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Title: Direct Legislation by the Citizenship through the Initiative and Referendum
Author: Sullivan, James William, 1848-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  AS TO THIS BOOK                                    i.






       *       *       *       *       *

[_Copyright, 1892, by J.W. Sullivan._]

       *       *       *       *       *



This is the second in a series of sociological works, each a small
volume, I have in course of publication. The first, "A Concept of
Political Justice," gave in outline the major positions which seem to me
logically to accord in practical life with the political principle of
equal freedom. In the present work, certain of the positions taken in
the first are amplified. In each of the volumes to come, which will be
issued as I find time to complete them, similar amplification in the
case of other positions will be made. Naturally, the order of
publication of the proposed works may be influenced by the general trend
in the discussion of public questions.

The small-book plan I have adopted for several reasons. One is, that the
writer who embodies his thought on any large subject in a single weighty
volume commonly finds difficulty in selling the work or having it read;
the price alone restricts its market, and the volume, by its very size,
usually repels the ordinary reader. Another, that the radical world,
which I especially address, is nowadays assailed with so much printed
matter that in it big books have slight show of favor. Another, that the
reader of any volume in the series subsequent to the first may on
reference to the first ascertain the train of connection and entire
scope of the thought I would present. And, finally, that such persons as
have been won to the support of the principles taught may interest
themselves, and perhaps others, in spreading knowledge of these
principles, as developed in the successive works.

On the last-mentioned point, a word. Having during the past decade
closely observed, and in some measure shared in, the discussion of
advanced sociological thought, I maintain with confidence the principles
of equal freedom, not only in their essential truth, but in the leading
applications I have made of them. At least, I may trust that, thus far
in either work, in coming to my more important conclusions, I have not
fallen into error through blind devotion to an "ism" nor halted at
faulty judgment because of limited investigation. I therefore hope to
have others join with me, some to work quite in the lines I follow, and
some to move at least in the direction of those lines.

The present volume I have prepared with care. My attention being
attracted about eight years ago to the direct legislation of
Switzerland, I then set about collecting what notes in regard to that
institution I could glean from periodicals and other publications. But
at that time very little of value had been printed in English. Later, as
exchange editor of a social reform weekly journal, I gathered such facts
bearing on the subject as were passing about in the American newspaper
world, and through the magazine indexes for the past twenty years I
gained access to whatever pertaining to Switzerland had gone on record
in the monthlies and quarterlies; while at the three larger libraries of
New York--the Astor, the Mercantile, and the Columbia College--I found
the principal descriptive and historical works on Switzerland. But from
all these sources only a slender stock of information with regard to the
influence of the Initiative and Referendum on the later political and
economic development of Switzerland was to be obtained. So, when, three
years ago, with inquiry on this point in mind, I spent some months in
Switzerland, about all I had at first on which to base investigations
was a collection of commonplace or beclouded fact from the newspapers, a
few statistics and opinions from an English magazine or two, and some
excerpts from volumes by De Laveleye and Freeman which contained
chapters treating of Swiss institutions. Soon after, as a result of my
observations in the country, I contributed, under the caption
"Republican Switzerland," a series of articles to the New York "Times"
on the Swiss government of today, and, last April, an essay to the
"Chautauquan" magazine on "The Referendum in Switzerland." On the form
outlined in these articles I have constructed the first three chapters
of the present work. The data, however, excepting in a few cases, are
corrected to 1892, and in many respects besides I have profited by the
labors of other men in the same field.

The past two years and a half has seen much writing on Swiss
institutions. Political investigators are awakening to the fact that in
politics and economics the Swiss are doing what has never before been
done in the world. In neighborhood, region, and nation, the entire
citizenship in each case concerned is in details operating the
government. In certain cantons it is done in every detail. Doing this,
the Swiss are moving rapidly in practically grappling with social
problems that elsewhere are hardly more than speculative topics with
scholars and theorists. In other countries, consequently, interested
lookers-on, having from different points of view taken notes of
democratic Switzerland, are, through newspaper, magazine, and book,
describing its unprecedented progress and suggesting to their own
countrymen what in Swiss governmental experience may be found of value
at home. Of the more solid writing of this character, four books may
especially be recommended. I mention them in the order of their

"The Swiss Confederation." By Sir Francis Ottiwell Adams and C.D.
Cunningham. (London: Macmillan & Co.; 1889; 289 pages; $1.75.) Sir
Francis Ottiwell Adams was for some years British Minister at Berne.

"The Federal Government of Switzerland: An Essay on the Constitution."
By Bernard Moses, Ph.D., professor of history and political economy,
University of California. (Pacific Press Publishing Company: Oakland,
Cal.; 1889; 256 pages; $1.25.) This work is largely a comparative study
of constitutions. It is meant chiefly for the use of students of law and
of legal history. It abounds, however, in facts as to Switzerland which
up to the time of its publication were quite inaccessible to American

"State and Federal Government of Switzerland." By John Martin Vincent,
Ph.D., librarian and instructor in the department of history and
politics, Johns Hopkins University. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press;
1891; 247 pages; $1.50.) Professor Vincent had access, at the
university, to the considerable collection of books and papers relating
to Switzerland made by Professor J.C. Bluntschli, an eminent Swiss
historian who died in 1881, and also to a large number of government
publications presented by the Swiss Federal Council to the university

"The Swiss Republic." By Boyd Winchester, late United States Minister at
Berne. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.; 1891; 487 pages; $1.50.)
Mr. Winchester was stationed four years at Berne, and hence had better
opportunity than Professor Vincent or Professor Moses for obtaining a
thorough acquaintance with Switzerland. Much of his book is taken up
with descriptive writing, all good.

Were I asked which of these four works affords the fullest information
as to new Switzerland and new Swiss political methods, I should be
obliged to refer the inquirer to his own needs. Professor Moses's is
best for one applying himself to law and constitutional history.
Professor Vincent's is richest in systematized details and statistics,
especially such as relate to the Referendum and taxation; and in it also
is a bibliography of Swiss politics and history. For the general reader,
desiring description of the country, stirring democratic sentiment, and
an all-round view of the great little republic, Mr. Winchester's is

In expanding and rearranging my "Times" and "Chautauquan" articles, I
have, to some extent, used these books.

Throughout this work, wherever possible, conservatives, rather than
myself, have been made to speak; hence quotations are frequent. The
first drafts of the chapters on Switzerland have been read by Swiss
radicals of different schools, and the final proofsheets have been
revised by a Swiss writer of repute living in New York; therefore
serious error is hardly probable. The one fault I myself have to find
with the work is its baldness of statement, rendered necessary by space
limits. I could, perhaps more easily, have prepared four or five hundred
pages instead of the one hundred and twenty. I leave it rather to the
reader to supply comparison and analysis and the eloquent comment of
which, it seems to me, many of the statements of fact are worthy.


_Democratic versus Representative Government._

There is a radical difference between a democracy and a representative
government. In a democracy, the citizens themselves make the law and
superintend its administration; in a representative government, the
citizens empower legislators and executive officers to make the law and
to carry it out. Under a democracy, sovereignty remains uninterruptedly
with the citizens, or rather a changing majority of the citizens; under
a representative government, sovereignty is surrendered by the citizens,
for stated terms, to officials. In other words, democracy is direct rule
by the majority, while representative government is rule by a succession
of quasi-oligarchies, indirectly and remotely responsible to the

Observe, now, first, the influences that chiefly contribute to make
government in the United States what it is:--

The county, state, and federal governments are not democracies. In form,
they are quasi-oligarchies composed of representatives and executives;
but in fact they are frequently complete oligarchies, composed in part
of unending rings of politicians that directly control the law and the
offices, and in part of the permanent plutocracy, who purchase
legislation through the politicians.

Observe, next, certain strong influences for the better that obtain in a
pure democracy:--

An obvious influence is, in one respect, the same as that which
enriches the plutocrat and prompts the politician to reach for
power--self-interest. When all the members of any body of men find
themselves in equal relation to a profitable end in which they solely
are concerned, they will surely be inclined to assert their joint
independence of other bodies in that respect, and, further, each member
will claim his full share of whatever benefits arise. But, more than
that; something like equality of benefits being achieved, perhaps
through various agencies of force, a second influence will be brought
powerfully to bear on those concerned. It is that of justice. Fair play
to all the members will be generally demanded.

In a pure democracy, therefore, intelligently controlled self-interest
and a consequent sentiment of justice are the sources in which the
highest possible social benefits may be expected to begin.

The reader has now before him the political principle to be here
maintained--pure democracy as distinguished from representative
government. My argument, then, becomes this: To show that, by means of
the one lawmaking method to which pure democracy is restricted,--that of
direct legislation by the citizenship,--the political "ring," "boss,"
and "heeler" may be abolished, the American plutocracy destroyed, and
government simplified and reduced to the limits set by the conscience
of the majority as affected by social necessities. My task involves
proof that direct legislation is possible with large communities.

_Direct Legislation in Switzerland._

Evidence as to the practicability and the effects of direct legislation
is afforded by Switzerland, especially in its history during the past
twenty-five years. To this evidence I turn at once.

There are in Switzerland twenty-two cantons (states), which are
subdivided into 2,706 communes (townships). The commune is the political
as well as territorial unit. Commonly, as nearly as consistent with
cantonal and federal rights, in local affairs the commune governs
itself. Its citizens regard it as their smaller state. It is jealous of
interference by the greater state. It has its own property to look
after. Until the interests of the canton or the Confederation manifestly
replace those of the immediate locality, the commune declines to part
with the administration of its lands, forests, police, roads, schools,
churches, or taxes.

In German Switzerland the adult male inhabitants of the commune meet at
least once annually, usually in the town market place or on a mountain
plain, and carry out their functions as citizens. There they debate
proposed laws, name officers, and discuss affairs of a public nature. On
such occasions, every citizen is a legislator, his voice and vote
influencing the questions at issue. The right of initiating a measure
belongs to each. Decision is ordinarily made by show of hands. In most
cantons the youth becomes a voter at twenty, the legal age for acquiring
a vote in federal affairs, though the range for cantonal matters is from
eighteen to twenty-one.

Similar democratic legislative meetings govern two cantons as cantons
and two other cantons divided into demi-cantons. In the demi-canton of
Outer Appenzell, 13,500 voters are qualified thus to meet and legislate,
and the number actually assembled is sometimes 10,000. But this is the
highest extreme for such an assemblage--a Landsgemeinde (a
land-community)--the lowest for a canton or a demi-canton comprising
about 3,000. One other canton (Schwyz, 50,307 inhabitants) has
Landsgemeinde meetings, there being six, with an average of 2,000 voters
to each. In communal political assemblages, however, there are usually
but a few hundred voters.

