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The rise of the Swiss republic: A history online

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guided them, even when there has been pressure from abroad,
is stated to be that Switzerland, whilst maintaining that right
in its integrity, cannot allow foreigners who have taken refuge
upon her soil to abuse her hospitality by organizing conspira-
cies against foreign governments ; still less to lay plans for the
commission of crimes against individuals, or for injuring their
property."^ As may be imagined, it is no easy matter to apply
these principles impartially, and to distinguish between purely
political crimes and offences against common law ; but, at all
times, the little Confederation has shown the greatest courage
in ignoring foreign threats, and in interpreting her duty accord-
ing to her own standards. In 1823, several Gernfian fugitives,
implicated in the liberal agitation of the German students, or
Bursckenschaften, took refuge at Basel. Amongst them, a Wil-
liam Wesselhoeft* who, finding that great pressure was being
exerted by the powers to force Basel to expel him, left of his
own accord for the United States. In 1834, the presence of
Mazzini in Switzerland led to international difficulties, and, in
1838, she preferred to mobilize her troops rather than to sub-
mit to the demand of the French government in regard to
Louis Napoleon, the subsequent Emperor, who had taken
refuge at Arenenberg, on the Lake of Constance.

Only lately, in the summer of 1889, a ripple of excitement
passed over the surface of the diplomatic world on account of
what was known as the Wohlgemuth affair. A German police
officer of that nslme was detected practising the arts of an
agent protfocateur amongst the German Socialist and Anarchist
fugitives in Switzerland ; that is, he was engaged in ingratiat-
ing himself into their good will by pretending to be one of
them, and was caught urging them to commit open acts of
violence which would lead to their arrest. It is almost incred-

^Adams and Cunningham. The Swiss Confederation, p. 244.

* His descendants, a well-known family of physicians, now live in Boston, Mass.



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THE NEUTRALITY OF SWITZERLAND. 357

ible that the great powers should stoop to such baseness, but
the history of the last few years in Europe is full of the
doings of these official spies. Wohlgemuth was promptly
clapped into prison, on the accusation of inciting to a breach of
the peace, and later politely conducted to the frontier, after
repeated remonstrances from Bismarck, at that time still in the
heyday of his glory as Chancellor of the empire. There may
have been some irregularities in the manner in which the
police officer was treated, but every impartial person was
delighted at the fearlessness displayed by the local Swiss
authorities. The incident did not, however, end with Wohl-
gemuth*s expulsion, for Bismarck took this occasion to try to
bully Switzerland after his most approved method. He made
the impossible request that the Swiss government should here-
after refuse the right of asylum to every German subject not
provided with papers signed by the officials of his native coun-
try ; denounced the treaty of settlement which existed between
Germany and Switzerland ; and, what was more serious, threat-
ened to withdraw the guarantee of his government to Switzer-
land's perpetual neutrality. In 1870, a few days after the
declaration of war against Fran^, Bismarck had written, in
answer to a circular letter sent by the Swiss Federal Council,
** Germany will scrupulously respect the neutrality of Switzer-
land guaranteed by the treaties"^; but, in 1889, he professed
to consider this promise as no longer binding.

Popular feeling in Switzerland ran very high ag^ipst these
Bismarckian methods. Of course, the newspapers of both
countries made much of the incident, with that peculiar aban-
don which characterizes all press wars ; but the height of reck-
lessness, and disregard of established rights was reached by a
German paper, which went so far as to suggest the partition
of Swiss territory amongst Germany, France, Austria, and
Italy, as the simplest solution of the great European problem*
Aft^ boiling up ominously for a while, the waters subsided,
but not before Bismarck had succeeded in persuading the Rus-

^HUty. La NeutraliU de la Suisse, p. 51.



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358 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

sian government to remonstrate against Switzerland's lenient
attitude toward the Nihilist fugitives on her soil. The upshot
of the Wohlgemuth affair was that the Swiss authorities insti-
tuted an extra force of police to watch the doings of foreign
agitators; another treaty of settlement was concluded with
Germany, and the threats made by Bismarck were followed by
assurances of good will. At the present time the question
is, of course, closed, but a feeling of distrust has remained
amongst the Swiss, and a deepened conviction that they must
learn to depend more and more upon their own exertions to
maintain their much-prized neutrality.

