Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
(?-1899)
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First Pub. Date
1881
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
Pub. Date
1899
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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SWITZERLAND

III.237.1

SWITZERLAND. A federative republic, situated in the centre of Germany.

III.237.2

—1. Territory and Population. The territorial extent of Switzerland, according to the figures of the federal topographical bureau, is 41,148 square kilometres. According to the census of Dec. 11, 1870, the population was 2,669,147. The following table shows, by cantons, the territorial extent, the number of the population, and the religion of the inhabitants, at that date:

Table.  Click to enlarge in new window.

III.237.3

By adding to the Catholics and Protestants 11,435 adherents of different Christian sects and 6,996 Israelites, we find the total population at the date above mentioned. In 1880 the population was 2,846,102, of whom 1,394,626 were males, and 1,451,476 females. The number of Protestants amounted to 1,667,109; of Roman Catholics, to 1,160,782; and of Jews, to 7,373.

III.237.4

—As regards language, there are in Switzerland, out of a hundred households, sixty-nine in which German is spoken, twenty-four speaking French, five Italian and two Roman. In five cantons, Berne, Fribourg, Grisons, Tessin and Valais, several languages are spoken. In the cantons of Vaud, Neufchâtel and Geneva, only French is spoken; in the other fourteen, the German language is the only one used.

III.237.5

—The first general census of the Swiss population dates only from 1836. It must be remarked, however, that previous censuses were taken in many cantons; there are some which go back to the sixteenth century. In 1836 the population was estimated at 2,190,258 souls; in 1850, at 2,390,116; in 1860, at 2,510,494; in 1870, at 2,669,147. The percentage of increase is: 1836-50, 9.12; 1850-60, 5.04; 1860-70, 6.46.

III.237.6

—II. Federal Constitution. The present constitution of the confederation, adopted Sept. 18, 1848, has undergone a total revision. The revision received the sanction of the federal chambers, Jan. 31, 1874. The vote of the people took place April 19 following, and the vote of the chambers was fully confirmed.

III.237.7

—The confederation has for its object to assure the independence of the country against foreigners, to maintain order and tranquillity at home, to protect the liberty and the rights of the citizens, and to increase their common welfare. All Swiss are equal before the law. There are in Switzerland neither subjects nor privileges of any sort. The confederation guarantees to the cantons their territory, their sovereignty within the limits of the federal pact, the liberty and rights of the citizens, as well as the rights and the functions which the people have conferred on the authorities. The cantons are obliged to demand of the constitution the guarantee of their constitutions; this is granted to the constitutions which contain nothing contrary to the provisions of the federal public law, which assure the exercise of public rights according to republican forms that have been accepted by the people, with power of revision when the absolute majority of the citizens demand it. All special alliance and all treaties of a political nature between cantons are forbidden. On the other hand, the cantons have the right to conclude among themselves agreements concerning the objects of legislation, of administration and of justice; they must, however, bring them to the knowledge of the federal authority, which, if these agreements contain provisions contrary to the confederation or the rights of other cantons, may prevent their being carried into execution. The confederation alone has the right to declare war and to conclude peace or alliances and treaties with foreign countries. The cantons, however, preserve the right to conclude treaties with foreign states in regard to certain special objects. Military capitulations can not be concluded. The members of the federal authorities, the civil and military functionaries of the confederation, the representatives, or the federal commissioners, can not receive pensions or salaries, nor titles, presents or decorations, from a foreign government. The federal authority has not the right to maintain a standing army. No canton or demi-canton can have more than 300 men, without the permission of the federal power. When differences arise between cantons, the latter can not decide them themselves, but must submit to the decision taken conformably to the federal provisions. When there is danger from without, the government of the canton threatened must ask for the aid of the confederation, and immediately advise the central authority of it, all without prejudice to the action which it may take in case of urgency. The expense of federal intervention is supported by the confederation. In case of trouble at home, or when the danger comes from another canton, the government of the canton threatened must immediately advise the federal council, which takes the necessary measures within the limits of its authority, or convokes the federal assembly. When it is urgent, the government is authorized, immediately advising the federal council of it, to call for the aid of the other cantons; this aid can not be refused. When the government of the canton attacked is not in a state to ask assistance, the federal central authority intervenes by virtue of its office, especially when the troubles endanger Switzerland.

III.237.8

—The confederation guarantees to the Swiss the right of settling freely throughout the whole extent of its territory. Every citizen of a canton is a Swiss citizen, and can, by virtue of that title, exercise political rights for federal affairs in whatever canton he is established. The canton in which a Swiss establishes his domicile can not exact from him a bail bond, nor impose upon him any particular charge by reason of establishment. In the same way the communes can not impose upon Swiss domiciled in their territory taxes other than those imposed upon citizens belonging to their own jurisdiction. As for the liberal professions, legislation provides what proofs of fitness shall be valid for all Switzerland. Foreigners can not be naturalized in a canton, unless they have ceased to belong to the state of which they are natives. Liberty of conscience and of belief is inviolable. No one can be forced to form part of a religious association, to submit to religious instruction; nor shall he incur penalties of any nature because of his religious opinions. Whoever exercises the authority of a parent or a guardian, has the right to dispose, conformably to the above principles, of the education of the children up to the age of fourteen.

III.237.9

—The exercise of civil or political rights can not be restricted by prescriptions or conditions of an ecclesiastical or religious nature of any sort. No one can, because of his religious opinions, be freed from the performance of a civic duty. No one is bound to pay taxes, whose product is applied to the expenses of the worship of a creed or of a religious community to which he does not belong. The free exercise of worship is guaranteed within the limits compatible with public order and good morals.

