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* Oechsli, W. Quellenbuch. p. 447.



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306 THE BISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

to put into practice the principles which have since made his
name famous the worid oven The slaughter, namely, had been
so great at Stans that many orphaned children were left there
in a state of the utmost misery. In view of this lamentable
state of things, the Helvetic Directory decided to found an
orphan asylum in the place, and to put Pestalozzi in charge,
whose extraordinary success as a teacher of children in his
institute of Neuhof had already attracted attention. Pesta-
lozzi's methods at Stans elicited the admiration of Zschokke,
then government commissioner, and, although renewed war-
like disturbances made his recall necessary, the work he
accomplished on this occasion left an indelible mark upon
the educational progress of mankind.

No sooner was the Helvetic Republic firmly established
and in working order, than it displayed a positively astounding
legislative activity. Decree followed decree, in rapid succes-
sion. The most startling innovations were adopted in every
department of national life, in finance, in the administration
of justice, and in the relations between church and state.
Many truly magnificent conceptions came to life ; many plans
of more than ordinary greatness were ventilated in the course
of parliamentary debate. Especially fine was the system of
education elaborated and, in a measure, put into practice by
the enthusiastic Stapfer. One of the happiest strokes of the
government was to abolish all the petty, vexatious, commercial
restrictions, which the individual Cantons had imposed for
centuries, and to declare absolute free trade throughout the
length and breadth of the republia It was significant of the
barbaric medieval character of the old Swiss Confederation
that torture, as a means of punishment, had still been officially
recognized, until the Helvetic government expressly decreed
its cessation.

. But the continued occupation of the country by French
troops became a tremendous tax upon the resources of the
country. The proceedings of the Grand Council, for the year
1798, are full of complaints from various representatives.



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THE HELVETIC REPUBLIC. 307

describing the wanton tyrannies of the soldiery, and their
unpunished excesses. The Helvetic Directory remonstrated
with Rapinat, the French commissioner, but he answered them
in insolent terms ; demanded the deposition of two members of
the Directory, whom he could not browbeat into submission ;
and issued a proclamation, declaring null and void all resolu-
tions passed by the Helvetic government, which were contrary
the orders given, or the measures taken, by the commissioner to
himself or the French commander-in-chief. The situation was
humiliating in the extreme ; the Swiss were powerless to rid
themselves of their oppressors.

As though to emphasize Switzerland's abject submission to
France, an oflfensive and defensive alliance was concluded
between the two countries on the 19th of August, 1799, which
marks the lowest stage in her abasement. The contracting
parties pledged themselves to mutual help in case of war.
France agreed to guarantee the Helvetic constitution against
the attacks of the ancient oligarchies, and to give back a few
old cannon captured in the late disturbances. In return for
these concessions, the Helvetic Republic was obliged to cede
Geneva and . Porrentruy to France, and to leave two great
routes always open to the passage of French troops and mer-
chandise, one along the Rhine to the lake of Constance and
thus into Germany and Austria, and another up the Valais
into Italy. In truth, these conditions converted Switzerland
into a conquered province, a mere vassal. A French protecto-
rate had been virtually established.



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CHAPTER IV.

SWITZERLAND THE BATTLE-FIELD OF EUROPE.

DURING those dark days at the beginning of the century,
when Switzerland had become the battle-field of Europe,
and her independence was trampled underfoot alike by Napo-
leon and the Allies, Wordsworth broke forth in that noble
lament, which is entitled, in the collection of his poems,
"Thought of a Briton on the Subjugation of Switzerland."
Coupling the fall of Venice with that of Switzerland in his
mind, he thus apostrophizes Liberty : —

" Two voices are there : one is of the sea»
One of the mountains ; each a mighty voice.
In both from age to age thoa didst rejoice ;
They were thy chosen music, Liberty! "

Although the Confederation has now entirely recovered from
the humiliation of that time, the Swiss people still remember
the helpless position into which they once fell, with a lively
horror. The shame and sufifering which the year of 1799
brought upon the country cannot be adequately appreciated,
until we examine in detail the operations of the foreign
armies.

