Act of Mediation

The Act of Mediation was issued by Napoleon Bonaparte on 19 February 1803 establishing the Swiss Confederation. The act also abolished the previous Helvetic Republic, which had existed since the invasion of Switzerland by French troops in 1798. After the withdrawal of French troops in July 1802, the Republic collapsed (in the Stecklikrieg civil war). The Act of Mediation was Napoleon's attempt at a compromise between the Ancien Régime and a republic. This intermediary stage of Swiss history lasted until the Restoration of 1815.

Acte de Médiation, 1803
Mediationsakte-1803 - CH-BAR - 4034513.pdf
Original in the Swiss federal archives

End of the Helvetic Republic

Following the French invasion of 1798, the decentralized and aristocratic Old Swiss Confederation was replaced with the highly centralized and republican Helvetic Republic. However the changes were too abrupt and sweeping and ignored the strong sense of identity that most Swiss had with their canton or city.[1] Throughout the following four years, French troops were often needed to support the Helvetic Republic against uprisings. The government of the Republic was also divided between the "Unitary" (supporting a single, strong central government) and the "Federalist" (supporting a Federation or self-governing cantons) parties. By 1802 a draft constitution was presented, but was quickly defeated in a popular vote in June 1802. In July Napoleon withdrew French troops from Switzerland, ostensibly to comply with the Treaty of Amiens, but really to show the Swiss that their best hopes lay in appealing to him.[1]

Following the withdrawal of French troops in the summer of 1802, the rural population (which was strongly Federalist) revolted against the Helvetic Republic. In the Canton of Léman, the Bourla-papey revolt broke out against the restoration of feudal land holdings and taxes.[2] While this rebellion was quieted through concessions, the following Stecklikrieg, so called because of the Stäckli or "wooden club" carried by the insurgents, led to the collapse of the Republic. After several hostile clashes with the official forces of the Helvetic Republic, which were lacking both in equipment and motivation (Renggpass at Pilatus on 28 August, artillery attacks on Bern and Zürich during September, and a skirmish at Faoug on 3 October), the central government at first capitulated militarily (on 18 September, retreating from Bern to Lausanne) and then collapsed entirely.[3]

Act of Mediation

With Napoleon acting as a mediator, representatives of the Swiss cantons met in Paris to end the conflict and officially dissolve the Helvetic Republic. When the Act of Mediation was produced on 19 February 1803 it attempted to address the issues that had torn the Republic apart and provide a framework for a new confederation under French influence. Much of the language of the Act was vague and unclear, which allowed the cantons considerable room for interpretation.[4]

In the preamble of the Act of Mediation Napoleon declared that the natural political state of the Swiss was as a Federation[4] and explained his role as a mediator.

The next 19 sections covered the 19 cantons that existed in Switzerland at the time. The original 13 members of the old Confederation were restored and 6 new cantons were added. Two of the new cantons (St Gallen and Graubünden or Grisons) were formerly "associates", while the four others were made up of subject lands (i.e. controlled by other cantons) that had been conquered at different times — Aargau (1415), Thurgau (1460), Ticino (1440, 1500, 1512), and Vaud (1536). Five of the six new cantons – Graubünden was the exception – were given modern representative governments. However, in the 13 original cantons many of the pre-revolutionary institutions remained in place. The landsgemeinden, or popular assemblies, were restored in the democratic cantons, the cantonal governments in other cases being in the hands of a great council (legislative) and the small council (executive). Overall, the powers granted to the state were extremely broad.[4]

Karte Mediation
Cantons as set by the Act of Mediation

The following 40 articles, which were known as the Acte fédéral or Acts of Confederation, defined the duties and powers of the federal government. The responsibilities of the Confederation included: providing equality for all citizens, creation of a Federal Army, the removal of internal trade barriers and international diplomacy. There were to be no privileged classes, burghers or subject lands. Switzerland was mentioned throughout the Act. Every Swiss citizen was now free to move and settle anywhere in the new Confederation.[1] The cantons guaranteed to respect each other's constitutions, borders and independence. The highest body of government was the Tagsatzung or Diet which was held in one of the six vororten (or leading cities, which were: Fribourg, Bern, Solothurn, Basel, Zürich and Lucerne) each year. The Diet was presided over by the Landammann der Schweiz who was the chief magistrate of the vorort in which the Diet met during that year. In the Diet, six cantons which had a population of more than 100,000 (Bern, Zürich, Vaud, St Gallen, Graubünden and Aargau) were given two votes, the others having but one apiece.

