« PreviousContinue »
maize produced are about equal.* Four-fifths of all the barley and oats are grown in Hungary, Galicia, Bohemia, and Moravia.
One of the principal physical features of the Austrian empire is the great plain or prairie which extends for nearly 300 miles from the Danube to the eastward, and known as the Puszta, or the Steppes of Hungary, where millions of acres might be converted into such a picture of agricultural wealth as is seen nowhere else in Europe. They are divided into three kinds of soils: first, a deep sand, easily worked, and yielding fair crops in wet seasons; secondly, that in the immediate neighbourhood of the Danube and its great tributaries the Theiss and the Temes, boggy in its character and subject to frequent inundations, but which could be reclaimed and made productive at very little cost; thirdly, a rich black deep loam, the fertility of which probably exceeds that of any other known soil. The crops are astonishing; and it is said that when the maize has attained its full growth, a tall man riding on a high horse would be undiscernible amidst gigantic stalks even when they are bent under the weight of the golden cars. Slight elevations occur in this region, but its general aspect is that of an unbroken plain. The vast level, where cultivated, and when green with young corn waving in the wind, can only be compared in its motion and its expanse to the ocean. When a village spire rises in the distance before the traveller, it takes him a day to reach it. Herds of white cattle, flocks of sheep, droves of swine and of horses, give occasional diversity and animation to what would otherwise be a monotonous scene. Villages, few and far between, and nestled amidst green acacias, look like islands risen from the deep. These wide-stretching plains formed the first settled home of the Hungarian race in Europe.
The far-famed Banat is another of the districts of which the produce is extraordinary. This great wheat-growing country lies between the Theiss, the Maros, and the Danube. The Turks were in possession of the province only a hundred years since, but the thought of turning its agricultural capabilities to any profitable use never of course entered their sluggish minds. Nothing could be more wild, savage, and desolate than the aspect of the Banat even in recent times. Immense morasses tainted the air with foul exhalations, and diffused pestilence and death over the neighbouring country. This rank wilderness was termed by the French le tombeau des étrangers;' but, not
.. .. .. .. 100,000,000 metzen.
withstanding its bad repute, the wonderful fertility of the soil gradually attracted settlers, who were enabled to purchase land at a low price; and Germans, Servians, Greeks, and even Turks, were tempted to risk their lives in a district which promised unexampled returns. The soil is a black loam, which until the end of the eighteenth century had never been turned by the plough. Rapid fortunes were then made; and some of the wealthiest subjects of the Austrian Empire were originally agricultural adventurers in the Banat. Wheat, barley, oats, rye, rice, maize, flax, hemp, tobacco, wine, silk, and even cotton, are the products of this wonderfully favoured region, The climate is more nearly tropical than temperate, and the same crops are repeated year after year. With the exception of the orange and the olive, there is scarcely a vegetable product of Europe that does not thrive luxuriantly in the Banat."
Other portions of the Austrian empire are eminently, but perhaps not equally, rich in cereals. The flat country in the neighbourhood of Salzburg, the Windian Hills in Styria, the country in the vicinity of Laibach and Wippach in Carniola, the lowlands on both sides of the Middle Elbe, and the Lower Eger in Bohemia, also the Moravian Hanna, the north-east portion of Galicia, and the level part of Bukowina, all produce the finest wheat, and their agriculture admits of an almost unlimited extension. Austria is thus pre-eminently a land where Nature, in the distribution of her bounties, has evidently designed that cereal production shall prevail. This truth is being gradually recognised in the Austrian empire. There has been of late a great increase in the production of cereals. We have before remarked that in the year 1854 the imports of grain considerably exceeded the exports ; in 1861, on the contrary, the exports largely exceeded the imports. This favourable change in the agricultural condition of the empire appears to have arisen chiefly from the introduction of machinery, the improvement of roads, and more recently from the introduction of railways. Agricultural machines have been found indispensable since the abolition of the robot: labour can now only be procured, as in other countries, by mutual agreement between the employer and the employed, and wages must necessarily be high where labourers are few. Model ploughs, threshing-machines, and many other of the latest mechanical inventions, are imported from England and Belgium, and there is now an extensive manufactory of agricultural implements at Pesth to supply the increasing demand,
Very few countries are adapted by nature for the growth of corn for exportation, since the conditions which render it possible are rare : these are the possession of extensive fertile plains, a
favourable climate, a moderate but not too dense population, a convenient access to the sea, or facilities for transport by great rivers; for railways, if of great extent, unduly increase the cost of carriage. These conditions are found in Austria, Turkey, Russia, Prussia, and Poland, but pre-eminently in Austria and the Danubian Principalities. It is, however, only within the last sixty years that the grain trade has become one of paramount importance to several of the kingdoms of Europe. The nations of the West have gradually become less capable of supplying themselves with food. While thousands of mouths are added daily to the number to be fed, agriculture, with all its marvellous improvements and scientific appliances, is unable to keep pace with the progress of population. A few years ago England was able to feed her own people from the produce of her own fields: she now buys grain to the annual value of more than 12,000,0001.; and it is probable that before many years have passed England and France together may be under the necessity of importing corn to the annual value of 40,000,0001. Nor need this prospect alarm us. There are districts even in Europe which are able to supply for an indefinite period almost any quantity of grain that we may require. This may well raise the hopes and stimulate the enterprise of countries like Austria, endowed by Nature with a climate and soil which enable them to supply the wants of others less favourably placed, or whose powers of production have been already taxed to the uttermost.
