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inhabitants to their cause against Austria, the mutual enemy.

As a matter of fact Glarus had of necessity been influenced
by the fortunes and misfortunes of the Forest States from the
very earliest times. Not only was it connected with Uri by the
Urner Boden, and with Schwiz by the Pragel Pass, but it had
also suffered with them from the same harsh and grasping pol-
icy on the part of the house of Habsburg-Austria. Especially
is there a truly extraordinary resemblance between the physical
features of Glarus and Uri, and their historical development.

On the map each appears as a long valley, walled in on
either hand with lofty mountain ranges; the length of these
two valleys is almost identical and they run in parallel lines
toward the north ; each is blocked at its southern extremity
by a great mountain group, Glarus by the Todi and Uri by the
St. Gothard ; and each opens out upon a lake at its northern
end, the former upon the Walensee, the latter upon the lake
of Luzern.

The similarity in their early history is simply astonishing.

Glarus, the name being probably a corruption of Hilarius,
the patron saint of the valley, was deeded at some unknown
date in the eighth or ninth centuries to the Abbey of Nuns at
Seckingen on the Rhine, probably by one of the German sov-
ereigns. It enjoyed the privilege of the immunity by virtue
of its position as ecclesiastical property. The steward of
Seckingen administered the higher justice, while a Mayor
adjudged lesser cases. There was the same diversity of polit-
ical conditions in Glarus as in Uri, of native nobles, simple free-
men, and serfs ; but all alike shared in the Almend and were
required to attend court, which was held under the oak at the
village of Glarus — in valle Clarona sub quercu^ as was written
on the sentences which were there delivered. In time the

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office of Mayor ceased to be awarded to strangers, and even
became hereditary in the native family of Tschudi.

But with the growth of the Habsburg power, a change came
over the condition of Glarus. While still a simple count,
Rudolf of Habsburg had inherited the office of Steward of
Seckingen, and during his reign as emperor had persuaded the
Abbess to award the office of Mayor to his sons. As a result
Glarus lost the advantages accruing from the immunity, and
practically became the personal property of the family of

That the inhabitants deeply resented these changes as injuri-
ous to their liberties, may be inferred from the fact that when
they were summoned to join the Austrian forces at Morgarten,
they absolutely refused to do so. They seized the opportunity
of putting on record a protest against their anomalous position,
declaring in no uncertain terms that they were the subjects of
the Abbess of Seckingen, not of Austria ; that she alone could
call them to arms, and that they had no part in Austria's

In order to offset the latter's power, Glarus entered into a
temporary alliance with Schwiz, in 1323, her sympathies for
the Forest States growing as Austria's enmity became more
pronounced. When, therefore, the Confederates burst into
the valley, in 1315, they found a population exasperated by
bad treatment, and ready to make common cause with them.

On the 4th of June, 1352, Glarus concluded a perpetual
league with Zurich, Uri, Schwiz, and Unterwalden, thus becom-
ing the sixth member of the Confederation. Luzern, for rea-
sons which are not clear, decided not to take part in this new

As for the document drawn up on this occasion, it makes
an unfortunate departure in the relations between the mem-
bers of the Confederation. Glarus was assigned a distinctly
inferior position and given no voice whatever in matters of
common interest. It was agreed, for instance, that if Glarus
was threatened by any danger, it should issue the customary

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summons, but the Confederates^ were not bound to render aid
if, upon examination they found that the grievance complained
of did not in their opinion justify armed interference. On the
other hand the new member was pledged to respond to every
official call for help from the other Confederates, without
investigation. To this manifest injustice was added the fur-
ther one that, whereas Zurich, Uri, Schwiz, and Unterwalden
were privileged to contract separate alliances without the
knowledge or consent of Glarus, the latter was strictly forbid-
to do the same thing. Special places were then selected where
disputes between the various contracting parties could be ami-
cably settled.^

There is no reason to suppose that the men who framed the
above contract had any perception of the danger which inhered
in so biased an organization. The five Confederated States
doubtless argued that a community which had been rescued
from Austrian tyranny by their exertions, ought to be content
to take up a subordinate position. They could not realize the
evil character of the precedent they had set, nor foresee the
misunderstandings which their example was destined to foster
amid the Confederates of the future.

