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 were traders allowed to reload their cargo and travel onwards with the remaining unsold freight.
Staple rights can be compared to the market rights, the right to hold a regular market, as they were extremely important for the economic prosperity of the river cities that possessed such rights, such as Leipzig (1507), Mainz and Cologne (where a Stapelhaus still stands as a reminder of the former right). At the same time, they created 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 cities in a row with staple rights.
The merchants often also did not have the option to avoid the respective cities, at least for certain goods, as they were forced by law to take the route of a prescribed tollway (such as the Via Regia or the Via Imperii) which was controlled by the city with staple right. That affected the transport especially 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 hand, users of the road and visitors to cities with staple rights also gained several advantages, such as roads of better quality or the right of peaceful passage guaranteed by the local king. Those advantages were not common outside the tollways, as medieval local governments were usually weak, and street robberies were frequent.
Staple rights were probably introduced by Charlemagne (ruled 768-814). It was only in 1815, at the Congress of Vienna, that they were abolished. That took effect on the Rhine by the Mainzer Akte in 1831 and in 1839 for the whole of Germany, by the German Customs Union.
- 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.)