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Situation:Notes     In 1606, Pieter Bicker, living in het vergulde lavoir in the Warmoesstraet, bought lots for 1 f. 16 st. in the Haarlem lottery (GAA 11/69 F 79). On 5 May 1632, Burgomeester Andries Bicker (1586-1652), Pieter Bicker and Jan Bicker (1591-1653) Dieuwertgen Bicker (of R 20270) and Aeltgen Bicker, assisted by their fore-mentioned brothers, all heirs of their mother Aeltgen (Alyd) Andries Boelisdr., named their brother Jacob Bicker to transfer in their name a capital share of 25,400 f. share in the V.O.C. All were children of the late Burgomeester Gerrit Bicker Pietersz. (1557-1630) and of their afore-mentioned mother Alyd Andries Boelens (1557-1630). (NA 910, Not. Pieter Eyloff, film 1146). Jan Bicker married Agniet de Graeff (1603-1656) on 18 November 1625. He built the domain Akerendam, which he sold in 1649 to Gerard van Hellemont, the husband of his brother Cornelis's daughter, Margareta Bicker van Zwieten (Maandblad Amstelodamum 45(1958), p. 123). Jacob (Gerritsz.) Bicker (1588-1646) died unmarried. On 22 October 1634. Jan Bicker, in lieu of the heirs of Pieter Bicker, his brother, named Hillebrand Pietersz. in Rotterdam to collect a debt of 131 f. 15 st. (NA 843, fol. 732, Not. Hoogeboom). The daughter of Pieter Bicker, named Lisbet Pieters, married to Joachim Hermansz. Rendorp (cited in the NOTES to R 26504), was accused by the Church Council of having Mennonite sympathies but she was not excommunicated (Roodenburg, Onder censuur, p. 174).

In the beginning there was the river Waal, located between the what are often referred to as the two great rivers, the Rhine and the Maas. The region between consisted of a confusion of deltas sending out innumerable branches and inlets with ill-defined banks. Over the centuries flooding was nearly an annual event. As the waters subsided, the river deposited sand mixed with loam and clay inland from the river banks. In the course of time this resulted in an elevation, enriching the banks.

Although it is known that a village existed here during Roman times known as Herovina, the origin of Herwijnen (Heer-wyn-nen) is more likely linked to the establishment of a settlement by hunters dating from the 7th century. Gradually the hunters turned to animal husbandry. The inland land they found difficult to work due to the light clay particles which had built up over the centuries, but as pasture it was ideal. Thus cattle breeding became their primary focus.

As civilization progressed Herwijnen was located within the historic Nijmegen (Ny-megen) quarter of the Gelderland (Hel-der-lant/d) province. Arnhem being the capital city of the province, and Nijmegen being the capital town of that quarter. Located within the smaller district of Tielerwaard, it can be located on a modern map between the towns Zaltbommel and Gorinchem.

The countryside, if monotonous was at the same time immensely charming. The large number of waterways created a marvelous impression of variety in uniformity. This region of three rivers - separating the Dutch country from the territories of Flanders and Spanish Brabant being so low was subjected to frequent overflow from the near-by rivers.

The Manor

As western Europe developed it’s early history is fraught with disorder, bloodshed and cruelty which does not need to be gone into detail here. The main outcome of all this was the way in which society advanced into a system of feudalism. As early as the time of Charlemage (768-814) people fell into one of three classes: the nobility, who did the fighting; the clergy, who did the praying; and the others, the serfs, who did the work. Within the nobility there was also division: the great landlords parceled out their estates to local lords in exchange for support and protection. In this way society continued to move forward into the Middle Ages. In Gelderland, a land of minor squires, the men had a reputation of being unparalleled warriors.

Farmsteads were generally found in clusters near a stronghold, such a community was called a buurtschap, not large enough to even be consisted a village. Within such a domain one would find a number of men, geërfden, who were by privilege allowed by the superior lord to hold a portion of that lord’s land with rights of inheritance, sale and/or lease, as well as jointly owning certain common grounds, roads, waterways and the like. These men (or their wives, sisters or daughters, as their heirs), not only took part in the administration of the common grounds but also promoted mutual interests. These lessor lords in turn allowed villeins to occupy smaller portions of their estates, in return the serf agreed to till his section and to give the lord a tithe from the harvest. One lord would possess the manor and this lord would be the chairman of the geërfden meetings. The property in all hamlets and villages in the Tielerwaard became ‘daily manors’, a system which would be considered as ‘low manorial rights’. A term which reflects on the judicial powers of the local lord. They appeared only in the Nijmegen quarter and remained longest in the Tielerwaard. 

It is generally believed that the family, Herwijnen, was originally a member of the Harcourt family in France and that they took their name from the village. In 1402 Bruijsten van Herwijnen received the right to tax the neighborhood of Herwijnen. By 1445 Lijsbeth, his second wife, was a widow. Their daughter, Adelisse, inherited Herwijnen. With her husband, Otto van Haeften, Knight, she received the tithing in 1415 and the tax on the mill in 1435 and 1440. From then until the end of the eighteenth century the Herwijnen manor belonged to the heirs of the Haeften family together with the villages of Haaften and Hellouw, though frequently passing through female lines. 

Thanks to Aart Bijl’s book, the title of which translates “About Lords, Pastures and Castles, a history of Herwijnen from prehistoric times to present-day”, a great deal has been learned about the daily manor of Herwijnen and many of the events which effected the lives of the inhabitants. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, for example, we learn, that there were four castles situated at Herwijnen, and something of the lower lords who held them as fiefs. 