Unfortunately for the interests of Austrian commerce and agriculture, none of the great rivers of the empire have their embouchures in the Adriatic. They are almost all affluents of the Danube, which pours its vast volume of waters, by three mouths, into the Black Sea. It was once proposed to unite the Save, one of the principal tributaries of the Danube, with the port of Fiume on the Adriatic, but the difficulties proved too great. The Danube, therefore, continues to be the principal commercial artery of the Austrian Empire. Its navigation begins at Ulm, which is a depôt for goods from France, Germany, and the banks of the Rhine. In its course the Danube passes through the territories of four states, and receives the waters of thirty navigable rivers and ninety lesser streams. Its navigation from Vienna is now almost exclusively in the hands of the Danubian Steam Navigation Company, which, by its successful enterprise and excellent arrangements, has so materially benefited the commerce of the Austrian Empire. New markets have been opened up for the previously unsaleable produce of Hungary and Transylvania. The commercial movement on the Danube, consequent. on the introduction of steam, was viewed with great
of chestna voda, eleck Sea, with the intricates ante
jealousy by Russia ; which, after endeavouring for years to obstruct the navigation of the principal mouth of the Danube, had the mortification of witnessing a new vitality imparted to the commerce of the great river by steam, and of being obliged to relinquish the territory which she had long systematically endeavoured to turn to the injury of her neighbours and the world. To Austria the closing of the Danube, it was supposed, would have been a heavy blow ; for Austria had been long regarded, not only as a political rival, but as a competitor in commerce. - The repetition of similar acts of barbarism and selfishness has been rendered impossible by placing the embouchure of the Danube in the hands of Turkey-a power whose interests in Austrian prosperity and greatness are the reverse of those of Russia. The commercial importance of the mouths of the Danube is, however, considerably diminished since the completion of a short railway of 40 miles, which connects the port of Tchernavoda, on a bend of the Danube which approaches nearest to the Black Sea, with the port of Kustendjie on that sea, by which 240 miles of intricate and tedious navigation are saved, and goods and passengers are conveyed by a short overland journey to a secure and commodious harbour only 20 hours, by steam, from Constantinople. The corn trade of the whole basin of the Danube is now gradually taking this course in preference to the circuitous river navigation; and it has even been found cheaper to send barges laden with the corn of Wallachia and Moldavia up the stream from Galatz to Tchernavoda than to navigate ships through the tortuous channels of the Danube to the sea. The first steamboat was launched on the Danube at Vienna in 1830. The subsequent rapid increase of steam navigation has produced a complete revolution in the internal commerce of Hungary. Before the introduction of steam the navigation of the river was carried on in large barges, with high pointed roofs, which gave them a most curious appearance; and, when unemployed on the river, they were made to serve the purpose of granaries. Drawn by teams of small horses, they were months in making their way from the mouth of the Theiss to Raab or Wiesenburg. There are serious impediments in the navigation of the Danube yet to be overcome before the riches of its upper basin (the future corn field in which, from the quality of its wheat, we are perhaps the most interested) can be made available. The Iron Gates (the Porta Ferrea of the Romans) are a great obstacle to the trade of the Upper Danube, and improvements must be made in the navigation of the river in this portion of its course before the produce of Hungary and the Banat can be
basin of the from Constand
brought into successful competition with that of the lower Danubian provinces or of Russia. A succession of rapids, rushing past some of the most magnificent scenery in Europe for nearly thirty miles, makes navigation perilous to heavily laden barges, and to draw them up the stream again is a work of considerable time and difficulty. The attention of the Austrian Government has often been directed to this important subject, and doubtless some serious effort will be shortly made to diminish, if not entirely to remove, this great inconvenience. The tendency of the corn trade of the Danube to increase in proportion to the facilities afforded for transport has been very marked.* The boundless resources of the corn-growing districts of the Austrian empire have hitherto only been made available to an inconsiderable extent for the supply of foreign countries. In consequence of the dearness of labour, of the occasional difficulty in obtaining it at all, the high freight from Austrian ports, and the cost of transit down the Danube, the grain of Hungary and of the Banat has been scarcely able to compete with that of Russia and Prussia.
Agriculture being the natural development of Austrian industry, it is satisfactory to find that the corn trade of the country exhibits a decided tendency to increase. In one of the very able Reports of Mr. Fane, the British Secretary of Legation at Vienna, he points out with great sagacity that causes are in operation which seriously threaten to affect the existing sources of our supply of corn, and that the opening of other sources thus becomes extremely important. The fertile corn-growing provinces of Austria may thus become of the highest value to Great Britain. In 1861, 36 per cent. of our imports of wheat and 62 per cent. of our imports of flour came from the United States. The disturbance of capital and labour which is taking place in America may greatly affect her ability to continue those enormous exportations upon which our people have been accustomed to rely. The exports from Russia, too, in her present transition state, will probably fall off considerably. There are, indeed, symptoms of such a declension in the latest returns. In 1859 Russia furnished 22 per cent. of the wheat imported into Great Britain, while in 1860 she furnished only 13 per cent. The emancipation of the serfs
Are that of th of the of transill the
he points out", Fane, the Britis increase. In
ustomeransitioed, sy Russi
• There passed out of the Danube grain of all kinds in
Imperial Quarters. 1837
.. .. 313,501 1846
.. .. 1,191,649 " " "
.. 1,626,513 .. .. 2,469,757