Jakob Stämpfli

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Lithograph by Carl Friedrich Irminger (~ 1850)

Jakob Stämpfli (born February 23, 1820 in Janzenhaus near Wengi ; † May 15, 1879 in Bern ) was a Swiss politician , lawyer and journalist . As one of the leaders of the second free march , he was one of the most important radical liberals in the canton of Bern . There, he served from 1846 to 1850 as a Councilor . He sat on the National Council from 1848 to 1854 and from 1863 until his death (as President of the National Council in 1851 and 1875 ), and also for a short time in the Council of States . In between he was a member of the Federal Council from 1854 to 1863 and during this time he headed four different departments. He served as Federal President three times (1856, 1859 and 1862) . After his resignation, he served as a bank director and arbitrator on the Alabama issue .


Youth and Studies

Statue in front of the University of Bern

Stämpfli was the son of the farmer Hans Stämpfli from Schwanden bei Schüpfen and Elisabeth Vonäsch. He grew up on his parents' farm in the hamlet of Janzenhaus in the municipality of Wengi . After primary school he worked for a time on a farm in Cortébert to the way there French language to learn. At the age of 16 he began an apprenticeship in the office clerk in Büren an der Aare . During his spare time he did self-study in history and political science.

From 1840 Stämpfli studied law at the University of Bern , which would have been unthinkable for a man of his origin just a few years earlier. At that time, the university deliberately did not require any previous high school education, as the liberal canton of Bern required officials and teachers who came from the country and not from the previously sole ruling urban patriciate . Influenced by Professor Wilhelm Snell , whose daughter Elise he married in 1845, Stämpfli became a staunch supporter of radical liberalism . He soon played a leading role in the Helvetia student union .

Canton politics

After successfully completing his studies, Stämpfli set up a law firm in 1843, and two years later he founded the Berner-Zeitung (not to be confused with the Berner Zeitung, which was founded much later and still exists today ). As editor-in-chief, he made this daily newspaper a mouthpiece for the radicals who were in opposition to the moderate liberals ruling at the time. At the end of March 1845, Stämpfli took part in the second free march as a declared opponent of the Jesuits . During the night battle at Malters he was pushed aside, whereupon he had to make his way to Zurich . When the Bern government took sanctions against the irregulars, he pooled the radical forces in the "Bernischer Volksverein", which successfully called for a total revision of the Bern cantonal constitution. Stämpfli was elected to the Constitutional Council on March 2, 1846 and immediately took on a leading role together with Ulrich Ochsenbein . The radicals had a comfortable majority and were largely able to get their demands through. On July 31, 1846, the people adopted the new constitution with an overwhelming majority (34,079 yes votes to 1257 no votes), with which popular sovereignty finally prevailed.

The Grand Council elected Stämpfli, who was only 26 years old, to the government council on August 28, 1846 , whereupon he took over the management of the finance department. In 1847 he made an advance of two million francs available from the state treasury for the troops of the Tagsatzung in the Sonderbund War . He introduced direct taxation through a modern income tax , abolished all feudal burdens and directed the centralization of the poor. The financial consequences of the Sonderbund War, greatly increased spending in education and road construction as well as the social follow-up costs of the economic crisis led from year to year to an ever-increasing deficit in the state accounts and to a strengthening of the conservative opposition. In 1849 Stämpfli officiated as district president. After the radicals had surprisingly suffered a defeat in the May 1850 grand council elections, he was not re-elected as a councilor on June 11 by the now largely conservative Grand Council.

Federal politics

Stämpfli was 1,847 envoy Berns in the Diet . After the Sonderbund War, he was a member of the Constitutional Commission, but then spoke out decisively against the Federal Constitution , which he co-authored , as it was not centralistic enough for his opinion and was too much in favor of the defeated conservative cantons. However, it was clearly adopted on August 6, 1848 in the referendum in the canton of Bern. Stämpfli ran for the first National Council elections in the same year . While he only finished eighth in the Bern-Mittelland constituency , he was able to prevail in the Bern-Seeland constituency , albeit only in the second ballot. Regardless of this, he was one of the most influential radicals in parliament from the start and was a member of several important commissions (finance, budget, organization of the postal system, standardization of the currency).

As a member of the National Council , Stämpfli remained active as a journalist and continuously agitated against the conservative cantonal government under Eduard Blösch . The majority of his fellow councilors demonstratively elected him President of the National Council in July 1851 in response to the threat of imprisonment in his home canton for an offense against press law. After serving a short sentence in December 1851, he was elected deputy federal judge . When parliament was discussing a new railway law in 1852, Stämpfli supported the construction of state railways, but had to admit defeat to the majority around Alfred Escher , who advocated private railways. After the Bernese Grand Council elections in May 1854, the conservative and radical camps were practically equally strong and the cantonal politics threatened to be completely blocked. As a result, a cross-party “merger government” was formed, in which Stämpfli was also represented. As construction director, he drove the planning of railway lines and water corrections. The Grand Council elected him in October 1854 to represent Bern in the Council of States ; But he should only belong to this for a short time.