In all likelihood the oldest of the four castles to be built at Herwijnen was the Wayenstein. Excavation has shown that the building material dates from the beginning of the 14thcentury. At this time Gijsbert van Herwijnen is known to have been an important person, becoming director of the Veluwe in 1318; and in all probability it was he who had this first castle built. This was the local residence of the Lords of Herwijnen in the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. The Haeften family about this time also acquired the Frissestein to which the manorial rights of Herwijnen were later attached. The Haeften’s continued to hold Wayenstein until 1557 when it was sold to MAARTEEN VAN ROSSUM. The Van Rossums sold the house in 1564 after which it changed hands a number of times until in 1630 it was purchased by ARNT JANSZ DE BYE, burgemeester, curator (member of the commission of supervision) of the university at Harderwijk and delegate to the States General. Arent de Bij married Margaretha Bicker (also known as Van Amstel), the daughter of Jacob Jacobsz Bicker and Anna Roelofs de Vrije. It was still in the hands of their heirs when the castle was destroyed in 1672, although another house was built to replace the original and the property continues to be mentioned in the manorial registers. The house that sat on this property in 1735 and in 1838 was a stately manor house.

The Frissestein was probably built by Johan van Herwijnen about the year 1386. Two years later Dirk van Herwijnen, Johan’s son, is pledged with this fief, together with a “half interest in a mill, half the tithe of the Wadersteeg at the Petersteeg, the old court residence at Herwijnen, the Graven land, the Meyskamp and the Katerskamp in the district of Herwijnen, the tithe at Avezaet in Luttelvelt (an area between Avezaeth and Erichem) and in Nuwelant.” After 1422 the manorial rights of Herwijnen came to all subsequent owners of the Frissestein, until the beginning of the 18th century when the Count van Lippe sells the manorial rights of Herwijnen to ADRIAAN BONT, who resides at the Engelenburg. Like the Wayenstein the French also destroyed this castle in 1672, nevertheless, the manorial rights of Herwijnen continued to be attached to the property. A few years later Lippe sells the fief Frissestein to the local clergyman, PETRUS BIERMAN. In 1723 Bierman also acquires the Engelenburg at which time the manorial rights of Herwijnen are once more associated with the Frissestein. The picures which remain of the Frissestein, one as early as 1680 and the other of 1735 still give the viewer an image of a ture castle. 

In 1401 Arnt van Leijenburg Arntsz holds forty morgen land in the area of Herwijnen with a house, not long before that built, called the Drakenburg. Later descendants take for their surname “van Drakenburg” and continue to hold this fief until 1482 when it is sold. Just before the turn of the next century it is sold once more, this time to a Johan van Herwijnen.  Thus comes the fourth castle into the hands of the van Herwijnen family. By 1609 only the Drakenburg is still owned by a member of the van Herwijnen family.

It is interesting to note that in the 1660s MAARTEN ADRIAANS DE JONG was the curator and administrator of the estate for Agneta van Hemert. An ADRIAAN DE JONGH seems to also have had an interest in the property in 1705 (perhaps a lease) after it was sold to Dr. Johan van Eck, burgemeester of Zaltbommel and director of the Tielerwaard. However, in the meantime, the castle no longer stood there, or at least was in ruins, as it too had been destroyed by the French in 1672. All that remained was a round tower. There are also pictures available of Drakenburg in 1735 and in 1823.

It was also in this time that Johan van Herwijnen had the Engelenburg built. His nephew, Bruijsten van Herwijnen is pledged with the house and all that belongs to it in 1402 after the death of his mother, Adelisse van Herwijen.

During the Eighty Years War the castles at Herwijnen continue to be held in noble families, except the Engelenburg which was purchased in 1620 by the influential Amsterdam businessman and regent, PIETER DE GRAEFF. In 1643 the unmarried Pieter de Graeff transfers it to JACOB BICKER, the son of his sister. Besides being a prominent merchant and trader Bicker is also involved with the administration of the East-India Company. At his death in 1647 it passes to his brother and heir, Andries Bicker, one of the most influential men in the northern Netherlands. The dwelling continues in the hands of the Bickers or their heirs until in 1677 at which time Aleida Bicker transfers it to her son-in-law, Jacob Baron Petersen, a propionate Amsterdam banker. This castle is the only one of the four to survive the 1672 French seige. Of this castle 3 pictures are available. An undated pictureone picture of 1743 and another undated one. From the three available pictures, however, it appears to have been rebuilt a number of times.

Perhaps the following chart will be helpful in following the family Herwijnen and how the ownership of the various castles changed from time to time.

As previously implied the nobles did no work, they were there for protection. The lord of the daily manor assigned trusted men to actually take care of the day to day activities necessary to run the manor. This was accomplished by the appointment of a judicial committee, the schepenen; two managers, the buurmeesters; and a local police commissioner/mayor, the schout. Lastly the lord appointed a church warden; an administrator to care for the poor and to deal with the day to day financial busines of the church; and a sexton. Besides being able to pledge personal property, the lord could fine parties for lower crimes such as being involved in a physical altercation, thus the term ‘low manorial rights’. He also controlled the rents and tolls, the fishing rights, the wind rights and the operation of the mills.

