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the prestige conferred upon it by the presence of a city amid
its members, the Confederation could enter upon the task of
absorbing other important communities on its borders, for it
was destined, in time, to embrace all the little states which hid
amongst the Alps, and all the cities which clustered on their
sloping plains, as far east and north as the Rhine, as far west
as the Jura range, and as far south as the Italian lakes.

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NINETEEN years elapsed before the Confederation re-
ceived any new additions, but after this interval, as if
to make up for lost time, four members were admitted in
rapid succession.

Of these the first was Zurich, the free city, whose rise in the
East of Switzerland offers the student of municipalities one of
the most interesting subjects to which he can devote himself.

Zurich is unquestionably of greater antiquity than Luzern.
Traces of lake-dwelling settlements have been found in the
whole neighborhood, and during the Helveto-Roman period it
was known as Turicum, a small customs-station for the regula-
tion of trade Rowing from Gaul to Raetia and vice versa.
All traces of the place, however, are lost throughout that time
of savage gloom which settled upon the whole of what is now
German Switzerland after the invasion of the Alamanni, so
that when it reappears in the 9th century, it presents quite
another aspect.

Four separate settlements could be distinguished as occupy-
ing the ground whereon the modern city stands. An imperial
castle, or Pfalz^ stood on the eminence now called Lindenhof,
surrounded by dependents who were designated as fiscalini in
the legal phraseology of the day ; a minster, the present Gross-
miinster, with an Institute of Canons and a cloister school
attached, had attracted another group of dependents, named
ministeriales^ to the right bank of the river Limmat : and the
Abbey of Nuns, the Fraumiinster, founded by Ludwig the Ger-
man, in 853, had likewise drawn a group to the left bank.


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Finally a fourth settlement, a community of free Alamanni,
lived at the foot of the Zurichberg.

According to feudal regulations, these four settlements were
dififerently governed. The Pfalz was subject to an imperial
bailiflf, the two church foundations to a steward, and the free
Alamanni to the Count of the Zurichgau. Medieval Zurich
arose from the mingling of these four elements into one, a pro-
cess which was initiated by placing them all under one bailiflf,
representing the emperor, and turning the whole into an
administrative district known as the imperial bailiwick of
Zurich. As a result of this method of simplification the city
came into possession of the Reichsunmittelbarkeit^ assuming an
exceptional position in the Zurichgau, within whose boundaries
it was situated.

The office of imperial bailiflf became hereditary in the fami-
lies of Lenzburg and Zaeringen consecutively. Upon the
death of the last Duke of Zaeringen it reverted to the empire,
and Frederic II. decided that it should no longer be inherited
from father to son, but that, subject to his approval, it should
be awarded to a citizen from the ranks of aristocracy, chosen
by the citizens themselves. After obtaining this very impor-
tant privilege, Zurich sought to curtail the powers of the
Abbess of the Fraumunster, who still enjoyed many constitu-
tional rights in the city. She appointed a Schultheiss to try
minor cases, controlled the customs and market duties, and
regulated municipal coinage, weights and measures. Nor was
the result of such prerogatives by any means insignificant.

Zurich's position gave it special importance as a commer-
cial centre between Italy and Germany; its regular markets
attracted buyers and sellers; its sanctuaries worshippers; its
silk industry, introduced from Lombardy under the Hohen-
stauflfen emperors, brought artisans; and the frequent visits
of these same emperors added to its prestige. The chronicler
Otto von Freising called it " Turegum nobilissimum SuevitB
oppidum,'' and quoted an ancient inscription over one of the
city gates, *^Nobile Turegum^ miiltarum copia rerum**

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A great part of the revenue of this prosperous city flowed
into the coffers of the Abbess, who, at the same time, was
entitled to the designation of a princess of the realm. But
the remedy for this excessive power lay near at hand. It had
been the custom for successive Abbesses to summon a council
of advisors, chosen from the aristocracy of the city, to help
them in the management of their affairs. In Zurich, as in
other cities, the council soon became the agent of the citizens
in forwarding their interests and helping them in their aspira-
tions after self-government.