Two amendments to the Act, containing 13 and 9 articles, addressed the transition from the failed Republic to the new Confederation. Louis d'Affry, the appointed Landammann der Schweiz during the transition, was given extensive powers until the Diet could meet. Within the cantons, the local governments were run by a seven-member commission until new elections could be held.

The closing statement of the Act declared that Switzerland was an independent land and directed the new government to protect and defend the country.

End of the Act of Mediation

The Act of Mediation was an important political victory for Napoleon. He was able to stop the instability of the Swiss from spreading into his emerging empire or weakening his army. The Act of Mediation created a pro-French buffer state with Austria and the German states. He even added the title Médiateur de la Confédération suisse (Mediator of the Swiss Confederation) to his official titles in 1809.[4]

While the Act of Mediation remained in force until the end of Napoleon's power in 1813 and was an important step in the development of the Swiss Confederation, the rights promised in the Act of Mediation soon began to vanish. In 1806 the principality of Neuchâtel was given to Marshal Berthier. Ticino was occupied by French troops from 1810 to 1813. Also, in 1810 the Valais was occupied and converted into the French department of the Simplon to secure the Simplon Pass. Swiss troops still served in foreign campaigns such as the French invasion of Russia which undermined their long-held neutrality. At home the liberty of moving from one canton to another (though given by the constitution) was, by the Diet in 1805, restricted by requiring ten years' residence, and then not granting political rights in the canton or a right of profiting by the communal property.

As soon as Napoleon's power began to wane (1812-1813), the position of Switzerland became endangered. The Austrians, supported by the reactionary party in Switzerland, and without any real resistance on the part of the Diet, crossed the border on 21 December 1813. On 29 December under pressure from Austria, the Diet abolished the 1803 constitution which had been created by Napoleon in the Act of Mediation.

On 6 April 1814 the so-called Long Diet met to replace the constitution. The Diet remained deadlocked until 12 September when Valais, Neuchâtel and Geneva were raised to full members of the Confederation. This increased the number of cantons to 22. The Diet, however, made little progress until the Congress of Vienna.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Switzerland". Encyclopædia Britannic. 26. 1911. p. 258. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  2. ^ Bourla-Papey in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
  3. ^ Stecklikrieg in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
  4. ^ a b c d Act of Mediation in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
Canton of Aargau

The canton of Aargau (German: Kanton Aargau ; sometimes Latinized as "Argovia"; see also other names) is one of the more northerly cantons of Switzerland. It is situated by the lower course of the Aare, which is why the canton is called Aar-gau (meaning Aare province). It is one of the most densely populated regions of Switzerland.

Canton of Bellinzona

Bellinzona was the name of a canton of the Helvetic Republic, with its capital in Bellinzona.

The canton was founded in 1798 with the slogan Liberi e svizzeri (Italian for Freemen and Swiss) as a means of remaining a part of Switzerland, rather than being annexed to the Cisalpine client republic. The canton was made up of the four Landvogteien of Bellinzona, Blenio, Leventina and Rivera.

The autonomy enjoyed by Bellinzona was quite limited, exposed as the canton was to both external intervention and pressure from the warring parties north of the Alps. Within days of the cantons' founding, the Swiss Grand Council proposed merging Bellinzona with Lugano; in order not to provoke local conflicts, however, the measure was rapidly reversed. Another abortive attempt was made, by the two cantons in question this time, to investigate a union between them in 1801 but, again, no agreement could be reached.

The cantonal government was headed by Giuseppe Antonio Rusca, a representative of the central government, equipped with broad powers; he was replaced by Giacomo Antonio Sacchi in October 1801. To the central government, the canton sent two Senators and eight representatives to the Grand Council.

