War of the peasants of 1653
The Guerre of the peasants of 1653 was a popular revolt in Suisse during the Ancien Mode. The devaluation of the Bernese currency caused tensions which extended initially in the area from the Entlebuch and of the Emmental before being propagated with the cantons of Soleure, Basle and of Argovie.
The population asked so that the taxes be lowered and to the Councils various chief towns cantons addressed. Their requests being déboutées, the peasants formed a coalition and threatened to besiege the cities. After the failure of the negotiations, the peasants were combined by the treaty of Huttwil and constituted the “league of Huttwil”. The movement became more radical by exceeding the initial claims and focusing themselves more only on the tax incentives. The league regarded itself as an independent entity, with the capacity equivalent to that of the authorities, and having a military force and policy which reigned in hand of Master on his territories.
The peasants carried out a seat on the towns of Bern and Lucerne which in their turn negotiated peace (the “peace of Murifeld” of the May 29th 1653) with the leader of the peasants, Niklaus Leuenberger. The country armies beat retirement but the federal Diète sent troops of Zurich to put a term at the rebellion. After the Battle of Wohlenschwil and that of Herzogenbuchsee, the league of Huttwil was gradually dismantled. The last nests of resistant were in the Entlebuch and were éradiqués at the end of June. After their victory, the authorities of the cantons launched punitive measurements and repression was severe. The league of Huttwil and the peace of Murifeld were declared null and not avenues by the council of the town of Bern. A great number of opponents and leaders were captured, tortured then carried out. Leuenberger, betrayed by one as of his, was decapitated and dismembered in Bern the September 6th 1653.
If the military victory of the capacity in place were complete, the conflict had shown at which point the rural population was important in the country. Just after the war, the authorities reflect in place a series of reforms and lowered certain taxes, consequently filling some of the requests of the peasants. In the long run, the war of the peasants limited the presence of an absolutist mode like that met in France during the reign of Louis XIV.
Origin of the conflict
Political situationThe Swiss Confédération at the 17th century consists of 13 largely independent cantons, including/understanding rural areas as of important cities which little by little extended their capacity on the countryside. The cities thus gradually replaced the existing administration, setting up councils which also controlled the rural part of the territory. The council of a city was inter alia in charge of justice and named the Landvögte , equivalent Germanic of the Sheriff S
The urban and rural cantons were equal with respect to the Confederation. Each canton reigned as a Master in his territory, following its own foreign and tax politics. The assembly and the federal Diète did not have reality capacity and was used more to guarantee coordination between the various entities of the Confederation. The reformation which took place at the beginning of the 16th century had led to a denominational division between the cantons: those of the center of Switzerland remained catholic whereas Zurich, Bern, Basle, Schaffhouse and Saint-Gall had converted with the Protestantisme. The diet was often paralyzed by conflicts between the catholic and Protestant factions, whose forces were roughly speaking equivalent.
The territories conquered at the beginning of the 15th century were controlled like Condominium by the cantons. Argovie had been annexed in 1415 with its western part returning to Bern and the other part including/understanding the two condominiums of the Comté of Baden and the Freie Ämter (free districts). The free districts were strongly catholic and the cantons of this confession regarded these territories as belonging to their jurisdiction. Thurgovie, attached in 1460, was also a condominium of the Confederation.
Economic tensionsThe volatile economic conditions following the Guerre Thirty Year old were partly responsible for the country conflict of 1653. The Swiss Confederation had been saved by the series of wars touching Europe and the Swiss peasants had largely benefitted from their exports at high prices. After the Peace of Westphalia, the economy of the south of Germany restarted and Swiss exports declined, implying a fall of the prices. Many Swiss peasants were consequently in a precarious situation.
The Thirty Year old War had also had an impact on the cities: constructions of expensive defenses, increase in the military power, etc a substantial source of revenue for Switzerland is dried up: the France and the Spain did not pay any more the pensions , of the normally versed sums in exchange of mercenaries. The authorities of the cities tried to compensate for this loss by increasing the taxes, by setting up new taxes while striking a less strong currency, the Batzen which were out of copper whereas they were previously out of money. The population thésaurisa the old silver money, not using more but copper for the transactions. In 1623, the cantons of Switzerland power stations went back to strike a stronger currency. Bern, Soleure and Freiburg exchanged the currency coppers some against that out of money according to a fixed rate but this measurement does not slow down the devaluation. At the end of the war, the population was in a situation of economic depression with strong a Inflation combined with high taxes. The financial crisis which follows was at the origin of a series of revolts in several cantons, as with Lucerne of 1629 with 1636, Bern in 1641 or Zurich between 1645 and 1646. The war of 1656 fell under this continuation but reached a level without precedent.
As since the 15th century the policy was with the hand of some influential families which developed an aristocratic and absolutist system, a true breath of dispute gained the rural areas. The rural population was subjected to unilateral decisions which carried reached to their rights and their freedom - favorable conditions with a significant cleavage between the two parts.
