Page images


[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

The reactionary policy under Alexander III, 611. The Russification of the pro-
vinces, 613. Foreign policy; the French alliance, 614. The conquest of the Tekke-
Turcomans, 615. Accession of Nicholas II, 617. Kuropatkin on the Russian policy
of expansion, 619. Russia in Manchuria, 621. The war with Japan, 622. Disorders
at home, 625. Mukden, the Sea of Japan, and the Peace of Portsmouth, 625A. Further
attempts at revolution, 625B. Promulgation of a constitution, 625c. The government
regains control, and the first Duma, 625D. The programme of Stolypin and triumph
of autocracy, 625F. The second Duma, 625G. The third Duma, 625H.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][graphic]
[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small]

There is an evil worse than war and that is the debasement of peoples. The wounds of war may be healed, but moral degradation leads nations to the tomb. During the peace that followed the battle of Villmergen up to the time of the French revolution Switzerland suffered more calamities than in all the wars against Burgundy and Austria. For during the eighty years of repose during which the swords of the Winckelrieds, the Fontanas, the Halhwyls, and the Erlachs were tarnishing, the rust of egoism and of pride suceeeded in eating away the tablets on which was engraven the loyal union of the ancient Swiss; and like a corpse the old confederation was rotting away. In vain degenerate sons decorated pompously the corpse of the achievements of their ancestors, that they might conceal the fact that the spirit which animated it aforetime had left it.-ZSCHOKKE.


THE outward peace enjoyed by the confederacy during the eighteenth century (the last of its existence in its primitive form) was contrasted by incessant inward disturbances. The first of these which claims our attention is the conspiracy of Hentzi at Bern. Here, as in most towns of the confederacy, a more and more formal and regular aristocracy had grown up by degrees in the course of centuries. From time immemorial the powers of government had been held by the avoyer and council. For the protection of the burghers against the encroachments of the council, and of that body against the influence of the multitude, an assembly of two hundred of the most respectable burghers was formed, the members of which were annually elected. The most important acts, which imposed duties on every burgher, not only for himself but for his posterity, were often brought before the whole body of citizens, and even country people; the more so as at that time a few villages

[blocks in formation]

[1743-1749 A.D.] constituted the whole domain of Bern. The continual aggrandisement of the state rendered obsolete the fundamental laws of its constitution, which became imperceptibly modified in proportion as political emergencies appeared to require alterations. When the power of Bern was doubled by the conquest of the Vaud, the assembly of the burghers ceased to be thought of. The dignities of the state became hereditary in those families which had once obtained a seat in the great council. It is true that the other burghers remained eligible to public functions; but it was rarely indeed, and generally by means of intermarriages, that a new family raised itself to the rank of the rulers de facto.

The administration of these ruling families was, in general, not devoid of wisdom and equity; and, in fact, the principal subject of complaint was that participation in state affairs had ceased to be open to all. It was, however, precisely this system of aristocratic exclusion which was felt so insupportably by many of those who were subjected to it, that so early as 1710 attempts were made to break it up. These were renewed with increased vigour, in 1743, by six-and-twenty burghers, who combined to petition the council for the revival of a greater equality of rights in favour of the general body of citizens. These adventurous men incurred the censure of the authorities, and were placed under arrest in their houses or banished.

Amongst the exiles was Samuel Hentzi, a man of no ordinary talent and spirit. He had fixed on Neuchâtel as the place of his banishment, the term of which was shortened by the favour of the authorities. On his return, the embarrassed state in which he found his domestic economy, and the ill success of his efforts to obtain a lucrative office, may have mingled with other motives in inducing him to take the lead in a desperate undertaking of a little band of malcontents, who, without money, arms, or even unity of purpose, dreamed of overturning a government strong in its own resources, and sure of support from the whole Helvetic body, and of instituting equality of rights among all burghers, and appointment to all offices by lot. Yet, with all their root-and-branch work, the conspirators had no idea of remedying the real defects of the state, of satisfying the prevalent and increasing discontents of the Vaud, or of procuring an extension of political rights to the whole people: for, in the plan of a constitution annexed to their mediated manifesto, exclusive regard was paid to the burghers at Bern; and the rest of the people would hardly have been bettered by their accession to the dignities which had hitherto been engrossed by the ruling families. The 13th of July, 1749, was fixed for the execution of the plans of the conspirators; but many of their own number had opened their eyes by this time to the utter impossibility of success, produced by the disunion and imprudence of their colleagues - to the passion and cupidity of some, and the atrocious hopes of murder and plunder entertained by others.

No man felt more sensibly the criminal views of his party than the only man of ability and public spirit among them, Hentzi. He would not betray those with whom he had long pursued the same object; but he made an attempt to save himself by flight from further participation in their plans and foreseen destiny. It was too late: a betrayer had already done his work. Hentzi and other leaders of the party were taken and beheaded during the first exasperation of the government. Sentence of death was also pronounced upon some who had made their escape; others were imprisoned or banished, but soon afterwards pardoned. On embarking with her two sons to quit the Helvetic territory, the wife of Hentzi exclaimed, "I would rather see these children sink in the Rhine-stream than they should not one day learn to

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »