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widely from one another, united by such slender political
bonds, and sometimes geographically separated, could hold
together at all. Similar leagues cropped up in various parts
of the German Empire, flourished for a while, and then van-
ished into oblivion. Why was it that the Swiss alone sur-
vived ? Probably no one reason, taken by itself, will answer
this question satisfactorily.

Great stress, however, may be laid upon two points of vital
importance. One is that the members of the Swiss Confeder-
ation were really driven into union by the conduct of their
common foe, Austria, and another is that, whatever may have
been their relations to each other, they were all leagued to the
three Forest States as a connecting link. Mr. Vincent has
illustrated this singular relationship in his pamphlet entitled
"A Study in Swiss History", by comparing it to a "tele-
phone service in which the three original cantons acted as the
central exchange. When the later states wished the help of
the League they called on the forest cantons, and the latter
summoned the rest. There were some cross-connections, but
in general the touch was direct." ^ It must also be reckoned
as aa element of strength that the leagues were concluded in
perpetuity, although it is also true that this principle had to
be sacrificed in the case of Glarus and Zug. A careful exam-
ination of the documents drawn up when the various states
joined the Confederation, will reveal that they agree in cer-
tain essential particulars — all have a clause which gives them
priority over leagues concluded with outside powers; they

1 Page 6.

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establish the duty of mutual help in time of danger, and
enforce the principle of arbitration in case of disputes. In a
measure, therefore, the stability of the Confederation was
better provided for than would appear from a first glance at
the documents.

But the contracting parties were wise not to rest content
with these safeguards, however important they might be ; an
effort was made to formulate more definite and substantial
guarantees for their union. The first step taken toward this
end was the signing of the Priest's Charter. Its more import-
ant provisions are as follows :

I. All vassals of Austria, whether clergy or laity, nobles or
commoners, who desire to take up their abode upon territory
belonging to the Confederation, shall swear fealty to the Con-
federates. 2. Especially shall no foreign ecclesiastic, dwell-
ing in the Confederation, summon others before foreign
tribunals, but shall appear before those of the particular place
where he is domiciled, except in cases where matrimonial or
ecclesiastical interests are involved. 3. A priest who disobeys
these injunctions shall be outlawed. ... 9. The contract-
ing parties guarantee the safety of all roads from the Stiebende
Briicke on the St. Gothard route (a bridge which used to hang
from chains at the spot where the tunnel Umerloch has since
been made) as far as Ziirich.^

The keynote of the document, that, in fact, which has given
a name to the whole, is contained in the provision regarding
the clergy. It is expressly and unmistakably declared that no
ultramontane policy will be tolerated, the clergy are told in
plain words to mind their own business — an attitude which
the Swiss people as a whole, have always maintained. Two
innovations are likewise noticeable in the Priest's Charter —
the name Eidgenossensckafi, or Confederation, here makes its
first ofi&cial appearance. The principle that a majority of the
contracting parties would suffice to amend the Charter is also
new, the unanimous consent of all no longer being necessary,
as agreed in former leagues.

1 Oechsli, W. Quellenbuch. p. 99.

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Another advance toward closer union was made in the Cov-
enant of Sempach (Sempacherbrief), to which all the eight
States, without exception, as well as Solothum, set their seals.
''Whereas they had fought and won against Austria," said the
document, "they now desired to make provision for future
attacks." i. It was agreed that no Confederate should break
into the house of another with intent to plunder either in war or
peace. 2. The safety of merchants in person and goods was
guaranteed. 3. Those who should take part in future military
expeditions were to stand by one another, whatever might hap-
pen, like true men, as also their forefathers did. 4. Should
anyone desert in war, or break any of the rules of this Cove-
nant, and his guilt be attested by at least two honorable men,
he should be promptly punished in his person and goods,
according to the laws of the state to which he belonged. 5.
The wounded were to stay by their comrades until all danger
was past, nor be considered deserters if unable to help. 6.
Since many of the enemy escaped at Sempach who would have
remained upon the field, had the Confederates set off in pursuit,
and not stopped to plunder, it was unanimously agreed that,
in future, no man be allowed to pillage until, the fight being at
an end, the captains should give permission to do so, and that
afterward the spoils should be distributed to every man an
equal share. 7. "And since Almighty God said that His
houses were houses of prayer," all monasteries, churches, and
chapels should be inviolate, unless the enemy took shelter in
them. 8. Women should not be attacked unless they warned
the enemy by an outcry or fought themselves, in which case
they could be punished as they deserved. 9. Finally the con-
tracting parties were of unanimous opinion that none of them
hereafter should provoke war wantonly, without due cause, or
without warning, as provided for in the various leagues.^

