Andreas Merian-Iselin

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Andreas Merian, engraving around 1806

Andreas Merian-Iselin (born September 19, 1742 in Buus ; † February 25, 1811 in Basel ) was a Swiss politician. In 1806 he was Landammann of Switzerland and an outstanding representative of the Basel counter-revolution at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries.

Merian, son of a pastor, studied philosophy and law at the University of Basel until 1764, and in 1771 he married Margaretha Iselin. He went through a straightforward official career: in 1768 he became secretary of the city chancellery, from 1782 its treasurer; In 1776 he came to the Basel Grand Council (the highest municipal body) as a guild leader; In 1783 the Grand Council elected him in an illegal procedure as town clerk (highest town official), in 1790 as chief guild master (deputy of the mayor) and thus at the head of the magistrate. Merian was still involved in the founding of the Society for the Encouragement and Promotion of the Good and Charitable , initiated by the Basel enlightener Isaak Iselin , in 1777 , but he met the political changes that were emerging since the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 with complete rejection and made no move to go through them To absorb reforms. During the Basel Revolution of 1798 he was forced out of office after he had defended himself to the end for the preservation of the Ancien Régime .

With the beginning of the Helvetic Republic , Merian had withdrawn to his estate in Riehen , from 1799–1800 the French put him politically hostage on the Citadel of Bitsch (Lorraine) during the Second Coalition War . This measure was justified because of presumed meetings with counterrevolutionary and conspiratorial contacts abroad, but also served to protect Swiss government members and officials from hostile attacks. After his release, Merian refused to participate in the new authorities; It was not until 1802 , during the uprising against the Helvetic Republic, that he was appointed president of the municipal interim authorities and traveled as a cantonal envoy to the counter-revolutionary parliament in Schwyz . When the French military intervened and restored republican order, Merian fled to the nearby southern Baden neighborhood and did not return until 1803 after the end of the Helvetic Republic and the announcement of the mediation act . The Great Council elected him mayor in 1803 and again in 1806 (together with Peter Burckhardt , the actual leader of the conservative forces), which he remained until his death. In 1806 he was also Landammann (highest official and representative) of Switzerland; However, his year in office was burdened by tensions with Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte , who accused the Merian family as well as Andreas Merian himself (though wrongly) of smuggling to bypass the continental block ( Neuchâtel Affair ).

Merian distinguished himself as the most exposed representative of the counter-revolution in Basel and enjoyed great prestige in large parts of the city's population. On the other hand, there was the discredit he received from his political opponents and in France; this found particular expression in the personal enmity with his main adversary Peter Ochs , which had already begun with the election of Merian as town clerk and thus superior to the council clerk Peter Ochs. Ochs characterized him as the only person he could hate. Merian's dislike of ox was certainly just as great; he saw Ochs as the author of his arrest and deportation to Bitsch and collected pamphlets on them.


Order in all things is the soul of human bliss - it is prescribed by the benevolent providence of all nature. [...] From the smallest insect - from earthworms to lions, - from the smallest thorn bush to the summit of the lofty oak, everything follows the course of nature. As much as human art can produce on a small scale, it has never been able to shift the grain harvest into winter and the grape harvest into spring. Who can judge this better than you, dear country folk? - since all of this is in front of your eyes every day?

These very laws of nature are also prescribed for man; In bourgeois society, in a well-established state, order should prevail, order in the household, in the church and in the ruling class. [...]

The magisterial class, which can effect all this, is therefore the most important and most necessary; without this no property would be protected, no wrongdoer would be punished, no security in the country would be.

When towns and countries are properly organized, this power is entrusted to a selected number of brave men, and with us the various ranks of high authority, superiors and subordinates, have been ordered - and they have been prescribed to promote the best of the whole.

Each of you consider all of the ordinances, institutions, instructions, help and support going out from time to time, and then consider whether all of this is not aimed at the common good. Everyone should remember the restless, tireless efforts of your superiors, especially in the last few years, to obtain retirement from within and peace from without in the precarious periods of time that existed; and then answer the question for yourself: whether your high authorities did not dutifully, not fatherly care for you!

(From: Salutation to the members of the Mönchenstein office held on the day of tribute, June 25, 1797 , pp. 3–6.)