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01 August 2005

Napoleon, French Revolution, and Switzerland

Man On The Ground -- is this accurate? Are there any controversies here you disagree with?

It's all new to me.



The impact in Switzerland of the French Revolution of 1789 was enormous. The Confederation itself remained neutral in the battles that followed, but popular revolutionary demonstrations throughout Vaud -- at that time a Bernese colony -- and at Stäfa near Zürich acted as a prelude and a spur to a full-scale French invasion in 1798 by armies under Napoleon. Revolution swept through the country. In Ticino, Aargau and the lower Valais, the old patrician establishment was swept away; urban residents of Basel, Zürich and Schaffhausen at a stroke won equality before the law; Vaud declared itself independent from Bern; and the brief burst of resistance to the French mounted in central areas was violently suppressed. On March 5, French forces entered Bern, marking the fall of the ancien régime in Switzerland.

Within weeks, Napoleon promulgated a new constitution intended to replace the archaic patchwork of communities and privileges, decentralized authority and internecine mistrust that had prevailed since the Middle Ages. His brave new Helvetic Republic, "unitary and indivisible", did away with cantons altogether and instead vested centralized power, French-style, nominally in the people but actually in a five-man executive. This showed just how drastically Napoleon underestimated the Swiss, who broke the habit of centuries by coming together -- liberal and conservative, Catholic and Protestant alike -- in unanimous rejection of his imposed new order. A series of coup d’états attempting to end French domination prompted Napoleon to withdraw his troops from the country in short order in 1802. Civil war immediately broke out, and Napoleon stepped in as arbitrator, this time prudently urging the Swiss themselves to come up with a constitution. This shortlived Mediation, as it was called, restored the notion of autonomous cantons, and in addition conferred full cantonal status on six areas previously under joint administration -- St Gallen, Graubünden, Aargau, Thurgau, Ticino and Vaud -- meanwhile giving the country the new title of the Swiss Confederation, a name it bears today.


Blogger pat's pub said...

Nope, can't see anything wrong with that.
you may have noticed that Switzerland was not yet a democracy at the time. We got our constitution in 1848 after another civil war. The guys who made up the constitiution stole quite a lot from your Bill of Rights
(Oh I should've payed more attention in school during History ..)
Your thougt that he whole point of the French Revolution was to defend itself from the European monarchie is not quite correct, I'm afraid.
the french king was broke, the economy was a mess while new philosphical ideas by Kant, Rousseau, Diderot and that english bloke (either Hume or Locke, I forgot which one) were sweeping across Europe that had just witnessed the American Revolution. Monarchistic France had reached a malthusian low point and things had to change. No wonder they started a revolution...

Blogger Joana said...

have a nice holiday Pat's pub!

Blogger pat's pub said...

Geez I forgot to mention
August 1st is CONSTITUTION DAY !!!!!
Party Time ! We'll have a BBQ with lots of Beer and Sausages !! We'll get drunk and try to sing the National Anthem ! Yeah !! Now whez me box with the firecrackers ?

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

Any holiday with FIRECRACKERS is okay with me!

For our 4th of July, the Very Best Fireworks displays are across the border in Mexico -- because Mexico doesn't have all those annoying Fire and Explosives Safety Laws.

Well okay ... the Monarch Thing ... yes of course Louis and Marie and all their Noble Cousins were nasty overspending idiots and caused their own downfall.

Actually I read recently that the ƒƒƒƒƒƒ that sent the French Royal Treasury into bankruptcy was Louis' expensive assistance to the American Rebels to help with our Revolution.

VLEEPTRON HISTORY PIZZAQ: What famous Frenchman acted as Louis' Secret Agent Middleman to ship French weapons and money to the American Rebels? This is worth FOUR slices! Pick your own toppings!

But once the French Revolution began, it seems to me the way the Revolutionary Government kept the French people all Pumped Up and Pepped Up to keep supporting the Revolution was by scaring them (accurately) that they had to defend their Revolution from all the European Monarchies who were all conspiring to return the Bourbons to the throne.

So that's why it surprised me that Napoleon hoovered up Switzerland too -- maybe they weren't a Democracy yet, but they had no Monarch.

That famous painting by Jean-Louis David of Napoleon on a white horse in the Alps -- is that during the Swiss campaign? Or was he on his way to conquer Italy?

You Swiss people need to scream your history much louder. I never knew anything about this. (But I did know about Burghi and the Logarithms.)

Hey! I just found a Burghi clock! Gonna post it now!


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