The trade in soldiers. Germany, 1776

The author of this piece was Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart, editor of the bi-weekly periodical Deutsche Chronik. Launched in the spring of 1774 and published first in Augsburg and then Ulm, two cities in the southwestern region of the Holy Roman Empire, the Chronik was an unusually provocative and opinionated journal that enjoyed a high degree of popularity throughout German-speaking Europe and beyond. Scholars have estimated that it may have been read by as many as 20,000 people in places as far flung as London, Paris, Vienna, and Petersburg (Deutsche Chronik, herausgegeben von Friedrich Daniel Schubart, Jahrgang 1774-Jahrgang 1777 (Heidelberg, 1975), vol. 1, p. xxiii [introduction]).Schubart was an eager commentator on American developments, and his interest increased even more when it became known that German soldiers would enter the war. As the excerpt indicates, he was critical of the German rulers’ decision to hire out their own subjects in a war against a people on another continent who were fighting for their liberty. In fact, he was one of the first German writers who compared the trade in soldiers to the slave trade. Note that Schubart lacked reliable information about the German auxiliary troops. Several territories that he mentions as suppliers of soldiers did not send troops into British service in America, including Bavaria, Mecklenburg, and Hanover.


English translation

Here is taste of the newest way to assess the value of human beings! – The Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel receives 450,000 Thaler annually for his 12,000 brave Hessians, most of whom will find their grave in America. The Duke of Braunschweig is getting 65,000 Thaler for 3,964 infantry and 360 light cavalry, of which without doubt very few will see their fatherland again. Similarly, the Hereditary Prince of Hessen-Kassel is supplying one infantry regiment, for the price of 25,000 Thaler. It is well known that 20,000 Hanoverians are already destined for America, and also 3,000 Mecklenburgers for 5,000 Thaler. It is now being said that the Electoral Prince of Bavaria will also send 4,000 infantry into British service. A fertile [terrible?] text to preach for a patriot whose heart is pounding when fellow subjects share the fate of Negro slaves, and are being send into foreign parts of the world to be slaughtered as a sacrifice.—

Thus, more than 50,000 men will be fighting in America against the Provincials, who are standing there, and awaiting bravely the haters of their liberty. They are already calling themselves American independent states, drafting law books, [and] tearing themselves from the lap of softness in order to fight for their sacred rights.

German original

Hier ist eine Probe der neusten Menschenschatzung!—Der Landgraf von Hessenkassel bekommt jährlich 450000 Thaler für seine 12000 tapfere Hessen, die grösstentheils in Amerika ihr Grab finden werden. Der Herzog von Braunschweig erhält 65000 Thaler für 3964 Mann Fussvolk und 360 Mann leichte Reuterey, wovon ohnfehlbar sehr wenige ihr Vaterland sehen werden. Der Erbprinz von Hessenkassel giebt ebenfalls ein Regiment Fussvolk ab, um den Preis von 25000 Thaler. 20000 Hannoveraner sind bekanntlich schon nach Amerika bestimmt, und 3000 Mecklenburger für 5000 Thaler auch. Nun sagt man, der Churfürst von Bayern werde ebenfalls 4000 Mann in Englischen Sold geben. Ein fruchtbarer [furchtbarer?] Text zum predigen für Patrioten, denen’s Herz pocht, wenn Mitbürger das Schicksal der Negersklaven haben, und als Schlachtopfer in fremde Welthen verschickt werden.—

Ueber 50000 Mann werden also in Amerika gegen die Provinzialen kämpfen, die da stehen, und die Hasser ihrer Freyheit muthig erwarten. Sie nennen sich schon Amerikanische Freystaaten, entwerfen Gesetzbücher, entreissen sich dem Schoss der Weichlichkeit, um für ihre heiligen Rechte zu fechten.

Citation: Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart, Deutsche Chronik, 25 March 1776, p. 194, https://digipress.digitale-sammlungen.de/issue/bsb10611625_00201_u001

Image: excerpt from Deutsche Chronik, https://digipress.digitale-sammlungen.de/issue/bsb10611625_00201_u001

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