The staple right, also translated stacking right or storage right, both from the Dutch stapelrecht, was a medieval right accorded to certain ports, the staple ports. It required merchant barges or ships to unload their goods at the port and to display them for sale for a certain period, often three days. Only after that option had been given to 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 like Görlitz, which obtained staple rights for salt and woad, and Lviv gained them in 1444.
A related system existed in medieval and Tudor England, covering the sale and export of wool and leather and known as the Staple.
The staple right can be compared to the market rights, 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 (1507), Mainz and 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 because of 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. The merchants often also did not have the option to avoid the respective cities as (at least for certain goods) they were forced by law to take the route of a prescribed toll way (such as the Via Regia or the Via Imperii) which was controlled by the staple-right-city. That affected especially the transport of perishable goods like foodstuffs, but 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. On the other hands, the users of the road and visitors to staple-right-cities also gained several advantages, such as a better road quality or the right of peaceful passage guaranteed by the local king etc. These advantages were not common outside the toll ways as at medieval times the local government was usually weak and street robbery was frequent.
The staple right was probably introduced by Charlemagne (ruled 768-814). It was only in 1815, at the Congress of Vienna, that it was abolished. That took effect on the Rhine, by the Mainzer Akte in 1831, and for the whole of Germany, by the German Customs Union in 1834.
- Saxony - The Facts (publication of the Freistaat Sachsen State Chancellery, August 2006, p. 14. Accessed 2008-02-15.)
- History Archived 2008-01-12 at the Wayback Machine (official City of Wels website. Accessed 2008-02-15.)
- History (official state of Saxony website. Accessed 2017-08-21)
- The Stapelhaus – a symbol of the trade metropolis and other monuments (from the official City of Cologne website. Accessed 2008-02.15.)