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ALSACE (Ger. Elsass)

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Originally appearing in Volume V01, Page 757 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ALSACE (Ger. Elsass), a former province of France, divided after the Revolution into the departments of Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin, and incorporated since the war of 1870 with the German empire (see ALSACE-LORRAINE). It is bounded on the north by the Rhenish Palatinate, on the east by the Rhine, on the south by Switzerland and on the west by the Vosges Mountains; and it comprises an area of 3344 English sq. m. The district possesses many natural attractions, and is one of the most fertile in central Europe. There are several ranges of hills, but no point within the province attains a great elevation. The only river of importance is the Ill, which falls into the Rhine after a course of more than roo m., and is navigable below Colmar. The hills are generally richly wooded, chiefly with fir, beech and oak. The agricultural products are corn, flax, tobacco, grapes and various other fruits. The country has a great wealth of minerals, silver having been found, and copper, lead, iron, coal and rock-salt being wrought with profit. There are considerable manufactures, chiefly of cotton and linen. The chief towns are Mulhausen and Colmar in the upper district and Strassburg in the lower. The province is traversed from east to west by the railway from Strassburg to Nancy, and the main line north and south runs between Basel and Strassburg. History.—From a very early period Alsace has been a disputed territory, and has suffered in the contentions of rival races. Inhabited by the Rauraci and the Sequani, it formed part of ancient Gaul, and was therefore included in the Roman empire in the provinces of Germania Superior and Maxima Sequanorum. The Romans held it nearly five hundred years, and on the dissolution of their power it passed under the sway of the Franks. In the Merovingian period it formed a duchy attached to the kingdom of Austrasia, and was governed by the descendants of duke Eticho, one of whom was St Odilia. After the death of Charlemagne, Alsace, like the rest of the empire, was divided into countships. But the duchy was re-established after the death of the German king Henry I., and became hereditary in the Hohenstaufen family, and then in the house of Austria,which succeeded in 1273 to the imperial dignity. In the be-ginning of the 12th century the country was divided between the two landgraviates of Upper and Lower Alsace, but to counteract the power of the nobles the emperors established in Alsace a great number of free towns. This state of things continued until 1648, when a large part of Alsace, comprising the two landgraviates of Upper and Lower Alsace and the prefecture of the ten free imperial towns, was ceded to France by the treaty of Westphalia. In the war which preceded this peace (generally known as the Thirty Years' War) Alsace had been so terribly devastated by the Swedes and the French that the German emperor found himself unable to hold it. The population was greatly reduced in numbers, and much of the land was left uncultivated. In the war between France and the Empire, arising out of the attempt of Louis XIV. to seize Holland, that part of Alsace which remained to Germany was again overrun by the French. Although this war was terminated in 1678 by the treaty of Nijmwegen, the French monarch was desirous of incorporating a still larger amount of Rhine territory; and accordingly in 168o he laid claim to a number of territories, belonging to princes of the Empire, which he alleged had been dismembered from Alsace. It was ordered that these territories should be at once restored to that province under the crown of France, and several independent sovereigns were cited to appear before two chambers of inquiry, called chambees de reunion, which Louis had established at Brisach and Metz. The princes appealed to the emperor and to the diet; but the previous wars had so exhausted the power of the former that nothing could be done to resist the aggression. In 1681 the French troops under Louvois seized Strassburg, aided by the treachery of the bishop and other great men of the city. A further war broke out, but by the treaty of Ratisbon (Regensburg) in 1684, Strassburg was secured to France. The war was renewed in 1688 and continued until 1697, when the peace of Ryswick confirmed definitively the annexation of Strassburg to France. Some remaining territories of small extent were acquired by the French after the revolution of 1789, including Mulhausen, which had been a republic allied to Switzerland. Originally Celtic, the population was modified during the Roman period by the arrival of a Germanic people, the Triboci. In the 5th century came other German tribes, the Alamanni, and then the Franks, who drove the Alamanni into the south. Since that period the population has in the main been Teutonic; and the French conquests of the 17th century, while modifying this element, still left it predominant. The people continued to use a German dialect as their native