The yearly cantonal or demi-cantonal Landsgemeinde takes place on a
Sunday in April or May. While the powers and duties of the body vary
somewhat in different cantons, they usually cover the following
subjects: Partial as well as total revision of the constitution;
enactment of all laws; imposition of direct taxes; incurrence of state
debts and alienation of public domains; the granting of public
privileges; assumption of foreigners into state citizenship;
establishment of new offices and the regulation of salaries; election of
state, executive, and judicial officers.[A]

[Footnote A: J.M. Vincent: "State and Federal Government in

The programme for the meeting is arranged by the officials and published
beforehand, the law in some cantons requiring publication four weeks
before the meeting, and in others but ten days. "To give opportunities
for individuals and authorities to make proposals and offer bills, the
official gazette announces every January that for fourteen days after a
given date petitions may be presented for that purpose. These must be
written, the object plainly stated and accompanied by the reasons. All
such motions are considered by what is called the Triple Council, or
legislature, and are classified as 'expedient' and 'inexpedient.' A
proposal receiving more than ten votes must be placed on the list of
expedient, accompanied by the opinion of the council. The rejected are
placed under a special rubric, familiarly called by the people the
_Beiwagen_. The assembly may reverse the action of the council if it
chooses and take a measure out of the 'extra coach,' but consideration
of it is in that case deferred until the next year. In the larger
assemblies debate is excluded, the vote being simply on rejection or
adoption. In the smaller states the line is not so tightly drawn....
Votes are taken by show of hands, though secret ballot may be had if
demanded, elections of officers following the same rule in this matter
as legislation. Nominations for office, however, need not be sent in by
petition, but may be offered by any one on the spot."[B]

[Footnote B: Vincent.]

_The Initiative and the Referendum._

It will be observed that the basic practical principles of both the
communal meeting and the Landsgemeinde are these two:

(1) That every citizen shall have the right to propose a measure of law
to his fellow-citizens--this principle being known as the Initiative.

(2) That the majority shall actually enact the law by voting the
acceptance or the rejection of the measures proposed. This principle,
when applied in non-Landsgemeinde cantons, through ballotings at polling
places, on measures sent from legislative bodies to the people, is known
as the Referendum.

The Initiative has been practiced in many of the communes and in the
several Landsgemeinde cantons in one form or other from time immemorial.
In the past score of years, however, it has been practiced by petition
in an increasing number of the cantons not having the democratic
assemblage of all the citizens.

The Referendum owes its origin to two sources. One source was in the
vote taken at the communal meeting and the Landsgemeinde. The principle
sometimes extended to cities, Berne, for instance, in the fifty-five
years from 1469 to 1524, taking sixty referendary votings. The other
source was in the vote taken by the ancient cantons on any action by
their delegates to the federal Diet, or congress, these delegates
undertaking no affair except on condition of referring it to the
cantonal councils--_ad referendum_.

The principles of the Initiative and Referendum have of recent years
been extended so as to apply, to a greater or lesser extent, not only to
cantonal affairs in cantons far too large for the Landsgemeinde, but to
certain affairs of the Swiss Confederation, comprising three million
inhabitants. In other words, the Swiss nation today sees clearly, first,
that the democratic system has manifold advantages over the
representative; and, secondly, that no higher degree of political
freedom and justice can be obtained than by granting to the least
practicable minority the legal right to propose a law and to the
majority the right to accept or reject it. In enlarging the field of
these working principles, the Swiss have developed in the political
world a factor which, so far as it is in operation, is creating a
revolution to be compared only with that caused in the industrial world
by the steam engine.

       *       *       *       *       *

The cantonal Initiative exists in fourteen of the twenty-two cantons--in
some of them, however, only in reference to constitutional amendments.
Usually, the proposal of a measure of cantonal law by popular initiative
must be made through petition by from one-twelfth to one-sixteenth of
the voters of the canton. When the petition reaches the cantonal
legislature, the latter body is obliged, within a brief period,
specified by the constitution, to refer the proposal to a cantonal vote.
If the decision of the citizens is then favorable, the measure is law,
and the executive and judicial officials must proceed to carry it into

The cantonal Referendum is in constant practice in all the cantons
except Freiburg, which is governed by a representative legislature. The
extent, however, to which the Referendum is applied varies considerably.
In two cantons it is applicable only to financial measures; in others it
is optional with the people, who sometimes demand it, but oftener do
not; in others it is obligatory in connection with the passage of every
law. More explicitly: In the canton of Vaud a mere pseudo-referendary
right exists, under which the Grand Council (the legislature) may, if it
so decides, propose a reference to the citizens. Valais takes a popular
vote only on such propositions passed by the Grand Council as involve a
one and a half per cent increase in taxation or a total expenditure of
60,000 francs. With increasing confidence in the people, the cantons of
Lucerne, Zug, Bâle City, Schaffhausen, St. Gall, Ticino, Neuchâtel, and
Geneva refer a proposed law, after it has passed the Grand Council, to
the voters when a certain proportion of the citizens, usually one-sixth
to one-fourth, demand it by formal petition. This form is called the
optional Referendum. Employed to its utmost in Zurich, Schwyz, Berne,
Soleure, Bâle Land, Aargau, Thurgau, and the Grisons, in these cantons
the Referendum permits no law to be passed or expenditure beyond a
stipulated sum to be made by the legislature without a vote of the
people. This is known as the obligatory Referendum. Glarus, Uri, the
half cantons of Niwald and Obwald (Unterwald), and those of Outer and
Inner Appenzell, as cantons, or demi-cantons, still practice the
democratic assemblage--the Landsgemeinde.

In the following statistics, the reader may see at a glance the progress
of the Referendum to the present date, with the population of
Switzerland by cantons, and the difficulties presented by differences of
language in the introduction of reforms:--

             | No. inhab.  |                 | Form of Passing | Yr. of
Canton.      | Dec., 1888. | Language.       |     Laws.       | Entry
Zurich       |     337,183 |   German.       |   Oblig. Ref.   |   1351
Berne        |     536,679 |Ger. and French. |        "        |   1353
Lucerne      |     135,360 |   German.       |  Optional Ref.  |   1332
Uri          |      17,249 |Ger. and Italian.|  Landsgemeinde. |   1291
Schwyz       |      50,307 |    German.      |   Oblig. Ref.   |    "
Unterwald    |             |                 |                 |    "
  Obwald     |      15,041 |       "         |  Landsgemeinde. |
  Niwald     |      12,538 |       "         |        "        |
Glarus       |      33,825 |       "         |        "        |   1352
Zug          |      23,029 |       "         |  Optional Ref.  |    "
Freiburg     |     119,155 | French and Ger. |  Legislature.   |   1481
Soleure      |      85,621 |     German.     |   Oblig. Ref.   |    "
Bâle         |             |                 |                 |   1501
  City       |      73,749 |        "        |  Optional Ref.  |
  Country    |      61,941 |        "        |   Oblig. Ref.   |
Schaffhausen |      37,783 |        "        |  Optional Ref.  |    "
Appenzell    |             |                 |                 |   1573
  Outer      |      54,109 |        "        |  Landsgemeinde. |
  Inner      |      12,888 |        "        |        "        |
St. Gall     |     228,160 |        "        |  Optional Ref.  |   1803
Grisons      |      94,810 | Ger.,Ital.,Rom. |   Oblig. Ref.   |    "
Aargau       |     193,580 |     German.     |        "        |    "
Thurgau      |     104,678 |        "        |        "        |    "
Ticino       |     126,751 |    Italian.     |  Optional Ref.  |    "
Vaud         |     247,655 | French and Ger. |        "        |    "
Valais       |     101,985 |        "        |  Finance Ref.   |   1814
Neuchâtel    |     108,153 |     French.     |  Optional Ref.  |    "
Geneva       |     105,509 |        "        |        "        |    "
             |-------------|                 |                 |
             |   2,917,740 |                 |                 |

In round numbers, 2,092,000 of the Swiss people speak German, 637,000
French, 156,000 Italian, and 30,000 Romansch. Of the principal cities,
in 1887, Zurich, with suburbs, had 92,685 inhabitants; Bâle, 73,963;
Geneva, with suburbs, 73,504; Berne, 50,220; Lausanne, 32,954; and five
others from 17,000 to 25,000. Fourteen per cent of the inhabitants
(410,000) live in cities of more than 15,000. The factory workers number
161,000, representing about half a million inhabitants, and the peasant
proprietors nearly 260,000, representing almost two millions. The area
of Switzerland is 15,892 square miles,--slightly in excess of double
that of New Jersey. The population is slightly less than that of Ohio.

_Switzerland--The Youngest of Republics._

It is misleading to suppose, as is often done, that the Switzerland of
today is the republic which has stood for six hundred years. In truth,
it is the youngest of republics. Its chief governmental features,
cantonal and federal, are the work of the present generation. Its unique
executive council, its democratic army organization, its republican
railway management, its federal post-office, its system of taxation, its
two-chambered congress, the very Confederation itself--all were
originated in the constitution of 1848, the first that was anything more
than a federal compact. The federal Referendum began only in 1874. The
federal Initiative has been just adopted (1891.)[C] The form of cantonal
Referendum now practiced was but begun (in St. Gall) in 1830, and forty
years ago only five cantons had any Referendum whatever, and these in
the optional form. It is of very recent years that the movement has
become steady toward the general adoption of the cantonal Referendum. In
1860 but 34 per cent of the Swiss possessed it, 66 per cent delegating
their sovereign rights to representatives. But in 1870 the
referendariship had risen to 71 per cent, only 29 submitting to
lawmaking officials; and today the proportions are more than 90 per cent
to less than 10.

[Footnote C: For constitutional amendments only.]

The thoughtful reader will ask: Why this continual progress toward a
purer democracy? Wherein lie the inducements to this persistent

The answer is this: The masses of the citizens of Switzerland found it
necessary to revolt against their plutocracy and the corrupt politicians
who were exploiting the country through the representative system. For a
peaceful revolution these masses found the means in the working
principles of their communal meetings--the Initiative and
Referendum,--and these principles they are applying throughout the
republic as fast as circumstances admit.[D]

[Footnote D: While the reports of the Secretary of State and "The
History of the Referendum," by Th. Curti, will bear out many of the
statements here made as to how the change from representative to direct
legislation came about, the story as I give it has been written me by
Herr Carl Bürkli, of Zurich, known in his canton as the "Father of the

The great movement for democracy in Europe that culminated in the
uprising of 1848 brought to the front many original men, who discussed
innovations in government from every radical point of view. Among these
thinkers were Martin Rittinghausen, Emile Girardin, and Louis Blanc.
From September, 1850, to December, 1851, the date of the _coup d'état_
of Louis Bonaparte, these reformers discussed, in the "Democratic
pacifique," a weekly newspaper of Paris, the subject of direct
legislation by the citizens. Their essays created a sensation in France,
and more than thirty journals actively supported the proposed
institution, when the _coup d'état_ put an end to free speech. The
articles were reprinted in book form in Brussels, and other works on the
subject were afterward issued by Rittinghausen and his co-worker Victor
Considérant. Among Considérant's works was "Solution, ou gouvernement
direct du peuple," and this and companion works that fell into the hands
of Carl Bürkli convinced the latter and other citizens of Zurich ("an
unknown set of men," says Bürkli) of the practicability of the
democratic methods advocated. The subject was widely agitated and
studied in Switzerland, and the fact that the theory was already to some
extent in practice there (and in ancient times had been much practiced)
led to further experiments, and these, attaining success, to further,
and thus the work has gone on. The cantonal Initiative was almost
unknown outside the Landsgemeinde when it was established in Zurich in
1869. Soon, however, through it and the obligatory Referendum (to use
Herr Bürkli's words): "The plutocratic government and the Grand Council
of Zurich, which had connived with the private banks and railroads, were
pulled down in one great voting swoop. The people had grown tired of
being beheaded by the office-holders after every election." And
politicians and the privileged classes have ever since been going down
before these instruments in the hands of the people. The doctrines of
the French theorists needed but to be engrafted on ancient Swiss custom,
the Frenchmen in fact having drawn upon Swiss experience.

