and as the timbers strained the roof fell in. A
42 THE SWITZERS.
second and a third house followed, and the
beams, dashed downwards, added to the wreck.
At Silinen the waste was wide and stern ;
the town was all but washed away ; roads,
bridges, farmsteads, gardens, all went madly down
into the lake. This hamlet was the greatest
sufferer from that fall of rain ; her loss being
reckoned by the Federal engineers at a hundred
and twenty thousand francs ; but Erstfeld, lower
down the stream, a poorer place, and one in
which the land is tilled by peasant owners, had
a deeper part in the despair. A hundred rustics
lost their all that night.
A dozen lateral valleys of the Beuss bring
torrents to the lake the Evi, Tief, and Schachen,
for example, all of which fell into and inflamed
the flood. Near Attinghausen stronger dams
were built. Few rivers in the world can match
the Reuss in fall ; in thirty miles this river drops
five thousand feet. A deluge, therefore, may be
always coming ; and the river-banks at Atting-
hausen, Altdorf, Seedorf, and Fliielen have been
strongly dammed On Sunday night the floods
were stronger than these powerful works. A
breach was made at Attinghausen in the dyke ; a
second breach soon followed, and the waters ran
RAIN AND ROOKS. 43
out screaming through the fields. At evening, ere
the storm began, the lake was very low ; a long,
hot summer having sucked it up to an unusual
depth ; but when the daylight came the church-
yard and the inns were aU below the water lines.
In Canton Uri only, five hundred persons lost
a great part of their worldly wealth ; and even
the Federal engineers computed that the cost of
that one night of rain, in this short Uri valley,
was about five hundred thousand francs.
But cruel as the ravage was in Canton Uri,
it was greater in the Valais and Graubiinden.
In Ticino it was worst of all.
Val Blegno, in Ticino, is a mountain passage
of peculiar beauty. Nestling in between the
peaks and crests of Scopi and La Bianca, where
the roads are very steep, the cascades spring
from ledge to ledge amidst a crowd of pretty
modem chalets and the ruins of an ancient world.
For here and there, among the vineyards and
the chestnut - groves, you come upon some
Romanesque tower. As usual with a Latin
people every perch of ground belonging to the
rustic has been turned to use as either garden,
paddock, or plantation ; and as usual also with
a Latin people every patch of wood belonging
44 THE SWITZERS.
to the Commune has been cut away. Few hollows
in this chain of alps can show more contrasts
than the Blegno. Vines are grown on frames,
and melons in the courtyards ; chestnut-trees and
walnut-trees abound, the fruit of which the
peasants roast and vend ; but high above the
nooks in which these fruit-trees thrive, with
garden, church, and house, is seen a mass of
rock, a thousand feet in height, without a bush
from base to crown, although the heights above
are capped with meadows of unmelting snow.
For many weeks before that Sunday night,
while it was hot and dry at Chur and Brieg,
much rain was falling in the Blegno, and the
water-ways were greatly worn and torn. Then
came the night, when shepherds who were sleep-
ing in the mountains, say, that rain fell, not
in showers but sheets, and that the solid earth
was shaken by the weight. All valleys on the
slopes of the St. Gothard were invaded by the
floods. From seven to ten o'clock the storm
increased in noise and fury. As the lightning
flashed and thunder broke, enormous streams of
water rolled down every rift and scoop. The Campo
and the Compietto were two roaring torrents.
Camha was a cataract. From Olivione to Bianca
RAIN AND ROCKS. 45
nearly all the dams gave way ; the bed, so deep
before, was raised by the accumulating sand and
stones, till meadow lands which lay on either
bank were swept. At Aquarosso, Dongio, and
PoUeggio, lands, and trees, and soil were carried
off hke so much dust. Whatever stood in front
of that descending rush, as dykes, walls, bridges,
houses, mills, and stables, fell into the stream.
In many parts the waters left their usual beds
and leapt by garden walls and private paths
into the hamlets, filled the cowsheds and the
dairies, underflowed the beams, and lifted the
strong habitations off the earth. Enormous slabs
of rock were hurled into the valleys, and an
engineer from Zurich found one fragment of a
thousand cubic feet.