In the meantime, Federal Councilor Ochsenbein had lost the trust of both the radicals and the conservatives, and he had failed in the then usual choice of compliments . The Bernese National and State Councilors decided to drop him and agreed on a candidacy from the relatively inexperienced Johann Bützberger . This rushing ahead met with rejection from council members from the other cantons. Jakob Dubs , for example, later wrote in his diary that Bützberger was hardly known by name in eastern Switzerland and that “these Bern meetings to give Switzerland a Federal Council are outrageous”. The choice of a successor for Ochsenbein on December 6, 1854 dragged on. Only in the sixth ballot, Stämpfli received the required absolute majority with 88 of 145 votes cast (42 votes went to Josef Munzinger , 10 to Johann Matthias Hungerbühler and 5 to other people). Stämpfli had not counted on this election and asked parliament, because of his obligations in the canton of Bern, for a postponement until the end of March 1855, which was granted to him.

Federal Council

As a Federal Councilor, Stämpfli initially headed the Justice and Police Department . Due to his rural origins and his modest lifestyle, he was soon extremely popular with the population, but he was noticed in the Federal Council as a radical daredevil and centralist. He soon fell out with the economically liberal wing around Alfred Escher when the concession for the Lausanne – Bern railway line came up. In the so-called Oron Railway Conflict , he advocated the route via Oron and thus prevailed against Escher, who had preferred the variant via Payerne . In general, he viewed transport and infrastructure policy as a public sector task and distrusted the "railroad barons" 'short-term profit thinking.

In 1856 Stämpfli was Federal President for the first time and thus, as was customary at the time, Head of the Political Department Foreign Minister. That year he had to cope with a serious foreign policy crisis with the Neuchâtel trade . The conflict with the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. Over rule over the canton of Neuchâtel (which at that time was also a Prussian principality) almost escalated into a military conflict. The dispute was finally settled in the following year with the Treaty of Paris in the interests of Switzerland. With its success, Stämpfli triggered a wave of national enthusiasm that helped strengthen the young federal state. However, Escher and his allies, who would have preferred a less brash demeanor, harbored a certain distrust of him.

In 1857 and 1858 Stämpfli was head of the finance department , and in 1859 for the second time Federal President and Foreign Minister. After the rapid end of the Sardinian War , in which Austria was subject to the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont and France , Stämpfli tried, initially through diplomatic channels, to annex the Savoyard provinces of Chablais and Faucigny to Switzerland. At the height of the crisis, the Savoy trade , he pushed for a military occupation of Haute-Savoie . This plan met with stubborn resistance in parliament. His Federal Council colleagues Friedrich Frey-Herosé and Jakob Dubs pushed through their demand that Switzerland should be neutral on this issue. In a controversial referendum in April 1860, the inhabitants of Haute-Savoie voted for annexation to France.

At the beginning of 1860, during the foreign policy tensions, Stämpfli took over the management of the military department . He reorganized the military and began to plan a strategic road network in the Alps . In 1862 he was again President and Foreign Minister for one year. He tried again to nationalize the railways, but again could not prevail against Escher. On September 30, 1863, he resignedly announced his impending resignation and announced that he would take over the management of a financial institution. This intention aroused some astonishment, since for a long time he was considered a popular fighter against powerful railway and financial circles.

further activities

Share for CHF 500 in the Swiss Federal Bank dated August 1, 1870, signed by President Jakob Stämpfli

On December 31, 1863, Stämpfli resigned as Federal Councilor. He was involved in the founding of the Eidgenössische Bank and became its first president. When he entered the financial world, he tried to beat Escher with his own weapons. But the Eidgenössische Bank was repeatedly in the red and finally parted ways with Stämpfli in 1877, whereupon he reopened a law firm. Politically, he remained active in the Grand Council of the Canton of Bern and in the National Council. The Federal Council elected him in 1872 as a member of the international court of arbitration on the Alabama question . He also participated in the revision of the federal constitution , which was adopted in 1874. In 1875 Stämpfli presided over the National Council a second time, but in 1878 he was voted out of office as a Grand Councilor. He invested almost all of his fortune in the Landwirtschaftliche Gesellschaft Witzwil (later the Witzwil institutions ), which went bankrupt in 1879. In the same year Stämpfli died of a serious illness and was buried in the Bremgarten cemetery in Bern .


In 1998's historical novel Berner wildfire by Monika Dettwiler Jakob Stämpfli is one of the leading roles.


Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b c Mesmer: Das Bundesratlexikon. P. 74.
  2. ^ Beat Junker : History of the Canton of Bern since 1798 . Ed .: Historical Association of the Canton of Bern . tape II . Bern 1990, ISBN 3-85731-012-X , p. 69–71, 81 ( online [PDF; 1.9 MB ]).
  3. ^ Junker: History of the Canton of Bern since 1798. P. 93.
  4. ^ Mesmer: Das Bundesratlexikon. Pp. 74-75.
  5. ^ Junker: History of the Canton of Bern since 1798. P. 123.
  6. ^ Junker: History of the Canton of Bern since 1798. pp. 105–106.
  7. ^ A b Mesmer: Das Bundesratlexikon. P. 75.
  8. ^ Mesmer: Das Bundesratlexikon. Pp. 75-76.
  9. ^ Mesmer: Das Bundesratlexikon. P. 76.
  10. ^ Mesmer: Das Bundesratlexikon. Pp. 76-77.
  11. ^ Mesmer: Das Bundesratlexikon. P. 77.
  12. Henri menabrea: Histoire de la Savoie . Éditions Bernard Grasset, Paris 1933, p. 339 .
  13. ^ A b Mesmer: Das Bundesratlexikon. P. 77.
  14. Monika Dettwiler: Bernese wildfire. www.monikadettwiler.ch, accessed on September 27, 2017 .
predecessor Office successor
Ulrich Ochsenbein Member of the Swiss Federal Council
Karl Schenk