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simple. The continual conflict which he is forced to wage
against the elements, makes him hardy in mind and body, and
teaches him to rely upon himself, as well as to value the co-op-
eration of his neighbor. The uniformity of his life develops
his sense of eqaulity, and strengthens his conservatism. In
regions thus remote from the great centres, where the din of
a restless world arrives far-spent, and loses itself amid the
hush that rests upon the mountains, where life runs on plac-
idly and unchanged, there only can we conceive of a state
enduring from century to century in such archaic simplicity.

Uri, Schwiz and Unterwalden, known collectively as the

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three Forest States, on account of the primeval forests which
originally covered them, appear for the first time in history
during the seventh and eighth centuries. There are no traces
of lake dwellings within their territory, the nearest being at
Zug. On the Roman charts there is nothing but a blank for
the whole region. When the Alamanni came, the land passed
into their hands and formed part of the Duchy of Alamannia.
Under the supremacy of the Franks, and after the fall of the
ducal house, it belonged first to the Thurgau, and when that
county was divided, to the Ziirichgau to be administered by
the count of the district.

There is no longer any doubt that the original colonists were
Alamanni, in spite of the reasons given by Muralt^ in his docu-
mentary history for believing that they were Swedes and Frie-
sians. The false account of a Swedish immigration into those
parts, which is to be found in the chronicles of the fifteenth
and sixteenth centuries, seems to repose upon a misconcep-
tion. A wrong interpretation was laid upon the resemblance
between the Latin forms of the names given to the inhabitants
of Schwiz and of Sweden — Schwidones and Schwedones —
and much was made of the conviction amongst the people
themselves that their ancestors had come from the North.
The similarity between the names is simply a coincidence,
while the tradition of a Northern descent is explained as a long
cherished remembrance of the Alamannian invasion of Helvetia.
While we are not warranted in fixing with any precision the
date when the first colonization took place, it seems beyond
question that the Forest States, although they are the oldest
members of the Confederation, were the last to become popu-
lated. As the plains became more and more thickly settled,
pioneers, adventurous spirits, moved up into the then savage
country that skirts the lake, pushed into the forests, and made
clearings. This colonization was accomplished in three differ-
ent ways : by freemen who occupied and tilled their own land,
by bondmen sent out from ecclesiastical institutions, or by

1 Maralt, £. Schweizergeschichte. p. 122.

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bondmen in the employment of secular nobles. The two hU-
ter classes paid rent to their ecclesiastical or lay landlords, the
former paid taxes to the Count only. In Uri, moreover, the
sovereign himself had estates, known as crown lands, which
played a most important part in the history of that district
Thus it happened that the very manner of colonization pro-
duced a diversity of conditions amongst the inhabitants.
Schwiz was settled principally by freemen, while the majority
of the inhabitants of Uri and Unterwalden were in the condi-
tion of servitude either to spiritual or temporal lords.

As the origin of the three Forest States was different, so
also was their growth into sovereign democracies, each acquir-
ing the Reichsunmittelbarkeit separately, and at different times.

It will, therefore, be necessary to examine them individually,
to trace their respective histories apart from one another, in
order more fully to comprehend the scope and purport of the
perpetual league in which they united toward the close of the
thirteenth century.

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THE derivation of the name of this state is still to be
determined. The most common explanation is that it is
from the root «r, signifying the Auerochs, or wild bull, an ani-
mal now long extinct. Certain it is that the head of a bull
has figured on the Cantonal seal since the year 1 243.

The name Uri occurs for the first time in the Latin chron-
icle of a certain Hermann, a monk of the Abbey of Reichenau,
dated 732. He says: "Eto, our abbot, was banished to Uri
[in Uraniam] by Theobald [a Duke of Alamannia]."^ In 853
Ludwig, the German, founded the Abbey of Nuns (FraumUn"
ster) in Zurich by enlarging an already existing convent dedi-
cated to the martyrs Felix and Regula. He placed his daugh-
ter Hildigard over it as abbess, and in the deed of founding he
transferred to the Abbey, amongst other property, the crown-
lands which he possessed in Uri. That part of the deed
which refers to Uri, reads as follows in the translation from the
Latin : " Be it known that we give completely and unreserv-
edly, . . . the little land of Uri (pagellum uroniae) with its
churches, houses and such other buildings as are upon it, the
serfs of both sexes and of every age, the lands cultivated and
uncultivated, the forests, fields and pastures, the still and run-
ning waters, the roads, exits and entrances, whatever has been
acquired or is yet to be acquired, with all the tithes and the vari-
ous imposts ... to our convent, situated in the . . .
place {;ificd) Zurich, where the saints Felix and Regula, the
Martyrs of Christ, rest in the body . . . ."^ The last
provision of this deed grants the privilege of immunity to the

