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Italy, that eighteen million francs had been spent upon the
road, by the French, and that anarchy reigned supreme in that
country. At another time, the whole Swiss people would have
risen in arms to resist this spoliation, now they contented
themselves with unavailing protests. Their abasement was
complete. They were even obliged to submit helplessly to the
sufferings inflicted upon them by Napoleon's insane Continen-
tal blockade against British trade.

But the hour of deliverance was at hand. After the tyrant's
retreat from Russia, came the great war of liberation, and then
the Congress of Vienna, which secured Switzerland once more
an independent position amongst the European powers.

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IT was at this point, when the lowest degree in the scale had
been reached, that the signatory powers at the Congress
at Vienna, on the 20th of March, 181 5, announced their inten-
tion of drawing up an act which should guarantee the per-
petual neutrality of Switzerland. On the 27th of May, the
Swiss Diet accepted this offer, but there was a delay of several
months before the pledge given by the powers was fulfilled ;
for the great struggle at Waterloo, which took place in the
meantime, overshadowed every other phase of the European
situation. Finally, on the 20th of November, the document,
which was to exert so potent an influence upon the destinies
of the Swiss people, was approved by the Congress. *'The
signatory powers of the declaration made at Vienna on the
20th of March," says the text, "by the present act make a
formal and authentic acknowledgment of the perpetual neu-
trality of Switzerland, and they guarantee to her the integrity
and inviolability of her territory within her new boundaries."
This agreement is further on declared to be ** in the true inter-
ests of the politics of all Europe." ^

If any one should be tempted to say that even these solemn
promises were insufficient to establish the neutrality of Swit-
zerland upon an unquestioned legal basis, surely the array of
great names appended to this document ought to remove all
doubts. Amongst them there was Mettemich, for Austria;
1 Hiltj. La Neatralit^ de la Saisse. Pamphlet, p. 61-62.


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Richelieu, for France; Wellington, for England; Humboldt,
for Prussia; and Capo d'Istria, for Russia. It wouid be a
strange forgetfulness of the past which could make the powers
declare null and void an act signed by historic names such as
these. The person who actually prepared the text was the
Swiss representative at the Congress, Charles Pictet de Roche-
mont, a Genevese; the task having been first assigned to
Stratford Canning, who preferred to leave it to Pictet.

There was no condition appended to this declaration of
neutrality beyond the natural one that the Swiss Diet should
agree to the terms of the proposed transaction, a duty which
that body promptly performed. At least one of these
accepted terms deserves to be noticed, on account of the nego-
tiations to which it has since given rise, and the dangers to
European peace with which it is still fraught. This so-called
" question of Savoy " resulted from a compromise eflfected at
this time among the conflicting interests of France, Switzer-
land, and the king of Sardinia. During the discussions of the
Congress, it was proposed, and very properly, to give Switzer-
land the whole of the geographical basin between the Jura and
the Alps, in order that she might have a natural and logical
frontier ; but, instead of this simple solution of the difficulty,
the representatives at the Congress ended by setting up a
complicated and irrational system of apportionment ; France
was allowed to retain parts of this basin, and a zone was
created in northern Savoy, which should be included in the
neutrality of Switzerland, "in the same manner as though it
belonged to her." ^

The events which had led up to this epoch-making declara-
tion of perpetual neutrality were somewhat complicated, for
Switzerland reflected every phase of the struggle going on
about her frontiers.

As early as Nov. 15th, 181 3, the Diet had proclaimed the
neutrality of the country, and, in a half-hearted manner, even
made preparations to defend it against all comers. But when

1 Hilty. La Neutrality de la Suisse, p. 62.

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the allies, in the course of the war of liberation, desired to use
Switzerland for a flank movement upon the French, the Swiss
army retreated from the frontier, and allowed 130,00x5 Austri-
ans to pass through, leaving in their track starvation and
disease. In the meantime, all the reactionary elements were
preparing to side openly with the allies, to overthrow the exist-
ing order, and to plunge Switzerland back into feudal times.
They were sustained in their efforts by a certain Saxon, Count
von Senfft-Pilsach, an agent of Mettemich, who had familiarized
himself with Swiss politics by a residence of several months
in the country. In fact, the only leader amongst the allies,
who opposed these subversive designs of the great Austrian
diplomat, was the then liberal Czar of Russia, Alexander I.
He had had as tutor in his youth Frederic Caesar La Harpe,
the patriot of the Helvetic Revolution, and his sympathies for
Switzerland had thereby always been kept active.

