Napoleon and Switzerland
Napoleon realised that the centralised unitary state in Switzerland, given its linguistic, cultural and religious differences, stood no chance. Therefore, he submitted a draft federal constitution.
From the end of the 18th century, Switzerland was drawn into the French sphere of influence and could not escape the war that was raging in Europe. In 1799, Switzerland became an involuntary battlefield, as Austrian and Russian troops tried to dislodge the French. The presence of large numbers of foreign troops further impoverished the country.
Between 1799 and 1803, there were four coups in the Helvetic Republic. This period also saw several changes made to the division of the cantons and to the constitution. The Helvetic Republic proved to be virtually ungovernable as the parliament was split between federalist and centralist factions. This led to a civil war (Stecklikrieg ), which is why Napoleon intervened as "Mediator of the Helvetic Republic".
In March 1803, the Act of Mediation was passed, which restored the old cantonal system and elevated the former subject territories to full cantonal status. This led to the Confederation being expanded by six cantons in 1803 (Aargau, Graubünden, St. Gallen, Thurgau, Ticino and Vaud).
The new constitution recognised Swiss neutrality, but the Swiss were still obliged to supply troops for the French army. Many Swiss died fighting for France. Their best known exploit was the battle they put up at the river Berezina during Napoleon's retreat from Moscow in 1812. For a whole day, some 1,300 Swiss troops kept off 40,000 Russians while the rest of the army crossed the river on pontoons. Most of the Swiss lost their lives but the French army had been saved from complete destruction.
Switzerland after NapoleonAfter Napoleon's defeat in the Russian campaign (1812), the mood turned against him in Switzerland. This now tended towards the Allies led by Austria, because the Swiss wanted to undermine French influence in Switzerland.
The pre-revolutionary authorities took over again in Switzerland at the end of 1813, and the old cantonal constitutions with their social and political inequalities were restored. Nevertheless, the new cantons were not abolished despite opposition to them from some of their former overlords
Under a new Federal Pact signed in August 1815 the cantons recovered their (almost) complete sovereignty in all matters except foreign affairs.
Valais, Neuchâtel and Geneva joined the Swiss Confederation in 1815. The territory of the bishopric of Basel (Jura) was taken away from France and given mainly to Bern. This was the last significant change to Switzerland's borders up to the present time.
More about Swiss history