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The Maritime Commerce of Austria[169]

Karl Marx

The maritime commerce of Austria may be said to date from the incorporation into the Empire of Venice and its dependencies on the Adriatic shores, made over first by the peace of Campo-Formio, and confirmed to Austria by the peace of Luneville[170]. Napoleon, then, is the true founder of this branch .of Austrian commerce. It is true that, on becoming aware of the advantages thus bestowed on Austria, he rescinded those cessions, first by the treaty of Presburg, and again by the peace of Vienna, in 1809[171]. But Austria, having been once put on the right track, used her opportunity to recover by the treaty of 1815[172] her ascendancy over the Adriatic. Trieste is the center of this commerce, and the superiority of that place over all the other Austrian ports, even at an earlier period, may be seen by the following table:

Oth. Ports.

In 1839 the imports of Venice were to the imports of Trieste as 1 to 2.84, and their exports respectively as 1 to 3.8. In the same year the number of ships entering each harbor were in the proportion of 1 to 4. At present the preponderance of Trieste has assumed such dimensions as to eclipse all the rest of the Austrian ports, Venice included. But if Trieste has supplanted Venice in the Adriatic, the fact is to be accounted for neither by the special favor of the Austrian Government, nor by the unceasing exertions of the Austrian Lloyd[173]. An obscure creek on an iron-bound coast, inhabited only by a few fishermen at the beginning of the eighteenth century, Trieste had grown into a commercial port numbering 23,000 souls by the time the French forces evacuated Istria in 1814, with a trade amounting to three times that of Venice in 1815. In 1835, the year before the establishment of the Austrian Lloyd, its population was above 50,000, and at a time when the Lloyd cannot yet be supposed to have attained any considerable influence, Trieste occupied the second rank after England in the Turkish, and the first rank in the Egyptian trade, as will be seen from the following tables of imports and exports from Smyrna from 1835 to 1839:

United States57,329,16546,608,320

The following figures, giving the imports and exports of Egypt for 1837, are also instructive on this head:

England and Malta15,158,0005,404,000

How, then, came it to pass that Trieste, and not Venice, became the cradle of revived navigation in the Adriatic? Venice was a town of reminiscences; Trieste shared the privilege of the United States of having no past at all. Formed by a motley crew of Italian, German, English, French, Greek, Armenian and Jewish merchant-adventurers, it was not fettered by traditions like the City of the Lagunes. Thus, for instance, while the Venetian grain trade still clung during the eighteenth century to its old connections, Trieste at once attached itself to the rising fortunes of Odessa, and thus succeeded, by the commencement of the nineteenth century, in driving its rival entirely from the Mediterranean corn trade. The fatal blow sustained by the old Italian trade-republics at the end of the fifteenth century, in consequence of the circumnavigation of Africa was repeated on a small scale by the Continental customs decrees of Napoleon[174]. The last remnants of Venetian commerce were then annihilated. Despairing of all chances of profitable investment in that expiring maritime commerce, Venetian capitalists naturally transferred their capital to the opposite shore of the Adriatic, where the land-trade of Trieste promised to double its activity at that very epoch. Thus Venice itself nursed the greatness of Trieste—a fate common to all maritime despots. Thus Holland laid the foundation of the greatness of England; thus England built up the power of the United States.