From as early as the 13th century windmills have adorned the flat windy landscape, especially as grain mills and polder mills. On account of the changing wind direction the sails have to be set in the proper position. This is accomplished by rotating the hood by means of a tail and winch. A mill with such a mechanism is called a bovenkruier (smock mill), a genuine Dutch invention of about 1600. As a result the mill is able to press, grind, crush or saw for mass production of oil, grain, paper timber and the like. Depending on its size a wind mill's power can equal the muscular strength of 100 men. Until the end of the eighteenth century wind was not a free commodity. In the period when water and wind were the sole sources of energy (besides man and beast), the right to exploit a wind mill was originally reserved to the lord. He sold the right to a rich townsman or to the local authorities, who leased the mill to a miller. The holder of the wind rights compelled the inhabitants of his area to have their grain milled only in his mill. Even when there was a cheaper mill nearby heavy sanctions were imposed when one did not use their local mill. In the top of the mill transmission takes place by means of wooden rotating parts. At the bottom, there is room for storage and living quarters.

As discussed previous flooding causing much damage and inconvenience. Dikes were built in order to provide some protection to the population. Polder mills were installed to help to drain the water and the windmill became the picturesque symbols of the Dutch landscape. In spite of these efforts flooding remained a constant threat, as the dikes breached time and time again.

Along the dikes dijkhuizen (dike-houses) were built, as it was often the highest 

place in the area. The farmhouses in the Betuwe and Tielerwaard were sometimes situated on elevated residential mounds, the huis-terpen. However, only a prosperous farmer could afford such an advantageous location for his home. The fertile soil along the river banks supported the growth of many kinds of grain as well as beans, peas, as well as sugar beets. The area inland was perfect for raising livestock both dairy cattle and sheep. Moreover, there was major breeding of horses and young cattle. In times of war, horses were in particularly high demand. Near the house each farmer also had his vegetable garden, and often a small orchard; most also kept pigs, hens and rabbits. Apart from serving as additional food, some extra money could be raised from the excess. While the men folk handled the heavy work, the women were busy taking care of the dairy stock and smaller farm animals. She made the butter aided by a dog or horse driven churn and in autumn when the pigs were slaughtered, it was the farmer's wife who processed the meat for winter. In addition, she tended the front garden and the vegetable garden. The time left was spent on household activities.

Flooding was not the only threat to peaceful existence. From time to time droughts and plagues caused as much misery. Wars too plunged the population into great poverty. The Arkel War (1401-1412) broke out when Jan van Arkel withdrew his loyalty from the Count of Holland. Local lords where quick to take sides. Asperen, Heukelum and Leijenburg were on the side of the Holland while Otto van Vuren supported the Arkels. How Herwijnen stood is not recorded. The Gelre Wars (late 1400s)coincide with the Burgundian occupation. In the western river territory the lords of Asperen, Herwijnen, Brakel and Nederhemert are known to have all been pro-Burgundian. In 1497 a troop from Holland captured Leerdam, Gellicum, Batenburg and Herwijnen. The Eighty Years War beginning in 1568 and the French invasion in 1672 will be dealt with in more detail later.

The first Dutch Reformed preacher in Herwijnen, Johannes Godefridus Coxius, is reported to have come in 1610. However, the earliest surviving church records at Herwijnen start with marriages in the year 1607 and continue through 1630, but these seem very incomplete; after a gap of fifteen years marriage records continue from 1645 in more consistent manner. Baptism records begin in the year 1655. Click here for a picture of the church as it stood in 1640. It is possible earlier records were destroyed in one of the several floods, quite possibly the one in 1809 or 1820 when it is documented that the church was badly damaged. It is apparent that our forefathers helped to organize the Reformed church at Herwijnen. In the earliest membership list available, date 25 December 1612, GIJSBERT GOERTTZEN (ROSA) who was kerkmeester (church warden), can be found with his wife, MARIA.

Struggle for independence:

When the country was invaded from the south, as it was numerous times, Gelder-land always received the first and last waves of invasion. For most of the period 1490 through 1590 the area in which Herwijnen lies was either occupied by the Spanish or under siege. During most of this time the majority of what is now the province of Gelderland was then the dukedom of Gelre, and under the rule of Karel van Gelre, duke of Gelderland. After 1514 Duke Karel emerged as the leader of the anti-Habsburg movement, it was only after Karel's death that Gelderland came under Burgundy/Habsburg rule in 1543. Habsburg wrought major changes in Gelderland. With the possible exception of the province of Groningen, Gelderland presented Charles V's regime, seated in Brussels, with the most challenge. He divided Gelderland into four quarters, each having its own assembly. In each, the nobles of the quarters and small towns (those little towns didn't play a great role) as well as the "head town" were represented, each being a "unity" (or state). These states normally met only once a year gathering in each head town. Both judicial and fiscal administrations were in considerable disarray in 1543 so Charles V, placed Gelderland under a separate Stadhouder, (head of state) thus creating the third. (Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht being under the rule of one stadhouder, and Friesland, Groningen, Drenthe, Overijssel and Lingen being under the rule of the other). The main innovation, for greater cohesion to Gelderland, was the Hof (provincial high court), designed to exercise legal and political functions. It was the main link between Brussels and the states of Gelderland and their four quarter assemblies. The Hof of Gelderland brought about more order. Central government gained a measure of leverage. Thus the direct ties the enclaves of nobles who had claimed direct lines with the Holy Roman Empire were substantially reduced, yet not wholly suppressed. By a diversity of methods titled lords defended their semi-sovereignty.

