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privileged classes in Zurich shared the interest of the malcontents on this point. In his Lebenserinnerungen, the patrician historian Meyer von Knonau, born in 1769, writes: “The most important historical event that happened during my childhood was the American revolution. I clearly remember that the American cause, Franklin, Washington, and other men appealed to the sympathy of all and that in my surroundings the action of the British cabinet was severely judged.” 7

These two movements were unsuccessful, but in 1798, under the immediate influence of the French revolution and under the stress of French invasion, the Swiss people abandoned the old forms of government and adopted a democratic constitution. One of the men who took an active part in the ensuing political changes was Jean Jacques Cart, a lawyer from the Pays-deVaud, who became a Swiss senator in 1801. He had lived in Boston and in New York State, both before and after the war of independence, and he assures us in his writings that “the impressions I had there received were not to be erased from my memory. So my love, my passion for liberty. ..."8 Elsewhere he declares that his whole destiny was determined by his stay in the "classical land of liberty,” as he calls the United States.' He further tells us how, in 1798, on hearing what was going on in Switzerland, he left his plow in Ulster County and hastened to Aarau, then the Swiss capital. “There,” he says, “I met the citizen director Ochs and we spoke of Washington, of Hancock, of Adams, of Jefferson, and of the Americanized Genevese Gallatin."10

I could quote many other instances of Swiss-American rela· Das wichtigste historische Ereignis während meiner Kindheit war die Losreissung der nordamerikanischen Kolonieen .. von dem Mutterlande. Noch erinnere ich mich deutlich, dass die nordamerikanische Sache, Franklin, Washington und andere Männer. ... Theilnahme für sich erregten, und dass ich das Verfahren des britischen Cabinetts misbilligen hörte." Ludwig Meyer von Knonau, Lebenserinnerungen, (Frauenfeld, 1883) p. 5.

: "Les impressions reçues alors ne n'effacent jamais. Ainsi mon amour, ma passion de la liberté.” J. J. Cart, De la Suisse avant la révolution et pendant la révolution, (Lausanne, 1802), p. 9.

o "Ces pays classiques de la liberté.” J. J. Cart, Lettres à F. C. Laharpe, Directeur de la République Helvétique, (Lausanne, 1798,) p. 5.

10 Cart, De la Suisse etc. p. 62.

tions of this kind. But the aforementioned may suffice to show that the first democratic movements in modern Switzerland were strongly inspired and influenced by the example of America.

The Swiss Constitution of 1798 was framed after the French model of the year III (1795). Under its provisions the cantons, which had been practically sovereign before 1798, were ruthlessly merged into the "Helvetic Republic, one and indivisible" and administered by federal prefects. It immediately became evident that this constitution was ill-adapted to meet the requirements of a nation which gloried in its local diversities and which had for centuries been accustomed to the practice of local self-government. On the other hand, the need of a strong central power and the advantages of uniform legislation were also widely recognized. The smaller cantons were especially reluctant to abandon their former autonomy and the larger ones were unwilling to submit to the control of a federal government, unless a share of influence, proportional to their population, were therein secured for them.

The problem which thus faced the statesmen in Switzerland at the end of the 18th century, closely resembled that which had been so happily solved in the United States by the elaboration of the Constitution of 1789. No wonder then that voices soon arose urging the adoption of the American system. In 1799 our national historian, Johann von Müller, recommended the organization of a bicameral legislature similar to the American Congress.11 In 1800 the greatest living statesman,

, Napoleon Bonaparte, concurred in this proposal,12 and by 1801 the matter had been so widely discussed 13 that, as an anonymous Swiss senator put it, the United States of America had already become a “stylish example’14 in Switzerland.

11 See his Sämmtliche Werke, (Stuttgart and Tübingen), 1831-1835, vol. xxxii,

p. 65.

12 J. Strickler, Aktensammlung aus der Zeit der Helvetischen Republik, (Berne 18861903), vol. vi, pp. 260, 721.

13 Ed. Haug. Der Briefwechsel der Brüder J. Georg Müller and Joh. von Müller, (Frauenfeld 1893), vol. i, p. 175, 188.

11 See his article entitled Gedanken über den Föderalismus in Helvetien, in the Helvetische Monatschrift, Berne 1801, vol. vi, p. 49.

The political reaction of the Napoleonic and of the Restoration periods, however, interrupted all political progress for nearly fifty years, and so it was only in 1848 that the American "style" was adopted and the American example followed.

