1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Switzerland/History/Constitution
5. The cities at once secured for themselves in the cantonal great councils an overwhelming representation over the neighbouring Attempts at Reform. country districts, and the agreement of 1805 as to migration from one canton to another was renewed (1819) by twelve cantons. For some time there was little talk of reforms, but in 1819 the Helvetic Society definitely became a political society, and the foundation in 1824 of the Marksmen's Association enabled men from all cantons to meet together. A few cantons (notably Tessin) were beginning to make reforms, when the influence of the July revolution (1830) in Paris and the sweeping changes in Zürich led the Diet to declare (Dec. 27) that it would not interfere with any reforms of cantonal constitutions provided they were in agreement with the pact of 1815. Hence for the next few years great activity in this direction was displayed, and most of the cantons reformed themselves, save the most conservative (e.g. Uri, Glarus) and the advanced who needed no changes (e.g. Geneva, Graubunden). Provision was always made for revising these constitutions at fixed intervals, for the changes were not felt to be final, and seven cantons—Zürich, Bern, Lucerne, Soleure, St Gall, Aargau and Thurgau—joined together to guarantee their new free constitutions (Siebener Concordat of March 17, 1832). Soon after, the question of revising the Federal pact was brought forward by a large majority of cantons in the Diet (July 17), whereon, by the league of Sarnen (Nov. 14), the three Forest cantons, with Neuchâtel, the city of Basel, and the Valais, agreed to maintain the pact of 1815 and to protest against the separation of Basel in two halves (for in the reform struggle Schwyz and Basel had been split up, though the split was permanent only in the latter case). A draft constitution providing for a Federal administration distinct from the cantons could not secure a majority in its favour; a reaction against reform set in, and the Diet was forced to sanction (1833) the division of Basel into the “city” and “country” divisions (each with half a vote in the Diet), though fortunately in Schwyz the quarrel was healed. Religious quarrels further stirred up strife in Connexion with Aargau, which was a Canton where religious parity prevailed, later in others. In Zürich the extreme pretensions of the Radicals and freethinkers (illustrated by offering a chair of theology in the university to D. F. Strauss of Ttibingen because of his Life of J esus, then recently published) brought about a great reaction in 1839, when Zürich was the “Vorort” In Aargau the parties were very evenly balanced, and, when in 1840, on occasion of the revision of the constitution, the Radicals had a popular majority the aggrieved clerics stirred up a revolt (1840), which was put down, but which gave their opponents, headed by Augustine Keller, an excuse for carrying a vote in the great council to suppress the eight monasteries in the Canton (jan. 1841). This was flatly opposed to the pact of 181 5, which the Diet by a small majority decided must be upheld (April 1841), though after many discussions it determined (Aug. 31, 1843) to accept the compromise by which the men's convents only were to be suppressed, and declared that the matter was now settled. On this the seven Romanist cantons-Uri, Schwyz, Unter-Walden, Lucerne, Zug, Fribourg and the Valais-formed (Sept. 13, 1843) a “Sonderbund” or separate league, which (February 1844) issued a manifesto demanding the reopening of the question and the restoration of all the monasteries. Like the Radicals in former years the Romanists went too far and too fast, for in October 1844 the clerical party in Lucerne (in the majority since 1841, and favouring the reaction in the Valais) officially invited in the Jesuits and gave them high posts, an act which created all the more sensation because Lucerne was the “ Vorort.” Twice (December 1844 and March 1845) parties of free lances tried to capture the city. In December 1845 the Sonderbund turned itself into an armed confederation, ready to appeal to war in defence of the rights of each canton. The Radicals carried Zürich in April 1845 and Bern in February 1846, but a majority could not be secured in the Diet till Geneva (Oct. 1846) and St Gall (May 1847) were won by the same party. On the zoth of ]'uly 1847, the Diet, by a small majority, declared that the Sonderbund was contrary to the Federal pact, which on the 16th of August it was resolved to revise, while on the 3rd of September it was decided to invite each Canton to expel the Jesuits. Most of the Great Powers favoured the Sonderbund, but England took the Contrary view, and the attempt of Metternich, supported by Louis Philippe, to bring about European intervention, on the plea of upholding the treaties of Vienna, was frustrated by the policy of masterly inactivity pursued by Lord Palmerston, who delayed giving an answer till the