Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

"Art. 95. The supreme direction and executive authority of the Confederation is exercised by a Federal Council, composed of seven members."

Articles 96 to 104 provide that members of the Federal Council are chosen by the Councils in joint session for a term of three years, and they also choose from the Council a President and Vice-President for one year. Members are disqualified from holding any other office or following any other pursuit. President and Vice-President cannot hold two years in succession. Four members of the Council make a quorum. Members have the right to speak but not to vote in either house.

"Art. 105. A Federal Chancery, at the head of which is placed the Chancellor of the Confederation, conducts the secretary's business for the Federal Assembly and the Federal Council." The Chancellor is chosen by the Assembly for three years.

"Art. 106.

There shall be a Federal Court for the ad

ministration of justice in federal concerns.

"There shall be, moreover, a jury for criminal cases.'

[ocr errors]

"Art. 107. The members and alternates of the Federal Court shall be chosen by the Federal Assembly, which shall take care that all three national languages are represented therein.

"A law shall establish the organization of the Federal Court and of its sections, the number of judges and alternates, their term of office and their salary."

Arts. 108 to 114 relate to the organization, powers and jurisdiction of the court, which extends to all cases in which the Confederation is a party, between cantons and between cantons and persons or corporations, involving the status of persons, and important cases which the parties agree to submit to it, and of political crimes and against officials acting under federal authority and over questions of conflicting jurisdiction and constitutional law.

"Art. 118. The Federal Constitution may at any time be wholly or partially amended."

"Art. 119. Complete Amendment is secured through the forms required for passing federal laws."

"Art 120. When either Council of the Federal Assembly passes a resolution for the complete amendment of the Federal Constitution and the other Council does not agree; or when fifty thousand Swiss voters demand the complete amendment, the question whether the Federal Constitution ought to be amended is, in either case, submitted to a vote of the Swiss people, voting yes or no."

Art. 121. (Amendment of July 7, 1891).

"Partial amendment may take place through the forms of Popular Initiative, or of those required for passing federal laws.

"The Popular Initiative may be used when fifty thousand Swiss voters present a petition for the enactment, the abolition or the alteration of certain articles of the Federal Constitution.

"When several different subjects are proposed for amendment or for enactment in the Federal Constitution by means of the Popular Initiative, each must form the subject of a special petition.

"Petitions may be presented in the form of general suggestions or of finished bills. When a petition is presented in the form of a general suggestion, and the Federal Assembly agrees thereto, it is the duty of that body to elaborate a partial amendment in the sense of the Initiators, and to refer it to the people and the Cantons for acceptance or rejection. If the Federal Assembly does not agree to the petition, then the question of whether there shall be a partial amendment at all must be submitted to the vote of the people, and if the majority of Swiss voters express themselves in the affirmative, the amendment must be taken in hand by the Federal Assembly in the sense of the people.

"When a petition is presented in the form of a finished bill, and the Federal Assembly agrees thereto, the bill must be referred to the people and the Cantons for acceptance or rejection. In case the Federal Assembly does not agree, that body can elaborate a bill of its own, or move to reject the petition, and submit its own bill or motion or rejection to the vote of the people and the Cantons along with the petition."

"Art. 122. A Federal law shall determine more precisely the manner of procedure in popular petitions and in voting for amendments to the Constitution."

"Art. 123. The amended Federal Constitution, or the amended part thereof, shall be in force when it has been adopted by the majority of Swiss citizens who take part in the vote thereon and by a majority of the States.

"In making up a majority of the States the vote of a HalfCanton is counted as half a vote.

"The result of the popular vote in each Canton is considered to be the vote of the State."