The feature of that fearful night in Blegno
was descending slips of earth and rock. In
Val Soglia, all the tracks were covered by these
falHng masses. In Semiona and Malvagha,
several persons lost their lives. One hamlet,
that of Cumiasca, was a tragic scene. Some
fifteen houses occupied a grassy slope, from which
the rustics had completely stript the pines. That
Sunday night these rustics went to bed, as
alpine rustics do, at sun-down ; but were soon
46 THE SWITZERS.
awakened by the elemental war. They are not
very brave, at best, these Cumiasca Celts ; and
roused at dead of night, in utter darkness, in
the midst of drenching rain, and with a roar of
falling stones about their ears, they rushed into
the open road, took counsel of each other's fears,
and turned their faces to the mountain wall.
Great blocks of stone were tumbling from the
skies. Some fugitives were struck and killed.
Some lost their senses, and returned to what had
been their homes ; the rest roamed madly up and
down the gorge all night. In all some twenty
persons lost their lives.
When morning came, the few who had sur-
vived their fellows tried to find their houses.
Not a shed was standing in its place. They
looked upon the wreck, and thought it must be
all a dream. How could a single night have
stript them so ? A heap of earth and stones lay
over what had yesterday been Cumiasca. Full a
quarter of the villagers were dead, and nearly half
of those who had not perished in the night were
crazed. What could they do in face of such a
trial ? Each one looked into his neighbour's face
for hope, and found no comfort. In a body they
sat down upon the earth and wept.
RAIN AND ROCKS. 47
The engineers who came from Bern to help
them, were astonished by their broken spirit, as a
worse calamity than even the destruction of their
homes. The men were patient in their misery ;
supporting loss of food and fuel with a resignation
truly southern ; but they could not front the
facts and rise to overcome them at a bound. In
turns they moped, and cursed, and cried. They
threw themselves before their saints. They told
the engineer they had no hope, and could not
make an effort to begin the world afresh. Some
houses, only partly covered by the rubbish, could
be recognised ; but not a man in Cumiasca had
the heart to clear them out. Yet men and
women were gentle in their ways. No begging
was perceived, and every one seemed pleased with
what was given him from the common fund.
It was the same elsewhere on the Italian side.
The League came in with work, as well as money.
AU the roads were injured ; some of them were
stopped. The people of whole villagesiwere called
upon to clear these paths men, women, children
^-every one who could raise a pick and move a
stone. The men were armed with spade and
axe ; the women carried lengths of rope ; and
while these men were levelling the road behind in
48 THE SWITZERS.
single files, some thirty women moved in front of
them and tugged the greater fragments to one
side. The little ones were made to pick up
stones, according to their strength. Soon every-
one was got to work once more, and with re-
turning labour came the courage to confront their
' These trials,' says the man of Science, who
was in Ticino in that day of trouble, ' are a legacy
from those saints.'
The Nun lifts up her eyes.
' These fellows dream and dawdle when they
ought to stand about their guns ; supposing, if they
only shut their eyes and gape, that San Gennaro
and San Carlo will protect their sheds and fields.
They will cut down their woods, and will not dam
their streams. We came one day into PoUeggio,
which had suffered from the floods. . . .'
* But not so much as she deserved,' cries Sister
Agnes, with a flush of Celtic fire in her moist eyes.
* Of all the sins in this bad Canton of Ticino, that
of Polleggio is the worst. Some hamlets only
drive away one priest ; Polleggio drives away from
her a school of priests. You say the saints have
sent these chastisements of storm and rain. You
may be right, though in a better sense ; for Hea-
RAIN AND ROCKS. 49
ven, though it may suffer long, must overtake the
guilty ones at last.'
' Your Church affairs are not my study/ says
the Engineer; 'but still one knows that in the
general rising of Ticino, not against their bishop
only, but against the Holy See as his abettor,
these rustics of Polleggio have not borne a leading
part. The seminary for priests, established in their
neighbourhood, was closed by public acts/
' It is the same to God,' exclaims the Nun.
' Are you aware,' the man of Science turns to
me and asks, ' how much this folly of the rustic
Communes costs the League ? A hundred thou-
sand francs a-year for cones and shoots. Last year
we voted fifty thousand from a special fund. These
francs are spent in planting trees ; and from my
studies of the forests I can say the money is not
much. Ten milHon francs are needed to restore
the forests on these central alps alone ; six
millions more should be expended on the minor
alps. Nor is the money all our charge. These
Communes draw upon our time, our patience, and
our science. If we left these Celtic clowns to
chop and burn another twenty years, our hills
would be as bare as those of Greece.'
