1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 42:
“Is he alone?” Keith asked. “Or are there others who think like him? That may be crucial.”
When Ollie answered Keith’s letter, he put it a little differently.
Even if you break the cartel, they aren’t thinking about the tonnages that we’ll be needing for major industries if we go for nineteenth century technology. Not the amounts of raw iron that we’ll need for the railroads. Not even for the telegraph lines. But if, with just basic help with things such as pumps, they can get back to their 1609 capacity pretty quickly and supply the needs that they were supplying then—after that, the production from any new mines that we open up can be directed to new industrial development. We won’t be backpedaling, trying to meet the old requirements as well as the new ones.
Once they’ve gotten to that point, using what they know and using men who already know how to do it the old way, we can talk to them about immense increases in production.
But, right now, see if you can get them back to supplying Nürnberg and Venice with what they need. Right now, both cities are our allies. They’re starving, economically, because of the iron shortage, and we don’t have any miracles for them. Twenty years from now, maybe. They need the iron yesterday. See if you can get it for them tomorrow.
If production goes up beyond that level, Grantville and Magdeburg will be happy to take the surplus. If any. Struve-Reardon Gunworks could certainly use an expanded supply. That’s why I sent you. But, the more I think about it, talking to Mike, we just can’t afford, politically, to grab every bit of iron in sight for ourselves. Not even if we pay for it. See about setting up partnerships, if you can, that run from Amberg through Nürnberg up to us. Tie these border regions of the USE into our network.”
Keith hadn’t been just been sitting while he waited for Ollie to answer his report. He looked at the pile of notes he had taken. Five years ago, if anyone had told him that he would be sitting here—sitting anywhere at all, up-time or down-time—feeling happy about something he had read in a law book, he would have laughed directly in the guy’s face.
With Böcler’s help, he had been digging into the laws that covered mining in the Upper Palatinate. Böcler had given him a good start and a capsule history. The earliest sets of laws that covered mining around here—at least, the earliest that anybody had kept—were in Amberg’s collection of city ordinances, the Bergrechtssätze. They’d been there for at least a couple of centuries; then were dropped out in the 1550s. Böcler said that they’d basically been superseded, so he hadn’t taken time to look at them. Some of them had been taken over into the rules and regulations of the Hammerinnung itself; that was basically a government-licensed, ah, something. Not a corporation, because it wasn’t incorporated. But the counts had approved the rules and regulations, so it must have had some kind of legal status. Finally, there were several codifications of the Bergordnungen, the mining laws that the counts themselves had issued, with changes and amendments. The latest of those was the 1594 edition, so that’s what Keith had been reading.
It had been real nice of them to write these in German rather than Latin. German, Keith could pretty well handle now. As far as he was concerned, Latin just sat there on the page and looked pretty. If they’d been in Latin, he’d have been dependent on Böcler’s having free time, or would have had to find someone else to write out a translation. As it was, reading the laws sort of gave him a grasp on how things worked. Or, at least, on how things were supposed to work. There was almost always a considerable difference between a bunch of regulations and the way they got implemented. Safety rules, for example. As it was, he thought it might have been helpful to have a lawyer looking over his shoulder. On one side. And someone who had been there and knew how it really worked looking over his shoulder. On the other side.
And they might even owe old Duke Maximilian the Horrible of Bavaria one vote of thanks. Even a small cheer. In 1626, he had dissolved the Hammerinnung. Mainly, of course, because so many of the owners had been Protestants who had gone into exile. Partly, because he’d been pretty pissed to discover that where he was expecting to annex a wealthy territory, a money mine, which really it had been shortly before the 1620s, he had gotten a poor one.
Plus, of course, he had gotten the Palatine’s electoral vote. Maybe that had made it worthwhile for the old man, but he had still been pretty pissed. He’d followed up the 1626 edict by nationalizing the Amberg mines in 1628; a conquered province was a conquered province, after all. At that point, production had plummeted to just about nothing. The Bavarian officials had all sorts of excuses—wood shortages, local unrest. Duke Ernst was still trying to sort through the fall-out from that one.
The Hammerinnung had been a real, honest-to-goodness, cartel. Keith would never classify himself as the world’s greatest brain but, by golly, he knew conspiracy in restraint of trade when he saw it, and he saw it right here. It had tried to set up a monopoly. It had done a pretty effective job. It wasn’t any guild; it was an organization of owners. Mine owners, smelter owners, hammer mill and rolling mill owners, covering the process, top to bottom. The regulations really focused on how all of those interacted with one another. Officially, nobody was required to join. It just wasn’t possible to do business successfully unless you did. It was intended to restrict competition. Well, the guilds did that too, but you had guilds of weavers and dyers, cloth finishers, and the like. No single guild, as far as he knew, had ever really tried to control every step of fabric manufacture from the time the sheep was born until the finished piece of wool cloth was shipped out.
Presuming that nobody had been dumb enough to revoke Duke Max’s edict since 1626—nothing that anyone had said so far indicated that it had been revoked—then, legally, the cartel was gone, no matter how often the cartel men appealed to its sacred regulations when he talked to them. Which meant that it would be a lot easier to open a path for the few masters who wanted to rebuild and start over than he and Cavriani had been expecting.
He would have to check, though, about whether or not it had been revoked. Nothing that anyone had said to him before today had even given him a clue that the edict had ever been issued, either.
As for rebuilding the mills and hammers whose former owners weren’t interested, not to mention the fact that not one of those laws really contained any provisions that protected the workers…. The best way to manage that would take some thinking about.
Preferably by Duke Ernst and Ollie, or even Mike; not by Keith Pilcher.
He closed the book. It was about time that he got some supper and went to bed.