During Napoleon's absence in Egypt, the so-called war of
the second coalition broke forth in Europe ; Russia, Austria,
and England, with some of the lesser powers, uniting against
France. An elaborate plan of campaign was drawn up by
these allies, and the French Directory placed six armies in the
field to oppose its execution, of which Massena commanded



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THE BATTLE-FIELD OF EUROPE. 309

the one operating in Switzerland. The famous Alpine fighter,
Lecourbe, acted under Massena's orders.

Early in the year, war seemed inevitable. France and Aus*
tria gave the signal for hostilities in Graubiinden, a district
which, they foresaw, must be of the utmost strategic importance
to their armies in the coming struggle. At first, Massena and
Lecourbe were successful, but, by degrees, they were forced to
evacuate the Tyrol and Graubiinden, and fall back upon the
Forest Cantons.

In the meantime, the greatest uncertainty reigned in Swit-
zerland itself. The adherents of the Helvetic Republic, led by
the indefatigable La Harpe, were for declaring war against
Austria, and raising an army to help the French. On the
other hand, the partisans of the old Confederation, and all the
reactionary elements, favored an Austrian alliance. The coun-
try was hopelessly divided, and could not be brought to act as
a unit. In the end it remained passive under the terrible
infliction. In some battles, Swiss soldiers fought on both
sides, like their ancestors, the mercenaries, in foreign wars.
Discontent, persecutions, and wide-spread misery produced pop-
ular disturbances in almost all the Cantons. Switzerland lay
powerless and distracted on the eve of the storm.

In May, two Austrian armies advanced into the country;
one of 40,cxx) men, under Archduke Charles, coming over the
Rhine from Germany, and another of 20,cx)0, under Field-
marshal Von Hotze, a Swiss in Austrian service, from Grau-
biinden. Lecourbe retreated into the Forest Cantons, and
Massena gathered all available troops around him in Ziirich.
It was near this city that the decisive conflicts of the war in
Switzerland were fought.

As the Austrians advanced, Massena saw himself unable to
maintain his position within the walls of Ziirich. During the
4th, and until the 7th of June, he was obliged to fall back, and
finally entrench himself at the foot of the Uetliberg, from
which he could effect a conjunction with Lecourbe at Luzem.

Now was the moment for the Austrians to push their advan-



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310 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

tage, and strike a telling blow ; but there was disunion amongst
the allies, their ambitions conflicted, mutual jealousies arose,
and Archduke Charles was not allowed to complete his
victory.

A change of plan was executed at headquarters. It was
decided that Archduke Charles should march into South Ger<
many ; that a Russian corps, under Korsakoff, should take his
place at Zurich ; and finally, that the great victorious general,
Suvaroff, should invade Switzerland from Italy, over the St.
Gothard, and co-operate with Korsakoff in driving the French
out of the country. Months of inaction were allowed to slip
by, while these changes were being made ; Massena was able
to recover from his defeat, and to elaborate a general plan of
attack all along the line. The problems involved were com-
plicated and necessitated a thorough knowledge of topographi-
cal conditions, but the French generals surmounted all
difficulties in a brilliant manner, carrying to a successful con-
clusion one of the most masterly military achievements of
modem times.

On the 14th and 15th of August, the six divisions of the
French army, stationed in Switzerland, were simultaneously
set in motion against the opposing Austrians. The fighting
was especially severe on the St. Gothard and in the valley of
Urseren, amid the Alpine desolation of those regions. The
rattle of musketry and clash of arms re-echoed from the preci-
pices ; hoarse commands, the cries of the wounded, the oaths of
an infuriated hand-to-hand combat, and all the sounds of battle
mingled with the roar of mountain torrents. By the i6th, the
French had conquered all along the line.

Still there was danger from the side of Suvaroff, who was
hurrying toward the St. Gothard from Italy, in order to
take the French in the rear, while Korsakoff and Hotze
attacked them in the front. Massena determined to antici-
pate Suvaroff's arrival by making an offensive movement
upon Zurich. The Russian conqueror had sent word to
Korsakoff and Hotze to begin their attack on the 26th of



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THE BATTLE-FIELD OF EUROPE. 311

September. On the 25th, Massena himself moved forward
from the Uetliberg, under cover of a thick morning fog, driv-
ing the Russians from their positions. At the same time,
Hotze was attacked and routed in the region between the
lakes of Zurich and of Walen. Next day the French entered
the city of Zurich and the Austrians and Russians were in
full retreat.

