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A confederation in the central part of Western Europe, made up of twenty-two cantons, three of which are divided into half-cantons. The country lies between 45°49'2" and 47°48'32" north latitude, and 5°57'26" and 10°29'40" longitude east of Greenwich. Its area is 15,976 square miles. The name comes from the designation of one of the original cantons, Schwyz (Schwiz), which was extended in the course of time to the entire confederation.
PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY AND ETHNOGRAPHY
As regards its physical geography Switzerland is divided into three divisions: the Alps, the central region, and the Jura. The Swiss Alps form a part of the great curve of the Alpine chain of central Europe; they extend from Mont-Dolent in the chain of Mont Blanc in the west to Piz Mondin, in the Lower Engadine in the east, and have a length measured in a straight line of 170 miles. The smaller part of the Jura range, including, however, its highest peaks, is on Swiss soil. Between the Alps and the Jura extends the central region, which is traversed by countless valleys and includes about 30 per cent of the entire area of Switzerland. The highest peak of the Swiss Alps is Monte Rosa, 15,217 feet. The rivers which have their sources in Switzerland belong to one or another of the following four river-basins: the basin of the Rhine, the waters of which flow into the North Sea; the basin of the Rhone, which carries its waters to the western Mediterranean; the basin of the Po, which empties into the eastern Mediterranean; and the basin of the Inn, which empties into the Danube and with this into the Black Sea. The three river basins first mentioned have a common watershed, the range of the Gothard. Switzerland also contains a large number of lakes, the largest of which are on the edges of the Alps and the Jura, such as Geneva or Leman, Constance, Neuchâtel, Lucerne, Lugano, Maggiore, and Zürich. The lofty mountain chain of the Swiss Alps above a definite height is permanently covered with snow which feeds the glaciers. Switzerland contains altogether not less than 1077 glaciers, which cover an area of 709 square miles. Taken altogether 25.2 per cent of the area of Switzerland is completely unproductive.
The climate of Switzerland is not uniform. The differences in temperature of the various parts are conditioned by the differences in altitude, which vary from 581 feet to 15,217 feet above sea level, and by the Alps, the southern slope of which have a Mediterranean climate, while their northern slopes show that of central Europe. These striking differences determine the character of the flora and fauna. With the exception of the vegetation which flourishes on a seashore all European types of flora are to be found. The species of animals characteristic of the Alps are: the chamois, the ibex, the golden eagle and several other species of birds. Of the productive area 3390 square miles are covered with forests, 8427 square miles are farm and pasture lands, and 108 square miles are planted with vineyards.
In 1850 the total population of Switzerland was 2,392,740 persons; the census of 1910 showed 3,753,293 inhabitants; on 1 December, 1910, the resident population (those actually present in the different localities) was altogether 3,765,002 persons. The original inhabitants of Switzerland were predominantly of Celtic race, although south of the Alps the Italian Lepontii lived in Ticino, and the Grisons was apparently inhabited by Etruscan Rhaeti. A mixed population appeared in most parts of the territory owing to the Roman supremacy, the arrival of the Burgundians in the southwestern district and of the Alemanni in other parts of the country. Four different languages appeared: German in the districts inhabited by the Alamanni, French in the western regions, where the scanty Burgundian population intermarried with romanized Helvetii, Italian in Ticino, and Rhaeto-Romanic in the Grisons. According to the last census the inhabitants were classified, by native tongues, as follows: Of 3,765,002 inhabitants, 2,599,154 spoke German; 796,244 French; 301,325 Italian; 39,834 Romanic; 28,445 spoke other languages.
In the prehistoric era the territory of the present Switzerland was partly inhabited far up into the valleys of the Alps, as is evident from remains found in various caves and graves. Switzerland entered its historical era with the overthrow of the western Helvetii by Caesar in the year 58 BC. The entire country came under the control of the Roman Empire after the eastern districts were conquered by Drusus and Tiberius in 15 BC. On the organization of the Roman provinces before Diocletian the northwestern past of the territory of Switzerland belonged to the provinces of Germania Superior, the southwestern section (Geneva) to the Provincia Narbonensis, the eastern and the greater part of the southeastern region to the province of Rhaetia. The region of the southwestern Alps was divided into special administrative districts, of which the district of the "Alpes Poeninae" included the present canton of Valais and the adjoining portions of Savoy. In the reorganization of the empire by Diocletian the province of Rhaetia and the district of the "Alpes Poeninae" were left as they were, the northwestern past of the country was included in the Province of Maxima Sequanorum, the southwestern section in the Provincia Viennensis, the southern point of Ticino to Liguria, a province of Northern Italy.
During the migrations the territory of Switzerland was occupied by two German tribes. The Burgundians, who had settled in 443 south of Lake Geneva, pushed northwards and occupied the southwestern and western portions of Switzerland. The mingled with the Romanic population and quickly adopted the Romanic tongue and customs, so that the language of this section remained Romanic (French). In the fifth century the Alamanni pushed forward as far as the Alps and completely destroyed Roman civilization, so that the language of this section became German. At the beginning of the sixth century all Switzerland north of the Alps fell under the supremacy of the Frankish Kingdom. At a later date, when the Lombard Kingdom was conquered by the Franks, the districts of Switzerland south of the Alps also came under Frankish mastery. Thus Switzerland belonged to Charlemagne's great empire and shared its fortunes. In the partition of the Frankish Empire by the Treaty of Verdun in 843 the central and eastern parts of Switzerland fell to the Kingdom of Alamannia, the western to the Kingdom of Lorraine, and later to France. The power of the counts grew constantly, and in 888 Count Rudolph of the Guelphic family founded the Kingdom of Burgundy, of which western Switzerland formed a part. The German regions of Switzerland fell to the Duchy of Swabia in 917. In the ninth and tenth centuries several dynasties rose to power and importance, as: the Houses of Zähringen (extinct 1218), of Lenzburg, of Kyburg, and of Savoy. The inheritance of the Lenzburg family fell to the counts of Habsburg. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries there were some twenty great feudal ruling families in the present Switzerland. The counts of Zähringen sought to secure their supremacy against the attacks of the rural nobility by founding cities, as Fribourg in 1178 and Berne in 1191. The dioceses and abbeys also gradually acquired secular power and rich possessions. When Duke Burkhard of Swabia died childless in 973 the duchy reverted to the German Empire. In 1033, after the death of King Rudolph III of Burgundy, his kingdom also fell to Germany, as Rudolph left it to the empire by will. Consequently the whole of present Switzerland, with the exception of Ticino, which was a part of Lombardy, belonged to the German Empire.