III.237.10

—The liberty of the press is guaranteed, with the reservation of the laws which must repress its abuse; these laws are subject to the approval of the federal council. The citizens have the right to form associations, whose purpose and the means employed by them have nothing illicit, or dangerous to the state. The cantonal laws provide for the repression of abuses. The right of petition is guaranteed. The abzugsrecht is abolished.*123

III.237.11

—The confederation has the right to banish from its territory foreigners who compromise its internal or external security. The order of the Jesuits and societies affiliated to it can not be received in any part of Switzerland. This interdiction may be extended by a federal decree to other religious orders, if they disturb the peace between the different creeds.

III.237.12

—The right of marriage is placed under the protection of the confederation. No hindrance to marriage can be based upon religious motives, upon the poverty of either the man or the woman, upon their conduct, or upon any other police motive whatever. No charge for a marriage license, nor any similar tax, can be collected from either bride or groom.

III.237.13

—The confederation has also, according to the new constitution, the right to establish uniform provisions in regard to the work of children in factories, and in regard to the hours of labor which shall be imposed upon adults in the factories, as well as, in general, in regard to the protection to be accorded to workmen against unhealthy and dangerous industries.

III.237.14

—Legislation in regard to the construction and management of railroads comes within the sphere of the confederation. Formerly this matter belonged to the province of the cantons, which caused much confusion.

III.237.15

—The confederation may order at its own expense, or encourage by subsidies, public works which interest Switzerland or a considerable part of the country. It has the right of surveillance of the police of dams and forests in the mountainous regions; it contributes to the correction in the courses of streams, to their damming up, as well as to the rewooding of the regions where they have their source; it decrees measures necessary to assure the maintenance of these works and the preservation of the existing forests. It establishes legislative provisions to protect the birds useful to agriculture and sylviculture, and to regulate fishing and hunting.

III.237.16

—The supreme authority of the confederation is exercised by the federal assembly, which is composed of two sections, or councils, namely, the national council and the state council.

III.237.17

—The national council is composed of deputies of the Swiss people, elected one out of every 20,000 inhabitants of the total population Fractions over and above 10,000 inhabitants are counted as if they were 20,000. Each canton, and, in the cantons divided into two states, each half canton, elects one deputy at least. The elections for the national council are direct. They take place in the federal electoral colleges, which can not, however, be formed of parts of different cantons. Every Swiss has the right to vote, who is twenty years of age, and from whom the legislation of the canton in which he lives has not taken away the right of an active citizen. (This right is taken away only from those who have been deprived of civic rights by virtue of the penal law and in consequence of a judicial sentence, sometimes also from insolvents and paupers.) Every Swiss citizen who is a layman having the right to vote, is eligible as a member of the national council. Swiss who have become citizens by naturalization, are not eligible until five years after they have become citizens. The national council is elected for three years, and is wholly renewed at the expiration of that term. The deputies to the state council, the members of the federal council, and the functionaries appointed by that council, can not be at the same time members of the national council. The latter chooses from its own body, for each ordinary or extraordinary session, a president and a vice-president, who can not be charged with this function during two consecutive ordinary sessions. In case of a tie, the president has the deciding vote. The members of the national council receive a compensation from the federal treasury of fourteen francs a day.

III.237.18

—The state council is composed of forty-four deputies of the cantons. Each canton appoints two deputies; in the divided cantons, each half canton elects one. The members of the national council and those of the federal council can not be at the same time deputies to the state council. The state council chooses, from its own body, for each session, a president and a vice-president; neither can be elected from among the deputies of the canton which furnished the president or vice-president of the preceding ordinary session. The deputies of the state council receive a salary from their respective cantons. Every Swiss citizen having the right to vote is eligible to it, the same as to the national council. The members of the state council are appointed by various methods, which are as follows: The little cantons, in which the people assemble annually, in a general assembly (landsgemeinde, see below), have their deputies to the state council appointed by the assembly. The citizens vote by raising up the hand for such or such a candidate. In the cantons of Zurich, Thurgau, Basel-Country, etc., the whole canton forms but one district for the nomination of members of the state council. The votes are deposited in the ballot box of the commune. These votes are collected and counted by a cantonal board. Finally, in the cantons which have preserved the purely representative system, such as Geneva, Fribourg, Tessin, etc., the great council appoints the deputies to the state council. The simple majority of voters always decides the election.

III.237.19

Federal Assembly. The national council and the state council deliberate upon: 1, the laws relating to the organization and relation of the authorities of the confederation; 2, the laws and decrees upon all matters which, according to the federal constitution, come within the jurisdiction of the confederation; 3, the salaries and compensation of the members of the authorities of the confederation; 4, the election of the federal council, of the federal tribunal, of the chancellor and of the commander-in-chief of the army; 5, the alliances and treaties with foreign states; 6, the measures for the external safety, as well as for the maintenance of the independence and of the neutrality,*124 of Switzerland, the declarations of war and the conclusion of peace; 7, the guarantee of the constitutions and of the territory of the cantons, intervention in consequence of this guarantee, the measures for the internal safety of Switzerland, for the maintenance of tranquillity and of order, and amnesty and the exercise of the right of pardon; 8, the measures necessary to make the federal constitution respected; 9, the legislative provisions touching the federal army; 10, the fixing of the annual budget of the confederation, the ratification of the accounts, and the provisions concerning loans; 11, the surveillance of the administration and of federal justice; 12, the exceptions taken to the decisions of the federal council made in matters of contentious administration; 13, the conflicts of jurisdiction between the authorities of the confederation; 14, the revision of the federal constitution.