The new political system was very unpopular with the citizens of the canton; mainly due to the imposition of direct taxation and mandatory military service, as well as the dismantling of political structures of the Old Swiss Confederacy and the anti-clerical measures imposed by Napoleon's revolutionary forces. The struggles in the Republic between the Unitaires and the Federalists caused anti-French unrest to break out in the Leventina — the most northerly part of the canton — in 1799, which led to secessionist moves, with many in the area wanting to join with nearby Uri, then within the Helvetic canton of Waldstätten.

As was the case with Lugano, the canton suffered particularly from the opposing troops — French, Austrian, and Russian — marching through the region, requiring accommodation and requisition of property, causing the two cantons to become increasingly alienated from the rest of Switzerland.

With Napoleon's Act of Mediation abolishing the Helvetic Republic and restoring the sovereignty of the cantons, the merger with Lugano was finally effected, creating the Ticino.

Canton of Fricktal

Fricktal was a canton of the Helvetic Republic from February 1802 to February 1803, consisting of that part of the Breisgau (previously part of Habsburg Further Austria) south of the Rhine ("the Fricktal"). Now, the territories of Fricktal form the districts of Rheinfelden and Laufenburg in the canton of Aargau.

In 1799, a year after the proclamation of the Helvetic Republic, French Revolutionary troops marched into the Fricktal. Thanks to good relations with leading French and Swiss politicians, the brothers Karl and Sebastian Fahrländer from Ettenheim and some colleagues were able to proclaim the creation of an independent canton of Fricktal, relying on the treaties of Campo Formio (1797) and Lunéville (1801) for the legal basis of this proclamation.

A constitution was written in the rectory of Eiken in December 1801; on 20 February 1802 the new canton was finally declared, with Laufenburg as its capital. This impetuous action of the governor Sebastian Fahrländer met with some criticism, however; his opponents met with community representatives in a guesthouse in Frick in September 1802 — the governor was unseated and the capital was relocated to Rheinfelden.

Despite intense diplomatic efforts by the protectors of Fricktal on 19 February 1803 to retain the canton's right of existence, exactly a year after its foundation, Napoleon Bonaparte decreed its merger with the cantons of Aargau and Baden on 19 March (forming the modern-day canton of Aargau), in the Act of Mediation, disestablishing the Helvetic Republic.

Canton of Lugano

Lugano was the name of a canton of the Helvetic Republic from 1798 to 1803, with its capital at Lugano. The canton unified the former Landvogteien of Lugano, Mendrisio, Locarno and Valmaggia.

As with the other cantons of the Helvetic Republic, the autonomy of Lugano was very limited, the republic having been founded by Napoleon in order to further centralise power in Switzerland. The canton was led by a Directory of five members, who appointed a "national préfet", the first of whom was Giacomo Buonvicini.

The canton was riven with dispute between "patriots", supporting the Cisalpine Republic, and traditionalist "aristocrats". The politics of the central government — the seizure of church property, the introduction of direct taxation, mandatory military service, an amnesty favouring Cisalpine patriots and a law regarding municipalities that rejected the secular tradition of communal autonomy — as well as the military occupation by the French Revolutionary Armies, with its associated violence and requisitions, all combined to maintain a level of hostility to the new régime within the local population, which eventually rose up against the régime.

In Lugano, during anti-French protests of 28 April and 29 April 1799, the printer Agnelli's was looted and the abbot Giuseppe Lodovico Maria Vanelli and other Cisalpine patriots were killed; the préfet Francesco Capra, who succeeded Buonvicini earlier that year, fled and power passed to a provisional government sympathetic to the Habsburgs. Similar protests erupted in Mendrisio and Locarno. The arrival of Austro-Russian troops led to further requisition and pillage, leading to further shortages amongst the local population. French occupation was restored in 1800, with further consequences for the Luganese. Commissioner Heinrich Zschokke re-established the authority of the Helvetic Republic on his arrival; a new préfet was appointed, Giuseppe Giovanni Battista Franzoni.

