Manifesto of the Swiss Diet to the Army

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Manifesto of the Swiss Diet to the Army (1847)
Swiss Federal Diet (Eidgenössische Tagsatzung / Diète fédérale), translated by M. J. Mayers

This manifesto was published by the Diet on the eve of the Sonderbund War, the 1847 civil war in Switzerland. The present translation of the original German, French and Italian text was published in the book by M. J. Mayers, Note-book of the late civil war in Switzerland (John W. Parker, London, 1848).

Swiss Federal Diet (Eidgenössische Tagsatzung / Diète fédérale)667705Manifesto of the Swiss Diet to the Army1847M. J. Mayers

Citizens Soldiers!

The Swiss Confederation, our common country has called us to arms. You have responded to the summons with a promptness worthy of men of courage; ready to shed their blood in the accomplishment of the most holy of duties, the safety of the country. You are now going to march against the separated alliance, called the Sonderbund. This time again you will confound the calculations of those who have done you the injustice to reckon on your defection.

The enemies of the country are endeavouring to make it believed, that it is in order to destroy the cantonal sovereignty of the States of the Sonderbund that you are summoned to march; that it is to destroy their political and religious liberty — to subject them to the yoke of tyrannical majorities — to overturn the federal institutions, to constitute a unitary government on their ruin and to sap the bases of social order. These are odious calumnies. You have to make the Compact, which is the federal Constitution of Switzerland to be respected — to re-establish order and tranquillity - and the security of the country — to put down revolt — to preserve Switzerland from anarchy — and to bring back to obedience to the laws, and to the federal authorities the populations led away by those who turn their credulity to account. You will have to deliver Switzerland from those evil-minded persons, who, for more than half a century have been fomenting troubles, with a view to put down and falsify the principle of liberty, of equality before the law, and of justice, which our forefathers established and set down in the Constitutions of the confederated States. That party, under lying pretexts has concluded the separate alliance, known by the name of the Sonderbund; the real object of which is to undermine our principles, to keep the people in ignorance, and to bend the democracy to its yoke, in order to render it subservient to odious designs. This impious League is a poison which Switzerland ought to fling away from her bosom. Thus, in order to preserve the Confederation from such a cause of dissolution, the 6th article of the federal Compact declares expressly, that the Cantons cannot form unions prejudicial to the Confederation or to the interests of the other Swiss States! But the Sonderbund is one of the unions prohibited by the Compact. A private political alliance forming a Confederation is destructive of the common alliance — it is a germ of destruction and death that must be extirpated — concluded as it is to resist by force of arms the decisions of the Diet, which are all founded on the provisions of the Compact. The separate alliance is an act of rebellion by a factious minority against decrees passed by the competent authority.

It is in consequence of that clear and express declaration, that the Diet on July 20, 1847 passed a decree asserting that:

1) the separate alliance of the seven Cantons of Lucerne, Uri, Schwytz, Unterwalden, Zug, Fribourg and Valais is declared incompatible with the provisions of the Federal Compact, and consequently dissolved.
2) These Cantons are responsible for the observance of the present decree; and the Diet reserves to itself the right to adopt, if circumstances demand it, ulterior measures to cause it to be respected.

In place of submitting to this decision, the Sonderbund protested against it, addressed to the people incendiary proclamations, caused arms and ammunitions to be brought from foreign countries, erected fortifications, collected together and armed troops. However, before having recourse to arms, the Diet attempted all that was in its power to prevent the effusion of blood. It addressed to the cantonal authorities and to the people of the seven States, a Proclamation full of kindness and respect for the sovereignty and rights, the liberty and religion of these Cantons. It delegated to them federal representatives. But in vain. Except at Zug, the federal representatives were not admitted to speak to the government, still less to the people. It was forbidden to publish the proclamation of the federal assembly; the Lucerne-government went even the length of menacing with imprisonment and criminal prosecution such citizens as should distribute it. Other attempts at conciliation have produced no result. The Deputies of the Sonderbund having proposed terms that could not be entertained; and above all, demanding a general laying down of arms, have shown clearly enough that they desired to paralyse the execution of the law, to give themselves the appearance of being anxious for peace, and to create a pretext to quit the Diet, crying out injustice and tyranny. They have in fact withdrawn from the federal assembly, and quitted the Vorort on the 29th October, after handing in a declaration and a manifesto already printed. Such is the manner in which the Sonderbund has raised the mask, and thrown down the gauntlet to the Swiss Confederation. Soldiers, you will know how to take it up! In presence of that declaration of war, and after having exhausted all pacific means, the Diet considered it its duty, in virtue of articles 1, 6 and 8 of the federal Compact, to have recourse to arms, to enforce obedience, to obtain a complete reparation, and reduce the abettors of rebellion and disturbance to a state of impotence to injure Switzerland.

The governments of the Sonderbund have acted contrary to their duty towards the Swiss Confederation in breaking with it, and in taking up arms. Thus, such citizens of the separate alliance as shall openly declare for the Confederation, shall enjoy full protection. Soldiers of all arms and grades! Switzerland and the world have their eyes fixed on you. The nation places unlimited confidence in your courage, devotedness, and discipline. To the fanaticism of your adversaries you will oppose that well considered firmness, that calm energy, that self-possessed valour, that serenity of enthusiasm, which the sentiment of a good cause and the enlightened conscience of duty impart. You will prove to your contemporaries and to posterity, that you have not degenerated from your valiant ancestors, and by your conduct in battle you will add a fresh laurel-wreath to that crown which encircles the brow of our country; and you will inspire foreign countries with respect for Switzerland and her army. You will conquer those who would resist you arms in hands, or who may have the boldness to attack you. But whilst obeying the inexorable laws of war, you will know how to unite magnanimity to the necessities of combat; you will never forget that your opponents are for the most part misled men, confederates and brothers whom you have to cause to return to their duties. Your banner is that of the authority of the Confederation, of the integrity of a common country which protects the Cantons and their sovereignty of Swiss nationality, in their liberty, order, and security. It is to put down the standard of separation, that you have hastened to range yourselves under the red and white banner of Switzerland with its federal Cross — a banner which is the symbol of faith, and of bravery — it is to extinguish the incendiary torches of discord, and to save Switzerland from anarchy, that you have risen en masse; it is to insure to twenty two Cantons a durable peace, that you have taken up arms. A grateful country will recompense your services, and will take care of the widows, children and parents of such of you as shall have shed their blood for it.

May the God of armies watch over you, fortify your hearts, enlighten your minds, strengthen your bodies, and support you in the fight. May God protect Switzerland, and bless our cause.

This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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