Once incorporated with the Austrian Empire, Trieste commanded a natural position very different from what had ever been occupied by Venice. Trieste formed the natural outlet of the vast and inexhaustible dominions lying at its back, while Venice never had been anything but an isolated, outlying port of the Adriatic, usurping the carrying-trade of the world, and resting that usurpation on the barbarism of a world unconscious of its resources. The prosperity of Trieste, therefore, has no limits but the development of the productive forces and means of communication of the enormous complex of countries now under Austrian rule. Another advantage of Trieste is its contiguity with the eastern shore of the Adriatic, furnishing at once the basis of a coast trade almost unknown to the Venetians, and the nursery of that hardy race of seamen whom Venice never succeeded in fully turning to account. As the decline of Venice kept pace with the rise of the Ottoman power, so the opportunities of Trieste grow with the ascendancy of Austria over Turkey. Even in its best times, the trade of Venice was stunted by a division of Eastern commerce altogether dependent on political causes. On the one hand, there was the Danubian road of trade, hardly ever connected with Venetian shipping; on the other hand, while Venice, under the protection of the Catholic kings, monopolized the commerce of Morea, Cyprus, Egypt, Asia Minor, etc., the Genoese, under the protection of the Greek Emperors, almost monopolized the trade of Constantinople and the Black Sea. Trieste for the first time has united these two great channels of the Levant together with the Danubian trade. At the end of the fifteenth century Venice found itself, so to say, geographically displaced. The privileges of its neighborhood to Constantinople and Alexandria, then the centers of Asiatic trade, were forfeited by the circumnavigation of the Cape of Good Hope, transferring the center of that trade first to Lisbon, then to Holland, and afterward to England. The privilege lost to Venice is likely to be recovered in our own times by Trieste, by the cutting of the Isthmus of Suez Canal. The Trieste Chamber of Commerce has not only associated itself with the French Company for the Suez Canal, but also sent agents to explore the Red Sea and coasts of the Indian Ocean, in furtherance of the commercial operations contemplated in those parts. The Isthmus once cut, Trieste will necessarily supply all Eastern Europe with Indian goods; it will be as near to the Tropic of Cancer as it is to Gibraltar, and a navigation of 5,600 miles will bring its ships to the Sunda Straits. Having thus placed the outlines and prospects of Trieste commerce, we will now add a tabular statement of the commercial movement of that port during the period of the last ten years:


On comparing the average of the first three years of this period with the average of the last three years (973,220 against 1,631,664), the increase within so short a space is found to be in the proportion of 68 to 100. Marseilles is far from exhibiting the same rapidity of progress. The basis of the prosperity of Trieste, besides, is all the more solid, as it is owing to the increased intercourse both with purely Austrian and foreign ports. The national trade, for instance, from 1846 to 1848 amounted to 416,709 tuns average per annum; from 1853 to 1855 it had increased to 854,753 tuns average per year, or more than double. During the years 1850 and 1855, inclusive, the Austrian tunnage entered in and out at Trieste was 6,206,316; foreign, 2,981,928 tuns. The trade with Greece, Egypt, the Levant and Black Sea, had risen from 257,741 tons to 496,394 tuns average per year during the same period.

With all this the actual commerce and navigation of Trieste are still far from having attained that point where traffic becomes a matter of regular routine, and the mechanical effect of fully developed resources. Let one only cast a glance at the economical situation of the Austrian States, the imperfect development of internal communications, at the great part of their populations still clad in sheep-skins, and strangers to all civilized wants. In the same measure in which Austria shall put its communications on a level say only with the German States, the commerce of Trieste will make rapid and powerful strides into the heart of the Empire. The completion of the railway from Trieste to Vienna, with a branch from Cilly to Pesth, will create a revolution in Austrian commerce from which no one will derive greater advantages than Trieste. This railway is sure to begin with a traffic greater than that of Marseilles, but the dimensions it may attain one can only realize by bearing in mind that the countries whose only outlet is the Adriatic possess a population of 30,966,000 inhabitants, equal to that of France in 1821, and that the port of Trieste will drain a territory of 60,398,000 hectares, i.e. by seven millions of hectares larger than France. Trieste, therefore, is destined to become, in its immediate future, what Marseilles, Bordeaux, Nantes and Havre united are to France.