During the struggle between the empire and the papacy, this
council succeeded in curtailing and absorbing the rights of the
Abbess and the Schultheiss, and even in diminishing those of
the imperial bailiff, so that the Princess-Abbess sank into polit-
ical insignificance, and Zurich became in reality a free city of
the German Empire. In 1304, a compilation of laws, begun
under Rudolf of Habsburg, was brought to a close, and styled
"The Brief of Rights of the Burghers of Zurich." It proves
conclusively that the city, at that time, already enjoyed a posi-
tion of great independence, for the council appears as a
sovereign body with extraordinary powers, both legislative,
executive and judiciary.

Such was the origin and growth of Zurich, and such the
state of its affairs, internally and externally, when, toward the
beginning of the fourteenth century, a great revolutionary
storm, which had long been brewing, burst forth and shook the
city to its foundations.

It was this social and political revolution which indirectly
led to a definite alliance between Ziirich and the Forest States.

When Zurich has been described in these pages as a free
city of the German Empire, it must not be supposed that
the term/r^^, as applied to a city in the Middle Ages, meant
that all its inhabitants enjoyed equal political rights. Such
ideas were foreign to the medieval conception of the state, and
altogether at variance with the spirit of the age. It is true a
free city was exempt from the control of the count or bailiff.

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and empowered to regulate its private affairs, but that did not
imply that all its citizens possessed a voice in the government.

Generally speaking there were three great classes in every
city: I, the nobility; 2, the simple free burghers; and 3, the
working men, t. e. the artisans and common laborers. Only
the first two classes, known together as Old Burghers, had any
political rights, the third having no share in the government
whatsoever, for they were neither eligible to office themselves,
nor permitted to vote for others — a political condition admi-
rably expressed by the German term, '*ntckt regiments-fdkig'*
In fact something of that relation which existed between
the Patricians and Plebeians of Rome was repeated in
the medieval cities of the German Empire between the Old
Burghers and the oppressed working classes. But the time
came when commerce and manufacturing enterprises made
giant strides, owing chiefly to the intercourse with the
Byzantine Empire, which followed in the devastating track
of the Crusades, when, as a consequence, the demand for
artisans and laborers increased, and their importance to the
community was acknowledged. They became aware of the in-
justice inflicted upon them by the idle governing class ; they
saw that their political condition had not kept pace with their
general advance in the direction of wealth and influence.

At the time of the popular rising in Zurich, the form of gov-
ernment which obtained was oligarchical ; the supreme author-
ity being represented by a council composed of thirty-six Old
Burghers, divided into three groups of twelve, each of which
governed for a third of the year. As the people at large
were not eligible to office, nor permitted to vote, the govern-
ing class could award the places in the council to suit their
particular interests, and needed not to be over scrupulous
in the manner in which they secured the necessary votes.
In the end the council lost the confidence, not only of the
workingmen, but also of a part of the Old Burghers : it
was accused of recruiting its numbers from bad sources, and
of corrupt dealings in its administration, especially in regard

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to the revenues. There was a widespread feeling of discon-
tent and indignation, an outspoken desire for a cbaog^c
which would give all the inhabitants of the city a voice in
its government. What was needed was a leader, a man
who would know how to unite the disaffected amongst the
governing cla^ with the great mass of working men, clam*
oring for a reform on democratic lines. The popular party-
found the required leader in Rudolf Brun, himself a descendant
of one of the oldest families, and a member of the council.

