Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/488

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of government, they agree in little else than the claim and possession of absolute popular sovereignty; and differ much in respect to governmental organizations and methods of administration. Twenty-two of the twenty-five Cantons (States) are divided into 2,706 communes (townships); and each commune governs itself in respect to all local affairs, so far as is consistent with cantonal and Federal rights. "The citizens of each commune regard it as their smaller state, and are jealous of any interference by the greater state; and unless the interests of the Canton or the Confederation are manifestly superior to those of the locality, the commune is unwilling to part with its administrative power and jurisdiction over its lands, forests, police, roads, schools, churches, or taxes. In the Cantons in which German is the official language (sixteen in number) it is customary for the adult male population to meet annually in an open-air assembly in a town market-place or on a mountain side, and there propose, debate, and enact their laws, and elect their officers by universal vote; thus deferring to and establishing popular will without resort to any intermediate representative machinery."

The question here naturally arises. How did such a nation or confederation, made up of twenty-two small states differing from each other in many essential features—religious, political, social, industrial, physical, and linguistic—originate? A general answer, based on a large amount of historical research and publications, is that it was due originally to a drawing to a common center of a number of small districts, from the contiguous monarchies of Germany, France, and Italy, for common defense against a common foe; and hence also it is not surprising that the political boundaries of Switzerland do not follow the natural configuration of the country.

The revenues of the Confederation or Federal Government of Switzerland in 1894 were estimated at 84,047,312 francs ($17,000,000), and its expenditures at 83,675,000 francs. The various Cantons of Switzerland have their own budgets of revenue and expenditure. For 1895 their combined budgets indicated a revenue of about 78,880,000 francs ($15,600,000) and an expenditure somewhat greater, making a nominal aggregate of about $33,000,000 to be annually raised by some form of popular contribution or taxation. As a considerable part of the cantonal revenues is derived from the proceeds of taxes imposed and collected by the Federal Government, and as contributions are made in turn to the latter by the Cantons, it is not easy to estimate the present annual average per-capita burden of taxation on the people of Switzerland; but, making all allowances, it is certainly not inconsiderable. Some years since the average tax burden on every inhabitant of the