1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Switzerland/History/Shaking off the Habsburgs

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History[edit]

Shaking off Dependence on the Habsburgs, up to 1304 (1474)[edit]

In the struggle for the Empire, which extended over the years following the conclusion of the League of 1291, we find Morgarten and the League of 1315 that the Confederates supported without exception the anti-Habsburg candidate. On the 16th of October Uri and Schwyz allied themselves with Zurich, and joined the general rising in Swabia against Albert, the new head of the house of Habsburg. It soon failed, but hopes revived when in Adolf of Nassau was chosen emperor. In 1297 he confirmed to the free men of Schwyz their charter of 1240, and, strangely enough, confirmed the same charter of Uri, instead of their own of 1231. It is in his reign that we have the first recorded meeting of the ‘’Landsgemeinde’’ (or legislative assembly) of Schwyz (1294), But in 1298 Albert of Habsburg himself was elected to the Empire. His rule was strict and severe, though not oppressive. He did not indeed confirm the charters of Uri or of Schwyz, but he did not attack the ancient rights of the former, and in the latter he exercised his rights as a landowner and did not abuse his political rights as emperor or as count. In Unterwalden we find that in 1304 the two valleys were joined together under a common administrator (the local deputy of the count) — a great step forward to permanent union. The stories of Albert's tyrannical actions in the Forest districts are not heard of till two centuries later, though no doubt the union of offices in his person was a permanent source of alarm to the Confederation. It was in his time too that the " terrier " (or list of manors and estates, with enumeration of all quit rents, dues, &c., payable by the tenants to their lords) of all the Habsburg possessions in Upper Germany was begun, and it was on the point of being extended to Schwyz and Unterwalden when Albert was murdered (1308) and the election of Henry of Luxemburg roused the free men to resist the officials charged with the survey. Despite his promise to restore to the Habsburgs all rights enjoyed by them under his three predecessors (or maintain them in possession), Henry confirmed, on the 3rd of June 1309, to Uri and Schwyz their charters of 1297, and, for some unknown reason, confirmed to Unterwalden all the liberties granted by his predecessor, though as a matter of fact none had been granted. This charter, and the nomination of one royal bailiff to administer the three districts, had the effect of placing them all (despite historical differences) in an identical political position, and that the most privileged yet given to any of them — the freedom of the free community of Schwyz. A few days later the Confederates made a fresh treaty of alliance with Zurich; and in 1310 the emperor placed certain other inhabitants of Schwyz on the same privileged footing as the free community. The Habsburgs were put off with promises; and, though their request (1311) for an inquiry into their precise rights in Alsace and in the Forest districts was granted, no steps were taken to carry out this investigation. Thus in Henry's time the struggle was between the Empire and the Habsburgs as to the recognition of the rights of the latter, not between the Habsburgs and those dependent on them as landlords or counts, On Henry's death hi 1313 the electors hesitated long between Frederick the Handsome of Habsburg and Louis of Bavaria. The men of Schwyz seized this opportunity for making a wanton attack on the great abbey of Einsiedeln, with which they had a long-standing quarrel as to rights of pasture. The abbot caused them to be excommunicated, and Frederick (the choice of the minority of the electors), who was the hereditary " advocate " of the abbey, placed them under the ban of the Empire. Louis, to whom they appealed, removed the ban; on which Frederick issued a decree by which he restored to his family all their rights and possessions in the three valleys and Urseren, and charged his brother Leopold with the execution of this order. The Confederates hastily concluded alliances with Glarus, Urseren, Arth and Interlaken to protect themselves from attack on every side. Leopold collected a brilliant army at the Austrian town of Zug in order to attack Schwyz, while a body of troops was to take Unterwalden in the rear by way of the Brunig Pass. On the 15th of November 1315, Leopold with from 15,000 to 20,000 men moved forward along the shore of the Lake of Aegeri, intending to assail the town of Schwyz by climbing the slopes of Morgarten above the south-eastern end of the lake. There they were awaited by the valiant band of the Confederates from 130010 1500 strong. The march up the rugged and slippery slope threw the Austrian army into disarray, which became a rout and mad flight when huge boulders and trunks of trees were hurled from above by their foes, who charged down and drove them into the lake. Leopold fled in hot haste to Winterthur, and the attack by the Brunig was driven back by the men of Unterwalden. On the 9th of December 1315 representatives of the victorious highlanders met at Brunnen, on the Lake of Lucerne, not far from Schwyz, and renewed the Everlasting League of 1291. In their main lines the two documents arc very similar, the later being chiefly an expansion of the earlier. That of 1315 is in German (in contrast. to the 1291 League, which is in Latin), and has one or two striking clauses largely indebted to a decree issued by Zurich on the 24th of July 1291. None of the three districts or their dependents is to recognize a new lord without the consent and counsel of the rest. (This is probably meant to provide for an interregnum in or disputed election to the Empire, possibly for the chance of the election of a Habsburg.) Strict obedience in all lawful matters is to be rendered to the rightful lord in each case, unless he attacks or wrongs any of the Confederates, in which case they are to be free from all obligations. No negotiations, so long as I he " ‘’Lander’’have no lord, are to be entered on with outside powers, save by common agreement of all. Louis solemnly recognized and confirmed the new league in 1316, and in 1318 a truce was concluded, between the Confederates and the Habsburgs, who treat with them on equal terms. The lands and rights annexed belonging to the Habsburgs in the Forest districts are fully recognized as they existed in the days of Henry of Luxemburg, and freedom of commerce is granted. But there is not one word about the political rights of the Habsburgs as counts of the Zurichgau and Aargau. This distinction gives the key to the whole history of the relations between the Confederates and Habsburgs, the rights of the latter as landowners are fully allowed, and till 1801 they possessed estates within the Confederation; it is their political rights which were always contested by the Swiss, who desired to rule themselves.