Interesting as is this great historical personage, conspic-
uous, not only in the annals of Zurich and Switzerland,
but also in those of Europe in the fourteenth century, it
is surprising how little definite knowledge we have, either
of his early history, or of the reasons which led him to take
up the r6Ie of reformer. He was fifty years of age when
these stormy events in his native city brought him to the
front, but no definite information has reached us of his life
prior to this time, except a somewhat disgraceful escapade
which happened while he was a member of the Council.
It appears from the records, that he and a fellow Councillor,
Rudolf Biber, were condemned upon one occasion to pay a
heavy fine of 550 pounds, for having given offence to a lady
of the aristocracy, a Frau von Lunkhofen. What their
crime had been, will probably always remain a mystery,
whether it was actually of a scandalous nature, or simply an
outbreak of rudeness; but judging from the size of the fine,
the former supposition seems to be the correct one. Some
historians have argued that Brun was actuated by revenge
for this humiliation in espousing the cause of the working
men against the class to which he himself belonged; per-
haps this consideration exerted some influence upon his
choice of party, but, if personal motives were present, they
were more probably those common to all strong, command-
ing natures, such as Brun's proved itself to be: love of
power and the hope of fame.

Only the general features of the uprising can be gathered

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from Johannes Vitoduranus, or from Ebcrhard Miilncr, an aris-
tocratic partisan of Brun, who wrote the Annals of Zurich.
They say that the council was dismissed and banished from
the city, that Brun was chosen Biirgermeister, and that guilds
were instituted. It is easier to learn the extent of the
changes made in the government by examining the terms of
the new charter or constitution, the so-called "First Sworn
Brief," which was solemnly accepted by the united burghers
on the i6th of July, 1336. The document is full of interest
on account of the glimpses it affords of the inner life of a typ-
ical medieval city.

First comes the announcement of the overthrow of the old
council, the accusations brought against its members, and their
unfitness ever again to hold office. It was then agreed that
the whole population, " Knights, Nobles and Commons," rich
and poor, should swear to serve and obey the Burgermeister in
all things, even unto death, and that this oath should supersede
all others, without, however, violating the rights of the sover-
eign of the German Empire, and of the two church foundations
in the city. The Burgermeister, on his side, must swear to
protect all the citizens, according to the best of his ability with-
out distinction of rich or poor.

The new council was to be elected in a manner hitherto
unknown, the male population of the city being divided for
this purpose into two great electoral bodies. The classifica-
tion adopted was sufficiently singular to make an explanation
interesting. In the first class were the knights, the nobles,
and those burghers who lived on their incomes, or were in
business as merchants, woolen-drapers, money-changers, gold-
smiths, and dealers in salt. Together they formed an associa-
ation called "The Konstaffel," ^ and represented the aristocracy
of rank and wealth in the city. The working men were rele-
gated to the second class, and grouped into thirteen Guilds or
Fraternities. It is worth while to enumerate the various
ctafts, because they afforded an insight into social and indus-

^ A corroptkm of the Latin conus stabuli.

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trial conditions of the fourteenth century which one could not
otherwise obtain.

The first guild comprised the shop-keepers, and commercial
travelers. The second — cloth-cutters, tailors, and furriers.
The third — tavern-keepers, wine-vendors, tapsters, saddlers,
painters, and petty dealers, or brokers. The fourth — bakers
and millers. The fifth — wool-weavers, wool-beaters, makers
of grey cloth, and hatters. The sixth — linen-weavers, linen-
drapers, and bleachers. The seventh — smiths, sword-cutlers,
pewterers, bell founders, tin-smiths, armorers, barbers and
bathmen. The eighth — tanners, and dressers of parchment
and white leather. The ninth — butchers, and those who
buy cattle in the country and drive them to the shambles.
The tenth — shoemakers. The eleventh — carpenters, masons,
cartwrights, turners, timber-dealers, coopers, and vine-dressers.
The twelfth — fishermen, boatmen, cartmen, rope-makers and
porters. The thirteenth — gardeners, oil-men and peddlers.^

Besides the purely technical duties which naturally belonged
to these guilds, such as the regulation of the quality and quan-
tity of work to be done, and the supervision over the relations
between masterworkmen, journeymen and apprentices, this
"Brief" also conferred military and political duties upon them
They were organized into companies, each with a banner, and
were kept ready drilled and armed to defend the city at a
moment's notice. Twice a year the guilds proceeded to the
election of guildmasters {Zunftmeister), and the thirteen
guildmasters became ex-officio members of the council, thir-
teen others being chosen from the KonstafFel, so that the full
membership was twenty-six.

