1902 Encyclopedia > Prussian Saxony

Prussian Saxony

PRUSSIAN SAXONY (Germ. Provinz Sachsen), one of See the central provinces of the kingdom of Prussia, consists mainly of what was formerly the northern part of the kingdom of Saxony (ceded to Prussia in 1815), but also comprises the duchy of Magdeburg, the Altmark, and other districts, the connexion of which with Prussia is of earlier date. The area of the province is 9750 square miles. On the W. it is bounded by Hesse-Nassau, Hanover, and Brunswick, on the N. by Hanover and Brandenburg, on the E. by Brandenburg and Silesia, and on the S. by the kingdom of Saxony and the small Thuringian states. It is, however, very irregular in form, entirely surrounding parts of Brunswick and the Thuringian states, and itself possessing several "exclaves," while the northern portion of the province is almost entirely severed from the southern by the duchy of Anhalt. The major part of the province is flat and belongs to the great North-German plain, but the western and south-western districts are hilly, including parts of the Harz (with the Brocken, 3417 feet) and the Thuringian Forest. About nine-tenths of Prussian Saxony belongs to the system of the Elbe, the chief feeders of which within the province are the Saale and the Mulde, but a small district on the west drains into the Weser. The saltwater lakes between Halle and Eisleben are the only lakes of the kind in Prussia.

Saxony is on the whole the most fertile province of Prussia, and excels all the others in its produce of wheat and beetroot sugar (as well as in salt, brown coal, and copper), but the nature of its soil is very unequal. The best crop-producing districts lie near the base of the Harz Mountains, such as the "Magdeburger Börde" and the " Goldene Aue," and rich pasture lands occur in the river valleys, but the sandy plains of the Altmark, in the north part of the province, yield but a scanty return for the husbandman's toil.

Of the total area of the province 61 per cent, is occupied by arable land, 13 per cent, by meadow's and pastures, and 20'5 per cent, by forests. Wheat and rye are raised in such abundance as to allow of a considerable export, while the other grain crops meet the local demand. The beetroot for sugar is grown chiefly in the district to the north of the Harz, as far as the Ohre, and on the banks of the Saale ; and the amount of sugar produced (upwards of 400,000 tons in 1883-84) is nearly as much as that of all the rest of Prussia together. Flax, hops, and seeds for oil are also cultivated to some extent, and large quantities of excellent fruit are grown at the foot of the Harz and in the valleys of the Unstrut and the Saale. The market-gardening of Erfurt is well-known throughout Germany. Wine, of indifferent quality, is produced in the vicinity of Naumburg. Saxony is comparatively poor in timber, though there are some fine forests in the Harz and other hilly districts. Cattle-rearing is carried on with success in the river valleys, and more goats are met with here than in any other part of Prussia. The live-stock census for 1883 gave the following figures :—horses, 182,485; cattle, 624,973; sheep, 1,390,915; pigs, 719,627 ; goats, 261,225. (Compare the tables under PRUSSIA, vol. xx. p. 14.)

The principal underground wealth of Prussian Saxony consists of its salt and its brown coal, of both of which it possesses larger stores than any other part of the German empire. The rock-salt mines and brine springs (the chief of which are at Stassfurt, Schönebeck, Halle, &c.) produced in 1883-4 no less than 256,000 tons of salt, while the annual output of brown coal amounts to about 8 million tons, or more than the entire yield of the rest of Germany. Prussian Saxony also possesses three-fourths of the wealth of Germany in copper, the yield in 1883 amounting to445,000 tons of ore and 11,000 tons of the pure metal. The copper mines are found chiefly in the Harz district. The other mineral resources include silver (one-third of the total German yield), pit-coal, pyrites, alum, plaster of Paris, sulphur, alabaster, and several varieties of good building-stone. Numerous mineral springs occur in the Harz.

In addition to the production of sugar already noted, the most important industries are the manufactures of cloth, leather, iron and steel wares (chiefly at Suhl and Sömmerda), spirits (Nordhansen), chemicals (Stassfurt), and starch. Beer is also brewed extensively in Prussian Saxony, where the annual consumption per head (107 quarts) is considerably in excess of the average for the kingdom. Trade is much facilitated by the great waterway of the Elbe, as well as by a very complete system of railways. The chief articles are wool, grain, sugar, salt, lignite, and the principal manufactured products named above.

The population of the province of Saxony in 1880 was 2,312,007, including 2,154,663 Protestants, 145,518 Roman Catholics, and 6700 Jews ; in 1885, according to provisional census returns, the population was 2,427,968. The great bulk of the inhabitants are of unmixed German stock, but many of those in the east part of the province have Wendish blood in their veins. The province belongs to the more thickly populated parts of Germany, the aver-age being 237 persons to the square mile, and the ratio of the urban population to the rural is about as 4J to 5|. The occupation census of 1882 gives the following percentages for the different classes of the population :—agricultural, 36 78; industrial, 35T8 ; trade, 8T5; domestic servants and day labourers, 870; official and professional, 5T2.
Prussian Saxony is divided into the three government districts of Magdeburg, Merseburg, and Erfurt. Magdeburg is the most important town and the headquarters of an army corps, but the provincial chambers meet at Merseburg. The province sends twenty members to the reichstag and thirty-eight to the Prussian house of representatives. The religious control of the district is in the hands of a consistory at Magdeburg ; the Roman Catholics belong to the diocese of Paderborn. The university of Halle holds a high rank among German seats of learning, and the other educa-tional requirements of the province are adequately provided for. The illiterate recruits of this province in 1883-4 numbered only 13 out of a total of 7868, equivalent to 0'17 per cent. The prin-cipal towns are Magdeburg (about 150,000 inhabitants, including Neustadt and Buckau), Halle (81,869), Erfurt (58,307), Halberstadt (34,048), Kordhausen, Miihlhausen, and Aschersleben.

The history of the present Prussian province of Saxony as such dates only from 1815, and is, of course, merely of local interest. The previous history of its constituent parts, of considerable more interest and importance, must be sought for under the various headings that will suggest themselves, such as SAXONY (supra), PRUSSIA, MAGDEBURG, ERFURT, &c. It is, however, worth noting that the province comprises the Altmark or old North Mark that formed the kernel of the Prussian state (see PRUSSIA, vol. xx. p. 2), and also the old bishoprics on the Elbe and Saale, from which as a centre the Christianization of Germany mainly spread. And the leading position of this part of Germany in promoting the Reformation should also be remembered.

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