The Helvetic Republic, with borders according to the first Helvetic constitution of 12 April 1798
|Status||Client state of France|
|Capital||Aarau, later Lucerne|
|Common languages||Swiss French, Swiss German, Swiss Italian, Romansh|
|Historical era||French Revolutionary Wars|
|5 March 1798|
|12 April 1798|
• Elections in Zürich
|14 April 1798|
• Mutual defence treaty with France
|19 August 1798|
• Diplomatic recognition by French allies
|19 September 1798|
• Malmaison constitution
|29 May 1801|
• Federal constitution
|27 February 1802|
• Act of Mediation
|19 February 1803|
|ISO 3166 code||CH|
Note: See below for a full list of predecessor states
In Swiss history, the Helvetic Republic (1798–1803) represented an early attempt to impose a central authority over Switzerland, which until then had consisted of self-governing cantons united by a loose military alliance (and ruling over subject territories such as Vaud).
The French invaded Switzerland and turned it into an ally known as the "Helvetic Republic". The interference with localism and traditional liberties was deeply resented, although some modernizing reforms took place.Resistance was strongest in the more traditional Catholic bastions, with armed uprisings breaking out in spring 1798 in the central part of Switzerland. The French Army suppressed the uprisings, but support for revolutionary ideals steadily declined, as the Swiss resented their loss of local democracy, the new taxes, the centralization, and the hostility to religion. Nonetheless, there were long-term impacts.
The Republic being named Helvetic after the Helvetii , the Gaulish inhabitants of the Swiss Plateau in antiquity, was not an innovation; rather, the Swiss Confederacy had occasionally been dubbed Republica Helvetiorum in humanist Latin since the 17th century, and Helvetia , the Swiss national personification, made her first appearance in 1672.
During the French Revolutionary Wars of the 1790s, the French Republican armies expanded eastward. The French Republican armies enveloped Switzerland on the grounds of "liberating" the Swiss people, whose own system of government was deemed as feudal, especially for annexed territories such as Vaud.
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|History of Switzerland|
|Old Swiss Confederacy|
Some Swiss nationals, including Frédéric-César de La Harpe, had called for French intervention on these grounds. The invasion proceeded largely peacefully since the Swiss people failed to respond to the calls of their politicians to take up arms.
On 5 March 1798, French troops completely overran Switzerland and the Old Swiss Confederation collapsed. On 12 April 1798, 121 cantonal deputies proclaimed the Helvetic Republic, "One and Indivisible". On 14 April 1798, a cantonal assembly was called in the canton of Zürich, but most of the politicians from the previous assembly were re-elected. The new régime abolished cantonal sovereignty and feudal rights. The occupying forces established a centralised state based on the ideas of the French Revolution.
Many Swiss citizens resisted these "progressive" ideas, particularly in the central areas of the country. Some of the more controversial aspects of the new regime limited freedom of worship, which outraged many of the more devout citizens.
In response, the Cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden raised an army of about 10,000 men led by Alois von Reding to fight the French. This army was deployed along the defensive line from Napf to Rapperswil. Reding besieged French-controlled Lucerne and marched across the Brünig pass into the Berner Oberland to support the armies of Bern. At the same time, the French General Balthasar Alexis Henri Antoine of Schauenburg marched out of occupied Zürich to attack Zug, Lucerne and the Sattel pass. Even though Reding's army won victories at Rothenthurm and Morgarten, Schauenburg's victory near Sattel allowed him to threaten the town of Schwyz. On 4 May 1798, the town council of Schwyz surrendered.
On 13 May, Reding and Schauenburg agreed to a cease-fire, the terms of which included the rebel cantons merging into a single one, thus limiting their effectiveness in the central government. However, the French failed to keep their promises in respecting religious matters and before the year was out there was another uprising in Nidwalden which the authorities crushed, with towns and villages burnt down by French troops.
No general agreement existed about the future of Switzerland. Leading groups split into the Unitaires, who wanted a united republic, and the Federalists, who represented the old aristocracy and demanded a return to cantonal sovereignty. Coup-attempts became frequent, and the new régime had to rely on the French to survive. Furthermore, the occupying forces insisted that the accommodation and feeding of the soldiers be paid for by the local populace, which drained the economy. The treaty of alliance with France also broke the tradition of neutrality established by the Confederation. All this made it difficult to establish a new working state.
In 1799, Switzerland became a virtual battle-zone between the French, Austrian, and Imperial Russian armies, with the locals supporting mainly the latter two, rejecting calls to fight with the French armies in the name of the Helvetic Republic.
