Jean-Jacques Challet-Venel

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Jean-Jacques Challet-Venel

Jean-Jacques Challet-Venel (born May 11, 1811 in Geneva ; † August 6, 1893 there ) was a Swiss politician . Before entering politics, he worked as a teacher . He was a member of the National Council from 1857 and of the Geneva cantonal government from 1858 . In 1864 he was elected to the Federal Council as a representative of the radical parliamentary group (today's FDP ) . Since he had decided against a total revision of the federal constitution , parliament voted him out in 1872.


Job and family

The son of watchmaker Barthélémy Challet and Jeanne Oltramare lived in modest circumstances during his youth. He completed a literature degree at the Geneva Academy in 1830. During his studies he joined the Société d'Étudiants de Belles-Lettres and the Swiss Zofingerverein . He then worked as a French teacher at the Venel boarding school in Champel. In 1839 he married Antoinette Venel, the daughter of the school's founder, and added her last name to his own. He had four children with her and was promoted to director of the boarding school, which he headed until 1856.

Cantonal and federal politics

In 1847 Challet-Venel was involved in the Sonderbund War and commanded an artillery battery. In 1851 he founded the liberal-conservative local party Cercle national , which stood in opposition to the radicals around James Fazy and sought to deepen Geneva’s relations with the other cantons. In 1854 he was elected to the Grand Council, the Geneva cantonal parliament. After he was re-elected in 1856, he publicly confessed to his former political opponent Fazy. Two years later, this enabled him to be elected to the cantonal government , the State Council. As a member of the government, he first headed the finance department and in 1861/62 temporarily the military department, after which he was again responsible for finances until 1864.

Challet-Venel was elected to the National Council in the parliamentary elections in 1857 . In 1863 he belonged to a delegation led by Johann Konrad Kern , who negotiated an important trade agreement with the French government in Paris . In the same year, as President of the State Council, he gave an eulogy for Fazy, who had been voted out in 1861, which made him suspicious of the other parties. They suspected him of trying to help Fazy make a political comeback. After he had missed the desired re-election in 1864, street fighting broke out in Geneva, which in turn led to federal intervention .

After Giovanni Battista Pioda's resignation as Federal Councilor and his appointment as envoy in Italy, Challet-Venel ran for his successor, but was not necessarily one of the favorites. Augusto Fogliardi from Ticino and in particular Alfred Vonderweid, a conservative Catholic from Friborg, seemed to have far better chances . The latter could count on the support of Alfred Escher , as he expressly endorsed the Gotthard Railway . The election on July 12, 1864 was only decided after six ballots: After Fogliardi was eliminated in the fifth ballot, Challet-Venel and Vonderweid faced each other. In the end, the Geneva man came out on top with a somewhat surprising 86 to 77 votes. Once again the radicals succeeded in preventing a Catholic conservative from entering the Federal Council.

Federal Council

As before in the canton of Geneva, Challet-Venel also took over the finance department at the federal level . He succeeded in stabilizing the federal finances and reducing the debt burden. In 1865 he signed an international currency convention, whereupon Switzerland joined the Latin Monetary Union . Due to close relationships with the Geneva banks, the federal government was able to take out a loan of twelve million francs on very favorable terms. His department also wrote a preliminary study on the introduction of a tobacco tax. The project was controversial, however, and a whole century would pass before a federal tobacco tax law came into force. Like all Federal Councilors of his time, Challet-Venel had to face a compliment election , i.e. he ran for membership in the National Council in order to have his legitimacy as a member of government confirmed by the people. He fell through in the National Council elections in 1866 , but was still allowed to keep his office because Philippe Camperio expressly refused to accept his election to the state government.

In 1868 Challet-Venel moved to the Post Department, and in 1869 back to the Finance Department. From 1870 he again headed the postal department and prepared the establishment of the Universal Postal Union . As a Federal Councilor, he was distinguished by his careful and strict administration, even if he was often absent from the Federal Council meetings. He saw himself as an advocate of linguistic and denominational minorities, but ultimately stumbled over his convictions. As a staunch federalist , he categorically rejected any centralization on the question of a total revision of the federal constitution . In doing so, he brought up numerous parliamentarians from German-speaking Switzerland who demanded that he be replaced by Eugène Borel . In the Federal Council election on December 7, 1872, Challet-Venel received just 73 votes, while the demolition candidate received 90 votes. This made him the second elected Federal Councilor after Ulrich Ochsenbein .

As an elected National Councilor, Challet-Venel remained active in federal politics until 1878. In the canton of Geneva he devoted himself to economic development. He founded the Magasins Généraux and presided over the Geneva Chamber of Commerce from 1885. After he passed away at the age of 82, over 1,000 people attended the abdication ceremony.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Jean-Jacques Challet-Venel in the digital Alfred Escher letter edition . Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  2. ^ A b Altermatt: The Federal Council Lexicon. P. 112.
  3. ^ A b Altermatt: The Federal Council Lexicon. P. 113.
  4. ^ Altermatt: The Federal Council Lexicon. P. 114.
  5. Paul Fink: The election of compliments of incumbent Federal Councilors in the National Council 1851-1896 . In: Swiss History Journal . tape 45 , no. 2 . Swiss Society for History , 1995, ISSN  0036-7834 , p. 218 , doi : 10.5169 / seals-81131 .
  6. ^ Altermatt: The Federal Council Lexicon. Pp. 115-116.
  7. ^ Altermatt: The Federal Council Lexicon. P. 116.
predecessor Office successor
Giovanni Battista Pioda Member of the Swiss Federal Council
Eugène Borel