1 RilUet, A. Les Origines de la Conf^d^ratioii Suisse, p. 339.
< Oechsli, W. Quellenbuch zur Schweizergeschichte. p. 20.


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Abbey and its belongings in the following words : " Finally we
command and decree that no public judge (judex publicus) or
Count {comes) or any one with judicial powers (guislibet exjudu
ciaria potestate) presume in the aforesaid places, and in the
affairs which appertain to them, to exercise jurisdiction {dis-
tringere aut infestare) over the men who dwell there, both free
and bond, either by demanding pledges (fideiussores tollendd)^
or by exacting payments (redibitiones)^ whether in services or
fines (freda aut bannos), or to use unjustified violence on any
man, at any time. But that these things remain in perpetuity
under our protection and guardianship with the bailiffs who
are there established . . . ."

The lands, thus conveyed, did not comprise the whole of the
modern Canton of Uri, but only those lying near Altdorf.
The valley of Urseren still belonged to the Abbey of Dissentis,
and large estates belonged to the Abbey of Wettingen, or to
members of the lesser nobility, such as the Knights of Atting-
haiisen, the ruins of whose castle may still be seen at the vil-
lage of that name. There were besides small communities
of freemen living in the Schachenthal, that charming valley
which opens up behind the village of Altdorf.

This act, therefore, conferred the immunity only on a part
of Uri, and this part was now withdrawn from the jurisdiction
of the oflScials of the Ziirichgau to be placed under the impe-
rial bailiff (Kastvogt) of the Abbey of Nuns in Zurich. The
duty of this bailiff was in general to represent the sovereign.
He regulated the relations of the nunnery to the surrounding
nobles and convents, and held court twice a year under the
lime-tree of Altdorf, in order to adjust cases of importance in
the presence of the subjects of the Abbey. There were
besides special oflScials of the Abbey, Mayors (Meier) who, as
its possessions grew, had their seats at Altdorf, Biirglen, Sile-
nen, and Erstfeld, where their ruined towers can still be seen.
It was their duty to collect the tithes and to try minor
offences, according to the traditional usage of every locality.

It is evident, therefore, that the diversity of conditions

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amongst the inhabitants of Uri was very great, but in one
matter they were alt equal; every man, from the Lake of
Luzern to Goschenen, whether bond or free, was a member of
the Markgenossenschaft^ according to the ancient Alamannian
custom. In this association they were united. The concen-
tration into one undivided commonwealth was destined to take
place under the shadow of the Abbey which enjoyed the
imperial immunity. The fate of its subjects, known as Regler
from their patron, Saint Regula, was so much envied by the
subjects of other landowners, and even by the freemen, who
were under the regular county officials, that they spared no
eflfort to become themselves subjects of the nunnery, and thus
partakers in the privileges of the immunity. In this manner
the majority of the inhabitants gathered under the protection
of the imperial bailiff. Finally, the last step in this process of
unification was taken, when the whole valley was placed under
this official, probably to obviate the inconvenience of having a
part under the count and another under the bailifif. The lat-
ter office had just been transferred from the family of Lenz-
burg to that of Zaeringen 1 172, when this change took place.

It speaks strongly for the fact that the people of Uri were
beginning to act together as a political unit, when we find
them treating collectively, as inhabitants of Uri, concerning
new tithes with an officer of the Abbey, and arranging the
boundary line on the Klausen Pass with the Kastvogt of
Glarus. When in 12 18 the family of Zaeringen died out, the
Emperor Frederic II. made several changes in the Ziirichgau.
Amongst others he took the land of Uri from the jurisdiction
of the imperial bailiff of the Zurich nunnery, without, how-
ever, effecting the tithes to be paid to that institution, and
gave it in fief to Rudolf of Habsburg, sumamed the Old.