As early as 1320 we find the name "Switzerland" (‘’Sweicz’’) (derived from Schwyz, which had always been the leader in the e struggle) applied to the three Forest cantons, and in 1352 extended to the Confederation as a whole. The League of Eight Members But it was not until after Sempach (1386) that it came into popular use, the historian J. von Muller (1785) fixing the distinction between "Schweiz" (for the country) and "Schwyz" (for the canton), and it did not form the official name of the Confederation till 1803. (Officially in the middle ages and later the Confederation was named ‘’les Ligues de la Haute Allemagne,’’ or, as Coramines, late in the 15th century, puts it, ‘’les vieillcs Ligues d' Allemagne qu'on appdle Suisses’’, while from c. 1452 onwards the people were called" Swiss") This is in itself a proof of the great renown which the League won by its victory at Morgarten. Another is that as years go by we find other members admitted to the privileges of the original alliance of the three Forest districts. First to join the League (1332) was the neighbouring town of Lucerne, which had grown up round the monastery of St Leodegar or Leger (whence the place took its name), perhaps a colony, certainly a cell of the great house of Murbach in Alsace, under the rule of which the town remained till its sale in 1291 to the Habsburgs. This act of Lucerne was opposed by the house of Austria, but, despite the decision of certain chosen arbitrators in favour of the Habsburg claims, the town clung to the League with which it was connected by its natural position, and thus brought a new element into the pastoral association of the Forest districts, which now surrounded the entire Lake of Lucerne. Next, in 1351, came the ancient town of Zurich, which in 1218, on the extinction of the house of Zahringen, had become a free imperial city in which the abbess of the Fraumunster (the lady of Uri) had great influence, while in 1336 there had been a great civic revolution, headed by Rudolph Brun, which had raised the members of the craft gilds to a position in the municipal government of equal power with that of the patricians, who, however, did not cease intriguing to regain their lost privileges, so that Brun, after long hesitation, decided to throw in the lot of the town with the League rather than with Austria. In this way the League now advanced from the hilly country to the plains, though the terms of the treaty with Zurich did not bind it so closely to the Confederates as in the other cases (the right of making alliances apart from the League being reserved though the League was to rank before these), and hence rendered it possible for Zurich now and again to incline towards Austria in a fashion which did great hurt to its allies. In 1352 the League was enlarged by the admission of Glarus and Zug. Glarus belonged to the monastery of Sackingen on the Rhine (founded by the Irish monk Fridolin), of which the Habsburgs were "advocates," claiming therefore many rights over the valley, which refused to admit them, and joyfully received the Confederates who came to its aid ; but it was placed on a lower footing than the other members of the League, being bound to obey their orders. Three weeks later the town and district of Zug, attacked by the League and abandoned by their Habsburg masters, joined the Confederation, forming a transition link between the civic and rural members of the League. The immediate occasion of the union of these two districts was the war begun by the Austrian duke against Zurich, which was ended by the Brandenburg peace of 1352, by which Glarus and Zug were to be restored to the Habsburgs, who also regained their rights over Lucerne Zug was won for good by a bold stroke of the men of Schwyz in 1364, but it was not till the day of Nafels (1388) that Glarus recovered its lost freedom. These temporary losses and the treaty made by Brun of Zurich with Austria in 1356 were, however, far outweighed by the entrance into the League in 1353 of the famous town of Bern, which, founded in 1191 by Berthold V. of Zaringen, and endowed with great privileges, had become a free imperial city in 1218 on the extinction of the Zaringen dynasty. Founded for the purpose of bridling the turbulent feudal nobles around, many of whom had become citizens, Bern beat them back at Dornbuhl (1298), and made a treaty with the Forest districts as early as 1323. In 1339, at the bloody fight of Laupen, she had broken the power of the nobles for ever, and in 1352 had been forced by a treaty with Austria to take part in the war against Zurich, but soon after the conclusion of peace entered the League as the ally of the three Forest districts, being thus only indirectly joined to Lucerne and Zurich. The special importance of the accession of Bern was that the League now began to spread to the west, and was thus brought into connexion for the first rime with the French-speaking land of Savoy. The League thus numbered eight members, the fruits of Morgarten, and no further members were admitted till 1481, after the Burgundian War. But, in order thoroughly to understand the nature of the League, it must be remembered that, while each of the five new members was allied with the original nucleus — the three Forest districts — these five were not directly allied to one another: Lucerne was allied with Zurich and Zug, Zurich with Lucerne, Zug and Glarus; Glarus with Zurich, Zug with Lucerne and Zurich, Bern with no one except the three original members. The circumstances under which each entered the League can alone explain these very intricate relations. After a short interval of peace the quarrels with Austria broke out afresh; all the members of the League, save the three Forest districts and Glarus, joined (1385) the great union Sempach of the south German cities; but their attention was soon called to events nearer home. Lucerne fretted much under the Austrian rule, received many Austrian subjects among her citizens, and refused to pay custom duties to the Austrian bailiff at Rothenburg, on the ground that she had the right of free traffic. An attack on the custom-house at Rothenburg, and the gift of the privileges of burghership to the discontented inhabitants of the little town of Sempach a short way off, so irritated Leopold III (who then held all the possessions of his house outside Austria) that he collected an army, with the intention of crushing his rebellious town. Lucerne meanwhile had summoned the other members of the League to her aid, and, though Leopold's feint of attacking Zurich caused the troops of the League to march at first in that direction, they discovered their mistake in time to turn back and check his advance on Lucerne. From 1500 to 1600 men of Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, and Lucerne opposed the 6000 which made up the Austrian army. The decisive 6ght took place on the 9th of July 1386, near Sempach, on a bit of sloping meadow-land, cut up by streams and hedges, which forced the Austrian knights to dismount. The great heat of the day, which rendered it impossible to fight in armour, and the furious attacks of the Confederates, finally broke the Austrian line after more than one repulse and turned the day (see WINKEL- RIED). Leopold, with a large number of his followers, was slain, and the Habsburg power within the borders of the Confederation finally broken. Glarus at once rose in arms against Austria, but it was not till the expiration of the truce made after Sempach that Leopold's brother, Albert of Austria, brought an army against Glarus, and was defeated at Nafels (not far from Glarus) on the 9th of April 1388, by a handful of Glarus and Schwyz men.