In contrast with the prevalent practices of warfare in the
middle ages these provisions must be looked upon as eminent-
ly humane. Dandliker, in fact, calls the Covenant of Sempach

iQechsli, W. Quellenbuch. p. no.

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«^The first attempt, made by any people, to restrain somewhat
the fury of war, to regulate military disciples and leadership
by an intelligent, humane law." ^ Elsewhere he adds : «' The
Confederation, which in the nineteenth century founded the
Geneva Convention, for the protection of the wounded, had
already, in the fourteenth century, for the first time in the his-
tory of the world, tempered the barbarity of war." *

Of regular Diets (Tagsatzungen), as they existed later in the
Confederation, it would be premature to speak at this time.
If delegates from some of the States met occasionally to dis-
cuss matters of common interest, the occurrence was so rare
and accidental as to have but little influence as yet on the
maintainance of the union.

The ancient Confederation of Eight States, therefore, pre-
sented the strange spectacle of a group of sovereign communi-
ties, each enjoying the utmost liberty of action imaginable,
bound together by no central authority, either executive, legis-
lative or judiciary, and yet united by perpetual leagues which
proved sufficiently strong to secure immunity from without
and peace within. Truly a unique type of federalism, at once
elastic and stable, capable of great expansion, without over-
straining the bonds by which it was held together.

As for the social aspect of this fourteenth century, its sign
and token was the steady decline in the power of the nobility,
with a corresponding improvement in the position of the com-
mon people. Such a turning of tables was, of course, no
matter of chance, but rather the direct result of forces work-
ing quietly within the social fabric. The growth of commerce
and manufacturing in the cities, to dimensions unheard of in
the preceding century, had the effect of raising the merchant
and artisan at the expense of the nobility, both as regards
wealth, political influence and social prestige. At the same
time, it must not be overlooked that many noblemen became
citizens, and in their new positions continued to wield enor-

1 GescMchte der Schweiz. Vol. I, p. 560.
* Ibid. p. 594.

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mous power over the destinies of their adopted states. To
add to the changed conditions of the century, money now came
into general use as a medium of exchange in place of articles
in kind A great part of the land, which had at one time
been owned almost exclusively by the nobility fell into the
hands of rich commoners, for the former, in order to procure
money, were constrained to sell their lands or to raise mort-
gages upon them, and in either case to see their possessions
pass away to persons of a lower grade in the social scale. It
cannot be said that any great benefits resulted from this
change of land ownership, or that the new class of landlords
were less exacting in their demands upon the tenants than the
old. As a matter of fact, it is doubtful whether the land was
more evenly distributed after this movement than before, while
the institution of serfdom made it practically immaterial to the
tenants, whether or no great city commoners were substituted
for country noblemen. Another prerogative of the nobility
was swept away when the principle reasserted itself that all
men could bear arms. This had been the rule amongst the
ancknt Grcrmans, but the feudal system had excluded the
serfs, and made it the special privilege of freemen only.