forces of the Sonderbund had been defeated, a friendly act that is still gratefully remembered in the country. On the 29th of October the deputies of the unyielding cantons left the Diet, which ordered on the 4th of November that its decree should be enforced by arms. The war was short (Nov. 10–29), mainly owing to the ability of the general, G. H. Dufour (1787-1875), and the loss of life trifling. One after another the rebellious cantons were forced to surrender, and, as the Paris revolution of February 1848, entailing the retirement of Guizot (followed three weeks later by that of Metternich), occupied all the attention of the Great Powers (who by the constitution of 1815 should have been consulted in the revision of the pact), the Swiss were enabled to settle their own affairs quietly. Schwyz and Zug abolished their “landsgemeinden,” and the seven were Condemned to pay the costs of the war (ultimately defrayed by subscription), which had been waged rather on religious than on strict particulari st or states-rights grounds. The Diet meanwhile debated the draft constitution drawn up by Iohann Conrad Kern (1808-1888) of Thurgau and Henri Druey (1799-1855) of Vaud, which in the summer of 1848 was accepted by fifteen and a half cantons, the minority consisting of the three Forest cantons, the Valais, Zug, Tessin and Appenzell (Inner Rhoden), and it was proclaimed on the 12th of September.
The new Constitution inclined rather to the Act of Mediation than to the system which prevailed before 1798. A status of Constitution of 1848 “Swiss citizenship” Was set up, closely joined to cantonal Citizenship, a man settling in a Canton not being his birthplace got cantonal citizenship after a residence of at most two years, but was excluded from all local rights in the “commune” where he might reside. A Federal or central government was set up, to which the cantons gave up a certain part of their sovereign rights, retaining the rest. The Federal Legislature (or assembly) was made up of two houses the Council of States (Stünderal), composed of two deputies from each Canton, whether small or great (44 in all), and the National Council (Nationalrat), made up of deputies elected for three years, in the proportion of one for every 20,000 souls or fraction over 10,000, the electors being all Swiss citizens. The Federal council or executive (Bzmdesrat) consisted of seven members elected by the Federal Assembly sitting as a Congress; they were jointly responsible for all business, though for sake of convenience there were various departments, and their chairman was called the president of the Confederation. The Federal judiciary (Bundesgericht) was made up of eleven members elected for three years by the Federal Assembly sitting in congress; its jurisdiction was chiefly confined to civil Cases, in which the Confederation was a party (if a Canton, the Federal council may refer the case to the Federal tribunal), but took in also great political crimes-all constitutional questions, however, being reserved for the Federal Assembly. A Federal university and a polytechnic school were to be founded. All military Capitulations were forbidden in the future. Every Canton must treat Swiss citizens who belong to one of the Christian confessions like their own citizens, for the right of free settlement is given to all such, though they acquired no rights in the “Commune.” All Christians were guaranteed the exercise of their religion, but the Jesuits and similar religious orders were not to be received in any canton. German, French and Italian were recognized as national languages. The constitution as a whole marked a great step forward; though very many rights were still reserved to the cantons, yet there was a fully organized central government. Almost the first act of the Federal Assembly was to exercise the power given them of determining the home of the Federal authorities, and on the 28th of November 1848 Bern was chosen, though Zürich still ranks as the first canton in the Confederation. Soon after 1848 a beginning was made of organizing the different public services, which had now been brought within the jurisdiction of the central Federal authority. Thus in 1849 a uniform letter post service was established, in 1850 a single coinage replaced the intricate cantonal Currencies, While all customs duties between cantons were abolished, in 1 851 the telegraph service was organized, while all weights and measures were unified (in 1868 the metrical system was allowed, and in 1875 declared obligatory and universal), in 1854 roads and canals were taken in hand, While finally in 1855 the Federal Polytechnic School at Ztirich was opened, though the Federal university authorized by the new constitution has not yet been set up. These were some of the non-political benefits of the creation of a Federal central executive. But in 1852 the Federal Assembly decided to leave the construction of railways to private enterprise and so had to buy them up in 1903 at a vastly enhanced price.
