Ludwig Forrer

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Ludwig Forrer

Johann Ludwig Forrer (born February 9, 1845 in Islikon , † September 28, 1921 in Bern ; resident in Bäretswil and Winterthur ; mainly called Ludwig Forrer ) was a Swiss politician ( FDP ). From 1870 to 1900 he was a member of the Cantonal Council of the Canton of Zurich , from 1875 to 1900 he was (with one interruption) a member of the National Council . After an accident and health insurance law that was largely shaped by him, the "Lex Forrer", failed in a national referendum, he temporarily withdrew from politics. In December 1902 Forrer's election to the Federal Council followed . His 14-year term of office was marked by several changes of department: until his resignation at the end of 1917, he was head of six different departments, and he was Federal President twice . Against great opposition, he pushed through the ratification of the controversial Gotthard Treaty in 1913 .


Study and job

Forrer's father, who was also called Ludwig, owned a mechanical workshop in Islikon in the canton of Thurgau . With his death he became a half-orphan at the age of five. His mother had to look after him and his three siblings alone in very modest circumstances. Forrer attended secondary school in Rickenbach and then the canton school in Frauenfeld . There he was one of the founders of the Thurgovia school association in November 1862 . From 1863 he studied law at the University of Zurich , as a student he was a member of the Zofingia . Forrer interrupted his studies in 1867 and worked for the Zurich canton police as a police lieutenant. After he had made up his degree, he worked as a public prosecutor from 1870 . From 1873 he ran his own law firm in Winterthur . In 1891 he successfully defended the liberal Ticino revolutionaries who had tried to overthrow the conservative cantonal government in the Ticino putsch a year earlier . Forrer was married to Johanna Regula Dändliker, with her he had five daughters and one son.

Cantonal and national politics

In 1867 Forrer joined the democratic movement and soon established himself as one of the opinion leaders of the École de Winterthour , which campaigned for the expansion of popular rights and state interventions in the social field. In 1868/69 he was the first secretary of the constitutional council , which drafted a new constitution for the canton of Zurich , with which numerous demands of the democrats could be implemented. In 1870 he became a member of the Cantonal Council , of which he was a member for 30 years. He was one of the most influential members of the Democrats and presided over the council four times in 1875, 1879, 1884 and 1898/99. Because of his commitment to the democratic and social expansion of the state, he was nicknamed the "Lion of Winterthur".

Forrer ran successfully in the parliamentary elections in 1875 and represented the constituency of Zurich-North in the National Council . Three years later, he decided not to run, but was re-elected in 1881 in the Zurich-East constituency . In 1887 he submitted a motion calling for the standardization of Swiss criminal law - a demand that was not fully implemented until 1942 when the penal code came into force . In 1893 he was President of the National Council . In 1894 Forrer was one of the founding members of the FDP, which was composed of radical liberals and democrats. Although he continued to advocate the expansion of popular rights (for example the election of the Federal Council by the people), he firmly rejected proportional representation .

In the 1890s, Forrer devoted himself intensively to realizing health and accident insurance based on the German model. The model proposed by him would have stipulated a state accident insurance company, public health insurances and private health insurances, compulsory insurance for the self-employed as well as guaranteed treatment costs and income compensation. Resistance against the "Lex Forrer" arose in French-speaking Switzerland and among Catholic social politicians, who managed a referendum . The referendum on May 20, 1900 ended with a serious defeat: only 30.2% of the voters and a single canton adopted the federal law. Only the undisputed articles on military insurance came into force two years later. Forrer was so disappointed that he resigned from all political offices. The Federal Council elected him Director of the Central Office for International Rail Transport in Bern . Otherwise he led a secluded private life.

After the unexpected death of Federal Councilor Walter Hauser on October 22, 1902, numerous party friends urged Forrer to stand for candidacy. His friend Eduard Müller wrote to him : «You will go to waste in the international office. A fighting nature like you belongs in the fight. " Finally, after weeks of hesitation, he agreed to do so. In the Federal Council election on December 11, 1902, he received 113 of 199 valid votes in the first ballot and was thus elected; Councilors of State Eduard Blumer (Glarus) and Paul Emil Usteri (Zurich) received 70 and 10 votes respectively.

Federal Council

Forrer, who had no administrative experience at the cantonal or communal level, took office on January 1, 1903. In the following 14 years he headed all departments, with the exception of the finance department. He initially took over the trade, industry and agriculture department , in which he mainly dealt with the renewal of trade contracts. In 1904/05 he headed the Department of the Interior , where he played a decisive role in the expansion and reorganization of the Federal Polytechnic . The Swiss Schiller Foundation was founded under his leadership in 1905 . In 1906 Forrer served as Federal President for the first time , which at the time was automatically linked to the management of the Political Department for a year. He did not attach any particular importance to foreign policy, and diplomatic events bored him. The highlight of this presidential year was the opening of the Simplon Tunnel . In 1907 Forrer moved to the military department for one year , in 1908 to the postal and railroad departments for a few months at a time, and then to the justice and police departments .

