Helvetian Republic, 1798-1803 History of Italy Switzerland 1815-1830
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Switzerland, 1803-1815

In the ACT OF MEDIATION 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte reestablished a federal constitution in Switzerland; shortly afterward the name was changed from Helvetic Republic back to Swiss Confederation. Napoleon himself used the title as Mediator of the Swiss Republic; yet the restoration of federalism in Switzerland actually had meant a drastic change in French Switzerland policy - from massive interference and determined support of centralism to leaving Switzerland much to herself for the sake of peace. France only insisted in the Franco-Swiss alliance to be continued (confirmed in 1803) and in Switzerland providing Napoleon with 4 regiments of soldiers for his many campaigns. Yet France did supervise the Swiss Press and monitor the Swiss politicians/political bodies.
Territorially, the Swiss Confederation of 1803 differed from that of 1797, as Mulhouse/Muelhausen, Geneva and the Princebishopric of Basel (a part of which had been member of the Swiss Federation) had been annexed by France, as the Valtellino, Bormio and Chiavenna had been annexed by the Cisalpine, now Italian Republic, and as the Valais/Wallis had been separated from Switzerland in 1802 (it was annexed by France in 1810. On the other hand, in 1801 the hitherto Austrian Fricktal had been annexed into the Swiss Federation.
The number of cantons rose from 13 to 19, as St. Gallen, Thurgau, Graubuenden (Grisons), Ticino, Aargau and the Vaud were elevated to cantons with equal rights. The capital function rotated annually among the following six cities : Fribourg/Freiburg, Bern, Soleure, Basel, Zuerich and Luzern. Privileges of the nobility as well as the status of subject territories remained abolished. While the old cantons retained old-fashioned constitutions (thus reestablishing the guilds, preserving the status of patricians), the new cantons drafted libereal constitutions. Suffrage was limited to those who qualified by paying a certain amount of taxes.

The years between 1803 and 1813 were rather peaceful, in contrast to the era of the Helvetic Republic. The CONTINENTAL SYSTEM did not have that impact on Switzerland as on other countries, for the Swiss, without coasts, hardly had a choice to circumvent it. In 1805 the first savings bank was established at Zurich; the introduction of machinery permitted the mechanization of the Swiss cotton industry. Agricultural schools and model institutes were established at Hofwil, Kreuzlingen and Altenryf. Construction of the LINTH CANAL was begun (1804-1822). PESTALOZZI began reforming education; in 1810 Aargau established a training college for teachers.

In Dec. 1813 the commander of the Swiss forces, General VON WATTENWIL, decided not to oppose the Allied forces, vastly outnumbering his. Much of Switzerland was occupied by the allies, the constitution of 1803 cancelled. With the Canton of Bern insisting in the restoration ob the subject status of certain territories, internal peace was threatened. In the end, the former subject territories retained their (free) canton status, while Bern was compensated with the former Princebishopric of Basel, allocated to Bern by the VIENNA CONFERENCE.
At the VIENNA CONGRESS (where the Swiss delegation was split on several matters concerning Switzerland), Switzerland's independence, new federal constitution and neutrality were confirmed; the territories of VALAIS and the former bishopric of BASEL were restored/annexed to Switzerland. stretches located on the western shore of Lake Geneva were added to Switzerland, so that GENEVA was connected by land to the rest of the Swiss federation.
When Napoleon returned from Elba, Switzerland disregarded her own neutrality and sided with the Allies; Swiss troops invaded the Franche Comte and took the French fortress of Huningue. France had to pay an INDEMNITY to Switzerland.
The Swiss neutrality, as guaranteed by the Allies, included two Savoyard provinces, Faucigny and Chablais.

The Collapse of the Old Confederation in 1798 and the Long March to the New Federal State of 1848, from
Entries from Infoplease Encyclopedia : Switzerland and Helvetic Republic
DOCUMENTS Medal : La route du Simplon terminee, 1807, from Bramsen's Napoleonic Medals
L' Acte de Mediation (19 fevrier 1803), from cliotexte
TEXTES sur le regime de la Mediation (1803-1815) , from cliotexte
Statesmen representing the Helvetic Republic, from World Statesmen : Switzerland by Ben Cahoon
Documents on Swiss Constitutional History : Mediation und Bundesverein, 1803-1815, posted by Univ. Bern, Institute for Public Law, 6 documents, in German resp. French language
REFERENCE Charles Dandliker, History of Switzerland, The History of Nations Volume XIII. NY : Colliers (1907) 1916, pp.327-594, revised by Elbert J. Benton

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on January 28th 2002, last revised on November 10th 2004

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