It must be remembered, in treating of this subject, that
there is a distinction between a case of ordinary neutrality,
which is the state of any country preserving an impartial bear-
ing while its neighbors are engaged in war, and the perpetual
or guaranteed neutn^lity which belongs to Switzerland by vir-
tue of international agreements. The latter is a special priv-
ilege, accorded only under exceptional circumstances. It is
unquestionably the strategic importance of the little Confeder-
ation, out of all proportion to the extent of her territory,
which has made her the recipient of such a favor ; for Switzer-
land's position and topographical features are such as to
render her the great natural fortress of central Europe, and
the key to the military situation. In fact, her importance,
from this point of view, has steadily increased in modem
times, as the balance of power between the rival nations has
approached nearer and nearer to equilibriunu At the present
moment, it may be said that the power which could operate
with Switzerland as a basis could dictate the terms of peace;
so that the absolute neutrality of this territory is essential to
the very existence of modem Europe.

To examine the situation from a purely military standpoint :
What are the chances of Swiss territory being invaded during
the next great war? The advantages which certain powers
would find in pushing troops through Switzerland, in order
to attack their rivals upon the flank, are so great that the



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THE NEUTRALITY OF SWITZERLAND. 359

temptation could not be resisted, if only military considera-
tions were allowed to have the upper hand. In case of a duel
between France and Germany, the likelihood of such a viola-
tion is not great, for the invading nation would immediately
find Switzerland making common cause with the enemy, and,
in the present state of affairs, this slight advantage might
decide the issue ; but since the formation of the Triple Alli-
ance the risk has measurably increased. A glance at the map
reveals Germany on the north, Austria on the east, and Italy
on the south, leagued together against France on the west.
Switzerland is, therefore, completely surrounded by a cordon of
armies, eager to attack each other across her territory. Aus-
tria perhaps, would not need to make use of Swiss soil, for,
according to present indications, all her available troops would
be engaged in a struggle with Russia; nor would Germany,
apparently, gain very much by such a move, for, after crossing
Switzerland, she would be confronted by a strong line in
France, Belfort-Besancon and Lyons. But the right of pas*
sage would be undoubtedly of inestimable value to France and
Italy. The former could, in twenty-four hours, throw a large
force upon Germany's unprotected flank, the line Basel-
Schaffhausen-Constance ; while the latter could reach France
by the undefended Swiss passes of the Simplon and the Great
St Bernard, and by the Lake of Geneva. The chances are,
consequently, that if Swiss neutrality were violated at all, it
would be by the French and the Italians ; and there seems to
be no doubt that, whichever of these powers made the first
move, the other would immediately follow suit by hastily
throwing forward an army to check the enemy's advance.
Switzerland would then again become the seat of war, as in

1799.

In view of this military situation, what resistance could the
Swiss offer to the invaders ? Of course, no one pretends that
they could hold their own single-handed, even against an isola-
ted European power, for any length of time, but the necessity
for such action is scarcely imaginable. If the Swiss were



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360 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

called upon to fight at all, it would be only to hold certain posi-
tions until the friendly powers could come to their aid, and not
to carry on great offensive operations. For defensive pur-
poses, the Swiss have organized a militia force which, compris-
ing all the reserves, in 1889, numbered no less than 475,795
men, although the total population of the country falls below
3,000,000 inhabitants. This army is not a parade force; it
has certain weaknesses which are inseparable from militias
everywhere, but it is complete in every detail, can be rapidly
mobilized, and does not drain the resources of the nation like a
standing army. If the Swiss soldier looks slovenly, he is, at
the same time, the best average shot in the world, and yields to
no one in his readiness to sacrifice his life in the holy cause of
liberty. On the whole, the chances of Switzerland's perform-
ing her part creditably in the next war would be favorable;
she would do her duty.