For a moment it seemed as though the process of emancipa-
tion in Uri had received a fatal check. The immunity was
lost, and the country was in the power of an ambitious family.
Indeed the case seemed hopeless, when one of those happy
chances, which have often appeared in Swiss history, com-

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pletely changed the aspect of affairs in Uri. In 123 1 Fred-
eric's son, Henry (VII), recalled this grant, probably in answer
to the prayers of the men of Uri, and issued a charter to them
{universis hominibus in valle Uraniae) in which he freed them
from the power of Habsburg. The Latin original of this doc-
ument is lost, but it was copied by Tschudi and reads as fol-
lows, without the greeting and signature: "In the desire
always to do that which shall serve your interest and welfare,
we have hereby bought you and set you free from the posses-
sion of Count Rudolf of Habsburg and promise that we will
never put you away from us, either by feoffment or by mort-
gage (per concessionem seu per obligationem), but will always
keep you and shield you in our service and in that of the
empire. Therefore we exhort your community {universitatem
vestram) most sincerely that you believe and do in regard to
the requisition and payment of our taxes, whatsoever our faith-
ful Arnold of Baden (de Aquis) may tell you, and bid you do
from me, in order that we may praise your ready fidelity,
because with the assent of our council we have considered it
good to send him to you . . . ."^

Thus the immunity was saved. The charter was carefully
preserved amongst the archives, and Uri had taken a long step
on the road which led to complete independence. During the
interregnum which immediately preceded the election of Rudolf
of Habsburg to the throne, the inhabitants called upon him
to act as arbitrator in a quarrel between two of their families,
but it is not known that an imperial bailiff (Reichsvogt) was
appointed to govern the country, indeed the sovereign himself
seems to have treated on several occasions directly with the
head of the community, the Ammann {Amtmann) or minister,
whom he appointed from their midst. We hear of the com-
monwealth levying taxes in 1243, possessing a seal with the
inscription 5. Vallis Vranie (later 5. Hominum Vallis Vranie)^
and finally in 1291 changing the title of Ammann into the
more comprehensive one of Landammann.

J Oechsli, W. Quellenbuch. p. 46.

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Once more the immunity of Uri was confirmed, and that by
Rudolf of Habsburg himself, for hardly had he become King
when he promised " his loyal and good people " {fideles egregii)
the maintenance and even the increase of their privileges
(libertates honores etjura), in the heartiest and most unmistak-
able terms. Never after was the immunity of Uri seriously

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IN the meantime Schwiz was pushing toward the same |^oal»
but by a diflferent road. Here it was the freemen who
formed the majority of the inhabitants, and who took the lead
in the work of emancipation.

The name of this district appears for the first time as
Suuites^ in a document dated 970, which deals with an
exchange of land between the monasteries of Pfaflfers and
Einsiedeln. Suuit is apparently the name of a person, and es
the genitive ending, but nothing is known of the meaning of
this name.

In the beginning the designation of Schwiz was not applied
to the whole territory which is now included in the Canton,
but only to a region lying in the immediate vicinity of the vil-
lages of Schwiz and Morschach with the Muota valley. Even in
this small area several convents held property, amongst others
the powerful Abbey of Einsiedeln, which enjoyed the privilege
of the immunity. Two estates belonged first to Lenzburg,
then to Habsburg. The greater part of the land, however,
was in the hands of free peasants, paying the Count of the
Zurichgau a tax of sixty marks (equal to about 1 5,cxx> francs
in modem money), but possessing a separate -court of justice,
Freigericht, which was chosen from their midst, and was pre-
sided over by an Ammann, selected by them and the Count
conjointly. As in Uri, so here, the whole population, bond
and free, were united in a vigorous Markgenossenschaft

