Neuchâtel affair

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The Neuchâtel Affair was an economic policy dispute between Switzerland and Napoleonic France in the run-up to the continental blockade in 1806 .

It is true that the continental blockade, through which the trade in British goods on the continent ruled by France was to be prevented through prohibitions and enormous protective tariffs, did not come into force until November 1806; for Switzerland, however, the Napoleonic economic war against Great Britain began to be felt as early as 1803 , when the transport of British merchandise to France and the establishment of warehouses near the French border were prohibited; further prohibitive measures followed. The material damage to Swiss industry was enormous, as it processed a substantial part of cotton for export and sold only the smallest part of its production domestically. Many Swiss companies that were active in international wholesale were also affected. The consequence of this was business in the semi-legal and illegal sector, which, however, could look back on a long tradition and in which the Basel company Frères Merian excelled. The French authorities were well aware of the illicit trade. In April 1805 , a delegation from Basel and in particular (the mayor Andreas Merian-Iselin, who was not directly related to the Frères Merian), was accused by Emperor Napoleon.

The Neuchâtel Affair , the most important economic and political dispute between Switzerland and Napoleonic France, went back to the French acquisition of the Prussian exclave Neuchâtel in February 1806. Shortly before the Anschluss, Swiss merchants piled up a large warehouse with textiles and colonial goods (cotton, sugar, coffee, pepper, cocoa and spices) in Neuchâtel in order to later bring them to the market in France duty-free. When the French authorities learned of the project, they confiscated the camp; Napoleon addressed a sharp diplomatic note to Switzerland, demanding the arrest and punishment of the merchants involved and also threatening the invasion of French troops to control British-Swiss trade in goods. Under French pressure, in July 1806 - four months before the actual continental blockade - the daily statute issued a ban on the import and export of British manufactured goods , several traders, including the Frères Merian, were imprisoned, and half of the Neuchâtel camp was subject to high punitive tariffs Sold to France and the other half auctioned for the benefit of the French army.

The impact of the Neuchâtel Affair was ambivalent. The nominally independent Switzerland was firmly integrated into the French economic system; the textile industry lacked raw materials and sales markets; In many parts of the country there was unemployment and famine. In the medium term, however, the economic war against Great Britain and the damage to international trade led to the development of Switzerland's own textile industry; this happened in particular in eastern Switzerland, where previously cotton fabrics had to be produced against British competition and now something was gained from the continental barrier (see textile industry in eastern Switzerland ). Freed from the pressure of British competition, the textile manufacturers succeeded in quickly replacing the previous publishing system with a large number of newly established factories, and mechanical spinning became the basis of modern industry.

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