tongue, though the educated classes also spoke French. Protestantism was professed by a large number of the inhabitants; and in many respects their characteristics identified them rather with the race to the east than that to the west of the Rhine. In process of time, however, they considered themselves French, and lost all desire for reannexation to any of the German states. Alsace suffered a good deal in the war of 1870-71. The earlier battles of the campaign were fought there; Strassburg and other of its fortified towns were besieged and taken; and its people were compelled to submit to very severe exactions. The civil and military government of the province, as well as that of Lorraine, was assumed by the Germans as soon as they obtained possession of those parts of France, which was very shortly after the commencement of the war. The Alsatian rail-ways were reorganized and provided with a staff of German officials. German stamps were introduced from Berlin; the occupied towns were garrisoned by the Landwehr; and requisitions on a large scale were demanded, and paid for in cheques which, at the close of the war, were to be honoured by whichever side should stand in the unpleasant position of the conquered. The people, notwithstanding their German origin, showed a very strong feeling against the invaders, and in no part of France was the enemy resisted with greater stubbornness. It was evident from an early period of the war, however, that Prussia was resolved to reannex Alsace to German territory. When the preliminaries of peace came to be discussed at Versailles in February 1871, the cession of Alsace, together with what is called German Lorraine, was one of the earliest conditions laid down by Bismarck and accepted by Thiers. This sacrifice of territory was afterwards ratified by the National Assembly at Bordeaux, though not without a protest from the representatives of the departments about to be given up; and thus Alsace once more became German. By the bill for the incorporation of Alsace and German Lorraine, introduced into the German parliament in May 1871, it was provided that the sole and supreme control of the two provinces should be vested in the German emperor and the federal council until the 1st of January 1874, when the constitution of the German empire was established. Bismarck admitted the aversion of the population to Prussian rule, but said that everything would be done to conciliate the people. This policy appears really to have been carried out, and it was not long in bearing fruit. Many of the inhabitants of the conquered districts, however, still clung to the old connexion, and on the 30th of September 1872—the day by which the people were required to determine whether they would consider themselves German subjects and remain, or French subjects and transfer their domicile to France—45,000 elected to be still French, and sorrowfully took their departure. The German system of compulsory education of every child above the age of six was introduced directly after the annexation. ALSACE-LORRAINE (Ger. Elsass-Lothringen), a German imperial territory (since 1871), consisting of the former French province Alsace (then divided into the departments of Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin), together with its capital Strassburg, and German Lorraine (which included the department of the Moselle and portions of the departments of Meurthe and Vosges), together with the capital and fortress of Metz. The imperial territory (Reichsland) is bounded S. by Switzerland; E. by Baden, from which it is separated by the Rhine; N.E. and N. by the Bavarian Palatinate, the Prussian Rhine Province and Luxemburg, and W. by France. Its area is 5601 sq. m. The maximum length from N. to S. is 145 m.; the maximum breadth E. to W. 105 m., and the minimum breadth, on a line drawn through Schlettstadt, 24 M. In respect of its physical features, Alsace-Lorraine falls into three parts—mountain land, plain and plateau. The first, practically co-extensive with the western half of Alsace, consists of the Vosges range, which running in a northerly direction from the deep gap or pass of Belfort (lrouee de Belfort) forms in its highest ridges the natural frontier line between Germany and France. Between this mountain chain and its spurs, which fall steeply to the E., and the Rhine, stretches a fertile plain forming the eastern half of Alsace. In the N.W. a high and undulating plateau, which gently descends in the W. to the valley of the Moselle, occupies nearly the whole area of Lorraine. The drainage of the Vosges valleys and of the Rhine valley is collected and carried into the Rhine about to m. below Strassburg by the Ill, which has a course of more than too m. and is navigable below Colmar. With the exception of a few streams which run to the Rhone, all the waters of Alsace flow into the Rhine. The climate is on the whole temperate—warmest in the lowest districts (46o ft. above sea-level) of N. Alsace, and coldest on the summits of the Vosges, where snow lies six months in the year. The mean annual temperature at Strassburg is 49.8° F., at Metz 48.20; the rainfall at Strassburg 264 in., and at Metz 271 in. The