chapter  4
4 Pages


Since the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, the political situation in Switzerland had not been stable. There had been hopes that the upper classes might renounce their privileges and establish a more democratic constitution. The brutalities which occurred in the wake of the initial enthusiasm and idealism in France naturally dampened Swiss desires to emulate the French. The Swiss were, however, given little choice in the matter. All opposition to the Revolution having been finally stamped out in France, the French turned to consolidating their new regime abroad by military means. A desire to spread their new political ideas, along with the practical motive of ensuring a free passage for their troops to Italy, led them, in 1798, to attack and defeat the Bernese. The Swiss Confederation (which consisted of some dozen cantons, including Bern) offered no further resistance and the French were left free to replace it by a new federal government. Understandably the new government was viewed with mixed feelings by the population. It abolished many of the abuses which had existed under the old regime, but had to contend with the unpopularity of a government set up by a foreign power.