On the 22d of December, 181 3, Bern, now once more con-
trolled by the old patrician element, declared the Act of Medi-
ation null and void, as far as she was concerned, and reinstated
the surviving members of the old Coimcil who had served before
the Helvetic Revolution. She even attempted once more to
rule over the Cantons of Vaud and Aargau as subject lands.
A week later, the Swiss Diet also denounced the Act of Medi-
ation. The work of driving put the new and letting in the
old, thereafter began in earnest. Of course the usual party
rivalries and recriminations did not fail to make their appear-
ance. But after the country had several times seemed on the
verge of civil war, and the famous Long Diet had been in ses-
sion from the 29th of December, 18 13, to the 31st of August,
181 5, a year and eight months, the twenty-two States compos-
ing the Confederation, on the 7th of August, 1815, signed a
Bundesveriragf or a Federal Pact.^

As the name implies, the agreement thus concluded was
not a constitution, in the proper sense of the word, although
it served that purpose, but was, in reality, a sort of bargain

1 OechsU, W. QueHenbuch. p. 487.

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eflfected by independent sovereign states. Valais, Geneva,
and Neuchatel were now admitted as equal members, the last
two for the first time. Moreover, all efforts of the old States
to reduce their former subject lands into submission failed
"Utterly, for the free spirit of the French revolution had not
passed over the land altogether in vain.

As for the rest, the Pact brought into being a loose, dis-
jointed Confederation. It was not devoid of certain merits.
As in the Act of Mediation, the contributions of the various
Cantons in men and money were carefully regulated ; a Federal
board of arbitration was established to settle internal difficul-
ties ; the Diet was entrusted with a few new functions, but
unfortunately not given the necessary powers to enforce its
acts ; and all the representatives were once more limited to
one vote apiece, whatever the size of their Cantons. Zurich,
Bern, and Luzern remained Vororte^ in rotation every two
years, but the ill-suited office of Landammann of Switzerland
was deservedly abolished. Amongst the least commendable
provisions was the one guaranteeing the maintenance of mon-
asteries and chapters within the Confederation, thus pledging
the Federal government to interfere in local. Cantonal affairs,
and paving the way for a religious question which eventually,
in 1848, produced civil war. It is also interesting to notice
that the Federal war chest was to be kept filled by the pro-
ceeds from customs duties on imports, this affording another
illustration of the fact that war, or the fear of war, and high
tariffs almost always go hand in hand, reacting upon each
other and intensifying each others' effects. Finally, one is
gratified to read that no subject lands and no privileged polit-
ical classes would be tolerated hereafter, an enunciation which
still savors of the refreshing radicalism of the Revolutionary

Thus did Switzerland, after many vicissitudes, relapse into
an era of reaction. It was but natural, after the brusque
introduction of sweeping changes had spent itself, after the
friction of new ideas, constantly clashing with the old, had

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produced fatigue, that the country should long for rest.
Hence the period from 1815-1830, while it was marked by a
strange disregard of all the great political principles which the
French revolution had brought into the world, was, at the
same time, valuable to Switzerland as a breathing spell, as a
time of repose and recuperation.