A few days after the admission of Glarus, the victorious
army proceeded to take possession of a strip of land, also sub-
ject to Austria, which by reason of its position, was of the
utmost strategic value to both sides in the present war. This
was the little district of Zug, now the smallest of the Swiss
Cantons., Reference to the map will show that it enters like a
wedge between Zurich and the Forest States, and in the hands
of a hostile power would effectually separate their armies, mak-
ing joint operations extremely difficult. The Confederates
were fully alive to this danger when they entered Zug, nor
were they altogether indifferent to the fertility of the country,
for it is a land of soft contours, where views of green fields and
smiling orchards alternate with lake scenery of a peculiarly
lovely description — the home of peaceful charms and rustic

^ Oechsli, W. Quellenbuch. p. 92.

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What is now comprised by the Canton was at that time
divided into two parts — the city proper of Zug, which enjoyed
regular municipal privileges, and the surrounding country,
the so-called Outer District, comprising the communities of
Baar, Menzingen and Aegeri. Austria had absorbed the
entire government of these two parts. The townsmen did
not surrender until after a siege of fifteen days, while the
country people submitted willingly, being already heartily in
sympathy with the Confederates. According to Eberhard
Mulner, the townsmen had, in fact, sent messengers to Duke
Albrecht, entreating him to send help, but had received an
evasive answer.

On the 27th of June, 1352, the city and district of Zug con-
cluded a perpetual league with Zurich, Luzern, Uri, Schwiz,
and Unterwalden, thereby entering the Confederation as the
seventh member. The name of Glariis does not appear
amongst the contracting parties. The document itself was
copied almost word for word from the one signed at Zurich's
admission, and secured to Zug a position equal in all respects
to the other Confederates.^

It must not be supposed, however, that Duke Albrecht
allowed these victories to pass unnoticed. As soon as he
could return to the scene of operations, he straightway began
to make preparations for a grand assault upon Zurich and her
allies, securing the services of some great nobles, such as the
Margrave Ludwig of Brandenburg and Count Eberhard of
Wurttemburg. The latter was entrusted with the supreme
command, for Duke Albrecht himself appears to have been
incapacitated for the work of military leadership by bodily

Somehow this large army accomplished very little against
Zurich. The city was strongly fortified and ably defended,
and the siege languished unaccountably until finally the Count
of Wurttemburg discovered that a party in his camp had been
making secret overtures of peace. He therefore withdrew,
the attacking force gradually disbanded, and the Margrave ot

5 Oechsli, W. Quellenbuch. p. 95.

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Brandenburg was entrusted with the task of drawmg up arti-
cles of peace with the Confederates.

Contrary to what might have been expected the so-called
peace of Brandenburg proved to be a pronounced diplomatic
success for Austria. Both parties pledged themselves to
restore all territory gained in the course of the war, thus Gla-
rus and Zug once more became subject to the enemy, although
their leagues with the Confederates were not finally repealed.
Luzern also agreed to submit to the Austrian dominion, as it
had existed before the war. Even Schwiz and Unterwalden
guaranteed the inviolability of the proprietary rights of Habs-
burg within their borders. The Confederates were for the
future not to enter into alliance with Austrian subjects.
Count John of Rapperswil was finally released from prison,
and Zurich even paid a large sum for return of hostages,,
which the city had given Duke Albrecht in the course of the

Such conditions are set by victors to the vanquished, not
by equals to equals, as the combatants had proved themselves
to be. One is at a loss to account for the tone of these arti-
cles, which seem to take for granted that the Confederates had
been defeated.

Perhaps Brun's ambition was at fault. His desire for a
reconciliation with Austria was at times thrust into the back-
ground by the exigencies of Zurich's position, but it was never
wholly abandoned, for he was always willing to sacrifice the
interests of his Confederate allies, if he could but make sure
of Austria's friendship.