Gelderland was exceptional in having a large proportion of its land owned by nobles; in the late sixteenth century, in three of Gelderland’s quarters, there were over 300 acknowledged nobles. The Gelderland counts, formerly the chief sponsors of Burgundy-Habsburg influence, became after 1548 the foremost opponents of Habsburg rule and a little later the main local defenders of the Reformation. As the struggle continued it not only was anti-Spain it also became anti-Catholic. Gelderland however, as a whole, was still unwilling to give up to the Calvinists. This all changed by January 1582 when the States of Gelderland formally banned Catholic worship. Eventually after a hard struggle, in 1590 the Spaniards were driven back, south of the Waal, and garrisons were installed on the northern banks of that river.

At the transformation of the States General from Spanish dominates to the new Republic, Gelderland stood alone in retaining at least part of its previous (pre-1572) status . Each of its quarters acquired its own separate standing committee. Each of these consisting of six delegates, three for the knighthood and three from the towns, forming in theory an equal amount of influence, though in reality the voice of the nobles tended to dominate. There were thus three separate executives and fiscal systems in this single province, and three authorities administering confiscated Church property, thus making the three quarter assemblies the real legislative powers in the territory. In each quarter, the lesser towns were counted collectively in significance to the voice of the principal town. The Nijmegen quarter, at this time, paid 47% of the tariff owed from Gelderland to the States General.





My survey on these loans from 1849 to 1855 is based on Austrian government files, from the financial authorities and the council of ministers and not on the Rothschild banks’ files, so they shed a light on the Rothschilds’ participation in Austrian loans from outside.

My initial plan to give a complete survey into the Rothschilds’ participation in the Austrian loans between 1849 and 1855 had to be given up because of abundance of material. It would take a medium size book to describe them all. So I had to concentrate on one single loan.


For the same reason I also have to refrain from introducing into the other activities that the Rothschild bank empire exercised for the Austrian government, as there are:

1. The payments that the Rothschild bank made for the Austrian government in Frankfort, for paying its representatives’ salaries and the contributions of Austria to the German Federation, such as expenses for building fortresses along the shores of the Rhine, troop transports with the Bavarian railways, or salaries for Austrian representatives in the German Federation’s parliament. Likewise the other Rothschild bank houses paid bills for the Austrian government in London and Paris, and even in such distant places as Rio de Janeiro (1) and Tripolis.(2)

2. The business of acquiring and selling foreign bills of exchange, or issuing bills of exchange themselves on their respective houses in other countries, or discounting other traders’ bills – all in order to stabilize the Austrian currency – with little success, by the way.

3. The special task of the Frankfort bank house to send bills of exchange to Milan where they were discounted. These transfers were probably made in order to enable the Austrian government to pay the troops stationed in Italy and their civil administration, as the Italian citizens refused to accept the notes emitted by the Austrian National Bank.

4. The tobacco imports from Cuba and the United States.

5. The acquisition and transfer of silver in coins or bars by the Paris bank in 1850 in order to stabilize the Austrian currency. This was done with the funds Austria received from Sardinia-Piedmont as a compensation for the war of 1848/49, which Sardinia lost. In the peace of Milan of 1849 it had to agree to the payment of compensation.

Here one has to mention that the Rothschilds were also the main creditors of Sardinia and most probably credited them to pay this compensation, which they then managed in the manner described above.

6. The other loans in which the Rothschilds participated, as the domestic loans of 1849 and 1852, the Lombardo-Venetian loan of 1850 or the forced loan of 1854.

7. The foundation of the Creditanstalt.


As a beginning I have to introduce you into the state of affairs that the Austrian credit system was facing after the insurrection of 1848-49 had been suppressed successfully – with the help of the Russian troops.

In 1849 the credit of the Austrian loans was equal to zero. Nobody believed in the bonds of a state that didn’t control its own territory. Moreover, the banknotes of the National Bank, the paper currency of Austria, had no good reputation within Austria, either. During the civil war Austria had to send silver to the provinces to maintain the belief in the convertibility of the banknotes. This was especially crucial in Hungary where the insurgent government led by Lajos Kossuth had started to issue own banknotes, the so-called ”Kossuth notes“. In Vienna people kept rushing the National Bank trying to exchange their banknotes into silver coins, until this service had to be suspended. When the National Bank ran out of silver, the private bank houses had to buy silver with their assets and hand it over to the National Bank and the Treasury that also had to finance the belligerent actions of the suppression of revolts in Vienna, Hungary and Lombardy. The main creditors of the Austrian state in this period were the Vienna based Rothschild and Arnstein & Eskeles banks, both Jewish, and the Sina bank house, from Greek origin. Apart from that there were minor, mostly Jewish bank houses in Vienna, Prague and Budapest who also contributed to this financing of the Austrian bank system and Austria’s military machinery.

Still, despite all efforts to preserve the faith in the currency the entire turmoil resulted in the rejection of banknotes within Austria. The silver money disappeared from the public, and all financial transactions stagnated. People hid their money away. The market was paralyzed to a mayor extent.


The Arnstein & Eskeles bank, though, despite being one of the main creditors of the Austrian state before 1848, had been on the verge of bankruptcy at the beginning of 1848, – for various reasons I cannot explain in this context. If this bank house had crashed, this would have had a fatal impact on several minor Viennese banks who were their debtors. It would have had affected negatively the National Bank who was their main creditor. It would have paralyzed the construction of a railway between Milan and Como that was an enterprise financed by them, and contributed to a certain confidence-building between the population of the Italian provinces towards the Austrian dominion.(3)

In short, the bankruptcy of this bank would have been the final mortal blow to the Austrian credit and currency system, not to mention the political collateral damage.