III.237.20

—The two councils assemble each year in ordinary session. They are convoked in extraordinary session by the federal council, or upon the demand of a fourth of the members of the national council, or upon that of five cantons. Federal laws, federal decrees or regulations can not be promulgated except with the consent of the two councils. Besides this, the federal laws which are not urgent must be submitted to the vote of the entire nation, if 30,000 active citizens or eight cantons demand it. The imperative mandate is not allowed. Each council deliberates separately. When there is a question, however, of the elections of the federal council, of the exercise of the right of pardon or of pronouncing upon a conflict of jurisdiction, the two councils unite to deliberate in common, under the direction of the president of the national council, and the majority of the voting members of the two councils decides. The initiative belongs to each council and to each of its members. The sessions of each of the councils are ordinarily public.

III.237.21

—The directorial and executive authority of the confederation is exercised by a federal council, composed of seven members, appointed for three years, and chosen from among all the Swiss citizens eligible to the national council. However, not more than one member of the federal council can be chosen in the same canton. The federal council is re-elected after each renewal of the national council, but its members are re-eligible indefinitely. During their term of office the members of the federal council can not accept any other office, either in the service of the confederation or in a canton, nor follow any other career or practice a profession. The president of the confederation, who presides over the federal council, and the vice-president, are appointed for a year from among the members of the council; but neither can be re-elected the following year. The members of the federal council have a consulting voice in the two sections of the federal assembly, as well as the right to make propositions there in regard to the subject under deliberation. The principal functions of the federal council are the following: it directs federal affairs; watches over the observance of the constitution; presents bills; gives its advice upon propositions which are addressed to it by the councils or by the cantons, provides for the execution of laws, judgments and sentences; makes those appointments which it is not provided shall be made by the federal assembly or some other authority; examines the treaties of the cantons with one another or with foreign states; watches over the interests of the confederation abroad, etc. In case of urgency, the federal council is authorized to raise the necessary troops and to dispose of them; but it must immediately convoke the councils if the number of troops raised exceeds 20,000 men, or if they remain under arms for more than three weeks. It administers the finances of the confederation, proposes the budget, and renders the account of the receipts and expenditures; it watches over the management of all the functionaries of the federal administration, as well as the branches of the cantonal administration which the laws have placed under its control, such as the military, the customs, roads and bridges. The federal council must annually present to the federal assembly a report upon the situation of the confederation, both at home and abroad.

III.237.22

—The three principal languages spoken in Switzerland, German, French and Italian, are national languages of the confederation.

III.237.23

—All functionaries are responsible for their administration of affairs.

III.237.24

—The federal constitution can be revised at any time. When a section of the federal assembly decrees the revision of the constitution, and the other section does not consent to it, or when 50,000 Swiss citizens having the right to vote demand the revision, the question is submitted to the vote of the Swiss people, and they vote yes or no. If the majority of Swiss citizens voting pronounce in the affirmative, the two councils are renewed to work at the revision. A new constitution, however, can not go into force except when it is sanctioned both by the majority of citizens taking part in the vote and by the majority of the cantons. In most of the cantons the affirmative or negative result of the vote of the citizens is considered as the voice of the canton. Some cantons have charged the great council to cast their vote for them.

III.237.25

—III. Cantonal Constitutions. Revisions of the fundamental pact are made quite often in Switzerland; this is why most of the cantonal constitutions are of quite a recent date. Ordinarily these revisions are accompanied by a more or less profound agitation; but excess is very rare, because the people are accustomed to the use of liberty. From 1830 up to the end of June, 1873, there were in Switzerland, according to statistics prepared by Professor G. Vogt, eighty-three total or partial revisions of cantonal constitutions. If we subtract the partial revisions, numbering twenty-three, which are sometimes of little importance, we see that on an average a cantonal constitution only lasts about seventeen years, that is to say, half a generation. The oldest constitution now in force is that of Appenzell-Interior.

III.237.26

—A distinction must be made between the cantons of the purely democratic system, in which all the citizens assemble personally in a general assembly called landsgemeinde, the cantons in which the electors themselves vote or reject the proposed laws elaborated by the great councils, and the cantons of the representative system. Of course, the first system is found only in the little cantons, namely: Uri, Unterwald (Higher and Lower), Glarus and Appenzell (Exterior and Interior).

III.237.27

—Professor Cherbuliez, in his work, La Démocratie en Suisse, vol. ii., p. 122, has well described the institutions of pure democracy in Switzerland. We do not, however, accept all his conclusions. The salient traits which are common to the different constitutions of pure democracy, and which impress upon them a characteristic physiognomy, are three: the landsgemeinde the council, and the commission of state; that is, 1, an assembly of the entire people; 2, a deliberative body, both legislative and administrative, composed of members elected by the local assemblies (of the communes or of the districts); and 3, executive functionaries appointed by the people. The landsgemeinde exercises two equally important functions. First, it elects the principal functionaries of the canton, especially the landammann and his substitute (landesstatthalter), the treasurer (seckelmeister), the chief of the cantonal militia (landeshauptmann), and some other functionaries, whose jurisdiction is cantonal. It also appoints the deputies for the Swiss national council and state council. Then, to it belongs the sanction of all cantonal laws and of all treaties which the state concludes with other cantons or with foreign states. The citizens vote by raising the hand.

