Regeneration (Swiss history)

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Map of the regeneration movement in Switzerland 1830–33

The regeneration (of Latin regeneratio "renewal") is a period of Swiss history . The period between 1830 and 1848 , that is, between the end of the Restoration (1815–1830) and the end of the Sonderbund War of (1847/48), is considered to be the “regeneration time” . 1839–1844 there were a number of conservative counter-movements, which were followed by a radicalization of the regeneration movement in 1845–1847, the culmination of which was the founding of the federal state in 1848.

The restoration in Switzerland

The Bernese Karl Ludwig von Haller laid out the restorative state ideal in his work "Restoration of Political Science" and gave the epoch of restoration its name

As in other European countries, there was no complete restoration of the pre-revolutionary conditions in Switzerland in 1814/15. However, the Long Diet from April 6 to August 31, 1815 enforced the state ideal of the restoration period in all cantons and at the federal level where possible. The principles of authority and legitimacy, as well as the conviction that the old relationships of rule and subjects corresponded to an order willed by God, formed the foundation of the new state orders in the cantons. According to the ideal of the restoration period, the state was not an institution created by the people in a sovereign act (→ popular sovereignty ), but rather stood above the people out of its own unconditional authority. Freedom was not understood as a collection or catalog of individual freedoms or human rights, but consisted of the freedom of privileges in the patrimonial state, which was structured according to estates .

Specifically, the restorative state order in the old cantons meant a return to the old legal inequality in the rural municipality cantons (Uri, Schwyz, Ob- / Nidwalden, Zug, Glarus, both Appenzell), to the re-establishment of the rural and urban aristocracies and in the city cantons (Bern, Zurich, Lucerne, Solothurn, Freiburg, Schaffhausen, Geneva) to the rule of cities over the landscape. The representation of the countryside was not completely abolished in all cantons, as it was before 1798, but a strong predominance of city representatives was established in the cantonal parliaments. In Bern, there were 99 seats for the landscape compared to 200 seats for the urban patriciate . In Zurich the ratio was 82 seats in the countryside to 130 seats in the city. In Basel and Schaffhausen, however, urban rule was largely restored.

The new cantons of Aargau, Thurgau, Waadt and St. Gallen, created during the revolution, remained in place, contrary to the efforts of some conservative circles. Subject relations were not restored either, apart from the fundamental legal inequality in some urban cantons and in Schwyz, where in fact the inhabitants of entire regions forfeited their political rights. In the mediation cantons founded in 1803 , the constitutions were redesigned in such a way that the number of active citizens was greatly reduced through a high census and that through indirect electoral procedures, for example with district municipalities, an extension of the terms of office and a predominance of governments (Small Council) over parliaments ( Grand Council), the state structure was given an aristocratic character. Nevertheless, more liberal achievements were preserved in these cantons than in the old cantons. The canton of Neuchâtel, in which the monarchy was restored, was a special case.

In general, the domestic political situation was characterized by pronounced austerity in the administration and in the behavior of the cantons, by censorship, restriction of economic freedom through the reintroduction of compulsory guilds and the restriction of freedom of movement through the abolition of Swiss citizenship or the return to canton citizenship. With the abolition of the common market and the single currency, the economy was thrown back into the old small areas of the cantons. In addition, the restoration of ecclesiastical authority was noticeable in everyday life; In the Catholic cantons in particular, this process was reinforced by an "alliance between the authorities and the altar" and the appointment of the Jesuits. Education again became a domain of the Church. In the denominationally uniform cantons, religious freedom was abolished or severely restricted, and marriages between denominations were prohibited.

Liberal counter-forces and demands

The central demands of the liberal movements in Switzerland were popular sovereignty , abolition of press censorship , separation of church and state , representative democracy , freedom of the individual and equality of rights . Since the liberal movement was predominantly supported by urban and rural elites, it tended towards certain elitist tendencies. For example, it rejected popular rule through direct democracy and sought forms of representative democracy in order to keep the "uneducated" people away from state affairs. Limitations in the implementation of the principle of popular sovereignty were consciously accepted in order to protect the individual against "mob rule". At the same time, however, the Liberals endeavored to improve education by introducing state elementary schools, canton schools (grammar schools) and universities. The success of liberalism among the liberal-minded sections of the population corresponded on the one hand to a need for freedom after the political oppression by the Restoration and on the other hand was very attractive because of its idealistic-optimistic belief in progress and the expectations of material improvement for broad sections of the population after a liberal reform.

