Swiss History – A Helvetic Republic Passport 1798

Swiss History – A Helvetic Republic Passport 1798

In Swiss history, the Helvetic Republic (1798–1803) represented an early attempt to impose a central authority over Switzerland, which until then had consisted of self-governing cantons united by a loose military alliance (and ruling over subject territories such as Vaud).

The French invaded Switzerland and turned it into an ally known as the “Helvetic Republic.” The interference with localism and traditional liberties was deeply resented, although some modernizing reforms took place.Resistance was strongest in the more traditional Catholic bastions, with armed uprisings breaking out in spring 1798 in the central part of Switzerland. The French Army suppressed the uprisings but support for revolutionary ideals steadily declined, as the Swiss resented their loss of local democracy, the new taxes, the centralization and the hostility to religion. Nonetheless, there were long-term impacts.

During the French Revolutionary Wars of the 1790s, the French Republican armies expanded eastward. The French Republican armies enveloped Switzerland on the grounds of “liberating” the Swiss people, whose own system of government was deemed as feudal, especially for annexed territories such as Vaud.

Some Swiss nationals, including Frédéric-César de La Harpe, had called for French intervention on these grounds. The invasion proceeded largely peacefully, since the Swiss people failed to respond to the calls of their politicians to take up arms.

On 5 March 1798, French troops completely overran Switzerland and the Old Swiss Confederation collapsed. On 12 April 1798, 121 cantonal deputies proclaimed the Helvetic Republic, “One and Indivisible”. On 14 April 1798, a cantonal assembly was called in the Canton of Zurich, but most of the politicians from the previous assembly were re-elected. The new régime abolished cantonal sovereignty and feudal rights. The occupying forces established a centralized state based on the ideas of the French Revolution.

Swiss History – A Helvetic Republic Passport 1798

Many Swiss citizens resisted these “progressive” ideas, particularly in the central areas of the country. Some of the more controversial aspects of the new regime limited freedom of worship, which outraged many of the more devout citizens. In response, the Cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden raised an army of about 10,000 men led by Alois von Reding to fight the French.

In 1799, Switzerland became a virtual battle-zone between the French, Austrian, and Imperial Russian armies, with the locals supporting mainly the latter two, rejecting calls to fight with the French armies in the name of the Helvetic Republic.

Instability in the Republic reached its peak in 1802–1803, which included the Bourla-papey uprising and the Stecklikrieg civil war of 1802. By then, it was 12 million francs in debt having started with a treasury of 6 million francs. This together with local resistance caused the Helvetic Republic to collapse, and its government took refuge in Lausanne.

At that time, Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul of France, summoned representatives of both sides to Paris in order to negotiate a solution. Although the Federalist representatives formed a minority at the conciliation conference, known as the “Helvetic Consulta”, Bonaparte characterized Switzerland as federal “by nature” and considered it unwise to force the country into any other constitutional framework.

On 19 February 1803, the Act of Mediation restored the cantons. With the abolition of the centralized state, Switzerland became a confederation once again.

The passport you seeing here is a very fine example and evidence of the events in Switzerland at that time.The document was issued 1798 in a district of the Canton of Bale.

Switzerland 1798 Switzerland 1798

Swiss History – A Helvetic Republic Passport 1798

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