But this victory had come none too soon, for, on the same
day, Suvaroff made his appearance in Uri, having fought his
way over the St. Gothard, in the face of terrific odds, against
the French, under Lecourbe.

On the 24th, he had reached the southern foot of the pass
with 20,000 men. A detachment of 6,000 had been detailed
to penetrate into Urseren, by the Oberalp Pass, thus taking
the French in the flank. By almost superhuman exertions the
main body had reached the top of the St. Gothard, fighting
every foot of the way. Then the attack upon the French flank
had been executed ; a last stupendous struggle had taken place
at the Devil's Bridge, between Andermatt and Goschenen, and
Suvaroff was momentarily master of the situation.

But Lecourbe's resources were never at an end. He hur-
ried before the advancing Russians, and gave orders that all
boats of every description should be removed from that
branch of the lake of Luzern which goes by the name of the
lake of Uri. When, therefore, Suvaroff arrived at the water's
edge, to march upon Schwiz and Zurich, in order to join Kor-
sakoff and Hotze, he found that he had strayed into a blind
alley. There was no road along the Axenberg, as in the pres-
ent day, and he could not spare the time to construct boats to
transport his army. In this predicament, he resorted to an
expedient which many a well-equipped modern tourist might
dread. He turned aside and, with bag and baggage, climbed
the almost pathless Kinzigkulm, in order to reach the Muotta
Valley. When he arrived there, after incredible difficulties, it
was only to hear that the generals he was going to meet had
been defeated and were in retreat. Filled with heartrending



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312 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

disappointment, the old veterani victor in so many battles,
saw himself constrained, for the first time, to retreat before the
enemy. He straightway comprehended his critical situation,
crossed the Pragel Pass to Glarus and thus made his escape,
fighting steadily with the French, who swarmed about his path.
Only those who have themselves followed the itinerary of this
masterly retreat can appreciate the dangers, the untold
fatigues and privations, and the horrors which Suvaro£f and
his brave band must have suffered. Military history has noth-
ing more heroic to show, and never has purely Alpine fighting
been managed on so vast a scale.

As for the condition of the Swiss people, while this Euro-
pean struggle was being waged upon their soil, it was nothing
short of pitiable. In November, I799> ^^^ French ambassa-
dor, Pichon, wrote to his government, describing the wide-
spread misery which he saw about him. ''The small Cantons
are a wilderness," he said, "The French army has been
quartered three or four times between Glarus and the St. Goth-
ard within six months. . . . The soldier has lived upon
the provisions of the inhabitants. ... As our troops did
not obtain a single ration from France, everything was eaten
up six months ago, even before the 25,000 Russians invaded
this devastated region. Urseren alone has fed and lodged in
one year some 700,000 men. . . . The richest Cantons
are all oppressed by requisitions and have succumbed under
the load of quartering men and feeding soldiers and horses.
. . . Everywhere there is lack of fodder. . . . Every-
where the cattle are being slaughtered." ^

The French army remained in Switzerland until 1802, a
curse to the exhausted country, but even before its departure
the constitutional problems and the struggle between party
factions, which the war had somewhat allayed, were renewed
and again led to foreign interference.

1 Oechsli, W. Quellenbuch, p. 468.



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CHAPTER V.
napoleon's act of mediation.

THE conviction had now forced itself upon the nation that
the Helvetic constitution was not suited to the require-
ments of Switzerland. It did not take into consideration the
ingrained genius of the people for local self-government; it
made no allowance for that principle of federalism, upon which
the country had been organized for more than five centuries,
and, as a superimposed foreign product, it was doomed to
prove a failure. The people had submitted to its disturbing
provisions, because they were powerless to resist the French
bayonets, but they were ready to overthrow the odious Hel-
vetic government, as soon as the soldiers, upon whom it relied
for support, were withdrawn.