The inhabitants of the Alpine valleys of central Switzerland sought to protect their ancient rights against the growing power of the counts of Habsburg. In 1231 the people of Uri received from the German Emperor, Henry, a charter which released them from the control of the counts of Habsburg; this is the first document by which the freedom of the early League of Switzerland was established. Schwyz received a similar charter in 1240 from Emperor Frederick II. In this way the territories of Uri and Schwyz were immediately dependent on the empire. Like the people of these two territories, the inhabitants of Unterwalden had also founded a provincial confederation. During the era of the struggle over the empire, Rudolph of Habsburg strengthened his power over Switzerland; when in 1273 he became Emperor of Germany, his conquests transferred the center of the power of the Habsburgs to Austria. Nevertheless, the emperor vigorously maintained his supremacy over his possessions in Switzerland. Directly after Rudolph's death (1291) the inhabitants of the districts combined in the original Swiss League sought to make use of the opportunity to secure their rights and privileges. On 1 August, 1291, the representatives of the provincial associations formed by Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden met and renewed the League that had been formed earlier. The purpose of the League was by united action to protect its members as far as possible against all attacks. The establishment of the League has been poetically embellished by the well-known story of the struggle of William Tell and his companions against the governor, Gessler, who oppressed the people.
Adolph of Nassau, who was elected King of Germany after the death of Rudolph of Habsburg, confirmed the charters of Uri and Schwyz, as did King Henry VII of Luxemburg on 3 June, 1309; at the same time, Henry extended the rights and privileges contained in them to Unterwalden. After the death of Henry VII (1313) an old dispute as to the rights over the march between Schwyz and the abbey of Einsiedeln broke out again and the confederated Swiss attacked the abbey, for which they were excommunicated by the Bishop of Constance and put under the ban of the empire at the same time. Louis of Bavaria withdrew the ban in 1315 and obliged the Archbishop of Mainz to recall the excommunication of the inhabitants of the forest districts (Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, and Lucerne). In the struggle for the imperial throne between Louis of Bavaria and Frederick of Austria the Swiss League, made up of these districts, held to Louis. Frederick's brother, Duke Leopold of Austria, attempted to overthrow the League and to punish its members for the attack on Einsiedeln, but his army was defeated by the Swiss at Morgarten on 15 November, 1315. On 9 December, 1315, Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden renewed the League and confirmed the same by additional regulations. In the truce concluded with the Duke of Austria the independence of the League was in some degree recognized. The further development of political conditions and the struggle with the Habsburgs connected with it led to the union with the forest districts of the city of Lucerne in 1332, the city of Zürich in 1351, and the district of Glarus and the city of Zug in 1352, all these new members joining the League. In 1353 the city of Berne also joined the League, so that so that now the old Confederation of eight cities and districts came into existence. The war with the League was renewed by Duke Leopold III of Austria, but in the battle near Sempach in 1386 his army was defeated and he himself was killed. This victory greatly strengthened the independence of the eight members of the Swiss League. The Austrians were again defeated in 1388 at Näfels, during the war with Glarus, which had declared its independence. In this way the freedom and independence of the eight communities were secured and a new compact made on 10 July, 1393.
The success of the Confederates encouraged the inhabitants of neighboring territories in their struggles for political freedom. The city of St-Gall, which had been a free city of the empire from 1281, sought to make itself as independent as possible of the mastery of the prince-bishop. The inhabitants of Appenzell, who were subjects of the Abbot of St-Gall, also did the same; they gained their freedom and overthrew the lordship of the abbot by success in battle. In 1411 seven of the confederated communities (Berne not taking part) formed an agreement with Appenzell, by which its was taken under the protection of the League; in 1412 a similar agreement was made for ten years with the city of St-Gall, and in 1455 these treaties were changed into the "Everlasting Compact." The inhabitants of Upper Valais, who were subjects of the Bishop of Sion (Sitten), also gained for themselves a certain amount of political freedom, which they successfully defended in battle; they then formed a compact with the districts of Uri, Unterwalden, and Lucerne (1403 and 1416). The districts of Uri and Obwalden won territories south of the Alps in the Val Leventina (1403); some years later (1411) the League occupied jointly the Val d'Ossola and in 1419 bought the Countship of Bellinzona. However, in 1422, the League was defeated by the Duke of Milan and in 1426 it gave up its rights to the Val Leventina and the Val d'Ossola. During the Council of Constance Duke Frederick of Austria was declared under the ban of the empire by Emperor Sigismund. The Swiss League, by the order of the emperor, seized the Swiss lands of the duke; Berne took the cities of Aargau; Lucerne and Zürich took other cities and territories; the league conquered jointly other cities belonging to the Habsburgs. Thus the members of the League obtained subject lands, sometimes subject to the authority of an individual member of the League, sometimes ruled jointly by several members; this changes the former basis of the League. Count Frederick of Toggenburg, who had great possessions, had made various treaties with different members of the League. When he died without heirs in 1436, a dispute arose as to his domains, and Zürich became involved in a war with Schwyz. Zürich formed an alliance with the Emperor Frederick III against the other members of the League, and in the war which followed (1443), Zürich was defeated, while a general of the emperor defeated the League at Basle. In 1450 Zürich made peace by abandoning its alliance with the emperor. Various districts that had been subject to the counts of Toggenburg fell to Schwyz, Glarus, and Appenzell. In 1460 the districts of Thurgau and Sargans were occupied by the League as common property.