Constitutions in the liberal sense first emerged in the canton of Ticino in 1830, before the July Revolution of 1830 in France, and then until 1831 in the cantons of Zurich, Bern, Lucerne, Friborg, Solothurn, St. Gallen, Aargau, Thurgau and Vaud, and a little late in Basel-Landschaft and Glarus. This ended the rule of the aristocracy or the patriciate of the few long-established families or the city over the countryside in the affected cantons . An important aspect of the regeneration period was the liberation of the peasants : In the regenerated cantons, laws were passed which freed the peasant families from their 1000-year hereditary bond with landlords. However, this happened in the form of a ransom right: Since the subservient peasant class was mostly materially poor, it took decades before freedom of contract became a reality for all peasant families.

At the national level, the liberal movement campaigned for the creation of a uniform economic area without cantonal customs barriers and with a single currency, as well as a federal revision in the sense of stronger political centralization.

The regeneration movement was divided early into the radical-free-spirited and the liberal movement, from which the Liberal-Democratic Party was founded in 1894 and the Liberal Party of Switzerland in 1913 .

It is a characteristic of the liberal renewal movement in Switzerland that on the one hand it is strongly influenced by the influence of liberal emigrants and refugees from Germany, France and Italy and on the other hand it is quite independent in terms of form and development. Although the great wave of liberal upheavals and constitutional revisions was only initiated by the July Revolution in Paris, it was rooted in slower developments that led to the first liberal successes in some cantons before 1830.

Course of the liberal renewal

Representation of the people's assembly in Uster on November 22, 1830
The people's assembly in Balsthal on December 22, 1830
Street fight in Liestal between troops of the city of Basel and associations of the countryside 1831
Caricature of the Basel canton division in 1833

Heralds of liberal renewal could already be felt in the 1820s. Despite censorship, the press reported on the freedom struggles in South America and Greece (→ Greek Revolution ). In 1826 the press in Zurich, Aargau and Lucerne was given the right to criticize the parliamentary negotiations and the management of the governments. The press thus became an important champion of the liberal movement, especially the Appenzeller Zeitung , which was founded on July 15, 1828. She became the mouthpiece of the leading liberal politicians of the regeneration period: Ignaz Paul Vital Troxler , Thomas Bornhauser , Casimir Pfyffer and Gallus Jakob Baumgartner . Besides representing Neue Zurcher Zeitung of Paul Usteri and the Thurgauer Zeitung moderate liberal positions. In Lucerne, liberal politicians succeeded in restricting the power of the government in 1829, and a liberal constitutional revision also took place in Vaud on May 26, 1830. The independence of liberal development in Switzerland was strengthened shortly before the July Revolution in France by the fall of the Conservative regiment in the canton of Ticino confirmed. The Ticino people were able to confirm a liberal draft constitution on July 4, 1830 and appoint a liberal majority to the councils in the subsequent new elections. The Diet finally lifted press censorship under pressure from popular opinion.

The wave of liberal renewal that swept through Switzerland as a result of the July Revolution in Paris first hit the canton of Thurgau. The mood there had already been heated up by the liberal pastor Thomas Bornhauser . Two people's assemblies in Weinfelden in October and November led to the introduction of a new cantonal constitution, in which the direct election of members by the people and the principle of publicity in the administration were enshrined. The liberal movements in the cantons of Zurich ( Ustertag , November 22nd) and Aargau (Assembly of Wohlenschwil , November 7th) followed and also enforced liberal constitutions. In Lucerne, despite the revision of 1829, there was also a new popular movement consisting of radical liberal, democratic and peasant groups, which manifested itself in the Sursee Assembly (November 21). After a violent clash between the radical liberals under Jakob Robert Steiger and the peasant movement under Josef Leu in Sempach on January 24, 1831, this popular movement split again, and the radical liberals single-handedly pushed through their draft constitution. Finally, the cantons of St. Gallen (people's assemblies in Altstätten , December 5th, and St. Gallenkappel , December 10th) and Solothurn (assembly of Balsthal , December 22nd), where Gallus Jakob Baumgartner and Joseph Munzinger achieved full recognition of popular sovereignty .

