« AnteriorContinuar »
THE NEUTRALITY OF SWITZERLAND
THE VIENNA TREATIES
SWITZERLAND's neutrality, as exhibited during the present European conflict and also on the occasion of other wars of the past century, does not found itself simply upon principles of international law, but rests directly upon a series of explicit international and constitutional documents and is deeply interlocked with the historical development of the country and with the foundation and growth of its government. Differentiating itself widely from that attitude of mere aloofness exhibited by a nation which declines to join a struggle in which others may be engaged, Swiss neutrality is an essential element of the country's governmental existence and is intended by the nature and sanctions of its origin to be as permanent as the nation itself. Such an aspect of neutrality is termed neutralization; though in origin quite dissimilar to that of Switzerland, this international quality was also characteristic, at the outbreak of the present war in 1914, of Belgium and Luxemburg, as well as of a variety of smaller governmental entities or adjuncts.
We may, perhaps, assign a beginning to Switzerland's neutral existence by dating it from the permanent peace between Switzerland and France concluded at Freiburg, November 12, 1516, since from this date Switzerland, considered as a homogeneous federal alliance, did not again take any direct part in warlike activities, as it had done in the Milan campaign undertaken for the purpose of driving France from northern Italy and which had culminated in the battle at Marignano September 14, 1515. On May 5, 1521, an offensive and defensive alliance was made with France and renewed in 1663, 1715, and 1777. On the latter occasion Swiss neutrality was expressly guaranteed by France.
Again, the conclusion of the celebrated treaties at Münster and Osnabrück in' 1648, and known as the Peace of Westphalia, furnishes another landmark in Switzerland's neutral development; it here definitely parted company from the Empire and attempted to introduce into its neutral attitude the principle that thereafter no Swiss territory should be open to the transit of a foreign army, although the associated German-speaking Cantons, then known as Orte, thought it no impairment of neutral principles for their several state governments to furnish mercenary contingents to the various armies of Europe, a practice, in fact, continued far into the nineteenth century.
During the years following the Peace of Westphalia, the Swiss states, by way of defining and strengthening their neutral attitude, determined to affirm their position against possible aggression, and on March 18, 1668, executed, though not for the first time, a document known as Defensional, by which the various Orte and their allies became mutually obliged to furnish certain armed contingents for territorial protection, thus making the important principle of armed neutrality (Wehrverfassung) a permanent element of their constitutional frame work.
Switzerland's neutrality was now and for long years afterward almost continuously threatened, both on the part of France and the Empire, and doubtless the ambitions and activities of these powerful neighbors did much toward developing Swiss conceptions of a fundamentally neutral state as furnishing the only certain condition of continuity in that allied existence through which the Swiss pastoral and agricultural communities could realize their ideals of freedom and independence.
Coming now to the practical initiation of Swiss neutrality in its present-day aspects, we note, in the first place, the treaty with France of 1777, concluded under pressure of threatened Austrian aggression and whose tragic issue was seen in the memorable defense of the Tuileries at Paris by the Swiss Guard on August 10, 1792. It was, however, from the Revolution itself that Swiss progress really takes its rise. With the French invasion of Canton Vaud, in 1798, there begins a long series of constructive constitutional activity, a view of whose various steps is indispensable if we are to rightly understand
Swiss conceptions of neutrality as an influence finding its mainspring in the beginning of a new order which produced in the end a democratic federal state and gave the country the international position cherished by all Swiss as a possession of first importance.
At the outbreak of the French Revolution Switzerland found itself united in an alliance (Bund) of thirteen communities (Orte). The thirteen allies were surrounded by an extensive territorial agglomeration of districts and towns which were in turn allied (zugewandte, verbündete) with the thirteen, but in quite various fashion. These latter allies were divided into two classes somewhat analogous to the socii and confoederati in the ancient Roman world; nor were their treaties made with the Swiss Alliance as a whole, but, for the most part, with individual Cantons or groups of Cantons, and their rights varied according to the possession on their part of a vote in the general federal assembly at Zurich or the absence of such a privilege. Of less consideration still were merely protected districts (schutzverwandte); examples of such were the District of Gersau on Lake Lucerne, the town of Rapperschwyl, lying along the Lake of Zurich, and the more extensive territory of Engelberg amid the high Alps of Unterwalden and Uri. The principal allies in this complex plan claimed rule, again, over a great number of strictly subject territories, termed gemeine Herrschaften, without right of representation in the great federal council, and administered by officials (Vogte) with few ideas of freedom or equal rights.
