- historical event: A civil war in Switzerland occurred when the Catholic cantons formed a separate alliance – the so called Sonderbund – to protect their interests against a centralization of power in Switzerland.
On this day a civil war, also known as the Sonderbund War, ended in Switzerland. The whole thing is not well-known in European history, but it is actually very interesting because it is reminiscent of the civil war between North and South in the United States, which began about 14 years later.
A civil war occurred in Switzerland when the Catholic cantons formed a separate alliance – the so-called Sonderbund – to protect their interests against a centralization of power in Switzerland. The Sonderbund was formed by seven Catholic cantons – Schwyz, Uri, Unterwalden, Lucerne, Fribourg, Valais, and Zug. These cantons are significant because Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden had actually created the fundamental core of Switzerland centuries earlier.
In addition to these seven, two other Catholic cantons existed in Switzerland, but they did not join the Sonderbund. Two other cantons remained neutral in the conflict, and all the other cantons – as many as 15 – opposed the Sonderbund, and subsequently attacked it with military force.
The scenario was similar to that of the American Civil War – a federal minority wants to be separated because they do not accept the politics of the majority. The majority then exercises military force to prevent secession (separation). In the Swiss case – the policy that was imposed by most Protestant cantons was greater centralization of power at the expense of the autonomy of the individual cantons. The Catholic cantons would not agree to that, and so the secessionist Sonderbund was formed.
As in the American case – the majority took military victory over the minority. Namely, 15 Protestant cantons attacked the Sonderbund with an army of considerable force, about 100,000 men. In less than a month Catholic Sonderbund was defeated. On this day in 1847 the fighting ended. It was a fortunate circumstance that less than a hundred people died throughout the entire war, while in the American Civil War, the total human losses exceeded the figure of 650,000 dead.