Instability in the Republic reached its peak in 1802–1803, which included the Bourla-papey uprising and the Stecklikrieg civil war of 1802. By then, it was 12 million francs in debt having started with a treasury of 6 million francs.This, together with local resistance, caused the Helvetic Republic to collapse, and its government took refuge in Lausanne.
At that time, Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul of France, summoned representatives of both sides to Paris in order to negotiate a solution. Although the Federalist representatives formed a minority at the conciliation conference, known as the "Helvetic Consulta", Bonaparte characterised Switzerland as federal "by nature" and considered it unwise to force the country into any other constitutional framework.
On 19 February 1803, the Act of Mediation restored the cantons. With the abolition of the centralized state, Switzerland became a confederation once again.
Before the advent of the Helvetic Republic, each individual canton had exercised complete sovereignty over its own territory or territories. Little central authority had existed, with matters concerning the country as a whole confined mainly to meetings of leading representatives from the cantons: the Diets.
The constitution of the Helvetic Republic came mainly from the design of Peter Ochs, a magistrate from Basel. It established a central two-chamber legislature which included the Grand Council (with 8 members per canton) and the Senate (4 members per canton). The executive, known as the Directory, comprised 5 members. The Constitution also established actual Swiss citizenship, as opposed to just citizenship of one's canton of birth.Under the Old Swiss Confederacy, citizenship was granted by each town and village only to residents. These citizens enjoyed access to community property and in some cases additional protection under the law. Additionally, the urban towns and the rural villages had differing rights and laws. The creation of a uniform Swiss citizenship, which applied equally for citizens of the old towns and their tenants and servants, led to conflict. The wealthier villagers and urban citizens held rights to forests, common land and other municipal property which they did not want to share with the "new citizens", who were generally poor. The compromise solution, which was written into the municipal laws of the Helvetic Republic, is still valid today. Two politically separate but often geographically similar organizations were created. The first, the so-called municipality, was a political community formed by-election and its voting body consists of all resident citizens. However, the community land and property remained with the former local citizens who were gathered together into the Bürgergemeinde .
After an uprising led by Alois von Reding in 1798, some cantons were merged, thus reducing their anti-centralist effectiveness in the legislature. Uri, Schwyz, Zug and Unterwalden together became the canton of Waldstätten; Glarus and the Sarganserland became the canton of Linth, and Appenzell and St. Gallen combined as the canton of Säntis.
Due to the instability of the situation, the Helvetic Republic had over 6 constitutions in a period of 4 years.
The Helvetic Republic did highlight the desirability of a central authority to handle matters for the country as a whole (as opposed to the individual cantons which handled matters at the local level). In the post-Napoleonic era, the differences between the cantons (varying currencies and systems of weights and measurements) and the perceived need for better co-ordination between them came to a head and culminated in the Swiss Federal Constitution of 1848.
The Republic's 5-member Directory resembles the 7-member Swiss Federal Council, Switzerland's present-day [update] executive.
The period of the Helvetic Republic is still very controversial within Switzerland.It represents a key step toward the modern federal state. For the first time, the population was defined as Swiss, not as members of a specific canton. For cantons like Vaud, Thurgau and Ticino the Republic was a time of political freedom from other cantons. However, the Republic also marked a time of foreign domination and revolution. For the cantons of Bern, Schwyz and Nidwalden it was a time of military defeat followed by occupation and military suppression. In 1995, the Federal Parliament chose not to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of the Helvetic Republic, but to allow individual cantons to celebrate if they wished.
The Helvetic Republic reduced the formerly sovereign cantons to mere administrative districts, and in order to weaken the old power-structures, it defined new boundaries for some cantons. The Act of 1798 and subsequent developments resulted in the following cantons:
As well as the Old Swiss Confederacy, the following territories became part of the Helvetic Republic:
There were four associated states:
There were 21 condominiums:
There were five protectorates:
The Helvetic Republic also annexed two territories not previously part of Switzerland:
The canton of Schwyz is a canton in central Switzerland between the Alps in the south, Lake Lucerne to the west and Lake Zürich in the north, centered on and named after the town of Schwyz.
Municipalities are the lowest level of administrative division in Switzerland. Each municipality is part of one of the Swiss cantons, which form the Swiss Confederation. In most cantons municipalities are also part of districts or other sub-cantonal administrative divisions.
Each of the 26 modern cantons of Switzerland has an official flag and a coat of arms. The history of development of these designs spans the 13th to the 20th centuries.
The Canton of Baden was a canton of the Helvetic Republic. Its capital was the town of Baden.