The liberal movement in other cantons reacted somewhat delayed. While it was unable to prevail against the conservatives in Friborg, with a focus on Murten and Bulle , it made itself more slowly noticeable in the cantons of Appenzell Ausserrhoden and Bern. In Bern, the cities of Porrentruy and Burgdorf were strongholds of the Liberals. The Schnell brothers from Burgdorf , town clerk Johann Ludwig Schnell , lawyer Karl Schnell and Hans Schnell , gathered 15,000 people in Münsingen on January 10, 1831, and finally got the aristocratic government to set up a constitutional council and a liberal constitutional revision.

In Basel, Neuchâtel and Schwyz, the liberal movement led to political unrest, which at times even escalated into civil war-like unrest. In view of the regeneration, the conservative-aristocratic government in the city of Basel was initially unwilling to comply with liberal demands from the Basel region for political equality (petition from Bad Bubendorf , November 18, 1830). Only when the popular movement gained strength did the city of the countryside offer concessions in the form of a revised constitution, which granted the countryside more seats in the Grand Council (city 75 seats; countryside 79 seats), but did not have the principle of representation based on the size of the population . When the mood in the countryside remained heated and another People's Day in Liestal presented further demands and a provisional government of the countryside was set up on January 7, 1831, the city responded with military intervention. The constitution offered by the city was then accepted by the people and the leaders of the rural people were tried, which meant a renewed provocation of the liberals. Another military confrontation between urban troops and rebels from the countryside did not lead to a clear result and ended with the constitution of the canton of Basel-Landschaft on March 17, 1832.

In the canton of Neuchâtel, which had been under the rule of the King of Prussia again as a principality since 1815, King Friedrich Wilhelm III confessed . Although the popular election of a large part of the legislature was granted early in a regulation, it did not achieve the hoped-for appease of the liberal republicans. At the request of the conservative Neuchâtel government, a coup d'état by the Republicans on Neuchâtel forced a military intervention by the Diet on September 28, 1831. As a compromise, after an amnesty, a referendum on the separation from Prussia was to take place. The decisive action of the Prussian governor against the republicans after the withdrawal of the federal troops provoked a renewed republican uprising in December 1831, which was militarily overthrown by the royalists. The republican movement was now violently suppressed, and the royalists asked the Prussian king to separate from the Confederation, which the latter refused.

As in Basel, the liberal movement in the canton of Schwyz was almost exclusively concentrated in the outer districts of March, Vorderer Hof, Einsiedeln and Küssnacht, which were politically disadvantaged compared to the canton's "old private" districts. The intransigence of the conservatives caused the liberals to appoint their own provisional administration at the People's Assembly of Lachen on January 6, 1831 and, after unsuccessful attempts at mediating the daily statute, on April 27, 1832, on the basis of a liberal draft constitution, as " Canton Schwyz outer country " to constitute.

In view of the unrest in Schwyz, Neuchâtel and Basel, the liberal cantons sought the legitimation of their new constitutions through the daily statute, which they refused on June 19, 1831. At the cantonal level, so-called protection associations were formed to defend the liberal constitutions, which also gave support to the liberals in Neuchâtel, Basel and Schwyz. The cantonal protection associations finally merged on September 25, 1831 in Langenthal to form the “General Swiss Protection Association”. At the instigation of the liberal leaders Johann Jakob Hess , Casimir Pfyffer , Gallus Jakob Baumgartner , Melchior Hirzel and Karl Schnell, the cantons of Zurich, Bern, Lucerne, Solothurn, St. Gallen, Aargau and Thurgau finally formed the so-called Siebner Concordat on March 17, 1832 , an alliance of collective security that assured each canton that it would be protected by the others against a conservative overthrow from outside. The liberal majority of the Diet, strengthened in this way, finally recognized the division of the cantons in Basel provisionally on September 14, 1832 and that in Schwyz on April 29, 1833 after renewed military confrontations. The Concordat of seven was a liberal special union, which, like later the conservative special union, clearly opposed the federal treaty from 1815 violated. On the one hand, it was unnecessary because the conservative cantons resolutely defended cantonal sovereignty and did not plan any military intervention in the liberal cantons, and on the other hand, it set a dangerous precedent.