III.237.28

—It exercises, therefore, the legislative power in this sense, that it accepts or rejects, as a whole, the propositions which are made to it, without having the power to introduce changes in them. The state of Glarus, however, must be excepted from this rule. Article forty-four of the constitution says: "The landsgemeinde can adopt, modify or reject the propositions which are made to it, or refer them to the triple council finally, either to report on them, or to decide." Everywhere the propositions to be submitted to the landsgemeinde must be made public a certain time in advance. We shall also cite, concerning the landsgemeinde, an article of the constitution of the canton of Uri. After providing, "The people are responsible only to God and their consciences for the exercise of their sovereignty in the May assembly," it adds: "What must guide the May assembly is not, however, caprice, without limit and without condition; it is justice and the good of the state, which are alone compatible with it. The people are obliged to vote according to these principles in taking annually the oath of the May assembly."

III.237.29

—The administrative power (in part even the legislative power) is ordinarily confided to quite a numerous council, called rath, or landrath. The functions of this body are ordinarily the following: It watches over enforcement of the constitution, whether federal or cantonal; it regulates, in their general organization, public instruction, financial, military and sanitary administration, public works, charity, except the legal provisions regarding the province and obligations of inferior authorities; it receives the reports of the administration of all the functionaries of the canton; it deliberates upon the proposed laws to be presented to the landsgemeinde, through the intermediary of the triple council, of which we shall speak further on. Usually it watches over the execution of what the laws or decrees of the landsgemeinde prescribe to it. In the canton of Unterwald-Lower the council has, besides, judicial functions. In Glarus, Uri and Unterwald, there have been organized, side by side with the landrath, special authorities to which have been transferred all the judicial functions formerly granted to the landrath.

III.237.30

—About the landrath are grouped in the pure democracies various bodies, evidently formed from it by addition or reduction. The double and the triple, or great, council are nothing but the council of the landrath itself, doubled or tripled by the addition of new members, whom the territorial divisions appoint in the same manner and in the same proportion as the first. In Glarus, for example, each local assembly (tagwen) adds two members to the one which it appoints, to form the simple council. Thus the triple council there is composed of 117 members, as follows: 1, of the nine members of the commission of state; 2, of thirty-five members appointed by the tagwen following fixed proportions; 3, of seventy members appointed by the same assemblies, following the same proportions; 4, finally, of three Catholic members appointed by the same council, and of which one forms a part. (This latter element was introduced by virtue of the principle of religious equality, in order to provide for the representation of the Catholic population in the communes in which they are in a minority.) The principal functions of the triple council are to watch over the council and the tribunals, to establish the project of the budget of receipts and expenditures, and to convoke the landsgemeinde in extraordinary assembly. The process of addition is applied in many ways in Appenzell-Interior; it is applied in particular to the little council, which is charged with the principal judicial functions. This body judges sometimes as a weekly council; it is then only a section of the little council; sometimes with a simple addition (einfacher zuzug); sometimes with a double addition (doppelter zuzug); sometimes with a re-enforced addition (verstarkter zuzug). Finally, with a last re-enforcement it forms what is called the council of blood (blutrath).

III.237.31

—As there are councils formed by addition, so there are others formed by reduction, as, for example, the weekly council of Unterwald-Lower. It is appointed by the great council (landrath) and chosen from its body. It is the executive, administrative and police authority, subordinated to the great council. It is composed of the landammann, as president, and of twelve members appointed for two years. It assembles in ordinary session on the Monday of each week, and in extraordinary session when convoked by the president, and as often as there is need.

III.237.32

—We have still to speak of the third authority of pure democracy, the commission of state. It is appointed by the landsgemeinde, and replaces the council for affairs of lesser importance. In Glarus this commission is divided into two sections, to expedite business. The first is composed of all the members of the commission, and the second of three members, the president included, alternating among themselves after a manner of rotation established by the commission. The first section (or the commission in pleno) is charged with the correspondence with foreign states, the federal authorities and the confederated states, with giving preliminary advice upon questions referred to it, or even with deciding them by the council. The second section is charged with the ratification of deeds of sale and of wills, with decisions upon the prolongation of the terms for the liquidation of bankrupt estates, etc. The commission of state of Appenzell-Exterior has also the surveillance of the administration of the communes. The landammann presides over the landsgemeinde, the double or triple council, the council (landrath) and the commission of state. He receives all the dispatches addressed to the authorities presided over by him, and he is bound to make them known in the next session. He keeps the seal of state, signs and seals concordats and conventions, etc. He watches over the execution of the decrees of the landsgemeinde, the councils, and the commission of state, in so far as the execution is not intrusted to a special authority.

III.237.33

—Let us pass on to the cantons in which there is no landsgemeinde. Here we must notice a very remarkable fact. Since 1863 the cantons of Zurich, Berne, Solothurn, Basel-Country, Aargau and Thurgan have replaced the representative system, which they followed up to that time, by the direct vote of the entire people, that is to say, of all the active citizens, upon the proposed laws (referendum). Only the cantons of Zug, Fribourg, Basel-City, Tessin and Geneva have resisted this political movement, tending to extend the exercise of the rights of the people. In the canton of Vaud they contented themselves with introducing into the constitution the right of initiative, and Valais and Neufchâtel recognize only a partial referendum. For a long time the great councils have been only deliberating authorities in the cantons of Schwyz and Grisons. Basel-Country first followed them in this respect. In the cantons of Lucerne, Schaffhausen and St. Gallen, the people do not positively sanction the laws, as in the cantons of the referendum, but, during a certain time after the vote of the great council, they have the right to interpose a veto.

