1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Neuchâtel (canton)

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25782981911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 19 — Neuchâtel (canton)William Augustus Brevoort Coolidge

NEUCHÂTEL (Ger. Neuenburg), one of the cantons of western Switzerland, on the frontier towards France. It is the only Swiss canton that is situated entirely in the Jura, of which it occupies the central portion (its loftiest summit is the Mont Racine, 4731 ft. in the Tête de Rang range). The canton has a total area of 311⋅8 sq. m., of which 267⋅1 sq. m. are reckoned “productive” (forests occupying 88⋅6 sq. m. and vineyards 4⋅4 sq. m.). It consists, for the most part, of the longitudinal ridges and valleys characteristic of the Jura range, while its drainage is very unequally divided between the Thièle or Zihl, and the Doubs, which forms part of the north-west boundary of the canton, and receives only the streams flowing from the Le Locle and La Chaux de Fonds valley. Three regions make up the territory. That stretching along the shore of the lake is called Le Vignoble (from its vineyards) and extends from about 1500 ft. to 2300 ft. above the sea-level. An intermediate region is named Les Vallées, for it consists of the two principal valleys of the canton (the Val de Ruz, watered by the Seyon, and the Val de Travers, watered by the Areuse) which lie to a height of about 2300 ft. to 3000 ft. above the sea-level. The highest region is known as Les Montagnes, and is mainly composed of the long valley in which stand the industrial centres of La Chaux de Fonds (q.v.), and Le Locle (q.v.) to which must be added those of La Sagne, Les Ponts and Les Verrières, the elevation of these upland valleys varying from 3000 ft. to 3445 ft. The canton is well supplied with railways, the direct line from Bern past Kerzers (Chiètres), Neuchâtel, the Val de Travers and Les Verrières to Pontarlier for Paris passing right through it, while La Chaux de Fonds is connected by a line past Le Locle with Morteau in France. Other lines join the capital, Neuchâtel, to La Chaux de Fonds, as well as to Yverdon at the south-west extremity of the lake, and to St Blaise at its north-east end, not very far from Bienne.

In 1900 the population numbered 126,279 souls according to the federal census (a cantonal census of 1906 makes the figure at that date 134,014), of whom 104,551 were French-speaking, 17,629 German-speaking and 3664 Italian-speaking, while 107,291 were Protestants, 17,731 Romanists or Old Catholics, and 1020 Jews. There are three “established and state-endowed” churches, the National Evangelical (in 1907 a proposal to disestablish it was rejected by a huge majority), the Roman Catholic, and the Old Catholic (this sect in La Chaux de Fonds only), while the pastors of the Free Evangelical church and of the Jews (mostly in La Chaux de Fonds) are so far recognized as such by the state as to be exempt from military service.

Besides the capital, Neuchâtel (q.v.), the chief towns are La Chaux de Fonds (the most populous of all), Le Locle and Fleurier (3746), the principal village in the Val de Travers.

The most valuable mineral product is asphalt, of which there is a large and rich deposit in the Val de Travers, belonging to the state but worked by an English company. The wine of the Vignoble region (both sparkling and still) is plentiful and has a good reputation, the red wines of Neuchâtel, Boudry and Cortaillod being largely exported, though the petit vin blanc of Neuchâtel is all but wholly consumed within the canton. Absinthe is largely manufactured in the Val de Travers, but lace is no longer made there as of old. The Well-known manufactory of Suchard’s chocolate is at Serriéres, practically a suburb of the town of Neuchâtel, while in the canton there are also cement factories and stone quarries. But the most characteristic industry is that of watch-making and the making of gold watch cases, which is chiefly carried on (since the early 18th century) in the highland valleys of La Chaux de Fonds and of Le Locle, as well as at Fleurier in the Val de Travers. At Couvet, also in the Val de Travers, there is a large factory of screws and knitting machines.

The canton is divided into 6 administrative districts, which comprise 63 communes. The cantonal Constitution dates in its main features from 1858, but has been modified in several important respects. The legislature or Grand Conseil consists of members elected (since 1903) in the proportion of one to every 1200 (or fraction over 600) of the population, and holds office for three years, while since 1906, the principles of proportional representation and minority representation obtain in these elections. Since 1906 the executive of 5 members (since 1882) or Conseil d’État is elected by a popular vote. The 2 members of the federal Conseil des États are named by the Grand Conseil, but the 6 members of the federal Conseil National are chosen by a popular vote. Since 1879, 3000 citizens have the right of “facultative referendum” as to all laws and important decrees, while since 1882 the same number have the right of initiative as to all legislative projects, this right as to the partial revision of the cantonal constitution dating as far back as 1848, the number in the case of a total revision having been raised in 1906 to 5000.