_The Optional and the Obligatory Referendum._

To-day the movement in the Swiss cantons is not only toward the
Referendum, but toward its obligatory form. The practice of the optional
form has revealed defects in it which are inherent.[E]

[Footnote E: The facts relative to the operation of these two forms of
the Referendum have been given me by Monsieur P. Jamin, of Geneva.]

Geneva's management of the optional cantonal Referendum is typical. The
constitution provides that, certain of the laws being excepted from the
Referendum, and a prerequisite of its operation being the presentation
to the Grand Council of a popular petition, the people may sanction or
reject not only the bulk of the laws passed by the Grand Council but
also the decrees issued by the legislative and executive powers. The
exceptions are (1) "measures of urgence" and (2) the items of the annual
budget, save such as establish a new tax, increase one in force, or
necessitate an issue of bonds. The Referendum cannot be exercised
against the budget as a whole, the Grand Council indicating the sections
which are to go to public vote. In case of opposition to any measure, a
petition for the Referendum is put in circulation. To prevent the
measure from becoming law, the petition must receive the legally
attested signatures of at least 3,500 citizens--about one in six of the
cantonal vote--within thirty days after the publication of the proposed
measure. After this period--known as "the first delay"--the referendary
vote, if the petition has been successful, must take place within forty
days--"the second delay."

The power of declaring measures to be "of urgence" lies with the Grand
Council, the body passing the measures. Small wonder, then, that in its
eyes many bills are of too much and too immediate importance to go to
the people. "The habit," protested Grand Councilor M. Putet, on one
occasion, "tends more and more to introduce itself here of decreeing
urgence unnecessarily, thus taking away from the Referendum expenses
which have nothing of urgence. This is contrary to the spirit of the
constitutional law. Public necessity alone can authorize the Grand
Council to take away any of its acts from the public control."

Another defect in the optional Referendum is that it can be transformed
into a partisan weapon--politicians being ready, in Geneva, as in San
Francisco, to take advantage of the law for party purposes. For example,
the representatives of a minority party, seeking a concession from a
majority which has just passed a bill, will threaten, if their demands
are not granted, to agitate for the Referendum on the bill; this, though
the minority itself may favor the measure, some of its members, perhaps,
having voted for it. As the majority may be uncertain of the outcome of
a struggle at the polls, it will probably be inclined to make peace on
the terms dictated by the minority.

But the most serious objections to the optional form arise in connection
with the petitioning. Easy though it be for a rich and strong party to
bear the expense of printing, mailing, and distributing petitions and
circulars, in case of opposition from the poorer classes the cost may
prove an insurmountable obstacle. Especially is it difficult to get up a
petition after several successive appeals coming close together, the
constant agitation growing tiresome as well as financially burdensome.
Hence, measures have sometimes become law simply because the people have
not had time to recover from the prolonged agitation in connection with
preceding propositions. Besides, each measure submitted to the optional
Referendum brings with it two separate waves of popular discussion--one
on the petition and one on the subsequent vote. On this point
ex-President Numa Droz has said: "The agitation which takes place while
collecting the necessary signatures, nearly always attended with strong
feeling, diverts the mind from the object of the law, perverts in
advance public opinion, and, not permitting later the calm discussion of
the measure proposed, establishes an almost irresistible current toward
rejection." Finally, a fact as notorious in Switzerland as vote-buying
in America, a large number of citizens who are hostile to a proposed law
may fear to record an adverse opinion by signing a Referendum list.
Their signatures may be seen and the unveiling of their sentiments
imperil their means of livelihood.

Zurich furnishes the example of the cantons having the obligatory
Referendum. There the law provides: 1. That all laws, decrees, and
changes in the constitution must be submitted to the people. 2. That all
decisions of the Grand Council on existing law must be voted on. 3. That
the Grand Council may submit decisions which it itself proposes to make,
and that, besides the voting on the whole law, the Council may ask a
vote on a special point. The Grand Council cannot put in force
provisionally any law or decree. The propositions must be sent to the
voters at least thirty days before voting. The regular referendary
ballotings take place twice a year, spring and autumn, but in urgent
cases the Grand Council may call for a special election. The law in this
canton assists the lawmakers--the voters--in their task; when a citizen
is casting his own vote he may also deposit that of one or two relatives
and friends, upon presenting their electoral card or a certificate of

In effect, the obligatory Referendum makes of the entire citizenship a
deliberative body in perpetual session--this end being accomplished in
Zurich in the face of every form of opposing argument. Formerly, its
adversaries made much of the fact that it was ever calling the voters to
the urns; but this is now avoided by the semi-annual elections. It was
once feared that party tickets would be voted without regard to the
merits of the various measures submitted; but it has been proved beyond
doubt that the fate of one proposition has no effect whatever on that of
another decided at the same time. Zurich has pronounced on ninety-one
laws in twenty-eight elections, the votes indicating surprising
independence of judgment. When the obligatory form was proposed for
Zurich, its supporters declared it a sure instrument, but that it might
prove a costly one they were not prepared by experiment to deny. Now,
however, they have the data to show that taxes--unfailing reflexes of
public expenditure--are lower than ever, those for police, for example,
being only about half those of optional Geneva, a less populous canton.
To the prophets who foresaw endless partisan strife in case the
Referendum was to be called in force on every measure, Zurich has
replied by reducing partisanship to its feeblest point, the people
indifferent to parties since an honest vote of the whole body of
citizens must be the final issue of every question.

The people of Zurich have proved that the science of politics is simple.
By refusing special legislation, they evade a flood of bills. By deeming
appropriations once revised as in most part necessary, they pay
attention chiefly to new items. By establishing principles in law, they
forbid violations. Thus there remain no profound problems of state, no
abstruse questions as to authorities, no conflict as to what is the law.
Word fresh from the people is law.

_The Federal Referendum._

The Federal Referendum, first established by the constitution of 1874,
is optional. The demand for it must be made by 30,000 citizens or by
eight cantons. The petition for a vote under it must be made within
ninety days after the publication of the proposed law. It is operative
with respect either to a statute as passed by the Federal Assembly
(congress), or a decree of the executive power. Of 149 Federal laws and
decrees subject to the Referendum passed up to the close of 1891 under
the constitution of 1874, twenty-seven were challenged by the necessary
30,000 petitioners, fifteen being rejected and twelve accepted. The
Federal Initiative was established by a vote taken on Sunday, July 5,
1891. It requires 50,000 petitioners, whose proposal must be discussed
by the Federal assembly and then sent within a prescribed delay to the
whole citizenship for a vote. The Initiative is not a petition to the
legislative body; it is a demand made on the entire citizenship.

Where the cantonal Referendum is optional, a successful petition for it
frequently secures a rejection of the law called in question. In 1862
and again in 1878, the canton of Geneva rejected proposed changes in its
constitution, on the latter occasion by a majority of 6,000 in a vote of
11,000. Twice since 1847 the same canton has decided against an increase
of official salaries, and lately it has declined to reduce the number of
its executive councilors from seven to five. The experience of the
Confederation has been similar. Between 1874 and 1880 five measures
recommended by the Federal Executive and passed by the Federal Assembly
were vetoed by a national vote.

_Revision of Constitutions._

Revision of a constitution through the popular vote is common. Since
1814, there have been sixty revisions by the people of cantonal
constitutions alone. Geneva asks its citizens every fifteen years if
they wish to revise their organic law, thus twice in a generation
practically determining whether they are in this respect content. The
Federal constitution may be revised at any time. Fifty thousand voters
petitioning for it, or the Federal Assembly (congress) demanding it, the
question is submitted to the country. If the vote is in the affirmative,
the Council of States (the senate) and the National Council (the house)
are both dissolved. An election of these bodies takes place at once; the
Assembly, fresh from the people, then makes the required revision and
submits the revised constitution to the country. To stand, it must be
supported by a majority of the voters and a majority of the twenty-two


To sum up: In Switzerland, in this generation, direct legislation has in
many respects been established for the federal government, while in so
large a canton as Zurich, with nearly 340,000 inhabitants, it has also
been made applicable to every proposed cantonal law, decree, and
order,--the citizens of that canton themselves disposing by vote of all
questions of taxation, public finance, executive acts, state employment,
corporation grants, public works, and similar operations of government
commonly, even in republican states, left to legislators and other
officials. In every canton having the Initiative and the obligatory
Referendum, all power has been stripped from the officials except that
of a stewardship which is continually and minutely supervised and
controlled by the voters. Moreover, it is possible that yet a few years
and the affairs not only of every canton of Switzerland but of the
Confederation itself will thus be taken in hand at every step.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here, then, is evidence incontrovertible that pure democracy, through
direct legislation by the citizenship, is practicable--more, is now
practiced--in large communities. Next as to its effects, proven and


If it be conceived that the fundamental principles of a free society are
these: That the bond uniting the citizens should be that of contract;
that rights, including those in natural resources, should be equal, and
that each producer should retain the full product of his toil, it must
be conceded on examination that toward this ideal Switzerland has made
further advances than any other country, despite notable points in
exception and the imperfect form of its federal Initiative and
Referendum. Before particulars are entered into, some general
observations on this head may be made.

_The Political Status in Switzerland._

An impressive fact in Swiss politics to-day is its peace. Especially is
this true of the contents and tone of the press. In Italy and Austria,
on the south and east, the newspapers are comparatively few, mostly
feeble, and in general subservient to party or government; in Germany,
on the north, where State Socialism is strong, the radical press is at
times turbulent and the government journals reflect the despotism they
uphold; in France, on the west and southwest, the public writers are
ever busy over the successive unstable central administrations at
Paris, which exercise a bureaucratic direction of every commune in the
land. In all these countries, men rather than measures are the objects
of discussion, an immediate important campaign question inevitably being
whether, when once in office, candidates may make good their
ante-election promises. Thus, on all sides, over the border from
Switzerland, political turmoil, with its rancor, personalities, false
reports, hatreds, and corruptions, is endless. But in Switzerland,
debate uniformly bears not on men but on measures. The reasons are
plain. Where the veto is possessed by the people, in vain may rogues go
to the legislature. With few or no party spoils, attention to public
business, and not to patronage or private privilege, is profitable to
office holders as well as to the political press.

In the number of newspapers proportionate to population, Switzerland
stands with the United States at the head of the statistical list for
the world. In their general character, Swiss political journals are
higher than American. They are little tempted to knife reputations, to
start false campaign issues, to inflame partisan feeling; for every
prospective cantonal measure undergoes sober popular discussion the year
round, with the certain vote of the citizenship in view in the cantons
having the Landsgemeinde or the obligatory Referendum, and a possible
vote in most of the other cantons, while federal measures also may be
met with the federal optional Referendum.

The purity and peacefulness of Swiss press and politics are due to the
national development of today as expressed in appropriate institutions.
Of these institutions the most effective, the fundamental, is direct
legislation, accompanied as it is with general education. In education
the Swiss are preëminent among nations. Illiteracy is at a lower
percentage than in any other country; primary instruction is free and
compulsory in all the cantons; and that the higher education is general
is shown in the four universities, employing three hundred instructors.