In one sense, the noblest portion of Swiss history virtually
ended with the battle of Nafels. For, although the succeed-
ing period saw the Confederation reach the very height of
military glory, still the motives for action were never again so
pure, so genuine, as in these early days. A new stage of
development had been reached. Abandoning the attitude of
mere self-defence which had characterized their general policy
so far, the Confederates entered upon an era of conquest. It
seemed as though they had outgrown their sturdy childhood,
and, pressing forward, felt within them the desire of manhood
to display their strength, for, one by one, the communities upon
their borders fell within the orbit of their attraction — some
to be conquered outright, while others, of their own free will,
drew near to enjoy the fellowship of common democratic

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THE beginning of the fifteenth century marks an era of
g^eat territorial expansion in the history of the Con-
federation. There was evidently something contagious in the
very success of the Swiss. Their steadfast resistance to
feudal rule, their wonderful powers of organization and con-
tinued victories upon the battle-field, all this excited the
admiration and envy of the less-favored peasantry in neigh-
boring lands. Independent communities and miniature
leagues sprang into existence on every hand. In time they
naturally gravitated toward the Swiss Confederation as a
common centre, and, at the proper moment, sought admission
within its ranks.

As a rule, this final consummation was brought about after
the new community had first obtained citizenship in one of
the States. Thus the mountaineers of Appenzell were
admitted to the rights of citizenship in Schwiz, those of Grau-
biinden in Glarus, and those of Valais in Uri, Unterwalden,
and Luzern, before they became full-fledged members of the
Confederation as a whole.

In the north-eastern comer of Switzerland, near the lake
of Constance, rises a highland region, culminating in the
mountain group of the Sentis. It comprises the modem
Cantons of Appenzell and St. Gallen — a little world apart,
with peculiar local traits and an historical development of its

No definite information has come down to us of its con-
dition prior to the founding of the monastery of St. Gallen, but


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after that date the history of the monastery becomes practically
identified with that of the whole district. Powerful Abbots
exercised jurisdiction in all minor matters, by virtue of their
position as land-owners, while the supreme authority still
reposed in the hands of an imperial bailiff ; in other words, the
district enjoyed the privilege of the immunity. At the
end of the thirteenth and beginning of the fourteenth century
a change gradually manifested itself ; a period of discontent set
in. Two centres of opposition sprang into existence within
the vast estates of the monastery, ominous and threatening to
the rule of the Abbots ; first the city of St. Gallen, which had
grown from small beginnings around the hermit cell of Gallus,
and then the outlying country district of Appenzell, its name
doubtless a corruption of Abtes ZelUj Abbot's Cell.

The city of St. Gallen had originally been governed by
officials of the monastery, as an ecclesiastical piece of property.
During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, however, the
city developed by degrees into a free city of the empire, elect-
ing its own magistrates and subject only to the imperial bailiff.
Its inhabitants grew rich through the perfection of their linen
weaving, guilds were instituted with representation in the
council, somewhat after the pattern of Zurich, and finally, as
a sign of complete emancipation, the citizens initiated an inde-
pendent foreign policy, by joining the league of Swabian cities.

Appenzeirs progress toward freedom began somewhat later.
It is tfue that the hardy mountaineers of that district more
than once found themselves obliged to resist oppressive meas-
ures instituted by various Abbots, but their main prerogative,
the imperial immunity, was not seriously threatened until
1345. In that year the ruling Abbot gained the office of
imperial bailiff over their principal villages, which prerogative,
added to those he already possessed, made him absolute
master of the situation. For awhile the country people sub-
mitted to this new state of things, waiting for a convenient
time to win back their former liberties. In 1377, five villages,
Appenzell, Hundwil, Teufen, Urnasch and Gais, uniting under

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the name of the first, joined the league of Swabian cities, and
a year later created a council {Landraih) of thirteen members,
to be elected by the people themselves. It was probably about
this same time also that the institution of a Lancfsgemeinde^
with the presiding Ammann^ made its first appearance in