A peaceful moment followed the conclusion of this treaty,
a lull in the hostilities, during which the Confederation, as
though to make up for the diplomatic defeat just sustained,
was strengthened by the addition of a new member — Bern.
The city, which is to-day the capital of Switzerland, and was
already then a military stronghold of recognized importance
on the confines of ancient Burgundy and Alamannia, came as
a welcome friend in time of need. Nor was Bern's admission

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in any sense a violation of that article of the peace of Branden-
burg which forbade the Confederation to contract alliances
with the subjects of Austria, since Bern was a free city of the
empire in no way subject to that power.

Before considering the immediate results of this act, it will
be necessary to review Bern's growth from an obscure fort-
ress into a prosperous city, keeping in mind that the struggle
between the Confederates and Austria was by no means at an
end, a struggle which has been justly described at the opening
of the chapter as long drawn and wearisome.

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WHILE Zurich was fast becoming the controlling power
in the Elast of the region now known as Switzerland,
Bern was beginning to occupy a similar position in the West.

But it is interesting to notice how the different causes which
gave rise to the two cities, also left a peculiar impression upon
the character of their inhabitants, and seemed from the first
to give them different missions to fulfill. Zurich grew to
importance as a centre of trade, and its population was
engaged for the most part in the peaceful pursuits of manu-
facturing and commerce, but Bern was. founded by Berchtold
v., Duke of Zaeringen, to be a military stronghold and bul-
wark against aggressive neighbors, so that the Bernese were
by nature more inclined to war, always displaying the greatest
confidence in their own martial powers. This characteristic
trait serves to explain more than one peculiarity in the general
history of the city.

Bern came into possession of the Reichsuntnittelbarkeit at
the extinction of the family of Zaeringen, probably because the
soil on which it stood belonged to the empire. The earliest
charter which has reached us, the basis of Bern's municipal
government, is the Goldene Handveste^ so-called because of the
seal of beaten gold which is attached to it. When the citizens
laid this document before Rudolf of Habsburg, in 1274, for his
confirmation, they claimed that it had been granted to them by
Frederic II., in 12 18. Historians now generally doubt the
accuracy of this statement, and are inclined to think that the
Handveste simply represented a body of law which had accu*


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BERN. 156

mulated since Frederic's time. However that may be, Rudolf
undoubtedly gave his sanction to its various provisions.

In many respects it presents an excellent picture of a pecul-
iar kind of municipal government in the Middle Ages.

In the first place the imperial immunity is assured to the
city as well as exemption from all imperial taxation except an
annual homestead tax. The citizens are allowed a mint and
market of their own, and the privilege of electing all their
municipal officers, from the Schultheiss to the SherifiF. By
an exceptional arrangement the Schultheiss had exercised for
many years all the powers which naturally belonged to the
imperial bailiff, although officials with the later title appeared
in Bern until the beginning of the fourteenth century, so that
this privilege of election in reality meant a great deal to the
citizens. Furthermore, they were not to be required to render
military assistance at any place so far removed that they could
not return to their homes the following night. Suitable quar-
ters must be provided for the sovereign's suite, whenever he
visited the city. Subsequent articles deal with the right of
holding real estate, with the acquirement of citizenship {BUr-
gerrecht\ and the administration of justice. Minute regula-
tions follow relating to criminal law, especially to the settling
of wrongs by duel. Every male who had completed his four-
teenth year could exercise the rights of a citizen, and was at
that age required to swear fealty to the city and the empire.^

In 1295, Bern's municipal government was altered by the
introduction of certain popular reforms. In addition to the
Schultheiss and council of twelve, a sort of board of control
of sixteen was to be chosen from the four wards of the city.
This body was in turn empowered to elect a common council
of two hundred. Artisans, hitherto unrepresented, were eli-
gible to the board of control and common council, but guilds,
as they existed in Zurich, were strictly forbidden. In spite of
these reforms, the government remained essentially aristo-
cratic and military, while the tendency of Zurich was mani-
festly democratic and industrial.

^ Oechsli, W. Qnellenbuch. p. 27.

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Bern was now fully equipped for carrying out some definite
policy in the fertile Aar valley in which it was situated, and
this policy was one of conquest and aggression, as might be
expected. It was the aim of the city to unite the towns and
communities of the valley into one Commonwealth, to create
a little republic.