In fact, so sure were the Swiss people that a change was
bound to come, that they already fell to quarrelling over the
form which the next constitution was to assume. Two great
parties arose, the Federalists and the Centralists, representing
respectively the principles of States rights and of centraliza-
tion. In point of fact, every federated state, from its very
nature, must at all times contain parties advocating these
opposite tendencies. It is only in moments of great national
excitement, however, that they take up bitterly antagonistic
positions. A great political crisis was at hand in Switzerland.
The general dissatisfaction with the Helvetic constitution may
be inferred from the fact that between the 30th of April, 1801,
and the 28th of April, 1802, e,g,^ in one year only, no less
than four drafts of constitutions were proposed or promulgated.

When finally the French troops left Swiss soil, in July and

313



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314 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

August of 1802, the people everywhere arose to restore the
old order of things. There were armed conflicts in Unt^rwal-
den» in Zurich, and in Aargau, between the insurgents and the
Helvetic forces, in which the former were uniformly successful.
Bern itself surrendered to a poorly equipped and disorganized
mob of peasants. The members of the Helvetic government
fled to Lausanne, while an old-time Diet of the Confederated
States was held in Schwiz, under the direction of Alois Red-
ing. A victorious army of the Confederates then marched
upon Lausanne. The cause of the Helvetic Republic seemed
indeed lost, and the restoration of the ancient Confederation
assured, when suddenly both sides laid down their arms and
disbanded, as though struck by a magic wand.

It appears that a plenipotentiary had unexpectedly arrived
in Lausanne, from Paris, bearing an o£fer of mediation from
Napoleon himself, now enjoying the title of First Consul.
The Swiss people were invited to send delegates to consult
with him, regarding a new constitution, which should establish
the political status of the country upon a sure basis.

In his proclamation, Napoleon expressed himself with
brutal and characteristic frankness, concerning Switzerland's
helpless condition :

"You have been presenting a sad spectacle for the last
two years ; opposing factions have one after the other seized
the supreme power, they have marked their temporary rule
with partisan systems which aflforded proof of their unfitness
and weakness.

"In the course of the tenth year [1799], Y^^^ government
desired to have withdrawn the small number of French troops
which were in Helvetia. The French government willingly
took this occasion to honor your independence; but soon
after your parties set themselves in motion with renewed fury ;
Swiss blood has been shed by Swiss hands.
. "You have quarreled amongst yourselves for three years,
without arriving at an understanding. If you are left any
longer to your own devices, you will slay yourselves for



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NAPOLEON'S ACT OF MEDIATION 316

another three years, and then be no better off. Your history
also proves that your internal wars cannot be ended except
through the efficacious intervention of France.

"It is true, I had resolved not to interfere again in your
affairs. I saw your government constantly asking my advice,
and then not following it, and several times misusing my
name, according to their interests and passions.

<<But I cannot, I must not, remain impassive under the
misfortune to which you are a prey. I withdraw my resolu-
tion ; I will be the mediator in your quarrel, and my media-
tion shall be efficacious, as is worthy of the great nation in
whose name I speaf

There is true Napoleonic assurance in these words. The
Consul does not mince matters, but boldly asserts his right
to dictate to the Swiss, while, at the same time, he ingeniously
places them under an obligation to him for exerting this
right. After stating certain preliminary conditions and issuing
unmistakable commands, Napoleon closed his proclamation
with an invocation, full of Gallic bombast and noisome cant :

"Inhabitants of Helvetia! Hope again! ! ! — Your native
country is on the edge of a precipice; it shall be instantly
withdrawn from it.

"Every sensible man must be persuaded that the media-
tion which I am accepting, is, for Helvetia, a kindness of that
Providence, which has always watched over the existence and
independence of your nation, amid so many subversions and
shocks, and that this mediation is the only means which
remains open to you of preserving the one or the other. "^

In obedience to this proclamation, some sixty Swiss emissa-
ries arrived in Paris, in the month of December, forming a CoH"
sulia^ to draw up a new constitution. On the loth of that month,
Napoleon sent them a writing, setting forth the points to be
deliberated upon, and indicating clearly what he insisted upon
their fulfilling. On the I2th, he addressed a committee from
their midst, in the castle of St. Cloud. On this occasion, the

1 Oechsli, W. Quellenbuch. p. 470-471.



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316 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

First Consul displayed so accurate a knowledge of the internal
affairs of Switzerland, and showed so marvelous an appreciation
of its needs, that his hearers were dumfounded. In fact, never
have the peculiar problems of that country been explained with
more unfailing penetration. If the manner of the address was
calculated to wound the pride of the Swiss emissaries, the
advice which was given, was sound and to the point.