In all their aspirations after freedom, and in the means
which they took toward that end, these people were influ-
enced by the conduct of their neighbors, the Swiss Confeder-
ates. Every success of the latter sent an answering thrill of
hope throughout the little land of Appenzell. Sempach and
Nafels inspired them with new hope, revealed to them what
extraordinary results could be accomplished by united action
against tremendous odds, and showed them the road which
would lead them eventually to full and perfect independence.
Heretofore Appenzell and St. Gallen had acted apart, being
united only through their comtnon membership in a league of
cities on the lake of Constance, which had survived the down-
fall of the Swabian league, but, in 1401, during the rule of an
unusually tyrannical Abbot, Kuno von Stoffeln, they came
together in an alliance which was to last for seven years.
Both parties were reinforced by other communities of the
neighborhood, all alike threatened by the Abbot, so that the
movement was distinctly formidable, and could not be over-
looked. A few months later the allies proceeded to acts of
open hostility. They attacked the possessions of the monas-
tery, and destroyed the hated stronghold of Clanx, which
commanded the village of Appenzell. Before they could
advance to other deeds of violence, however, Kuno checked
their proceedings by a clever manoeuvre. He brought the
whole matter before the league of imperial cities to which
Appenzell and St. Gallen belonged, and secured a favorable
verdict, for delegates assembled at Constance affirmed that
their alliance violated the rights of the Abbot, and must, there-
fore, be annulled.

It is instructive to notice how differently the two sides

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received this sentence. Rich St. Gallen, whose strength lay
in commerce and manufactures, yielded timidly, throwing over
a tried friend for fear of the Abbot and the imperial cities ; but
Appenzell, the land of poor peasants, stood undaunted and dis-
dainfully ignored what they considered an unwarranted inter-
ference from outsiders.

Then it was that the men of Appenzell, abandoned alike by
the city which ought to have been their natural ally, as well as
by the more distant cities, which circumstances bad tempora-
rily joined to them, turned as a last refuge to a member of the
Swiss Confederation. In 1403, they made common cause with
the state of Schwiz, were admitted to the protection of its
laws {Landrecht)^ and received as their chief magistrate an
Ammann from that community. It is, of course, to be regret-
ted that Appenzell was not able to secure help on better terms,
for, in reality, Schwiz immediately assumed the powers of a
ruler, as being the stronger of the two. Great scandal also
arose in the Confederation at this separate alliance; Zurich
expostulated, jealous of any gains which Schwiz might make
in territorial possessions, but the allies clung faithfully to one

Thus strengthened in their resolve, the mountaineers of
Appenzell ventured to take up arms. They proceeded to com-
mit a series of depredations and incursions into the Abbot's
estates, so that, in 1403, the latter was forced to collect his sub-
jects, and to call upon the imperial German cities for, troops.
As soon as reinforcements had arrived, he set out from St. Gal-
len, to invade the rebellious country, accompanied by a detach-
ment from the city itself. His way lay through the villages of
Speicher and Trogen, over a hill known as Vogelinsegg, now
much prized on account of the extensive view which may be
enjoyed from its summit. The men of Appenzell seem to
have been fully informed of the projected route. Just at the
foot of the hill, therefore, behind a Letzi (redoubt), they
posted a part of their forces, the rest, comprising reinforce-
ments from Schwiz, they drew off to one side, in order to

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attack the enemy simultaneously on the front and flank. It
is impossible to speak with any certainty of the numbers
engaged on the two sides ; they could not have been great,
probably a few hundred defenders and a few thousand inva-
ders. Everything went off as the men of Appenzell had
expected. The Abbot's troops advanced, without taking the
slightest precautions, into the path enclosed by high banks
which led over the hill, and so fell easily into the trap set for
them. Unable to deploy their strength on account of the
nature of the ground, they were thrown into the utmost con-
fusion, and driven back upon St. Gallen with a loss of more
than two hundred men.

With right has this battle of Vogelinsegg been called the
Morgarten of Appenzell, the baptismal day of a new democ-
racy with a special r61e to play. A thirst for conquest, a fiery
zeal for the liberation of the less fortunate who were still in
bondage, seemed to seize the men of Appenzell. " Now, for
the first time," says the so-called Klingenberg Chronicle,
"they became really brave and bold," ^ destroying the castles
of the nobility, setting free their subjects, and proclaiming the
good news of liberty.

