Jakob Dubs

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Jakob Dubs

Jakob Dubs (born July 26, 1822 in Affoltern am Albis ; † January 13, 1879 in Lausanne , entitled to live in Affoltern am Albis) was a Swiss politician , journalist , public prosecutor and judge . Politically, he worked as a cantonal councilor and government councilor in the canton of Zurich, and as a national councilor and councilor at the federal level . In 1861 he was elected to the Federal Council as a representative of the liberal center (today's FDP ) . In the years 1864, 1868 and 1870 he was Federal President . Dubs resigned in 1872, but remained politically active as a national councilor and successfully fought a centralized constitutional revision. He was also a member of the Federal Supreme Court . From 1866 to 1872 he was President of the "Aid Association for Swiss Armed Forces and Their Families", which later became the Swiss Red Cross .


Family and studies

Jakob Dubs was the son of the butcher, innkeeper and postman of the same name in Affoltern am Albis, Canton of Zurich. After graduating from elementary school in Mettmenstetten , his mother Anna Barbara (née Näf), against his father's wishes, got him to attend grammar school in Zurich . For disciplinary reasons, he left school shortly before graduation and went to the University of Bern , as it did not require a Matura at that time . There he studied law under Professor Wilhelm Snell , then at the Ruprecht-Karls-University in Heidelberg under Carl Mittermaier . In 1843 he received his doctorate from the University of Zurich and then worked as a lawyer, three years later he took a position as an interrogator.

As a member of the Helvetia student union , which was the reservoir of radical liberalism in the Swiss Confederation at the time, Dubs was drawn into political events early on and was committed to transforming the loose confederation of states into a federal state with a liberal character. Together with the poet Gottfried Keller , he took part in the second free march against the conservative government of the Canton of Lucerne in 1845 , and in 1847 as a dragoon field woman in the Sonderbund War . After the early death of his first wife Franziska Kämpfer (1825–1850), he married Paulina Heitz (1837–1895), the daughter of a silk manufacturer from Stäfa , in 1856 .

Cantonal and federal politics

Dubs' political career began in 1847 when he was elected to the Zurich Cantonal Council , to which he was a member for the next 14 years and which he chaired in 1853 and 1855. From 1849 he also served as a part-time public prosecutor . Dubs, he successfully campaigned for the introduction of jury courts , played a key role in a new penal code and also devoted himself to legislation in the areas of schools, factories and church organization. He received a lot of attention as the editor of the Swiss Republican and the Landbote from Winterthur (at that time a liberal weekly paper), for which he wrote numerous articles.

In the first national council elections in October 1848, Dubs did not run. After the death of National Councilor Johann Jakob Wieland , however, he ran for a replacement election on February 11, 1849 and was elected his successor in the constituency of Zurich-Southwest . Thereupon he found an influential supporter in “Eisenbahnkönig” Alfred Escher , with whom he maintained a lively exchange of letters about the Sonderbund War , Swiss politics, foreign trade and railway construction for two decades . In 1854 Dubs was President of the National Council . Not least thanks to Escher's support, he was elected to the Council of States and the Zurich Government Council in 1854 . In the latter, he initially took over the judicial department before moving to the education department in 1855. While he failed with proposals for a new criminal law and a church law, he was able to bring about a reform of the school law in 1859.

In addition to his political mandates, Dubs held the office of part-time federal judge from 1854 to 1861 . In the Council of States, which he presided over in 1856, he stood up as a representative of the liberal tendency around Alfred Escher against the radical group around Federal Councilor Jakob Stämpfli , whose approach to the Neuchâtel trade (1856/57) and the Savoy trade (1859/60) he felt was too impetuous . His former comrade Stämpfli described him as a “Zurich shopkeeper” who had committed “high moral treason”. After Jonas Furrer's death, Dubs was considered the most promising candidate for his successor. Stämpflis Berner-Zeitung launched a campaign against him and described his possible election as a “political deadly sin”, since Switzerland wanted to “accept the shameful injustice and, as it were, apologize” on the Savoy question. But the attacks caused the opposite: On 30 July 1861 the elected him Federal Assembly in the first ballot with 90 of 124 votes cast in the Bundesrat ; 13 votes were given to Paul Carl Eduard Ziegler , 21 votes to other people.

Federal Council

During his eleven-year tenure as Federal Councilor, Dubs changed departments almost every year. As Federal President in 1864, 1868 and 1870 - as was customary at the time - he headed the Political Department (Foreign Ministry). From 1861 to 1863 and again in 1866 he headed the Justice and Police Department , in 1867 and 1869 the Postal Department, and in 1865 and from 1871 to 1872 the Department of the Interior .

