1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 08

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 08

Chapter 3

The miller stared at the piece of paper in Major Fruehauf’s hand. It was about twice the size of a U.S. dollar bill. The central portrait was that of a very attractive young woman holding aloft a torch in her right hand and carrying some sort of tablet in the crook of her left arm. The image was patterned after the up-time Statue of Liberty, although neither the major nor the miller was aware of that fact.

Nor were they aware of the one big difference with the statue, since neither of them had ever met Rebecca Abrabanel. And while the major had seen some of the scurrilous pamphlets circulated about her by rabid anti-Semites in previous years, the woodcut images of her contained in them had borne no relationship whatever to reality.

This image, on the other hand, was a pretty fair depiction of Rebecca. The artist who’d designed the woodcut was one of the soldiers attached to the printing press Mike had left behind. The soldier had met the general’s wife on two occasions, and had a good memory of her. That wasn’t surprising. He was a young man and Rebecca was generally acknowledged as one of the most beautiful women in Europe, even by her enemies. In fact, especially by her enemies. Terms like “temptress” and “succubus” were often connected to her. If you didn’t know any better and moved in those circles, you’d be certain that her middle name was Delilah.

Good-looking female image or not, the miller didn’t care. He’d never heard the expressions “you can’t judge a book by its cover” or “not worth a continental” but it didn’t matter. He was no damn fool.

“That’s not worth the paper it’s printed on,” he protested.

Fruehauf shook his head, his expression one of sorrow rather than anger. “How can you claim such a thing? It’s even traded on the currency exchanges in Grantville and Magdeburg. By now, probably in Venice and Amsterdam, too.”

“Not in Prague,” the miller said stoutly.

Fruehauf gave him the sort of look normally reserved for village idiots. “And if it were, would you trust it anymore? Correct me if I’m mistaken, but isn’t that exchange — and the stock market too, I hear — owned outright by Wallenstein?”

The miller looked even more unhappy. The major was slandering Wallenstein, actually. The king of Bohemia was only one of the partners in Prague’s stock exchange and currency exchange. Granted, the majority partner. But he was far too smart not to understand that fiddling with such institutions would, in the long run, simply undermine their value to him. They were run as honestly as the major exchanges in Europe. In fact, the Prague exchange would probably number among them within a year.

“It’s still just a piece of paper,” the miller complained.

“Are you really that rustic, Johann? Any kind of money is no better than the authority which backs it.”

They were speaking in German because the miller, like many of the town’s inhabitants, was of German rather than Czech stock.

“Not gold and silver!”

Fruehauf rolled his eyes. “Right. Assuming the king who issues the coin isn’t debasing it. And how often is that true?”

Johann said nothing. He really wasn’t that rustic. If you searched Europe high and low, you’d certainly find some coins that contained the gold and silver content they were supposed to have. But the big majority wouldn’t.

Fruehauf shoved the paper at him. “Look, just try it. General Stearns backs the beckies. He’s been accused of a lot of things, but never of being a thief or a swindler.”

Mike Stearns had something of a mythic reputation, in central Europe — as much so in Czech lands as German ones, given the critical role played by up-timers in Wallenstein’s rebellion against Austria and his subsequent stabilization of an independent Bohemian kingdom. That myth contained many ingredients, that varied widely from person to person. By no means all of them were positive. But the sort of chicanery involved in currency swindles was simply not part of the legendry, any more than it was part of the Arthurian cycles. That was true whether you were speaking of Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere — or Mordred and Morgan le Fay. Sins and faults aplenty in that crowd, but none of them were petty chiselers.

“Well…”

The major seized Johann’s wrist and more-or-less forced the becky into his hand. “Just give it a try,” he repeated. “You can either trade it yourself on the exchanges” — from the look on the miller’s face there was no chance of that happening — “or, what I personally recommend, is that you trade it back to the regiment to get whatever goods or services we can provide.”

“Which would be what?” the miller asked skeptically.

