David von Wyss the Elder

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David from Wyss

David von Wyss (born March 6, 1737 in Zurich ; † January 26, 1815 there ) was mayor of Zurich.



David was the son of Heinrich von Wyss (* 1707; † 1741), land clerk of the Ebmatingen community near Maur and private secretary of the first mayor of Zurich, and his wife Elisabetha, daughter of the Zurich mayor Johann Caspar Escher . His father came from the old noble family of the von Wyss called zum Angel , because they had a Angel in their coat of arms, which was naturalized in Zurich as early as 1315.

He still had five siblings, here he was the uncle of the 1st state doctor David Rahn (1769-1848).

His ancestor Matthias von Wyss († 1530) became mayor of Zurich in 1501, but resigned from office in 1510 because he spoke out against the Reislauf , in which the Swiss fought against the Swiss; However, he remained a member of the council until his death and continued to represent Zurich on numerous meetings . In 1503 , Emperor Maximilian I gave Matthias von Wyss confirmation of the previously used coat of arms in a letter of arms.

His cousin was the chief judge Hans Konrad von Wyss (1749-1826).

David von Wyss was married to Küngolt (born October 17, 1739 in Zurich; † February 10, 1810 ibid), daughter of the bailiff and councilor Diethelm Escher (1695–1755) since 1760 . Together they had eight children, including the later mayor of Zurich of the same name, David von Wyss ; his son was the lawyer Friedrich von Wyss (born November 6, 1818 in Zurich, † November 29, 1907 ibid). His daughter Elisabeth was married to the Zurich Antistes Johann Rudolf Ulrich .


David von Wyss studied in Zurich, Lausanne and Paris ; During his studies in Lausanne, he made friends with the British historian Edward Gibbon , with whom he later corresponded; in Paris he lived with the writer François-Vincent Toussaint .

In 1757 he returned and joined the Zurich State Chancellery , became a council substitute in 1759 and state signatory in 1763.

His first political mission he received from 1766 to 1767, in which he as secretary Zurich deputy in Geneva was. In 1738, through the mediation of Bern , France and Zurich, a settlement was concluded in Geneva in which the right to determine war and peace, laws and taxes was returned to the civil parish (see also: History of the Canton of Geneva # 18th Century: Revolutionaries Conflicts ). After renewed disputes between the magistrate and the citizens , the three guarantors wanted to mediate again; This led to a conflict with France and David von Wyss joined the request of Heinrich Escher , the first representative of Zurich, who asked for dismissal, but the local government only granted permission after the end of the mediation efforts.

In 1768 he became second state clerk and member of the Grand Council . Through his work in the state administration, he recognized the existing defects and these defects was "laziness and sleepiness" in the government, arbitrariness, dependence and primarily vested in a lecture in Johann Jakob Bodmer founded Society for patriotic history before. The government accepted the criticism and appointed him from 1771 to 1778 Landvogt von Kyburg and from 1778 Obervogt von Birmensdorf . After returning to Zurich, he became a member of the Small Council and the Secret Council.

In 1781 civil unrest broke out again in Geneva, whereupon the Council of Geneva, after there had been an armed uprising of the citizens, the representatives , called on the mediation of the guaranteeing states again. Zurich sent David von Wyss, among others, to Geneva to assess the influence of France on the worsening of the dispute and to make a comparison; for this he took his son David with him so that he could gain practical political experience. The negotiations between the Zurich and Bern ambassadors for a settlement, which lasted four months, failed because France demanded that the negotiations be transferred to the seat of the French ambassador in Solothurn . In June 1781 he left Geneva, with his son remaining there as the secretary of a Zurich deputy. After that, David von Wyss went to Solothurn for further negotiations in July 1781, but these were unsuccessful; after a proposed compromise was rejected, Zurich withdrew from the guarantee in January 1782, so that his son could also return to Zurich.

David von Wyss was appointed master of the state cap in 1783 .

After the French Revolution

At the Aarauer Tagsatzung in September 1792, in which David von Wyss took part as ambassador to Zurich and his son as secretary, he expressed his political conviction regarding the policy to be chosen by the Confederation; this was that Switzerland, despite the French Revolution , maintained its neutrality . As a result, diplomatic relations were broken off on the part of France, and the French ambassador François Barthélemy moved his seat from Solothurn to Baden ; This meant that he was no longer an official representative of France, but remained in Switzerland so that the Mayor of Zurich could have a private correspondence with him.

At the end of November 1793, David von Wyss received the order against export bans from the Austrian government in Constance , then at the Swabian district assembly in Ulm and then in Stuttgart and Freiburg to make proposals through which he could reopen all of eastern Switzerland to traffic.

In 1795, in the last new election in old Zurich, as the successor to Johann Heinrich Ott (1719–1796), David von Wyss was elected mayor. He remained in this office, confronted with internal and external conflicts, until the fall of the city-state in 1798.

In the Stäfner Handel he was against the issuing of death sentences.

Before the Peace of Campo Formio at the end of September 1797, France decided to act aggressively in Switzerland and to participate in the French Revolution.

In January 1798 he was in the delegation of deputies to the Zurich countryside (see also: History of the Canton of Zurich # Reformation and Ancien Régime ).

As mayor of Zurich he presided in 1794, 1796 and the last statute on January 25, 1798 in Aarau; He tried to unite the old leagues in front of 30,000 people, but the unity was insufficient for sufficient defensive strength. After Bern was captured by the French invasion troops on March 5, 1798 , the previous Grand Council resigned on March 8, 1798 and David von Wyss was forced to avoid abuse, together with his son on March 13, 1798 Leaving Zurich. With interruptions he stayed as a refugee in Lindau in Bavaria and Augsburg until June 1798 and then returned to Zurich, whereupon he retired as a privateer .

From April to August 1799 he was hostage of the Helvetic Directory in Basel, although he had not participated in the restoration attempts.

After the Second Battle of Zurich on September 25, 1799, he was forced to leave Zurich again with his son and his wife and fled via Constance to Lindau again, which was overcrowded, so that he first traveled to Kempten and then to Augsburg ; In February 1800 he returned to Zurich with his son, his wife and grandson had already traveled back.

After his final return to Zurich, he lived mostly on his country estate in Meilen and devoted himself to classical philology without holding a public office again.


In 1794 David von Wyss published an anonymous pamphlet in which the previously followed policy of neutrality was highlighted and defended.

Fonts (selection)

  • Faithful feelings and memories on the occasion of the election of Your Grace Weiss as mayor of our state . Zurich, J. Ch Gessner 1795.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Egbert Friedrich von Muelinen: Prodromus of a Swiss Historiography in alphabetical order the historians of all cantons and all centuries . 1874 ( google.de [accessed on August 18, 2020]).
  2. Rahn, David. Retrieved August 17, 2020 .
  3. Wyss, Hans Konrad von. Retrieved August 16, 2020 .
  4. Historical Family Lexicon of Switzerland - Persons. Retrieved August 17, 2020 .
  5. Wyss, Friedrich von. Retrieved August 17, 2020 .
  6. Ott, Johann Heinrich. Retrieved August 16, 2020 .
predecessor Office successor
Johann Heinrich Ott Mayor of Zurich
Hans von Reinhard