Rhine Province - Encyclopedia

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RHINE PROVINCE, or Rhineland, the most westerly province of the kingdom of Prussia, bounded on the N. by Holland, on the E. by the Prussian provinces of Westphalia and Hesse-Nassau, and the grand duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt, on the S.E. by the Bavarian Palatinate, on the S. and S.W. by Lorraine, and on the W. by Luxemburg, Belgium and Holland. The small district of Wetzlar in the midst of the province of Hesse also belongs to the Rhine Province, which, on the other hand, surrounds the Oldenburg principality of Birkenfeld. The extent of the province is 10,423 sq. m.; its extreme length, from north to south, is nearly 200 m., and its greatest breadth is just under 90 m. It includes about 200 m. of the course of the Rhine, which forms the eastern frontier of the province from Bingen to Coblenz, and then flows through it in a northwesterly direction.

The southern and larger part of the Rhine province, belonging geologically to the Devonian formations of the lower Rhine, is hilly. On the left bank are the elevated plateaus of the Hunsriick and the Eifel, separated from each other by the deep valley of the Mosel, while on the right bank are the spurs of the Westerwald and the Sauerland, the former reaching the river in the picturesque group known as the Seven Mountains (Siebengebirge). The highest hill in the province is the Walderbeskopf (2670 ft.) in the Hochwald, and there are several other summits above 2000 ft. on the left bank, while on the right there are few which attain a height of 1600 ft. Most of the hills are covered with trees, but the Eifel (q.v.) is a barren and bleak plateau. To the north of a line drawn from Aixla-Chapelle to Bonn the province is flat, and marshy districts occur near the Dutch frontier. The climate varies considerably with the configuration of the surface. That of the northern lowlands and of the sheltered valleys is the mildest and most equable in Prussia, with a mean annual temperature of 50° Fahr., while on the hills of the Eifel the mean does not exceed 44 0 The annual rainfall varies in the different districts from 18 to 32 inches. Almost the whole province belongs to the basin of the Rhine, but a small district in the north-west is drained by affiuents of the Meuse. Of the numerous tributaries which join the Rhine within the province, the most important are the Nahe, the Mosel and the Ahr on the left bank, and the Sieg, the Wupper, the Ruhr and the Lippe on the right. The only lake of any size is the Laacher See, the largest of the "maare" or extinct crater lakes of the Eifel.

Of the total area of the Rhine province about 45% is occupied by arable land, 16% by meadows and pastures, and 31% by forests. Little except oats and potatoes can be raised on the high-lying plateaus in the south of the province, but the river-valleys and the northern lowlands are extremely fertile. The great bulk of the soil is in the hands of small proprietors, and this is alleged to have had the effect of somewhat retarding the progress of scientific agriculture. The usual cereal crops are, however, all grown with success, and tobacco, hops, flax, rape, hemp and beetroot (for sugar) are cultivated for commercial purposes. Large quantities of fruit are also produced. The vine-culture occupies a space of about 30,000 acres, about half of which are in the valley of the Mosel, a third in that of the Rhine itself, and the rest mainly on the Nahe and the Ahr. The choicest varieties of Rhine wine, however, such as Johannisberger and Steinberger, are produced higher up the river, beyond the limits of the Rhine province. In the hilly districts more than half the surface is sc:netimes occupied by forests, and large plantations of oak are formed for the use of the bark in tanning. Considerable herds of cattle are reared on the rich pastures of the lower Rhine, but the number of sheep in the province is comparatively small, and is, indeed, not greatly in excess of that of the goats. The wooded hills are well stocked with deer, and a stray wolf occasionally finds its way from the forests of the Ardennes into those of the Hunsriick. The salmon fishery of the Rhine is very productive, and trout abound in the mountain streams.

The great mineral wealth of the Rhine province probably furnishes its most substantial claim to the title of the "richest jewel in the crown of Prussia." Besides parts of the carboniferous measures of the Saar and the Ruhr, it also contains important deposits of coal near Aix-la-Chapelle. Iron ore is found in abundance near Coblenz, the Bleiberg in the Eifel possesses an apparently inexhaustible supply of lead, and zinc is found near Cologne and Aix-la-Chapelle. The mineral products of the district also include lignite, copper, manganese, vitriol, lime, gypsum, volcanic stones (used for millstones) and slates. By far the most important item is coal. Of the numerous mineral springs the best known are those of Aix-laChapelle and Kreuznach.