Fruehauf glanced around the mill house. “Don’t be stupid, Johann. I was born and raised in a village myself. Any mill house needs repair work — and I’ll bet you my good name against that becky in your hand that we’ve got carpenters and blacksmiths in the regiment that are at least as good as any in Tetschen.”

The carpenters and blacksmiths in the towns wouldn’t be happy to hear that, of course. But that was none of the miller’s concern and Fruehauf saw no reason to explain that the regiment would probably wind up trading the miller’s flour for the services of the area’s carpenters and blacksmiths. Who could say? They might even wind up being used to repair the miller’s equipment.

The secret of economics was ultimately simple. Just keep people working. The manner in which that was done didn’t really make a big difference. Having a regiment of twelve hundred men living in the area would inevitably stimulate the economy so long as everyone was convinced that peace and stability would be maintained and that the money being circulated was of good value.

The first had already been established. General Stearns had been shrewd in choosing the Hangman to leave behind. The story of the regiment’s origins and purpose had spread widely by now. Not least of all because the general’s printing presses had seen to it. And Colonel Higgins made sure that his men maintained good behavior in their relations with the townfolk.

Now, if they could just get the becky accepted…

“Well, all right,” said the miller. “But just this once! If I’m not satisfied, you won’t get any more flour from me.”

It was a sign of progress, Fruehauf thought, that the miller obviously wasn’t considering the fact that if it chose to do so, the Hangman Regiment could march into his mill house, seize all his flour — and, for that matter, burn it down and kill him and his family in the bargain. Whatever reservations the local inhabitants still had about Higgins and his soldiers, at least they were no longer considered bandits.

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37 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 08

  1. robert says:

    I wonder what the symbol is for the becky.

  2. bas says:

    How about β?

  3. laclongquan says:

    And now it goes into advanced economics. A body of willing and able bodies is a force, a factor in a economic equation. A regiment can do many thing, most especially improving the existent infrastructure: roads, bridges, public security (read: cops), teaching in schools, etc and etc. The people in the area need such. But what can they pay for such? By tightening their purses and meals, by lending goverment their money in the form of buying construction bonds and stuffs.

    It’s one thing to be robbed of your meals and your money

    It’s another to contribute willingly to get return in the form of infrastructures and societal benefits.

    And if Mike can delay the action of honouring his notes long enough, military funding for his forces will come through and he can pay back in form of ‘real’ monies.

  4. Willem Meijer says:

    The regiment will leave. The miller and the local blacksmiths and carpenters will remain. There will be recriminations. Revenge is a dish best eaten cold. If the miller has an eye for the future he might not want to use the regiment for jobs like this.

  5. This is radically different and better than the ‘Kill them Kill them all so long as they are afraid of us afterwards’ philosophy that one hears in some other places.

    It also works with real people, unlike the alternative.

    Thank you, Eric.

  6. Mike says:

    @3 – regarding the recrimations after the Hangman eventually leave the area: not only might that be played out along lines of those who lost some jobs to the soldiers (carpenters et al) but there is also the point raised the miller is German. Depending on whether or not any of those carpenters are Czech, that could also add tension. Doubtful that it will be enough of an issue to make screentime in the books, but in real life, that might make a difference.
    The counter to this is that if Wallenstein gets his way and starts to expand his territory by the “Anaconda Plan” his empire will need to develop a healthy dose of appreciation for “multiculturalism”. His planned empire (Bohemia, Silesia, “Slovakia”, bits of Poland, Ukraine – and most of the Jews) will be even more prone to fragmentation by emerging nationalism than Austria was in the original timeline. However, if Ferdinand III also succeeds in his goal of conquering the Balkans up to and including Constantinople, that’d make for almost as multinational empire as the Austrians ended up with OTL.