III.237.34

—Representation in the great council is not always based upon the number of the population; sometimes it is determined by the number of active citizens; at other times, as in Lucerne, the number of the representatives is fixed by the constitution, without any regard to the number of the population. The members of the great council are not always salaried. Every active citizen is ordinarily eligible for the great council. Sometimes conditions of age are imposed, sometimes also a residence in the canton is required. The last vestiges of a property qualification have disappeared. In some cantons functionaries salaried by the state are excluded. The constitution of Neufchâtel provides that every member of the great council who, during his term of office, accepts public salaried functions, shall be considered as having resigned, but he is reeligible.

III.237.35

—The members of the great council are appointed for only one year in the canton of Grisons; for two in Zug and Geneva: for three in Basel-Country, St. Gallen, Zürich and Thurgau; for four in Berne, Aargau, Tessin, Vaud, Valais and Neufchâtel; and for five in Fribourg.

III.237.36

—The great council, besides drafting the laws and decrees, and interpreting, suspending and repealing them, is ordinarily invested with the following functions: the organization of administrations, the surveillance of the execution of the laws, the right of pardon, the ratification of state agreements, naturalization, the establishment of imposts and taxes, the fixing the mode of their collection and employment, the ratification of the loans contracted by the state, the acquisition and alienation of property of the state, public buildings, the fixing of salaries and emoluments, the surveillance of the executive and judicial powers, the settlement of conflicts of jurisdiction between these powers, the fixing of the annual budget, the appointment of the deputies to the state council, and the appointment of the members of the executive power and of the supreme tribunal. In Geneva, Basel-Country, Thurgau, and Zürich, the members of the executive power are appointed directly by the people.

III.237.37

—The committee to which the great council confides the executive and administrative power has different names, according to the different cantons. It is called sometimes council of state, sometimes executive council, and sometimes little council. This last name is old; it recalls the time before 1830, when this designation was found in almost all the cantons, and when the executive power was confided to a very numerous body. In recent times there has everywhere been a reduction in the number of the members of the executive council (ordinarily five to seven members, who distribute among themselves the different departments, interior, justice, instruction, etc.), and a higher salary has been granted to them, in order that the increase of work and responsibility imposed upon each of the members by the diminution of their number may not turn away from these functions the most capable men.

III.237.38

—The duties and powers of the council of state, or executive council, are almost the same as those of the commissions of state in the cantons of pure democracy. It proposes laws and decrees to the great council, and watches over the maintenance of public tranquillity and security, as well as over the execution of the laws, decrees and regulations of the great council; it administers the funds of the state, appoints those executive and administrative functionaries who are immediately subordinate to it, and watches over them; it has also the higher surveillance of the communal administrations, the poor, the schools and the churches. The members of the executive council are appointed for four years in most of the representative cantons; they are re-eligible; only the president or landammann (a title which is preserved in some cantons) can not ordinarily remain in office for more than one year. Some constitutions require that each district of the canton be represented by one member; others forbid the taking of two members from the same district. Cantonal elections take place for members of the great council, in the electoral circumscriptions prescribed by law; for the appointment of the members of the executive power, where it is not confided to the great councils, the whole canton forms only one electoral circumscription. Every elector receives a card of recognition, which he presents to the electoral board when placing his vote in the ballot box. For every commune of any extent there are several boards, in order to facilitate the business of counting the vote.

III.237.39

—IV. Administration. All the cantons of a certain extent are divided into districts. Thus, Berne has thirty; Vaud, nineteen; St. Gallen, fifteen; Zürich and Aargan, eleven, etc. In these districts the government, that is to say, the administrative and executive authority, is represented by a prefect (regierungs statthalter, or statthalter). Although agents of the executive council, they are not always appointed by it, but sometimes by the great council, often directly by the people. Besides the prefect, there is, above all in eastern Switzerland, the institution of district councils, which have sometimes quite extensive functions. If the government does not always appoint the district authorities, it has ordinarily still less influence over the communes. We say ordinarily, because there is a very remarkable difference in this respect between the cantons of Romanic Switzerland and of Germanic Switzerland. In the former, the communes are much less independent than in the latter. In the cantons of Appenzell and of Grisons they are, so to speak, sovereign; they may do whatever is not contrary to the federal and cantonal constitutions, to the laws and to the right of property of a third party; the state does not interfere. These communes administer their special interests in everything except in that with which the state has not expressly charged itself. These two cantons are evidently in some sort federations of communes.

III.237.40

—At the head of the commune is a chief hauptmann (Appenzell), syndio (Tessin and Vaud), maire (Geneva), ammann (Lucerne, Fribourg, Solothurn, St. Gallen, Aargau and Thurgau), or president (in all the other cantons). He is always appointed by the commune; and ordinarily supported by a communal or municipal council, of which he is the leading member. This council administers, within the limits fixed by law and under the control of the general assembly, all that enters into the province of the municipality, proposes the budget, collects the taxes and municipal revenues, controls guardians, and exercises the local police and other functions which the laws and ordinances place in the charge of the municipalities, and which have to do particularly with the public safety and health, with the fire police, with that of the taxes and of the fairs and markets. At the same time the municipal council is the agent of the government; its president represents in the municipality the prefect, whom he must second in the execution of the laws and ordinances. The state has often no particular receiver for its taxes, and the municipal receivers collect them for it.

