The new constitutional structure was modeled on the cantonal model: the executive consisted of seven federal councilors, elected by parliament, as the collegial head of the federal administration in the federal council (no presidential regime); the legislature was in a double parliament (federal assembly), consisting of the chambers of equal rights, the National Council (according to the population) and the Council of States (two representatives per canton, i.e. continuation of the daily statute); the Federal Supreme Court was the highest instance over the cantonal courts. The constitution, the main features of which are still in force today, created civil equality, universal and equal suffrage (for men) and guaranteed basic liberal rights. The constitution was only partially centralized. Only measures, weights, coins, postal and telegraph systems, and customs were directly subordinated to the federal government; from the latter, the federal government procured the necessary finances. The federal government received the legal basis for the creation of a federal army. The sovereignty was divided between the cantons and the federal government. The church, schools, the poor, the police, the tax system, the code of procedure, civil law, criminal law and the law of obligations as well as their own national economy remained within the competence of the cantons.
Creation of the modern federal state
The federal reorganization took place in 1848 – unimpaired from outside – against the background of the March revolutions in Europe, in which Switzerland did not interfere for reasons of neutrality (rejection of a Sardinian-Piedmontese alliance offer in 1848). The federal government continued foreign policy as an armed neutrality policy, which it supported through trade agreements (e.g. with the USA, Great Britain, Belgium and Japan) and through good relations with as many states as possible. The emergence of the Kingdom of Italy and the German Empire (1871) emphasized the small-state character of Switzerland even more, and as a liberal bourgeois republic it was the exception in Europe at that time. Difficulties with their neighbors arose v. a. from refugee policy: From 1848 onwards, Switzerland accepted Italian and German revolutionaries, later anarchists, for whom the liberal climate at some universities also proved to be an attraction; it was traditionally considered the country of asylum, but occasionally had to give in to foreign policy pressure and expel refugees. 1863 stirred H. Dunant launched the Red Cross.
This marked the beginning of a conscious policy of promoting and participating in the emerging international organizations, which increasingly chose Switzerland as the seat of their main offices. According to cheeroutdoor, Switzerland’s integration into a larger network of European units took place in parallel, once through the coin reform of 1850 based on the French coin system (decimally subdivided Swiss francs), through joining the Latin coin federation (1865) and through the introduction of the metric system of measurement (1874).
The relatively calm development of Switzerland’s foreign policy was interrupted by two diplomatic crises. In 1857 after the mediation of Napoleon III. the Prussian king finally to the principality of Neuchâtel, which had already unilaterally declared itself a republic in 1848.
The success in foreign policy was reflected positively in a certain leveling of the differences between the Sonderbunds. On the other hand, the Swiss demand for the annexation of Northern Savoy after the Sardinian-French-Austrian War (1859) was not fulfilled because Napoleon III. Swiss politics undermined with the help of a plebiscite in which the majority of the Francophone population spoke out in favor of joining France.
Domestic politics were dominated by the winners of 1848, the Liberals, with liberal-democratic principles, moderately national, more or less centralized and anti-clerical. As a general popular movement with a broad spectrum of opinions, however, it was often difficult for them to cope with the contradictions between liberal entrepreneurs and conservative peasant and small-scale medium-sized businesses. Conservative opposition groups of various orientations existed in the cantons, whose common principles were federalism, clericalism and a pronounced hostility towards industry. Above all, the seven weakly industrialized Sonderbund cantons developed into the backing of Catholic conservatism (“Politics of the Landammans”).
The Kulturkampf, sparked off by problems similar to those in Germany, took place primarily at the cantonal level (and in the large cities of Geneva, Basel, Bern) and led to divisions between Old Catholics and Rome-oriented Catholics, which have not yet been completely overcome and Protestants. The Catholic cantons of Ticino and Solothurn and the mixed denominations of St. Gallen, Graubünden and Aargau remained shaped for a long time by the confrontation between liberal and conservative Catholicism and denominational opposites. By incorporating stricter anti-clerical articles (especially the prohibition of the construction of new monasteries, tightening of the Jesuit ban of 1848) in the revised constitution of May 29, 1874, it was possible to prevent the conflict from spreading. In the covenant, who broke off diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1873 (until 1920), the denominational differences gradually eased; since 1891 a Federal Council seat was given to the Catholic Conservatives (later CVP). From the 1860s onwards, however, a strong movement within the Liberals supported by the petty bourgeoisie succeeded in expanding the popular participation in political decision-making at the federal level, which had already been achieved in the cantons, and in promoting the social policy that had become necessary.