A new opponent of the Swiss Confederates now appeared in Duke Charles the Bold, of Burgundy. The Confederates formed an alliance with France and declared war against this powerful prince, who was allied, on his side, with the Duke of Savoy. The Swiss severely defeated Charles in the battles of Grandson and Murten in 1476. The city of Fribourg had taken part with the confederated Swiss and the two cities of Berne and Fribourg now took possession of several cities of Vaud, while the inhabitants of Upper Valais conquered Lower Valais, that belonged to Savoy. In 1481 the cities of Fribourg and Solothurn (Soleure) were taken as members into the League of Confederates. The Burgundian War had brought the confederated districts into alliance with France, and consequently their connection with the German Empire grew weaker and weaker. When in 1495 Emperor Maximilian sought to reorganize the empire, the Confederates were unwilling to recognize the changes. In the struggle, called the Swabian War between the Swiss Confederates and the imperial troops the Swiss were victorious. The Treaty of Basle of 1499 granted the Confederates almost complete independence from the German Empire by releasing them from the jurisdiction of the imperial chamber. Later, in the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, the political separation of Switzerland from Germany was expressly declared. On account of the Swabian War, the cities of Basle and Schaffhausen joined the Confederation in 1501, and in 1513 Appenzell also was accepted as a district belonging to it, so that the Confederation now included thirteen districts. In addition the Courtship of Neuchâtel became an associate member, and the Confederation was joined as associate members by the three leagues of the Rhaetian Alps: the "Grauer Bund," the "Zehngerichtenbund (League of the Ten Jurisdictions)," and the "Gotteshausbund."
Upper Valais and other spiritual and secular lordships also became associate members. There was no central organized authority over all. The individual members formed special alliances among themselves; their common affairs were discussed at the assembly of the members, which was a congress of sovereign states. In addition to the representatives of the thirteen members of the Confederation most of the associate districts of the Confederation had also the right to send representatives. Other territories were subject lands of one or several members of the Confederation, or belonged in common to the entire confederation of the thirteen districts. Geneva had formed an alliance with Fribourg and Berne for the protection of its liberties against the bishops and dukes of Savoy; this made it an associate member. From this time on the Swiss Confederates took an important part in the general politics of Europe, especially in the wars in Italy. The Confederates acquired new possession south of the Alps in Ticino. However, at the battle of Marignano in 1515, the Swiss troops were severely defeated, which put an end to Swiss intervention in European politics.
The inner organization of the different districts of the Confederation varied greatly. Some had a democratic organization; in others the rule of the patrician town council was aristocratic. In the course of the eighteenth century many disputes arose in the cities on account of the despotic patrician government. After the outbreak of the French Revolution this state of affairs led to the interference of France, and in 1798 the territories of the Confederation were occupied by French troops. After the dissolution of the oligarchic governments, the "indivisible Helvetic Republic" with a new Constitution was proclaimed. All the confederated districts and the former subject lands were incorporated in the Republic. The opposition of the original Swiss League was crushed by the French army, the Helvetic Republic was entirely dependent on France. New quarrels constantly arose in Switzerland over the Constitution. Napoleon, therefore, on 19 February, 1803, issued the Act of Mediation, by which Switzerland was changed into a Confederation of nineteen cantons under the protection of France. The Diocese of Basle, the city of Geneva, Ticino, and Valais were annexed by France; the Principality of Neuchâtel was given to Marshal Berthier. In 1815 the Congress of Vienna gave back to Switzerland the districts of Geneva, Valais, and Ticino. Berne was obliged to grant freedom to its former subject lands of Aargau and Vaud, and received as compensation the greater part of the territories of the Bishop of Basle in the Jura; Neuchâtel was at the same time a Prussian principality and a Swiss canton. The second Treaty of Paris gave further districts of France and Savoy to Geneva. Thus Switzerland received its present extent of territory, and formed a confederation of twenty-two cantons, united in complete equality.
The inner political development of several cantons led to disputes concerning the Constitution, especially after the outbreak of the French Revolution of July 1830. Half the cantons received democratic constitutions; this caused a civil war in Basle that divided the canton into two half-cantons (city of Basle and rural Basle). At the same time a movement for the revision of the Treaty of Confederation of 1815 was started by seven democratic cantons which had formed an agreement among themselves. The Catholic cantons opposed a revision because they feared that it would not only result in a reduction of cantonal sovereignty, but also lead to interference with their religious freedom. The Articles of Baden, agreed to in 1834 by several cantons, introduced Josephinism into the relation between Church and State and greatly impaired ecclesiastical rights. In December 1845, the seven Catholic cantons, namely Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Lucerne, Zug, Fribourg, and Valais, united in a league, called the "Sonderbund (Separate League)," for the protection of their sovereignty and of their territories. The majority of the cantons decided at the Diets of August 1846 and of July 1847 that this league should be dissolved, because it was not compatible with the Treaty of Confederation of 1815. At the same time the same majority voted for a revision of the Constitution, and also voted against the continued presence of the Jesuits in Switzerland. The seven Catholic cantons made ready for war. At the Diet held in October 1847, their representatives moved that their sovereignty and their ecclesiastical rights be recognized, and that the question as to the Jesuits be removed from the subjects for discussion. The motion was rejected, and the protesting deputies of the seven cantons left the Diet. The civil war, called the War of the Sonderbund, now broke out. The Catholic cantons were defeated, and the war ended without much bloodshed. Radical governments were now forced upon the conquered cantons, but these administrations were later set aside by the popular majorities of the Catholic Conservative party. The expenses of the war to the amount of five million francs were imposed on the defeated cantons, the result of which was their economic impairment. The Jesuits were driven out and about fifty monasteries and religious foundations were suppressed. It was a victory of Radical Liberalism over the Conservative party. In 1848 Neuchâtel freed itself from Prussia and adopted a new republican Constitution.