III.237.41

—V. Justice. For the administration of justice in federal matters, there is a special tribunal. There is besides a jury for criminal matters. The federal tribunal is composed of eleven members, with substitutes. The members of the federal tribunal and the substitutes are appointed for three years by the federal assembly. The federal tribunal is renewed after each renewal of the national council (but the members are re-eligible). Any Swiss eligible to the national council can be appointed to the federal tribunal; the members of the federal council, however, and the functionaries appointed by this authority can not at the same time form a part of the federal tribunal. The president and the vice-president are appointed each for a year, from among the members of the body.

III.237.42

—As a court of civil justice, the federal tribunal takes cognizance: 1. In so far as they do not touch upon public law, of the differences between cantons, and between the confederation and the cantons; 2. Of differences between the confederation on the one side, and corporations or individuals on the other, when these corporations or these individuals are plaintiffs, and when it is a matter of important questions determined by the federal legislation; 3. Of differences concerning people without a country (heimathlose). The federal tribunal is obliged to assume jurisdiction in other cases, when the parties desire it, and when the object in litigation exceeds the value of 3,000 francs. According to the new constitution of the confederation, which went into force July 1, 1874, the federal tribunal takes cognizance also of: 1, differences in regard to their functions between the authorities of the confederation and the cantons; 2, differences touching public law between the cantons; and 3, cases concerning the violation of the constitutional rights of a citizen. This is a very notable extension of the province of the federal tribunal.

III.237.43

—As a court of criminal justice, the federal tribunal takes cognizance of the violation of the rights guaranteed by the constitution, when the complaints are referred to it by the federal assembly. The court of assizes, with the assistance of a jury which pronounces upon questions of fact, takes cognizance of criminal cases concerning functionaries, of cases brought by the federal authority which appointed them; of cases of high treason against the confederation; of revolt or of violence against the federal authorities; of crimes or misdemeanors against international law; finally, of political misdemeanors which are the cause of troubles by which an armed federal intervention has been occasioned. The federal assembly can always accord amnesty or grant pardon to the perpetrator of these crimes or misdemeanors.

III.237.44

—Military justice is administered by a judicial staff, which has at its head an auditor in chief, having the rank of colonel. A military tribunal must be established in each brigade in active service.

III.237.45

—The judicial organization differs materially in the different cantons. In some cantons of pure democracy, the legislative, executive and judicial powers are not yet thoroughly separated, as we have seen above (Cantonal Constitutions). The following is true of the great cantons. Civil questions are ordinarily first brought before the justice of the peace. If it is not possible to reconcile the parties, the questions are carried be fore a district court, and in the second resort before the cantonal court, the supreme court or court of appeal. Final judgments in civil cases given in a canton hold good throughout all Switzerland, according to article forty-nine of the federal constitution. A great number of cantons possess excellent civil codes. The tribunals of commerce are still rather few. In criminal matters the institution of the jury exists in most of the cantons. The members of the supreme court are appointed by the great council, which has also a surveillance over the court. All administrative functions are incompatible with the office of member of the supreme court. To be appointed it is not necessary to have regularly studied law, but of course, in point of fact, men who are not versed in the law are not chosen. The judges of the inferior tribunals are ordinarily appointed directly by the people, sometimes also by the great council.

III.237.46

—The changes introduced by the new constitution had for effect to replace the twenty-five cantonal laws, often very dissimilar, by a federal law to be applied to the whole confederation, so that a uniform system is established upon the following points: legislation in regard to civil capacity, in regard to all matters of commercial law, in regard to literary and artistic property, in regard to suits for debt, and in regard to bankruptcy. The administration of justice, however, rests with the cantons, except as to what comes within the province of the federal tribunal.

III.237.47

—VI. Public Instruction. The state of public instruction is one of the greatest glories of Switzerland. There is scarcely a country in which primary instruction is more developed and more wide-spread than in the Helvetian republic. Some little cantons, which were backward in this respect, were forced to put themselves on a level with the rest. It is evident that where a people must govern themselves, they can not remain without instruction. However, a person is not obliged to send his children to a public school; he is perfectly free to have them instructed wherever he wishes, provided they receive an education at least as good as that which is given in the public schools. The new federal constitution, voted by the people April 19, 1874, contains the following provisions relative to primary instruction: The cantons shall provide for primary instruction, which must be sufficient, and placed exclusively under the direction of the civil authority. It is obligatory, and, in the public schools, gratuitous. The public schools may be attended by adherents of all creeds, without their having to suffer in any way in their liberty of conscience or of belief. The confederation shall take the necessary measures in regard to the cantons which do not fulfill these obligations.

III.237.48

—Above the elementary primary schools, there are superior primary schools, called secondary. Then come the schools of commerce, the agricultural and industrial schools, the normal schools in which teachers are prepared, the gymnasiums (lyceums), the federal polytechnic school, the cantonal universities of Basel, Zürich and Berne, and the academies of Geneva and Lausanne. The polytechnic school is established at Zürich. It is subdivided into six special schools: school of civil building, school of civil engineering, school of mechanics, school of chemistry, school of forestry, and finally, a higher school of the natural and mathematical sciences, of the literary sciences, and of moral and political sciences. The studies are taught in the German, French and Italian languages. The importance which is attributed in Switzerland to good public instruction may be judged of by some figures we shall give. In the canton of Zürich the state and the communes have expended annually since 1873, for public instruction, a sum of 1,400,000 francs, not including the extra expenditures for the federal polytechnic school. Not included in this sum are the lodging, two cords of firewood and 20,000 square feet of arable land furnished by the communes to each primary and higher elementary teacher; nor is the hiring of places for schools. Berne expends annually 2,100,000 francs for the same purpose. Of this sum the communes pay three-fifths, and the state furnishes the rest; St. Gallen expends 600,000 francs; Aargau, 750,000; Vaud, 700,000 (not including the expenses for rent, heating, etc.); Neufchâtel and Geneva each, 400,000. For all Switzerland the total is more than nine million francs.