So Rothschild and Sina, the biggest banks of that time in Austria, decided to rescue their colleague/competitor, probably on the pressure of the Austrian government, but certainly partially led by their own interest, too.




The situation between 1849 and 1855



Perhaps one should mention what the notion ”bank“ expressed in those days.

The banks of Austria were called ”bank houses“, ”bank and trade houses“, or ”exchange houses“, and were family enterprises. With the exception of the Greek Sina bank they were mostly Jewish. In former times there had been Swiss bankers in Vienna but they had vanished, partially already in the 18th century.

Those private bank houses were engaged in trade with raw materials, which in many cases had been the origin of their wealth and prosperity. They had been trading in cotton from the Balkans, in wool from Hungary, in tobacco, in salt and firewood, in iron ore and coal. During the first half of the 19th century many of them had engaged in transport enterprises, as the Danube Navigation Company, in the construction of railroads, artificial canals and bridges.

The Austrian government did not want to allow institutional banks based on share property in order not to endanger the monopoly of the National Bank, but surely to a certain extent also on pressure of the private banks. By the end of the civil war in 1849 there was only one bank based on shares in the whole monarchy, the Hungarian Commercial Bank in Budapest, founded by the Hungarian Jew Moritz Ullmann and secretly, but strongly supported by the Vienna Rothschild bank house, then under the leadership of Salomon Rothschild. It had been founded in 1842. Its performance was poor, for lack of investment possibilities.

Prague, though being a more important commercial centre than Budapest, never was granted a bank, despite various efforts by its merchant community.




The post-revolution era


At the moment of the suppression of the 1848-49 unrest the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph was very young and very new. The authorities evidently did everything to hide the true state of affairs from him and please him with optimistic reports about the recovery of the economy. So the files from the years from 1849 on have to be understood as only partially resembling the reality.


Salomon Rothschild had fled Vienna in disguise across the Danube, perhaps inspired by Metternich’s sinister prediction: ”If the devil comes to fetch me he will get you too!“(4) He didn’t return to Austria, at least not permanently. From this moment on the affairs of the Austrian Rothschild bank were led by his son Anselm, most probably upon instructions from Frankfort and other Rothschild banks. It is evident that in the 6 years after 1849 the initiative for all kinds of participation in all affairs concerning the Austrian Finance Ministry came from Frankfort, Paris or London and the Vienna bank house rather had the role of a mediator.




The Austrian bonds

Austria had a long tradition of bonds. The Austrian stock exchange market had been founded as a bond market in the 18th century, in order to have a fixed place for this trade, instead of the back rooms of restaurants, the so-called ”Winkelbörsen“. Only in the 30-ies of the 19th century other, not state-issued values started to appear in the Austrian market.

During the Vormärz the bankers had managed to persuade the predecessor of the Finance Ministry, the Hofkammer, to start issuing two main kinds of bonds: such ones on the name of the owner, and anonymous ones that were issued on the bearer. Originally only the ones on the name had been emitted, but this had inconveniences for the owner. Many clients for the placing of loans were members of the nobility who bought the bonds as a secure investment and stored them in a drawer. When they died complications arose for the heirs who often lived in different places. When the bonds were purchased by merchants, the ones issued on name could not be used in commercial transactions, as a means of payment.

Bonds issued on name were more convenient for the state authorities because it was easier to control the whereabouts of each bond, and it seemed safer from the aspect of preventing misuse and forgery. The bank houses on the other hand insisted on the anonimous bonds because they widened the range of potential buyers.

Sometimes an owner of a bond turned to the Rothschild bank house in order to have one or more bonds changed, either from name to bearer, or from a large sum that was being split into separate bonds, or both. This was often the result of death and inheritance. Sometimes it was also the other way round, a bond formerly in the name of a parent was issued on a child’s name to make sure that upon marrying (in the case of girls) it would be part of the dowry, or growing up and studying, or entering state or military service, in the case of boys, there would be funds to cover the costs arising from this.

In one case I came across, it seems, the widow of a deceased French nobleman only upon his death found out that he had an illegitimate son as in the course of the handling of the inheritance she came across a bond issued in the boy’s name.(5)

From the requests of the Rothschilds to have one or the other bond changed we get a certain insight into the geographical circulation of the Austrian bonds. For the citizens of Austria or the states of the German Federation no request was necessary, as they were considered nationals. We can only assume that they circulated there in abundance.

All the names of the bonds that were handed in by the Rothschilds for their clients were French names. From this we can conclude that they circulated in France in big quantities, but probably also in Belgium and the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

The vivid circulation of the Austrian bonds in French-speaking countries was due not only to the Rothschild bank house who propagated them through their French branch, but also to the other two big bank houses in Austria at this time. The Sina bank house had had contacts with French traders since the times of the Napoleonic wars, and also contributed to the circulation of Austrian bonds in France. The Arnstein & Eskeles bank was connected to France by family bondage: One of its family members was married to one of the founders of the Credit Mobilier, Isaak Pereire.


Another topic that frequently arose between the financial authorities and the bankers is the place of paying interest. This had to be decided before the issuing of the bonds as this was printed on the bonds and the coupons. Partially as a result of the Rothschilds’ international net of bank houses the normal domestic loans of Austria – the ”metalliques“ as they were called because the currency in which the interest was payable was linked to silver – were sold in Frankfort and Paris.