History shows that this plan was successful in the end, but
not until many years had passed and much blood had flowed,
for here, as elsewhere in Switzerland, the efforts of the people
to unite in leagues was opposed by the great common enemy,
Habsburg-Austria. Indeed the history of the Aar valley for
the next hundred years and more is the history of the struggle
between the partisans of Bern and Austria for the mastery.
It was a struggle, in which the rising city, in spite of occa-
sional reverses, gained steadily against the feudal nobles, and
in so far aided the cause of the people against their oppressors.

Bern's foreign policy had, up to this time, vacillated
between adherence to Savoy and Habsburg ; hereafter, it was
to be marked by a vigorous independence.

In 1243, a perpetual league had been concluded with Fri-
bourg, and on different occasions since then temporary alli-
ances had been formed with Luzern, with the bishop of Sion,
the valley of Hasle, and the city of Solothum. But in 1298,
Fribourg, having become a confirmed partisan of Austria,
renounced its friendship with Bern, and made an attack upon
the city with the help of certain noblemen. The Bernese
anticipating the assault, marched forth from their walls, drove
the enemy from the position they had taken on the so-called
Dombiihl, and inflicted a severe defeat upon them further
on at Oberwangen. Following up this victory, the citizens
destroyed many of the neighboring castles, renewed alliances
under advantageous terms with old friends, or formed treaties
with new ones.

In 1308, followed a perpetual league with the city of Solo-
thurn, at that time enjoying the position of a free city of the

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BERN. 167

Solothurn, was the ancient Helveto-Roman Salodurum,
risen from the ruins into which it had fallen at the time of
the invasion of the Alamanni. As the seat of an institute of
Canons, dedicated to St. Ursus, a martyr of the Theban legion,
the place won considerable renown in the tenth century. It
possessed the Rcichsunmittelbarkeity and the citizens seem to
have acquired the right of electing their Schultheiss and coun-
cil, but by steps which are not yet clearly understood.

In the meantime, Austria was carrying out a plan of
aggrandizement in another quarter. By one means or another
that power obtained control of the line of communication
between Bern and the Forest States by way of Thun, Unter-
seen, and the Briinig Pass.

A branch of the family of Kiburg had its seat at Thun, but
was now fast sinking under financial difficulties into utter help-
lessness. Hartmann, the elder brother, sided with Austria,
while Eberhard, the younger, looked to Bern to give him the
leadership in the family. On' the night of All Saints, 1322,
the two brothers quarrelled while discussing their affairs in
the Castle of Thun, Hew to arms, and Hartmann was killed in
the resulting scuffle.

This was the signal for the rival supporters of Kiburg, Bern
and Austria, to strain every nerve in order to gain control
over the remaining brother. A period of the utmost confu-
sion ensued. In 1323, Bern sought the alliance of the Forest
States, an important event in Swiss history, although its last-
ing consequences were not immediately apparent. In 1332, a
regular war broke out for the possession of Giimminen, a
stronghold of strategic value to the rival powers.

Bern was feeling the exaltation of success, and strode from
one conquest to another. The eyes of her martial citizens
were now turned upon the Oberland, that district of unmatched
grandeur to which modem tourists now flock by thousands
every year.

In the first part of the fourteenth century, the Oberland was
subject to a variety of masters. The Lords of Weissenburg

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ruled over the Simmenthal and the valley of the Hasle ; the
Counts of Gruyires possessed the upper valley of the Saane,
(Sarine) ; in the valley of the Kander at Frutigen were the
nobles, Thurn von Gestelen, natives of the Valais; and at
Spiez, the decaying house of Strattlingen. These families
were closely united by intermarriage, and acted in conjunction
for the interests of Austria. After repeated quarrels with the
Lords of Weissenburg, the Bernese finally, in 1334, attacked
Wimmis, took it by storm, and destroyed the wall (Letzi)^
which blocked the entrance to the valley. The nobles of
Weissenburg were forced to conclude a treaty with Bern and
to become citizens of the city, as well as to give up their
rights over the valley of Hasle. This peasant community had
for centuries possessed the Reichsunmittelbarkeit\ an Amm-
ann, elected by the people themselves, or chosen from their
midst by the Sovereign, had exercised complete jurisdiction.
In fact, the valley of the Hasle was a potential Forest State,
and would doubtless have developed into an independent mem-
ber of the Swiss Confederation, had not Henry VH. granted
it as a forfeit to the Lords of Weissenburg, in 13 10. Nor was
the position of the community sensibly improved^ when, in
1334, the possessions of those nobles passed into the g^asp of