STOESSEL.

III.237.49

—VII. Finances. The public revenue of the confederation is derived chiefly from customs. By the constitution of May 29, 1874, customs dues are levied only on the frontiers of the republic, instead of, as before, on the limits of each canton. A considerable income is also derived from the postal system, as well as from the telegraph establishment, conducted by the federal government on the principle of uniformity of rates. The sums raised under these heads are not left entirely for government expenditure, but a great part of the postal revenue, as well as a portion of the customs dues, have to be paid over to the cantonal administrations, in compensation for the loss of such sources of former income. In extraordinary cases, the federal government is empowered to levy a rate upon the various cantons after a scale settled for twenty years. A branch of revenue proportionately important is derived from the profits of various federal manufactories, and from the military school and laboratory at Thun, near Berne.

III.237.50

—The following table gives the total revenue and expenditure of the confederation in each of the years 1875-82, showing actual receipts and disbursements, except for 1882, for which the budget estimates are given:

Table.  Click to enlarge in new window.

III.237.51

The following table gives the budget estimates of revenue for the year 1883:

 Francs.
Produce of property of state... 169,279
Produce of capital invested... 733,000
General administration... 31,000
Military department... 3,463,632
Financial... 7,616,000
Customs... 18,250,000
Posts... 15,442,000
Telegraphs... 2,594,700
Railways... 24,750
Commerce and agriculture... 41,500
Miscellaneous... 16,139
Total... 48,382,000

III.237.52

The following table gives the budget estimates of expenditure for the year 1883:

 Francs.
Interest and sinking fund of national debt... 1,869,940
General expenses of administration... 717,600
 Departments:
Political... 337,000
Interior... 3,242,332
Justice and police... 45,000
Military... 16,598,931
Financial... 8,202,300
Commerce and agriculture... 725,570
Posts... 14,213,000
Telegraphs... 2,571,200
Railways... 110,900
Unforeseen... 10,224
Total... 48,674,000

III.237.53

This shows a deficit of 292,000 francs; and at the end of the financial year 1882, there was found to be an actual surplus of 3,000,000 francs.

III.237.54

—The public debt of the republic amounted, at the commencement of 1882, to 36,947,044 francs. This arises mainly out of the conversion of three 4½ per cent. loans raised in 1867, 1871 and 1877. As a set-off against the debt there exists a so-called "federal fortune," or property belonging to the state, valued at 45,356,066 francs.

III.237.55

—The various cantons of Switzerland have, as their own local administrations, so their own budgets of revenue and expenditure. Most of them have also public debts, but not of a large amount, and abundantly covered, in every instance, by cantonal property, chiefly in land. At the end of 1882 the aggregate debts of all the cantons amounted to about 300,000,000 francs.

III.237.56

—The chief income of the cantonal administrations is derived from a single direct tax on income, amounting, in most cantons, to 1½ per cent. on every 1,000 francs property. In some cantons the local revenue is raised, in part, by the sale of excise licenses. In Berne they form one-fifth of the total receipts, in Lucerne one-seventh, in Uri one-tenth, in Unterwald one-eighth, in Solothurn one-sixth, and in the canton of Tessin one-fourteenth, of the total revenue.

III.237.57

—VIII. Army. The fundamental laws of the republic forbid the maintenance of a standing army within the limits of the confederation. The eighteenth article of the constitution of 1874 enacts that "Every Swiss is liable to serve in the defense of his country." Article nineteen enacts: "The federal army consists of all men liable to military service, and both the army and the war material are at the disposal of the confederation. In cases of emergency the confederation has also the exclusive and undivided right of disposing of the men who do not belong to the federal army, and of all the other military forces of the cantons. The cantons dispose of the defensive force of their respective territories in so far as their power to do so is not limited by the constitutional or legal regulations of the confederation." According to article twenty, "The confederation enacts all laws relative to the army, and watches over their due execution; it also provides for the education of the troops, and bears the cost of all military expenditure which is not provided for by the legislatures of the cantons." To provide for the defense of the country, every citizen has to bear arms, in the management of which the children are instructed at school, from the age of eight, passing through annual exercises and reviews. Such military instruction is voluntary on the part of the children, but it is participated in by the greater number of pupils at the upper and middle-class schools.

III.237.58

—The troops of the republic are divided into two classes, viz.: 1. The bundes-auszug, or federal army, consisting of all men able to bear arms, from the age of twenty to thirty-two. All cantons are obliged, by the terms of the constitution, to furnish at least 3 per cent. of their population to the bundes-auszug. 2. The landwehr, or militia, comprising all men from the thirty-third to the completed forty-fourth year.

III.237.59

—The strength and organization of the armed forces of Switzerland was as follows, in 1882:

Table.  Click to enlarge in new window.

III.237.60

Every citizen of the republic not disabled by bodily defects or ill health, is liable to military service at the age of twenty. Before being placed on the rolls of the bundes-auszug, he has to undergo a training of from twenty-eight to thirty-five days, according to his entering the ranks of either the infantry, the scharfschützen, or picked riflemen, the cavalry, or the artillery. Both the men of the bundes-auszug and the reserve are called together in their respective cantons for annual exercises, extending over a week for the infantry, and over two weeks for the cavalry and artillery, while periodically, once or twice a year, the troops of a number of cantons assemble for a general muster.

