1848 Chapter 4: Exile in Switzerland
No Revolution: Switzerland as a Modern Federal State
In Switzerland, the transformation from a loose confederation of states to a federal state with a republican constitution takes place almost smoothly. A short civil war precedes the new constitution: In 1847, in a dispute over the separation of church and state, the canton of Lucerne and other Catholic cantons found a protective association, the „Sonderbund“. The „Tagsatzung“, the only central authority in the country, demands the dissolution of this alliance.
When the Sonderbund refuses, the cantons, which are loyal to the Confederation and have a liberal-reform majority, decide to execute it militarily. In the short „Sonderbundkrieg“ led by General Henri Dufour (born in Constance), the conservative cantons are defeated. Prussia and Austria do not intervene in favor of the Sonderbund.
Now the progressive-minded cantons push for state reform: Switzerland receives a modern federal constitution, the country becomes a multilingual nation-state. But the failure of the German revolutions in 1849 also has an impact in Switzerland: Bourgeois forces gain the upper hand. The country now has to secure its neutral position „far from extremes“ and enjoy the „fruits of peace and labor.“ Rebellious democrats and leftist labor leaders are quickly expelled.
Henri Dufour: General and Co-founder of the Red Cross
Guillaume Henri Dufour is born in Constance in 1787. His parents, father Bénédict Dufour and mother Pernette Valentin, are from Geneva. When Henri is two years old, the family return to Switzerland. From 1815, Henri Dufour, who had been educated in France, serves in the Swiss army. He becomes commander of the new military school in Thun in 1819. As chief cartographer of the army, he leads the first topographical survey of Switzerland. To this day, the „Dufour Map“ remains the standard of Swiss cartography.
In October 1847, the „Tagsatzung“ (government) elects him as general in the conflict with the Sonderbund. In a campaign against the breakaway cantons that lasts only four weeks, Dufour’s troops are victorious. He wisely avoids the humiliation of the defeated, thus enabling the reconciliation of the cantons. In the new federal state, he stands up for Switzerland’s neutrality as a deputy. Dufour is one of the co-founders of the International Red Cross, of which he becomes the first president. He dies at the age of 78 in Les Eaux-Vives.
Friedrich Frey-Herosé: A Federal Councillor from Lindau
After the Swiss Federal Constitution came into force in 1848, the National Council elected the seven-member government, the Federal Council, for the first time. The ministry of economics was taken over by Friedrich Frey- Herosé, a 47-year-old chemical and cotton manufacturer, chief of staff under Henri Dufour and member of the Aargau cantonal government.
The politician grew up in Lindau as the son of the factory owner Daniel Frey and his wife Anna Elisabeth Sulzer. It was not until the family moved to Aarau that the Freys acquired Swiss citizenship. Friedrich married the Swiss manufacturer’s daughter Henriette Herosé in 1824. Her family also ran a textile factory in Constance.
Frey is a liberal, his concern are political trade agreements, which he concludes from 1848 with Baden, Bavaria, Sardinia-Piedmont, as well as with France and Japan. He even learns Japanese to better understand the culture. Several times he serves as Swiss foreign minister. Privately, he is a passionate ornithologist. Today, his collection belongs to the Naturama Nature Museum in Aarau. Frey-Herosé died in Bern in 1873.
Fridolin Anderwert: First Thurgau Federal Councillor
Born in 1828, the son of Thurgau councillor Johann Ludwig Anderwert grows up in Tägerwilen and attends grammar school in Constance and Frauenfeld. Fridolin studied law in Heidelberg and Berlin. In 1851 he opens a law office in Frauenfeld.
He is elected into the cantonal parliament, where he fights for the popular election of the government and against the accumulation of offices among politicians. In the incipient „Kulturkampf“ about the influence of the Catholic Church on the school system, Anderwert takes a radical liberal stance, pursuing a strict separation of church and state.
The pugnacious jurist also became a member of the National Council in 1863. In 1875 he was elected to the Federal Council and took over the Justice and Police Department. Opponents regarded him as a „socialist devourer“. When he is elected Federal President in 1880, his political opponents claim that the eternal bachelor is a regular guest in brothels in Bern. Anderwert is deeply affected, and is gripped by a severe depression. On Christmas Day 1880, he shoots himself on the Kleine Schanze in Bern. „They want a victim, they shall have it,“ reads his suicide note.
Switzerland as a Country of Refuge: Exile for Southern German Republicans
After the uprisings, 10,000 “Freischärler” flee to Switzerland. Swiss arms manufacturers previously supplied rifles and ammunition to the revolutionaries. The major European powers react with undisguised threats, Prussian troops post themselves in Büsingen: Cantonal asylum laws are to be tightened, political refugees extradited. But the majority of the cantons stand to protect persecuted democrats.
With the swelling influx of refugees in 1849, fears of „alienation“ increase. Bourgeois newspapers now speak of „refugee riffraff“ and warn of a „communist influx“ that could radicalize the workforce. In the border cantons of St. Gallen, Appenzell, Thurgau and Zurich, energetic aid committees are formed to provide clothing and work for the nearly 3,000 destitute refugees.
With the introduction of the Swiss franc and the expansion of the railroad, the Swiss economy takes an unimagined upswing, starting in 1850. Political agitation by German refugees disrupts the reorganization of Switzerland. Increasingly, exiles are urged to leave the country. Hundreds find a new home in the United States.
Liebenfels Castle: Adolf Ludwig Follen grants Asylum
Liebenfels Castle stands high above Mammern. Here, after the revolution, persecuted democrats and rebels find a first asylum with Adolf Ludwig Follen and his wife. Once a volunteer in the Napoleonic wars of liberation in 1814, the poet and lawyer Follen released the songbook of the German fraternity „Freye Stimmen frischer Jugend“ (Free Voices of Fresh Youth) in 1818 and published „Grundzüge für eine künftige Reichsverfassung“ (Outlines for a Future Imperial Constitution).
Persecuted for this by the German Confederation as a traitor, he flees to Switzerland, where he works as a teacher until he marries Susanne Ritzmann, the daughter of a wealthy factory owner, in Zurich. Ferdinand Freiligrath, Hoffmann von Fallersleben and other political persecutees are guests of the Follens. The poet also supports the young Gottfried Keller.
With his wife’s money, Follen buys Liebenfels Castle in 1847, where he starts a silkworm farm. German refugees work there, which gives them a longer residence permit. But the company goes bankrupt in 1854. The castle is sold. The couple moves to Bern impoverished, where Adolf Ludwig Follen dies in 1855.