On 12 September, 1848, the new Constitution of the Confederation was proclaimed and put in force. It transformed Switzerland into a Confederation similar to the United States. The individual cantons retained, indeed, their sovereignty and their separate Constitutions, but the exercise of sovereignty was limited by the federation. There was an assembly to represent the individual states called the Council of States (Ständerat), and one to represent the entire Swiss nation called the National Council (Nationalrat), which formed together the legislative body of the confederation. The executive authority was in the hands of a body called the Federal Council. The cantons, however, still retained the right of levying taxes, of police supervision, of the administration of justice, and religious affairs, and all legislation regarding schools. The universities of Switzerland also all remained cantonal institutions; they exist at the present time  in Basle, Zürich, Berne, Geneva, Lausanne, Fribourg, and Neuchâtel. Foreign affairs, the army, customs, postal administration and coinage were transferred to the federation. The Constitution was revised in 1874, and on 9 April of this year the new Constitution was accepted; with a few partial changes it is still in existence. It rests on the principles of a decided centralization as regards the army and the judiciary, and unfortunately, contains also severe articles directed against the Catholic Church (prohibition of houses of Jesuits, of the founding of new monasteries, etc.). A federal supreme court was established for the entire Confederation. In many of the cantons a strong movements began for making the cantonal constitutions more democratic, and during the last decades new constitutions have been introduced in a large number of them. The creation of a common code of law for civil and criminal cases was transferred to the Confederation. The railways were made state property by the purchase of the larger railways from the companies owning them, the purchase being confirmed in 1898; in this way their administration belongs to the Confederation.
Switzerland forms a confederation made up of the following twenty-two cantons, three being divided into half-cantons. The cantons have sovereign authority in all matters which are not under the jurisdiction of the Confederation. These competencies, however, frequently conflict, as in matters respecting the army, sanitary officers, and police supervision of foreigners. The decisions of the Federal Government are generally executed by the cantonal Governments. The main matters under the jurisdiction of the Confederation are: Intercourse with other countries and the exclusive right to make treaties with them and to direct the foreign policy; since 1898 the entire domain of civil and criminal law, for the purpose of unifying these two codes, although, with exception of the Federal Court, the organization of the courts belongs to the cantons; the army, all legislation, and the supervision of legislative work; the right to carry out public works that benefit a considerable part of the country; further, the right of general supervision over water and forest inspection. The Confederation also established a federal polytechnic high school at Zürich, the supervision of which belongs exclusively to the federal authorities, while all other schools are cantonal and receive in part subventions from the Federal Government. The Federal Government owns and has control of the customs, post office, telegraph and telephone, coinage (since 1905 the monopoly of the issuing banknotes has been given to the federal national bank), the manufacture and sale of powder, wholesale selling of alcohol. Trade inspection is also largely regulated by federal law, and the Government has the right to introduce sickness and accident insurance; a law in reference to these was accepted by the nation in 1912. Since they were made state property the larger, standard-gauge railways have been carried on by the Federal Government. The Constitution of the Confederation guarantees freedom of worship. Notwithstanding this, the Constitution forbids the reception of Jesuits and affiliated orders and the founding of new monasteries, while the establishment of new dioceses in Switzerland is made dependent on the consent of the Confederation. All these special ordinances refer only to the Catholic Church.
The federal authorities are: (1) legislative; (2) executive; (3) judicial. (1) The legislative authority is the Federal Assembly, composed of two concurrent chambers: the National Council and the Council of States. The National Council is elected directly by the people for three years, there being a deputy for each 20,000 inhabitants, or for a fraction over 10,000 inhabitants of a canton. For this purpose Switzerland is divided into federal electoral districts. The election is direct and the ballot secret. All Swiss citizens over twenty years of age, who are not prevented by cantonal laws from exercising political rights, are entitled to vote. All citizens entitled to vote are also entitled to hold office. The Council of States consists of 44 deputies, of whom each canton appoints two, and each half-canton one. The members of the Council of States are elected, according to the law of each canton, either by the people of the canton, or by the cantonal council, which is the cantonal legislative body. The passage of a law requires the agreement of both the States and National Councils. These two councils unite in the Federal Assembly for certain matters, especially for the election of the executive authorities and of the members of the Federal Court, for voting upon petitions for pardon, for settling disputes as to jurisdiction between federal authorities. The nation has the right of the referendum; when 30,000 citizens entitled to vote, or eight cantons of Switzerland, make the demand, any federal law and any generally binding federal ordinance, if not of a pressing nature, must be laid before the nation, so that the latter by a majority vote can accept or reject it. In 28 cases during the years 1874-1906 in which the referendum vote was taken, the law or the federal decision was rejected in 19 cases. The people also have an initiative in matters respecting the Federal Constitution, inasmuch as 50,000 citizens entitled to vote may petition for a change in the Constitution upon a definite point. The Federal Assembly also can present a similar demand for a change in the Constitution.