After two abortive attempts to unite Lugano with Bellinzona in the first two years of the 19th century, popular discontent, combined with fiscal pressure and a disastrous economic situation, led to a revolt in Capriasca early in 1802, which led to the autumn pronunciamento of Pian Povrò, named for the location of a district general congress, between Massagno and Breganzona, which declared the independence of Lugano from the Helvetic client republic.

With the Act of Mediation, the following year, political agitation was finally quelled, as were the struggles between unionists and federalists; merger with Bellinzona was at last completed, creating the Ticino, which endures to the present day.

Canton of Léman

Léman was the name of a canton of the Helvetic Republic from 1798 to 1803, corresponding to the territory of modern Vaud. As a former subject territory of Bern, Vaud had been independent for only four months in 1798 as the Lemanic Republic before it was incorporated in the centralist Helvetic Republic. Léman comprised all of the Vaud detached from Bernese occupation, apart from the Avenches and the Payerne which, after 16 October 1802, were annexed by the canton of Fribourg until the Napoleonic Act of Mediation the following year, when they were restored to the newly established and newly sovereign canton of Vaud.

The capital of the canton was Lausanne, with the préfet’s residence, the administrative chamber and the judicial tribunal. The canton was divided into 17 administrative districts, each with a sous-préfet. Léman was also one of the five cantons — purely administrative subdivisions — of the Rhodanic Republic planned in March 1798 by the French general Guillaume Brune.

Canton of Raetia

Raetia was the name of a canton of the Helvetic Republic from 1798 to 1803, corresponding to modern Graubünden and composed of the Free State of the Three Leagues. Until 1799, the canton was administered by the central government of the Helvetic Republic.

The districts of Chiavenna, Valtellina and Bormio, previously dependencies of the Leagues, were never a part of the canton, having permanently been detached from the Leagues after Revolutionary France fomented revolt there, leading them to be annexed to the Cisalpine Republic on October 10, 1797. The districts subsequently joined the Austrian client kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia after the Congress of Vienna and eventually become the Italian province of Sondrio. The town of Campione, an imperial fief into the Landvogtei of Lugano at the same time, joined Lombardy leading to its current position as an Italian enclave within Ticino.

With the Napoleonic Act of Mediation in 1803, the canton was reestablished as Graubünden, finally incorporating the Three Leagues into a decentralized and federal Switzerland.

Cantons of Switzerland

The 26 cantons of Switzerland (German: Kanton, French: canton, Italian: cantone, Romansh: chantun) are the member states of the Swiss Confederation. The nucleus of the Swiss Confederacy in the form of the first three confederate allies used to be referred to as the Waldstätte. Two further major steps in the development of the Swiss cantonal system are referred to by the terms Acht Orte ("Eight Cantons"; between 1353 and 1481) and Dreizehn Orte ("Thirteen Cantons", during 1513–1798); they were important intermediate periods of the Ancient Swiss Confederacy.Each canton, formerly also

Ort (from before 1450), or Stand ("estate", from c. 1550), was a fully sovereign state with its own border controls, army, and currency from at least the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) until the establishment of the Swiss federal state in 1848; with a brief period of centralized government during the Helvetic Republic (1798–1803). With the Napoleonic period of the Helvetic Republic the term Kanton was also fully established in German-speaking region.From 1833, there were 25 cantons, increasing to 26 after the secession of the canton of Jura from Bern in 1979.The areas of the cantons vary from 37 km2 (canton of Basel-Stadt) to 7,105 km2 (canton of Grisons); the populations vary from 16,003 (canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden) to 1,487,969 (canton of Zürich).

Federal Treaty

The Federal Treaty (German: Bundesvertrag, French: Pacte fédéral) was the legal foundation for the new Swiss Confederacy of 1815. It came about after interventions by the great powers of the Sixth Coalition that defeated Napoleon.

The Federal Treaty defined a confederation between 22 independent Cantons. From 1815 until the Swiss Federal Constitution of 1848, it acted as the Restorationist Constitution of Switzerland.

History of Switzerland

Since 1848, the Swiss Confederation has been a federal state of relatively autonomous cantons, some of which have a history of confederacy that goes back more than 700 years, putting them among the world's oldest surviving republics.

