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Saturday, December 2, 2023

History of Switzerland During the High Middle Ages – Swiss Union

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With the increasing power of the individual feudal lords, the old Alemania and Burgundy disintegrated into many separate possessions.

In 1218, the Duke of Zähringen’s family died out; some of their possessions became imperial, part changed to other hands. When dividing the inheritance, he was especially fortunate enough for the counts of Cybers and the Counts of the Habsburgs, where the latter in 1264 inherited the departed Cyburgs. The Ruler of Zurichgau passed the power to the emperor, who made the city of Zurich imperial, and divided other parts of the region into several small territories. The reign over Burgundy also returned to the hands of the emperor, but already in the middle of the XIII century, Count Pierre of Savoy forced a significant number of rulers of Burgundy Switzerland to admit his power; the spread of his possessions put an end to Earl Rudolf IV of Habsburg (later Emperor Rudolf I).

In the XIII century, a struggle began between the Habsburgs and the imperial power, including for control over the territory of Switzerland. Already at the beginning of the 13th century, the Gotthard Pass became known to the German emperors as a convenient road to Italy. As a result, the territories of the original cantons, in particular Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, acquired special significance for them.

The overall result of the period from the 10th to the 13th centuries for Switzerland was as follows: the former political unity of Switzerland, as part of the united monarchy of Charlemagne, was destroyed; Switzerland broke up into many small political units, some of which were directly imperial; in the image of government, they were mainly aristocratic republics, in which the city ruled over the completely subordinate rural areas; others were possessions of secular or spiritual lords. The internal life of the country, even at the time of the greatest strength of the monarchy, was a little subjected to the regulation of the centers; later it became even more independent.

Separate communities were accustomed to self-government, and the beginnings of republican-democratic self-government was laid already then. Serfdom in Switzerland has never been particularly strong. Next to the serfs who worked for gentlemen, in Switzerland there were always a significant number of free settlers (hunters, fishermen, herders, farmers) who had small plots of land and sometimes made up whole villages. The population of the cities was almost always free. Thanks to the relative peace that Switzerland enjoyed after the alarming X century, it was one of the most densely populated countries of Europe in the XI-XIII centuries and enjoyed relatively great wealth.

Swiss Union

In 1231, Emperor Frederick II bought from the Habsburgs in favor of the Uri Empire the part that did not depend on the Zurich Monastery; in 1240 he granted Schwyz a special charter of liberty, by which Schwyz was made imperial. The Habsburgs did not recognize this charter and undertook the conquest of Schwyz in 1245-1522. Uri and Unterwalden, still subservient to the Habsburgs, came to the aid of Schwyz; during the war, they concluded the first treaty of alliance, the text of which was not preserved. After some time, Schwyz and Unterwalden had to recognize the power of the Habsburgs, and their union fell apart. In 1291 it was renewed “forever.” The act of the treaty, drawn up in Latin, is preserved in the archive of the city of Schwyz.

The Allies pledged to help each other with advice and deed, personally and with property, on and off their lands, against anyone and everyone who wants to inflict pain to them all or to any of them. The existing rights are not violated by the contract: “everyone, as before, must serve his master and be a subject to him,” but the allies declare that “they will not accept any judge who will receive this position for money and will not be our countryman ”. This denies the right to send outsiders, but not the seignoral justice of the local seniors, for then there is an increase: “each shall obey his judge.” From this treaty, the beginning of Switzerland as a state is usually considered, although even the name Switzerland was then still unknown: it appeared later (after the Morgarten battle), due to the incorrect application of the name Schwitz to all allied communities.

This day was timed to commemorate the 600th anniversary of Switzerland in 1891, although the legends about the formation of the Swiss Union, associated with the name of William Tell – legends that the masses in Switzerland believed until the middle of the XIX century, erected its beginning to the agreement on Rütli 1307, followed by the assassination of the Vogt Gessler by William Tell. The treaty of 1291, directed against the Habsburgs, fully preserved the dependence of the cantons on the empire. In 1207, King Adolf Nassau, hostile to the Habsburgs, confirmed the independence of Schwyz and Uri from the Habsburgs with a special liberty diploma. In 1309, Henry VII of Luxembourg confirmed it again, giving, moreover, a diploma of liberty. When in the struggle because of the imperial crown between Louis of Bavaria and Frederick of Habsburg, the allies took the side of the former, the brother of the latter, Duke Leopold, made an attempt to subordinate them to the power of Austria.