(2) The executive authority is the Federal Council, which is composed of seven members, elected by the joint Federal Assembly for three years. Any citizen eligible to the National Council can be elected to the Federal Council. The president of the Federal Assembly is elected each year by the Federal Assembly, as is also the vice-president; the president cannot be re-elected for the ensuing year. The Federal Council is responsible for the exercise of its office to the Federal Assembly, yet the rejection by the chambers of a bill offered by a member of the Federal Council does not necessitate the dismissal of the respective member. The executive administration of the Confederation is divided into seven departments, each of which is under the direction of a member of the Federal Council; the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is always under the direction of the president of the Confederation; the Department of the Interior, which controls the numerous federal subventions, supervises game and fish inspections, weights and measures, and directs the sanitary inspectors, and the execution of the laws representing food; the Department of Justice and Police; the Military Department; the Department of Finance and Customs; the Department of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture; the Post-Office and Railway Department. (3) The judicial authority is the Federal Court at Lausanne. Up to 1912 the court consisted of nineteen members; when the number was raised to twenty-four, to which should be added nine substitute members. The federal judges are elected for six years by the Federal Assembly. The court is divided into three sections; one for appeals in the domain of public law and certain matters of civil law, the second for the other appeals in civil law, the third for complaints respecting the law of bankruptcy and the law of obligation. For criminal cases there is a criminal court of three judges and twelve assessors. The federal attorney-general is appointed by the Federal Council.
The Constitutions of the Swiss cantons are in all cases democratic. However, great differences are to be found in the various cantons in regard to the cantonal Constitution, taxation, communal Government, etc. In the larger cantons the legislative body is a council elected by the people, called the Cantonal Council, or the Great Council. The members of the cantonal Governments are elected by either by this council or directly by the people. The smaller cantons have as the legislative body the cantonal assembly, composed of all the active citizens of the canton, which elects the cantonal authorities. The chief political parties of Switzerland, as represented in the Federal Assembly, especially in the chamber called the National Council, are: (1) The Radical of Progressive-Democratic party that avowedly strives after greater centralization; this principle is especially advocated by the Radicals of German-Switzerland. At times this part shows anti-Catholic tendencies, as was particularly evidenced in the War of the Sonderbund, and in the turmoil caused by the Old Catholic movement; during the last twenty years, however, this hostility has not been so marked. This party is the dominating one throughout the entire Confederation. (2) The Catholic-Conservative party. (3) The Liberal-Conservative, or Protestant party. Both the Catholic- and Liberal-Conservative parties are Federalists, but lay stress upon the rights of cantonal sovereignty. (4) The Social-Democratic party.
There is no doubt that Christian missions were started in the territory of the present Switzerland as early as the third century, but it was not until after the Constantinian era that they made decided progress. The missionaries of Christianity entered the county by three main roads: by way of the valley of the Rhone to Geneva, from Italy over the Great St. Bernard to Valais and into western Switzerland to the Helvetii, and over the passes of the Alps by way of the Grisons into eastern Switzerland to the Rhaetians. After the political repartition of the Roman Empire during the reign of Diocletian, the earliest Swiss dioceses appeared in the course of the fourth century: in Valais the diocese of Octodurum (Martigny), the see of which was transferred in the sixth century to Sion (Sitten); in the southwest the Diocese of Geneva (Genava) was founded in the Civitas Genavensium, which belonged to the great territories of the Allobroges; western and central Switzerland received the Diocese of the Helvetii, that was established in the Civitas Helvetiorum; its bishop lived now at Aventicum (Avenches), now at Vindonissa (Windisch), until at a later date, between the years 585 and 650, the see was transferred to Lausanne, and the northern part of the region, that had been taken by the Alamanni, was assigned to the Diocese of Constance. In the northwest the Diocese of Basle, the origin of which is obscure, was established in the Civitas Rauracorum. A part of the present Swiss Jura belonged to the Diocese of Besançon; towards the east, in Rhaetia, the Diocese of Chur (Coire) was established. The territories south of the Alps belonged in part to the Dioceses of Como and Milan. A famous shrine was the church built over the graves of the martyr St. Mauritius and his companions (St. Maurice in Valais); in 515 the Burgundian King Sigismund founded an abbey at this spot, the oldest monastery on Swiss soil.
The occupation of western Switzerland by the Burgundians, although they were Arians, led to no serious interruptions of the life of the Church. At the beginning of the sixth century King Sigismund became a Catholic; this was quickly followed by the adoption of the Catholic Faith by the Burgundians. From 534 the entire territory of the Burgundians belonged to the Kingdom of the Franks, as they took part in the religious development of this kingdom. The Alamanni were still heathen and when they migrated into northern and northeastern Switzerland they destroyed, along with the Roman civilization, almost the entire organization of the Church. After the Franks subjugated the Alamanni in 496 the Irish missionaries began to labor in their territories. In the sixth century the Diocese of Constance was founded for Alamannia; it included those parts of Switzerland occupied by this people. St. Columba and St. Gall from the Irish monastery of Bangor labored on the shores of Lake Zürich. When about 612 Columba went to Italy, Gall remained behind and founded a monastery, from which developed the celebrated Abbey of St-Gall. The monastery of Reichenau was of great importance in the further spread of Christianity on Lake Constance. Other monasteries were founded in eastern Switzerland, among them Pfaefers and Dissentis, and in the tenth century Einsiedeln. In western Switzerland famous abbeys were established in the territory of the Burgundians, as St-Imier, St-Ursanne, and Romainmotier; these, however, did not appear until the Frankish era. As time went on the growth of religion and civilization brought rich possessions and large secular power to the bishops and abbeys.
The great movement for the reformation of the monasteries during the tenth century, in which Cluny led the way, reached western Switzerland and caused the founding of new and important abbeys, such as Payern in Vaux, St-Victor in Geneva, St-Alban in Basle, and others. Several more Benedictine abbeys were established in the twelfth century; among these were Muri in Schaffhausen, Fischingen at Thurgau, some Cistercian abbeys were also founded, as Hauterive in Fribourg, St-Urban in Lucerne, and Wettingen in Aargau, while the Premonstratensians and Carthusians established numerous monastic houses in various districts of Switzerland. The change in monastic life introduced in the thirteenth century by the Franciscans and the Dominicans, who settled in the cities to exercise pastoral care, extended throughout Switzerland at an early date. Both Franciscan and Dominican monasteries sprang up in numerous cities, at Basle, Zürich, Berne, Schaffhausen, Solothurn, Chur, Fribourg, Lausanne, Geneva, and others. Among the knightly orders, the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem had the largest number of houses, some if which were endowed with large revenues. Other orders had a few monasteries. There were also large numbers of convents for women. Besides the monasteries there were houses of Augustinian canons in Switzerland, a few of which still exist in the Catholic cantons. Thus a rich religious life sprang up in the various districts of Switzerland around the numerous religious foundations of various kinds, the sees of the dioceses, the abbeys and the other monasteries, and the religious institutions of the cities.