So much for the purely military side of the question ; but,
fortunately, there is another and a higher aspect of the case.
A moral principle is involved, which is of far greater import-
ance to the European powers, and is therefore more likely to
triumph in the end. For it must be remembered that Europe,
at the Congress of Vienna, gave her word to Switzerland that
her neutrality should be respected; so that, as a matter of
fact, the trustworthiness of international agreements in gen-
eral is at stake. It seems hardly likely that any of the rival
powers would be willing to incur the odium of being the first
to break this engagement with a small but highly respected
and useful state. Public opinion, the world over, would
promptly turn against that nation; and even Bismarck was
forced to acknowledge that it is worth something to have
the moral support of outsiders in a great contest

There is another consideration which would have weight in
determining the conduct of the powers toward Swiss neutral-
ity. As no one can suspect Switzerland of seeking territorial
conquests or laying plans for self-aggrandizement, she has, in
these days, become the centre of many international unions, and



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THE NEUTRALITY OF SWITZERLAND. 361

the powers have acquired the habit of referring some of their
disputes to her for abitration. This movement was inaugurated
in 1864, by the memorable convention for the protection of
the wounded, held in Geneva. Soon after that date, Bern was
selected as the centre for the permanent administration of the
International Telegraph Union; in 1 87 1^ followed the settle-
ment of the Alabama Claims by a tribunal of arbitration
assembled at Geneva, — ^an act which gave a wonderful moral
impulse to the cause of international arbitration. Since then
a number of central offices have been constituted at Bern, such
as those for the International Postal Union, for the regulation
of freight transport upon the Continent, and for the protection
of industrial, literary, and artistic property. When we take
into consideration that these international officers are the only
ones in existence, except the purely scientific Bureau du Mitre
in Paris, it becomes evident how highly the use of this neutral
meeting-ground is valued by the European powers, and bow
loath they would be to part with it.

The following significant words upon this subject occur in a
report made to the English government, in 1 885, by one of its
agents abroad: ^'It is difficult, when passing through the
quiet streets of Bern, to realize the importance of the opera-
tions which are being unobtrusively carried on, or the world-
wide scope of the interests involved. Yet it cannot be
doubted that these interests form a more effectual guarantee
for the preservation of Switzerland as an independent state
than any other that could be devised. ... No one, finally,
who has lived for even a few years in Switzerland, and has
learnt to appreciate the practical good sense so largely pre-
vailing in that energetic little country, will hesitate to
rejoice at the destiny which now, more than ever before,
seems assured to it, of retaining an honored place among the
nations."^

It may be that the example of Switzerland is destined to

^ Reports from her Majesty*s Diplomatic and Consular Officers Abroad. Part
IV., Commercial, No. 26 (1885).



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362 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC:

accomplish great results in the world's history, for, in truth,
there are tremendous possibilities in this principle of perpetual
neutrality. It supplies a means of arriving at a semblance, if
nothing better, of a permanent international peace.

There are, at present, several other neutral states, and it only
remains for the powers to extend this privilege gradually to all
the contested points on the map of Europe in order to make
war unnecessary, and in time impossible. Belgium's neutrality
is guaranteed by England, and the little duchy of Luxembourg
is also neutral territory, according to international treaty. It
will be seen by looking into an atlas that, if Alsace-Lorraine
could be declared neutral, there would be an unbroken band of
neutral soil from Belgium to Switzerland, effectually shutting
off all approach from France to Germany. Is it too much to
expect sensible counsels to prevail yet awhile in this much-
vexed question } If so, perhaps in a few years, when the two
nations have begun to feel that the weight of their enormous
armaments is too great for endurance, and have drunk to the
depths the bitterness of this enforced peace, they will resort to
some such compromise, rather than prolong an impossible situ-
ation. In other parts of Europe there are little independen-
cies, whose neutrality is carefully respected by the powers,
such as San Marino in Italy, Andorra in Spain, Liechtenstein
in Austria, and Monaco on the boundary between France and
Italy ; they are all witnesses to the fact that neutralities can
be maintained even in the very midst of great nations. Only
the other day, the powers united in a sort of joint protectorate
over the Congo Basin, and established the principle of optional
arbitration in cases of dispute; while England, Germany, and
the United States have, since then, made certain agreements
as regards the Samoan Islands. Think how the stability of
peace would gain by the neutralization of such debatable ground
as the Balkan peninsula and Egypt! Not long ago, it was
proposed in the parliaments of Sweden and Denmark to labor
for the perpetual neutralization of those two countries. And
so the movement might grow, until, all over the earth, there



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THE NEUTRALITY OF SWITZERLAND. 363

would be neutral zones from which war would be ostracized as
a thing unclean.