London doesn’t seem to have been a market for Austrian bonds. Either they had too strong competition there or the British government restricted the access of foreign values on the domestic market. In 1852 James Rothschild was praised and hailed by the Austrian financial authorities as he had created an „Austrian Fund“ which united the bonds of various elder and newer Austrian loans and with this mixed portfolio also attempted to enter the British value market.(6)

It was not the Rothschilds alone who had the privilege to circulate the Austrian loans in those two cities. Most probably there were one or two other bank houses in Paris that also had been commissioned for the payment of interest for those bonds dedicated to foreign markets. In Frankfort traditionally the Bethmann bank house was in charge of these payments and the Rothschild bank only after repeated requests was granted this right in 1850.(7)

The Austrian finance ministry was reluctant to grant this favour to a larger number of bank houses as this complicated the issuing of the bonds and the administration of their handling and increased the fees that had to be paid. The bank houses were anxious to be conceded the right to pay interest as it eased the placing of the bonds for them. In this way they enlarged the credit of Austria and gained more customers for the Austrian bonds.

When Amschel Mayer tried to be granted the right of paying interest for the Dutch loans it was initially rejected in 1851, as the authorities believed that one bank house in Frankfort – the Bethmann house – was sufficient to satisfy the desires of the customers.(8) Later it seems to have been conceded this right to him, too, as the interest coupons regularly were turned in by the Frankfort bank house.

Once in the possession of this assignment the Rothschilds immediately tried to monopolize it, but in vain. Various requests were made to remove the right of paying interest from Krieger (9) in Amsterdam, later from Bethmann and from another Frankfort bank house called Goldschmidt. These requests were rejected.




The conversion loan of 1849


The Dutch loans and the Amsterdam stock exchange

The main occupation of the Vienna and Frankfort Rothschild banks in 1849 was the handling of the elder Austrian loans on the stock market, or perhaps more correctly, bond market in Amsterdam.


The Amsterdam stock exchange had emerged in the 17th century as a share market for the East Indian Company. Later, during the 7-years-war from 1756-1763 in which almost all important powers of Europe were involved, Holland remained neutral, but traded with all the belligerent countries. This also had an effect on its stock exchange market where all the foreign bills of exchange with which the merchandise was paid, circulated.

From what I can guess from the Austrian files in this time it must have started also to become an international bond trading market. Already by the times of the Napoleonic wars it was convenient for every nation to place one or the other loan there in order to keep up their loans’ reputation. The various countries’ luck in war and prosperity in peace was measured in Amsterdam. A loss of value of one nation’s bonds in Amsterdam would have had a similar effect in other markets and would have caused a general devaluation of that nation’s credit both abroad and within its borders. Every government therefore was anxious to serve its loans in Amsterdam well and prevent any deterioration of their trustworthiness.

Many of the value traders in Amsterdam were specialized in bonds. Between about 1810 and 1820 Austria emitted loans with the trade houses Goll and Osy in Amsterdam.


I haven’t been able to find out the exact year, nor the amount of the loans, neither how many of them were issued.

This lack of information about the year of issue, the amount of the old loans and the value and amount of the bonds still in circulation had to do with the Austrian secrecy with respect to the height of the national debt which surrounded the national credit system already before the revolution and even grew after 1849. Though the National Bank from 1850 on published annual reports on the debt these were not reliable as not all debts were listed on it.


After 1820 the Austrian government resorted more to Vienna traders and the Rothschild banks to cover its financial needs. The reason for this change is not quite evident. Some books on Austrian financial history state that the international markets rejected the Austrian loans, some other place the initiative with the Austrian government which found enough powerful traders on its own territory and wasn’t dependent any more on the foreign creditors.

I myself tend to the latter interpretation as the state of affairs of the Austrian finances in the Vormärz was a lot more solid than during the French wars. Still, even then the analysis is not entirely correct: Being present on foreign markets is not necessarily a sign of debility. It leads to the attraction of foreign capital, but also raises the dependency on it. Moreover, as exactly the years after 1849 show, it is very necessary to be able to place loans abroad in order to stabilize the national currency.


Anyhow, those elder loans originally negotiated by the Amsterdam bank houses Goll and Osy seem to have had an extremely long repayment period and were still circulating in abundance in 1849. A trade house in Amsterdam named Sichel was in charge of the handling of these old loans. Either the original trade houses had vanished or they had declined the further handling of the loan. The Frankfort Rothschild house acted as an intermediary between Sichel and the Austrian financial authorities. I assume that already before 1848 they had offered themselves to organize the further management of the Dutch debt and chose Sichel as one of their traditional partners in the Netherlands.

There must have been an entire department at the Austrian Finance Ministry, and perhaps at the Rothschild’s, too, in order to keep pace with the handling of these old loans. Sichel in Amsterdam effectuated the payment of interest. Each bond had a number, and coupons for each interest payment, also numbered. The bonds were in various series, from A to G or even further. Some of the series had also numbers. There was at least one loan emitted with Goll and Osy, and one with Goll alone. Whenever Sichel paid interest he sent the coupons to Vienna where they were crossed out in some register. Interest was paid every month, depending on the series. The money for the payment was sent to Sichel by Rothschild in Frankfort in the form of bills of exchange, payable in Amsterdam, Augsburg or Frankfort. Rothschild got the money spent for the acquisition of those bills refunded in Austrian currency from the Finance Ministry, also in monthly rates, in the form of an advance against receipt. Later in the month the Rothschild bank submitted a calculation about the exact payments made and submitted the next advance demand.