But these events were watched with growing anxiety by the
partisans of Austria. Little by little, the surrounding nobles
formed themselves into a coalition inspired by one thought,
and impelled by one purpose, to overthrow the rising commun-
ity of Burghers in Bern, who were threatening to absorb the
whole region between the lakes of Geneva, Morat, and Thun.
In this task they found Fribourg a willing tool, or rather a
determined leader, for this city was devoured by a jealousy
which grew in proportion as Bern gained new territory
and overshadowed her sister city on the Sarine. A new
element in the strife was added when the Emperor Ludwig,
whose election Bern and Solothurn obstinately refused to
acknowledge, on account of their attachment to the papal

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BERN. 159

cause, gave his sanction to the efforts of the nobles to crush
the disobedient city. This new complexion of affairs gave the
coalition the moral support which it had lacked up to that
time. Bern found herself almost deserted. The city could
only count upon comparatively small contingents from the
Oberland and from the Forest States, the latter being pledged
to support by virtue of the alliance of 1323. Solothurn, threat-
ened as it was by the same coalition, could only send a handful
of men.

Operations began with an incursion into Bernese territory
made by Count Gerhard of Valengin. Then the citizens sent
a garrison of 600 men to hold Laupen, which was, in point of
fact, the key to their defence. The garrison was to defend
that stronghold until Bern could collect its allies and march to
the rescue, a feat of endurance which was safely accomplished
in the face of a besieging army, estimated at i6,ocx> infantry
and 1,000 horsemen.

On the 2 1st of June, 1339, the Bernese and their allies,
numbering, at the utmost, 6,000 men, hastened to the relief of
Laupen. A parish priest, Theobald Baselwind, accompanied
them, carrying the host and proclaiming the war as waged in
behalf of the Pope against Emperor Ludwig, his adversary.
They also wore white crosses as symbols of their holy cause.
After traversing a forest they came out upon the height of the
Bramberg, and saw the enemy in the plain below, occupying a
position between them and Laupen.

The battle began in the afternoon with a heavy attack of
infantry, led by the men of Fribourg, upon their hated rivals
of the city of Bern. The latter seem to have yielded to the
onslaught at first, but quickly recovering, they turned and
repulsed the enemy, eventually putting the whole infantry to
flight. In the meantime, the contingents from the Forest
States had been waging an unequal contest with the hostile
horsemen. With the help of the victorious Bernese, however,
they succeeded in routing also the horsemen. Thus the day
was won. The garrison of Laupen, waiting anxiously to learn

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the result of the battle, was liberated with joy. The Forest
States, on their part, received compensation for the share they
had taken in the battle.

In the camp of the nobles there was great lamentation.
Knights had come from Swabia, Elsass, the Aargau, and Bur-
gundy; their loss was very great. There perished Count
Louis of Vaud, the Count of Nidau, of Valengin, and John of
Maggenberg, Schultheiss of Fribourg.

Historical criticism has been much busied with regard to the
leadership of the Bernese troops at Laupen. There is still a
question whether this honor must be ascribed to Rudolf
von Erlach, or to the ruling Schultheiss, John von Buben-
berg. The name of the leader is not mentioned in the old-
est account of the battle, the so-called Conflictus Laupensis^
written by an unknown contemporary citizen of Bern in the
middle of the fourteenth century; nor in the Cronica de
BemOy contained in the annals of the minster of St. Vin-
cent. Justinger is the first to cite Erlach as the com-
mander-in-chief, but his account is marred by certain well-
established inaccuracies.

A particular importance attaches to this battle of Laupen
from the fact that it gave an opportunity for the Bernese
to co-operate with their friends of the Forest States against
Austria. It was the first occasion on which the East and

Online LibraryWilliam Denison McCrackanThe rise of the Swiss republic: A history → online text (page 12 of 32)