1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ticino (canton)
TICINO (Fr. and Ger. Tessin), a canton of Switzerland, the only one situated almost wholly on the southern slope of the Alps and inhabited by a population of which the majority is Italian-speaking. It takes its name from the Ticino river, the whole upper course of which (the Val Leventina, with its side glen of Val Blenio, the so-called Riviera, extending from Biasca to near Bellinzona, and the bit beyond Bellinzona), till it swells into the Lago Maggiore, is within the canton. Not far from the head of the Lago Maggiore the lake is increased by the Maggia torrent which is formed by the union of the torrents descending from the mountain glens known as the valleys of Locarno, save the Val Verzasca, the stream from which falls into the lake without joining the Maggia. The third portion of the canton is that called Monte Cenere, including the hilly region between Bellinzona on the Ticino and Lugano, together with most of the lake of that name, and stretching on the south as far as Mendrisio, not far from Como. These three districts were all formerly part of the duchy of Milan till conquered by the Swiss, and in 1803 were joined together to form a Swiss canton of the most artificial kind (Campione, opposite Lugano, is still an Italian “enclave”). Its total area is 1081.1 sq. m., of which 721.9 sq. m. are reckoned as “productive” (forests covering 267.2 sq. m. and vineyards 19.9 sq. m.), while of the rest part is taken up by the Lake of Lugano (the Swiss share of which is 71 sq. m.), and those of the Lago Maggiore (Swiss share 161 sq. m.), and by 131 sq. m. of glaciers. In point of size the canton is surpassed by only four other cantons (Bern, the Grisons, the Valais, and Vaud), while only Vaud can boast of a larger vine-growing district. The highest points in the canton are two of the loftiest summits of the two halves of the Lepontine Alps—the Basodino (10,749 ft.) and the Rheinwaldhorn or Piz Valrhein (11,149 ft.) in the Adula Alps. Save the Ticino valley between Biasca, Bellinzona and Locarno, and the environs of Lugano, the canton is principally composed of hills and mountains, and is therefore poor from the material point of view, though rich in fine scenery.
The canton is traversed from end to end, from Airolo at the southern mouth of the St Gotthard tunnel to beyond Mondrisio (about 74 m.), by the main line of the St Gotthard railway, many of the marvellous engineering triumphs of which occur between Airolo and Biasca. From Bellinzona there is a short branch railway to Locarno (14 m.), whence another runs up to Bignasco (171 m.), while from Lugano there is a mountain line up the Monte S. Salvatore (3004 ft.), and from Capolago another similar line up the Monte Generoso (5591 ft., that summit being just on the political frontier). Till 1859 the canton was legally included in the Italian dioceses of Milan (the portion north of Bellinzona, the Val Leventina and the Val Blenio therefore still using the ancient “Ambrosian Liturgy”) and of Como (the rest of the canton). In that year the Swiss Confederation abolished this foreign jurisdiction, but practically the two bishops named had charge of these districts till in 1888 the purely Swiss diocese of Lugano was set up, being now joined to that of Basel, and governed by an administrator apostolic. In 1900 the population of the canton was 138,638, of whom 134,774 were Italian-speaking, 3180 German-speaking and 403 French-speaking, while 135,828 were Romanists, 2209 Protestants and 18 Jews. Of the German-speaking inhabitants 260 belonged to the hamlet of Bosco or Gurin, situated at the head of one of the side glens of the Val Maggia, and colonized before 1253 from the neighbouring Tosa or Pommat valley (now politically Italian), which is inhabited by German-speaking emigrants from the canton of the Valais. In loco there were in the canton 75,731 women to 62,907 men, the men being in the habit of emigrating in search of work. Up to 1881 Bellinzona, Locarno and Lugano were alternately the political capital, each for six years, but since 1881 Bellinzona is the permanent capital. Yet it is but the second town in size, being surpassed by Lugano (q.v.), while after it come Locarno (q.v.) and Mendrisio (3338 inhabitants). Being practically Italian, though now “Italian Switzerland” the canton has produced many sculptors, painters and architects. But its industrial development is backward, though the opening of the St Gotthard railway has attracted many foreign travellers. Yet the male population largely migrate in search of work and wages as coffee-house keepers (such as Delmonico, of New York), waiters in cafés, masons, plasterers, labourers, navvies. &c. Fruit, chestnuts and wine are among the principal exports. The canton is divided into 8 administrative districts, which comprise 265 communes. The cantonal constitution is still that of 1830. which, however, has been almost mended out of sight owing to the political struggles