The name of Schwiz was first brought into history by the

1 Rilliet, A. Origines. p. 343.


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famous dispute of this Association of the Mark, with the monks
of Einsiedeln concerning certain forests and Alpine pastures,
lying on the confines of their respective territories. The men
of Schwiz claimed them as part of their Almend, the monks
maintained that they belonged to the lands deeded to the
Abbey when it was founded. The strife ran on for many
years ; the two sides robbed, burned and plundered ; every act
led to retaliation, and the question seemed to defy all attempts
at a satisfactory solution. The emperors Henry IV., in 1 1 14,
and Conrad III., in 1 144, gave decisions unfavorable to Schwiz.
In 12 1 7 Count Rudolf I. of Habsburg, having been requested
to arbitrate, rendered a verdict which was rather more favor-
able than had been the others. It brought about a temporary
cessation of hostilities. In his written judgment on this sub-
ject Rudolf calls himself "rightful bailiff and protector of
the people of Schwiz by inheritance" (von rechter Erbschaft
rechter Voget und Schirmer der vorgenanden LUten von
Schwitz)} a proof that the office of bailiff had already lost its
original signification, for this official had heretofore regularly
been appointed by the crown. This right Rudolf based upon
having inherited the estates of Lenzburg and upon his position
as Count of the Zlirichgau. At the division of the Habsburg
inheritance in 1232, Schwiz fell to his son Rudolf II., the
foimder of the line Habsburg-Laufenburg, under whose rule
the liberties of the people seemed for the first time seriously
to suffer. Therefore, emboldened by the success of Uri in
obtaining a charter from King Henry, the men of Schwiz sent
messengers to Frederic II. as he lay besieging Faenza in
Northern Italy, to beseech his protection. The mission
arrived just at the right moment, when the relations between
the emperor and Count Rudolf were not of the best. Frederic
issued a charter to " all the inhabitants of the valley of Swites "
{universis hominibus vallis in Swites)^ in which he conferred
upon them the imperial immunity. The original of this much
prized document, dated 1240, the oldest of the Swiss charters

^ Rilliet, A. Origines. pp. 403-404.

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now extant, is religiously preserved in the archives of the Can-
ton, and reads : " Having received letters and messengers
from you to prove and make known your conversion and sub-
mission to us, we accede to your express desire with gracious
and affectionate good will; we praise your submission and
loyalty not a little in that you have shown the zeal, which you
have always had for us and the empire, by taking protection
under our wings and those of the empire, as you are bound to
do, being freemen (tamquam hommes liberi)^ who must turn to
us and to the empire alone. Since, therefore, you have chosen
our rule and that of the empire of your own free will, we
receive your loyalty with open arms, and respond to your sin-
cere affection with our single-minded favor and good-will, by
taking you under our special protection and that of the empire,
so that we will never allow you to be alienated or withdrawn
from our sovereign rule and that of the empire "^

This assurance, though expressed in the heartiest terms,
was not explicit enough to be altogether effective. At all
events Rudolf of Habsburg remained at his post, and no
imperial bailiff was sent to take his place. It was then that
the men of Schwiz resorted to arms, and made common cause
against the house of Habsburg with the men of Unterwalden
(first Obwalden and then Nidwalden), and with the burghers
of Luzern. They concluded, about the year 1245, the first
Swiss league of which we have any knowledge. This act was
consummated just at the time of the struggle between Fred-
eric n. and the papacy, and the young league boldly joined
forces with the king against the papal party, to which Count
Rudolf belonged.

When, however, the emperor Frederic died, excommunicated
and deposed, their humiliation quickly followed. This deplor-
able result was hastened by another circumstance. During the
very heat of the conflict, in 1247, Count Rudolf had prevailed
upon the Pope to issue a bull,^ in which the Prior of the con-

1 Oechsli, W. Quellenbuch. p. 47.
«Ibid. p. 48.

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vent of Oelemberg in Elsass was empowered to set a time,
within which the people of Subritz {sic) and Sarmon (Schwiz
and Sarnen) as well as those of Luzern, if he could prove their
complicity, were to renounce their allegiance to the deposed
Frederic under pain of interdict, to return into the unity of
the church, and to subject themselves to their lawful lord, the
Count. About the same time the latter built the fortress of
Neu-Habsburg on a promontory of the lake which separates
the Bay of Luzern from that of Kiissnacht — a far more effect-
ive mode of dealing with the rude mountaineers than the most
threatening of papal bulls.

We know very little beyond these few facts concerning the
course of this first revolt It is not improbable, however, that
a part of the traditions which the popular mind connects with
the uprising after King Rudolf's death in 1291, had their ori-
gin in events which took place in 1245. In 1273 Schwiz
passed from the possession of the line Habsburg-Laufenburg
to Rudolf III., of Habsburg-Austria, a few days before his
election to the throne of Germany.