In addition to 20 thousand knights, his army also contained the inhabitants of Zug, Zurich and other Swiss possessions of Austria. The Allies warned him: they entered Zug territory. A numerically insignificant detachment of peasants and hunters set up an ambush at Morgarten Heights, over Lake Egeri, from which, with an unexpected attack on the enemy, who entered the narrow valley between the lake and the mountains, turned it into an indiscriminate and disastrous flight for him. This victory raised the value of the Allies and ensured their independence. Three weeks after the battle, the Allies confirmed their alliance with a new treaty concluded in Brunnen (December 9, 1315). The contract was drawn up in German. At the beginning of 1316, Louis of Bavaria, with letters to the three lands, confirmed the free letters of his predecessors. Dependence on the empire was expressed, by virtue of these letters, only in that the emperor appointed one common imperial for all three lands, yet the power it had was completely elusive.

Union 1291 and 1315 was and remained purely and exclusively to the military, who did not constrain the independence of the lands in the least. The independent development of the three original lands went towards democratization. The serfs (Hörige and Leibeigene) of the monasteries in Schwyz and the local seniors in Unterwalden were gradually released as soon as the seignes ceased to have support in external power.

This process ended no earlier than the XVI century. The freedom of the original cantons was constantly threatened, while the city of Lucerne, closely connected with them by Lake Lucerne, was dominated by the Habsburgs, by which it was bought in 1291. Just by that time, the connection with Lucerne from other forest cantons became especially close: they remained purely rural, while in Lucerne, as in many other cities in Switzerland (especially in Zurich and Basel), the wool and linen industry (in Zurich — also silk) originated and developed.

In 1332, Lucerne entered into an eternal alliance with the three already allied lands, and in this way the Union embraced all the lands around Lake Eirich. Austria did not want to come to terms with this, but the war of 1336 did not lead to anything. In 1343, supporters of Austria in Lucerne plotted, but it was discovered and the conspirators executed. In 1346, Charles IV, elected by Emperor, a rival of Louis of Bavaria, restored all the rights of the Habsburgs in Swabia (which included Switzerland), declaring the letters of his predecessors null and void. But this restoration was purely on paper. In 1351, the imperial city of Zurich, in view of the war with Austria that was coming, entered into an “eternal union” with the three original cantons, and uttered separate rights to itself. In the war that followed, the Allies conquered the Austrian possessions of Glarus and Zug, but preferred to gain their support by taking them into their alliance on equal footing (1352).

In 1353, the imperial city of Bern, which already in 1339, with the help of the allied cantons, defeated the troops of the hostile coalition in the battle of Lauppen, relying on the Habsburg, concluded an alliance with Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden (but not with Zurich and not with Lucerne). By the Regensburg Peace of 1355, which ended the war with Austria, the Allies had to abandon Zug and Glarus, but defended the independence of the rest of the land, although with some obligations towards the Habsburgs (for example, Zurich did not have to give its citizenship to Austrian nationals and not had to enter into any alliances without the approval of the Duke of Austria). In 1364, the Forest cantons attacked Zug, conquered it and re-joined it in their union. In 1370, six lands (Forest cantons, Zurich and Zug, without Bern) signed a new agreement. The chapter of the Zurich Cathedral from personal vengeance captured the Lucerne schultheis and his companions, who were returning from the Zurich Fair. They refused to appear before the high court.

The excitement caused by this event among the allies and even among the Zurichs, who saw in this a violation of the world of their fair, made him release the prisoners. The Charter affirmed the duty to maintain peace in the territory of the allied lands, expanded the jurisdiction of secular courts to crimes committed by clergymen, and precisely determined the jurisdiction of crimes committed by residents of one of the allied lands against the inhabitants of the other. It was the first completely civil contract between the allies. At the Constance Diet (1385) some Swiss allied lands (Bern, Zurich, Zug, Lucerne) entered into an agreement with the cities of Swabia (including Basel and Solothurn), in the hope of finding support in them against Austria; but when the war really began, caused by Austria’s desire to expand its holdings in Switzerland, the Swiss were left without help.

Nevertheless, they managed to seize several Austrian cities, including Sempach. Here came the Duke Leopold III; there was a battle in which the Swiss won a second brilliant victory over the Austrian knights (1386), which again consolidated their independence. A few weeks before this battle, the Glorusians launched an uprising against the Austrians, killed their garrison and declared their accession to the Union. Austria, despite the defeat of Zempach, sent a new army against Glarus, but it was defeated at Nefels (near Glarus, 1388). In 1389, the Allies concluded a favorable world for them for seven years with Austria, which was renewed for 20 years in 1394, and 50 years in 1412. Thus, by 1389, the formation of the Union of 8 Old Lands was over, which remained in this form until 1481.