An enlightened people, employing the ballot freely, directly, and in
consequence effectively--this is the true sovereign governing power in
Switzerland. As to what, in general terms, have been the effects of this
power on the public welfare, as to how the Swiss themselves feel toward
their government, and as to what are the opinions of foreign observers
on the recent changes through the Initiative and Referendum, some
testimony may at this point be offered.

In the present year, Mr. W.D. McCrackan has published in the "Arena" of
Boston his observations of Swiss politics. He found, he says, the
effects of the Referendum to be admirable. Jobbery and extravagance are
unknown, and politics, as there is no money in it, has ceased to be a
trade. The men elected to office are taken from the ranks of the
citizens, and are chosen because of their fitness for the work. The
people take an intelligent interest in every kind of local and federal
legislation, and have a full sense of their political responsibility.
The mass of useless or evil laws which legislatures in other countries
are constantly passing with little consideration, and which have
constantly to be repealed, are in Switzerland not passed at all.

In a study of the direct legislation of Switzerland, the "Westminster
Review," February, 1888, passed this opinion: "The bulk of the people
move more slowly than their representatives, are more cautious in
adopting new and trying legislative experiments, and have a tendency to
reject propositions submitted to them for the first time." Further: "The
issue which is presented to the sovereign people is invariably and
necessarily reduced to its simplest expression, and so placed before
them as to be capable of an affirmative or negative answer. In practice,
therefore, the discussion of details is left to the representative
assemblies, while the people express approval or disapproval of the
general principle or policy embraced in the proposed measure. Public
attention being confined to the issue, leaders are nothing. The
collective wisdom judges of merits."

A.V. Dicey, the critic of constitutions, writes in the "Nation," October
8, 1885: "The Referendum must be considered, on the whole, a
conservative arrangement. It tends at once to hinder rapid change and
also to get rid of that inflexibility or immutability which, in the eyes
of Englishmen at least, is a defect in the constitution of the United

A Swiss radical has written me as follows: "The development given to
education during the last quarter of a century will have without doubt
as a consequence an improved judgment on the part of a large number of
electors. The press also has a rôle more preponderant than formerly.
Everybody reads. Certainly the ruling classes profit largely by the
power of the printing press, but with the electors who have received
some instruction the capitalist newspapers are taken with due allowance
for their sincerity. Their opinion is not accepted without inquiry. We
see a rapid development of ideas, if not completely new, at least
renewed and more widespread. More or less radical reviews and
periodicals, in large number, are not without influence, and their
appearance proves that great changes are imminent."

Professor Dicey has contrasted the Referendum with the _plébiscite_:
"The Referendum looks at first sight like a French _plébiscite_, but no
two institutions can be marked by more essential differences. The
_plébiscite_ is a revolutionary or at least abnormal proceeding. It is
not preceded by debate. The form and nature of the questions to be
submitted to the nation are chosen and settled by the men in power, and
Frenchmen are asked whether they will or will not accept a given policy.
Rarely, indeed, when it has been taken, has the voting itself been full
or fair. Deliberation and discussion are the requisite conditions for
rational decision. Where effective opposition is an impossibility,
nominal assent is an unmeaning compliment. These essential
characteristics, the lack of which deprives a French _plébiscite_, of
all moral significance, are the undoubted properties of the Swiss

In the "Revue des Deux Mondes," Paris, August, 1891, Louis Wuarin, an
interested observer of Swiss politics for many years, writes: "A people
may indicate its will, not from a distance, but near at hand, always
superintending the work of its agents, watching them, stopping them if
there is reason for so doing, constraining them, in a word, to carry out
the people's will in both legislative and administrative affairs. In
this form of government the representative system is reduced to a
minimum. The deliberative bodies resemble simple committees charged with
preparing work for an elected assembly, and here the elected assembly is
replaced by the people. This sovereign action in person in the
transaction of public business may extend more or less widely; it may be
limited to the State, or it may be extended to the province also, and
even to the town. To whatever extent this supervision of the people may
go, one thing may certainly be expected, which is that the supervision
will become closer and closer as time goes on. It never has been known
that citizens gave up willingly and deliberately rights acquired, and
the natural tendency of citizens is to increase their privileges.
Switzerland is an example of this type of democratic government....
There is some reason for regarding parliamentary government--at least
under its classic and orthodox form of rivalry between two parties, who
watch each other closely, in order to profit by the faults of their
adversaries, who dispute with each other for power without the
interests of the country, in the ardor of the encounter, being always
considered--as a transitory form in the evolution of democracy."

The spirit of the Swiss law and its relation to the liberty of the
individual are shown in passages of the cantonal and federal
constitutions. That of Uri declares: "Whatever the Landsgemeinde, within
the limits of its competence, ordains, is law of the land, and as such
shall be obeyed," but: "The guiding principle of the Landsgemeinde shall
be justice and the welfare of the fatherland, not willfulness nor the
power of the strongest." That of Zurich: "The people exercise the
lawmaking power, with the assistance of the state legislature." That of
the Confederation: "All the Swiss people are equal before the law. There
are in Switzerland no subjects, nor privileges of place, birth, persons,
or families."

In these general notes and quotations is sketched in broad lines the
political environment of the Swiss citizen of to-day. The social mind
with which he stands in contact is politically developed, is bent on
justice, is accustomed to look for safe results from the people's laws,
is at present more than ever inclined to trust direct legislation, and,
on the whole, is in a state of calmness, soberness, tolerance, and
political self-discipline.

The machinery of public stewardship, subject to popular guidance, may
now be traced, beginning with the most simple form.

_Organization of the Commune._

The common necessities of a Swiss neighborhood, such as establishing and
maintaining local roads, police, and schools, and administering its
common wealth, bring its citizens together in democratic assemblages.
These are of different forms.

One form of such assemblage, the basis of the superstructure of
government, is the political communal meeting. "In it take place the
elections, federal, state, and local; it is the local unit of state
government and the residuary legatee of all powers not granted to other
authorities. Its procedure is ample and highly democratic. It meets
either at the call of an executive council of its own election, or in
pursuance of adjournment, and, as a rule, on a Sunday or holiday. Its
presiding officer is sometimes the _maire_, sometimes a special
chairman. Care is taken that only voters shall sit in the body of the
assembly, it being a rule in Zurich that the register of citizens shall
lie on the desk for inspection. Tellers are appointed by vote and must
be persons who do not belong to the village council, since that is the
local cabinet which proposes measures for consideration. Any member of
the assembly may offer motions or amendments, but usually they are
brought forward by the town council, or at least referred to that body
before being voted upon."[F] The officials of the commune chosen in the
communal meeting, are one chief executive (who in French communes
usually has two assistants), a communal council, which legislates on
the lesser matters coming up between communal meetings, and such minor
officials as are not left to the choice of the council.

[Footnote F: Vincent.]

A second form of neighborhood assemblage is one composed only of those
citizens who have rights in the communal corporate domains and funds,
these rights being either inherited or acquired (sometimes by purchase)
after a term of purely political citizenship.

A third form is the parish meeting, at which gather the members of the
same faith in the commune, or of even a smaller church district. The
Protestant, the Catholic, and the Jewish are recognized as State
religions--the Protestant alone in some cantons, the Catholic in others,
both in several, and both with the Jewish in others.

A fourth form of local assembly is that of the school district, usually
a subdivision of a commune. It elects a board of education, votes taxes
to defray school expenses, supervises educational matters, and in some
districts elects teachers.

Dividing the commune thus into voting groups, each with its appropriate
purpose, makes for justice. He who has a share in the communal public
wealth (forests, pastoral and agricultural lands, and perhaps funds), is
not endangered in this property through the votes of non-participant
newcomers. Nor are educational affairs mixed with general politics. And,
though State and religion are not yet severed, each form of belief is
largely left to itself; in some cantons provision is made that a
citizen's taxes shall not go toward the support of a religion to which
he is opposed.

_Organization of Canton and Confederation._

In no canton in Switzerland is there more than one legislative body: in
none is there a senate. The cities of Switzerland have no mayor, the
cantons have no governor, and, if the title be used in the American
sense, the republic has no President. Instead of the usual single
executive head, the Swiss employ an executive council. Hence, in every
canton a deadlock in legislation is impossible, the way is open for all
law demanded by a majority, and neither in canton nor Confederation is
one-man power known.

The cantonal legislature is the Grand Council. "In the Landsgemeinde
cantons and those having the obligatory Referendum, it is little more
than a supervisory committee, preparing measures for the vote of the
citizens and acting as a check on the cantonal executive council. In the
remaining cantons (those having the optional Referendum), the
legislature has the power to spend money below a specified limit; to
enact laws of specified kinds, usually not of general application; and
to elect the more important officials, the amount of discretion [in the
different cantons] rising gradually till the complete representative
government is reached"[G] in Freiburg, which resembles one of our
states. Though in several cantons the Grand Council meets every two
months for a few days' session, in most of the cantons it meets twice a
year. The pay of members ranges from sixty cents to $1.20 per day. The
legislative bodies are large; the ratio in five cantons is one
legislator to every 1,000 inhabitants; in twelve it ranges from one to
187 up to one to 800, and in the remaining five from one to 1,000 to one
to 2,000. The Landsgemeinde cantons usually have fifty to sixty members;
Geneva, with 20,000 voters, has a hundred.

[Footnote G: Vincent.]

In six of the twenty-two cantons, if a certain number of voters petition
for it, the question must be submitted to the people whether or not the
legislature shall be recalled and a new one elected.

The formation of the Swiss Federal Assembly (congress), established in
1848, was influenced by the make-up of the American congress. The lower
house is elected by districts, as in the United States, the basis of
representation being one member to 20,000 inhabitants, and the number of
members 147. The term for this house is three years; the pay, four
dollars a day, during session, and mileage. The upper house, the Council
of States (senate), the only body of the kind in Switzerland, is
composed of two members from each canton. Cantonal law governing their
election, the tenure of their office is not the same: in some cantons
they are elected by the people, in others by the legislature; their pay
varies; their term of office ranges from one to three years. Their brief
terms and the fact that their more important functions, such as the
election of the federal executive council, take place in joint session
with the second chamber, render the members of the "upper" house of
less weight in national affairs than those of the "lower."

_Swiss Executives._

The executive councils of the cities, the cantons, and the Confederation
are all of one form. They are committees, composed of members of equal
rank. The number of members varies. Of cantonal executive councilors,
there are seven in eleven of the cantons, three, five, and nine in
others, and eleven in one. In addition to carrying out the law, the
executive council usually assists somewhat in legislation, the members
not only introducing but speaking upon measures in the legislative body
with which they are associated, without, however, having a vote. In
about half the cantons, the cantonal executive councils are elected by
the people; in the rest by the legislative body.