Written in late November 1856
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4906, January 9, 1857

The Maritime Commerce of Austria
(Second article)

Karl Marx

In a former article[a] we traced the natural circumstances which have brought about the resurrection of Adriatic commerce at Trieste. The development of that commerce is, in a great measure, due to the efforts of the Austrian Lloyd—a Company founded by Englishmen, but, since 1836, in the hands of Triestine capitalists. At first, the Lloyd had only one steamer running once a week between Trieste and Venice. This communication soon became a daily one. By and by the steamers of the Lloyd engrossed the commerce of Rovigno, Fiume, Pirano, Zara and Ragusa, on the Istrian and Dalmatian coast. The Romagna was the next to be enveloped in this intercourse; then came Albania, Epirus and Greece. The steamers had not left the Adriatic, before the Archipelago, Salonica, Smyrna, Beyrout, Ptolemais and Alexandria already solicited admission into the network projected by the Lloyd. Lastly, its vessels penetrated into the Black Sea, taking possession, under the very eyes of Turkey and Russia, of the lines connecting Constantinople with Sinope, Trebizond, Varna, Ibraila and Galatz. Thus a company, organized for the mere coast service of Austria in the Adriatic, gradually pushes out into the Mediterranean, and having made sure of the Black Sea, appears to wait only for the cutting of the Isthmus of Suez to push on into the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

The capital of the Lloyd Company, originally fixed at 1,000,000 florins, has been increased by successive emissions of new shares, and by loans, to 13,000,000 florins. Its movement and operations since the year 1836 are set forth in the last report of the Directors as follows:

Number of steamers7 47 
Horse-power630 7,990 
Tunnage1,944 23,665 
Value of ships798,824fl.8,010,000fl.
Number of trips87 1,465 
Miles traversed43,652 776,415 
Passengers7,967 331,688 
Letters and dispatches35,205 748,930 
Parcels5,752 565,508 
Total expenses232,267fl.3,611,156fl.
In a period of seventeen years the Company
had a total of expenses (including dividends) of
And a total of receipts of 26,032,452fl.
Hence there is a reserve of

The Lloyd, being itself a commercial enterprise of great importance, as may be judged from the above table, has rendered immense service to the growth of industry and commerce wherever its ships have penetrated. It is calculated that, on valuing the Austrian quintal at 300 f l., and each passenger's parcels at 10 fl., the Lloyd has transported between 1836 and 1853:

In merchandise1,255,219,200
In baggage84,847,930
In coins and bullion461,113,767

"It is certain," says a French author, "that the modest but sustained action of this company of merchants on the affairs of the Levant has been for years, to say the least, quite as efficient, and much more honorable than that of Austrian diplomacy."

The revival of commerce and the development of steam navigation in the Adriatic cannot fail to call into life, in a more or less remote future, an Adriatic navy, extinct since the downfall of Venice. Napoleon, with his peculiar turn of mind, thought to create this navy without waiting for the reestablishment of maritime commerce—an experiment he made simultaneously at Antwerp and at Venice. Having succeeded in raising armies without a people to back them, he did not doubt his power to organize navies without a marine to rely upon. But apart from the inherent impossibilities of such a scheme, Napoleon stumbled on difficulties of a local character altogether unforeseen. Having dispatched his ablest engineers to Venice, completed the fortifications of that city, repaired the floating matériel, restored the ancient activity of the ship-building yards, it was all at once discovered that the technical progress in maritime war and navigation had struck with the same impotence the harbor of Venice to which the new roads of commerce had condemned its commerce and shipping. It was ascertained that, however excellent for the accommodation of the ancient galleys, the harbor of Venice lacked the depth required for modern ships of the line, and that even frigates were unable to enter the port without disembarking, their guns, save with a concurrence of southern winds and spring tides. Now, for modern naval ports, it is a vital condition that they admit ships to enter at all times, and that they be deep and capacious enough to harbor a whole fleet, both for attack and defense. Bonaparte found, too, that he had committed another mistake. By the treaties of Campo Formio and Luneville[175], he had cut off Venice from the eastern shores of the Adriatic, and thus deprived it of the crews for manning its fleets. From the mouth of the Isonzo down to Ravenna, he searched in vain for a maritime population, the gondoliers of Venice and the fishermen of the Lagunes (a timid and scanty race) being wholly unable to supply any valuable maritime force. Napoleon saw now, what the Venetians had discovered already in the tenth century, that the rule of the Adriatic can belong only to the possessor of its eastern shores. He perceived that his treaties of Campo Formio and Luneville were enormous mistakes—surrendering to Austria the maritime populations of the Adriatic, and reserving for himself the name of an obsolete harbor (magni nominis umbram[b]). To make good his earlier blunders, he appropriated Istria and Dalmatia by the subsequent treaties of Presburg and Vienna.[176]