  7. wombatcombat says:

    ah but the becky is real monies
    thats the whole point

  8. dave o says:

    #5 “Almost as multinational..” Let’s see: Uptime, Czechs, Slovaks, Germans, Jews, Italians, Hungarians, Slovenians, Croats, Rumanians. Downtime,Germans, Jews, Italians, Hungarians, Slovenians, Croats, Serbs. Rumanians.Macedonians,Greeks,Albanians (Ghegs and Tosks) Bulgarians, Turks. I’ve probably left a few out. But these are all languages at this time, not nations. As Flint has pointed out the idea of nations, much less nationalism, hasn’t occurred yet.

    People think of everyone from a different village as some kind of stranger. Completely unlike real people. Besides, without the Napoleonic Wars, there’s no reason to believe nationalism will develop the same way downtime as it did uptime. In the Balkans, particularly, will Russia be pushing pan-slavism? Brandenburg/Prussia will not be encouraging Hungarian separatism. The religious conflicst: Catholic vs Orthodox vs Calvinist will remain. But if it’s divorced from state sponsorship, it may be less poisonous. Or not.

  9. Mike says:

    @8 – while I see your point and don’t mind the nitpicking of my comment, Uptime Austria also had Poles and Ruthenians (Ukrainians)which look doubtful this time around. Likewise, while there may be pockets of Italians, with Tyrol joining the USE, that removes the largest concentration. There are still minorities along the upper Adriatic coastline bordering Venice, but that’s a much smaller fraction.

    Given the way that wars against the Ottomans occured OTL, Republic of Venice will likely take part. Ferdinand might not get the whole Balkans. Also, in 1635:Canon Law, there was discussion of support given to the Albanian exiles by various groups within the Catholic church.

    Yes, Nationalism will develop on a very different trajectory than previously. Russia might not be the only one pushing Pan-Slavism as Wallenstein has much to gain from that with his intended conquests. Granted, Russia is more likely to focus on the Baltic provinces of the Swedish Empire. If the modern day Baltic states successfully integrate longterm with Sweden (along with Finland and Lappland) that is a much bigger concern to Russia than anything the Austrians might accomplish in the Balkans.

  10. Ken says:

    I just want to make one small comment… I think I am enjoying the comments more than the story. Some of you have WAY too much time on your hands, but I really enjoy the conversation. Thanks.

  11. LenS says:

    @9 – a tangential note. Ruthenians are Ukrainians only to Ukrainians. 30 years ago I had a Ukrainian nationalist rave at me about Soviet (Russian) imperialism. When I replied that as a Ruthenian I understood his anger, he hauled out a map of the GREATER Ukraine – which of course included Rutenia and large chuncks of Poland and other places. Plus ca change. Sigh.

  12. robert says:

    I don’t know why, but I keep thinking of Hitler’s reason for gobbling up Czechoslovakia. First the German-speaking population in the Sudetenland and then, what the heck, all the rest of it. Language as an excuse to conquer.

    Then I think of the not-so-simmering problems over language in Belgium, and the recurring issue of language in Canada, and that scared to death enclave of English speakers in mainland Argentina during the Falklands-Maldives war. And this is the 21st century!

    How did the USA manage to absorb so may disparate language speakers and peacefully convert them to bi-lingual English speakers by the second generation and mostly English-only speakers by the 3rd generation?

    So what will happen in this new Europe to keep people from each others throats over language (never mind religion).

    @2 Works for me. Thanks.

  13. robert says:

    And then I find this on the web edition of the LA Times after I left this board:
    “Between 200 and 300 students at the Central University for Minorities protest plans to elevate Chinese to the main language of instruction in western China schools. Earlier in the week, as many as 9,000 people protested in Tibetan communities in Qinghai and Sichuan provinces.”

    This has less to do with language than with politics. Tibetan can easily be the language spoken outside the classroom. Just prior to the Soviets pulling out of Hungary in 1990 I was in Budapest. Half the signs that were in Russian had egregious misspellings-that was one of the funniest protests I have ever seen. I hope the Tibetans have a good sense of humor.