Rhine valley is in great part fertile, yielding good crops of potatoes, cereals (including maize), sugar beet, hops, tobacco, flax, hemp and products of oleaginous plants. But grapes and fruit are amongst the most valuable of the crops. The cereals chiefly grown are wheat, oats, barley and rye. Great quantities of hay are harvested. This description embraces also the production of Lorraine, where agriculture is less strenuously carried on, and the fertility of the soil is less. But Lorraine possesses, in compensation, greater riches in the earth, in coal and iron and salt mines. Cows are grazed on the S. Vosges in summer, and large quantities of cheese (Munster cheese) are made and exported. Total population (1905) 1,814,626. The farms in Alsace are mostly small and are held partly as aprivate possession, partly on the communal system; in Lorraine there are some larger occupations. The manufacture of cottons, and on a smaller scale of woollens, is special to Alsace, the chief centres of the industry being Mulhausen, Colmar and the valleys of the Vosges. The territory has always been the centre of an active commerce, owing to its situation on the confines of Germany, France and Switzerland, and alongside the great highway of the Rhine. The communications embraced some 1249 M. of railway (1903), of which 1108 m. belonged to the state, a good system of roads, and several canals (notably the Rhine-Rhone, the Rhine-Marie and the Saar Canals), in addition to the rivers. Administratively the territory is divided into the following three districts, showing a density of population of about 316 to the sq. m.: Area in sq. Population. Districts. miles. 1885. 1945- Upper Alsace 1354 462,549 512,709 Lower Alsace . . 1845 612,077 686,359 Lorraine . 2402 489,729 615,558 On the sex division, 935,305 were in 1905 males, and 879,321 females. The percentage of illegitimacy is about 7.. The rural population embraces 51% of the whole, the urban population 48 %. The largest towns are Strassburg (the capital of the territory), Mulhausen, Metz, Colmar, all above 20,000 inhabitants each. Classified according to religion there were, in 1904, 372,078 Protestants, 1,310,391 Roman Catholics, and 32,379 Jews. Education is provided for at the university of Strassburg, in 21 classical and pro-classical schools, in 18 modern schools, and in nearly 4000 elementary schools. Over 85 % of the people speak German as their mother-tongue, the rest French, or a patois of French. The annual revenue and expenditure are each somewhat in excess of £3,000,000. Customs and indirect taxes yield more than three-fifths of the total revenue,. and direct taxes less than one-fourth. The state forests give about one-ninth of the whole. The higher administration of justice is devolved upon six provincial courts and a supreme court, sitting at Colmar. Moreover, there are purely industrial tribunals at Mulhausen, Thann, Markirch, Strassburg and Metz. The fish-breeding establishment at Huningen in Upper Alsace should be mentioned. Constitution.—The sovereignty over the territory was by a law (Reichsgesetz) of the 9th of June 1871 vested in the German emperor, who, until the introduction of the imperial constitution on the 1st of January 1874, had, with the assent of the federal council (Bundesrat) and, in a few cases, that of the imperial diet (Reichstag), the sole right of initiating legislation. In October of this last year a committee (Landesausschuss) of the whole territory was appointed to deliberate on laws proposed to it before they received the final sanction of the emperor. On the 2nd of May 1877, the Landesausschuss was itself empowered to initiate legislation within the competence of the territory, and in 1879 the imperial viceroy (Statthalter), representing the imperial chancellor, who had until then been the responsible minister, took up his residence in Strassburg. He is assisted in the government by 4 ministers of departments, tinder the presidency of a secretary of state, and, when occasion demands the extraordinary discussion of legislative proposals, by a council of state (Staatsrat), consisting of the secretary of state, under secretaries, the president of the supreme court of justice of the territory and, as a rule, of 12 nominees of the emperor. The Land esausschuss, a constitutional body with parliamentary privileges, consists of 58 members, 34 being appointed out of their number by the various district councils (Bezirkstage), 4 by the large towns, and 20 by the rural districts. Alsace-Lorraine is represented in the Bundesrat by two commissioners, who have, however, but one voice; and the territory returns 15. members to the Reichstag. See A. Schmidt, Rlsass and Lothringen (Leip., 1859) ; Spach, Histoire de in basse Alsace at de la ville de Strasbourg (Stras., 1860) ; von Mullenheim Rechberg, Die Annexion des Elsass dumb ALSATIA-ALSTROMER 757 Frankreich and Ruckblick auf die Verwaltung des Landes, i648-'697 (Stras., 1897) ; Du Prel, Die deutsche Verwaltung in Elsass, 187o-1879 (Stras., 1879); L. Petersen, Des Deutschlum in Elsass- Lothrinen (Munich, 1902). (P. A. A.)
End of Article: ALSACE (Ger. Elsass)
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