By this early settlement of disputes Switzerland was protected from the general revolutionary movement of 1848, and in later years her political history has been uneventful, though she has felt the weight of the great European crises in industrial and social matters.
The position of Neuchatel, as a member of the Confederation (as regards its government only) and as a principality ruled by the king of Prussia, whose rights had been expressly recognized by the congress of Vienna, was uncertain. She had not sent troops in 1847, and, though in 1848 there was a republican revolution there, the prince did not recognize the changes. Finally, a royalist conspiracy in September 1856 to undo the work of 1848 caused great excitement and anger in Switzerland, and it was only by the mediation of Napoleon III. and the other powers that the prince renounced (1857) all his rights, save his title, which his successor (the German emperor) has also dropped. Since that time Neuchatel has been an ordinary member of the Confederation. In 1859-1860 the cession of Savoy (part of it neutralized in 1815) to France aroused considerable indignation, and in 1862 the long-standing question of frontiers in the Vallée des Dappes was finally arranged with France. In 1871 many French refugees, especially Bourbaki's army, were most hospitably received and sheltered. The growth of the Old Catholics after the Vatican Council (1870) caused many disturbances in western Switzerland, especially in the Bernese Jura. The attack was led by Bishop Eugene Lachat (1819-1886) of Basel, whose see was suppressed by several cantons in 1873, but was set up again in 1884 though still not recognized by Bern. The appointment by the pope of the abbé Gaspard Mermillod (1824-1892) as “apostolic vicar” of Geneva, which was separated from the diocese of Fribourg, led to Monseigneur Mermillod's banishment from Switzerland (1873), but in 1883 he was raised to the vacant see of Lausanne and Geneva and allowed by the Federal authorities to return, but Geneva refused to recognize him, though he was created a cardinal in 1890. An event of great importance to Switzerland was the opening of the St Gotthard tunnel, which was begun in 1871 and opened in 1882; by it the Forest cantons seem likely to regain the importance which was theirs in the early days of the Confederation.
From 1848 onwards the cantons continually revised their constitutions, always in a democratic sense, though after the Sonderbund War Schwyz and Zug abolished their “landsgemeinden” (1848). The chief point was the introduction of the referendum, by which laws made by the cantonal legislature may (facultative referendum) or must (obligatory referendum) be submitted to the people for their approval, and this has obtained such general acceptance that Fribourg alone does not possess the referendum in either of its two forms. It was therefore only natural that attempts should be made to revise the federal constitution of 1848 in a democratic and centralizing sense, for it had been provided that the Federal Assembly, on its own initiative or on the written request of 50,000 Swiss electo—rs, could submit the question of revision to a. popular vote. In 1866 the restriction of certain rights (mentioned above) to Christians only was swept away; but the attempt at final revision in 1872 was defeated by a small majority, owing to the efforts of the anti-centralizing party. Finally, however, another draft was better liked, and on the 19th of April 1874 the Revised Constitution of 1874. new constitution was accepted by the people—141 against 71 (those of 1848 without Tessin, but with Fribourg and Lucerne) and 340,199 votes as against 198, or3. This constitution is still in force, and is mainly a revised edition of that of 1848, the Federal power being still further strengthened. Among the more important novelties three points may be mentioned. A system of free elementary education was set up, under