Look at Switzerland as she is even now. Does she not
stand for a representation — on a small scale and imperfectly,
it may be — of what poets and philosophers have pictured to
themselves the world might some day become ? Is she not
already, in her way, a miniature Parliament of Man ? For she
is not a national unit, like France or Spain, existing as such in
spite of herself. The nucleus of the Swiss Confederation was
perhaps formed by nature to be free and independent, but the
outlying districts joined the Union of their own accord ; in
other words, it is the will of the Swiss people and their fixed
determination which keep them united. Consider the mix-
ture of races and religions which they represent. Of the
twenty-two Cantons, thirteen are German speaking, four are
French ; in three German and French both are spoken, in one
Italian, and in another Romansch. The population of Ger-
man Switzerland is almost purely Teutonic ; that of French
Switzerland about half-and-half Teutonic and Celto-Roman;
while Italian and Romansch Switzerland can boast of Celto-
Roman, Ostro-Gothic, and even Etruscan elements. Some
of these Cantons are Protestant, others Roman Catholic, and
others, again, have a mixed population of both faiths. If
these incojngruous, often antagonistic Cantons can meet upon
some common plane and conform to some standard, can live
side by side in peace and prosperity, surely the task of some
day uniting the nations of the world upon a similar basis is
not altogether hopeless and chimerical.



THE END.



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APPENDIX.



Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation,* of

May 29, 1874.

IN THE NAME OF ALMIGHTY GOD,

THE Swiss Confederation, desiring to confirm the alliance
of the Confederates^ to maintain and to promote the
unity, strength* and honor of the Swiss nation, has adopted
the Federal Constitution following :

chapter I. general provisions.

Article First. The peoples of the twenty-two sovereign
Cantons of Switzerland, united by this present alliance, viz. :

Ziirich, Bern, Luzern, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden (Upper
and Lower), Glarus, Zug, Freiburg, Solothum, Basel (urban
and rural), Schaffhausen, Appenzell (the two Rhodes), St.

^ This tirsMAslation of the Constitution of Switzerland has been made from the
parallel French and German texts by Albert Bushnell Hart, Assistant Professor of
History in Harvard College. The copy or proofs of the translation have b^ea
submitted to Profs. S. M. Macvane and Adolphe Colm of Harvard CoU^e, Piof.
Bernard Moses of the University of California, Prof. Woodrow Wilson of Wes-
leyan University, Prof. R. Hudson of the University of Michigan, and Mr. J. M.
Vincent, Librarian of the Department of History and Politics, Johns Hopkins
University — from all of whom helpful suggestions have been received. The
translation adheres as closely as possible to the form of the French version, since
the French idioms more closely approach the usual phraseology of American pol-
itical documents. Amendments passed up to 1892 have, in accordance with Swiss
usage, been incorporated in their logical place in the text. — Reprinted, by permit*
sion, from '* Old South Leaflets^^* General Series^ No, 18, with more recent amend*
ments added by the Author.

304



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CONSTITUTION OF SWISS CONFEDERATION 365

Gallen, Grisons, Aargau, Thurgau, Ticino, Vaud, Valais,
Neucbatel, and Geneva, form in tbeir entirety the Swiss
Confederation.

Art. 2. The purpose of the Confederation is, to secure the
independence of the country against foreign nations, to main-
tain peace and order within, to protect the liberty and the
rights of the Confederates, and to foster their common welfare.

Art. 3. The Cantons are sovereign, so far as their sov-
ereignty is not limited by the Federal Constitution; and, as
such, they exercise all the rights which are not delegated to
the federal government.

Art. 4. All Swiss are equal before the law. In Switzer-
land there are neither political dependents, nor privileges of
place, birth, persons, or families.