The recognition of the liberal half-cantons of Basel-Landschaft and Ausserschwyz by the Tagsatzung moved the conservative cantons Uri, Innerschwyz, Obwalden, Nidwalden, Neuchâtel and Basel-Stadt, for their part, on 14/15. November 1832 to close the so-called Sarnerbund , which however was not a formal alliance. The aim of the federal government was to reverse the latest cantonal divisions. The members agreed to boycott any agenda in which representatives from Basel or Schwyz would take part. The Sarnerbund therefore carried out two opposing statutes in Schwyz in 1833. When the governments of Schwyz and Basel agreed to militarily reverse the cantonal divisions and on July 31/1. On August 2nd, 1833, when the Schwyz took action against Küssnacht (→ Küssnachter Handel ) and on August 2nd, Basel-Stadt troops attacked the countryside, but were defeated near Pratteln on August 3rd, the Diet decided to raise troops and occupy Basel and Schwyz militarily. The remaining cantons of the now liberally dominated assembly decided on August 12, 1833 to dissolve the Sarnerbund. While the intervention of the Diet in Schwyz led to the granting of political equality for the entire canton and thus made the reunification of the cantonal parts possible, the chaotic situation in Basel led to the final recognition of the cantonal division by the Diet on August 26, 1833 (→ Basler Kantonspteilung ).

The failure of the federal revision in 1833 and the split in the liberal movement

Caricature of
Heinrich von Arx's commission work on the federal revision in 1833

The liberal need for a revision of the Federal Treaty of 1815 was made accessible to the broad masses by a pamphlet by Casimir Pfyffer. On August 19, 1831, the canton of Thurgau then made the formal request for a revision of the federal treaty in the daily statute. In a first vote, however, the matter received only eight votes and was postponed. Finally, on July 16, 1832, the Diet approved the revision with 13 votes and appointed a 15-person commission to prepare a revision. The cantons split into three groups:

  • Freiburg, Glarus, Graubünden, Neuchâtel and Schaffhausen were in favor of keeping the federal treaty unchanged.
  • Bern, Geneva, Lucerne, Solothurn and Vaud were in favor of limited reforms.
  • Aargau, St. Gallen, Thurgau, Zug and Zurich demanded far-reaching reforms and greater centralization.

The main work in preparation for the revision was carried out by Gallus Jakob Baumgartner and Pellegrino Rossi . Their drafts ("Pacte Rossi") provided for the establishment of permanent federal authorities:

  • Establishment of a permanent Federal Council with five members, presided over by a «Landammann of Switzerland» as head of the federal government.
  • Lucerne should become the capital of Switzerland, where the Federal Council and the Landammann should have their seat.
  • A federal court appointed for six years should act as the highest judicial authority.
  • The parliament was to have a session with legislative powers, in which every canton should be represented with an equal number of representatives of the cantons. The representatives of the estates should not, however, be bound by the instructions from the cantons, except for questions of war and peace, revision of the federal treaty or state treaties.
  • A standardization of customs duties, weights and measures as well as postal, coin and military services should be implemented.

As a concession to the conservative cantons, the draft contained a maintenance of the basic principle of equal rights for the cantons instead of a parliament made up of representatives of the people with delegations from the cantons depending on the size of the population. It was precisely this part of the draft that reduced the prospect of winning over some of the liberal forces without the support of the conservatives. The radical liberal forces led by Troxler now demanded national elections to a constitutional council instead of a revision by a commission. Numerous cantons, including the liberal Vaud, opposed any undermining of cantonal sovereignty. Foreign countries, especially Metternich, were critical of the revision, as the existence of the cantons and neutrality were guaranteed by the great powers. In the event of a federal revision, he threatened to lose neutrality.