The mineral resources of the Prussian Rhine province, coupled with its favourable situation and the facilities of transit afforded by its great waterway, have made it the most important manufacturing district in Germany. The industry is mainly concentrated round two chief centres, Aix-la-Chapelle and Dusseldorf (with the valley of the Wupper), while there are naturally few manufactures in the hilly districts of the south or the marshy flats of the north. The largest iron and steel works are at Essen, Oberhausen, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Cologne, while cutlery and other small metallic wares are extensively made at Solingen, Remscheid and Aix-la-Chapelle. The cloth of Aix-la-Chapelle and the silk of Crefeld form important articles of export. The chief industries of ElberfeldBarmen and the valley of the Wupper are cotton-weaving, calico-printing and the manufacture of turkey red and other dyes. Linen is largely made at Gladbach, leather at Malmedy, glass in the Saar district and beetroot sugar near Cologne. Though the Rhineland is par excellence the country of the vine, beer is largely produced; distilleries are also numerous, and large quantities of sparkling Moselle are made at Coblenz, chiefly for exportation to England. Commerce is greatly aided by the navigable rivers, a very extensive network of railways, and the excellent roads constructed during the French regime. The imports consist mainly of raw material for working up in the factories of the district, while the principal exports are coal, fruit, wine, dyes, cloth, silk and other manufactured articles of various descriptions.

The population of the Rhine province in 1905 was 6,435,778, including 4,47 2,058 Roman Catholics, 1,877,582 Protestants and 55,408 Jews. The Roman Catholics muster strongest on the left bank, while on the right bank about half the population is Protestant. The great bulk of the population is of Teutonic stock, and about a quarter of a million are of Flemish blood. On the north-west frontier reside about 10,000 Walloons, who speak French or Walloon as their native tongue. The Rhine province is the most thickly populated part of Prussia, the general average being 617 persons per sq. m. The province contains a greater number of large towns than any other province in Prussia. Upwards of half the population are supported by industrial and commercial pursuits, and barely a quarter by agriculture. There is a university at Bonn, and elementary education is especially successful. For purposes of administration the province is divided into the five districts of Coblenz, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Aix-la-Chapelle and Trier. Coblenz is the official capital, though Cologne is the largest and most important town. Being a frontier province the Rhineland is strongly garrisoned, and the Rhine is guarded by the three strong fortresses of Cologne with Deutz, Coblenz with Ehrenbreitstein, and Wesel. The province sends 35 members to the German Reichstag and 62 to the Prussian house of representatives.


The present Prussian Rhine province was formed in 1815 out of the duchies of Cleves, Berg, Gelderland and Jiilich, the ecclesiastical principalities of Trier and Cologne, the free cities of Aix-la-Chapelle and Cologne, and nearly a hundred small lordships and abbeys. At the earliest historical period we find the territories between the Ardennes and the Rhine occupied by the Treviri, the Eburones and other Celtic tribes, who, however, were all more or less modified and influenced by their Teutonic neighbours. On the right bank of the Rhine, between the Main and the Lahn, were the settlements of the Mattiaci, a branch of the Germanic Chat ti, while farther to the north were the Usipetes and Tencteri. Julius Caesar conquered the tribes on the left bank, and Augustus established numerous fortified posts on the Rhine, but the Romans never succeeded in gaining a firm footing on the right bank. As the power of the Roman empire declined the Franks pushed forward along both banks of the Rhine, and by the end of the 5th century had regained all the lands that had formerly been under Teutonic influence. The German conquerors of the Rhenish districts were singularly little affected by the culture of the provincials they subdued, and all traces of Roman civilization were submerged in a new flood of paganism. By the 8th century the Frankish dominion was firmly established in central Germany and northern Gaul. On the division of the Carolingian realm the part of the province to the east of the river fell to the share of Germany, while that to the west remained with the evanescent kingdom of Lotharingia. By the time of Otto I. (d. 973) both banks of the Rhine had become German, and the Rhenish territory was divided between the duchies of Upper and Lower Lorraine, the one on the Mosel and the other on the Meuse. Subsequently, as the central power of the German sovereign became weakened, the Rhineland followed the general tendency and split up into numerous small independent principalities, each with its separate vicissitudes and special chronicles. The old Lotharingian divisions passed wholly out of use, and the name of Lorraine became restricted to the district that still bears it. In spite of its dismembered condition, and the sufferings it underwent at the hands of its French neighbours in various periods of warfare, the Rhenish territory prospered greatly and stood in the foremost rank of German culture and progress. Aix-la-Chapelle was fixed upon as the place of coronation of the German emperors, and the ecclesiastical principalities of the Rhine bulk largely in German history. Prussia first set foot on the Rhine in 1609 by the joint occupation of Cleves; and about a century later Upper Gelderland and Mors also became Prussian. At the peace of Basel in 1795 the whole of the left bank of the Rhine was resigned to France, and in 1806 the Rhenish princes all joined the Confederation of the Rhine. The congress of Vienna assigned the whole of the lower Rhenish districts to Prussia, which had the tact to leave them in undisturbed possession of the liberal institutions they had become accustomed to under the republican rule of the French.

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