  14. dave o says:

    #9 Sorry, I meant left a few out both uptime and downtime. I agree that Venice will probably get some greek territory, but I think most probably the islands instead of the peloponnese. Especially Crete, maybe Rhodes. Remember, Venice acted after the 2nd siege of Vienna, and used a lot of German mercenaries, who are all now in the USE. Depending on what happens to Poland, I suspect that Russia will feed it’s land hunger in the east almost exclusively. But who can tell.
    #11 &12 Languages became important as a result of nationalism. In 19th century theory, the language defined the nation. It may be a cause of hostility downtime, but not necessarily. The US didn’t really become monoglot quite that quickly. There were German speaking communities, especially in the mid-west from 1848 to 1914 and after. In my own town, Italian speakers still keep their language even after four generations. And this generation russian immigrants don’t show much sign of learning English as far as I can see.

  15. “Fruehauf saw no reason to explain that the regiment would probably wind up trading the miller’s flour for the services of the area’s carpenters and blacksmiths. Who could say? They might even wind up being used to repair the miller’s equipment. ”

    Seems to imply that there would be no real job loss for local carpenters if the regiment is planning on using them anyway. The Becky is just a method to be able to pay the regiment in a currency that is accepted by the locals and find a way to keep the regiment busy and active in the local economy.

  16. Todd Bloss says:

    If Wallenstein succeeds in uniting the Balkans and America is permanently colonized by multiple (and mutually antagonistic) European Nations, we’ll end up trading the term “Balkanization” with “Americanized”.

    As for the “Beckie”, I’ve maintained that it isn’t worth anything, because the issuer (the 3rd Division) has no Bullion, no land and no economy -in other words, no resources to back it up, but I forgot about the one resource they have in abundance…FORCE.

    They can make the Beckie worth something the same way the Japanese did with their “occupation dollars” in the Philippines -“Use this money or we’ll kill you”

  17. dave o says:

    #15 Don’t you think that the 3rd division gets paid? Don’t you think Dave Bartley is smart enough to limit the issue of Beckys to anticipated pay? I seem to recall that a lot of the American Revolution was funded with paper money. Yes, it was heavily discounted, but that’s because the Continental Congress did have either the power or will to tax enough to support it. Will this be a problem in the USE?

  18. dave o says:

    for did in last post, read didn’t. Sorry for the typo.

  19. Cobbler says:

    @ 11 Early last century my grandparents moved from what wasn’t yet Slovakia to America. When they were growing up they learned Hungarian in school. They also learned German in school.

    You never can tell who’ll be ruling you next.

  20. The Becky has the same worth as any other currency, namely it has value to the extent that people will accept it.

  21. robert says:

    Does the becky have the words “This note is legal tender for all debts of the Third Division of the USE Army” printed just to the left of its namesake’s picture?

  22. laclongquan says:

    @ 15, 16, 17:

    The problem is twofold:

    Occupation problem: the army need to eat. Period. But if the army requisition supply and paid in scrip the populace will not accept it and THAT cause problem.

    Economic problem: if the army pay for supplies with their skilled ahdns, security services, yet provide no money into the region it will lead to TOO MANY service, NOT ENOUGH Money. It’s a deflation situation: money can buy more things than before, very ungood for production.

    The answer is that the army must provide both: services in many forms, AND monies in forms acceptable to the populace. This, happily, lead to economic growth.

  23. Chris says:

    When you think about it what is money really? All money is simply a psychological exercise by people that whatever medium is used has value. Even gold an silver. After all what value does gold really have? You can’t eat it, it is a poor structural metal and it is a poor metal for weapons. The reason people think gold and silver are valuable is that they have had thousands of years to convince themselves it is true. Yes gold is fungible and does not corrode but the same could be said for paper money really.

    So with that money is just an abstract way to eliminate the logistical nightmare that comes with bartering. The key to it’s success is for people to believe that it has the same value as the equivalent in bartered goods. Dave is a smart kid so I’m sure they will find a way to make the people believe.

