Gustave Ador

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Gustave Ador

Gustave Ador (born December 23, 1845 in Cologny , † March 31, 1928 in Geneva ; resident in Geneva) was a Swiss politician ( LPS ). He was a member of the Geneva cantonal parliament for almost four decades and a member of the Geneva cantonal government for 13 years. At the national level, he represented his canton in both the National Council and the Council of States . Due to a political crisis during the First World War ( Grimm-Hoffmann affair ), he was elected to the Federal Council in June 1917 . During his national government, which lasted until the end of 1919, Ador was largely responsible for making Geneva the headquarters of the League of Nations . He gained international fame as president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which he headed from 1910 until his death.


Family and education

Gustave Ador was born in December 1845 into a middle-class home. He was the son of Louis Ador, director of the commercial bank Paccard, Ador & Cie. , and by Constance Paccard. After high school, he studied philology and law at the Geneva Academy . In 1868, at the age of 23, he graduated with a licentiate in law (lic. Iur.) And was thus qualified to work as a lawyer . After stays abroad in France and Germany, he was a partner in the Cramer law firm from 1872. In the same year he married Alice Perdonnet, the granddaughter of the politician Vincent Perdonnet . Together they had five daughters and one son. Since the son had no children, none of his 34 grandchildren had Ador's name; his wife died in 1908.

Cantonal and national politics

In 1874 Ador was elected to the Grand Council of the Canton of Geneva as a candidate for the liberal-conservative right, later the Liberal Party of Switzerland (LPS) . He lost his seat again in 1876, but regained it in 1878 and held it until 1915. In 1879/80 he was a member of the State Council, the Geneva cantonal government, for a short time . In 1885 he succeeded in returning to the Council of State, of which he was a member until 1897. As head of department, Ador was responsible for finances. He was considered a profound expert on the subject and implemented an economical budget policy, although this was not undisputed. Under his influence, Geneva was the first canton to introduce the proportional representation system in 1892 .

Ador also had a lasting impact on national politics. From 1878 he was a member of the Council of States , but lost his mandate again after only two years (at that time the cantonal parliament was still the electoral body). In 1889 he was elected to the National Council , which he presided over in 1901 . In 1902 he had to interrupt his work in the National Council for a few months because of the "Ador Affair". As Swiss Commissioner at the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris , he was awarded the ribbon of a Grand Officer of the French Legion of Honor . In the opinion of the Federal Council, he thereby violated Article 12 of the Federal Constitution , which prohibits members of parliament from accepting foreign awards. Ador refused to return the award and resigned. He was re-elected in the same year, after which he was a member of the National Council until 1917. He made a name for himself as a passionate advocate of liberalism while rejecting statism and socialism .

Ador had been advised several times to run for the Federal Council . Since he belonged to a small parliamentary group, his election chances were slim. In both 1892 and 1899 and 1913 he turned down a candidacy; his third waiver meant that French-speaking Switzerland had only one representative in the government for almost four years. Federal Councilor Arthur Hoffmann resigned on June 19, 1917 as a result of the Grimm-Hoffmann affair with immediate effect. Together with National Councilor Robert Grimm, he had tried to negotiate a separate peace on the Eastern Front , which the Entente powers perceived as a breach of Swiss neutrality. On the same day, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung wrote that only a personality like Ador would be able to restore confidence in the Swiss government. At the age of 72, he was elected to the Federal Council by the United Federal Assembly on June 26, 1917 , receiving 168 of 192 valid votes in the first ballot; 14 votes went to Hoffmann, ten votes to other people.

Federal Council

For the remainder of 1917, Ador was assigned the political department , which he had made a condition of his election. In addition, the trade department, which had previously belonged to the field of responsibility of the Foreign Minister, was assigned to the Department of Economic Affairs at Edmund Schulthess's request . Ador developed a variety of diplomatic activities. So he supported the idea of ​​a League of Nations formulated by Woodrow Wilson , contrary to Swiss neutrality traditions. Even after he took over the management of the Department of the Interior at the beginning of 1918 , he continued to advocate the idea of ​​the League of Nations. In view of the national strike in November 1918, he spoke out in favor of a complete break with Bolshevism . However, he supported individual demands of the Olten Action Committee such as B. the introduction of a state pension insurance (implemented in 1948 in the form of the AHV ).

