Numa Droz

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Numa Droz at a young age

Numa Droz (born January 27, 1844 in La Chaux-de-Fonds , † December 15, 1899 in Bern , resident in Le Locle and La Chaux-de-Fonds) was a Swiss politician . At first he worked as an engraver , teacher and journalist , at the end of the 1860s his political career began as a Grand Councilor and Councilor of State in the canton of Neuchâtel . The representative of the radical faction (today's FDP ) was elected to the Federal Council in December 1875 as one of the few non-academics . Droz is still the youngest Federal Councilor to this day. He was a member of the state government until 1892.


Childhood and youth

He was the second of five children of watchmaker Eugène Droz and Louise-Élise Benguerel. When he was six years old, his father died. As a result, his mother had to look after the children on her own and was temporarily dependent on care. At the age of 14 Droz completed an apprenticeship as an engraver in the Grandjean & Perrenoud watch factory . From 1859 he was employed as a supervisor and tutor in the Protestant school home Grandchamp in Boudry , which was run by his later confidante Félix Bovet . The board of directors of the school home refused his request to work as a missionary and he had to resume his previous work as an engraver. In self-study he acquired the patent as a primary school teacher and taught in Chaumont and Neuchâtel for two years from 1862 .

Cantonal and federal politics

In the canton's capital, Droz soon came into contact with the radical liberals and attracted attention with his talent for speaking and writing. He used the position of editor of the party newspaper Le National suisse (1864–1871) as a stepping stone into politics. In November 1869 he was a deputy in the cantonal parliament (Grand Conseil) selected. As early as July 1871, when he was only 27 years old, he was elected to the Council of State (Conseil d'État) . As head of the education and culture department, he implemented a new liberal school law in 1872 against strong opposition from conservative circles. The following year he enforced the Church Organization Act. It guaranteed the pastors' freedom of conscience, but led to the split in the Reformed Church and the establishment of the independent Église indépendante .

From December 1872 Droz represented the canton of Neuchâtel in the Council of States . He took an active part in the debate about the new federal constitution and was one of the authors of the compromise proposal, which found a majority in the popular vote in 1874. In December 1875 Droz was elected President of the Council of States , but held this office for only a few days.

The Federal Council elections on December 10, 1875 were controversial. Against the will of the radicals from the canton of Vaud , Droz also made himself available as a candidate. In the election of the seventh Federal Council, he received 65 votes and was thus subject to the moderate Solothurn Bernhard Hammer . On the same day, Louis Ruchonnet from Vaud was elected fourth Federal Councilor. But since he did not accept the election, a by-election had to be held on December 18. Charles Estoppey achieved an absolute majority in the first ballot with 86 votes (Droz received 71), but also refused to accept the office. Ultimately, the choice fell on the 31-year-old Droz, who received 85 out of 168 valid votes in the second ballot ( Jules Roguin received 52, Louis Rambert 20, other people 11 votes).

Federal Council

The older politician

Initially, Droz was from January 1, 1876, before the Department of the Interior . As such, he was responsible, among other things, for the federal administration and the supervision of the intercantonal concordat . Increasingly, he was confronted with social and economic issues that had to be regulated by law. For example, he implemented the Factory Act of 1877, incorporating his own experience as a watch worker. In the 19th century it was common for incumbent federal councilors to stand for a compliment election ; H. as national councils as candidates. In 1878 Droz was not even put up as a candidate due to internal party differences of his radical party friends in the canton of Neuchâtel. Since it was undisputed in the rest of Switzerland, the Federal Assembly nevertheless confirmed it , although it actually lacked the legitimacy of the electorate.

Droz expressly supported the reorganization of the departments , with which the workload of the Federal Council should be better distributed. In 1879 he took over the management of the restructured trade and agriculture department . With one exception, he was in charge of this until 1886; he was able to show his talents as negotiator and legislator more than before. His main concern was several laws on quality and patent protection in Swiss industry, from which the export-dependent watch industry in particular benefited. On the basis of the Bern Convention for the Protection of Works of Art and Literature, which came into force in 1886 , and which he was involved in creating, Droz also developed Switzerland's first copyright law . Other activities included measures to combat animal diseases and the renegotiation of existing trade agreements. His work falls in the time of the Great Depression , which was associated with a return to protective tariff policy and which the staunch supporter of free trade increasingly disliked.

In 1881 Droz officiated for the first time as Federal President and thus, as was customary at the time, also head of the Political Department . After his second election as Federal President in 1887, he was the first Federal Councilor to break with this rotation principle, especially since it had hindered a continuous foreign policy. Thus, even after his presidential year, he remained head of the Foreign Ministry, which was newly designated as the Department of Foreign Affairs. In 1889 he had to cope with a serious foreign policy crisis because of the Wohlgemuth affair : the German police inspector August Wohlgemuth had been expelled for spying against German emigrants (mostly socialists) in Switzerland, whereupon Chancellor Otto von Bismarck threatened reprisals. Droz confidently countered the threats and stressed that no other power should exercise police force on Swiss territory. As a result of this crisis, the Federal Council reorganized the state security .

further activities

On December 31, 1892 Droz resigned as Federal Councilor. The "Droz System" was questioned and by 1920 the Federal President automatically took over the office of Foreign Minister. From 1893 he headed the International Transport Office and the Central Office for International Rail Traffic (OCTI). In public he turned against the increasing statism , for example in 1897 on the question of the creation of a national bank . Although he had supported the refinancing of the Gotthard Railway with taxpayers' money in 1878 , twenty years later he firmly rejected the nationalization of the railway. Before the referendum of February 20, 1898, he campaigned against the establishment of what would later become the Federal Railways with a brochure and numerous lectures . He fell out with many political friends who accused him of taking the side of high finance.

Droz turned down offers to serve as governor of Crete and advisor to the King of Siam . In his spare time he conducted political studies and historical research on 19th century Switzerland and his native town of La Chaux-de-Fonds. He died of meningitis at the age of 55 .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Barrelet, Perrenoud: Das Bundesratslexikon. P. 163.
  2. ^ Barrelet, Perrenoud: Das Bundesratslexikon. Pp. 163-164.
  3. ^ Barrelet, Perrenoud: Das Bundesratslexikon. P. 164.
  4. ^ Barrelet, Perrenoud: Das Bundesratslexikon. Pp. 164-165.
  5. ^ Barrelet, Perrenoud: Das Bundesratslexikon. Pp. 165-166.
  6. 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. 219–220 , doi : 10.5169 / seals-81131 .
  7. ^ Barrelet, Perrenoud: Das Bundesratslexikon. P. 166.
  8. ^ Barrelet, Perrenoud: Das Bundesratslexikon. Pp. 166-167.
  9. a b Barrelet, Perrenoud: Das Bundesratslexikon. P. 167.
predecessor Office successor
Paul Cérésole Member of the Swiss Federal Council
Adrien Lachenal