Swiss Confederation has been a federal state since 1848. It has the longest confederal history in the world. No other state has ever embodied the spirit of federal idea as Switzerland for such a long period. It is always considered as a successful federal state by those states, which are interested in federal idea. The federal form of the Swiss Confederation has passed through a lengthy constitutional history to assume a status of inspiration for other states
(2) History Of Development Or Historical Development Of Swiss Constitution
History of development or historical development of Swiss Constitution can be explained in the following words:
(i) Old Confederation
(ii) Constitutional development during French period
(iii) Constitutional development during nineteenth century
(iv) Constitutional development during twentieth century
(i) Old Confederation
It is believed that the old Swiss Confederation was founded in 1291 when the three valley communities joined to struggle against imposition of any external administrative and judicial system. In fourteenth century, more Cantons joined this old confederation. This old confederation was based on alliances or treaties and was not a product of any constitution. Eventually independence of Switzerland and its neutrality
(ii) Constitutional Development during French Period
(a) First Constitution
In 1798, the armies of the French Revolution conquered the Swiss territory. Switzerland was declared the Helvetic Republic, and a constitution eliminated the federal tradition of Switzerland, and established a bicameral parliament, an executive and a supreme court of justice.
(b) Second Constitution
In 1802, a civil war led to the end of the Helvetic Republic. France withdrew its occupying troops from Switzerland. New constitution for Switzerland was made through the French mediation and was enforced. This new constitution was called the Mediation Act. This new constitution restored the Swiss Confederation, gave most of the responsibility to nineteen Cantons, and added six new Cantons to the existing thirteen Cantons.
(iii) Constitutional Development During Nineteenth Century
(a) Congress Of Vienna
In 1815. the Congress of Vienna recognized the perpetual neutrality of Switzerland, added three more Cantons to the Swiss Confederation; the Swiss Confederation consisted of twenty two Cantons, which obtained sovereignty in all matters except foreign affairs.
Around 1830, a liberal renewal movement, the Regeneration, began in Switzerland. It demanded full democratic rights and equality between citizens in cities and the countryside.
(b-ii) Constitutions Of 12 Cantons
Within next one year, twelve Cantons changed their constitutions, established a representative government, abolished aristocratic rule, and instituted freedom of trade and industry.
(b-iii) Civil War Of 1847 & Constitution Of 1848
In 1847, another civil war broke out between the Catholic and Protestant Cantons. The conservative Catholics were defeated, and Switzerland adopted a federal constitution in 1848:
(a) Federal state
(b) Sovereignty for Cantons
(c) Bicameral legislature
(a) Federal State
This Constitution transformed Switzerland into a federal state. Therefore, it is regarded as the basis of foundation of modern Switzerland.
(b) Sovereignty For Cantons
It provided for the sovereignty of Cantons.
(c) Bicameral Legislature
It established bicameral legislature; its lower house was National Council and its upper house was Council of States.
(b-iv) Partial Revision Of Constitution
In 1866 The Constitution of 1848 was partly revised in 1866.
(b-v) Complete Revision Of Constitution
In 1874 The Constitution of 1848 was completely revised in 1874.. This completely revised Constitution introduced referendum at the federal level.
(b-vi) Partial Revision Of Constitution
In 1891 The Constitution of 1848 was again partially revised in 1891. This partially revised Constitution introduced constitutional initiative.
(iv) Constitutional Development During Twentieth Century
(a) Constitutional Changes
The Constitution was revised in 1918 to provide proportional representation in the Swiss National Council.
It was revised in 1921 to provide for mandatory referendum on international treaties.
It was revised in 1949 to provide for the optional referendum procedure.
It was again revised in 1971 to grant the Swiss women right to vote in federal elections and to hold federal office.
(b) Complete Revision Of Federal Constitution
The whole Federal Constitution was revised in 1999, and a new Constitution was enforced in 2000:
(b-i) Bicameral legislature
(b-ii) Plural executive
(b-iii) Liberty & fundamental rights
(b-iv) Direct democracy
(b-i) Bicameral Legislature
It maintained the already established bicameral legislature
(b-ii) Plural Executive
It provided elected plural executive.
(b-iii) Liberty & Fundamental Rights
Bill of Rights was incorporated into it. Consequently, it granted liberty and fundamental rights to the Swiss people.
(b-iv) Direct Democracy
It maintained the concept and principles of direct democracy.
It can be finally stated that the Swiss Constitution has passed through a long constitutional history to assume its present form. It has been drafted, enacted and revised to shape and re-shape the Swiss Confederation on the basis of federalism. establish and re-establish institutions, to introduce direct democracy, representative government and plural executive, and to maintain neutrality of Switzerland among world community.