Types of the executive councils are those of Geneva, city and canton.
The city executive council is composed of five members, elected by the
people for four years. The salary of its president is $800 a year; that
of the other four members, $600. The cantonal executive has seven
members; the salaries are: the president, $1,200; the rest, $1,000. In
both city and cantonal councils each member is the head of an
administrative department. The cantonal executive council has the power
to suspend the deliberations of the city executive council and those of
the communal councils whenever in its judgment these bodies transcend
their legal powers or refuse to conform to the law. In case of such
suspension, a meeting of the cantonal Grand Council (the legislature)
must be called within a week, and if it approves of the action of the
cantonal executive, the council suspended is dissolved, and an election
for another must be had within a month, the members of the body
dissolved not being immediately eligible for re-election. The cantonal
executive council may also revoke the commissions of communal executives
(maires and adjoints), who then cannot immediately be re-elected. Check
to the extensive powers of the cantonal executive council lies in the
fact that its members are elected directly by the people and hold office
for only two years. But in cantons having the obligatory Referendum,
Geneva's methods, however advanced in the eyes of American republicans,
are not regarded as strictly democratic.

_The Federal Executive Council._

The Swiss nation has never placed one man at its head. Prior to 1848,
executive as well as legislative powers were vested in the one house of
the Diet. Under the constitution adopted in that year, with which the
Switzerland as now organized really began, the present form of the
executive was established.

This executive is the Federal Council, a board of seven members, whose
term is three years, and who are elected in joint session by the two
houses of the Federal Assembly (congress). The presiding officer of the
council, chosen as such by the Federal Assembly, is elected for one
year. He cannot be his own successor. While he is nominally President
of the Confederation, Swiss treatises on the subject uniformly emphasize
the fact that he is actually no more than chairman of the executive
council. He is but "first among his equals" (_primus inter pares_). His
prerogatives--thus to describe whatever powers fall within his
duties--are no greater than those pertaining to the rest of the board.
Unlike the President of the United States, he has no rank in the army,
no power of veto, no influence with the judiciary; he cannot appoint
military commanders, or independently name any officials whatever; he
cannot enforce a policy, or declare war, or make peace, or conclude a
treaty. His name is not a by-word in his own country. Not a few among
the intelligent Swiss would pause a moment to recall his name if
suddenly asked: "Who is President this year?"

The federal executive council is elected on the assembling of the
Federal Assembly after the triennial election for members of the lower
house. All Swiss citizens are eligible, except that no two members may
be chosen from the same canton. The President's salary is $2,605, that
of the other members $2,316. While in office, the councilors may not
perform any other public function, engage in any kind of trade, or
practice any profession. A member of the council is at the head of each
department of the government, viz.: Foreign Affairs, Interior, Justice
and Police, Military, Finances, Commerce and Agriculture, and
Post-Office and Railroads. The constitution directs a joint transaction
of the business of the council by all the seven members, with the
injunction that responsibility and unity of action be not enfeebled. The
council appoints employés and functionaries of the federal departments.
Each member may present a nomination for any branch, but names are
usually handed in by the head of the department in which the appointment
is made. As a minority of the board is uniformly composed of members of
the political party not, if it may be so described, "in power," purely
partisan employments are difficult. Removals of federal office-holders
in order to repay party workers are unheard of.

The executive council may employ experts for special tasks, it has the
right to introduce bills in the Federal Assembly, and each councilor has
a "consultative voice" in both houses. In practice, the council is
simply an executive commission expressing the will of the assembly, the
latter having even ordered the revision of regulations drawn up by the
council for its employés at Berne. The acts of the assembly being liable
to the Referendum, connection with the will of the people is
established. Thus popular sovereignty finally, and quite directly,

While both legislators and executives are elected for short terms, it is
customary for the same men to serve in public capacities a long time.
Though the people may recall their servants at brief intervals, they
almost invariably ask them to continue in service. Employés keep their
places at their will during good behavior. This custom extends to the
higher offices filled by appointment. One minister to Paris held the
position for twenty-three years; one to Rome, for sixteen. Once elected
to the federal executive council, a public man may regard his office as
a permanency. Of the council of 1889, one member had served since 1863,
another since 1866. Up to 1879 no seat in the council had ever become
vacant excepting through death or resignation.

_Features of the Judiciary._

Civil and criminal courts are separate. The justice of the peace sits in
a case first as arbitrator, and not until he fails in that capacity does
he assume the chair of magistrate. His decision is final in cases
involving sums up to a certain amount, varying in different localities.
Two other grades of court are maintained in the canton, one sitting for
a judicial subdivision called a district, and a higher court for the
whole canton. Members of the district tribunal, consisting of five or
seven members, are commonly elected by the people, their terms varying,
with eight years as the longest. The judges of the cantonal courts as a
rule are chosen by the Grand Council; their number seven to thirteen;
their terms one to eight years. The cantonal court is the court of last
resort. The Federal Tribunal, which consists of nine judges and nine
alternates, elected for six years, tries cases between canton and canton
or individual and canton. For this bench practically all Swiss citizens
are eligible. The entire judicial system seems designed for the speedy
trial of cases and the discouragement of litigation.

No court in Switzerland, not even the Federal Tribunal, can reverse the
decisions of the Federal Assembly (congress). This can be done only by
the people.

The election by the Assembly of the Federal Tribunal--as well as of the
federal executive--has met with strong opposition. Before long both
bodies may be elected by popular vote.

Swiss jurors are elected by the people and hold office six years. In
French and German Switzerland, there is one such juror for every
thousand inhabitants, and in Italian Switzerland one for every five
hundred. To a Swiss it would seem as odd to select jurors haphazard as
to so select judges.

In most of the manufacturing cantons, councils of prud'hommes are
elected by the people. The various industries and professions are
classified in ten groups, each of which chooses a council of prud'hommes
composed of fifteen employers and fifteen employés. Each council is
divided into a bureau of conciliation, a tribunal of prud'hommes, and a
chamber of appeals, cases going on appeal from one board to another in
the order named. These councils have jurisdiction only in the trades,
their sessions relating chiefly to payment for services and contracts of

_A Democratic Army._

In surveying the simple political machinery of Switzerland, the
inquirer, remembering the fate of so many republics, may be led to ask
as to the danger of its overthrow by the Swiss army. The reply is that,
here, again, so far as may be seen, the nation has wisely planned
safeguards. To show how, and as the Swiss army differs widely from all
others in its organization, some particulars regarding it are here

The more important features of the Swiss military system, established in
1874, are as follows: There is no Commander-in-chief in time of peace.
There is no aristocracy of officers. Pensions are fixed by law. There is
no substitute system. Every citizen not disabled is liable either to
military duty or to duties essential in time of war, such as service in
the postal department, the hospitals, or the prisons. Citizens entirely
disabled and unfit for the ranks or semi-military service are taxed to a
certain per centage of their property or income. No canton is allowed to
maintain more than three hundred men under arms without federal

Though there is no standing army, every man in the country between the
ages of seventeen and fifty is enrolled and subject annually either to
drill or inspection. On January 1, 1891, the active army, comprising all
unexempt citizens between twenty and thirty-two years, contained 126,444
officers and men; the first reserve, thirty-three to forty-four years,
80,795; the second reserve, all others, 268,715; total, 475,955. The
Confederation can place in the field in less than a week more than
200,000 men, armed, uniformed, drilled, and every man in his place.

On attaining his twentieth year, every Swiss youth is summoned before a
board of physicians and military officers for physical and mental
examination. Those adjudged unfit for service are exempted--temporarily
if the infirmity may pass away, for life if it be permanent. The tax on
exempted men is $1.20 plus thirty cents per year for $200 of their
wealth or $20 of their income, until the age of thirty-two years, and
half these sums until the age of forty-four. On being enrolled in his
canton, the soldier is allowed to return home. He takes with him his
arms and accoutrements, and thenceforth is responsible for them. He is
ever ready for service at short call. Intrusting the soldiery with their
outfit reduces the number of armories, thus cutting down public
expenditures and preventing loss through capture in case of sudden
invasion by an enemy.

In the Swiss army are eight divisions of the active force and eight of
the reserve, adjoining cantons uniting to form a division. Each summer
one division is called out for the grand manoeuvres, all being brought
out once in the course of eight years.

In case of war a General is named by the Federal Assembly. At the head
of the army in time of peace is a staff, composed of three colonels,
sixteen lieutenant colonels and majors, and thirty-five captains.

The cost of maintaining the army is small, on an average $3,500,000 a
year. Officers and soldiers alike receive pay only while in service. If
wounded or taken ill on duty, a man in the ranks may draw up to $240 a
year pension while suffering disability. Lesser sums may be drawn by
the family of a soldier who loses his life in the service.

At Thoune, near Berne, is the federal military academy. It is open to
any Swiss youth who can support himself while there. Not even the
President of the Confederation may in time of peace propose any man for
a commission who has not studied at the Thoune academy. A place as
commissioned officer is not sought for as a fat office nor as a ready
stepping-stone to social position. As a rule only such youths study at
Thoune as are inclined to the profession of arms. Promotion is according
to both merit and seniority. Officers up to the rank of major are
commissioned by the cantons, the higher grades by the Confederation.

       *       *       *       *       *

In Switzerland, then, the military leader appears only when needed, in
war; he cannot for years afterward be rewarded by the presidency;
pensions cannot be made perquisites of party; the army, _i.e._ the whole
effective force of the nation, will support, and not attempt to subvert,
the republic.

_The True Social Contract._

The individual enters into social life in Switzerland with the
constitutional guarantee that he shall be independent in all things
excepting wherein he has inextricable common interests with his fellows.

Each neighborhood aims, as far as possible, to govern itself, so
subdividing its functions that even in these no interference with the
individual shall occur that may be avoided. Adjoining neighborhoods
next form a district and as such control certain common interests. Then
a greater group, of several districts, unite in the canton. Finally
takes place the federation of all the cantons. At each of these
necessary steps in organizing society, the avowed intention of the
masses concerned is that the primary rights of the individual shall be
preserved. Says the "Westminster Review": "The essential characteristic
of the federal government is that each of the states which combine to
form a union retains in its own hands, in its individual capacity, the
management of its own affairs, while authority over matters common to
all is exercised by the states in their collective and corporate
capacity." And what is thus true of Confederation with respect to the
independence of the canton is equally true of canton with respect to the
commune, and of the commune with respect to the individual. No departure
from home rule, no privileged individuals or corporations, no special
legislation, no courts with powers above the people's will, no legal
discriminations whatever--such their aim, and in general their
successful aim, the Swiss lead all other nations in leaving to the
individual his original sovereignty. Wherever this is not the fact,
wherever purpose fails fulfillment, the cause lies in long-standing
complications which as yet have not yielded to the newer democratic
methods. On the side of official organization, one historical abuse
after another has been attacked, resulting in the simple,
smooth-running, necessary local and national stewardships described. On
the side of economic social organization, a concomitant of the political
system, the progress in Switzerland has been remarkable. As is to be
seen in the following chapter, in the management of natural monopolies
the democratic Swiss, beyond any other people, have attained justice,
and consequently have distributed much of their increasing wealth with
an approach to equity; while in the system of communal lands practiced
in the Landsgemeinde cantons is found an example to land reformers
throughout the world.


Unless producers may exercise equal right of access to land, the first
material for all production, they stand unequal before the law; and if
one man, through legal privilege given to another, is deprived of any
part of the product of his labor, justice does not reign. The economic
question, then, under any government, relates to legal privilege--to
monopoly, either of the land or its products.

With the non-existence of the exclusive enjoyment of monopolies by some
men--monopolies in the land, in money-issuing, in common public
works--each producer would retain his entire product excepting his
taxes. This end secured, there would remain no politico-economic problem
excepting that of taxation.

