1830-1848 History of Italy 1874-1891

Switzerland 1848-1874

The constitution of 1848 established a central government and gave her some authority, room to act. It used this room to establish institutions such a Swiss Polytechnic at Zürich, a unified Swiss currency based on the French decimal system (the Swiss Franc of 100 Rappen), a unified Swiss postal service.
In 1856, the problem of Neuchatel became pressing; the Neuchatel Liberals, who after a Royalist coup had retaken control by force, demanded the King of Prussia (sovereign of the territory since 1707) to give up on his rights and concede to the full integration of Neuchatel into the Swiss Federation, of which the principality was a member since 1815. Prussia was unwilling to do so and threatened the use of force, and Switzerland prepared for war, when, through the mediation of Napoleon III. a solution in favour of Switzerland was found. Swiss public opinion strongly had supported the Neuchatel Liberals; the King of Prussia revoked his rights of sovereignty in 1857.
Switzerland, as a result of the activities of Genevan pacifist Jean Henri Dunant, became the headquarters of the International Red Cross founded in 1863; the Geneva Conventions (1864) were signed here, also much to the credit od Dunant. An international treaty on telegraphy was signed in 1865, and the international bureau established her seat at Bern.
The War of Italian Unification of 1859 - the thousands of wounded on the battlefield of Solferino, many of whom died, but could have been saved with adequate medical help, inspired Henri Dunant to found the IRC - was much of concern to Switzerland. Some Swiss patriots demanded Switzerland to occupy the two Savoy provinces of Faucigny and Chablais - they were included in the area covered by Swiss neutrality, since 1815 - a step the central government refrained from taking. In 1859, the Swiss government forbade the recruitment of Swiss mercenaries by foreign powers (last undertaken in 1849 by the Kingdom of Two Sicilies). The Franco-German War of 1870-1871 even more was of concern to Switzerland. In both cases Switzerland pursued a policy of Strict and Armed Neutrality. When, in February 1871, 80,000 French soldiers under Bourbaki, fleeing the German forces, entered Swiss territory, they were disarmed and interned.
In 1873 the Swiss government assumed regulating and supervising authority over the country's railways; construction of the St. Gotthard Railway was taken on in 1869. Railway construction had begun in Switzerland in 1847, but taken off only in 1855 (210 km total length); in 1870 there were a combined total of 1,727 km of railway lines.
The constitution of 1848 had only partially satisfied the liberals, as a number of liberal principles had not been inforced as the cantons had retained much of their autonomy, in part due to diplomatic pressure exerted by Holy Alliance powers. These powers no longer exerted such pressure, and in 1874 a new constitution was accepted in a referendum (opposed by the Ultramontanists). In most cantons representative democracy was introduced, Jews were given citizenship, civil marriage introduced, mized marriage (of protestants and catholics) permitted. Both the army and the law were centralized; popular initiative and referendum were introduced, guaranteeing a strong element of direct democracy.
After having been deprived of his Papal State (in 1860/1870) the popes had turned strongly against liberalism and in 1870 the pope had proclaimed papal infallibility in matters of faith. This had caused the Old Catholics to split off. The official Catholic church saw the constitutional reform of 1874 as in line with Bismarck's Kulturkampf in Germany - an act hostile to the Catholic church.

In 1865, Englishman Edward Whymper climbed the Matterhorn, boosting Alpinism - to be the first to ascend to a mountaintop was regarded a great achievement. Simultaneously, tourism to Switzerland emerged, tourists being attracted by the picturesque landscape and patients by the healthy climate.

Industrialization, from History of Switzerland
DOCUMENTS Documents on Swiss Constitutional History from 1848 to 1874, from Univ. of Bern, Institute for Public Law, 5 documents, in German
Etsi Multa, Encyclical by Pope Pius IX., November 21st 1873, on the Church in Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, posted by EWTN
Graves ac Diuturnae, Encyclical by Pope Pius IX., March 23rd 1875, on the Church in Switzerland, posted by EWTN
Treaty on residence of Italian, Swiss nationals in the other country, consular representation, 1868. posted by Confoederatio Helvetica, in German (also in French, Italian)
REFERENCE Charles Dandliker, History of Switzerland, The History of Nations Volume XIII. NY : Colliers (1907) 1916, pp.327-594, revised by Elbert J. Benton

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First posted on February 1st 2002, last revised on February 14th 2006

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