In March 1833, the Diet in Zurich changed the constitutional revision once again in a federalist sense. When the revision went to vote in the cantons in July, however, it did not even achieve a narrow majority in the votes in the cantonal parliaments, as it offered too little to the liberals and went too far for the conservatives. The referendums turned out to be even more negative, also in Lucerne, which was intended to be the capital. The Diet subsequently adhered to the revision decision, but national reforms were not carried out until 1847.

The parties in the Confederation after 1833

The disputes over the federal revision resulted in a split in the liberal movement into two groups, the radicals and the liberals or free radicals. On the other hand, the oppositional and conservative forces rallied:

  • The radicals (from Latin radix , "root"): Representatives of this group demanded a renewal of Switzerland from the ground up. They turned against the compromises of 1830, and the particularly combative "stormy" radicals Josef Anton Henne , Basil Ferdinand Curti , Johann Baptist Weder , James Fazy , Henri Druey , Ulrich Ochsenbein and the brothers Wilhelm Snell and Ludwig Snell and Ignaz Paul Troxler were terrified even before the use of revolutionary violence. They founded the so-called national association, which was supposed to continue the fight for the federal revision, and organized the association « Young Switzerland » in cooperation with radical emigrants . Other moderate radicals were Casimir Pfyffer, Johann Jakob Hess , Gallus Jakob Baumgartner and Hungerbühler. An essential characteristic of the radicals, besides the tendency to revolutionary overthrow, was the advocacy of a strong secular "people's state". In their doctrine, which went back to Hegel and Feuerbach , they rejected all violence that did not directly receive their legitimation from the people. In order for the people to participate in the legislative and judicial processes in the state, they called for a compulsory legal referendum and the introduction of jury courts. In order to involve as many residents of the country as possible in the government, the radicals operated the lowering of the voting age and the easier settlement for non-cantons. According to radical doctrine, the freedom of the individual was restricted in relation to state authority. The radicals turned particularly violently against religion and the church, on the one hand because they advocated laicism and on the other hand because religion was a main basis for the struggle of the conservatives against the unified state (→ radicalism ).
  • The Liberals or Radicals : Representatives of this group were generally satisfied with what had been achieved and rejected further reforms and particularly violent upheavals. In turn, they were split into a left and right wing. The right wing, the «Juste milieu», tried to find a way of getting along between the radicals and liberals. In general, the liberals also differed from the radicals in their vision of the new state. They emphasized the rule of law and individual freedom more strongly and saw the state as a necessary evil to protect the individual. As a method, they professed peaceful development and wanted to gradually re-educate the national character through education. Compared to the noisy appearance of the radical politicians, accompanied by numerous publications, the liberals or liberal conservatives almost went under. Another peculiarity of the liberal conservatives, especially in western Switzerland, was their derivation of individual freedom from God's will and thus their religious attitude. According to Constant , they saw in the free development of the human personality the highest good to which everything in the state should be subordinated. Outstanding personalities of the liberals were Alexandre Vinet and Johann Caspar Bluntschli (→ Liberalism ).
  • The Conservatives primarily defended the federal statutes of 1815. However, this movement also encompassed numerous shades. All conservatives were by no means aristocratic, but in some cases also advocated the expansion or maintenance of popular rule and democratic constitutions. Community autonomy in particular was central to the conservatives. They even demanded a veto by the municipalities for any interference by state authority. However, they interpreted the separation of church and state quite differently than the radicals and liberals. The "complete freedom of teaching and church" according to the conservative reading should mean the complete freedom of the church and its educational institutions from state interference, so that citizens should be able to choose freely between belonging to a denomination and also have their children educated in religious educational institutions. The Ultramontanes also fought for the recognition of a loyalty and obedience reservation of the Catholics to the Pope. In everyday political life, the conservative Catholics stood up as defenders of the church and the Catholic educational system against liberal state interventions, while the reformed conservatives mainly defended the cantonal state churches against sects such as the revival movement or the separatists . Leading figures of the conservative movement were the Solothurn Theodor Scherer-Boccard and the Lucerne Constantin Siegwart-Müller (→ conservatism ).