the superintendence of the Confederation, but managed by the cantons. A man settling in another canton was, after a residence of three months only, given all cantonal and. communal rights, save a share in the common property (an arrangement which as far as possible kept up the old principle that the “commune” is the true unit out of which cantons and the Confederation are built), and the membership of the commune carries with it cantonal and federal rights. The “Referendum” was introduced in its “facultative” form; i.e. all federal laws must be submitted to popular vote on the demand of 30,000 Swiss citizens or of eight cantons. But the “Initiative” (le. the right of compelling the legislature to consider a certain subject or bill) was not introduced into the Federal Constitution till 1891 (when it was given to 50,000 Swiss citizens) and then only as to a partial (not a total) revision of that constitution. By the constitutions of 1848 and 1874 Switzerland has ceased to be a mere union of independent states jointed by a treaty, and has become a single state with a well-organized central government, to which have been given certain of the rights of the independent cantons, but increased centralization would destroy the whole character of the Confederation, in which the cantons are not administrative divisions but living political communities. Swiss history teaches us, all the way through, that Swiss liberty has been won by a close union of many small states, and we cannot doubt that it will be best preserved by the same means, and not by obliterating all local peculiarities, nowhere so striking and nowhere so historically important as in Switzerland.
M. Numa Droz (who was for seventeen years—1876 to 1892—a member of the Federal executive, and twice, in 1881 and in 1887, president of the Swiss Confederation) expressed the opinion shortly before his death in December 1899 (he was born in 1844) that while the dominant note of Swiss politics from 1848 to 1874 was the establishment of a Federal state, that of the period extending from 1874 to 1899 (and this is true of a later period) was the direct rule of the people, as distinguished from government by elected representatives. Whether this distinction be just or not, it is certain that this advance towards democracy in its true sense is due indirectly to the monopoly of political power in the Federal government enjoyed by the Radical party from 1848 onwards: many were willing to go with it some part of the way, but its success in maintaining its close monopoly has provoked a reaction against it on the part of those who desire to see the Confederation remain a Confederation, and not become a strongly centralized state, contrary to its past history and genius. Hence after 1874 we find that democratic measures are not advocated as we should expect by the Radicals, but by all the other political parties with a view of breaking down this Radical monopoly, for it is a strange fact that the people elect and retain Radical representatives, though they reject the measures laid before them for their approval by the said Radical representatives. For these reasons the struggle between Federalists and Centralists (the two permanent political parties in Switzerland), which up to 1874 resulted in favour of the Centralists, has been turning gradually in favour of the Federalists, and that because of the adoption of such democratic institutions as the Referendum and the Initiative.
The general lines on which Swiss politics have run since 1874 may be most conveniently summarized under three headings the working of the political machinery, the principal political events, and then the chief economical and financial features of the period. But it must be always borne in mind that all the following remarks relate only to Federal politics, those of the several cantons being much more intricate, and of course turning more on purely local differences of opinion.