The Protestant schism of the sixteenth century began in German Switzerland with the position taken by Zwingli in Zürich at the same time that it appeared in Germany. At first the religious innovation met with but little success. On 8 April, 1524, the five districts of Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Zug, and Lucerne decided to retain the old, true Christian Faith and to suppress the erroneous doctrine within their territories. At the Diet of the Confederation held at Lucerne on 20 April of the same year this decision was adopted by all the districts excepting Zürich and Schaffhausen. During this period Anabaptists made their appearance, especially in St-Gall and the Grisons, and Anabaptist communities were established in several districts including Schaffhausen and Appenzell. A peasant revolt broke out, partly in connection with the Anabaptist movement; this outbreak, however, was mainly settled by negotiations after serfdom had been abolished. Notwithstanding the decisions of the Diet of 1524 and all efforts made by the Catholic districts of central Switzerland, Zwinglianism spread to other Swiss cities and territories. The heretical doctrine was introduced into the city of St-Gall by Joachim von Watt (Vadianus) and his followers; in 1528 all Catholics were excluded from the council, and only the abbey remained loyal to the Catholic Faith. Zwinglianism extended from St-Gall into Appenzell and spread among the communes of Appenzell-Ausserrhoden. Through the influence of Zürich, Protestantism was introduced into Toggenburg, which belonged to the Abbey of St-Gall, and into Thurgau, so that in 1525 the majority of the inhabitants of both these districts belonged to the new faith. Protestantism also found entrance into Glarus, Sargans, and the valley of the Rhine, as well as into the Grisons. In these districts, however, the adherents of the heretical doctrine could not obtain absolute control. The cities of Basle and Schaffhausen also fell away from the Catholic Faith; much was done for the spread of Protestantism at Basle by Oecolampadius (q.v.). For a considerable time Berne wavered, but in 1528 the new doctrine urged by Francis Kolb, N. Manuel, Berchtold Haller, and Johann Haller conquered, and the heretical doctrine was introduced by force in all the territories of Berne.
The districts that had become Protestant united both with one another and with foreign Protestant cities. The five Catholic districts of Switzerland, mentioned above, had also united in defense of the old Faith in their territories, and had formed an alliance with Austria. Zwingli now sought to force them to submit to his erroneous teachings. This resulted in the two wars of Kappel (1528-31), which ended in the victory of the Catholic districts by the battle near Kappel in 1531, in which Zwingli was killed. In the second Peace of Kappel which was now signed (1531) the Catholic Faith was completely restored in the common dependencies of Baden, Freiamt, and Rapperswyl, and numerous parishes in the Thurgau; the valley of the Rhine became Catholic again and the monasteries were re-established. The Protestant Faith was recognized by the Constitution; in the religiously mixed districts and in the German subject lands the individual parishes could decide to which faith to belong, but the free exercise of the religion of the minority was protected; the districts which were entirely Protestant or entirely Catholic retained their respective confessions, and the alliance of the Zwinglian districts was dissolved. In the meantime the heretical doctrine had been carried from Berne into French Switzerland. Among the lordships belonging to the Bishop of Basle in the Jura, the new faith made its way into the Münsterthal, Biel, the city of Neuchâtel, and also in the district of Neuchâtel. In 1536 Berne conquered the district of Vaux and introduced Protestantism into it by force, as well as in the lands that Berne owned in common with Fribourg. Berne also supported the adherents of the new faith, which in 1535 had gained the supremacy in the possessions of its ally in Geneva, where Calvin soon made his appearance and where he established a new center of Protestantism.
In religious matters the Confederation was now divided as follows: the five districts of Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Zug, and Lucerne with their dependencies (among them Ticino), also Fribourg, Solothurn, the allied Valais, the Abbot of St-Gall, and the common dependencies of Baden, Freiamt, and Rapperswyl remained Catholic; Zürich, Berne with Vaud, Basle, Schaffhausen, the city of St-Gall, and Geneva were Protestant; both confessions existed together in Appenzell, which in 1597 was divided into Catholic Innerrhoden and Protestant Ausserrhoden, Glarus, the Grisons (where only the "graue Bund" remained Catholic), and in the dependent districts of Aargau, Thurgau, Werdenberg, the valley of the Rhine, and Toggenburg. True inner religious reform, based on the pure Catholic Faith, found zealous promoters in Switzerland and in the era of the Council of Trent. St. Charles Borromeo labored with great success, as did also Bishop Christopher Blarer of Basle. Of great value in this work was the summoning of the Jesuits, of whom the most important was Peter Canisius (q.v.); in the years succeeding 1574 they erected flourishing colleges in numerous cities, as Lucerne, Fribourg, Porrentruy, Siders, Brig, Sion, and Solothurn. The Capuchins also entered Switzerland at the same time, and erected their first monastery on Swiss soil at Altorf in 1579; this was gradually followed by the founding of nearly thirty more houses, so that their spiritual labors embraced the larger part of the Catholic districts of the Confederation. Another important factor in the revival of ecclesiastical and religious life was the establishment of a permanent papal nunciature to the Confederation with its seat at Lucerne (from 1579). The Collegium Helveticum at Milan and the Collegium Germanicarum at Rome, both of which had a number of free scholarships for Swiss theologians, did much for the thorough education and earnest religious training of the clergy. The revival of Catholic life was vigorously supported by zealous and orthodox priests, such as provost Schneuwly at Fribourg, and Catholic statesman, such as L. Pfyffer, of Lucerne, and M. Lussy in the forest districts that had formed the original Swiss League. The internal reform of the Church based on the decrees of the Council of Trent made its way throughout Catholic Switzerland to the great benefit of the loyal Catholic population. The seven Catholic districts formed the Borromaean League in 1586 to prevent the further advance of Protestantism.