Constant Warfare

The union recognized the supremacy of the empire, but it was almost fictitious and increasingly lost its meaning. So, Zurich in 1400 bought off all taxes as well as the imperial territories, and in 1425 received the right of coinage from the emperor. The same happened in the XII-XV centuries in other cities of Switzerland. Vogts were also no longer appointed to the original cantons. However, the Allies sent their representatives to the German Reichstags until the Burgundian War (1474). The internal relations between the allied lands were and remained until 1798 completely free and voluntary.

During the 15th century, these wars were mostly happy for them, and they expanded their possessions in Switzerland. At the same time, they did not accept the conquered lands into their union, they ruled them precisely as conquered. In 1415, they conquered Aargau from the Habsburgs and divided it: part went to Bern, part to Lucerne, part to Zurich, and some remained in common ownership. In 1452 they liberated Appenzell from the power of the St. Gallen monastery and annexed it to themselves, at the same time conquered St. Gallen, in 1460 – Thurgau; All these lands were recognized as “attributed” (zugewandte) and managed by their owners together, often despotic and self-serving. The same thing happened with the Leventine Valley, in 1440 conquered by the inhabitants of Uri. On another basis, the conversion of Wallis to the “assigned land” took place. In Wallis, the more democratic German (eastern) part of the canton (Upper Wallis) was already almost free from the power of the Savoy graphs at the beginning of the XIV century.

The entire free male population, and sometimes not free or semi-free, could converge on gatherings. In the 15th century, the age limit was established everywhere, and moreover at the age of 14 (it remained in this form until 1798); Up to this age, boys could attend (and were present) at gatherings, but without the right to vote. The same management was developed in Appenzela after its adoption to the Union on equal terms with others (1513); Landamman, appointed first by the allies, was then replaced by an elected one. Close to this, the control system prevailed in Zug, in which the city was ruled by elected Schultheiss; subsequently, the city and the villages merged into one unit, with the general amman and the council, was also elected.

In other cantons, more urban in nature, there was a sharp contrast between the city and the lands subjected to it. In the city itself, there was a struggle between the old patrician clans, the burghers (mainly merchants, bankers) and the lower class of the population — artisans organized into workshops. Looking at the greater or lesser strength of one or another of these classes, power was organized in one way or another: between democratic Zurich and aristocratic Bern, where only representatives of patricians were in the Grand Council.

Both aristocratic and democratic cities equally sought power over the adjacent territory exclusively in self-serving interests, and tried not to give it either self-government or share in the management of the city and the country. Sometimes it was necessary to make concessions to the villagers (Waldman Agreement of 1489 in Zurich), but at the first opportunity they were taken back. Despite this, in the XIV, especially in the XV century, Switzerland was, in general, the most free and most democratic country in the whole world, and with that the country enjoying the greatest wealth and the greatest accomplishment; security and safety of the people and property, the roads were safer from robberies than anywhere else.

The friendly relations between the Swiss Union and Sigismund, the Duke of Tyrol, which began after joining the Union of Thurgau, involved the Union in political relations with powerful neighboring powers. Sigismund and Louis XI, allied with him, King of France, involved Switzerland in the war with Karl the Bold of Burgundy (1474-1477); in this war, the Swiss won several major victories, the loudest of which was under Granson, Murten and Nancy; Karl himself died in the last battle and ended the war.

In 1478, the Allies undertook a campaign against Milan and, with a victory at Jornico, secured for themselves the possession of the Leventinsky Valley that already belonged to them. The Burgundian War was of great importance for Switzerland. Creating for her the glory of invincibility, she forced foreigners to look for mercenaries in her for their troops. At the same time, the war brought to the country ideas of external political power, increased the importance of the military, and indirectly contributed to a decrease in internal security, an increase in the number of robberies and other crimes. She was the main reason why the neighboring lands began to strive for entry into the Swiss Union. The allies did not always willingly meet these aspirations. The old allies of Bern, Freiburg and Solothurn, who took part in the Burgundian war on the side of the Allies, in 1477 made a corresponding request, but it was first rejected, due to the reluctance of the original cantons.

Those wishing a union of land, including Lucerne, concluded a separate agreement with Freiburg and Solothurn, which threatened civil war: the original cantons referred to the treaty of 1332, which did not grant the rights of separate treaties to Lucerne, and the rural areas subject to Lucerne wanted to seize the power. Before the war, however, it did not come. A meeting was convened in Stans, where the conciliatory role was played by Unterwaldan N. Flue; a separate treaty of cities with Freiburg and Solothurn was destroyed, and instead of the old separate treaties (before this time Zurich, Bern and Glarus did not have treaties among themselves and were linked to each other only through the original cantons) a new one, common to all 10 lands, was concluded on equal grounds for all. The conclusion of new separate contracts was not, however, prohibited, and they were concluded in large numbers.


Encyclopedic Dictionary of Brockhaus and Efron

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