Chapter 17

Commerce after the Destruction of the Western Empire

September 19, 2021

Commerce was destroyed after the fall of the Roman empire. The barbarous nations at first saw it only as an opportunity for robbery. When they had subdued the Romans, they honoured it no more than agriculture, and the other professions of a conquered people.

Soon, the commerce of Europe almost entirely lost. The nobility, who had every where the direction of affairs, were in no pain about it.

The laws of the Visigoths permitted private people to occupy half the beds of great rivers, provided the other half remained free for nets and boats. There must have been very little trade in countries conquered by these barbarians.

In those times were established the ridiculous rights of escheatage and shipwrecks.

They thought that strangers were not united to them by any civil law. So they owed them no justice, and no pity.

In the narrow bounds which nature had originally prescribed to the people of the north, all were strangers to them;

and in their poverty they regarded all only as contributing to their riches. Being established, before their conquest, on the coasts of a sea of very little breadth, and full of rocks from these very rocks they drew their subsistence.

But the Romans made laws for all the world. They had established the most humane ones with regard to shipwrecks. They suppressed the rapine of those who inhabited the coasts; and what was more still, the rapaciousness of their treasuries. †

Chapter 18= The Visigoth Rule on Commerce

The Visigoths had one regulation in favour of commerce. It ordained, that foreign merchants should be judged by the laws and judges of their own nation.

This is based on the custom of mixed people that every man should live under his own law.

Chapter 19= Commerce after the Decay of the Roman Power in the East

After the fall of Rome:

  • the Muslims appeared, conquered, extended, and dispersed themselves.
  • Egypt had particular sovereigns who carried on the commerce of India.
    • They had Indian merchandise to draw to themselves the riches of all other nations.
    • The sultans of Egypt were the most powerful princes of those times and were able to stop the crusades.