1. Political Machinery.—The Federal Constitution of 1848 set up a permanent Federal executive, legislature and tribunal, each and all quite distinct from and independent of any cantonal government. This system was a modified revival of the state of things that had prevailed from 1798 to ISO3, and was an imitation of the political changes that had taken place in the cantonal constitutions after 1830. Both were victories of the Centralist or Radical party, and it was therefore but natural that this party should be called upon to undertake the Federal government under the new constitution, a supremacy that it has kept ever since. To the Centralists the Council of States (two members from each canton, however large or small) has always been a stumbling-block, and they have mockingly nicknamed it “the fifth wheel of the coach.” In the other house of the Federal legislature, the National C onncil (one member per 20,000, or fraction of over 10,000 of the entire population), the Radicals have always since its creation in 1848 had a majority. Hence, in the Congress formed by both houses sitting together, the Radicals have had it all their own way. This is particularly important as regards the election of the seven members of the Federal executive which is made by such a Congress. Now the Federal executive (Federal Council) is in no sense a cabinet, i.e. a committee of the party in the majority in the legislature for the time being. In the Swiss Federal Constitution the cabinet has no place at all. Each member of the Federal executive is elected by a separate ballot, and holds office for the hxed term of three years, during which he cannot be turned out of office, while as yet but a single instance has occurred of the rejection of a Federal councillor who offered himself for re-election. Further, none of the members of the Federal executive can hold a seat in either house of the Federal legislature, though they may appear and speak (but not vote) in either, while the Federal Council as such has not necessarily any common policy, and never expresses its views on the general situation (though it does as regards particular legislative and administrative measures) in anything resembling the “speech from the Throne” in England. Thus it seems clear that the Federal executive was intended by the Federal Constitution of 1848 (and in this respect that of 1874 made no change) to be a standing committee of the legislature as a whole, but not of a single party in the legislature, or a “cabinet,” even though it had the majority. Yet this rule of a single political party is just what has taken place. Between 1848 and the end of 1908, 38 Federal councillors were elected (24 from German-speaking, 12 from French-speaking and 2 from Italian-speaking Switzerland, the canton of Vaud heading the list with 7). Now of these 38 three only were not Radicals, viz. M Paul Ceresole (1870-1875) of Vaud, who was a Protestant Liberal-Conservative, Herren Iosef Zemp (1891-1908) and Josef Anton Schobinger (elected 1908), both of Lucerne and Romanist Conservatives, yet the Conservative minority is a large one, while the Romanists form about two-fifths of the population of Switzerland. But despite this predominance of a single party in the Federal Council, no true cabinet system has come into existence in Switzerland, as members of the council do not resign even when their personal policy is condemned by a popular vote, so that the resignation of Herr Welti (a member of the Federal Council from 1867 to 1891), in consequence of the rejection by the people of his railway policy, caused the greatest amazement and consternation in Switzerland.
The chief political parties in the Federal legislature are the Right, or Conservatives (whether Romanists or Protestants), the Centre (now often called “Liberals,” but rather answering to the Whigs of English political language, the Left (or Radicals) and the Extreme Left (or the Socialists of varying shades). In the Council of States there is always a Federalist majority, since in this house the smaller cantons are on an equality with the greater ones, each indifferently having two members. But in the National Council (167 elected members) there has always (since 1848) been a considerable Radical majority over all other parties. The Socialists long worked under the wing of the Radicals, but now in every canton (save Geneva) the two parties have quarrelled, the Socialist vote having largely increased, especially in the town of Zurich. In the country the anti-Raclical opposition is made up of the Conservatives, who are strongest in the Romanist, and especially the Forest, cantons, and of the “Federalists” of French-speaking Switzerland. There is no doubt that the people are really anti-Radical, though occasionally led away by the experiments made recently in the domain of State socialism: they elect, indeed, a Radical majority, but very frequently reject the bills laid before them by their elected representatives.