We first hear of the novum castellum, regalissimam sedem in the will (1011) of Rudolf III., the last king of Burgundy, on whose death (1032) that kingdom reverted to the empire. About 1034 the emperor Conrad II. gave this castle to the lord of several neighbouring fiefs, his successors establishing themselves permanently there in the 12th century and then taking the title of “count.” In 1288 the reigning count resigned his domains to the emperor Rudolf, who gave them to the lord of Châlon-sur-Saône, by whom they were restored to the count of Neuchâtel on his doing homage for them. This act decided the future history of Neuchâtel, for in 1393 the house of Châlon succeeded to the principality of Orange by virtue of a marriage contracted in 1388. The counts gradually increased their dominions, so that by 1373 they held practically all of the present Canton, with the exception of the lordship of Valangin (the Val de Ruz and Les Montagnes, this last region only colonized in the early 14th century), which was held by a cadet line of the house till bought in 1592. In 1395 the first house ended in an heiress, who brought Neuchâtel to the count of Freiburg im Breisgau. As early as 1290 the reigning count had made an alliance with the Swiss Fribourg, in 1308 with Bern, and about 1324 with Soleure, but it was not till 1406 that an “everlasting alliance” was made with Bern (later in 1495 with Fribourg, and in 1501 with Lucerne). This alliance resulted in bringing the county into the Swiss confederation four centuries later, while it also led to contingents from Neuchâtel helping the Confederates from the battle of St Jakob (1444) onwards right down into the early 18th century. In 1457, through another heiress, the county passed to the house of the marquises of Baden-Hochberg, and in 1504 similarly to that of Orléans-Longueville (a bastard line of the royal house of France). From 1512 to 1529 the Swiss occupied it as the count was fighting for France and so against them. In 1532 the title of “prince” was taken, while by the treaty of Westphalia (1648) the principality became sovereign and independent of the empire. In 1530 (the very year Farel introduced the Reformation at Neuchâtel) the overlordship enjoyed by the house of Châlon-Orange passed, by virtue of a marriage contracted in 1515, to that of Nassau-Orange, the direct line of which ended in 1702 in the person of William III., king of England. In 1707 the Longueville house of Neuchâtel also became extinct, and a great struggle arose as to the succession. Finally the parliament (states) of Neuchâtel decided in favour of Frederic I., the first king of Prussia, whose mother was the elder paternal aunt of William III., and so heiress of the rights (given in 1288) of the house of Châlon, to which the fief had reverted on the extinction of the line of the counts of Neuchâtel. Thus the act of 1288 determined the fate of the principality, partly because Frederic I. was a Protestant, while the other claimants were Romanists. The nominal rule of the Prussian king (for the country enjoyed practical independence) lasted till 1857, with a brief interval from 1806 to 1814, when the principality was held by Marshal Berthier, by virtue of a grant from Napoleon. In 1814 its admission into the Swiss confederation was proposed and was effected in 1815, the new canton being the only non-republican member, just, as the hereditary rulers of Neuchâtel were the last to maintain their position in Switzerland. This anomaly led in 1848 to the establishment (attempted in 1831) of a republican form of government, brought about by a peaceful revolution led by A. M. Piaget. A royalist attempt to regain power in 1856 was defeated, and finally, after long negotiations, the king of Prussia renounced his claims to sovereignty, though retaining the right (no longer exercised) to bear the title of “prince of Neuchâtel.” Thus in 1857 Neuchâtel became a full republican member of the Swiss confederation.

Bibliography.—A. Bachelin, L’Horlogerie Neuchâteloise (Neuchâtel, 1888); E. Bourgeois, Neuchâtel et la politique prussienne en Franche Comté, 1702–1713 (Paris, 1887); J. Boyve, Annales historiques du comté de Neuchâtel et de Valangin (6 vols., Berne and Neuchâtel, 1855); F. de Chambrier, Histoire de Neuchâtel et Valangin jusqu’à l’avènement de la maison de Prusse, 1707 (Neuchâtel, 1840); L. Grandpierre, Histoire du canton de Neuchâtel sous les rois de Prusse, 1707–1848 (Neuchâtel, 1889), L. Junod, Histoire du canton de Neuchâtel sous les rois de Prusse, 1707–1848 (Neuchâtel, 1839); A. Humbert and J. Clerc, A. M. Piaget et la république neuchâteloise de 1848 à 1858 (2 vols., Neuchâtel, 1888–1895); G. A. Matile, Monuments de l’histoire de Neuchâtel (3 vols., Neuchâtel, 1844–1848), and Histoire de la seigneurie de Valangin jusqu’à sa réunion à la directe, 1592 (Neuchâtel, 1852); Musée Neuchâtelois (published by the Cantonal Historical Society), from 1864; Le Patois neuchâtelois (an anthology) (Neuchâtel, 1895); A. Pfleghart, Die schweizerische Uhrenindustrie (Leipzig, 1908); E. Quartier-la-Tente, Revue historique et monographique des communes du canton de Neuchâtel (Neuchâtel, 1897–1904).  (W. A. B. C.)