In 1389 a peace for seven years was made, the Confederates being secured in all their conquests; an attempt made in 1393 by Austria by means of Schono, the chief magistrate of Zurich and leader of the patrician party, to stir up a fresh attack failed owing to a rising of the burghers, who sympathized with the Confederates, and on the 16th of July 1394 the peace was prolonged for twenty years (and again in 1412 for fifty years), various stipulations being made by which the long struggle of the League against the Habsburgs was finally crowned with success. Freedom from the Political Claims of the Habsburgs

By the peace of 1394 Glarus was freed on payment of £200 annually (in 1395 it bought up all the rights of Sackingen), Zug too was released from Austrian rule. Schwyz was given the ‘’advocatia’’ of the great abbey of Einsiedeln, Lucerne got the Entlebuch (finally in 1405), Sempach and Rothenburg, Bern and Soleure were confirmed in their conquests. Above all, the Confederation as a whole was relieved from the overlordship of the Habsburgs, to whom, however, all their rights and dues as landed proprietors were expressly reserved, Bern, Zurich and Soleure guaranteeing the maintenance of these rights and dues, with power in case of need to call on the other Confederates to support them by arms. Though the house of Habsburg entertained hopes of recovering its former rights, so that technically the treaties of 1389, 1394 and 1412 were but truces, it finally and for ever renounced all its feudal rights and privileges within the Confederation by the " Everlasting Compact " of 1474.

It is probable that Bern did not take any active share in the Sempach War because she was bound by the treaty of peace made with the Austrians in 1368, and Soleure, allied with Bern, was doubtless a party to the treaty of 1394 (though not yet in the League), because of its sufferings in 1382 at the hands of the Kyburg line of the Habsburgs, whose possessions (Thun, Burgdorf, &c.) in 1384 fell into the hands of the two allies. We may mention here the foray (known as the English or Gugler War) made in 1375 by Enguerrand de Coucy (husband of Isabella, daughter of Edward III. of England) and his freebooters (many of them Englishmen and Welshmen), called "Gugler" from their pointed steel caps, with the object of obtaining possession of certain towns in the Aargau (including Sempach), which he claimed as the dowry of his mother Catherine, daughter of the Leopold who was defeated at Morgarten. He was put to rout in the Entlebuch by the men of Bern, Lucerne, Schwyz and Unterwalden in December 1375. This victory was commemorated with great rejoicings in 1875.