The Old Swiss Confederacy began as a late medieval alliance between the communities of the valleys in the Central Alps, at the time part of the Holy Roman Empire, to facilitate the management of common interests such as free trade and to ensure the peace along the important trade routes through the mountains. The Hohenstaufen emperors had granted these valleys reichsfrei status in the early 13th century. As reichsfrei regions, the cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden were under the direct authority of the emperor without any intermediate liege lords and thus were largely autonomous.
During the French Revolutionary Wars, the revolutionary armies marched eastward, enveloping Switzerland in their battles against Austria. In 1798, Switzerland was completely overrun by the French and was renamed the Helvetic Republic. The Helvetic Republic encountered severe economic and political problems. In 1798 the country became a battlefield of the Revolutionary Wars, culminating in the Battles of Zürich in 1799.
Josef Fridolin Vinzenz Aloys Reding von Biberegg was a Swiss patriot, military officer and politician. He is best known for leading an early revolt against the Helvetic Republic.
The Swiss Confederation comprises the 26 cantons of Switzerland.
Waldstätten was a canton of the Helvetic Republic from 1798 to 1803, combining the territories of the founding cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy, Uri, Schwyz and both cantons of Unterwalden, which were collectively known as Waldstätten since the 14th century, along with Zug, the Republic of Gersau, and Engelberg Abbey.
Léman was the name of a canton of the Helvetic Republic from 1798 to 1803, corresponding to the territory of modern Vaud. A former subject territory of Bern, Vaud had been independent for only four months in 1798 as the Lemanic Republic before it was incorporated into the centralist Helvetic Republic. Léman comprised all of the territory of Vaud detached from Bernese occupation, apart from the Avenches and the Payerne which, after 16 October 1802, were annexed by the canton of Fribourg until the Napoleonic Act of Mediation the following year, when they were restored to the newly established and newly sovereign canton of Vaud.
Rothenthurm is a municipality in Schwyz District in the canton of Schwyz in Switzerland.
Sattel is a municipality in Schwyz District in the canton of Schwyz in Switzerland. Its name is the German word for saddle.
The Old Swiss Confederacy was a loose confederation of independent small states within the Holy Roman Empire. It is the precursor of the modern state of Switzerland.
The Swiss are the citizens of Switzerland or people of Swiss ancestry.
The County of Sargans was a state of the Holy Roman Empire. From 1458 until the French Revolutionary War in 1798, Sargans became a condominium of the Old Swiss Confederacy, administered jointly by the cantons of Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Lucerne, Zürich, Glarus and Zug.
The Freiamt or Freie Ämter is a region in Switzerland and is located in the southeast of Canton of Aargau. It comprises the area between the Lindenberg and Heitersberg and from the terminal moraine at Othmarsingen to Reuss river in Dietwil. Today the area of the Bremgarten and Muri Districts are called the Freiamt. Previously, the area around Affoltern District in the canton of Zurich was called the (Zurich) Freiamt.
A Vogt was a title and office in the Old Swiss Confederacy, inherited from the feudal system of the Holy Roman Empire, corresponding to the English reeve. The German term Vogtei is ultimately a loan from Latin [ad]vocatia.
The Bürgergemeinde is a statutory corporation in public law in Switzerland. It includes all individuals who are citizens of the Bürgergemeinde, usually by having inherited the Bourgeoisie (citizenship), regardless of where they were born or where they may currently live. Membership of the Bürgergemeinde of a municipality is not to be confused with holding the municipality's citizenship, which, in certain cantons such as Valais, are two distinct legal concepts. Instead of the place of birth, Swiss legal documents, e.g. passports, contain the Heimatort. It is, however, possible for a person to not possess bourgeoisie of the municipality from which they originate; laws relating to these matters vary depending on the canton in which the Bürgergemeinde is located. The Bürgergemeinde also often holds and administers the common property which had been bequeathed or otherwise given to the members of the bourgeoisie. The political communes or municipalities, the parish and the Bürgergemeinde often include the same area but may be separate depending on the relevant cantonal law. With the increase in mobility since the first half of the 19th century, the Bürgergemeinde and the rights associated with citizenship in the municipality have lost most of their meaning. Today, in Switzerland there are nearly 2000 Bürgergemeinden and corporations.
The French invasion of Switzerland occurred from January until May 1798 as part of the French Revolutionary Wars. The independent Old Swiss Confederacy collapsed, both by this foreign invasion and simultaneous internal revolts, termed the "Helvetic Revolution". Its Ancien Régime institutions were abolished and replaced by the centralised pro-French Helvetic Republic.
Uri is a Swiss Talschaft and canton in the upper Reuss valley.
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