It was only when Forrer took over the post and railroad department for the second time in August 1908 that he could begin to set the tone. His work was characterized by numerous technical challenges. This included the construction of a second tunnel on the Simplon and new access routes, the reorganization of the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) and the electrification of their route network as well as the question of a possible new Alpine transit route over the Splügen route . The most important business, however, was the negotiations on the controversial Gotthard Treaty : The German Empire and Italy had contributed financially to the construction of the Gotthard Railway in the 1870s . Forrer planned to buy back the Gotthard Railway and integrate it into SBB. As compensation for the waiver of capital and operating profit-sharing, the two neighboring states were to receive tariff concessions that were equivalent to granting the most-favored-nation clause on the transit railway lines. The signing of the contract sparked a broad protest movement. Forrer had to put up with numerous insults and was even accused of treason by political opponents.

In 1912 Forrer was Federal President and Foreign Minister for the second time. On February 4th, a revised health and accident insurance law was passed in a referendum, which showed significant changes compared to the 1900 bill. Only compulsory and centrally managed accident insurance was planned, while compulsory health insurance was dispensed with. While Forrer was not in the lead in drafting the law, he was heavily involved in the campaign. The approval of the law was relatively narrow at 54.6%, although there were considerable differences between the individual cantons. The highlight of the year in office was the state visit of the German Emperor Wilhelm II to Switzerland in September (as part of the imperial maneuver ). Forrer attached great importance to clearly expressing the equality of the democratic small state vis-à-vis the powerful emperor.

Forrer returned to the head of the railway department in 1913. The ratification of the Gotthard Treaty in April of this year was the responsibility of his colleague Edmund Schulthess . There was still great resistance outside parliament, but at that time the people could only make themselves heard in state treaties with petitions . A committee launched a popular initiative to introduce an optional referendum on international treaties. The initiative, which could only be voted on nine years later, was clearly accepted. Since the Gotthard Treaty and the visit of the Emperor, Forrer was mistakenly viewed in left-wing circles and in French-speaking Switzerland as extremely pro-German, although as a staunch democrat he had no sympathy for monarchies. During the First World War , the postal and railway system had to struggle with serious organizational and financial problems. Due to a lack of coal imports, rail traffic had to be restricted and the electrification of the route network was delayed for an indefinite period.

Last years

Forrer wanted to run for office again at the end of 1917, but only intended to remain in office until the end of the war. The unexpected resignation of Arthur Hoffmann in June 1917 thwarted these plans. In accordance with the schedule, he should have assumed the office of Vice President in 1918, but Gustave Ador claimed it for himself. Forrer was not ready to do so easily, but was dependent on an appropriate position after his tenure due to a lack of pension rights. He asked his former Zofingia comrade to consider him for the next vacancy at the Central Office for International Rail Traffic. Ador agreed, after which Forrer resigned on December 31, 1917. He took over the office of director, which he had already held from 1900 to 1902. As a result, Forrer stayed largely out of politics. In 1920 he was one of the founders of the “Cooperative for the Edition of the Swiss Monthly Issues for Politics and Culture”. He died on September 28, 1921 at the age of 76.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b Labhart: The Federal Council Lexicon. P. 240.
  2. a b Ludwig Forrer. In: History of social security in Switzerland. Federal Social Insurance Office , 2013, accessed on August 22, 2013 .
  3. Labhart: The Federal Council Lexicon. Pp. 240-241.
  4. ^ Bernard Degen : Health Insurance. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  5. ↑ Referendum on May 20, 1900. , August 20, 2013, accessed on August 22, 2013 .
  6. a b Labhart: The Federal Council Lexicon. P. 241.
  7. a b Labhart: The Federal Council Lexicon. P. 242.
  8. ^ A b Hermann Böschenstein : Federal Councilor Schulthess: War and crises. Verlag Paul Haupt, Bern 1966. pp. 61–65.
  9. a b Labhart: The Federal Council Lexicon. P. 243.
  10. Referendum of February 4, 1912., August 20, 2013, accessed on August 22, 2013 .
  11. Labhart: The Federal Council Lexicon. P. 244.
  12. Klaus Urner: The foundation of the “Swiss Monthly Issues for Politics and Culture”, in Swiss Monthly Issues, March 1971, pp. 1064-1078.
predecessor Office successor
Walter Hauser Member of the Swiss Federal Council
Robert Haab