' Can you prevent this waste by Federal law V
50 THE SWITZERS.
* Not yet : in six months we shall have the
power. Such woods are Communal woods. A
Commune is a small republic, with indefinite
rights ; and as the Cantons shrink from trench-
ing on the Communal ground, Bern only can pro-
vide a cure. Already we have made one step. In
granting aid to sufferers from the recent floods we
bound the villagers to whom we paid our money
to replant their woods. Our next step is to strip
them of their power to fell and burn. Such people
are not fit for freedom. To be free, a man must
first be master of himself; and these poor things
would burn a larch to roast a pan of nuts. All
mountain forests will be brought within the scope
of Federal law. These rustics must be startled
from their sleep. An ofiScer from Bern will soon
be at their doors, to let them know that if they
choose to roast their nuts with pine and larch they
must not drown the lands of people in the vales.
We shall protect these folks against their saints.'
'Adieu!' says Sister Agnes, rising from her
bench, her cheek aghast with fear and rage.
'Adieu!' the Bernese laughs, with his cold,
careful eyes upon her, and the mallet in his
upraised hand, as though in such a cause he was
prepared to smite the rock of Bome.
RAIN AND ROCKS. 51
' Adieu !' I add, * but we shall meet again.'
* At Meinrad's Cell in Canton Schwyz V
* Yes ; at the Festival of the Rosary. Adieu !
I shall be there, and count the pilgrims at Our
TEUTON AND CELT.
'A Teuton finds his Celtic neighbour hard to
' It is so/ says the Bernese ; ' but we know
our man, and how to deal with him. It is a
kind of game. You have to use him well a
little more in word than fact and then to wait
his mood, with now and then a hint, thrown out
as though it were by chance, that he is weak
while you are strong, that he is naked and
adoze while you are armed and on the watch.
He has his noble flights, our Celtic friend ; and,
like poor Sister Agnes, he can fling himself
away. We must indulge him, for we want an
outpost at our enemy's Hues. Two Celtic nations,
France and Italy, are the foes we dread ; and it
is well for us to have a sweep of country in our
front, from Basel to Lugano, occupied by Celts.
But how are we to keep these borders free ? In
TEUTON AND CELT. 53
one of two ways only : we may keep them by
the strong hand, we may keep them by the just
hand. We have tried both systems, and have
found the cost of justice less than that of force.
Not long ago Teutonic Switzerland was lord of
all the rest. Bern ruled in Canton Vaud ;
Geneva was her vassal. Upper Valais, peopled
by the Teuton, ruled in Lower Valais, peopled
by the Celt. Yal Leventina and the circles of
Lugano and Bellinzona were but conquered pro-
vinces of .the League. Neufchatel found her
centre of poHtical life in Bern. But in revenge
of nature, we, the old free citizens of Bern,
became the vassals of some noble houses, which
had gained hereditary power as officers and
satraps in our subject states. What should we
gain by putting out our strength once more ?
Our Celtic brethren would protest. Suppose
we answer that the law is with majorities ?
They fly to arms ; we crush them ; but' our
League of freemen dies a violent death. Oui'
actual state is better than such triumph. We
must take the evil and the good together, even
though we fret against the separate Cantonal
vote, and fume most sorely at the Communal
54 THE SWITZERS.
In mere extent of surface Celtic Switzerland
is nearly equal to Teutonic Switzerland ; but when
we count the people there are only thirty Celts to
every seventy Teutons ; and the thirty Celts are
scattered into three distinct and hostile camps.
One camp is Gallic, one Romonsch, and one Italian.
' We come into these hills to-day/ observes
the Teuton, ' as our fathers came a thousand
years ago ; we come from Lombardy, from
Swabia, and from Burgundy; we meet on these
high crests around the Ober Alp, the Furka,
ai^d the Sasso di Gottardo and we try to push
each other down the slope. We Teutons bear
our language to the summit of each pass. The
Celts, too, bring their language to the summit
of each pass. Our language is High German in
the colleges, Low German in the streets. Their
language is of more variety than ours. We
speak the Allemannic idiom mainly, as our kins-
men speak it in the Rhineland, from the quays
of Rorschah to the gates of Metz. They speak
three several forms of Latin French, Italian,
and Romonsch ; French in the Rhone system,
Itahan in the Po system, Romonsch in the Inn
system, and in the upper portion of the Rhine.