Of recent years the Swiss have had notable success in preventing from
falling into private hands certain monopolies that in other countries
take from the many to enrich a few. Continuing to act on the principles
observed, they must in time establish not only equal rights in the land
but the full economic as well as political sovereignty of the

_Land and Climate._

Glance at the theatre of the labor of this people. Switzerland, with
about 16,000 square miles, equals in area one-third of New York. Of its
territory, 30 per cent--waterbeds, glaciers, and sterile mountains--is
unproductive. Forests cover 18 per cent. Thus but half the country is
good for crops or pasture. The various altitudes, in which the climate
ranges from that of Virginia to that of Labrador, are divided by
agriculturists into three zones. The lower zone, including all lands
below a level of 2,500 feet above the sea, touches, at Lake Maggiore, in
the Italian canton of Ticino, its lowest point, 643 feet above the sea.
In this zone are cultivated wheat, barley, and other grains, large crops
of fruit, and the vine, the latter an abundant source of profit. The
second zone, within which lies the larger part of the country, includes
the lower mountain ranges. Its altitudes are from 2,500 to 5,000 feet,
its chief growth great forests of beech, larch, and pine. Above this
rises the Alpine zone, upon the steep slopes of which are rich pastures,
the highest touching 10,000 feet, though they commonly reach but 8,000,
where vegetation becomes sparse and snow and glaciers begin. In these
mountains, a million and a half cattle, horses, sheep, and goats are fed
annually. In all, Switzerland is not fertile, but rocky, mountainous,
and much of it the greater part of the year snow-covered.

Whatever the individual qualities of the Swiss, their political
arrangements have had a large influence in promoting the national
well-being. This becomes evident with investigation. Observe how they
have placed under public control monopolies that in other countries
breed millionaires:--


One bureau of the Post-Office department exercises federal supervision
over the railroads, a second manages the mail and express services, and
a third those of the telegraph and telephone.

Of railroads, there are nearly 2,000 miles. Their construction and
operation have been left to private enterprise, but from the first the
Confederation has asserted a control over them that has stopped short
only of management. Hence there are no duplicated lines, no
discriminations in rates, no cities at the mercy of railroad
corporations, no industries favored by railroad managers and none
destroyed. The government prescribes the location of a proposed line,
the time within which it must be built, the maximum tariffs for freight
and passengers, the minimum number of trains to be run, and the
conditions of purchase in case the State at any time should decide to
assume possession. Provision is made that when railway earnings exceed a
certain ratio to capital invested, the surplus shall be subjected to a
proportionately increased tax. Engineers of the Post-Office department
superintend the construction and repair of the railroads, and
post-office inspectors examine and pass upon the time-tables, tariffs,
agreements, and methods of the companies. Hence falsification of reports
is prevented, stock watering and exchange gambling are hampered, and
"wrecking," as practiced in the United States, is unknown.

Owing to tunnels, cuts, and bridges, the construction of the Swiss
railway system has been costly; Mulhall's statistics give Switzerland a
higher ratio of railway capital to population than any other country in
Europe. Yet the service is cheap, passenger tariffs being considerably
less than in France and Great Britain, and, about the same as in
Germany, within a shade as low as the lowest in Europe.

Differing from the narrow compartment railway carriages of other
European countries, the passenger cars of Switzerland are generally
built on the American plan, so that the traveler is enabled to view the
scenery ahead, behind, and on both sides. For circular tours, the
companies make a reduction of 25 per cent on the regular fare. At the
larger stations are interpreters who speak English. Unlike the service
in other Continental countries, third class cars are attached to all
trains, even the fastest. On the whole, despite the highest railroad
investment per head in Europe, Switzerland has the best of railway
service at the lowest of rates, the result of centralized State control
coupled with free industry under the limitations of that control. In the
ripest judgment of the nation up to the present, this system yields
better results than any other: by a referendary vote taken in December,
1891, the people refused to change it for State ownership of railroads.

_Mails, the Telegraph, the Telephone, and Highways._

The Swiss postal service is a model in completeness, cheapness, and
dispatch. Switzerland has 800 post-offices and 2,000 dépôts where
stamps are sold and letters and packages received. Postal cards cost 1
cent; to foreign countries, 2 cents, and with return flap, 4. For
half-ounce letters, within a circuit of six miles, the cost is 1 cent;
for letters for all Switzerland, up to half a pound, 2 cents; for
printed matter, one ounce, two-fifths of a cent; to half a pound, 1
cent; one pound, 2 cents; for samples of goods, to half a pound, 1 cent;
one pound, 2 cents.

There are 1,350 telegraph offices open to the public. A dispatch for any
point in Switzerland costs 6 cents for the stamp and 1 cent for every
two words.

The Swiss Post-Office department has many surprises in store for the
American tourist. Mail delivery everywhere free, even in a rural commune
remote from the railroad he may see a postman on his rounds two or three
times a day. When money is sent him by postal order, the letter-carrier
puts the cash in his hands. If he wishes to send a package by express,
the carrier takes the order, which soon brings to him the postal express
wagon. A package sent him is delivered in his room. At any post-office
he may subscribe for any Swiss publication or for any of a list of
several thousand of the world's leading periodicals. When roving in the
higher Alps, in regions where the roads are but bridle paths, the
tourist may find in the most unpretending hotel a telegraph office. If
he follows the wagon roads, he may send his hand baggage ahead by the
stage coach and at the end of his day's walk find it at his

There are three hundred stage routes in Switzerland, all operated under
the Post-Office department, private posting on regular routes being
prohibited. The department owns the coaches; contractors own the horses
and other material. From most of the termini, at least two coaches
arrive and depart daily. Passengers, first and second class, are
assigned to seats in the order of purchasing tickets. Every passenger in
waiting at a stage office on the departure of a coach must by law be
provided with conveyance, several supplementary vehicles often being
thus called into employ. A postal coach may be ordered at an hour's
notice, even on the mountain routes. Coach fare is 6 cents a mile; in
the Alps, 8. Each passenger is allowed thirty-three pounds of baggage;
in the Alps, twenty-two. Return tickets are sold at a reduction of 10
per cent.

The cantonal wagon roads of Switzerland are unequaled by any of the
highways in America. They are built by engineers, are solidly made, are
macadamized, and are kept in excellent repair. The Alpine post roads are
mostly cut in or built out upon the steep mountain sides. Not
infrequently, they are tunneled through the massive rocky ribs of great
peaks. Yet their gradient is so easy that the average tourist walks
twenty-five miles over them in a short day. The engineering feats on
these roads are in many cases notable. On the Simplon route a wide
mountain stream rushes down over a post-road tunnel, and from within the
traveler may see through the gallery-like windows the cataract pouring
close beside him down into the valley. On the route that passes the
great Rhone glacier, the road ascends a high mountain in a zigzag that,
as viewed in front from the valley below, looks like a colossal
corkscrew. This road is as well kept as the better turnpikes of New
York, teams moving at a fast walk in ascending and at a trot in
descending, though the region is barren and uninhabitable, and wintry
nine months in the year. These two examples, however, give but a faint
idea of the vast number of similar works. The federal treasury
appropriates to several of the Alpine cantons, in addition to the sums
so expended by the local administrations, from $16,000 to $40,000 a year
for the maintenance of their post roads.

With lower postage than any other country, the net earnings of the Swiss
postal system for 1889 were $560,000. This, however, is but a fraction
of the real gain to the nation from this source. Without their roads,
railroads, stage lines, and mail facilities, their hotels, numbering
more than one thousand and as a rule excellently managed, could not be
maintained for the summer rush of foreign tourists, worth to the country
many million dollars a year. The finest Alpine scenery is by no means
confined to Swiss boundaries, but within these lines the comforts of
travel far surpass those in the neighboring mountainous countries. In
Savoy, Lombardy, and the Austrian Tyrol, the traveler must be prepared
to put up with comparatively antiquated methods and primitive

Yet, previous to 1849, each Swiss canton had its own postal
arrangements, some cantons farming out their systems either to other
cantons or to individuals. In each canton the service, managed
irrespective of federal needs, was costly, and Swiss postal systems, as
compared with those of France and Germany, were notoriously behindhand.


While the Confederation coins the metallic money current in the country,
it is forbidden by the constitution to monopolize the issue of notes or
guarantee the circulation of any bank. For the past ten years, however,
it has controlled the circulation of the banks, the amount of their
reserve fund, and the publication of their reports.[H] The latter may be
called for at the discretion of the executive council, in fact even

[Footnote H: A vote, October 18, 1891, made note-issuing a federal

There are thirty-five banks of issue doing business under cantonal law.
Of these, eighteen, known as cantonal banks, either are managed or have
their notes guaranteed by the respective cantons. Thus, while banking
and money-issuing are free, the cantonal banks insure a requisite note
circulation, minimizing the rate of interest and reducing its
fluctuations. The setting up of cantonal banks, in order to withdraw
privileges from licensed banks, was one of the public questions agitated
by social reformers and decided in several of the cantons by direct


The framework of this little volume does not admit so much as an
outline of the various methods of taxation practiced in Switzerland. As
in all countries, they are complex. But certain significant results of
direct legislation are to be pointed out. In all the cantons there is a
strong tendency to raise revenue from direct, as opposed to indirect,
taxes, and from progressive taxation according to fortune. The
following, from an editorial in the "Christian Union," February 12,
1891, so justly and briefly puts the facts that I prefer printing it
rather than words of my own, which might lie under suspicion of being
tinged with the views of a radical: "With the democratic revolution of
1830 the people demanded that direct taxation should be introduced, and
since the greater revolution of 1848 they have been steadily replacing
the indirect taxes upon necessities by direct taxes upon wealth. In
Zurich, for example--where in the first part of this century there were
no direct taxes--in 1832 indirect taxation supplied four-fifths of the
local revenue; to-day it supplies but one-seventeenth. The canton raises
thirty-two francs per capita by direct taxation where it raises but two
by indirect taxation. This change has accompanied the transformation of
Switzerland from a nominal to a real democracy. By the use of direct
taxation, where every man knows just how much he pays, and by the use of
the Referendum, where the sense of justice of the entire public is
expressed as to how tax burdens should be distributed, Switzerland has
developed a system by which the division of society into the harmfully
rich and wretchedly poor has been checked, if not prevented. In the
most advanced cantons, as has been brought out by Professor Cohn in the
'Political Science Quarterly,' the taxes, both on incomes and on
property, are progressive. In each case a certain minimum is exempted.
In the case of incomes, the progression is such that the largest incomes
pay a rate five times as heavy as the very moderate ones; while in the
case of property, the largest fortunes pay twice as much as the
smallest. The tax upon inheritances has been most strongly developed. In
the last thirty years it has been increased sixfold. The larger the
amount of property, and the more distant the relative to whom it has
been bequeathed, the heavier the rate is made. It is sometimes as high
as 20 per cent. Speaking upon this point, the New York 'Evening Post'
correspondent says: 'Evidently there are few countries that do so much
to discourage the accumulation of vast fortunes; and, in fact,
Switzerland has few paupers and few millionaires.'"