The subject lands of Bormia, Chiavenna, and Val Tellina, which had belonged to the Grisons since 1513, remained loyal to the Catholic Faith. They were hard pressed, and the attempts to spread the heretical doctrine in these regions also were supported in every possible manner by the Protestant majority in the Grisons. During the violent political disputes which raged in the Grisons during the seventeenth century a revolt broke out in Val Tellina. The knight James of Grossoto marched in the valley in 1620 and a large part of the Protestant population was killed (the Valtelline Massacre). This led to a war between the Protestant and Catholic districts and their foreign allies, the final end of which was that the Val Tellina and the other Italian subject lands were lost to the Confederates. After the Peace of Kappel of 1531 the Catholic districts had the majority in the Diet of the Confederation, a point of much importance in the garrisoning of the lands held in common that separated Berne and Zürich from each other. These two powerful Protestant members of the Diet sought an occasion to change this state of affairs. The suppression of a Protestant community in Arth, that belonged to Schwyz, gave rise to a dispute between the Catholic and Protestant districts which led two the two Villmergen wars (1656 and 1712). The Catholic districts conquered in the first war; disturbances in Toggenburg led to the second war, in which political questions were especially prominent. This latter war ended in the victory of the Protestant districts, and it was followed by a new partition of the common lordships in favor of the conquerors, as well as by the granting of complete parity to the Protestant inhabitants of the subject lands. This treaty divided the Confederation into two distinct confessional groups.
The hostility to the Church shown in the French Revolution was also evidenced in the measures adopted by the Helvetic Republic in Switzerland. By a decree of 1798 the possessions of all Swiss monasteries were declared to be national property, and a further decree suppressed, in theory, all monasteries. The papal nuncio was expelled, and foreign bishops were permitted to exercise their ecclesiastical jurisdiction only through delegates who were nominated by the Helvetic Directory. The decree respecting the monasteries was not executed. By the Act of Mediation of 1803 the property of the monasteries was returned to them, and the monasteries could be reopened. Only the venerable Abbey of St-Gall was definitely suppressed. Part of the abbey lands were incorporated in the state property of the Canton of St-Gall, and part were reserved as a special fund for the Catholics of the canton. After the turmoil of Napoleonic era and after the suppression of the Diocese of Constance the ecclesiastical administration was gradually reorganized during the period of the Restoration. By an agreement of 28 March, 1828, the Diocese of Basle was re-established, with the see at Solothurn (Soleure). The Swiss portion of the Diocese of Geneva was united with the Diocese of Lausanne, and the bishop, whose see was Fribourg, received the title of Bishop of Lausanne and Geneva. The Diocese of Sion (Sitten) was left essentially as before. In 1836 Pope Gregory XVI erected the Vicariate Apostolic of St-Gall, which was later changed into a bishopric. The old Diocese of Chur, which continued to exist, received new boundaries by agreements made with the cantons that had formed the original League. In 1888, after long negotiations, the Canton of Ticino was released from its diocesan connection with Como and Milan and made a diocese which was, however, untied with Basle; it is ruled by an Apostolic administrator with the rank of a bishop.
The War of the Sonderbund greatly damaged Catholic interests in Switzerland. Not only were the Jesuits driven out and their flourishing schools suppressed, but most of the monasteries in the Catholic cantons were also suppressed by the violent radical Governments that had come to power. Even at a later date the cantons of Thurgau, Zürich, Solothurn, and Aargau secularized the monasteries in their territories and confiscated the monastic possessions. During the nineteenth century some sixty monastic institutions were suppressed throughout Switzerland. In a number of the cantons a strong spirit of Josephinism became apparent, and the free exercise of ecclesiastical authority was frequently prevented. The Catholic minority in the Protestant cantons was oppressed in various ways. This was especially the case on the appearance of Old Catholicism which caused a regular persecution of Catholic priests and people in some cantons, especially Berne and Geneva. The opposition which sprang up in various countries to the definitions of the Vatican Council also manifested itself in Switzerland, and small Old Catholic parishes were formed in various places. The Old Catholics of Switzerland united to form the "Christian Catholic National Church" which received formal recognition both from the Federal Council and from the Governments of several cantons. The Governments of the Cantons of Berne and Geneva settled renegade priests over Catholic parishes by force; churches, parsonages, and the church property were given to these priests and their few adherents by the administrative authorities. A Christian Catholic theological faculty for the training of Old Catholic priests was established at the University of Berne; this faculty still continues a languishing existence.
When Lachat was appointed Administrator Apostolic of Ticino, and Mermillod, Bishop of Lausanne and Geneva, the authorities of the Confederation and some of the cantonal Governments began to yield somewhat in the struggle with the Catholics. Many churches in the Bernese Jura and in Geneva were returned to the Catholics, frequently, though, under great material sacrifice by the latter. The Old Catholic movement in Switzerland, as everywhere else, began very soon to decline. Of late years the attempt has been made in different Swiss cantons to separate Church and State. This separation has been carried out practically in Geneva and Basle. Catholic life has greatly developed in Switzerland notwithstanding the difficulties caused by the War of the Sonderbund and the persecution caused by the Old Catholic movement. Among the larger Catholic organizations which extend over the whole of Switzerland mention should be made of the Catholic People's Union; this society unites the individual organizations into one large association, and labors with much success in the fields of religion, charity, social work, and education. The section for home missions, that aids Catholic parishes in the diaspora, distributed for this purpose the sum of 202,720 francs in 1910, and helped 105 mission parishes. The historical section supports the "Zeitschrift für schweizerische Kirchengeschichte." In addition to the People's Union mention should also be made of the "Association of Swiss Catholic Students," which is active in all of the Swiss universities, in several foreign ones, and in the Swiss lyceums, and which has a large membership. A matter of much importance for Catholic life was the founding of the cantonal University of Fribourg (q.v.).