The early history of the region is tied to that of Alpine culture. Switzerland was inhabited by Gauls and Raetians, and it came under Roman rule in the 1st century BC. Gallo-Roman culture was amalgamated with Germanic influence during Late Antiquity, with the eastern part of Switzerland becoming Alemannic territory. The area of Switzerland was incorporated in the Frankish Empire in the 6th century. In the high medieval period, the eastern part became part of the Duchy of Swabia within the Holy Roman Empire while the western part was part of Burgundy.

The Old Swiss Confederacy in the late medieval period (the Eight Cantons)

established its independence from the House of Habsburg and the Duchy of Burgundy, and in the Italian Wars gained territory south of the Alps from the Duchy of Milan.

The Swiss Reformation divided the Confederacy and resulted in a drawn-out history of internal strife between the Thirteen Cantons in the Early Modern period.

In the wake of the French Revolution, Switzerland fell to a French invasion in 1798 and was reformed into the Helvetic Republic, a French client state. Napoleon's Act of Mediation in 1803 restored the status of Switzerland as a Confederation, and after the end of the Napoleonic period, the Swiss Confederation underwent a period of turmoil culminating in a brief civil war in 1847 and the creation of a federal constitution in 1848.

The history of Switzerland since 1848 has been largely one of success and prosperity. Industrialisation transformed the traditionally agricultural economy, and Swiss neutrality during the World Wars and the success of the banking industry furthered the ascent of Switzerland to its status as one of the world's most stable economies.

Switzerland signed a free-trade agreement with the European Economic Community in 1972, and has participated in the process of European integration by way of bilateral treaties, but it has notably resisted full accession to the European Union (EU) even though its territory has been surrounded by EU member states since 1995.

History of Thurgau

The Thurgau (Turgowe, Turgovia) was a pagus of the Duchy of Alamannia in the early medieval period.

A County of Thurgau (Landgrafschaft Thurgau) existed from the 13th century until 1798.

Parts of Thurgau were acquired by the Old Swiss Confederacy during the early 15th century, and the entire county passed to the Confederacy as a condominium in 1460.

The county became the Canton of Thurgau within the Helvetic Republic in 1798, and with the Act of Mediation of 1803 a canton of the restored Confederacy.

Philipp Albert Stapfer

Philipp Albert Stapfer (Bern, 23 September 1766 – Paris, 27 March 1840) was a Swiss politician and philosopher.

He was the plenipotentiary envoi of the Helvetic Republic to the French consulate in Paris from 1801 till 1803. ( Act of Mediation )

He married and settled in France, at the Chateau de Talcy (Loir-et-Cher) and in Paris where he became the friend of Maine de Biran -in 1805 at informal gatherings of Cabanis circle at Auteuil. He was also vice-president of the Paris Protestant society.

He is the recipient of Maine de Biran's essay:

"Réponses aux arguments contre l'aperception immédiate d'une liaison causale entre le vouloir primitif et la motion et contre la dérivation d'un principe universel et nécessaire de causalités de cette source." (1818);an important résumé known as: "Réponses à Stapfer"

Restoration and Regeneration in Switzerland

The periods of Restoration and Regeneration in Swiss history last from 1814 to 1847. "Restoration" refers to the period of 1814 to 1830, the restoration of the Ancien Régime (federalism), reverting the changes imposed by Napoleon Bonaparte on the centralist Helvetic Republic from 1798 and the partial reversion to the old system with the Act of Mediation of 1803. "Regeneration" refers to the period of 1830 to 1848, when in the wake of the July Revolution the "restored" Ancien Régime was countered by the liberal movement. In the Protestant cantons, the rural population enforced liberal cantonal constitutions, partly in armed marches on the cities.

This resulted in a conservative backlash in the Catholic cantons in the 1830s, raising the conflict to the point of civil war by 1847.

Schänis Abbey

Schänis Abbey (German: Kloster Schänis) was founded in the 9th century. It was situated in the present town of Schänis in the canton of St. Gallen, Switzerland. It was a house of secular canonesses of the nobility (German: adliges Damenstift) and was dissolved in 1811.