The centre of gp^vity, as it were, was again, as in pre-
revolutionary days, shifted from the central government to the
Cantons. The whole formed a loose Confederation, with only
an ill-defined, latent national sentiment to hold it together.
As there was no foreign enemy to evoke the spirit of unity, a
centrifugal force whirled the Cantons apart. They amended
their constitution on reactionary lines, displaying the greatest
fear of all innovations in popular rights. The censorship of
the press was reinstated ; the Jesuits were permitted to carry
on diplomatic intrigues with the local governments ; and the
mercenary system flourished once more without let or hinder-
ance, Swiss soldiers in great numbers seeking service in Hol-
land, France, and with the Pope. After all, these reactionary
tendencies were not confined to Switzerland, but were charac-
teristic of the whole of Europe after the fall of Napoleon,
resulting from the discredit which had been thrown upon the
principles of the French Revolution. In fact, the little Con-
federation became a place of refuge for many political fugi-
tives from neighboring countries, notably from Germany, where
the restored monarchs filled the prisons with discontented

But even during these years of apparent stagnation, forces
were at work which were destined to reawaken a spirit of indi-
vidual liberty, and by a slow, and in the main peaceful evolu-
tion, to convert the Confederation into a closely knitted union
of real democracies. A number of societies contributed most
eflfectually to this end, principally the patriotic student associ-
ation of Zofingen, so-called from the place where its first gath-
ering was held. It proved a worthy successor to the famous
Helvetic Society of pre-revolutionary times. Numerous gym-

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nastic and singing societies also furthered the national
aspirations, as well as the annual Federal Shooting Match
(Sckiltzenfest)^ which was now first instituted

Thus did the slumbering spirit of liberty revive and herald
the advent of better things.

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IT was a French revolution which, in 1798, caused the
old Swiss Confederation to collapse, and it was another
French revolution which, in 1830, gave the signal for political
regeneration in Switzerland on democratic lines. From her
very position Switzerland has always been particularly sensi-
tive to the tendencies manifesting themselves about her»
reflecting in her long career every phase of European history.
It was only natural, therefore, that she should feel the exhilar-
ation of new aspirations, when the reactionary cloud, which
had brooded over Europe, began to lift, as the breeze of liberty
blew fresh from the streets of Paris.

In true Teutonic fashion the people came together in open-
air assemblies, to formulate their demands for further rights,
and, when necessary, to make arrangements for enforcing
them. It was a magnificent movement, bearing a striking like-
ness to the revival of political thought amongst the farmers of
the United States in the Grange and the Alliance. There
were the same wrongs of special privilege to redress, the same
organized oppression from the middle class, living as non-pro-
ducers on their interest, and the same political tyranny of the
politicians to break. ,In Switzerland, however, the struggle
had first to be directed against the reactionary, almost feudal
administrations in the various Cantons, and was not carried on
so much against plutocracy, as the industrial uprising of recent
years in the United States has been conducted.

The first of these patriotic meetings of protest against the
aristocratic governments, was held in the Canton of Thurgatt


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on the 22d of October, 1830. A petition for the revision of
the constitution was drawn up, and pressed upon the author-
ities with so much vigor, that the desired changes were soon
after carried into eflfect An assembly, held at Uster, in the
Canton of Zurich, likewise sent a memorial to the govern-
ment with clearly expressed demands. The form of address
to the authorities, which had become compulsory during the
period of reaction, shows in what abject submission the people
were held

" Right Honorable, Highly esteemed. Squire Biirgermeister !
Highly esteemed. Highly honored Sirs and Masters ! " Then
followed a list of desired reforms. Amongst them was a new
electoral system with fair representation ; the constitution was
to be declared valid only after it had been sanctioned by the
people voting in popular assemblies ; a demand was made for
freedom of the press ; for publicity of the sessions and minutes
of the Cantonal Council;, the right of petition ; also a reduc-
tion of specified taxes; the introduction of a general income
tax, and the improvement of the schools.^

It will be seen that the patriots clamored for some of the
most elementary rights of freemen, as well as for other reforms
of more modem aspect The people in other Cantons,
encouraged by this example, met to bring pressure upon their
governments, and, by the middle of December, nine Cantons
had revised their constitutions in a liberal sense. In general,
these popular proceedings were dignified and peaceful, such
disturbances as did occur being due to an insane attempt of the
authorities to resist the express will of the people. Thus
amid intense excitement the fateful year of 1830 passed, and
left Switzerland already hall regenerated. During the next
year, however, there were serious conflicts in the Cantons of
Basel, Schwiz, and NeuchateL The first was eventually divi-
ded into Baselstadt and Baselland, two half Cantons which
have remained apart ever since. In Schwiz, the difficulties
were patched up after several failures, and in Neuchatel the

1 Oechtli, W. QueUenbuch. p. 490.

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situation was further complicated by the fact that the Canton
occupied the abnormal, paradoxical position of being a Prus*
sian principality and a member of the Swiss Confederation at
the same time.