Until 1848, each canton imposed cantonal tariff duties on imported
goods, and, as is yet the case in most continental countries, until a
few years ago the larger cities imposed local import duties (_octrois_).
But the _octroi_ is now a thing of the past, and save in one respect the
cantons have abolished cantonal tariffs. The mining of salt being under
federal control, and the retail price regulated by each canton for
itself, supervision of imports of salt into each canton becomes

The "Statesmen's Year Book" (1891) gives the debts of all the cantons
of Switzerland as inconsiderable, while the federal debt, in 1890 but
eleven million dollars, is less than half the federal assets in stocks
and lands. In summing up at the close of his chapter on "State and Local
Finance," Prof. Vincent says: "On the whole, the expenditures of
Switzerland are much less than those of neighboring states. This may be
ascribed in part to the lighter military burden, in part to the fact
that no monarchs and courts must be supported, and further, to the
inclinations of the Swiss people for practical rather than ornamental
matters." And he might pertinently have added, "and to the fact that the
citizens themselves hold the public purse-strings."

_Limitations to Swiss Freedom._

Certain stumbling blocks stand in the way of sweeping claims as to the
freedom enjoyed in Switzerland. One is asked: What as to the suppression
of the Jesuits and the Salvation Army? As to the salt and alcohol
monopolies of the State? As to the federal protective tariff? What as to
the political war two years ago in Ticino?

Two mutually supporting forms of reply are to be made to these queries.
One relates to the immediate circumstances under which each of the
departures from freedom cited have taken place; the other to historical
conditions affecting the development of the Swiss democracy of to-day.

As to the first of these forms of reply:

In the decade previous to 1848 occurred the religious disturbances that
ended in the war of the Sonderbund (secession), when several Catholic
cantons endeavored to dissolve the loose federal pact under which
Switzerland then existed. On the defeat of the secessionists, the
movement for a closer federation--for a Confederation--received an
impetus, which resulted in the present union. By an article of the
constitution then substituted for the pact, convents were abolished and
the order of the Jesuits forbidden on Swiss soil. Both had endangered
the State. Mild, indeed, is this proscription when compared with the
effects of the religious hatreds fostered for centuries between
territories now Swiss cantons. In the judgment of the majority this
restriction of the freedom of a part is essential to that enjoyed by the
nation as a whole.

The exercises of the Salvation Army fell under the laws of the
municipalities against nuisances. The final judicial decision in this
case was in effect that while persons of every religious belief are free
to worship in Switzerland, none in doing so are free seriously to annoy
their neighbors.

The present federal protective tariff was imposed just after the federal
Referendum (optional) had been called into operation on several other
propositions, and, the public mind weary of political agitation, demand
for the popular vote on the question was not made. The Geneva
correspondent of the Paris "Temps" wrote of the tariff when it was
adopted in 1884: "This tariff has sacrificed the interest of the whole
of the consumers to temporary coalitions of private interests. It would
have been shattered like a card house had it been submitted to the vote
of the people." In imposing the tariff, the Federal Assembly in
self-defense followed the action of other Continental governments. Many
raw materials necessary to manufactures were, however, exempted and the
burden of the duties placed on luxuries. As it is, Switzerland, without
being able to obtain a pound of cotton except by transit through regions
of hostile tariffs, maintains a cotton manufacturing industry holding a
place among the foremost of the Continent, while her total trade per
head is greater than that of any other country in Europe.

The days of the federal salt monopoly are numbered. The criticisms it
has of late evoked portend its end. A popular vote may finish it at any

The State monopoly of alcohol, begun in 1887, is as yet an experiment.
Financially, it has thus far been moderately successful, though
smuggling and other evasions of the law go on on a large scale. The
nation, yet in doubt, is awaiting developments. With a reaction,
confidently predicted by many, against high tariffs and State
interference with trade, the monopoly may be abolished.

The little war in Ticino was the expiring spasm of the ultramontanes,
desperately struggling against the advance of the Liberals armed with
the Referendum. The reactionaries were suppressed, and the people's law
made to prevail. The story, now to be read in the annual reference
books, is a chronicle that cannot fail to win approval for democracy as
an agency of peace and justice.

       *       *       *       *       *

The explanations conveyed in these facts imply yet a deeper cause for
the lapses from freedom in question. This cause is that Switzerland, in
many cantons for centuries undemocratic, is not yet entirely democratic.
Law cannot rise higher than its source. The last step in democracy
places all lawmaking power directly and fully in the hands of the
majority, but if by the majority justice is dimly seen, justice will be
imperfectly done. No more may be asserted for democracy than this: (1)
That under the domination of force, at present the common state of
mankind, escape from majority rule in some form is impossible. (2) That
hence justice as seen by the majority, exercising its will in conditions
of equality for all, marks the highest justice obtainable. In their
social organization and practice, the Swiss have advanced the line of
justice to where it registers their political,--their mental and
moral,--development. Above that, manifestly, it cannot be carried.

Despite a widespread impression to the contrary, the traditions for ages
of nearly all that now constitutes Swiss territory have been of tyranny
and not of liberty. In most of that territory, in turn, bishop, king,
noble, oligarch, and politician governed, but until the past half
century, or less, never the masses. Half the area of Switzerland, at
present containing 40 per cent of the inhabitants, was brought into the
federation only in the present century. Of this recent accession,
Geneva, for a brief term part of France, had previously long been a pure
oligarchy, and more remotely a dictatorship; Neuchâtel had been a
dependency of the crown of Prussia, never, in fact, fully released until
1857; Valais and the Grisons, so-called independent confederacies, had
been under ecclesiastical rule; Ticino had for three centuries been
governed as conquered territory, the privilege of ruling over it
purchased by bailiffs from its conquerors, the ancient Swiss League--"a
harsh government," declares the Encyclopædia Britannica, "one of the
darkest passages of Swiss history." Of the older Switzerland, Bâle,
Berne, and Zurich were oligarchical cities, each holding in feudality
extensive neighboring regions. Not until 1833 were the peasants of Bâle
placed on an equal footing with the townspeople, and then only after
serious disturbances. And the inequalities between lord and serf, victor
and vanquished, voter and disfranchised, existed in all the older states
save those now known as the Landsgemeinde cantons. Says Vincent: "Almost
the only thread that held the Swiss federation together was the
possession of subject lands. In these they were interested as partners
in a business corporation. Here were revenues and offices to watch and
profits to divide, and matters came to such a pass that almost the only
questions upon which the Diet could act in concert were the inspection
of accounts and other affairs connected with the subject territories.
The common properties were all that prevented complete rupture on
several critical occasions. Another marked feature in the condition of
government was the supremacy gained by the patrician class.
Municipalities gained the upper hand over rural districts, and within
the municipalities the old families assumed more and more privileges in
government, in society, and in trade. The civil service in some
instances became the monopoly of a limited number of families, who were
careful to perpetuate all their privileges. Even in the rural
democracies there was more or less of this family supremacy visible.
Sporadic attempts at reform were rigorously suppressed in the cities,
and government became more and more petrified into aristocracy. A study
of this period of Swiss history explains many of the provisions found in
the constitutions of today, which seem like over-precaution against
family influence. The effect of privilege was especially grievous, and
the fear of it survived when the modern constitutions were made."

Here, plainly, are the final explanations of any shortcomings in Swiss
liberty. In those parts of Switzerland where these shortcomings are
serious, modern ideas of equality in freedom have not yet gained
ascendency over the ages-honored institution of inequality. Progress is
evident, but the goal of possible freedom is yet distant. How, indeed,
could it be otherwise when in several cantons it was only in 1848, with
the Confederation, that manhood suffrage was established?

But how, it may be inquired, did the name of Swiss ever become the
synonym of liberty? This land whose soldiery hired out as mercenaries to
foreign princes, this League of oppressors, this hotbed of religious
conflicts and persecutions,--how came it to be regarded as the home of a
free people!

The truth is that the traditional reputation of the whole country is
based on the ancient character of a part. The Landsgemeinde cantons
alone bear the test of democratic principles. Within them, indeed, for a
thousand years the two primary essentials of democracy have prevailed.
They are:

(1) That the entire citizenship vote the law.

(2) That land is not property, and its sole just tenure is occupancy and

The first-named essential is yet in these cantons fully realized;
largely, also, is the second.

_The Communal Lands of Switzerland._

As to the tenure of the land held in Switzerland as private property,
Hon. Boyd Winchester, for four years American minister at Berne, in his
recent work, "The Swiss Republic," says: "There is no country in Europe
where land possesses the great independence, and where there is so wide
a distribution of land ownership as in Switzerland. The 5,378,122 acres
devoted to agriculture are divided among 258,637 proprietors, the
average size of the farms throughout the whole country being not more
than twenty-one acres. The facilities for the acquisition of land have
produced small holders, with security of tenure, representing
two-thirds the entire population. There are no primogeniture, copyhold,
customary tenure, and manorial rights, or other artificial obstacles to
discourage land transfer and dispersion." "There is no belief in
Switzerland that land was made to administer to the perpetual elevation
of a privileged class; but a widespread and positive sentiment, as
Turgot puts it, that 'the earth belongs to the living and not to the
dead,' nor, it may be added, to the unborn."

Turgot's dictum, however, obtains no more than to this extent: (1) The
cantonal testamentary laws almost invariably prescribe division of
property among all the children--as in the code Napoleon, which prevails
in French Switzerland, and which permits the testator to dispose of only
a third of his property, the rest being divided among all the heirs. (2)
Highways, including the railways, are under immediate government
control. (3) The greater part of the forests are managed, much of them
owned, by the Confederation. (4) In nearly all the communes, some lands,
often considerable in area, are under communal administration. (5) In
the Landsgemeinde cantons largely, and in other cantons in a measure,
inheritance and participation, jointly and severally, in the communal
lands are had by the members of the communal corporation--that is, by
those citizens who have acquired rights in the public property of the

Nearly every commune in Switzerland has public lands. In many communes,
where they are mostly wooded, they are entirely in charge of the local
government; in others, they are in part leased to individuals; in
others, much of them is worked in common by the citizens having the
right; but in the Landsgemeinde cantons it is customary to divide them
periodically among the members of the corporation.

Of the Landsgemeinde cantons, one or two yet have nearly as great an
area of public land as of private. The canton of Uri has nearly 1,000
acres of cultivated lands, the distribution of which gives about a
quarter of an acre to each family entitled to a share. Uri has also
forest lands worth between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000 francs, representing
a capital of nearly 1,500 francs to each family. The commune of Obwald,
in Unterwald, with 13,000 inhabitants, has lands and forests valued at
11,350,000 francs. Inner Rhodes, in Appenzell, with 12,000 inhabitants,
has land valued at 3,000,000 francs. Glarus, because of its
manufactures, is one of the richest cantons in public domain. In the
non-Landsgemeinde German cantons, there is much common land. One-third
of all the lands of the canton of Schaffhausen is held by the communes.
The town of Soleure has forests, pastures, and cultivated lands worth
about 6,000,000 francs. To the same value amounts the common property of
the town of St. Gall. In the canton of St. Gall the communal Alpine
pasturages comprise one-half such lands. Schwyz has a stretch of common
land (an _allmend_) thirty miles in length and ten to fifteen in
breadth. The city of Zurich has a well-kept forest of twelve to fifteen
square miles, worth millions of francs. Winterthur, the second town in
Zurich, has so many forests and vineyards that for a long period its
citizens not only had no taxes to pay, but every autumn each received
gratis several cords of wood and many gallons of wine. Numerous small
towns and villages in German Switzerland collect no local taxes, and
give each citizen an abundance of fuel. In addition to free fuel,
cultivable lands are not infrequently allotted. At Stanz, in Unterwald,
every member of the corporation is given more than an acre. At Buchs, in
St. Gall, each member receives more than an acre, with firewood and
grazing ground for several head of cattle. Upward of two hundred French
communes possess common lands. In the canton of Vaud, a number of the
communes have large revenues in wood and butter from the forests and
pastures of the Jura mountains. Geneva has great forests; Valais many

In the canton of Valais, communal vineyards and grain fields are
cultivated in common. Every member of the corporation who would share in
the produce of the land contributes a certain share of work in field or
vineyard. Part of the revenue thus obtained is expended in the purchase
of cheese. The rest of the yield provides banquets in which all the
members take part.

