1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Alsace-Lorraine

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ALSACE-LORRAINE (Ger. Elsass-Lothringen), a German imperial territory (since 1871), consisting of the former French province Alsace (then divided into the departments of Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin), together with its capital Strassburg, and German Lorraine (which included the department of the Moselle and portions of the departments of Meurthe and Vosges), together with the capital and fortress of Metz. The imperial territory (Reichsland) is bounded S. by Switzerland; E. by Baden, from which it is separated by the Rhine; N.E. and N. by the Bavarian Palatinate, the Prussian Rhine Province and Luxemburg, and W. by France. Its area is 5601 sq. m. The maximum length from N. to S. is 145 m.; the maximum breadth E. to W. 105 m., and the minimum breadth, on a line drawn through Schlettstadt, 24 m. In respect of its physical features, Alsace-Lorraine falls into three parts — mountain land, plain and plateau. The first, practically co-extensive with the western half of Alsace, consists of the Vosges range, which running in a northerly direction from the deep gap or pass of Belfort (trouée de Belfort) forms in its highest ridges the natural frontier line between Germany and France. Between this mountain chain and its spurs, which fall steeply to the E., and the Rhine, stretches a fertile plain forming the eastern half of Alsace. In the N.W. a high and undulating plateau, which gently descends in the W. to the valley of the Moselle, occupies nearly the whole area of Lorraine. The drainage of the Vosges valleys and of the Rhine valley is collected and carried into the Rhine about 10 m. below Strassburg by the Ill, which has a course of more than 100 m. and is navigable below Colmar. With the exception of a few streams which run to the Rhone, all the waters of Alsace flow into the Rhine. The climate is on the whole temperate — warmest in the lowest districts (460 ft. above sea-level) of N. Alsace, and coldest on the summits of the Vosges, where snow lies six months in the year. The mean annual temperature at Strassburg is 49.8° F., at Metz 48.2°; the rainfall at Strassburg 26 ¼ in., and at Metz 27 ½ in. The Rhine Valley is in great part fertile, yielding good crops of potatoes, cereals (including maize), sugar beet, hops, tobacco, flax, hemp and products of oleaginous plants. But grapes and fruit are amongst the most valuable of the crops. The cereals chiefly grown are wheat, oats, barley and rye. Great quantities of hay are harvested. This description embraces also the production of Lorraine, where agriculture is less strenuously carried on, and the fertility of the soil is less. But Lorraine possesses, in compensation, greater riches in the earth, in coal and iron and salt mines. Cows are grazed on the S. Vosges in summer, and large quantities of cheese (Münster cheese) are made and exported. Total population (1905) 1,814,626.

The farms in Alsace are mostly small and are held partly as a private possession, partly on the communal system; in Lorraine there are some larger occupations. The manufacture of cottons, and on a smaller scale of woollens, is special to Alsace, the chief centres of the industry being Mülhausen, Colmar and the valleys of the Vosges. The territory has always been the centre of an active commerce, owing to its situation on the confines of Germany, France and Switzerland, and alongside the great highway of the Rhine. The communications embraced some 1249 m. of railway (1903), of which 1108 m. belonged to the state, a good system of roads, and several canals (notably the Rhine-Rhone, the Rhine-Marie and the Saar Canals), in addition to the rivers. Administratively the territory is divided into the following three districts, showing a density of population of about 316 to the sq. m.:—


Districts. Area in sq.
miles.
Population.
1885. 1905.
Upper Alsace . .
Lower Alsace . .
Lorraine . . .
1354
1845
2402
462,549
612,077
489,729
512,709
686,359
615,558


On the sex division, 935,305 were in 1905 males, and 879,321 females. The percentage of illegitimacy is about 7. The rural population embraces 51% of the whole, the urban population 48%. The largest towns are Strassburg (the capital of the territory), Mülhausen, Metz, Colmar, all above 20,000 inhabitants each. Classified according to religion there were, in 1904, 372,078 Protestants, 1,310,391 Roman Catholics, and 32,379 Jews. Education is provided for at the university of Strassburg, in 21 classical and pro-classical schools, in 18 modern schools, and in nearly 4000 elementary schools. Over 85% of the people speak German as their mother-tongue, the rest French, or a patois of French. The annual revenue and expenditure are each somewhat in excess of £3,000,000. Customs and indirect taxes yield more than three-fifths of the total revenue, and direct taxes less than one-fourth. The state forests give about one-ninth of the whole. The higher administration of justice is devolved upon six provincial courts and a supreme court, sitting at Colmar. Moreover, there are purely industrial tribunals at Mülhausen, Thann, Markirch, Strassburg and Metz. The fish-breeding establishment at Hüningen in Upper Alsace should be mentioned.

Constitution. — The sovereignty over the territory was by a law (Reichsgesetz) of the 9th of June 1871 vested in the German emperor, who, until the introduction of the imperial constitution on the 1st of January 1874, had, with the assent of the federal council (Bundesrat) and, in a few cases, that of the imperial diet (Reichstag), the sole right of initiating legislation. In October of this last year a committee (Landesausschuss) of the whole territory was appointed to deliberate on laws proposed to it before they received the final sanction of the emperor. On the 2nd of May 1877, the Landesausschuss was itself empowered to initiate legislation within the competence of the territory, and in 1879 the imperial viceroy (Statthalter), representing the imperial chancellor, who had until then been the responsible minister, took up his residence in Strassburg. He is assisted in the government by 4 ministers of departments, under the presidency of a secretary of state, and, when occasion demands the extraordinary discussion of legislative proposals, by a council of state (Staatsrat), consisting of the secretary of state, under secretaries, the president of the supreme court of justice of the territory and, as a rule, of 12 nominees of the emperor. The Landesausschuss, a constitutional body with parliamentary privileges, consists of 58 members, 34 being appointed out of their number by the various district councils (Bezirkstage), 4 by the large towns, and 20 by the rural districts. Alsace-Lorraine is represented in the Bundesrat by two commissioners, who have, however, but one voice; and the territory returns 15 members to the Reichstag.

See A. Schmidt, Elsass unid Lothringen (Leip., 1859); Spach, Histoire de la basse Alsace et de la ville de Strasbourg (Stras., 1860); von Müllenheim Rechberg, Die Annexion des Elsass durch Frankreich und Rückblick auf die Verwaltung des Landes, 1648-1697 (Stras., 1897); Du Prel, Die deutsche Verwaltung in Elsass, 1870-1879 (Stras., 1879); L. Petersen, Das Deutschtum in Elsass-Lothringen (Munich, 1902). (P. A. A.)