2. Politics.—The cantons had led the way before 1848, and they continued to do so after that date, gradually introducing reforms all of which tended to give the direct rule to the people. The Confederation was bound to follow this example, though it adopted a far more leisurely pace. Hence, in 1872 a new Federal Constitution was drafted, but was rejected on a popular vote by a small majority, as it was thought to go too far in a centralizing direction, and so encountered the combined opposition of the Conservatives and of the Federalists of Frenchspeaking Switzerland. The last-named party was won over by means of concessions as to military matters and the proposed unification of cantonal laws, civil and criminal, and especially by strong provisions as to religious freedom, since the “Kulturkampf” was then raging in French-speaking Switzerland. Hence a revised draft was accepted in 1874 by a considerable popular majority, and this is the existing Federal Constitution. But it bears marks of its origin as a compromise, and no one party has ever been very eager to support it as a whole. At first all went smoothly, and various very useful laws carrying out in detail the new provisions of the constitution were drafted and accepted. But divisions of opinion arose when it was proposed to reform the military system at a very great expenditure, and also as to the question of the limitation of the right to issue bank-notes, while (as will be seen under 3 below) just at this time grave financial difficulties arose with regard to the Swiss railways, and in consequence of Prince Bismarck's antifree trade policy, which threatened the prosperity of Switzerland as an exporting country. Further, the disturbed political state of the canton of Ticino (or Tessin) became more or less acute from 1873 onwards. There the Radicals and the Conservatives are nearly equally balanced. In 1872 the Conservatives obtained the majority in this canton, and tried to assure it by some certainly questionable means. The Radicals repeatedly appealed to the Federal government to obtain its armed intervention, but in vain. In 1876 the Conservatives at a rifle match at Stabio Bred on the Radicals, but in 1880 the accused persons were acquitted. The long-desired detachment of Ticino from the jurisdiction of the foreign dioceses of Como and Milan was effected in 1888 by the erection of a see at Lugano, but this event caused the Radicals to fear an increase of clerical influence. Growing impatient, they finally took matters in their own hands, and in September 1890 brought about a bloody revolution. The partial conduct of the Radical Federal commissioner was much blamed, but after a state trial at Zürich in I8QI the revolutionists were acquitted, although they loudly boasted of their share in this use of force in political matters.
From 1885 onwards Switzerland had some troubles with foreign powers owing to her defence of the right of asylum for fugitive German Socialists, despite the threats of Prince Bismarck, who maintained a secret police in Switzerland, one member of which, Wohlgemuth, was expelled in 1889, to the prince's huge but useless indignation. From about 1890, as the above troubles within and without gradually subsided, the agitation in the country against the centralizing policy of the Radicals became more and more strongly marked. By the united exertions of all the opposition parties, and against the steady resistance of the Radicals, an amendment was introduced in 1891 into the Federal Constitution, by which 50,000 Swiss citizens can by the “Initiative” compel the Federal legislature and executive to take into consideration some point in the Federal Constitution which, in the opinion of the petitioners, requires reform, and to prepare a bill dealing with it which must be submitted to a popular vote. Great hopes and fears were entertained at the time as to the working of this new institution, but both have been falsified, for the Initiative has as yet only succeeded in inserting (in 1893) in the Federal Constitution a provision by which the Jewish method of killing animals is forbidden, and another (in 1908) prohibiting the manufacture or sale of absinthe in the country. On the other hand, it has failed (in 1894) to secure the adoption of a Socialist scheme by which the state was bound to provide work for every able-bodied man in the country, and (also in 1894) to carry a proposal to give to the cantons a bonus of two francs per head of the population out of the rapidly growing returns of the customs duties, similarly in 1900 an attempt to introduce the election of the Federal executive by a. popular vote and proportional representation in the Nalionalrat failed, as in 1903 did a proposal to make the elections to the Nationalrat depend on the Swiss population only, instead of thetotal population of the country.