"The more I thought over the nature of your country," said
Napoleon, "the stronger became my conviction that it was
impossible to subject it to any uniform system on account of
the diversity of its component parts ; everything drives you to
federalism.

" Switzerland can no longer play an important part amongst
the states of Europe, as in the days when no great neighbors
stood beside her, when France was divided into sixty principal-
ities, Italy into forty.

"You need rest, independence, and a neutrality acknowl-
edged by all the powers surrounding you.

" I speak to you, as though I were myself a Swiss ; the prin-
ciple of federation is uncommonly advantageous for small states.
I, myself, am bom a mountaineer ; and I know the spirit which
springs from this."^

Such language carried conviction, or at least silenced oppo-
sition. From first to last, the ejnissaries were made to under-
stand that their services were more honorary than required,
that Napoleon's ideas would triumph in the end, whether they
acceded or not. Their humiliation was great, but neither Fed-
eralists nor Centralists dared object, and on the 19th of Febru-
ary, the Act of Mediation was formally signed, and became the
organic law of Switzerland.

In truth, this new constitution was a clever compromise
between the extreme demands of the Federalists and the Cen-
tralists. It restored the sovereignty of the Cantons, but main-
tained a central government; it granted the Cantons all the
powers which were not expressly attributed to the Federal

^Oechsli, W. Quellenbuch. p. 472-473.



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NAPOLEON'S ACT OF MEDIATION 317

authorities, but reinstated the old Diet, with enlarged func-
tions ; and it, therefore, contained the constitutions of all the
nineteen Cantons which then composed the Confederation, as
Well as that of the Confederation itself.

The contributions of the several Cantons in men and money
Were carefully enumerated. Import tariffs were left to be
managed by the Cantons, but the Diet determined the uni-
form character of coinage. Six Cantons were also selected
from the rest : Fribourg, Bern, Solothum, Basel, Zurich, and
Luzern, to be Directorial Cantons or Vororte. The Diet was
to be held in each, in annual rotation ; and the Schultheiss, or
Biirgermeister, of each capital became in turn President of the
Confederation, with the title of Landammann of Switzerland.
Each Canton sent one representative to the Diet, with pre-
pared instructions, but the Cantons possessing more than one
hundred thousand inhabitants had two votes, an attempt being
thus made to give the element of population due consideration. ^

On the whole, the Act of Mediation must be considered a
vast improvement over the Helvetic Constitution. As an
attempt to reconcile the opposing parties it was practically
successful, and gave the country comparative immunity from
political broils. At the same time, one misses those magnifi-
cent utterances on popular rights contained in the Helvetic
Constitution, and one is shocked at the almost royal attributes
assigned to the Swiss Landammann. It was evident that a
suitable stop-gap had been found, but that a permanent solu-
tion of the difficulties in which the country was plunged yet
remained to be discovered.

At all events, Switzerland experienced quite a revival of the
arts and sciences under the benign influence of peace. Cul-
ture, which had been rudely pushed aside by war, was able to
reassert itself. Several writers graced the somewhat barren
fields of Swiss belles-lettres, historical writing flourished, scien-
tists explored the wonders of the Alpine world, and great
engineering works were inaugurated. All this time, however,

^Oochsli, W. Quellcnbuch, p. 474-478.



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318 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

Switzerland was treated as a vassal by France. Napoleon,
now proclaimed Emperori insulted and browbeat ber states*
men, violated ber neutrality, which he conceived to be a fiction
to be used for his own purposes, and did not hesitate to issue
direct commands to the Diet. He had now developed into a
general European bully. It was not likely, therefore, that he
would spare a small, defenceless country like Switzerland,
whose territory possessed the utmost value from a strategic
point of view.

The culmination of Napoleon's contempt for established
rights was reached, when, on Nov. 15th, 1810, he issued a
decree, incorporating the Valais into the French Empire, with
the name of the Department du Simplon, on the plea that the
possession of the Simplon route was necessary to France and



Online LibraryWilliam Denison McCrackanThe rise of the Swiss republic: A history → online text (page 24 of 32)