Sichel sent the paid coupons in (presumably wooden) boxes, via Frankfort, and also in boxes via Frankfort he got fresh coupons for new interest payments.

Also in uneven quantities Sichel repaid bonds and sent them to Vienna, also in boxes. Only to give an idea about the amounts: In May 1849 one box from Amsterdam contained repaid bonds at a value of 578.262 fl. The account also mentions interest coupons "both received, handed out and kept" for an amount of 3 million 465.200 fl., always in the so called Conventional Florin that was linked in value to a certain silver coin of Cologne. This was a currency used in Austria and the German lands. It is stated in the file that these were payments effectuated in the first 3rd of 1849. For the month of May Sichel mentions additional repaid loans for the sum of 139.233 fl.(10)




The loan of 1849-51

The Austrian Finance Ministry in 1849 decided to simplify the whole procedure by the means of a loan conversion. The Finance Minister Krauss argued this in a paper from June. The first reason he gives for a conversion should be a mere service for the creditors: As these loans had been issued in a time of relatively stable conditions on the money market the currency had not been determined and they were repaid in instable banknotes, thus suffering a loss up to 20% towards the Conventional or silver Florin.

The owners of all bonds that circulated should be given the opportunity to exchange the coupons of their old Dutch bonds for new bonds with a sum of the nominal height of the interest still to be paid, and with the same interest, only guaranteed in stable money.


This would have many positive effects, as Krauss further explained in his expertise:

1. It would raise the confidence in the Austrian credit system enormously.

2. The value of the coupons and then of the bonds, too, would rise, thus further strengthening the credit of Austria.

3. The state would avoid payment now und delay it until later.

4. The exchange rate of the Austrian currency and the Austrian bills of exchange would rise, which would have a xxpositive effect on the Austrian economy.(11)

Though the Minister doesn’t mention it I assume another desired effect would have been a certain unification of these older Austrian loans. Though originally the measure only aimed at the interest coupons later it evidently was extended to the bonds themselves.


The measure was agreed upon in the government and in July a circular letter was sent to all provinces in which the possibilities were named where people could exchange their old bonds against new ones. Outside Austria this could be done at the Rothschild bank house in Frankfort, at the Sichelbank in Amsterdam, and at the office of another Amsterdam trader, Krieger, who was also Austria’s consul in the Netherlands. The commission conceded to all those involved in the conversion was 1/8% of the sum of the exchanged bonds.(12)


What followed was an Austrian operetta. The authorities had only been worried in keeping the three collaborating banks’ commission low, but had failed, for example, to notify Krieger in due time about his involvement and his duties-to-be. After clients had been coming to his bank house he sent a letter to Vienna asking what this was all about. Only then was a contract made with him.

Krieger also told the Finance Ministry that the Conventional Florin that was printed on the new bonds as the currency in which the interest would be paid is an unusual and therefore unknown currency in Holland.(13) Only then was the Dutch text on the backside of the new bonds altered and the Dutch currency was mentioned. As it later turned out, wrongly, as the abbreviation ”fr“ meant the French or Swiss franc, but not the florin.(14)

Both Sichel and Krieger drew the Finance Ministry’s attention to the fact that in Holland values were subject to taxation, and they were not allowed to circulate bonds on which this tax had not be paid. The Austrian government did everything to deny this fact, with the excuse that they were not issuing new bonds but only converting old ones.(15) (Later Austria introduced the same kind of tax itself, to the distress of the Rothschilds who tried everything to get an exemption – in vain, of course.)

In the course of the organisation of the loan conversion it also turned out that these elder Dutch loans had partially been issued with the participation of institutions from Austrian provinces and from the nobility. We can conclude that a part of those loans certainly stemmed from the time of the French wars. Some of the emitting institutions even had vanished since those times, they were declared ”dead hands“.(16)

It also turned out that some of those old loans had an interest of 4%, others of 5%, which led to problems with respect to the interest to be paid on the new bonds.(17)

In the last minute a trade house in Antwerp named Cahen was also commissioned to take part in the conversion.(18) It later turned out that it had been recommended by a rival of the Vienna Rothschild house, the Arnstein & Eskeles bank.

While the Austrian authorities did everything to evade their obligation to pay a tax for the obligations, they already started to be exchanged without tax, evidently by Cahen in Antwerp who had no idea about the tax problem, and were being effectuated on the Amsterdam values’ market, to the distress of the Dutch trade houses.(19)

Then the Rothschilds, evidently warned by Sichel, took a stand and denied all responsibility that might arise from the tax evasion. The Vienna Rothschild house demanded a written declaration from the Finance Ministry that all responsibility for the infraction of the Dutch law rests with the Austrian government and the bank houses dealing with it could not be charged.(20)

Later the Rothschild house announced the desire of two of their commercial partners, Richtenberger in Brussels and Lampert in Antwerp to also participate in the conversion, which was responded positively.(21)

In the end in September 1849 an employee of the Finance Ministry was sent by train to Frankfort and Holland to deliver the bonds and to supervise their distribution to the various traders.(22) But evidently some bonds had been sent there before, probably by Rothschild, or by Arnstein & Eskeles, as the complaint about their circulation in the Netherlands dated from August.(23)

