« PreviousContinue »
Being The INAUGURAL ORATION, spoken on the 4th day
of November 1815, at the ceremony of laying the first stone of the LONDON INSTITUTION, for the diffusion of Science and Literature; with an Introduction,
IT was the wish of the person, who spoke the Oration, at THE CEREMONY OF LAYING THE First STONE OF THE LONDON INSTITUTION, FOR THE DIFFUSION OF SCIENCE AND LITERATURE, to. prefix to this publication of it, a succinct Historical Account of Commerce, from the Macedonian Conquest to the present time; and to shew the constant exchange of services, between Commerce and Literature, during this period. The present accomplishment of this design, being incompatible with his professional duties, he begs leave to supply it, in a very limited degree, by the following Extracts, principally taken, from his Work entitled,
“ A Succinct History of the Geographical and “ Political Revolutions of the Empire of Ger“ many, or the Principal States which composed “ the Empire of Charlemagne, from his Corona“ tion in 800, to its Dissolution in 1806, with “ some account of the Genealogies of the Imperial “ House of Hapsburgh, and of the Six Secular " Electors of Germany; and of Roman, German, “ French and English Nobility,”—1 Vol. 8vo.
These Extracts may be found to give a Short View of the Commercial Intercourse between Europe and Asia, from the death of Alexander the Great till the taking of Constantinople by Mahomet the second : 2dly, Of the Commercial History of Venice; 3dly, Genoa ; 4thly, The Lombards; 5thly, Florence; 6thly, The Hanse-towns; and 7thly, The Netherlands.
I. The greatest Commercial project, ever planned, was the design of Alexander the Great, to effect a règular mercantile intercourse between the eastern and western divisions of the then known parts of the world, and to fix its northern emporium near the confluence of the Jumna and the Ganges, and its southern at Alexandria. After the death of that monarch, Seleucus made himself master of the Persian Empire, and Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, secured Egypt. Under each, the commerce with the east was so successfully pursued, that even with China, a considerable trade was carried on, both
by land and sea. The principal article of it was Silk.
On land, this commerce was managed by caravans : some took a northern, others, a southern route. The former passed through the Great Desert, Kashgar, Samarcand, and the northern limits of Pèrsia, into Syria, where they were met by the Merchants of Europe. The whole journey took up 243 days; but a great proportion of the commodity was purchased, on its passage, by the Merchants of Nisibis and Armenia. The southern route led the caravans, through the mountains of Thibet, to the Merchants of Europe, who met them in the Guzzerat.
The trade by sea was carried on in ships, which sailed from the Eastern ports of China, to Malacca and Achem, the Promontory of Sumatra ; and, sometimes to Ceylon, the Taprobané of the Antients. There, they were met by the mercantile fleets, which sailed from the Persian Gulph and the adjacent countries; and these transmitted the freights through the western parts of Asia, to the Ports of Europe.
In the reign of the emperor Justinian, Silk worms were introduced into Europe.
This was not the only instance of his attention to Commerce. A general encouragement of it was one of the few laudable parts of his character; and the same remark may be applied to several of his successors. The effects of Commerce in civilizing and enriching a nation, are perhaps no where so
discernible, as in this period of the history of the Byzantine emperors. Many of their fairest próvinces were wrested from them, and almost all were ravaged by the barbarians. The government was uniformly feeble and oppressive, its ministers uniformly ignorant and cruel, and the country continually divided into factions. Still, a considerable degree of commerce remained in her; and in consequence of it, so much of Art, of Science and of Literature was preserved at Constantinople, as gave it an air of elegance and even of magnificence. This astonished the crusaders. “ () what a vast City," says one of their historians, as he is translated by Dr. Robertson, (Hist. of Charles the fifth, vol. 1. note xiv.), “is Constantinople, and how beautiful! “ How many Monasteries are there in it, and how
many Palaces, built with wonderful art! How many Manufactories are there in the City, amaz
ing to behold! It would be astonishing to relatë “ how it abounds with all good things, with gold, “ silver, and stuffs of various kind: for, every hour,
ships arrive in it's port, laden with all things necessary
for the use of man.” « The Crusaders" says another historian, as he also is translated by the same
author, “ could not have believed " that there was a city so beautiful and so rich in “ the whole world. When they viewed its high
walls, its lofty towers, its rich palaces, its superb “ churches, all appeared so great, that they could " have forned no conception of this sovereign city,
“ unless they had seen it with their own eyes.". Such were the salutary effects of commerce, even in a falling empire, and under a vicious and oppressive government.
The wealth and elegance, which Commerce thus introduced into Constantinople, were diffused over the adjacent provinces, and even reached her Italian territories.—But, from another cause, a state was now forming on the northernmost shores of the Hadriatic ; the wisdom and activity of whose government were soon to place her at the head of European commerce.
The Veneti of the Romans, occupied a territory which stretched from the Addua on the west, to the confines of Pannonia on the east, the space between the Rhætian and Julian Alps, and the Po. Modern Venice owes its origin to the invasion of Attila in 457, which drove several families of Aquileia, Padua and the adjacent country, into a cluster of numerous islands, which lie in the extremity of the Hadriatic Gulph, and are separated by shallow waters from the continent. Insensibly, something of a federal union was established among them; and in the twelve principal islands, twelve judges were annually elected. These in 697, were superseded by a chief, called a Duke or Doge, who was chosen for life, and enjoyed sovereign power. He was elected by a general assembly of the people.