Strabo long ago observed[c] that while the Adriatic coast of Italy is totally deficient in creeks and harbors, the Illyrian coast on the opposite side abounds in excellent ports; and, during the civil wars of Rome,[177] we see Pompey easily forming large fleets on the coasts of Epirus and Illyria, while Caesar, on the Italian shores, was able only after unexampled efforts to collect small force of boats for the conveyance of his troops in divisions. With its deep incisions, with the wild rocks of its islands, with the sandbanks strewed about everywhere, and with its admirable harbors of refuge, the coast of Istria and Dalmatia is a first-rate nursery of good seamen—sailors with vigorous limbs and intrepid hearts, seasoned in the storms which almost daily agitate the Adriatic. The bora[d], which is the great disturber of that sea, always arises without the least warning; it attacks seamen with all the violence of a tornado, and permits none but the hardiest to keep the deck. Sometimes it rages for weeks together, and the domain of its greatest fury is comprised exactly within the mouths of Cattaro and the south point of Istria. The Dalmatian, however, accustomed to brave it from childhood, hardens under its breath, and despises the vulgar gales of other seas. Thus, air, land and sea combine to breed the robust and sober mariner of this coast.

Sismondi has remarked that silk-manufacture is as natural to the peasant of Lombardy as the spinning of silk is to the silk-worm. Thus, to take to the sea is as natural to the Dalmatian as it is to the sea-fowl. Piracy is as much the theme of their popular songs as robbery by land is the theme of the old Teutonic poetry. The Dalmatian still cherishes the memory of the wild exploits of the Uskoks, who for a century and a half kept in check the regular forces of Venice and Turkey[178], and whose career was not stopped before the treaty concluded between Turkey and Austria in 1617, till which time the Uskoks had enjoyed the convenient protection of the Emperor. The history of the Uskoks has no parallel except in the history of the Cossacks of the Dnieper[179]—the one being exiles from Turkey and the other from Poland; the one carrying terror over the Adriatic, the other over the Black Sea; the former being at first secretly supported and then extinguished by Austria, and the latter by Russia. The Dalmatian sailors in the Mediterranean squadron of Admiral Emeriau were the admiration of Napoleon. There can be no doubt, then, that the eastern shores of the Adriatic possess all the materials for manning a first-rate navy. The only thing they want is discipline. By a census taken in 1813, Napoleon ascertained the existence of 43,500 sailors on this coast.

At Trieste12,000
At Fiume6,000
At Zara9,500
At Spalato5,000
At Ragusa8,500
At Cattaro2,500
Their number must now be at least 55,000.

Having found the crews, Napoleon looked out for the harbors of an Adriatic navy. The Illyrian provinces were acquired definitely by the treaty of Vienna in 1809[180], but they had been occupied by French troops since the battle of Austerlitz[181], and Napoleon improved the opportunity of a state of war to prepare the great works intended to be executed during peace. In 1806 M. Beautemps-Beaupré, assisted by several engineers and hydrographers of the French Navy, was sent to survey the coasts of Istria and Dalmatia, with a view of discovering the most suitable focus for the naval foundation contemplated in the Adriatic. The whole coast was explored, and the attention of the engineers finally stuck to the harbor of Pola, situated at the southern extremity of the Istrian Peninsula. The Venetians, unwilling to fix the seat of their naval power anywhere but at Venice itself, had not only neglected Pola, but had anxiously propagated the opinion that Pola was inaccessible to ships of war on account of a pretended bar. However, M. Beaupré ascertained that no such bar existed, and that Pola answered all the conditions of a modern naval port. At different times it had been the seat of the naval forces of the Adriatic. It was the center of the naval operations of the Romans during their Illyrian and Pannonian expeditions, and it became a permanent naval station under the Roman Empire. At different times it has been in the occupation of the Genoese, the Venetians, and lastly of the Uskoks. Deep and capacious in every part, the harbor of Pola is defended in front by islands, and in the rear by rocks which command the position. Its only disadvantage is the unhealthiness and the fevers which, as M. Beautemps-Beaupré affirms[e], will yield to a system of drainage that has hitherto not been applied.