The Federal Hall in Bern has a department of
TEUTON AND CELT. 55
Statistics, where one of the most learned statists
of our time, Max Wirth, sits brooding over lists ;
for counting people and arranging facts is an
essential function of the state ; and Wirth is
said to know not only every goat and cow, but
every tree and almost every blade of grass, in
Switzerland. Some mornings spent in this depart-
ment of Statistics has enriched me with a world of
The Switzers were enumerated, they and their
belongings, on the first day of December last.
Not many strangers are in Switzerland so late,
and of the strangers who are noted in the lists as
such (in number, 13,852), the greater part are living
in the land. The totals are :
Population in December, 1870.
Females ". . . . 1,364,675
Total . . . 2,670,345
Excess of females over males, 59,005.
This excess of female life is rather more than
in surrounding countries, and is not explained by
what is held to be the cause of our disparities of
56 THE SWITZERS.
sex in England emigration of the single men.
A second schedule gives us these results ;
Number of FamiHes . . . 557,820
Number of Houses . . , . 390,318
The families are small for countries which are
mainly tenanted by a Teutonic race.
Two points are to be noted in these figures ;
first, the number of persons in each Family ; and
next, the great excess of Families over Houses.
On the average for all Switzerland, a Family con-
sists of less than five members : father, mother,
and three children; while the average of other
countries of Teutonic race is six and seven. The
village system, as in Russia, tends to check the
natural rate of growth. In counting roofs, we
find the number of Families in great excess of
Houses ; very near a third part of the whole.
Excess of Families over Houses . . 167,502
The village system, as in Russia, tends to check
the growth of separate roof-trees.
The number of households is in large excess of
the number of houses in which they have to hve.
Every third family must dwell beneath a roof-tree
not its own.
TEUTON AND CELT. 57
In Languages we find :
Families speaking German
Russ, and Spanish (one each)
FamiKes . 557,820
The first four groups are native, and require
to have their separate books of law. It would
be something if each idiom had a Canton or a
group of Cantons to itself; but such is not the
rule, and hardly the exception to a rule. In each
of tbe twenty-five Cantons and Half-cantons you
hear German spoken, but in none of these exclu-
sively. In nineteen Cantons and Half-cantons
you hear French ; in some but little, and in others
much, but not in one exclusively. In twenty-
one Cantons and Half-cantons there is some
Italian, if not much ; but no one Canton speaks
Italian exclusively. The Romonsch idiom is less
widely spread, yet E-omonsch may be heard in
twelve several Cantons as a native speech. There
are, of course, some zig-zag and concentric lines of
language. German, which is heard in every Can-
ton of the Bund, maintains a large predominance
58 TBE SWITZERS.
in Zurich, Bern, Luzern, and all the upper Can-
tons, with the one exception of Graubtinden.
French is the prevailing tongue in Neufchatel,
Geneva, Valais, Vaud, and Fribourg ; but in Vaud
and Fribourg German is the language of a strong
minority of the people close upon a third. Ita-
lian has its chief seats in Graubtinden and Ticino ;
in the first of which Cantons nearly nine thousand
families speak Romonsch. This Kustic Latin is
the only language in the country which is dying
out. Italian, French, and German grow with the
growth of population more or less. The increase
in the last ten years stands thus :
Increase in the number of families speaking
Romonsch is failing ; giving way to German,
which is taught in every public school. In 1860
there were 8882 families in the country speak-
ing Romonsch; in 1870 there were 8759. Grau-
btinden is the modem Babel. In this mountain
Canton dwell some twenty thousand families
speaking as returned below :
Speaking German . . . 9328 famihes.
Romonsch . . . 8715
Italian . . . 3000
French ... 29
TEUTON AND CELT. 59
The differences of race are mostly those of
language, but not always. In the twenty-five
Cantons and Half-cantons there are :
Of Teutonic race . . . 2,000,000 souls.
Of Celtic race . . . 670,000
The two great races hold their natural lines ;
the Northern ^ races nearly all the north, the
Southern races nearly all the south. But two
exceptions to the law are visible, one exception
in the Rhone valley; a second exception in the
Rhine valley. Up to Sion the Rhone is Celtic ;
