War of the Sonderbund in Switzerland 1847

[ 1847 ]

Protestant Swiss liberals, seeking a revised constitution, stronger central government, freedom of worship, and secular education (expulsion of the Jesuits), tried to impose their views upon the whole Swiss confederation, encountering stiff resistance from Catholic Swiss in the early 1840s. To protect Catholic interests and prevent more federalization, seven Catholic Swiss cantons (Lucern, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Fribourg, Zujg, and Valais) formed a defensive alliance called the Sonderbund("Separatist League") in 1845. When a reformist majority in the Swiss Diet voted through a measure ordering the dissolution of the Sonderbund (1847), the seven Catholic cantons refused, took up arms, and appealed for outside help (in vain). In a brief and almost bloodless civil war (November 2-24, 1847), federal troops under General Guillaume Henri Dufour (1787-1875) defeated the forces of the Sonderbund, which was far outnumbered on the battlefield. The Sonderbund was dissolved, and its former members were compelled to pay the cost of the war. The victors adopted a new constitution (1848) that established a strong Swiss federal government, while perserving the local cantonal goverments.

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