Art. 5. The Confederation guarantees to the Cantons
their territory, their sovereignty, within the limits fixed by
Article 3, their Constitutions, the liberty and rights of the
people, the constitutional rights of citizens, and the rights and
powers which the people have conferred on those in authority.

Art. 6. The Cantons are bound to ask of the Confedera-
tion the guaranty of their Constitutions.

This guaranty is accorded, provided :

{d) That the Constitutions contain nothing contrary to the
provisions of the Federal Constitution.

{b) That they assure the exercise of political rights, accord-
ing to republican forms, representative or democratic.

{c) That they have been ratified by the people, and may be
amended whenever the majority of all the citizens demand it.

Art. 7. All separate alliances and all treaties of a politi-
cal character between the Cantons are forbidden.

On the other hand, the Cantons have the right to make con-
ventions among themselves upon legislative, administrative, or
judicial subjects ; in all cases they shall bring such conventions
to the attention of the federal officials, who are authorized to
prevent their execution, if they contain anything contrary to
the Confederation, or to the rights of other Cantons. Should



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366 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

such not be the case, the covenanting Cantons are authorized
to require the cooperation of the federal officials in carrying
out the convention.

Art. 8. The Confederation has the sole right of declaring
war, of making peace, and of concluding alliances and treat-
ies with foreign powers, particularly treaties relating to tariffs
and commerce.

Art. 9. By exception the Cantons preserve the right of
concluding treaties with foreign powers, respecting the admin-
istration of public property, and border and police intercourse ;
but such treaties shall contain nothing contrary to the Confed-
eration or to the rights of other Cantons.

Art. 10. Official intercourse between Cantons and foreign
governments, or their representatives, shall take place through
the Federal Council.

Nevertheless, the Cantons may correspond directly with the
inferior officials and officers of a foreign State, in regard to
the subjects enumerated in the preceding article.

Art. II. No military capitulations shall be made.

Art. 12. No members of the departments of the federal
government, civil and military officials of the Confederation,
or federal representatives or commissioners, shall receive from
any foreign government any pension, salary, title, gift, or
decoration.

Such persons, already in possession of pensions, titles, or
decorations, must renounce the enjoyment of pensions and
the bearing of titles, and decorations during their term of
office.

Nevertheless, inferior officials may be authorized by the
Federal Council to continue in the receipt of pensions.

No decoration or title conferred by a foreign government
shall be borne in the federal army.

No officer, non-commissioned officer, or soldier shall accept
such distinction.

Art. 13. The Confederation has no right to keep up a
standing army.



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CONSTITUTION OF SWISS CONFEDERATION. 367

No Canton or Half-Canton shall, without the permission
of the federal government, keep up a standing force of more
than three hundred men; the mounted police [gendarmerie\
is not included in this number.

Art. 14. In case of differences arising between Cantons,
the States shall abstain from violence and from arming them-
selves; they shall submit to the decision to be taken upon
such differences by the Confederation.

Art. 15. In case of sudden danger of foreign attack; the
authorities of the Cantons threatened shall request the aid of
other members of the Confederation, and shall immediately
notify the federal government ; the subsequent action of the
latter shall not thereby be precluded. The Cantons sum-
moned are bound to give aid. The expenses shall be borne
by the Confederation.

Art. 16. In case of internal disturbance, or if the danger
is threatened by another Canton, the authorities of the Canton
threatened shall give immediate notice to the Federal Council,
in order that that body may take the measures necessary,
within the limits of its power (Art. 102, §§ 3, 10, 11), or may
summon the Federal Assembly. In extreme cases the author-
ities of the Canton are authorized, while giving immediate
notice to the Federal Council, to ask the aid of other Cantons,
which are bound to afford such aid.

If the executive of the Canton is unable to call for aid, the
federal authority having the power may, and if the safety of
Switzerland is endangered, shall intervene without requisition.

In case of federal intervention, the federal authorities shall
take care that the provisions of Article 5 be observed.

The expenses shall be borne by the Canton asking aid or
occasioning federal intervention, except when the Federal As-
sembly otherwise decides or\ account of special circumstances.



Online LibraryWilliam Denison McCrackanThe rise of the Swiss republic: A history → online text (page 28 of 32)