  24. Alejo says:

    @12 & 14: I live in Texas. This place has had a Spanish-speaking community since the 1520’s with new waves of speakers arriving steadily throughout the last few decades from south of the border. Anyone who tells you that the United States is a monoglott country is not telling you how it really is. To the east of us in Texas lies the state of Louisiana where Cajun French and Creole French have been spoken for at least the last 250 years and, while the number of speakers of these languages has diminished in the last few decades, the languages are still around. West of us is New Mexico where lots of people still speak Spanish as in Texas and also there’s a large reservation that contains a number of Navajo speakers. Keep going west and you still find spanish all in Arizona and California and up into Nevada. I understand that you even find Basque of all languages spoken in a community in Nevada. “One language, One culture” is a myth in this country and it will always be so. It’s been going on for a long long time. Last point, few people now know that English nearly lost to German back in the 1700’s when the language of the majority was being researched. There are places all over the country where people still speak a descendant of the dialect of German spoken by their ancestors. In Texas, we have New Braunfels where they speak a more or less hochdeutsch-sounding variety and Fredericksburg wher their German sounds a bit Schwaebisch/alemanisch. In Kansas, Indiana, Ohio, and of course, Pensylvania, you find variants based on Pfaelzisch and even some Plattdeutsch derivitives.

    I think that the idea of the immigrant family who comes here and, after 40 years only the grandparents speak the old language from the old country is something that was popularized by Hollywood and then seized upon by politicians and propagandists. Don’t get me wrong, this situation is true for a lot of people. But, it is not true for everyone and I think it’s a good thing. One of this country’s greatest strengths is variety and diversity. It makes for versatility and adaptability since the fact that there are more ways to skin a cat is something people here have deeply ingrained. It also fuels the fierce individualism found here that makes it ok for everyone to have their own way of doing things which is not bound by any one tradition.

  25. Alejo says:

    forgot to add, we have a pretty decent sized Czech community here too. Up towards the DFW area, there’s Ellis County with towns like Ennis that have a Czech community many of whom still speak their language. Same goes for places further south on I-35 like the town of West and on down into Central Texas where you have towns with names like Zabzygville. Heh, so, we have Czechs and Germans here.

  26. @22

    It appears to depend on the place and the language, not to mention the level of intermarriage. If the grandchildren are urged to learn four foreign languages they tend to resist. If the first generation and their children are professionals (in my case (attorney, mechanical engineer) – physician ) the language tends to disappear. However, I have known 4th generation people who went back to learn a language their parents did not.

  27. Cobbler says:

    @ 23 American cities are also full of cultural enclaves. Many east coast cities have a Little Italy, Hunkey Town, German district, or whatever. Cleveland has a flourishing Hungarian ghetto where you can buy central European ingredients hard to find in Safeway. On the west coast it’s easier to find China Town or Japan Town. Though we’ve gained Vietnamese areas since that war. In all of these areas you can find the ancestral language spoken.

  28. laclongquan says:

    @Alejo:

    Thank you! And now we know.

  29. robert says:

    Clearly there are many languages spoken in various nooks and crannies in the US, but the language of “doing stuff” is English. At home and among family and friends the “old” language may well be spoken (ask any Frenchman how well he understands Cajun-ha!-it is an obsolete dialect of French, if that, and more like a pidgin or creole), but any foreign visitor to the US will tell you that knowledge of English is required if you want to travel around in this country.

    No language is static (despite the French Academy) and in the 1632 Universe a melange of Germanic languages, English, and some Slavic languages is clearly occurring. Modern American English is goner in this universe.

    When my maternal grandparents came here they were fluent in two languages and quickly learned English. The language of their native country was soon lost to them due to lack of use and only that famous middle German dialect that was spoken from Germany to nearly the Urals was retained and learned by their children-but not their grandchildren. That dialect is near the verge of extinction nowadays because nobody speaks it anymore. Even those who have gone back and learned it do not really have anyone with whom to speak that language.

  30. laclongquan says:

    No no. THe point is that our image of America is one people, one language. Although the recent immigrants speak their mother’s tongues because learning new ones at their ages is tough, the language that is spoken by all is American English. exceptions may be made for Native American, perhaps. Or some notorious ghettos in big city (China Town or Little Italia for example)

    We knew nothing about little communities here and there that still speak their own version of other languages. Nothing, I tell you.