The Austrians have been very slow in familiarizing themselves with the notion of becoming a naval power. Up to a very recent period their naval administration was, in their own eyes, merely a branch of their land service. A colonel in the army had the rank of a naval captain; a lieutenant-colonel, that of a captain of a frigate; a major, that of a captain of a corvette; and the equivalence in the rank list seemed to guarantee to the Austrians an equivalence in the services. To make a midshipman, they considered to have hit on the best expedient by making him previously a cornet of hussars. The recruits of the navy were levied in the same manner as the recruits for the army—with the only difference that the provinces of Istria and Dalmatia were allotted exclusively to the sea service. The time of service was equal, viz: Eight years, either by land or sea.

The separation of the two services, like all modern progress in Austria, is the result of the revolution of 1848. In spite of the Napoleonian precedent, Venice had remained up to 1848 the only arsenal of Austria. The defects of the Venetian harbor had failed to strike the Austrians, because they had, in fact, no modern navy at all. Their naval force consisted of but 6 frigates, 5 corvettes, 7 brigs, 6 sloops, 16 steamers, and 36 armed boats—in all 850 guns. By way of punishing the Italian revolution, the Austrians transferred from Venice to Trieste the naval school, the observatory, the hydrographic office, the floating matériel and the artillery park. The building-yards and the stores remained behind; and thus, by a bureaucratic vengeance, the naval service was cut in two. Instead of Venice being punished, both branches were deprived of their efficiency. Slowly the Austrian Government discovered that, however excellent Trieste might be for a commercial harbor, it was unfit for a naval station. At last they had to fall back on the lesson Napoleon had set up in the Adriatic, and to make Pola the center of their naval administration. Quite in keeping with Austrian usage, the first few years after this removal of their Admiralty to Pola have been employed in building barracks instead of ship-yards. The system of defense reposes on the establishment of a cross-fire from the islands at the entrance of the harbor, with a chain of Maximilian towers[f] to prevent ships from throwing bombs into the harbor. Beside its strategical advantages, Pola answers the indispensable condition of a good port, viz: of being able to provision a good fleet. Istria has oaks equal to Naples; Carniola, Carinthia and Styria are inexhaustible in pines, which already form the staple tunnage of Trieste exportation; Styria is rich in iron; the hemp of Ancona has no more commodious outlet than Pola; coal is hitherto received from England, but the Dalmatian works at Sebenico begin to yield a better quality; and when the Trieste-Vienna Railway opens, the best quality may be had from Semmering. All Istrian produce, being grown on a chalky soil, endures long voyages. Oil is abundant, Hungarian grain at hand, and pork in immense quantities to be had from the Danubian valley. That pork goes now to Galatz and Hamburg, but the railway will bring it to Trieste and Pola.

To all these excellent bases for the revival of the naval power in the Adriatic, there is only one drawback—Austria itself. If, with its present organization and under its present Government, Austria were able to found a commercial and naval power in the Adriatic, it would upset all the traditions of history, which has ever coupled maritime greatness with Freedom. On the other hand, it would upset Austria to upset tradition.

Written in late November 1856
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5082, August 4, 1857


[a] See this volume, pp. 139-43 (first article above).—Ed.

[b] "There stands the shadow of glorious name" (Lucan, Pharsalia, I, 135).—Ed.

