The Story of Switzerland HTML version

[Pg ix]
For many reasons, some of which are obvious to the least thoughtful,
the history of Switzerland is peculiarly interesting, and not least so to
English-speaking peoples. In the first place, the "playground of
Europe" is every year visited by large numbers of British and
Americans, some of whom indeed are familiar with almost every
corner of it. Then to the Anglo-Saxon race the grand spectacle of a
handful of freemen nobly struggling for and maintaining their freedom,
often amidst enormous difficulties, and against appalling odds, cannot
but be heart-stirring. To the citizen of the great American republic a
study of the constitution of the little European republic should bring
both interest and profit—a constitution resembling in many points that
of his own country, and yet in many other respects so different. And
few readers, of whatever nationality, can, we think, peruse this story
without a feeling of admiration for a gallant people who have fought
against oppression as the Swiss have fought, who have loved
freedom as they
[Pg x]
have loved it, and who have performed the well-nigh incredible feats
of arms the Switzers have performed. And as Sir Francis O. Adams
and Mr. Cunningham well point out in their recently published work on
the Swiss Confederation, as a study in constitutional history, the
value of the story of the development of the Confederation can hardly
be over-estimated.
Few of the existing accounts of Swiss history which have appeared in
the English language go back beyond the year 1291 a.d., the date of
the earliest Swiss League, and of course Switzerland as a nation
cannot boast of an earlier origin. But surely some account should be
given of the previous history of the men who founded the League. For
a country which has been occupied at different periods by lakemen,
Helvetians, and Romans; where Alamanni, Burgundians, and Franks