg for the trade of Europe has neither before nor since been so great as during the two years 1810 and 1813. The fact that the two intervening years showed less commercial activity was due partly to French and Danish captures, and partly also to the general decline in the Baltic trade under the pressure of a scarcity of corn and Napoleon’s Russian campaign; and, moreover, the more and more open connexions between Great Britain and Russia manifestly diminished the need for Swedish intermediacy. In September 1810, Axel Pontus von Rosen, the Governor of Gothenburg, and the most original, humorous and energetic Swedish actor on the stage of the Continental System in this exciting time, describes how the roadstead presented an appearance such as it had never had since the Creation, with 19 British men-of-war and 1,124 merchantmen lying at anchor; and in the course of one single day, when the wind veered round to the east, several hundred vessels sailed away at the same time. The instructions given to von Rosen in the following November explained that in the case of vessels with cargoes belonging to Swedish subjects, and flying the American or other acceptable flag, ‘His Majesty does not require you to recur to extremities of diligence, but on the contrary to suppress facts and facilitate traffic as far as you may do so in consonance with necessary precautions and without compromising your position.’ Imports which had quadrupled between 1807 and 1809, quintupled in 1810. Especially flourishing, of course, was the
entrepôt trade in colonial goods. Thus the exports of raw sugar were 14,500,000 pounds (about twice as much as the year before), and of coffee 4,500,000 pounds, not reckoning what was conveyed to other places in Sweden and from there to foreign
countries. A native of the town who returned in 1811, after an absence of fifteen years, declared that he looked in vain for traces of the past and that he moved in an unknown world. But Gothenburg under the Continental System has as yet no historian. In the Baltic itself it was Hanö and the little loading-place of Matvik on the Swedish south coast, in the province of Blekinge (by some writers erroneously located in Finland), which, like Gothenburg on the west coast, was made, by the instructions of the Swedish government, both a base for the British squadron and an emporium for colonial goods and manufactures. But, for that matter, Sweden as a whole formed a great point of transit for British and American trade, partly to Russia and partly to the southern ports of the Baltic, because that route was regarded as more secure from French and Danish privateers than the direct route.
ante, p. 185.
Nouveau recueil, &c., vol. I, pp. 514
et seq.: Rist,
op. cit., vol. II, pp. 78, 87, 105-6; Bourrienne,
op. cit., vol. VII, p. 233; vol. IX, pp. 50-1; Rubin,
op. cit., pp. 393
et seq.; Darmstädter,
Das Grossherzogtum Frankfurt, pp. 312
et seq. The decree for Frankfurt in
Le Moniteur, Nov. 11, 1811; Kiesselbach,
op. cit., pp. 135
et seq.; Schmidt,
Le Grand-duché de Berg, pp. 375
et seq., 380, 386; Servières,
op. cit., pp. 148-9, 273
et seq.; Schäfer,
op. cit., pp. 429-30; König,
op. cit., pp. 195, 231-2, &c.; Thiers,
op. cit., vol. XII, pp. 28
et seq., 191-2; Tarle,
Kontinental’naja blokada, vol. I, p. 294; de Cérenville,
op. cit., pp. 57
et seq.; Zeyss,
op. cit., pp. 140
et seq., Anhang IX; Levasseur,
Histoire des classes ouvrières, &c.,
de 1789 à 1870, vol. I, pp. 485
Die Verwaltung des Unter-Elsass (Bas-Rhin) unter Napoleon I, in
Zeitschrift für die Geschichte des Oberrheins (N. F., XIX, 1904), pp. 662
et seq.; Tarle,
Kontinental’naja blokada, vol. I, pp. 274-5, 280.
History of Prices, &c., vol. I, pp. 309-10 note.
ante, p. 152.
Napoléon et Alexandre Ier (Paris, 1893), vol. II, pp. 487
et seq., 508
et seq., 557; vol. III (1896), pp. 208-9, 215-6. The Memorial of 1816 printed in the
English Historical Review (1903), vol. XVIII, pp. 122
et seq.; Hansard, vol. XXI, p. 1056; Schinkel-Bergman,
Minnen ur Sveriges nyare historia (Stockholm, 1855), vol. VI, pp. 69-70, and app. 10 (letters from Governor Rosen to Bernadotte, the Crown Prince, Karl Johan); Lars von Engeström,
Minnen och Anteckningar, vol. II, pp. 182-3, and app. 5
c (letters from von Rosen to von Engeström);
Memoirs, &c., of Lord de Saumarez, vol. II, pp. 229
et seq.; Clason,
op. cit., vol. IX: A, pp. 26-7, 149-50, 156
et seq., 213. Governor von Rosen’s letter of Sept. 8, 1810, is printed in Ahnfelt,
op. cit., vol. V, p. 239. See also Bergwall,
Historisk underrättelse, &c., table 5; Fröding,
Det forna Göteborg (Stockholm, 1903), pp. 115
et seq.; also,
Göteborgs Köp- och Handels-gille…
1661-1911 (Gothenburg, 1911), pp. 124
et seq.; Ramm,
op. cit., pp. 3, 8-9; Grade,
op. cit., p. 429.
Part III, Chapter V