In the course of the exchange of old bonds for new ones further confusion arose about the fact that the various agents in Holland and Belgium exchanged their amount of bonds when one of them was in danger of running out of them as the Vienna Finance Ministry was rather stingy in supplying them, and insisted that the transport and sending of the bonds had to be done from Vienna and at the Finance Ministry’s expense.(24) An attempt from the Frankfort Rothschild house to send some bonds by their own messengers (who regularly travelled between Frankfort and Vienna anyhow in the own Rothschild affairs) was rejected by the Finance Ministry for fear that extra costs might arise from accepting such a service.(25) Of course it would have been a lot more economical, reliable and quicker to use the Rothschilds transport system but the Finance Ministry was always eager not to pay too much to the bank houses for their services, not to become too dependent on them, and preferred to use more complicated and expensive transportation systems, as the postal services or own messengers.

Tired of the Vienna bureaucracy Sichel and Cahen in October declared to accept all costs should one or the other of the exchanged old bonds they sent to Vienna prove inaccurate or dubious. The Frankfort Rothschild house also declared to be tired of the role of intermediary and would gladly advocate the Vienna Finance Ministry to settle its accounts with Sichel and the others directly.(26)


The conversion of the old loans, as it seems, had their ups and downs. In January of 1850 the only banks where a significant number of old bonds and the respective interest were exchanged for new ones were the ones in Amsterdam,(27) despite the fact that in the meantime the interest for the new ones could also be collected in Frankfort.

It also seems that the number of loans whose interest coupons could be converted into new ones – respectively the coupons attached to them – had been enlarged as in April of 1850 a bond from 1834 is mentioned as being converted.(28) I have also not been able to trace it down in the files, but it seems to me that against the initial proposal the conversion, if desired, was applied to the bond itself and not only to the interest coupon. The decision to extend the conversion to the bonds itself and to all loans in which the currency had not been fixed in the Conventional Florin seems to have been taken by the end of 1850 as after this time the Frankfort Rothschilds started to turn in huge amounts of old bonds and constantly demanded new ones:(29) They got conversion-bonds worth 400.000 fl. in July 1851(30) and more than 1,1 million florins in August (31) while they turned in more than 1 million 200.000 fl. in exchanged old bonds in the period between March and the beginning of July.(32) In October 1851 the conversion was declared closed,(33) but converted old bonds continued, though in small amounts, to be turned in by the Frankfort Rothschild house and by Sichel through all of 1852.




The final stage of the conversion. Conclusions


While originally only Amsterdam and Frankfort had been determined as the places to pay interest and therefore to negotiate the conversion loan, in the course of time, as we have seen, also various traders in Brussels and Antwerp were entitled to manage the conversion. In January of 1851 James Rothschild also asked for the permission to participate and was granted it.(34) His request came after another Paris bank house had announced in a newspaper that it would convert old loans into new ones, with guaranteed currency. This bank house evidently had made a contract with the Austrian Finance Ministry through another bank house in Vienna, presumably one of the mentioned above.


In March of 1851 an employee of the Austrian Finance Ministry, together with an aid, was sent to Amsterdam to help with the final stage of the conversion. Evidently more people were anxious to convert their old bonds as the deadline for their exchange approached.

It seemed that he had been sent with an extraordinary huge amount of bonds and coupons and from Amsterdam also had to supply the traders in Frankfort, Antwerp and Brussels. The employee suggested to buy a safe in order to protect the values from fire. The request was declined without reason. Evidently the Finance Ministry, without even being presented an estimate, was afraid of the extra costs arising from this purchase. For similar reasons it declined from insuring them.(35)


As a first conclusion from these data it can be said, for the part of the Austrian state:

1. The Austrian Finance Ministry tried everything to avoid spending, but by very inappropriate means which in the end proved more costly.

2. Because of the bad organisation of the conversion loan it spent a lot more than necessary, for transport, extra postage and perhaps fines for infringement of the Dutch laws.

This had been a typical feature of the Austrian loan policy for decades already, and for decades to be: by trying to save on small change while spending huge amounts in florins. The Austrian finance politicians main aim had always been to restrict private bank houses’ gains by rather strange measures while spending a huge amount of money without any consideration on bureaucracy, administrative costs, transport costs, and so on.

For the Austrian finance ministry it was more convenient to issue a bond instead of having to pay cash for interest. The conversion meant delay of payment. Unfortunately it is not possible to find out to which extent, and if the expectations of the minister had been met – who, by the way, had already been replaced by the time the conversion ended.

Still, this conversion loan somehow contributed to the stabilization of the Austrian credit and improved the reputation of its bonds.


As for the Rothschild’s gain, first they surely earned some thousand florins only in the provision for the converted bonds. The indirect or long-term gain was far more valuable: they attracted new clients for the Austrian bonds and this way enlarged their own business.

First, their handling of the conversion gave a guarantee to the clients that the Austrian bonds were trustworthy – despite the fact that the state might have given signs of weakness. But the credit of the private traders-bankers had not suffered and became the base of the national credit and currency.

Second, the conversion attracted clients who on appearing with their old bonds – which certainly in most of the cases had been bought by their predecessors – could eventually be convinced to invest anew in bonds of more recent loans.

Third, they –in cooperation with the other traders involved and the Austrian employees – they reactivated the Dutch and Belgian market for the Austrian bonds. The loans of the years to come could count on Dutch clients.