The Restoration and Sonderbund War
After Napoleon, Switzerland once more became a confederation in which the cantons again had greater autonomy. However, tensions between the conservatives and progressives steadily increased, culminating in the Sonderbund War.
The Restoration 1815-30Despite the success of the aristocrats and guilds in restoring their old privileges, the system was doomed to failure in the long run.
The restoration of cantonal autonomy was an obstacle to economic development, as each canton once again minted its own money, had its own system of weights and measures, and levied tolls and customs. Doing business between cantons was as complicated as doing it with foreign countries. Development was also hindered by the fact that people were restricted from settling in a canton other than their own.
The liberals objected to the pressure put on Switzerland by the European great powers (France and Austro-Hungary) to preserve the conservative social order
Supporters of change founded numerous societies where people from different cantons could get to know each other and cement an awareness of shared Swiss identity.
Regeneration 1830-48The 1830 July Revolution which dethroned the French King Charles X, sparked the Regeneration movement in Switzerland. Many of the cantons established representative governments and instituted freedom of the press, and of trade and industry.
But despite the growing acceptance of progressive ideas, attempts to revise or abolish the 1815 pact were thwarted by the opposition of the conservative cantons and the European powers. The pact was part of the European treaty system and therefore any alteration to it had to be agreed to by all the signatories.
The Sonderbund AllianceProgressives and conservatives grew further apart during the 1840s. Their differences came to focus on the role and power of the Catholic Church, and in particular of the Jesuits.
In 1844, Lucerne aroused consternation among progressives in many parts of the country by inviting the Jesuits to take over the administration of secondary education. Although the move was constitutionally legal, radicals considered that this gave the pope too much influence, and some even tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the Lucerne government by force.
In response, seven conservative cantons - Schwyz, Uri, Unterwalden, Lucerne, Zug, Fribourg, Valais - formed the so-called Sonderbund ("separate league"), to protect their rights against the progressives/liberals. To further strengthen the Sonderbund, they also turned to foreign powers to support them. When this became known in 1845, the liberals demanded its dissolution. But it was only in 1847 that there were enough cantons with liberal governments to tip the voting in the Diet. The Diet then declared the Sonderbund to be a violation of the constitution.
The Sonderbund WarThe Sonderbund was ended in November 1847 after an almost bloodless war. The federal troops (led by General Dufour) were keen to end the conflict before the European powers could intervene. The decisive battle took place in Lucerne. After the federal victory there, the other Sonderbund members surrendered.
The victory of the liberals did not please the conservative regimes of France, Austria and Prussia. They warned Switzerland against amending the constitution. But since a wave of revolution swept through all its neighbours at the beginning of 1848 they did not interfere any more in Swiss affairs.
After the defeat of the conservative Catholic cantons, Switzerland was transformed into a modern federal state with cantonal authority restricted by the the Federal Constitution of 1848.
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