Beginning of the rebellionAt the beginning of the month of December 1652, Bern decreased by half the value of its Batzen , the copper currency, so that its facial value corresponds to its intrinsic value. The canton thus hoped to limit inflation, by making it possible to change in the three days the currency coppers against silver or gold currency of it. Few people benefitted from this measurement and the majority of the private individuals of the rural world transfer their fortune to decrease in a drastic way. The other cantons adopted similar measures, devaluating occasion consequently the Bernese currency. This situation had definitely affected the valley lucernoise of the Entlebuch where the Batzen was very widespread. The financial position of the peasants became increasingly precarious. The peasants of the valley, carried out by Hans Emmenegger of Schüpfheim and Christian Schybi of Escholzmatt, sent a delegation to Lucerne to start negotiations, but the city did not even broach subject. The peasants, exceeded by the attitude of the city, organized a general meeting ( Landsgemeinde ) with Heiligkreuz. This gathering, then illegal under the terms of a law prohibiting the Freedom meeting, nevertheless took place after the mass of the February 10th 1653. It was decided there to suspend all the payments of taxes until the authorities of Lucerne reach their requests: lower taxation and abolition of certain taxes like those of the trade of salt, the cattle and the horses
Lucernois, not very inclined to accept the peasants, did not try however in the immediate future to put a term at this insurrection. The rural districts of the canton of Lucerne concluded an alliance with Wolhusen the February 26th 1653. At the beginning of March, the inhabitants of the valley close and Bernese of Emmental joined the country cause and asserted the same requirements, against the canton of Bern this time. The two cantons concerned, Bern and Lucerne, were addressed to other members of the Confederation to intervene. At the same time, the federal diet considered an military intervention. Troops of Schaffhouse and Basle were sent in Argovie but met a wild resistance which pushed them to beat retirement
The March 18th 1653, the catholic cantons of central Switzerland officiating like mediators, proposed in Lucerne a resolution which filled the majority of the requests of the peasants, in particular the tax questions. In Bern, a similar compromise had been proposed by the Protestant delegation of Zurich under the direction of the mayor Johann Heinrich Waser the April 4th 1653. Bernese Emmental and the majority of the districts of the canton of Lucerne accepted these resolutions and their representatives swore fidelity. But the peasants of Entlebuch opposed it because the authorities wanted to also punish the insurrectionists. At a meeting with Signau the April 10th 1653, the delegates of Entlebuch succeeded in convincing their fellow-members of Emmental not to honor their oaths with Bern.
Formation of the league of HuttwilThe negotiations between the authorities and the peasants ceased. While the debate continued with the federal diet on the manner of matter the insurrection, the peasants tried to rejoin other areas with their cause. A country delegation sent to Zurich was persona non grata : the authorities of the city which had already encountered problems of this type between 1645 and 1646, had had a presentiment of the dangers of the rebellion. The April 23rd 1653, the representatives of the rural fringe of Lucerne, Bern, Basle and Soleure met with Sumiswald to conclude an alliance intended to help itself mutually. One week later, they met again in Huttwil where they renewed their pact and elected Niklaus Leuenberger Rüderswil as chief of the insurrection.
The May 14th 1653, the peasants trained an assembly with Huttwil again and formalized their alliance under the name of Ligue of Huttwil by signing an act similar to the federal Pacte. The treaty clearly indicated the status independent of the league as a political entity to the capacity equivalent to that of the cities. The tax revolt was politicized and aimed from now on at being left the yoke of the urban authorities. The peasants legally justified their assemblies and their union while resting on the Agreeing of Stans of 1481.
The peasants were from now on able to ensure the full powerss on the territories in their possession. They refused the jurisdiction imposed by the cities and had their own military force. The league of Huttwil had openly declared its intention to extend to the unit from the rural areas from the Confederation. The majority of the country population supported the rebellion. A small minority was reduced to silence by threats and sometimes violence. The communications with the cities were stopped. The insurrectionists sent even a letter to the ambassador of France with Soleure, to ensure Louis XIV of their good will. The cities continued to negotiate a military support in their sphere of influence: Lucerne had required support for the cantons of central Switzerland, whereas Bern had turned to Zurich. Contrary to the country entities, the cities did not manage to cross the religious obstacles. The Protestant and catholic authorities were in opposition to a point such as the troops were to remain in the territories of their confession
Militarization and battlesThe two parties prepared with a military exit. The cities were to face a dilemma: the majority of their troops was made up militiamans, recruited in the rural areas, these even which had passed in the opposing side. Bern sought support in the Canton of Vaud and in the Bernese Oberland, two areas which were not touched by the rebellion. The armies of Bern and Lucerne were reinforced by other cantons after talks with the federal diet.
The May 18th 1653, the peasants sent an ultimatum to Bern and Lucerne. When the town of Bern answered by the negative one, the peasants walked for city under the orders of Leuenberger and arrived the May 22nd 1653. A second army carried out by Emmenegger besieged Lucerne. The cities, disabled and not having been able to gather men enough, launched out immediately in negotiations. In a few days, several peace agreements were concluded. The May 28th 1653, Leuenberger and the mayor of Bern, Niklaus Dachselhofer, signed the “peace of Murifeld” (of the name of a field located apart from Bern where the peasants had settled). The terms of the agreement which related to Bern included/understood the dissolution of the league of Huttwil in exchange of the tax incentives required by the peasants. Within sight of this result, the town of Lucerne and the peasants are reflected agreement on a truce. The army of Leuenberger ceased the head office of Bern and was withdrawn. This decision was not followed by the civilians of the rural world who refused to dissolve the league of Huttwil.