In January 1919, Ador also took over the office of Federal President . In this capacity, he traveled to Paris twice to meet with the heads of state and government of the Entente at the peace conference . At that time it was unusual for a Federal President to step on foreign soil. During his first mission, he met with Wilson, David Lloyd George , Georges Clemenceau, and Edward Mandell House . Thanks to his commitment, Geneva became the headquarters of the League of Nations. He also achieved recognition of Switzerland's special neutrality status and, as a result, Switzerland's accession to the League of Nations. In the summer of 1919, Ador announced his impending resignation on the grounds that he was too tired and too old to face re-election. He resigned on December 31, 1919; he was the only Liberal Party politician who ever belonged to the Federal Council.

International work

Gustave Ador

As early as 1870, Ador had been co-opted as a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross . In 1910 he succeeded his uncle and ICRC co-founder Gustave Moynier and became the third president in the history of the committee. He held this office until his death in 1928. Ador was a member of the ICRC for a total of 58 years, including 18 years as its President. The First World War , which presented the ICRC with great challenges, fell during his term of office . On the basis of his initiative, the International Central Office for Prisoners of War was created on October 15, 1914, immediately after the start of the war . The activities of the ICRC during the war led to a clear appreciation of the committee's reputation and to an expansion of its authority and competences vis-à-vis the international community. In 1917 the ICRC received the only Nobel Peace Prize awarded during the war years from 1914 to 1918.

During Ador's tenure, the League of Red Cross Societies was founded in 1919 as the umbrella organization for the national Red Cross societies. In the following years this led to disputes over competence between the ICRC and the league regarding the organization of the Red Cross movement and the distribution of tasks between the two international Red Cross organizations. Ador succeeded in asserting and consolidating the special position of the ICRC and its claim to leadership within the movement. Also during his presidency, the ICRC decided in 1923 to extend membership to all Swiss nationals, thereby abandoning the previous restriction to Geneva citizens. In addition, in 1925 the Geneva Protocol "on the prohibition of the use of asphyxiating, poisonous or similar gases and bacteriological agents in war" was adopted.

After his resignation as Federal Councilor, Ador held various mandates on behalf of the League of Nations. He headed the international finance conference in Brussels and was a Swiss delegate to the League of Nations from 1920 to 1925.


Gustave Ador had been elected in exceptional circumstances, primarily because of his influence as President of the ICRC and not as a representative of a cultural or political minority. As one of the few Swiss Federal Councilors, he achieved international significance. Its outstanding reputation was of great benefit to Switzerland after the First World War. However, as a politician of a neutral country, he was also accused of sympathy and partisanship for the Entente powers.


  • François Walter: Gustave Ador . In: Urs Altermatt (Ed.): Das Bundesratslexikon . NZZ Libro , Zurich 2019, ISBN 978-3-03810-218-2 , p. 289-295 .
  • André Durand : History of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Volume II: From Sarajevo to Hiroshima. Henry Dunant Institute, Geneva 1984, ISBN 2-88-044009-2
  • Roger Durand: Gustave Ador: 58 ans d'engagement politique et humanitaire; actes du Colloque Gustave Ador tenu au palais de l'Aténée les 9, 10 and 11 November 1995. Fondation Gustave Ador, Geneva 1996, ISBN 2-97-001002-X
  • Caroline Moorehead : Dunant's dream: War, Switzerland and the history of the Red Cross. HarperCollins, London 1998, ISBN 0-00-255141-1 (hardcover); HarperCollins, London 1999, ISBN 0-00-638883-3 (paperback edition)

Web links

Commons : Gustave Ador  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Walter: The Federal Council Lexicon. P. 289.
  2. ^ Report of the Swiss Federal Council on its management in 1902. In: P. 565f and 587f in PDF , accessed on July 15, 2016 .
  3. ^ Carl Hilty : Politisches Jahrbuch der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft 16 (1902) P. 335–341
  4. ^ Letter of resignation reproduced in the Journal de Genève. February 4, 1902, accessed August 22, 2016 (French).
  5. ^ Walter: The Federal Council Lexicon. Pp. 289-290.
  6. ^ Walter: The Federal Council Lexicon. Pp. 290-291.
  7. ^ Walter: The Federal Council Lexicon. Pp. 291-292.
  8. ^ Walter: The Federal Council Lexicon. Pp. 292-294.
  9. ^ Walter: The Federal Council Lexicon. P. 294.
predecessor Office successor
Arthur Hoffmann Member of the Swiss Federal Council
Jean-Marie Musy