On extraordinary occasions the advice of a larger body of
citizens, a sort of popular assembly, could be consulted.

Of course such a document did not convert Zurich into a
democratic community, for the Biirgermeister stands forth in
the light of an irresponsible ruler, a dictator to whom all must
swear fealty. His" office is assured to him for life in return
for a vague promise of impartiality in the administration of bis

' Oechsli, W. Qaellenbuch. p. 75.

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office. Viewed from a modern standpoint, therefore, this
"First Sworn Brief" is almost monarchical in its conservatism.
At the same time its provisions seem to have been well suited
to the requirements of the age, for they remained in force, with
few alterations, until the spirit evoked by the French revolu-
tion wrought more than one change in Europe. Furthermore,
the guilds were as natural an expression of the aspirations of
the workingmen for fuller recognition, as are the trades unions
of to-day. They accomplished their purpose to a certain
extent, especially during the earlier stages of the movement.
It was only when the guilds began to tyrannize over society by
securing a monopoly of labor, that they grew corrupt, and were
generally done away with as dangerous nuisances.

No sooner, however, was the storm allayed in the city, than
a new danger presented itself from without. The deposed
party found a ready sympathizer in Count John of Rapper-
swil, in whose little city at the upper end of Lake Zurich they
gathered in such numbers as to make of it a second or outer
Zurich. Encounters between the rival parties became of
frequent occurrence, until Count John himself was slain in
an engagement at the stronghold of Grinau. Then Duke
Albrecht of Austria, a kinsman to the late Count, seconded
by the emperor, interposed and forced the combatants to come
to terms. But this enforced peace did not prove very lasting.

On the night of the 23d of February, 1350, an attack was
made upon Zurich under the leadership of the son of the slain
Count of Rapperswil. It was intended to be a surprise, but
Brun had been warned in time to take the necessary precau-
tions. At a preconcerted signal the loyal citizens and guilds
poured forth from their houses, encountered the conspirators,
and in the ensuing street fight made prisoners of the Count of
Rapj)erswil and the principal ring-leaders.

This episode is known as the Zurich ** Night of Massacre."
It was followed by acts of the greatest cruelty; eighteen of
the prisoners were tortured on the wheel, and seventeen
decapitated, their names all being enumerated by Eberhard

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Miilner in his account of the massacre. The little city of
Rapperswil was likewise forced into submission, the castle
destroyed, and many houses burned to the ground. Then
Brun placed himself at the head of an army, and devastated
the whole region at the upper end of the lake, called the
March, which was a fief of the house of Austria — an act cal-
culated to agg^vate the situation very perceptibly. For, as a
result, Zurich soon found itself surrounded by a ring of ene-
mies, consisting of the partisans of Austria from the whole
country round about.

In this crisis Brun resorted to an expedient which was des-
tined to be followed by far-reaching consequences in Swiss
history — he sought the alliance of Austria's hereditary foe,
the Forest States.

On the 1st of May, 135 1, Zurich concluded a perpetual
league with Luzern, Uri, Schwiz, and Unterwalden, thus enter-
ing the Confederation as the fifth member.

Heretofore the city had followed the dictates of self-
interest in matters of foreign policy with little regard for
appearances, casting its influence now on one side now on
the other in the strife between Austria and the Forest
States. Rudolf of Habsburg, while still a simple Count,
had given his support to the citizens in their little wars
with the surrounding nobles, but no sooner was he dead,
than we find them joining Uri and Schwiz in an alliance
against his descendants. Again, at the battle of Morgarten
a detachment from Zurich fought on the Austrian side,
some of these soldiers being reported as killed in that
famous engagement.

But hereafter Zurich stood pledged to make common
cause with the Forest States against Austria.

The contracting parties promised each other to render
assistance upon receipt of a warning call, as in the league
between Luzern and the three States. But in this docu-
ment a definite area was prescribed, within which such
assistance could be claimed. It was bounded on the south

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and west by the river Aar, from its source on the Grimsel
Pass to its mouth; on the north by the Rhine; on the
east by a line which followed the river Thur from its
mouth to its source, crossed over to the St. Gothard group,
and back again to the Grimsel. In this surprisingly wide
area were included all the roads and passes which were of
commercial importance to the Confederates.

