The staple right (also translated stacking right or storage right, both from the German Stapelrecht) was a medieval right accorded to certain ports, the staple ports, that required merchant barges or ships to unload their goods at the port, and display them for sale for a certain period, often three days. Only after this option had been given to the local customers was the trader allowed to reload his cargo and travel onwards with the remaining unsold freight. Limited staple rights were sometimes given to towns along major trade-routes, e.g. Görlitz obtained staple rights for salt and woad.
The staple right can be compared to the market right (the right to hold a regular market) as being extremely important for the economic prosperity of the river cities that possessed the right, such as Leipzig, Mainz, or Cologne (where a Stapelhaus still stands as a reminder of the former right). At the same time it erected a strong barrier against long-distance trade due to the increased costs and the time required to unload and load ships – especially as a river might have multiple staple-right cities in a row. This especially affected the transport of perishable goods like foodstuffs, though traders could often pay a fee to avoid having to display their wares, thus turning the staple right into a form of trade taxation, with similar, but less severe results.
The staple right was probably introduced by Charlemagne (ruled 768-814); while the Congress of Vienna decided to abolish the staple right in 1815. This took effect on the river Rhine by means of the Mainzer Akte in 1831 and for the whole of Germany by means of the German Customs Union in 1834.
- Saxony - The Facts (publication of the Freistaat Sachsen State Chancellery, August 2006, Page 14. Accessed 2008-02-15.)
- History (official City of Wels website. Accessed 2008-02-15.)
- The Stapelhaus – a symbol of the trade metropolis and other monuments (from the official City of Cologne website. Accessed 2008-02.15.)