Jonas Furrer

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Jonas Furrer

Jonas Furrer (born March 3, 1805 in Winterthur , † July 25, 1861 in Bad Ragaz ) was a Swiss politician . His political career began in 1834 when he was elected to the Zurich canton parliament . From 1845 he was a councilor of the canton of Zurich and in that year he also presided over the assembly . After he was elected to the Federal Council in 1848 as a representative of the liberal center (today's FDP ) , Furrer was the first Swiss Federal President . He also held this office in 1849, 1852, 1855 and 1858. He is considered one of the most important politicians in the early days of the Swiss federal state.


Studies and professional life

Monument to Jonas Furrer in Winterthur

The only child of the master locksmith of the same name and Anna Magdalena (née Hanhart) grew up in modest circumstances in Winterthur and attended schools there. At the urging of his father, Furrer decided to study law in Zurich , although he had shown greater interest in medicine and chemistry. In 1824 he went to the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität in Heidelberg , supported by a scholarship from his hometown . In 1825 and 1826 he studied at the Georg-August University in Göttingen , where he completed his training.

After a long trip to Germany, Furrer returned to the canton of Zurich and in 1828 received a position as procurator . With a thesis on the inheritance law of the city of Winterthur, he was admitted to the bar in 1832 and opened his own law firm. In the same year he married Friederike Sulzer, the daughter of the politician Johann Heinrich Sulzer ; the marriage resulted in three daughters and two sons. In 1838 Furrer moved to Zurich , from where most of his customers now came. In the same year he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Zurich .

In 1822 Furrer joined the Zofingia student union . Since 1830 he was a member of the Masonic Lodge Akazia . In 1844 he was among the founders of the Swiss Grand Lodge Alpina (SGLA) and was its first large speakers.

Canton politician

Furrer's political career began in 1834 when he was elected to the Grand Council at the age of 29 . He didn’t necessarily attract attention because of his talent for speaking, but rather because of his profound legal knowledge and expertise. He presided over the Grand Council in 1837 and 1839. He was one of those parliamentarians who supported the appointment of the controversial German reform theologian David Friedrich Strauss to the theological faculty of the University of Zurich . The ensuing conflict between liberal and conservative forces culminated in the Zurich coup on September 6, 1839 . Under pressure from the new government, the Grand Council dissolved three days later and Furrer lost his mandate.

In a short time, Furrer rose to become the leader of the liberal opposition. In 1842 he returned to the Grand Council and was elected envoy in the Diet . With the election of Furrer to the government council , the liberals again provided the majority from 1845. In the same year he presided over the assembly. As the mayor of the Canton of Zurich (as the President of the Government Council was called at the time), he exerted a great influence on the politics of the Canton of Zurich. Under his aegis, the Zurich Cantonal Parliament passed a law directed against the radical democrat and reform socialist Johann Jakob Treichler in 1846 , which stipulated all efforts that were likely to "incite one class of citizens against another class of people, who have no possessions against those who have possessions, because of the inequality of property", punished with a fine of up to 1000 francs and two years in prison.

In 1847 Furrer was a member of the seven-person commission that tried to resolve the conflict over the Sonderbund by peaceful means. Only when these efforts failed did he consent to the violent dissolution of the Sonderbund by military means. After the end of the Sonderbund War , from which the liberal cantons emerged victorious, he took a seat in the revision commission that drafted the new federal constitution. He appeared as a pragmatist who was willing to compromise.

Federal Council

In October 1848 Furrer was sent by the Grand Council to the Council of States and was its first president . In the first Federal Council election on November 16, 1848, he was considered a promising top candidate, especially since the canton of Zurich's claim to a seat was undisputed. The united Federal Assembly elected him to the Bundesrat in the second ballot (the first ballot had to be canceled due to a procedural error). Furrer received 85 of 132 votes cast; Ulrich Ochsenbein received 36 votes and eleven other people. On the same day, Furrer was also elected Switzerland's first Federal President . However, he asked for time to think about it, since the capital issue of Switzerland had not yet been resolved. After he was convinced by his political companions, he finally accepted the election, whereupon the Federal Council constituted itself on November 21, 1848 in Erlacherhof .

Furrer took over the chairmanship of the political department until the end of 1849 . In this function he pursued a consistent policy of neutrality and had supporters of the failed revolutions of 1848/49 , who had fled to Switzerland from neighboring countries, expelled. The primary goal of his policy was to preserve Switzerland's independence. In doing so, he prevented the interventions of major European powers, but he had to allow his followers to accuse him of betraying liberalism. In the same year Johann Jakob Oechslin created a terracotta locket that was produced in J. Ziegler-Pellis' pottery factory in Schaffhausen.

From 1850 onwards, his actual main department was the Justice and Police Department , which he headed apart from his presidential years in 1852, 1855 and 1858 (until the 1890s the Federal President was also head of the Political Department and thus Foreign Minister). As Minister of Justice, Furrer enacted laws on the organization of the Federal Council, federal civil servants, the naturalization of homeless people and federal criminal law. In addition, he made a major contribution to legal security in the new state by personally handling hundreds of appeals. As a result, he established a federal judicial practice that also served as a model for cantonal authorities and parties. On the other hand , he held back on other domestically controversial issues such as the regulation of the railways , especially since he was critical of centralization efforts.

In 1856, during the crisis around the canton of Neuchâtel , the Neuchâtel trade , Furrer traveled as a negotiator to the governments of the southern German states in order to avert a military conflict with Prussia . In 1860 he opposed the plan of Jakob Stämpfli , Haute-Savoie militarily occupy ( Savoyerhandel ). Furrer increasingly complained of excessive workload and health problems. A kidney disease forced him to take several breaks, which meant that he increasingly lost influence in the Federal Council. In particular, he had arguments again and again with the daring Jakob Stämpfli. Furrer died at the age of 56 during a spa stay in Bad Ragaz .


Web links

Commons : Jonas Furrer  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Roswitha Feusi Widmer: The Federal lexicon. P. 31.
  2. Joseph Jung : Life and Work . In: Alfred Escher 1819-1882. The start of modern Switzerland . tape 1 . NZZ Libro , Zurich 2006, ISBN 978-3-03823-236-0 , p. 103 .
  3. Eugen Lennhoff, Oskar Posner, Dieter A. Binder: Internationales Freemaurerlexikon . (Revised and expanded new edition of the 1932 edition). Herbig, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-7766-2161-3 .
  4. a b Roswitha Feusi Widmer: The Federal lexicon. Pp. 31-32.
  5. Christian Koller: 150 years ago: The democratic movement plows the canton of Zurich. Swiss Social Archives , February 24, 2019, accessed on March 22, 2019 .
  6. Roswitha Feusi Widmer: The Federal lexicon. P. 32.
  7. Roswitha Feusi Widmer: The Federal lexicon. Pp. 32-33.
  8. a b Roswitha Feusi Widmer: The Federal lexicon. P. 34.
  9. K. Frei-Kundert: Johann Jakob Oechslin, Terrakottamdedaillon. Retrieved September 10, 2019 .
  10. Roswitha Feusi Widmer: The Federal lexicon. Pp. 34-35.
  11. Roswitha Feusi Widmer: The Federal lexicon. P. 35.
predecessor Office successor
- Member of the Swiss Federal Council
Jakob Dubs
Johann Heinrich Mousson Mayor of Zurich
Alfred Escher