that have raged in the canton. The legislature (Gran consiglio) is composed of members elected (since 1880) in the proportion of one to every 1200 (or fraction over 600) of the Swiss inhabitants, and holding office for four years. The executive (Consiglio di stato) is (since 1892) elected directly by the people, is composed (since 1875) of five members, and holds office for four years. Since 1883 5000 citizens, have the right (facultative referendum) of claiming a popular vote as to bills passed by the legislature, while (since 1892) 5000 citizens have the right of “initiative” in legislative matters, though 7000 signatures are required in case of a proposal to revise the cantonal constitution. In 1891 the system of proportional representation was introduced for elections to the cantonal legislature and the communal assemblies. In 1904 a very complicated system of proportional representation was adopted by a narrow majority of the people of Ticino. In elections to the cantonal legislature all fractions below that required to secure a member in the entire canton are added together and then divided by the number of the non-elected candidates, plus one, the persons thus selected being, as far as possible, assigned to the constituencies in which they have obtained most votes (the point remains obscure). In 1904 also the “limited vote” was adopted as to the election of members of the executive, no one being allowed to vote for more than four out of the five members. In 1896, by a strange anomaly only to be explained by the previous political history of the canton, non-resident citizens were given a vote in all cantonal and communal matters, though residence is strictly required for all voters in Federal matters. The two members of the federal Ständerath and the seven members of the Federal Nationalrath are elected by a popular vote.
The canton is made up of all the permanent conquests (with one or two trifling exceptions) made by different members of the Swiss Confederation south of the main chain of the Alps. From an historical point of view Italian Switzerland falls into three groups: (1) the Val Leventina conquered by Uri in 1440 (previously held from 1403 to 1422); (2) Bellinzona (previously held from 1419 to 1422); the Riviera and the Val Blenio, all won in 1500 from the duke of Milan by men from Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden, and confirmed by Louis XII. of France in 1503; (3) Locarno, Val Maggia, Lugano and Mendrisio, seized in 1512 by the Confederates when fighting for the Holy League against France, ruled by the twelve members then in the league, and confirmed by Francis I. in the treaty of 1516. These districts were governed by bailiffs holding office two years and purchasing it from the members of the League; each member of group 3 sent annually an envoy, who conjointly constituted the supreme appeal in all matters. This government was very harsh and is one of the darkest pages in Swiss history. Yet only one open revolt is recorded—that of the Val Leventina against Uri in 1755. In 1798 the people were distracted by the Swiss and “Cisalpine republic” parties, but sided with the Swiss. On being freed from their hated masters, they were formed into two cantons of the Helvetic republic—Bellinzona (= 1 and 2 above) and Lugano ( = 3). In 1803 all these districts were formed into one canton—Ticino—which became a full member of the Swiss Confederation. From 1810 to 1813 it was occupied by the troops of Napoleon. The carriage road over the St Gotthard (1820–1830) was made under the constitution of 1814. But many of the old troubles reappeared, and were only done away with by the constitution of the 23rd of June 1830. In 1848, on religious grounds and owing to fears as to customs duties, the canton voted in the minority against the Federal constitution of that year; but in 1874, though the people voted against the revised constitution, the legislature adopted it, and the canton was counted as one of the majority. Since 1830 the local history of the canton has been very disturbed owing to the fact that, though Roman Catholicism is the state religion, and all the population are Roman Catholic (the few Protestants having been expelled from Locarno in 1555), they are divided between the Radical and Ultramontane parties. Since 1876 the intervention of Federal troops (already known in 1870) has been frequent in consequence of conflicts of the local authorities inter se, or against the Federal Assembly.
The political troubles of Ticino were increased in 1888 by the foundation of the see of Lugano, considered by the Radicals as likely to advance Clericalism, though it freed Switzerland from foreign ecclesiastical rule. Hence in September 1890 the Radicals carried out a bloody revolution, which necessitated Federal intervention, but at a state trial at Zürich in July 1891 the leaders were acquitted. Political passions still run high in the canton, as the Radicals and Conservatives are nearly balanced in point of numbers.