The Emigrant Question in the 1830s

As a result of the suppression of the liberal revolutions and uprisings in Europe, numerous political emigrants fled to the Swiss Confederation, which had traditionally generous asylum law. In addition to numerous German, French and Italian refugees, around 400 Poles also came to Switzerland in 1833. The Italian nationalist and revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini , who temporarily stayed as a refugee in the cantons of Geneva and Solothurn in the 1830s, founded the movements Young Italy , Young Poland and Young Germany in Switzerland as a national pool for the exiled liberals of the respective countries . In 1834 he collected these in Junge Europa . On February 1, 1834, Mazzini and a troop of emigrants undertook a free march to Savoy in what was then the Kingdom of Sardinia . Since this failed miserably, some emigrants were expelled under pressure from the great powers. A number of other incidents followed. When the black-red-gold tricolor of the liberal German national movement was rolled out in Bern at a garden festival of the German workers' association and the rumor arose that the Young Europe movement wanted to bring about liberal overturns from Switzerland in southern Germany, political tensions escalated with the Grand Duchy of Baden and Austria in such a way that Baden mobilized his army and Metternich temporarily broke off diplomatic relations with the Swiss Confederation. Tensions arose with France because of the so-called Conseil affair , which ended with military threatening gestures and a French border blockade against Switzerland. In the end, the Diet found it necessary to restrict the right of asylum in August 1836 and to expel numerous refugees.

The political situation for Switzerland became much more threatening in the course of the so-called Napoleon trade . Prince Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte , who grew up in the canton of Thurgau and was a Thurgau citizen, had been back in Switzerland since 1837, after going into exile from France to the USA in 1836. When France demanded his expulsion, the Thurgau radicals sided with the princes popular in the canton. When France again mobilized troops against Switzerland, the liberals throughout the country showed solidarity with Thurgau, the federal troops were also mobilized and even Charles-Jules Guiguer de Prangins was appointed general. An escalation was ultimately only avoided by Napoleon's voluntary departure.

Popular days 1830/31

  • October 22nd: Weinfelden , Canton Thurgau
  • November 7th: Wohlenschwil , Canton Aargau
  • November 18: Weinfelden, Canton Thurgau
  • November 21: Sursee , Canton of Lucerne
  • November 22nd: Uster , Canton of Zurich
  • December 4th: Wattwil , Canton St. Gallen
  • December 5th: Altstätten , Canton St. Gallen
  • December 22nd: Balsthal , Canton Solothurn
  • January 6th: Lachen , Canton Schwyz
  • January 10: Münsingen , Canton of Bern

Liberal personalities in the regeneration period

Gallus Jakob Baumgartner from the canton of St. Gallen, leader of the radicals 1831–1841
Wilhelm Snell from the Canton of Bern
Casimir Pfyffer from the canton of Lucerne
Johann Konrad Kern from the Canton of Thurgau

See also


  • Theodor Curti : History of Switzerland in the 19th Century . Zahn, Neuchâtel 1902.
  • Numa Droz : «The Rebirth 1815–1848». In: Paul Seippel (Ed.): Switzerland in the nineteenth century. Volume 1, Schmid & Francke / Payot, Bern / Lausanne 1899, pp. 149-276.
  • Alfred Kölz : The way of Switzerland to the modern federal state: 1789 - 1798 - 1848 - 1998. Historical treatises. Rüegger, Chur / Zurich 1998, ISBN 3-7253-0609-5 .
  • Georg Kreis : The way to the present. Switzerland in the nineteenth century . Birkhäuser, Basel 1986, ISBN 3-7643-1744-2 .
  • Emil Spiess : Illustrated history of Switzerland. Volume 3: The becoming of the federal state and its development in modern Europe. Benziger, Zurich 1971, DNB 451507681 .

Web links

Commons : Restoration and regeneration in Switzerland  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Spiess: Illustrated history of Switzerland. Volume 3, pp. 135-137.
  2. Claude Longchamp : The perfect democracy? You won't find them in Switzerland either , swissinfo, January 24, 2020
  3. H. Buchi: The Tenth detachment in the canton of Solothurn in 1831
  4. Circle: The Way to the Present. P. 64.
  5. ^ Spiess: Illustrated history of Switzerland. Volume 3, p. 142.
  6. ^ Spiess: Illustrated history of Switzerland. Volume 3, pp. 143-145.