The great rise in the productiveness of the customs duties (see 3 below) has tempted the Swiss people oi late years to embark on a course of state socialism, which may be also described as a series of measures tending to give more and more power to the central Federal government at the expense of the cantons. S0 in 1890 the principle of compulsory universal insurance against sickness and accidents was accepted by a popular vote, in 1891 likewise that of a state or Federal bank, and in 1898 that of the unification of the cantonal laws, civil and criminal, into a set of Federal codes. In each case the Federal government and legislature were charged with the preparation of laws carrying out in detail these general principles. But in 1897 their proposals as to a Federal bank were rejected by the people, though another draft was accepted in 1905, so that the bank (with a monopoly of note issue, a provision accepted by a popular vote in 1891) was actually opened in 1907. At the beginning of 1900 the suspicion felt as to the insurance proposals elaborated by the Federal authorities was so keen that a popular demand for a popular vote was signed by 117,000 Swiss citizens, the legal minimum being only 30,0001 they were rejected (May 20, 1900) on a popular vote by a nearly two to one majority. The preparation of the Federal civil and criminal codes has progressed quietly, drafts being framed by experts and then submitted for criticism to special commissions and public opinion, but finally the civil code was adopted by the Federal Assembly in December 1907. By a popular vote in 1887 the Federal authorities were given a monopoly of alcohol, but a proposal to deal similarly with tobacco has been very ill received (though such a monopoly would undoubtedly produce a large amount), and would pretty certainly be refused by the people if a popular vote were ever taken upon it. In 1895 the people declined to sanction a state monopoly of matches, even though the unhealthy nature of the works was strongly urged, and have also resolutely refused on several occasions to accept any projects for the centralizing of the various branches of military administration, &c., though in 1897 the forests high up on the mountains were placed under Federal supervision, while in 1902 large Federal grants in aid were made to the cantons towards the expenses of primary education, and in 1908 the supervision of the employment of the power derived from rivers and streams was given to the Confederation. Among other reforms which have recently been much discussed in Switzerland are the introduction of the obligatory referendum (which hitherto has applied only to amendments to the Federal Constitution) and the extension of the initiative (now limited to piecemeal revision of the Federal Constitution) to all Federal laws, &c. The first-named scheme is an attempt to restrain important centralizing measures from being presented as laws (and as such exempt from the compulsory referendum), and not as amendments to the Federal Constitution.
Besides the insurance project mentioned above, two great political questions have engaged the attention of the Swiss.
a. State Purchase of the Railways.—In 1891 the purchase of the Central railway was rejected by a popular vote, but in 1898, by the aid of various baits thrown out, the people were induced to accept the principle of the purchase by the Confederation of the five great Swiss railway lines-three in 1901, viz. the Central, the North-Eastern, and the United Swiss lines; one (the ]ura-Simplon) in 1903, and one (the St Gotthard line) in 1909, this delay being due to international conventions that still have some years to run. Further, very important economical consequences, e.g. as to strikes, may be expected to result from the transformation of all railway officials of whatever grade into state servants, who may naturally be expected to vote (as in other cases) for their employers, and so greatly increase the strength of the Centralistl political party.
b. The “Double Initiative.”—This phrase denotes two purely political reforms that have been coupled together, though in reality they are by no means inseparable. One is the introduction of proportional representation (within the several cantons) into the elections for the National Council of the Federal parliament, the object being thus to secure for several large minorities a number of M.P.'s more in accordance with the size of those minorities in the country than is now possible under the regime of pure majorities: naturally these minorities would then receive a proper share of political power in the senate house, instead of merely exerting great political influence in the country, while if they were thus strengthened in the legislature they would soon be able to claim the right of naming several members of the Federal executive, thus making both legislature and executive a mirror of the actual political situation of the country, instead of the preserve of one political party. The other reform is the election of the members of the Federal executive by popular vote, the whole body of voters voting, not by cantons, but as a single electoral constituency. This would put an end to the “lobbying ” that goes on previously to the election of a member of the executive by the two houses of the Federal parliament sitting jointly in Congress; but, on the other hand, it might stereotype the present system of electing members of the executive by the majority system, and so reduce large minorities to political impotence. The “double initiative ” scheme was launched in the beginning of 1899, and by the beginning of the following July secured more than the requisite number of signatures (50,000), the first-named item having been supported by nearly 65,000 citizens, and the second item by 56,000. Hence the Federal parliament was bound to take these two reforms into formal consideration, but in June 1900 it rejected both, and this decision was confirmed by a popular vote taken in the following November.