Of course these local changes could not fail to influence the
Federal government There were loud cries for a revision of
the Federal constitution, and several attempts were» in fact^
made by the Liberal representatives. But in every case they
were checkmated by the opposing Conservatives, who viewed
with dismay the steady growth of radical doctrines. The Diet
declared that it could not guarantee the maintenance of special
Cantonal constitutions.

Thereupon, on the 17th of March, 1832, seven Cantons:
Luzern, Zurich, Solothurn, St. G^llen, Aargau, and Thurgau,
agreed to a concordat, known as the Siebnerkonkordat} The
object of this unfortunate union was to guarantee the mainten-
ance of the constitutions of the contracting parties, which task
the Diet was unable to perform. Although admission was left
ppen to all the other Cantons, as a matter of fact none of them
joined, and the movement, therefore, remained one of seces-

It was a fatal step to take, and a dangerous precedent to
set. It opened the way for other separatist changes in the
future ; it created a wheel within a wheel. By Nov. 14th,,
Ave conservative Cantons withdrew from participation in the
Federal Diet: Uri, Schwiz, Unterwalden, Baselstadt, Neucha*
tel, and Valais. They united in a League of Samen, and so
the division of the Swiss Confederation into two hostile, bit-
terly antagonistic, minor Confederations was complete. An
ominous state of affairs, calculated to make every patriot trem-
ble for the result, and full of awful possibilities, since the two
Confederations could be at any moment converted into two

Both sides were at fault, and yet it is difficult, at this day, to
pronounce unconditionally against their actions, representing^

1 Oechsliy W. QueUenbuch, p. 495.

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as they did, opposite and apparently irreconcilable tendencies.
The Liberals sought above all to make sure of the gains they
had made in a radical sense ; the Conservatives found them-
selves out of place in a Diet which was always held in a
Vorort belonging to the faction of the Siebnerkonkordat. One
means of reconciliation alone remained, and that was a revis-
ion of the Federal Constitution, which should remedy these
just grievances. But in the midst of prevailing dissensions
the attempt to carry any revision to a successful issue, fell per-
fectly flat ; the draft of a revised constitution was overwhelm-
ingly rejected by the people. When, however, the Cantons of
Basel and Schwiz again became the scenes of dangerous dis-
turbances, the Federal authorities resolved to intervene in the
interest of peace. They put an army into the field to quell
the uprising, dissolved the League of Samen, and compelled
the refractory states to send representatives to the Diet
Quiet was thus momentarily re-established.

But a new danger did not fail to show itself soon after.
Heretofore the Swiss Confederation had been divided on
purely political questions; the situation was now to become
further complicated by religious issues, always the most bit-
terly contested and the most difficult to allay.

There was first the incident of Strauss, the famous free-
thinker, in Zurich. In 1839, ^^ authorities of that city called
Dr. D. F. Strauss from Tubingen to the chair of dogmatic
theology, in the newly formed university of Zurich. It was
purposed thereby to start a great religious reform movement
to keep pace with the political regeneration of the times, but
a storm of indignation rose from all parts of the Canton to pro-
test against this violation of the Christian faith, as it was
called. In a circular, issued by a Committee of Faith, the call
of Strauss was declared to be " so convulsing an event for the
great majority of the inhabitants of the Canton of Zurich, that
all minds saw themselves filled with horror as though smitten
by an electric stroke."^ The instant dismissal of the free-

1 Oechsli. W. Quellenbuch. p. 498

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thinker was demanded, and the appointment of a true believer
in his place. In the end Strauss was asked to resign, and a
life annuity awarded him, but the sensation created by this
incident was tremendous. It was felt throughout the Confed-
eration, and only served to alienate still more the conservative
Cantons from the radical ones.

