Switzerland Under the Act of Mediation 1803–15

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Map Code: Ax01139

In 1803 Napoleon Bonaparte issued the Act of Mediation, which established the Swiss Confederation. This followed the withdrawal of French troops in 1802 and the Stecklikrieg (civil war), which subsequently broke out, when insurgents fought against the depleted and disillusioned forces of the Helvetic Republic, leading to its collapse. Napoleon’s Act of Mediation, agreed in Paris, restored the 13 members of the old Confederation and added six new cantons, four of which were ‘associates’ and two of which were subject lands controlled by other cantons. Popular assemblies were restored and cantons were given wide-ranging powers. The Confederation guaranteed citizens equal rights and freedom of movement within Switzerland and a Federal Army was created. Each year a Diet was held in one of six leading cities: Bern, Basel, Zürich, Lucerne, Solothurn, Fribourg. The Act of Mediation stabilized the situation in Switzerland and prevented any conflict spreading into Napoleon’s burgeoning Empire. However, the promised rights and freedoms were gradually eroded – in 1810 French troops occupied the Valais to secure the Simplon Pass. With Napoleon’s demise the position of the Swiss Confederation was further jeopardized. At the Congress of Vienna (1815) Swiss neutrality was guaranteed, and the 19 cantons acknowledged in the Act of Mediation were recognized. Valais, Geneva and Neuchâtel became part of Switzerland and Valtellina, Chiavenna and Bormio were detached from the Grisons and reverted to the Italian kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia.

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