Ever since our country has thrived and prospered under what may properly be called the American system of federal government. To quote Mr. Bryce, I will add that our present constitution therefore “bears witness to the soundness of American doctrines." 15

These introductory remarks may suffice to point out the influence the United States exerted on the political destiny of Switzerland. You have lead the way toward free and democratic institutions and we have copied the scheme you devised for conciliating states' rights and national government. That is why I may truly say that, in the field of ideal co-operation for political progress, in which the two sister republics have been engaged for over a century, the younger and somewhat portlier member of the family has done more than her share of the common work.

There is yet a third political gift which the United States has bestowed upon Switzerland. To mention it will bring me back to the subject of direct popular legislation.

In treating this subject I intend: first, to enumerate the different varieties of the initiative and of the referendum in force in Switzerland at the present time; then, to show how they came to be introduced; and finally, to determine if possible their practical results.

Before proceeding, and at the risk of seeming unduly tedious, I shall briefly define the technical terms I shall be obliged to use in the course of this paper.

The popular initiative is the right of the people, under the representative system, to propose legislative measures; the referendum, the right to accept or refuse them.

According to the political area in which these rights are exer

15 James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, 2nd ed. Vol. I, p. 319.

cised, we speak of federal (or national), cantonal, or municipal initiative or referendum.

According to the measures they apply to, we speak of constitutional or legislative initiative or referendum.

We will call the right by which the people may require the legislature to consider a certain matter and submit a bill relating to it to the popular vote, the “indirect” initiative. We will call the right by which the people may require a bill, drafted without the intervention of the legislature to be submitted to the popular vote, the "direct" or "formulative" initiative.

The referendum is termed “compulsory” when it applies to bills which cannot become enforcible laws without having received the popular sanction; it is styled “optional” when it applies to bills which are not submitted to the people, except when a petition of citizens expressly and specifically requires them to be.

In Switzerland there is at present a federal compulsory constitutional referendum, 16 a federal optional legislative referendum, 17 and a federal constitutional initiative, 18 which may be exercised both “indirectly” and “formulatively.”

A bill to introduce the federal legislative initiative has been pending before the Federal Assembly (Congress) ever since 1906, but has not yet been adopted.

In order to stand accepted, any amendment of the federal constitution must be approved by a majority of the voters at a referendum and in a majority of cantons. All federal laws, and all federal resolutions (arrêtés législatifs) which have a general application and which are not of an urgent nature, must be submitted to the people, if, within three months of their acceptance by the Federal Assembly, the demand is made by 30,000 voters or by 8 cantons.

The federal constitution, or any part thereof, must be submitted to the people for amendment if the demand is made by 50,000 voters.

16 Federal Constitution of 1874, art. 123.
17 Ibid., art. 89.
18 Ibid., arts. 120-122.

In studying the initiative and the referendum in the different cantons we must leave out of consideration Uri, Unterwalden, Glarus, and Appenzell, where legislation is still proposed and enacted by the Landsgemeinde or direct mass meeting of the people. In democracies where the representative system has not yet been introduced the initiative and the referendum, which are essentially schemes devised to overcome the disadvantages of that system, are naturally useless and therefore unknown.

In the nineteen other Swiss commonwealths the cantonal compulsory constitutional referendum everywhere prevails.

In all the cantons but one, (Fribourg), the cantonal legislative referendum has been introduced. In nine 19 of them it is compulsory for most important measures, especially those of a fiscal nature, and in nine 20 others it is optional in all cases.21

The cantonal constitutional initiative is in force in all cantons, but in only a small minority 22 can it be exercised formulatively. The cantonal legislative initiative prevails in all but three 23 commonwealths.24

In two cantons 25 the constitution provides that in case of ambiguity the statute law shall be interpreted by popular vote.26

In all the larger Swiss cities the initiative and the referendum, the latter often compulsory in matters of public finance, have been introduced within the last thirty years.?

19 Zurich, Berne, Schwyz, Solothurn, Baselland, Graubünden, Aargau, Thurgau, Valais.

30 Lucerne, Zug, Schaffhausen, Baselstadt, St. Gall, Tessin, Vaud, Neuchatel, Geneva.

21 Theodor Curti, Die Resultate des Schweizerischen Referendums, (2nd ed. Berne 1911), p. 4. In the preparation of this paper a very extensive use has been made of this book as well as of several other works by the same author. Mr. Curti, the foremost Swiss authority on the subject of direct popular legislation, is one to whom all students of present day politics must feel deeply indebted.

:: When the federal government adopted the formulative constitutional initiative, it had been tried only in Zurich, Schaffhausen and Tessin. Cf. Charles Borgeaud, Etablissement et révision des Constitutions (Paris, 1893), pp. 339, 344.

23 Lucerne, Fribourg, Valais.
24 Curti, Die Resultate etc., p. 3.
25 Solothurn and St. Gall.
2. Curti, Die Resultate etc. p. 4.
37 Ibid., pp. 10–16.


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