An occurrence of still gfreater gjravity was the action of the
authorities of Aargau, in decreeing the abolition of all monas-
teries and nunneries within their Canton. It was a spark
which set the whole country ablaze. Protests came from
every quarter; not only from the conservative Cantons, but
also from the Papal Nuncio, and even from the emperor
of Austria, whose ancestors had founded Muri, one of the
monasteries in question. The difficulty was temporarily
compromised by limiting the decree of abolition to the monas-
teries, leaving the nunneries in existence. In this a majority
of the Diet supported Aargao.

It was not to be a permanent solution, however, for, in 1843,
a new grouping of States took place as a result of this relig-
ious question. Luzem, Uri, Schwiz, Unterwalden, Zug, Fri-
bourg, and Valais held a conference ^ in Luzem to discuss the
dangers which threatened the Catholic religion, thus laying the
foundation for the so-called Sonderbund. In 1844, the Can-
ton of Luzern called the Jesuits to take charge of educational
matters. This act was immediately followed by an armed raid
of radical volunteers from other Cantons upon the city, acting
in conjunction with their friends within. It was the first
so-called Freischaarenzug^ and proved a complete failure, as did
also a second raid against Luzern in the following year.

Finally, in December, 1845, the seven Cantons, mentioned
above, signed an Act of Secession,^ in which they pledged
each other support against attacks upon their sovereign and
territorial rights. At the same time they appointed a Council
of War, with extended powers.

1 Oechsli, W. Quellenbuch. p. 50a
* Ibid. p. 504.

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From that moment civil war seemed inevitable, although
it was slow in coming. In 1847, the Diet ordered the expul-
sion of the Jesuits from Swiss soil. Soon after/ it called upon
the Sonderbund to disband, passed a resolution to execute its
command by force of arms, and elected Henry Dufour Com-
mander-in-Chief, a Genevese soldier of great experience,
trained in the school of war of the first Napoleon.

At the last, serious efforts were made to allay the bitter feel-
ing which animated the two sides, by holding conferences. All
in vain, for Unionists and Secessionists showed themselves
irrecondlable, and a resort to arms had become necessary.

When all hope of peace had vanished, the Sonderbund went
so far as to appeal to Austria for help. It seemed almost like
the old time of the Zurich War. A few days after, Dufour
issued an order to the Union army, which deserves to be
remembered for its noble, humanitarian tone. It doubtless
had much to do with the great forbearance shown by the vic-
torious troops in the ensuing conflict. ''You will advance into
the Canton of Luzern," he said, " As you cross the boundary
leave your anger behind, and think only of fulfilling the duties
your native country imposes upon you. Attack the enemy
boldly, fight bravely, and stand by your flag to the last drop of
blood ! But as soon as victory is decided in our favor, forget
every feeling of revenge; act like generous soldiers, for you
will thus prove your real courage. Under all circumstances,
do what I have already often commanded you; respect the
churches and all buildings consecrated to divine service I
Nothing will disgrace your flag more than insults to religion.
Take all the defenceless under your protection ; do not allow
them to be insulted or maltreated. Do not destroy anything
unnecessarily ; waste nothing ; in a word, conduct yourselves in
such a manner as to win respect, and to show yourselves
worthy of the name you bear.**^

Animated by this spirit, the Unionist forces entered into
the conflict.

1 Oechsli, W. Quellenbuch, p. 509.

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THERE is a marked likeness between the crisis through
which Switzerland passed in 1847 and our own Ameri-
can Civil War, of 1 861-1864. The special points of resem-
blance will be noticed in detail, after a description has been
given of the course of events in the Swiss Confederation ; suf-
fice it to say here that not only were the experiences of both
countries in their supreme struggle against secession very
much the same, but they were also productive of almost iden-
tical political results.

As to the resources of the two sides in Switzerland, there
was a very decided disparity between them. Twelve and
a half Cantons joined the Federal cause, only seven that
of the Sonderbund, while one and two half Cantons remained
neutral, Neuchatel, Appenzell (Inner Rhoden) and Baselstadt.
The Federalists mustered over 98,000 strong, but the Seces-

Online LibraryWilliam Denison McCrackanThe rise of the Swiss republic: A history → online text (page 25 of 32)