In several particulars the development of the governmental system of Switzerland is unique. From the first advent of its Teutonic population there has been a settled distrust of arbitrary power and a disinclination on the part of the democratic communities to submit, for any purpose, to the dictation of a central authority. The cantons have manifested a willingness to combine for defense against Austrian and other rulers, who sought to impose their authority, but after success have preferred to retain freedom from any superior authority. The first real union under a central authority was forced on them by France, but since then the remodelled government is the product of Swiss genius. They have had to deal with people differing in language, ancestry and customs, separated by natural barriers and dwelling under a great variety of conditions. They have had democratic agricultural cantons and oligarchical cities, monastic establishments and Calvinists, cantons claiming proprietary rights over other districts, and a vast complication of petty trade restrictions and vexatious regulations imposed by each district for local advantage, to contend with. The inherent difficulties of establishing a system just and satisfactory to the German, French and Italian elements, to urban and rural communities, have not been less than those presented to statesmen elsewhere. They have also been subjected to external influences, which, to a weaker race, would have been irresistible, but which they with a moral and physical courage never excelled by any people have successfully overcome. Against the intrigues of the great powers they have presented a superior code of

morals and superior devotion to the true interests of their country.

The initiative and referendum, by which the people retain in their own hands at all times power to veto the acts of their representatives, to compel action by them on matters they will not undertake, and to amend even the fundamental law whenever they see fit, is a natural outgrowth of the hereditary distrust of delegated power. The Swiss system is clearly the most democratic, and gives the most unrestricted play to the law of social growth and progress of any ever devised. At the same time the process which is marked out for legislation insures full consideration of the question acted on, and guards against the dangers of popular passions perhaps as well as any known system. These dangers are usually greatly magnified. Unjust systems, by which a few profit and many suffer, are always built behind the protection of the governmental system. There is little occasion for fearing that such systems will be established as a result of a popular vote, but, whenever clearly pointed out, an existing one is likely to be more quickly gotten rid of by the direct action of the people than in any other manner. It is almost axiomatic that the deliberate judgment of the whole people, on any matter of general interest, is more likely to be right than that of a less number, entrusted with powers and privileges distinguishing them from the multitude and viewing the matter from the standpoint of a favored class.

In practice the referendum has operated mainly as a check on the action of the Federal Assembly, a few of the laws passed by it having been rejected by the people, while more than five to one of the enactments of the assembly have been allowed to take effect without any call for submission to a popular vote. The existence of the power in the hands of the people to reject an enactment must act as a wholesome check on the legislature, and the initiative tends to stimulate action demanded by the people.

Another marked superiority of the Swiss system over that of other European states is the absence of a standing army, the greatest curse which the governments of modern Europe impose on their people. Switzerland follows a settled policy

of neutrality in all the wars of other nations, and recognizes the principle of arbitration as of the same value and fulfilling the same mission of peace in the settlement of disputes between nations that the courts perform with reference to the contentions of individuals and bodies of citizens within the state. The ambition of military leaders, inherited feelings of hostility between nations, and ignorance of the blessings which may be derived from friendly intercourse, still produce that most lamentable spectacle of great nations professing civilization and Christianity, groaning under the weight of crushing military establishments, each of which becomes the main reason and excuse for the maintenance of the other.

Bern, the Swiss capital, has also become the seat of the most advanced governmental combination ever yet effected, the international Postal Union, a governmental combination, the sole purpose of which is to facilitate intercommunication between the people of all the nations of the earth. It discharges one of the highest and best functions of government, a useful service through the friendly coöperation of all nations in a surprisingly economical manner. Perhaps Swiss statesmen are not entitled to especial credit for the success of the Union, but the peaceful principles on which the state acts render it the natural home of such a Union. Switzerland, after enduring the evils of the lordship of one canton over the people of another under a claim of property rights, now has no subject territory. Wherever Swiss sovereignty reaches are Swiss citizens with equal political rights. The constitution shows evidences of a desire to reach better adjustment of compensation for labor, to better the situation of those who have less than a fair share of the fruits of industry, but it cannot be said that any principle of property rights in marked advance of those recognized in other countries has been accepted.

Authorities

McCracken: Rise of the Swiss Republic.

Colton: Annals of Switzerland.

Stead and Hug: Switzerland.

Foreign Constitution.

Encyclopaedia Britannica.

« AnteriorContinua »