St. Gallen District

St. Gallen District (German: Bezirk St. Gallen) is a former administration unit of the canton of St. Gallen in Switzerland. It included the municipalities of St. Gallen, Wittenbach, Häggenschwil and Muolen.

Under the influence of the French revolution of July 1830, people of the canton of St. Gallen forced a new, more liberal constitution, its third since its installation by Napoleon's (act of mediation) in 1803. A constitution council prepared it, and included, among many other changes, a reformation of the administration by introducing 14 districts.

In a plebiscite in March 1831, it was accepted comfortably, but lacked democratic legitimation as votes of people who did not attend had been added to those of the supporters.

The district system worked well for the following decades, but administration changes steadily eroded the importance of the districts. So, when the canton of St. Gallen got its sixth constitution in 2001 (after 110 years, at that), they were replaced by eight constituencies. Considering, among others, demographics, people's geographical orientation, and efficiency of administration, these new electoral districts include not necessarily the same communities as the 14 former districts. In the former district of St. Gallen (now Wahlkreis St. Gallen), they do but five more municipalities were included: Andwil, Eggersriet, Gaiserwald, Gossau and Waldkirch.


The Stecklikrieg ("War of Sticks") of 1802 resulted in the collapse of the Helvetic Republic, the renewed French occupation of Switzerland and ultimately the Act of Mediation dictated by Napoleon on 19 February 1803. The conflict itself was between insurgents, mostly drawn from the rural population, and the official forces of the Helvetic Republic. The term Stäckli, or "wooden club," from which the conflict draws its name refers to the improvised weaponry of the insurgents.

Switzerland in the Napoleonic era

During the French Revolutionary Wars, the revolutionary armies marched eastward, enveloping Switzerland in their battles against Austria. In 1798, Switzerland was completely overrun by the French and was renamed the Helvetic Republic. The Helvetic Republic encountered severe economic and political problems. In 1798 the country became a battlefield of the Revolutionary Wars, culminating in the Battles of Zürich in 1799.

In 1803 Napoleon's Act of Mediation reestablished a Swiss Confederation that partially restored the sovereignty of the cantons, and the former tributary and allied territories of Aargau, Thurgau, Graubünden, St. Gallen, Vaud and Ticino became cantons with equal rights.

The Congress of Vienna of 1815 fully re-established Swiss independence and the European powers agreed to permanently recognise Swiss neutrality. At this time, the territory of Switzerland was increased for the last time, by the new cantons of Valais, Neuchâtel and Geneva.

The Restoration, the time leading up to the Sonderbundskrieg, was marked with turmoil, and the rural population struggling against the yoke of the urban centres, for example in the Züriputsch of 1839.


The Federal Diet of Switzerland (German: Eidgenössische Tagsatzung, IPA: [ˈtaːkˌzatsʊŋ]; French: Diète fédérale; Italian: Dieta federale) was the legislative and executive council of the Swiss Confederacy which existed in various forms since the beginnings of Swiss independence until the formation of the Swiss federal state in 1848.

The Diet was a meeting of delegates from the individual cantons. Though it was the most wide-reaching political institution of the Old Swiss Confederacy, its power was very limited, as the cantons were essentially sovereign.

While the composition and functions of the Federal Diet had changed and evolved since its founding in the 15th century, it was most notably re-organized during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period. The understanding of the Federal Diet can be broken down into three main periods; before the French invasion in 1798, the period of the French invasion and the Act of Mediation, and from its restructuring by the Federal Treaty (Bundesvertrag) of August 7, 1815 through its dissolution following the civil war in 1848.

Territorial evolution of Switzerland

The territorial evolution of Switzerland occurred primarily with the acquisition of territory by the historical cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy and its close associates. This gradual expansion took place in two phases, the growth from the medieval Founding Cantions to the "Eight Cantons" during 1332–1353, and the expansion to the "Thirteen Cantons" of the Reformation period during 1481–1513.