Of the 3,765,002 actual inhabitants of Switzerland on December 1, 1910, 2,108,590 were Protestants, 1,590,792 were Catholics, 19,023 Jews, and 46,597 belonged to other confessions or to none. A comparison of the number of Catholics with that of the Protestants at the census of 1900 shows that Catholics have increased at a more rapid rate within the last ten years than the Protestants. This arises mainly from the fact that the adjacent parts of the neighboring countries are all Catholic, so that immigration almost always increases only the Catholic population. The Catholic inhabitants of Switzerland belong to the following dioceses: (1) Basle-Lugano; in this double bishopric the Diocese of Basle includes the Cantons of Solothurn, Lucerne, Zug, Berne, Aargau, Thurgau, Basle, and Schaffhausen, while the Diocese of Lugano embraces the Canton of Ticino. (2) Chur, which includes the Cantons of the Grisons, Schwyz, Uri, Unterwalden (both Obwalden and Nidwalden), Glarus, Zürich, and, in addition, the Principality of Liechtenstein. (3) Lausanne-Geneva, which includes the Cantons of Fribourg, Vaud (with the exception of a few parishes which belong to Sion), Neuchâtel and Geneva. (4) St-Gall, which includes the cantons of St-Gall, and the two half-Cantons of Appenzell. (5) Sion, which includes the Canton of Valais and the Catholic parishes of the governmental department of Aigle in the Canton of Vaud. In addition there are: the exempt episcopal Abbey of Saint-Maurice in Valais, the abbot of which is always the titular Bishop of Bethlehem, the exempt Abbey of Einsiedeln, the exempt priory of the Great St-Bernard, and two prefectures Apostolic in the Grisons, namely Misox-Calanca, and Rhaetia.
With the exception of the Moravians and two Lutheran parishes in Geneva, all the Protestants of Switzerland belong to the Evangelical Reformed Church. The great majority of these belong to the "National Churches," of which there are fifteen, which are organized according to cantons. There are numerous differences in details in the constitutions of these cantonal National Churches. Besides these there are also large independent Protestant churches and Evangelical sects of the most varied kinds. In the census the Old Catholics are not counted as independent confessions, but are enumerated among the Catholics. Altogether they number about 30,000 persons (more exact statistics are not obtainable). Four years ago the list of Old Catholic clergy gave 56 names; in the summer half-year of 1910 the Old Catholic theological department at Berne had three Swiss and six foreign students. In addition to the Old Catholic bishop, the Christian Catholic National Church is administered by a national synod which meets annually; besides the Old Catholic priests and the bishop its membership includes delegates elected by the parishes. The Swiss Jews are united for worship into twenty-two communities which are organized in accordance with the laws of the Confederation for associations.
STUDER, Geologie der Schweiz (Zürich, 1851-53); HEER, Die Urwelt der Schweiz (2nd ed., Zürich, 1879); SCHRÖTER, Das Pflanzenleben der Alpenwelt (Zürich, 1907); VON TSCHUDI, Das Tierleben der Alpenwelt (11th ed., Leipzig, 1890); ZIMMERLI, Die deutsche-französische Sprachgrenze in der Schweiz (Basle, 1891-99); VON SALIS, Bundesrecht (5 vols., 2nd ed., Berne 1903-); MEYER, Gesch. des schweizerischen Bundesrecht (Winterthur, 1875-78), supplement (1881); Amtlicher Sammlung der älteren eidgenössichen Abscheide von 1247 bis 1798 (17 vols., Zürich and Lucerne, 1839-1886); Amtl. Sammlung der Akten aus der Zeit der helvetischen Republik (10 vols., Berne, 1886-1907); HIDBER, Schweizerisches Urkundenregister (Berne, 1863-1877); Quellen zur Schweizergeschichte (since 1877); HÜRBIN, Handbuch der Schweizergesch. (Stans, 1900-1908), with a full list of authorities and bibliography; VON MÜLLER, Gesch. der schweiz. Eidgenossenschaft (15 vols., Zürich, 1805-1853), continued by several writers, by DÄNLIKER (3 vols., 1900-) DIERAUER (1887-1907); GELPKE, Kirchengesch. der Schweiz (Berne, 1856-61); VON MÜLINEN, Helvetia sacra (Berne, 1858-61); LÜTOLF, Die Glaubensboten der Schweiz vor St. Gallus (Lucerne, 1871); EGLI, Kirchengesch. der Schweiz bis auf Karl d. Gr. (Zürich, 1893); BÜCHI, Die kathol. Kirche in der Schweiz (Munich, 1902); HURTER, Die Befeindung der Kathol. Kirche in der Schweiz (Schaffhausen, 1842); CRÉTINEAU-JOLY, Hist. Du Sonderbund (Fribourg, 1850); SIEGWART-MÜLLER, Der Kampf zwischen Recht und Gewalt (Altorf, 1863-1866); GAREIS AND ZORN, Staat und Kirche in der Schweiz (Zürich, 1877-78); Hist. de la persécution religeuse à Genève (Paris, 1878); TROXLER, Die "katholisch"-theologische Fakultät an der Hochschule Bern (Basle, 1903); IDEM, Die neuere Entwicklung des Altkatholizismus (Cologne, 1908); cf. Also the bibliographies to the articles on the Swiss dioceses and to the articles CALVIN and ZWINGLI.