III.237.61

—The military instruction of the federal army is given to officers not permanently appointed or paid, but who must have undergone a course of education, and passed an examination at one of the training establishments erected for the purpose. The centre of these is the military academy at Thun, near Berne, maintained by the federal government, and which supplies the army both with the highest class of officers, and with teachers to instruct the lower grades. Besides this academy, or centralmilitarschule, there are special training schools for the various branches of the service, especially the artillery and the scharfschützen. The nomination of the officers, up to the rank of captain, is made by the cantonal governments, and above that rank by the federal council. At the head of the whole military organization is a general commander-in-chief, appointed, together with the chief of the staff of the army, by the federal assembly.

III.237.62

—The total expenditure on account of the army was, for 1881, 15,635,879 francs, and that of 1883, 16,598,934 francs; in the budget for 1882, 16,514,949 francs. Not included in the army expenditure is the maintenance of the military school at Thun, which has a fund of its own, the annual income from which is larger than the expenditure.

III.237.63

—IX. Trade and Industry. The federal custom-house returns classify all imports and exports under three chief headings, namely, "live stock," "advalorem goods," and "goods taxed per quintal." No returns are published of the value of either the imports or exports, but only the quantities are given; and these, too, are not made regularly known by the customs authorities. The imports consist chiefly of food, and the exports of cotton and silk manufactures, watches, straw hats and machinery. In the year 1881 there were imported 5,722,409 quintals of provisions of various kinds (including grain, flour and beverages), and 254,997 head of cattle. The principal exports of 1881 consisted of silk fabrics, cotton fabrics, watches and machinery. There were also some exports of cheese and other food substances. But the excess of food imports over exports amounted annually, in recent years, on an average to 8,000,000 cwt., purchased at a cost of 240,000,000 francs.

III.237.64

—Being an inland country, Switzerland has only direct commercial intercourse with the four surrounding states—Austria, Italy, France and Germany. The trade with Austria is very inconsiderable, not amounting, imports and exports combined, to more than 25,000 francs per annum, on the average. From Italy the annual imports average 30,000 francs in value, while the exports to it amount to 1,500,000 francs. The imports from France average 500,000 francs, and the exports to it 5,500,000 francs. In the intercourse with Germany, imports and exports are nearly equal, averaging each 500,000 francs.

III.237.65

—Switzerland is in the main an agricultural country, though with a strong tendency to manufacturing industry, According to the census of 1870, there are 1,095,447 individuals supported by agriculture, either wholly or in part. The manufactories employed, at the same date, 216,468 persons, the handicrafts 241,425. In the canton of Basel the manufacture of silk ribbons occupies 6,000 persons; and in the canton of Zurich silk stuffs are made by 12,000 operatives. The manufacture of watches and jewelry in the cantons of Neufchâtel, Geneva, Vaud, Berne and Solothurn, occupies 36,000 workmen, who produce annually 500,000 wathces—three-sevenths of the quantity of gold, and four-sevenths of silver—valued at 45,000,000 francs. In the cantons of St. Gallen and Appenzell, 6,000 workers make 10,000,000 francs of embroidery annually. The printing and dyeing factories of Glarus turn out goods to the value of 150,000 francs per annum. The manufacture of cotton goods occupies upwards of 1,000,000 spindles, 4,000 looms and 20,000 operatives, besides 38,000 hand-loom weavers.

III.237.66

—From official returns, it appears that the railways open for public traffic in Switzerland at the end of 1882, had a total length of 2,571 kilo metres, or 1,594 English miles, besides 50 miles of funicular and mountain railways, and the St. Gothard system, which does not yet figure in the mileage returns. These are distributed among thirteen companies, the largest of which are, the Amalgamated Swiss railway, the Swiss North Eastern, the Swiss Central, the Canton of Berne State railway, the Swiss Western, the Fribourg railway, and the Franco-Swiss railway.

III.237.67

—The postoffice in Switzerland forwarded 80,781,538 letters in the year 1881, of which number 56,221,228 were internal, and 24,530,310 international. The receipts of the postoffice in the year 1881 amounted to 15,998,837 francs, and the expenditure to 13,964,554 francs.

III.237.68

—Switzerland has a very complete system of telegraphs, which, excepting wires for railway service, is wholly under the control of the state. At the end of December, 1881, there were 6,626 kilometres, or 4,140 miles, of lines, and 16,174 kilometres, or 10,110 miles, of wire belonging to the state. The number of telegraph messages sent in the year 1881 was 3,129,989; comprising 1,837,385 inland messages, 879,727 international messages, and 329,798 messages in transit. There were 1,210 telegraph offices, of which 1,034 belonged to the state. The receipts amounted to 2,453,972 francs, and the expenditure to 1,963,666 francs, in the year 1880.

III.237.69

—BIBLIOGRAPHY. Meyer, Geschichte des schweizerischen Bundesrechts, 1875 and 1878; Eidgenössische Bund esverfassung, Bundesgesetze und Bundesbeschlüsse, 1876; Staatskalender der Schweizerischen Eigenossenschaft, 1880; Dubs, Das öffentliche Recht der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft, 1877; Zorn, Staat und Kirche in der S., 1877.

F. M.


Notes for this chapter


The abzugsrecht is the old right of the state to confiscate a certain part of the fortune of a citizen who proposes to leave the country.
The act which establishes the neutrality of Switzerland is dated Nov. 20, 1815.

Footnotes for TAXATION

End of Notes


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