The Helvetic Republic (formed 1798) as revised in the Act of Mediation (1803) added further territories of former Associates of the Swiss Confederacy, notably those of the Abbey of St. Gall and the Three Leagues. The territories of the Valais, the Swiss Jura and Geneva were added to the "restored" Confederacy following the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

The restored Confederacy remained a union of nominally independent states until the formation of Switzerland as a federal state in 1848. Some territorial disputes remained, and were resolved in the 1850s and 1860s. Since then, the territory of Switzerland has remained fixed (with the exception of minor border corrections) by 1863.

There have since been a number of unsuccessful suggestions for further enlargement. The most realistic of these was the possible accession of Vorarlberg following a referendum held there in 1919, in which 81% of the people of Vorarlberg voted to join Switzerland; but Vorarlberg was instead incorporated into the First Austrian Republic. There was a brief and unsuccessful revival of Alemannic separatism after World War II, and in the later half of the 20th century, there were no serious political scenarios of any further enlargement of Switzerland. Since 2008, similar proposals have once again been discussed, at least as hypotheticals, as expressions of Euroscepticism, reflecting the wish of territories within European Union member states to leave the European Union.

Since there is currently no legal framework governing the admission of new cantons, any enlargement would, as a matter of Swiss law, require an amendment of the Swiss federal constitution and therefore a national popular referendum. A corresponding proposal was submitted by Jurassian representative Dominique Baettig in 2010, but was dropped after Baettig was not re-elected in 2011.


Unterwalden (Latinized as Sylvania, later also Subsylvania as opposed to Supersylvania) is the old name of a forest-canton of the Old Swiss Confederacy in central Switzerland, south of Lake Lucerne, consisting of two valleys or Talschaften, now two separate Swiss cantons (or two half-cantons), Obwalden and Nidwalden.

Unterwalden was one of the three participants in the foundation of the Old Swiss Confederacy, named in the Pact of Brunnen of 1315 with Uri and Schwyz.

The division of Unterwalden into two separate territories, Obwalden and Nidwalden in the early period is less than clear.

Unterwalden figures as communitas hominum Intramontanorum Vallis Inferioris "community of the men between the mountains of the Lower Valley" in the Federal Charter of 1291; this is usually rendered as "the community of the Lower Valley of Unterwalden" in modern translations, and interpreted as Nidwalden or "Unterwalden proper". While Nidwalden and Obwalden may or may not have existed as independent sub-entities of Unterwalden during 1291-1315, there was an internal division between Obwalden and Nidwalden at least from 1350.

The flag of Unterwalden in the 14th and 15th centuries was divided horizontally into equal parts red over white, identical with the flag of Solothurn. After the accession of Solothurn to the Confederacy in 1481, there were two cantons with identical flags, sometimes disambiguated by modifying the design of Solothurn's flag. By 1600, Nidwalden was known as Unterwalden proper or Subsylvania, while Obwalden was known as "Unterwalden ob dem Wald", strictly speaking an oxymoron, as it were Subsylvania super silva. From this time, there are also two separate coats of arms for the two half-cantons, the red-and-white flag for Unterwalden proper or Nidwalden, while Obwalden had a silver key in a red field.

By the 1640s, these two designs were re-combined in a white-and-red key on a red-and-white field (per fess gules and argent, a key paleways with double wards counterchanged) as the coat of arms of the united canton.

In Early Modern Switzerland, Unterwalden counted as a single state in "foreign relations" with the other member states of the Swiss Confederacy, but it consisted of two separate states internally, with separate governments, jurisdictions and separate flags.

Martin Zeiller in 1642 reports Unterwalden as divided in two separate Talschaften the inhabitants of which were derived from separate races, those of Obwalden from the "Romans", those in Nidwalden from the "Cimbri" (viz. Germans).

Unterwalden was restored in the Act of Mediation (1803) with a single constitution, but with two separate capitals, Sarnen and Stans, and two separate cantonal assemblies with equal sovereignty.Unterwalden was a canton of the Restored Swiss Confederacy of 1815, and it was listed as a canton in the constitution of 1848, as Unterwalden (ob und nid dem Wald). The name of Unterwalden has been omitted in the 1999 constitution, with Obwalden und Nidwalden named as two separate cantons.

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