A cry of alarm went up from those whose interests were
threatened by this overwhelming democratic wave. Measures
were devised for checking its career. There was a general
rearrangement of allies for the coming struggle. The league of
imperial cities withdrew their support from the Abbot; St.
Gallen was reconciled to Appenzell. But the whole movement
received a new aspect when Kuno, ever watchful for his inter-
ests, conceived the idea of calling upon Austria for support in
his pretensions, hoping that, if that power became involved in
the struggle, the Confederates and thus Schwiz, also, would be
debarred from helping Appenzell on account of the twenty-years'
peace between the Swiss and the Dukes of Austria, which
would not expire until 1415. His request found favor with
the reigning Duke, Frederic IV., son of the Leopold who was

^Odchsli, W. Qntllenbuch. p. 115.

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slain at Sempach, but he was mistaken if he thought that
Schwiz would abandon Appenzell, for, as a matter of fact, in
spite of the twenty-years' peace, and the remonstrances of the
other Confederates, that State continued as heretofore to sup-
port the rebellious mountaineers. Furthermore, if the Abbot
won a new ally, so did the men of Appenzell.

There was a certain Count Rudolf von Werdenberg-Heili-
genberg, a relative of that Count of Werdenberg-Sargans who
had conducted himself in such a cowardly manner at Nafels.
This nobleman had sunk to a condition of beggary, partly
through financial embarrassments which were the result of his
own extravagance, and partly through the deliberate persecu-
tions of the Dukes of Austria. In his despair, it was only
natural that he should forget how much he had himself contri-
buted toward his misfortunes, and should cast the whole
blame upon his relentless enemy. In 1404, having lost even
his ancestral castle, Count Rudolf determined upon a most
unusual expedient; he offered his service as an experienced
warrior to the peasants of Appenzell, if they, in their turn,
would promise to help him regain his possessions.

We must not look upon this act as though it had been
inspired by a lofty enthusiasm for the cause of liberty, since
it was, in truth, a mere business compact entered into with the
hope of realizing substantial advantage. Nor do the men of
Appenzell seem to have lost sight of this fact, for, according to
the Klingenberg Chronicle, "they did not trust him alto-
gether." It is known, also, that they made him promise to
Submit to all the ordinances which Schwiz might issue in her
capacity as protector of the country. He became a simple
citizen of Appenzell, and " went with them on foot, like any
peasant ; for they would not that he should wear a coat-of-arms
or anything different from one of them."

Yielding at length to the renewed cries for help which came
from the Abbot and the nobility, Duke Frederic of Austria
prepared to put down the rebellion in Appenzell. At the last
moment he made an attempt, happily an unsuccessful one, to

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win over some of the Swiss States to his side by taking advan-
tage of a temporary breach that had made its appearance in
the Confederation between the aristocratic cities and the demo-
cratic country-districts, due, in a great measure, to the support
Schwiz was giving Appenzell. The strong feeling of unity
artongst the Confederates, however, caused his intrigue to
miscarry completely, and he proceeded in person to the scene
of action.

The plan of the invaders resolved itself into a double attack.
While Frederic of Austria led a small detachment to St. Gal-
len in order to prevent that city from co-operating with Appen-
zell, the main force was to penetrate into the latter country,
the real centre of the whole disturbance, and inflict a crushing

In accordance with this arrangement, the Duke marched
from Arbon, took possession of the Hauptlisberg, an eminence
which commands St. Gallen upon the North, and held the
attention of the burghers away from their allies in Appenzell
by skirmishing. The very next day, however, as he was with-
drawing his troops in loose order, a sortie was made from the
city and a number of his men were killed.

In the meantime, a decisive battle was being fought between
the main body of the Austrians and the mountaineers of
Appenzell. On the 17th of June, 1405, the invaders, more
than 1200 strong, toiled up the long, steep road from Altstat-
ten to Gais, made slippery by much rain. Just below the
highest point of the road, near the mountain spur known as the
Stoss, they came upon the Letzi which guarded the frontiers,
but finding it deserted, they pushed on into the country of

Online LibraryWilliam Denison McCrackanThe rise of the Swiss republic: A history → online text (page 15 of 32)