From such a condition, nothing, perhaps, short of the fires and stress of the Revolution and the Napoleonic conquests, could have freed the country and initiated the highly organized and truly democratic political framework of today which exhibits in such striking form the principles of democratic free government. Swiss neutrality, it will be seen, is in fact a political creation springing from very unusual necessities, and slowly working out a plan of union and independence under the inspiration of the spirit of freedom. Switzerland is limited in territory and lacks the wealth of states more richly dowered by nature; hence the Swiss political consciousness readily grasped the need of assured protection from outside aggression, if it were to be permitted to place its public institutions on a firm foundation. This con
ception of its destiny furnishes a key to the somewhat tangled scheme of events and negotiations which are found leading up to the finished product of a neutralized condition which must furnish, if the principles of civilization are to be maintained, a measure of perpetuity to Swiss institutions.
The leading documents in the history of the formation of presentday Swiss neutrality are to be found, first, in the series of constitutional instruments by virtue of which Switzerland emerged from its ancient and very loosely constructed federal condition and became, at the Congress of Vienna, a definitely established constitutional federation of communities enjoying equal political privileges as well as independence; and, second, in the numerous treaties, protocols, and declarations of diplomatic character by means of which the conception of a permanent neutrality or neutralization was slowly evolved. For the purpose of the present article, it will doubtless be simpler and perhaps clearer to consider these two source-currents together, rather than separately, since their interdependence furnishes the true key to their significance and aim.
No sooner had the French arms secured a practical guardianship of Switzerland on the part of France in the opening weeks of 1798, than the French commissioner Lecarlier announced, under date of March 28, an official interpretation from his headquarters at Bern of the new Helvetic constitution which, on April 12 following and with modifications introduced by the hand of Napoleon himself, was imposed upon the country. In its first title this highly unitary constitution proclaims that “There are no longer frontiers between the Cantons and the subject districts nor between the Cantons themselves. The unity of fatherland and interest succeed for the future to the feeble bond which joined by chance, as it were, many heterogeneous districts unequal and subjected to domestic differences. Heretofore there existed feebleness; in the future there shall be a strength which is the strength of all.” While this constitutional attempt did not prove a success, it nevertheless introduced an effective blotting out of political inequalities, and in its conception of an executive modeled after the French Directory and collective in form, its influence is apparent in the formation of the present Swiss Federal Executive Council of seven
members. On August 19, 1798, there was also concluded a treaty of alliance with France, Article 3 of which guarantees on the part of France the independence and unity of the new Helvetic Republic.
This principle of the guarantee reappears in the celebrated treaty made at Lunéville between the Empire and France February 9, 1801, Article XI of which declares that the high contracting parties mutually guarantee the independence of the Helvetic and other republics which had issued from Napoleonic conquests. The failure, however, of so violent a change in Swiss political affairs as was contemplated by the Helvetic constitution made necessary a recourse to some other form of government, and on September 30, 1802, Napoleon, First Consul, issued a proclamation from the palace of St. Cloud summoning the Swiss to prepare to take part in a new constitutional plan to be proposed by himself as mediator. This mediation constitution was prepared as part of a most elaborate document, which also contained in complete form the new constitutions of the nineteen cantons into which Switzerland was now divided; the instrument bore date of February 19, 1803, and was accompanied by a new treaty of defensive alliance with France under date of September 7 in the same year, the second article of which pledges France to defend Swiss neutrality as against other Powers when summoned so to do by the Swiss Diet. Switzerland had, of course, merely reverted to its former condition of practical vassalage while being independent in name only, and no time accordingly was lost by the Swiss central government, when, after the battle of Leipzig in October, 1813, the allied forces moved toward the Swiss frontier, in asserting a neutrality as against both the allies and Napoleon. It was well understood, however, that this could not be defended, nor was it consonant to Swiss interests to maintain it against the allies, since they came as the true liberators from French domination. Thus it was that the allied armies entered Switzerland peacefully at Basel and were welcomed everywhere, especially at Geneva, which was now seen to be about to pass from French possession to membership in the Swiss Alliance.
On December 29, 1813, the Swiss allied council (Tagsatzung), sitting at Zurich, passed the famous resolution (Übereinkunft) repudiating the mediation constitution and pledging itself to the formation of a