The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Bern
BERN, or Berne. I. A canton of Switzerland, bounded N. W. by France and the German province of Alsace, N. E. and N. by Basel and Solothurn, E. by Aargau, Lucerne, Unterwalden, and Uri, S. by Valais, and W. by Vaud, Fribourg, and Neufchâtel; area, 2,660 sq. m.; pop. in 1870, 506,561, of whom about five sixths are Germans and the rest French. The ranges of the Jura extend through the northern part of the canton, and the Bernese Alps are in the south. Among these in the S. E. corner rises the river Aar, which, after passing through Lakes Brienz and Thun, flows N. W. through the centre of the canton. Its principal tributaries in Bern are the Simmen, the Saane, the Thiele from Lake Bienne, and the Emmen. Along the lower Aar and Emmen the country is level with undulations. Deep valleys are found between the ranges of the Jura and amid the Alps. Those in the southern part of the canton, which is called the Oberland, are particularly celebrated for their beauty; the most famous are those of Hasli, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, that of the Simmen, and the plain of Interlaken. The highest points of the Bernese Alps are the Finsteraarhorn, the Jungfrau, the Mönch, the Schreckhorn, the Eiger, and the Wetterhorn, from 12,000 to 14,000 ft. high. Many strangers are attracted to the canton by its wild and romantic scenery. The climate is healthful, but in temperature varies with the elevation. There is a corresponding variation in the soil. The valley of the Emmen is extremely fertile. The valleys of the Oberland are less so. On the sides of the mountains excellent pastures are found. These change higher up into barren rocks, and at a still greater elevation into glaciers. In the Jura iron and copper are mined, and watches and wood carvings are made. The canton exports cheese, but is sometimes obliged to import potatoes and grain. A railway crosses the northern part, and several railways centre in the city of Bern. The canton is divided into 30 districts. Among the more important communes are Brienz, Unterseen, Thun, Langnan, Arberg, Bienne, and Porrentruy. Besides the university of Bern, the canton has 3 gymnasia and 5 schools preparatory for them, 29 Realschulen and secondary schools, 1,412 primary schools upon which attendance is compulsory, and 6 normal schools.—In 1191 Berchtold V., duke of Zähringen, fortified his castle of Nydeck, upon the promontory where the city of Bern now stands, as a place of refuge for the lesser nobles, and gave a charter to the city. The canton was formed out of the territory which was from time to time acquired by the city, and in 1353 joined the Swiss confederation. In 1528 it placed itself upon the side of the reformation, and having in 1536 conquered the Pays de Vaud from Savoy, its territory for nearly three centuries extended from the lake of Geneva to the Rhine. During this period its government from being democratic became aristocratic and oligarchical. The armies of the French republic invaded the canton in 1798, took the city of Bern, and seized its treasury, containing 30,000,000 francs. In 1803, by Napoleon's act of mediation, Aargau and Vaud were separated from Bern. In 1815, to compensate for the loss of Aargau and Vaud, the territories of the bishop of Basel were taken from France and added to Bern, and an aristocratic tone was given to the institutions of this “Venice of the Alps,” as the canton has sometimes been called. In 1831 a more democratic constitution was adopted, and still another in 1846. Under this the government is vested in a grand council, which delegates its power to a smaller body called the council of administration. The chief judicial power is given to a supreme court of 15 members with 4 substitutes. Under the constitution of Switzerland which was promulgated Sept. 12, 1848, the canton sends 23 members to the Nationalrath or lower house of the Swiss diet. In 1870 the referendum was introduced, which provides that every law adopted by the legislature must be ratified by the people before it can become valid. The revenue and expenditure of the canton in 1870 amounted to about 5,200,000 fr.; public debt, 20,000,000 fr.
II. A city, capital of the canton and of Switzerland, situated upon a promontory of sandstone around which flows the Aar with steep and precipitous banks, 43 m. S. of Basel; pop. in 1870, 36,002, of whom 2,644 were Roman Catholics, 303 Jews, and the remainder Protestants. The lofty Nydeck bridge by which it may be entered from the east is one of the most gigantic structures of Switzerland. The city is handsomely built, with broad straight streets, many of the houses resting upon arcades. By means of the Gasel, a brook introduced into the city in 1868, fountains are supplied and rills made to flow through many of the streets. The capitol of the confederation was completed here in 1857, and cost 2,145,471 fr. The high clock tower, built by Berchtold of Zähringen in 1191, is near the middle of the city. Every hour its works set in motion puppets which represent a cock, a procession of bears, and a bearded old man with an hour glass, who strikes a bell. The cathedral faces a terrace 108 feet above the Aar, from which a fine view may be had of the Oberland Alps. It was begun in 1421 under the supervision of Matthias Heinz, son of one of the architects of Strasburg cathedral, to which it is equal in some of its details. The other most noted buildings are the churches, the library and museum, the mint, the orphan asylum, the hospital, the arsenal, the university buildings, &c. The university was founded in 1834, and in 1871 had 73 professors and 319 students. A school of arts was founded in 1871. The manufactures are cloth, printed linen, silk and cotton fabrics, and straw hats. The corporation of the city is so rich that it furnishes the citizens with fuel gratis, and has a surplus. The scenery is of the most picturesque character, and the city is much frequented by strangers. The wall ditches are renowned for bears, the bear being the heraldic animal of Bern, which derives its name from it. The armory, the richest in Switzerland, is full of ancient weapons and curiosities.