3. Economics and Finance.—Soon after the adoption of the Federal Constitution of 1874 the economical and financial state of the Confederation became very unsatisfactory. The great financial crisis in Vienna in 1873 was a severe blow to Swiss commerce, which had taken a very great start after the Franco-German War of 1870-71. In the later 'seventies, too, the financial position of some of the great Swiss railway lines was very unfavourable: the bankruptcy of the National line ruined for the time (till a Federal loan at a very low rate of interest was forced upon them) the four Swiss towns which were its guarantors; the North-Eastern line had to beg for a “moratorium ” (a legal delay of the period at which it had to pay its debts) from the Federal government; the Bern-Lucerne line was actually put up to auction, and was bought by the canton of Bern. Further, the expenses of constructing the St Gotthard railway vastly exceeded all estimates, and in 1876 over 100,000,000 francs more were required. Hence the subventions already granted had to be increased. Germany (which gave originally 20,000,000 francs) and Italy (original contribution 45,000,000 francs) each promised 10,000,000 francs more; the St Gotthard company itself gave 12,000,000, and the two Swiss railway lines interested (Central and North-Eastern) added 1,500,000 to the 20,000,000 they had already agreed to give jointly with the cantons interested in the completion of this great undertaking. But these latter refused to add anything to their previous contributions, so that finally the Federal government proposed that it should itself pay the 6,500,000 francs most urgently required. This proposal aroused great anger in east and west Switzerland, but the matter was ultimately settled by the Confederation paying 4,500,000 francs and the interested cantons 2,000,000, the latter gift being made dependent on a grant of 4,500,000 francs by the Federal government for new tunnels through the Alps in east and west Switzerland, and of 2,000,000 more for the Monte Cenere tunnel between Bellinzona and Lugano. T his solution of a most thorny question was approved by a popular vote in 1879, and the St Gotthard line was successfully completed in 1882. Gradually, too, the other Swiss railway lines, attained a state of financial equilibrium, owing to the more careful management of new directors and managers. The completion of the Simplon tunnel (1906), the commencement (1906) of that beneath the Lötschen Pass (q.v.), and the rival claims of projected tunnels under the Splügen Pass (q.v.), besides the struggle for or against a. tunnel under the Faucille (supported by Geneva almost alone), show that railway politics play a very prominent part in Swiss national life. They are, too, complicated by many local rivalries, which in this country are of greater importance than elsewhere because of the considerable share of power still legally belonging to the cantons. Another kindred question (owing to the rapid development of electric traction in Switzerland) is the equitable proposal (accepted in 1908) that the utilization of the immense force supplied by the many rivers and torrents in Switzerland should become a Federal monopoly, so as to secure to the Confederation the control over such important sources of revenue as otherwise might easily be unscrupulously exploited by private companies and firms.
Switzerland, by reason of natural conditions, is properly a free trade country, for it exports far more than it imports, in order to supply the demand for objects that it cannot itself produce. But Prince Bismarck's protectionist policy in 1879 was imitated by France, Austria and Italy, so that Switzerland was gradually shut in by a high wall of tariffs. Hence in 1891 the Swiss people approved, in sheer self-defence, a great increase of the customs duties, and in 1903 sanctioned a further very considerable advance in these duties, so that it is now a thoroughly Protectionist country, despite its obvious natural disadvantages. The huge increase in revenue naturally led to increased expenditure, which took the form of lavish subventions to all sorts of cantonal objects, magnificent Federal buildings, most useful improvements in the post and telegraph services, and extensive and Iamentable construction of military fortifications in Uri and the Valais against some unknown foe. In 1894 it was proposed to distribute part of this new wealth in giving a bonus to the cantons at the rate of 2 francs per head of the population, but this extravagant proposal (nicknamed the “Beutezug”) was rejected, owing to the cool common sense of the Swiss people, by a majority of over two to one. These prosperous circumstances, however, contributed mainly to the adoption or suggestion of various measures of state socialism, e.g. compulsory sick insurance, Federal subvention to primary schools, purchase of the five great Swiss railway lines, giving a right to every able bodied man to have work at the expense of the state, subventions to many objects, &c. (W. A. B. C.)