  31. Joel says:

    @23 Gold, silver and any commodity that is durable and easily divisible is good as money for another reason: governments can’t inflate it by fiat. Paper money can, and eventually ALWAYS is, inflated by the issuer. It’s at least a little harder to inflate gold and silver, although it can be done as the officer pointed out in the story. But there is a definite limit to how much you can inflate. A gold coin with only half gold in it might be accepted as gold, but one with 5% gold would not. The American dollar has lost >95% of its value over the last 100 years.

    I carry around a 1 trillion dollar note from Zimbabwe which I bought on Ebay for less than five dollars, shipping included. That’s our future.

  32. Seth says:

    @14 The Venetians still have Crete. In fact, IOTL the Ottomans were scheduled to go to war with Venice in the 1660s with the goal of taking it. While the Ottomans did, the war lasted for two decades and led right into the Austro-Ottoman War where the Ottomans lost Hungary.

    ITTL, the most likely use for Ottoman soldiers once Persia is stomped again is against Venice, not Austria. Take what’s left of the Republic’s Greek territories while everyone’s preoccupied with The Great German Politics Mixup, and maybe Dalmatia as well. The Austrians are only worth attacking as a way of preventing them from pressing their claims to Hungary, and since ITTL the Austrians no longer have Bohemian manpower or money to support them they aren’t as much of a threat.

    I’m not sure why everybody thinks the Ottomans are going to be curbstomped. At this point IOTL, they were pretty much at the height of their power, and reform is likely as soon as the current Sultan dies/is disposed of. Especially since a series of wars in close succession would be an excellent way to purge the Janissary corps.

  33. alejo says:

    *groan* Another Johann Why Johann. There are lots of other German names that this series could use for characters. Why not Klauss, or Fritz, or Jens, or Friedrich. Nope, everyone is either Johann or Hans or worse, Pieter. Not Peter, Pieter which is … Dutch.

  34. alejo says:

    @ 29

    I certainly do not contest that if you want to get anywhere or do anything substantial here you must know English and know it well. All I was trying to say is that the culture and language here is far fromhomogenous and that not everyone has little or no knowledge of how to speak their ancestral language.

    Yes, Cajun French is very hard to understand. But then, for me, Quebecois is hard too. I learned European French which i understand comes across as very snobby in Canada.

    Hmm … Middle German dialect eh? Spoken clear to the Urals you say? … AHA!

    A gut johr, min chaver! Jo? ;)

  35. Ed says:

    @31 It is possible to inflate gold well beyond 20x (5% metal content) — the Romans did it during the middle of 3rd century and got people to accept it as legal money, too (the alternative being a nice spathas in the gut).

    What you cannot do with any type of money is inflate to that level wiothout causing a fiscal crisis. Gold specie is not the as good a defense against that as some people imagine.

  36. Ed says:

    @24 The “German came within one vote of being the official language of the US” is an urban legend and untrue. The source of the legend is a vote taken by the Pennsylvania legislature to print an official translation of the Declaration of Independence in German, as was sometimes done with official announcements in those days. In the case of the Declaration, German translations were thus left to the individual German language printers in the colony, rather than being paid for by tax money.

    There was never a vote to declare German the (or even an) official language of the US. There has never been a vote to declare English the official language either, though in recent years there has been a movement to do so.

  37. Joel says:

    @35 Perhaps the Romans did get away with it, with the mentioned spatha in the gut as an alternative. However, I’m pretty sure that no one thought it was a “gold” coin…did it even still look gold?…and everyone knew the government was corrupt. You can hide that knowledge a lot longer with paper money, and you can inflate paper money many times beyond 20x.

    Debasing coins is simply harder to do than printing money. You can probably count the politicians in history on one hand that ever had the moral fiber to resist printing more money. And of course, now they can create trillions with a few keystrokes…

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