at Sierre it is mixed ; and higher up the stream
is wholly Teutonic. Up to Chur the Rhine is
German, but in Ilanz it is mixed, and higher up
the stream is Romonsch. "What cause has
brought this contradiction to a natural law ? The
structure of these mountain walls. The valley
of the Rhone is long and narrow. France has
but one opening into it beyond the passage at
Villeneuve, the high and lateral entry from Cha-
mounix by the Forclaz. Only through these
gorges can the Gauls from Burgundy and Savoy
pour into the Yalais ; but in passing up the
river, they are met in front, and taken on the
flank, by Teutons coming by the Furka pass
from Andermatt, the Grimsel pass from Mey-
60 THE SWITZERS.
ringen, the Gemini pass from Unterseen, the
Col du Rawyl from Thun, the Sanetsch pass
from Gsteig and Saanen. Met by these descend-
mg masses, they retire on Sion, where they
hold their ground, and keep the forms of Latin
life. Five passes through their mountains make
the Teutons masters of the Upper Rhone. But
Nature, which has given the Teuton access to
his neighbour's river, has denied him access
to his own. From Ober Alp to Trons, in the
Fore Rhine valley, there is not a chamois trail
across the northern heights. From Trons and
Flims there rise two bridle paths ; near Ilanz
is an opening to the Panix ; but these paths are
high and hard to climb; while on the southern
bank a dozen easy roads lead in and out of the
Italian valleys ; roads from Albula, from Stalla
from Spliigen, from Bernardina, from Olivone,
from Val Piora and from Airolo. Thus, a counter
march to what has given the upper waters of
the Rhone to men of northern race, has given the
upper waters of the Rhine to men of southern
race. A Teutonic colony has pushed towards
Italy ; and if they have not crossed the ridge,
these colonists hold the mountains to the top.
They own the hamlets of the Rheinwald and
TEUTON AND CELT. 61
the pastures of Averserthal. Some German
thorpes are circled by a foreign population, like
the German colonies in Russia. One such thorpe
is that of Bosco, in Ticino. St. Martin and
Obersaxen are Teutonic thorpes.
'You see/ the Bernese adds, as we go over
all these curious facts, ' we are an odd amalgam
of all races and all creeds. We speak Italian,
Romonsch, French, and German. We are Luthe-
ran, Calvinist, Catholic, Israelite. We are Latin,
GaUic, Low Dutch, High Dutch, Hebrew. We
are not a nation, even as we are not a people.
We have Communes, Cantons, and Half-cantons,
but as yet we have no Switzerland. A Switzer
has his Commune, but he has no country. You
will hear in Bern that we are twenty-five repub-
hcs, but in truth we are five hundred republics ;
every one of these republics with a local life
and independent claims. Our Communes were
republics once, and have not whoUy lost their
When Bourbaki, rapidly recoiling from the gates
of Belfort and the guns of Manteufel, tumbled
over into Canton Neufchatel, the Swiss Society of
PubHc Usefulness a rich and patriotic body
snatched the moment (Monday, Feb. 20, 1871)
when eighty thousand French troops were scat-
tered far and wide among five hundred Com-
munes ten in one place, forty in a second,
seventy in a third to give the fugitives some
lessons in the art of being free.
These strangers were repubhcans, but not as
Switzers are republicans. The French Kepublic,
under which they served, is One and Indivisible.
She sweeps away all barriers, landmarks, and
distinctions. She erases history. She hates the
names of hamlet, city, province ; will not hear
of Breton, Nizzard, Gascon ; rolls a level over
the rough soil of France, and makes one family
THE COMMUNES. 63
of the tribes and nations she has gathered to her
flag. She has one head, one heart, one hand, in
which her thought, her blood, her force, reside.
She is impatient of provincial rule, and finds in
unity the principle of her life. These strangers
knew so little of the Switzers, as to fancy that
a French and Swiss repubhc were the same
affair. They dreamt, that on a proclamation at
the Hotel de Yille in Paris, the Jura mountains
feU for ever; that in fact, if not as yet in form,
the Swiss republic was absorbed by France.
It was regarded as a work of public useful-
ness to clear their brains of all such notions ;
to inform these strangers of the actual truths ;
to show them how a Swiss republic differs from
A little book, a souvenir of Switzerland, was
printed by the Bernese press ; containing, in the
simplest words, a true account of what the Swiss
republic is the Commune, Canton, and Confeder-
ation with the rights which every Switzer holds
by birth. A copy of this book was given to
every soldier of the French republic quartered
m a Swiss hamlet ; and it might be well if
such a souvenir of Switzerland were given to
every stranger coming to the alps. Swiss life
64 THE SWITZERS.
is not a simple thing. These villagers and
burghers have the art of being free ; yet not
the art of being free as men in England and
"America are free. A Swiss republic has more
likeness to an American republic than a French ;
but there are points in which the League of Can-