Last week we drew attention to the report, casually mentioned by a Dantzig Chronicler of the year 1469, that the German merchant (den deutschen Kaufmann) had a hand in our “Wars of the loses. Strange! And yet perhaps no more strange than to suggest that the German merchant of to-day has a hand in the Rebellion in Ireland and Bolshevism in Russia (and in England). When Rathenau, the greatest commercial magnate in Germany, signs a Treaty with Lenin, we are told that the nation and the Prime Minister are of the material of shipping — timber, resin, pitch. Mercatores de regno Alemanie, “find it commonly translated,” The Society of German Merchants of the Holy Roman Empire.” They were a great confederation of some seventy German cities, chiefly Lubeck, Dantzic, Bremen, Hamburg and Cologne. These merchants traded on the principle of “touch one, touch all,” and had a navigation law of their own shortly ex- pi-eased in the phrase, “Hanse goods in Hanse ships.” In the Baltic they had almost a monopoly
When Ivrassin (an old employee of Rathenau) came to England as representative of Lenin, it did not occur to the Prime Minister or the British nation to put two and two together. Nor did it occur to them to read Mr. Edgar Sisson’s Report, which states (and proves) that the Russian Communists (falsely called Russian and falsely called Communist) were in the pay of German capitalism. To people who neither read nor can interpret evidence, everything comes as a surprise.
Here is one of the advantages of the study of history. If we know that the German merchant had a share in the Mediaeval Bolshevism of the Wars of the Roses, we learn to expect him in the Bolshevism of to-day. And so it may help us a little in our modern affairs to go back even so far as Warwick, the King-Maker. But who, let us first .discover, were those German merchants? And why did they take a hand in the Wars of the Roses? Let us see.
The German merchants of the Middle Ages were organised in what is vaguely and inaccurately called the Hanseatic League. A Hanse was, in fact, a league or company of merchants, and there was an English Hanse as well as a German Hanse. The German Hanse called itself in State documents “Mercatores de Hansa Alemannia,”