The Abbey of Einsiedeln was selected as a convenient
place of meeting in case of consultations or of quarrels
between Zurich and the Forest States. Arbitration was to
be the method of adjusting disputes.

Two clauses in the league deserve especial notice :

The first stipulated that the contracting parties reserved
to themselves the right of entering into separate alliances,
if they saw fit to do so, although the present league was to
precede all others. The second, that the Four Forest States
must pledge themselves to help maintain the then existing
form of government in Zurich, if their assistance toward
this end should be requested. ^

The hand of Brun can be distinctly traced in the framing
of these two clauses. They were unmistakably to his per-
sonal advantage. For, if at any time an opportunity
presented itself of effecting a reconciliation with Austria,
he could manage to do so without violating the letter of
the league by virtue of the first clause. Or, again, if danger
arose from within the city, from any attempts to restore the
old system of government, Brun could array the whole
strength of the Four States against any such movement by
virtue of the second.

In passing judgment upon the general value and purport
of the above document, the fatal weakness of allowing the
parties to enter into separate alliances, becomes at once
apparent. It is difficult to understand how the Forest States
could have been persuaded to have such a permission
inserted, especially as this question had been so carefully

1 Oechsli, W. Quellenbuch. p. 86.

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settled in the Luzern League. Considered from the point
of view of statesmanship, the clause was a mistake, and was
certain to cause dissensions sooner or later amongst the
Confederates. That the league was not a perfectly impar-
tial instrument is further shown by the fact that, although
Zurich's present form of government was virtually guaranteed
by the Forest States, the reverse was by no means true,
i. e. Zurich was under no obligations whatever to uphold
the constitutions of the Forest States.

But, in treating of the constitutional enactments of the early
Swiss, one must remember that they did not draw up their
agreements in accordance with any regular theories of govern-
ment. They did not consciously base them upon the study
either of historical precedents or of philosophical systems ; on
the contrary their acts were experiments, and in their leagues
they embodied only those principles which experience had
demonstrated to be sound and feasible. Their statecraft was
crude, according to modem standards, their blunders costly.
But they were solving the perplexing problems of federalism,
as a system of government, without help or example. They
had yet to learn that their union must be complete and abso-
lute to be enduring. Nor could they foresee the greatness of
the structure they were erecting, or appreciate the importance
of making its foundations so exceptionally secure.

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WAR followed close upon Zurich's union with the Four
Forest States, a long-drawn, wearisome contest with
the Dukes of Austria, and at times even with the sovereign of
the German Empire. During this period Zurich was thrice
besieged, each time with indifferent success, three formal
declarations of peace were signed, and three new members
added to the Confederation, so that in the end the war was not
barren of results.

But the perusal of this desultory warfare, full of uninterest-
ing details, is by no means an agreeable task, nor the duty of
the writer an easy one to present the salient features in such
a manner as to leave a distinct impression upon the mind of
the reader.

Duke Albrecht, surnamed the Wise or the Lame, felt that
the recent behavior of Zurich toward his kinsman, the Count
of Rapperswil, who was still in prison, called for prompt meas-
ures. In punishing Zurich he hoped also to strike a blow at
the Forest States, thus settling an account of long standing,
which had accumulated since the humiliating defeat at Mor-
garten. Luzem's action in joining the victors only served to
intensify his feeling of bitterness, so that to him the approach-
ing conflict seemed a day of reckoning, which had already
been too long deferred.

But no sooner had he gathered an army around Zurich than
he was himself called away to Vienna by the death of his wife.
After a fruitless effort at reconciliation the besiegers dis-


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banded, and the Confederates turned the tables upon them
by taking the offensive against the partisans of Austria in all

It was on one of their flying expeditions, that the Confeder-
ates marched into the valley of Glarus, and won over the

Online LibraryWilliam Denison McCrackanThe rise of the Swiss republic: A history → online text (page 11 of 32)