Here was a sudden danger. A Habsburg on the throne f
The men of Schwiz had every reason to fear that their aspira-
tions toward independence would bring down upon them the
wrath of the new sovereign, who in his exalted position would
have many opportunities of frustrating their plans. Their
apprehensions, however, were not exactly justified, for they
virtually came into possession of the immunity, notwithstand-
ing the fact that Rudolf refused to confirm the charter issued
to them by the late Emperor Frederic.

Rudolf, the King, did not surrender his rights of Landgrave,
but kept them well in hand throughout his reign. He did not
appoint a bailiff, but collected the taxes in his own name, and
selected the men who were to act as Ammanner for the free-
men and for his two estates. Now, the curious result of this
procedure was that Schwiz was thereby virtually governed
directly by the sovereign himself, without the intervention of
the county officials — in others words, Schwiz was placed in

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immediate dependence upon the empire, and came into pos-
session of the Reichsunmittelbarkeit,

In 1278 the revenues of Schwiz, along with those of the lit-
tle town of Sempach and of several other places in the vicin-
ity, were promised to Joan, daughter of Edward I., King
of England, in the event of her marriage with Hartmann,
Rudolf's son. By the revenues of Schwiz must be understood
those from the two Habsburg estates, with perhaps the sixty
marks previously mentioned as being the annual tax paid by
the freemen to the Count of Zurichgau. This marriage, how-
ever, never took place. Young Hartmann was drowned in the
Rhine, and Joan married the Earl of Gloucester some years

In 1 28 1 the revenues were mortgaged to Eberhard of Habs-
burg-Laufenburg, Rudolf's cousin, but the administration of
the country remained in the hands of the sovereign.

Far from being dangerous to the liberties of Schwiz, as
might have been expected, this reign proved in reality a bless-
ing in disguise. Many new privileges were actually accorded.
An act was issued which specified that the inhabitants need
not obey summons to appear before any tribunal outside of
the valley, but were answerable only to the king, his sons, or
to the judge of the valley itself. In 1291 a document further
declares that this judge shall never be a bondman. As early
as 1281 the commonwealth was in possession of a seal, as sym-
bol of its sovereignty, bearing the inscription : 5. Universitatis
in Swites around an image of St. Martin, the patron saint of
the country.

The final unification of Schwiz into one community was
accomplished when a single Landammann was appointed to
take the place of the four Ammanner who had heretofore
been chosen.

iCooridge, W. A. B. The English Historical Review. Oct. 1886. pp. 738-73^

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THOUGH probably the first of the three Forest States to
be colonized, Unterwalden was undoubtedly the last to
become free. It will be seen upon the map that the modem
Canton is divided into two natural sections by a range of
mountains, extending back from the Stanzerhorn to the snow-
dad peak of the Titlis. The fact that a great forest formerly
covered part of this range caused the two valleys to be
called respectively Obwalden (Above-the-Forest) and Nidwal-
den (Below-the-Forest). They were not named together
Unterwalden (In-the-Midst-of-the-Forest) until a comparatively
late date.

Here the struggle for independence was fraught with even
greater difficulties than in Uri or Schwiz, for the land was
owned by a multitude of different masters, and instead of one
Markgenossenschaft for the whole country, there was one for
every valley. As a consequence there was no basis for com-
mon action amongst the inhabitants, and the work of unifica-
tion was much retarded.

Chief amongst the land-owners was the monastery of Engel-
berg, an institution of great antiquity situated at the foot of
the Titlis. The monks of St. Ledger in Luzem also owned
estates, as well as the Counts of Habsburg and certain mem-
bers of the native nobility, such as the Knights of Winkelried.
There was also a goodly sprinkling of free peasants, but they
were slow to organize themselves into communities. The free-
men of Stans and Samen seem to have made a beginning in
the middle of the thirteenth century; at all events in 1291,


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these two districts apparently possessed all the characteristics
of full-grown commonwealths.

The administration of the country belonged mainly to the
Count of the Zurichgau. When, therefore, in the thirteenth

Online LibraryWilliam Denison McCrackanThe rise of the Swiss republic: A history → online text (page 6 of 32)