Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Bartholomeus Welser

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 15
Bartholomeus Welser

by Klemens Löffler


German merchant prince, born at Augsburg, 1488; died at Amberg, near Turkheim, Swabia, 1561. His father was Anton Welser, an important merchant of Augsburg. Bartholomeus entered his father's business at an early age. After Anton's death (1518) he bought the family homestead and with his brother Anton founded the firm of "Welser and Company", which lasted until 1553. Their business constantly increased, and the brothers granted large loans to Charles V, who in 1532 made Bartholomeus a nobleman of the empire, and gave him in 1541 a general safe- conduct and in 1546 the privilege of exemption from some local courts. By treaty dated 27 May, 1528 the Welsers, through their agents, Ehinger and Sailer, received from the Spanish Crown the rights of supremacy in Venezuela; they monopolized the import and export trade of the country, and established a colonizing scheme there. The first regent of the colony, Ambrosius Ehinger (Dalfinger), explored the interior of Venezuela. Disputes with the Spanish Government soon arose and banished any hopes for rich profit from the undertaking. In 1541 the Spanish Government desired to bring suit, against the governors of the colony, and in 1546 Bartholomeus's son was murdered. Although the province was regarded as their property until 1551, it was taken from the Welsers by legal decision in 1556 and went to the Spanish Crown. The German colonizers have been accused of cruelty, but their uprightness and conscientiousness are now fully proved. Bartholomeus Welser frequently took part in the public affairs of Augsburg. Unwilling to oppose the emperor in the Smalkaldic War, he obtained from the council three years' leave of absence, and advanced large sums of money to Charles V. In 1547 he returned to Augsburg and in 1553 retired from business. From 1548-56 he was a member of the privy council. His interest in learning is evident from marginal notes he made on a copy of the Augsburg edition (1548) of Suetonius. Whereas his near relations accepted Lutheranism, Welser's family remained loyal Catholics.

KLEINSCHMIDT, Augsburg, Nurnberg and irhe Handelsfursten (Cassel, 1889), 94, 139-42; SCHUMACHER, Die Unternehmungen der Augsburger Welser in Venezuela (Hamburg, 1892); HABLER, Die uberseeischen Unternehmunger der Welser (Leipzig, 1903) 52-60, 160-397.

Klemens Löffler.