[c] Strabonis rerum geographicarum libri 17, Libr. 7, cap. 5.—Ed.

[d] Strong north-easterly wind.—Ed.

[e] C. F. Beautemps-Beaupré, Rapports sur les rades, ports et mouillages de la côte orientale du golfe de Venise, visités en 1806, 1808 et 1809, par ordre de l'e'mpereur.—Ed.

[f] Named after Maximilian Este.—Ed.

[169] When working on this article, Marx made a rough draft, "Venice", which is extant in his Notebook of excerpts for November 1854-beginning of 1857. It is published in this volume, in the section "From the Preparatory Materials", pp. 615-18.

The editors have no sources used by Marx for the article.

[170] The Treaty of Campo-Formio, signed on October 17, 1797, concluded the victorious war of the French Republic against Austria, a member-country of the first anti-French coalition. Under the treaty, a large part of the Venetian Republic, including Venice, and also Istria and Dalmatia, were given to Austria in exchange for concessions made to France on the Rhine frontier.

The Peace of Lunéville of 1801 between France and Austria ended the war between France and the second coalition. It confirmed the provisions of the Treaty of Campo-Formio.

[171] Under the Treaty of Pressburg concluded on December 26, 1805 between France and Austria, the latter acknowledged France's seizure of part of Italian territory (Piedmont, Genoa, Parma, Piacenza, etc.) and yielded to the Kingdom of Italy (i.e. to Napoleon I who became King of Italy) the Adriatic coast—the Venetian region, Istria and Dalmatia—keeping only Trieste.

Under the Treaty of Vienna, known under the name of Schönbrunn peace treaty concluded on October 14, 1809, between France and Austria, the latter ceded to France, Trieste, Graina, part of Carinthia and Croatia and also Istria. France undertook not to interfere with Austria's transit trade via Fiume.

[172] The Final (General) Act of the Congress of Vienna of June 9, 1815 annulled the Schönbrunn Peace Treaty (see Note 171↑). Austria acquired North-Eastern Italy (Lombardy and Venetia) and smaller Italian duchies.

[173] The Austrian Lloyd—the name given by Marx to a maritime company founded in Trieste in 1833. Initially an insurance company, in 1836 the Austrian Lloyd became a steamship company entitled Die Dampfschiffahrtsgesellschaft des Osterreichisch-Ungarischen Lloyd.

Many maritime insurance companies in Europe began to be named Lloyd's after Edward Lloyd, the owner of a coffee-house in London where the first English maritime insurance company was established in the late seventeenth century.

[174] A reference to the customs system introduced by Napoleon I during the Continental Blockade of 1806-14. It included a series of strict prohibitions in customs policy and exceptionally high tariffs for colonial products imported to Europe, which was highly detrimental to trade in the Adriatic Sea's ports.

[175] See Note 170↑.

[176] See Note 171↑.

[177] The civil wars in Rome reflected the class struggle between different groups in the slave-owning society in the second and first centuries B.C. They reached their peak in the 80s-40s B.C., particularly during Julius Caesar's struggle for dictatorship and in the epoch of the second triumvirate. They resulted in the substitution of an empire—a new political system—for the Roman Republic.

[178] The Uskoks (Serbian: fugitives)—Balkan Slays who fled to the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic Sea following the seizure of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Turks in the second half of the fifteenth century. They waged a struggle against the Turks, making land and sea raids supported by local population. Their raids in the region of the Adriatic Sea also undermined Venice's maritime trade.

[179] The reference is to a kind of a republic formed by the Ukrainian Cossacks (Zaporozhye Sech) in the mid-sixteenth century. It was defeated by Peter I in 1709 and finally abolished by Catherine II in 1775.

[180] See Note 171↑.

[181] The Battle of Austerlitz on December 2 (November 20), 1805 between the Russian and Austrian forces (the third European coalition) and the French ended in a victory for Napoleon I.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 15 (pp.139-150), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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