The May 30th 1653, after a resolution decided with the diet and following old requests for Bern, Zurich raised an army with men of its own territories (of Thurgovie with Schaffhouse) under the command of Conrad Werdmüller. Its mission was to reduce to nothing any military resistance. Equipped with 8000 men with 800 horses and 18 guns, the quota moved towards Argovie. After three days, the army of Werdmüller controlled the strategic position of Mellingen, thus blocking the Reuss. In the hills close to the villages of Wohlenschwil and Othmarsingen, a country army of 24000 men carried out by Leuenberger and Schybi, had organized itself. A delegation tried to negotiate with Werdmüller, showing him the peace treaty concluded in Murifeld. Werdmüller did not know about this treaty which had just been signed, regarding it as invalid. It required that the country forces go without condition. Leuenberger launched the attack the June 3rd 1653 but badly equipped, its army was quickly overcome at the time of the Bataille of Wohlenschwil. The peasants were forced to accept the peace of Mellingen which cancelled the league of Huttwil. The soldiers of the league turned over to the house and an amnesty was promulgated, aiming at the whole of the combatants except for the leaders of the country cause.
The Bernese troops ordered by Sigmund von Erlach were mobilized from Bern in direction of Argovie to join the army inhabitant of Zurich. Taken out of clipper, country resistance crumbled. The troops of Von Erlach, consisted of 6000 men and 19 guns, carried out a punitive forwarding: the villages were plundered and shaved even defenses of the small town of Wiedlisbach which lost its privileges while becoming again a simple village. The June 7th 1653, the Berneses met a regiment of 2000 men of the army of Leuenberger which turned over to Wohlenschwil. The peasants beat retirement with Herzogenbuchsee where they were overcome by Von Erlach. The city was burnt during the battle and Leuenberger escaped. It tried to hide but it was betrayed by a neighbor. The June 9th 1653, Samuel Tribolet, the Landvogt of the district of Bern apprehended it.
The valley of Entlebuch with which the revolt had begin, resisted a little longer. The troops ordered by Schybi in vain tried the June 5th 1653 to seize the bridge of Gisikon which was controlled by the troops lucernoises and those coming from the primitive cantons (of which a part ordered by Sebastian Zwyer of Uri). The following weeks, the troops of Zwyer advanced gradually in the valley until controlling it completely the June 20th 1653. Schybi was captured a few days then imprisoned later with Sursee.
ConsequencesThe authorities decided to severely punish the leaders of the league of Huttwil. Bern finally did not accept the terms of the peace of Mellingen with the amnestie, advancing that the treaty was invalid on its territory. One claimed with the peasants of doors sums to refund the military expenditure. The peace of Murifeld and the league of Huttwil were declared null and not-which occurred by the council of the town of Bern. The rural population was disarmed and a great number of opponents were imprisoned, tortured then finally carried out or off-set. Christian Schybi, after being tortured in Sursee, was carried out in the same city the July 9th 1653.
Niklaus Leuenberger was decapitated then dismembered in Bern the September 6th 1653. Its head was fixed on a gibet with at side one of the four specimens of the pact sealing the league of Huttwil. Repression was wildest in the canton of Bern where 23 death sentences were carried out and where a certain number of peasants were carried out after being last by the martial court of the army of Von Erlach. In comparison, the cantons of Basle and Lucerne respectively carried out seven and eight activists.
In spite of the complete victory, the authorities decided not to punish the population more. The conflict had clearly shown at the cities that they depended closely on their rural subjects. To put a term at the insurrection had been difficult, requiring reinforcements of Uri and Zurich. It is probable that the conflict lasted for ever if the zone of influence of the peasants had extended to the North-East from Switzerland, with in particular the canton of Zurich. The urban capacity was quite conscious of having escaped with a civil war much more consequent and the decisions snuff thereafter reflect this will to avoid a climbing. The cities decided to limit the political power of the rural populations while reaching some of the initial requests relating to the taxation. The economic pressure was decreased and reforms it taxes was committed with an imposition decreasing during second half of the 17th century in Lucerne.
Andreas Suter advances that the war of the peasants of 1653 limited the projection of the Absolutisme in Switzerland and prevented the appearance of a mode similar to that of France after the Fronde. The authorities of the Swiss cantons were from now on to better respect their citizens. The Berneses required of their Landvögte to employ less aggressive methods and to adopt a less authoritative attitude with regard to the rural populations to avoid any conflict. The Landvogt of Trachselwald, Samuel Tribolet who had captured Leuenberger, was congédié then exiled with the beginning of the year 1653. Abraham Stanyan which was ambassador from England to Bern of 1705 with 1713 published in 1714 off a treaty named An account Switzerland in which it describes the laws like particularly tolerant, by explicitly mentioning weak taxation compared to other countries of Europe.
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