The main focus of his work was the expansion of relations with neighboring countries. In 1864 Dubs concluded a comprehensive trade agreement with France and in 1868/69 further agreements with Italy , Austria-Hungary and the German Customs Union in the areas of trade, branch offices, post and telegraph traffic. In contrast to the opinion that he had still represented as a Council of States, he now advocated a far more active foreign policy. Dubs had given the painter Frank Buchser, who was traveling to America in the spring of 1866, a personal letter of recommendation in order to give him the necessary contacts to initiate Dubs' plans for an alliance between Switzerland and North America. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71, he planned the military occupation of Haute-Savoie, although ten years earlier he had vehemently opposed Stämpfli's similar ideas. He also dealt in detail with the problem of securing access to port facilities by the sea for landlocked Switzerland and ships flying their own flag (see Swiss ocean shipping ).

On the question of railway construction, Dubs tried to find a mediating role between supporters of a state railway and complete privatization. He wanted to leave the decision on a transalpine route to Germany and Italy. He was a staunch supporter of federalism and tried to strengthen it by proposing a partial revision of the Federal Constitution in his 1865 publication “Zur Bundesrevision” . On January 14, 1866, he submitted nine proposals to a vote, but the people and the cantons only accepted the equality of Jews in terms of freedom of establishment . From then on, the centralists, with their spokesman Emil Welti, dominated the debate about the constitutional revision and began to demand the expansion of popular rights. Dubs, on the other hand, as an old liberal, did not consider the people to be able to legislate and continued to advocate a purely representative democracy . As a result, he not only lost influence in the Federal Council, but also increasingly distanced himself from Escher, who sought a compromise.

In 1870 the entire Federal Council submitted a new proposal for a partial revision of the Federal Constitution, which was largely shaped by Dubs. The project met with resistance from radicals and democrats in the Federal Assembly . Dubs was frayed in internal power struggles and had to realize that he could not achieve his goal this way, which is why he announced his resignation on March 1, 1872. The Federal Assembly decided with 76 to 63 votes not to accept his resignation. But Dubs stuck to his decision and pointed out that there was no agreement between him and the majority in parliament on important issues. On May 28, 1872, he handed over the office to his successor Johann Jakob Scherer .

further activities

Monument in Affoltern

Dubs led the coalition made up of federalists from French-speaking Switzerland and Catholic conservatives, which opposed the total revision of the federal constitution. The former feared too much centralization, while the latter rejected various exemptions shaped by the spirit of the Kulturkampf . On May 12, 1872, just two weeks before his resignation from the Federal Council, the total revision was rejected in a referendum with 50.5% of the votes. In the following elections to the National Council on October 27, 1872, Dubs clearly failed in two Zurich constituencies, but was successful in the Vaud-East constituency . He wanted to transform the "federalist front" he had founded into a kind of national-federalist party and brought out a combat paper called The Confederation , but the movement, which was only united on the constitutional question, turned out to be far too heterogeneous. It broke up because of the Kulturkampf and the different ideas of the partisans. Since the second draft constitution again contained more federal elements, Dubs switched to the supporters. The people and the cantons adopted the new constitution on April 19, 1874 with a clear majority.

In July 1866, Dubs, alongside the lawyer Gustave Moynier and General Guillaume Henri Dufour, was instrumental in founding the aid association for Swiss soldiers and their families . In 1872 he took over the management of the association. Since this later became the Swiss Red Cross (SRC), he is considered the first president in the history of the SRC. His successor in this office was Karl Schenk . In 1875 the Federal Assembly elected Dubs as a full-time federal judge . He moved to Lausanne and was Vice-President of the Federal Supreme Court in 1878. In addition, he campaigned for the promotion of narrow-gauge and regional railways in Switzerland. Shortly before his death at the age of 56, he published a popular science account of public law in Switzerland.


Web links

Commons : Jakob Dubs  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Jorio: The Federal Council Lexicon. P. 99.
  2. Jakob Dubs. In: Alfred Escher digital letter edition. Joseph Jung (Ed.), Alfred Escher Foundation, accessed on November 26, 2016 .
  3. ^ Jorio: The Federal Council Lexicon. Pp. 99-100.
  4. ^ Jorio: The Federal Council Lexicon. P. 100.
  5. Seven letters from Franz Buchser from the United States (1866/1867) to Federal Councilor Jakob Dubs.
  6. ^ Jorio: The Federal Council Lexicon. Pp. 100-101.
  7. ^ Jorio: The Federal Council Lexicon. P. 101.
  8. ^ Jorio: The Federal Council Lexicon. Pp. 101-102.
  9. a b Jorio: The Federal Council Lexicon. P. 102.
  10. ^ Foundation of the SRK - Dubs - Dufour. (PDF, 331 kB) Swiss Red Cross , accessed on April 7, 2019 .
predecessor Office successor
Jonas Furrer Member of the Swiss Federal Council
Johann Jakob Scherer