Excepting in the case of forests, the trend is away from working the
lands in common. Examples of the later methods are to be seen in the
cantons of Ticino and Glarus, as follows:--

Several communes in Ticino, notably Airolo, have much public wealth.
Airolo has seventeen mountain pastures, each of which feeds forty to
eighty head of cattle. Each member of the corporation has the right to
send up to these pastures five head for the summer. Those sending more,
pay for the privilege; those sending less, receive a rental. On a
specified day at the beginning of the season and on another at the
close, the milk of each cow is weighed; from these amounts her average
yield is estimated, and her total produce computed. The cheese and
butter from the herds are sold, most of it in Milan, the hire of the
herders paid, and the net revenue divided among the members according to
the yield of their cows.

In Glarus, the produce of the greater part of the communal lands,
instead of being directly divided among the inhabitants, is substituted
for taxation. The commonable alps are let by auction for a term of
years, and, in opposition to ancient principles, strangers may bid for
them. Some of the Glarus communes sell the right to cut timber in the
forest under the superintendence of the guardians. The mountain hotels,
in not a few instances the property of the communes, are let year by
year. Land is frequently rented from the communes by manufacturing
establishments. A citizen not using his share of the communal land may
lease it to the commune, which in turn will let it to a tenant. The
communes of Glarus are watchful that enough arable land is preserved for
distribution among the members. If a plot is sold to manufacturers, or
for private building purposes, a piece of equal or greater extent is
bought elsewhere. Glarus has relatively as many people engaged in
industries aside from farming as any other spot in Europe. It has 34,000
inhabitants, of whom nearly 15,000 live directly by manufactures, while
of the rest many indirectly receive something from the same source.
Distributive coöperative societies on the English plan exist in most of
the industrial communes. The members of the communal corporations in
Glarus, though not rich, are as free and independent as any other
wage-workers in the world: they inherit the common lands; their local
taxes are little or nothing; they are assured work, if not in the
manufactories then on the land.

Of the poverty that fears pauperism in old age, that dreads enforced
idleness in recurrent industrial crises, that undermines health, that
sinks human beings in ignorance, that deprives men of their manhood, the
Swiss who enjoy the common lands of the Landsgemeinde cantons know
little or nothing. They have enough. They have nothing to waste, nothing
to spare; their fare is simple. But they are free. It is to the like
freedom and equality of their ancestors that historians have pointed. It
would be well nigh meaningless to refer to any freedom and equality
among other ancient Swiss. The right of asylum from religious oppression
is the sole feature of liberty at all general of old. The present is the
first generation in which all the Swiss have been free. The chief
elements of their political freedom--the Initiative and
Referendum--came from the Landsgemeinde cantons. From the same source,
in good time, so also may come to all Switzerland the prime element of
economic freedom--free access to land.

       *       *       *       *       *

Poverty is a relative condition. Men may be poor of mind--ignorant; and
of body--ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-sheltered; and of rights--dependent.
And from the state of hopeless deprivation involving all these forms
upward are minute gradations. Where stand the Swiss in the scale?

This the reply: Their system of education gives free opportunity to all
to partake of the mental heritage of the ages. Their method of
distribution, through the inheritance laws, of private and common lands,
has made roughly two-thirds of the heads of families agricultural land
holders. There being in other regards government control of all
monopolies, the consequence is a widespread distribution of the annual
product. Hence, no pauperism to be compared with that of England; no
plutocracy such as we have in America. Certain other facts broadly
outline the general comfort and independence. As one effect of the
subdivision of the land, the soil, so far as nature permits, is highly
cultivated, its appearance fertile, finished, beautiful, and in striking
contrast with the dominating vast, bare mountain rocks and snowbeds. The
many towns and cities bear abundant signs of a general prosperity, their
roads, bridges, stores, residences, and public buildings betokening in
the inhabitants industry and energy, and freedom to employ these
qualities. Emigration is at low percentage, and of those citizens who do
leave for the New World not a few are educated persons with some means
seeking short cuts to fortune. Much of the rough work of Switzerland is
done by Savoyards, as houseworkers, and by Italians, as farm hands,
laborers, and stone masons: showing that as a body even the poorest of
the propertyless Swiss have some choice of the better paid occupations.
Every spring sees Italians, by scores of thousands, pouring over the
Alps for a summer's work in Switzerland. Indeed, Swiss wage-workers
might command better terms were it not for competing Italians, French,
and Germans. In other words, through just social arrangements, enough
has been done in Switzerland to raise the economic level of the entire
nation; but the overflow of laborers from other lands depresses the
condition of home labor. Nevertheless, where, it may be asked, is the
people higher in the scale of civilization, in all the word implies,
than the Swiss?

       *       *       *       *       *

To recount what the Swiss have done by direct legislation:

They have made it easy at any time to alter their cantonal and federal
constitutions,--that is, to change, even radically, the organization of
society, the social contract, and thus to permit a peaceful revolution
at the will of the majority. They have as well cleared from the way of
majority rule every obstacle,--privilege of ruler, fetter of ancient
law, power of legislator. They have simplified the structure of
government, held their officials as servants, rendered bureaucracy
impossible, converted their representatives to simple committeemen, and
shown the parliamentary system not essential to lawmaking. They have
written their laws in language so plain that a layman may be judge in
the highest court. They have forestalled monopolies, improved and
reduced taxation, avoided incurring heavy public debts, and made a
better distribution of their land than any other European country. They
have practically given home rule in local affairs to every community.
They have calmed disturbing political elements;--the press is purified,
the politician disarmed, the civil service well regulated. Hurtful
partisanship is passing away. Since the people as a whole will never
willingly surrender their sovereignty, reactionary movement is possible
only in case the nation should go backward. But the way is open forward.
Social ideals may be realized in act and institution. Even now the
liberty-loving Swiss citizen can discern in the future a freedom in
which every individual,--independent, possessed of rights in nature's
resources and in command of the fruits of his toil,--may, at his will,
on the sole condition that he respect the like aim of other men, pursue
his happiness.


"But these are foreign methods. How are they to be engrafted on our
American system?" More than once have I been asked this question when
describing the Initiative and Referendum of Switzerland.

The reply is: Direct legislation is not foreign to this country. Since
the settlement of New England its practice has been customary in the
town meeting, an institution now gradually spreading throughout the
western states--of recent years with increased rapidity. The Referendum
has appeared, likewise, with respect to state laws, in several forms in
every part of the Union. In the field of labor organization, also,
especially in several of the more carefully managed national unions,
direct legislation is freely practiced. The institution does not need to
be engrafted on this republic; it is here; it has but to develop

_The Town Meeting._

The town meeting of New England is the counter-part of the Swiss
communal political meeting. Both assemblies are the primary form of the
politico-social organization. Both are the foundation of the structure
of the State. The essential objects of both are the same: to enact local
regulations, to elect local officers, to fix local taxation, and to
make appropriations for local purposes. At both, any citizen may propose
measures, and these the majority may accept or reject--_i.e._, the
working principles of town and commune alike are the Initiative and the

A fair idea of the proceedings at all town meetings may be gained
through description of one. For several reasons, a detailed account here
of what actually happened recently at a town meeting is, it seems to me,
justified. At such a gathering is seen, in plain operation, in the
primary political assembly, the principles of direct legislation. The
departure from those principles in a representative gathering is then
the more clearly seen. In many parts of the country, too, the methods of
the town meeting are little known. By observing the transactions in
particular, the reader will learn the variety in the play of democratic
principle and draw from it instructive inference.

The town of Rockland, Plymouth county, in the east of Massachusetts, has
5,200 inhabitants; assesses for taxation 5,787 acres of land; contains
1,078 dwelling houses, 800 of which are occupied by owners, and numbers
1,591 poll tax payers, who are therefore voters.

At 9 a.m., on Monday, March 2, 1891, 819 voters of Rockland assembled in
the opera house for the annual town meeting, the "warrant" for which, in
accordance with the law, had been publicly posted seven days before and
published once in each of the two town newspapers. A presiding officer
for the day, called a moderator, was elected by show of hands, after
which an election by ballot for town officers for the ensuing year was
begun. The supervisors of the voting were the town clerk and the three
selectmen (the executive officers of the town), who were seated on a
platform at one end of the hall. To cast his ballot, a voter mounted the
platform, his name was called aloud by the clerk, his ballot was
deposited, a check bell striking as it was thrown in the ballot-box, and
the voter stepped on and down. The ballot was a printed one, its size,
color, and type regulated by state law. When the voters had cast their
ballots, five tellers, who had been chosen by show of hands, counted the
vote. In this balloting for town officers, there was no division into
Republicans and Democrats, although considerable grouping together
through party association could be traced. The officers elected were a
town clerk and treasurer; a board of three, to serve as selectmen,
assessors, overseers of the poor, and fence viewers; three school
committeemen; a water commissioner; a board of health of three members;
two library trustees; three auditors, and seven constables.

A vote was also taken by ballot--"Yes" or "No"--on the question: "Shall
licenses be granted for the sale of intoxicating liquors in this town?"
The yeas were 317; nays, 347. The form of ballot used in this case was
precisely that invariably employed in the Referendum in Switzerland.

After a recess of an hour at midday, the business laid out in the
"warrant" was resumed. There were present 700 to 800 voters, with, as
on-lookers on the same floor, a large number of women, the principal
and pupils of the high school, and the teachers and children of the
grammar schools.

The "warrant" (the schedule for the meeting) consisted of forty-four
"articles," each representing a matter to be debated and voted on--that
is to say, a subject for legislation. These articles had been placed in
the warrant by the selectmen, either on their own motion or on request
of citizens. The election of moderator had taken place under article 1;
that of town officers under article 2; the license vote under article 3.
The voting on the rest of the articles now took place by show of hands.
Article 4 related to the annual reports of the town officers, printed
copies of which were to be had by each citizen. These were read and
discussed. Article 5 related to the general appropriations for town
expenses for the ensuing year. The following were decided on, each item
being voted on separately:

  For highway repairs       $3,800  For military aid             $500
  For removing snow            300  For guideboards                50
  For fire department        1,200  For abatement of taxes and
  For police service           500      collector's fee           500
  For night watch              600  For support of poor         5,500
  For town officers          2,200  For library, etc            1,000
  For town committees, and          For schools, proper        11,300
      Abingdon records          50  For school-incidentals      1,000
  For miscellaneous expenses 1,200  For school books            1,000
  For interest               1,000  For hydrants                2,300
  For memorial day             100  For water bonds, etc        2,500

Article 6, which was agreed to, authorized the town treasurer to borrow
money in anticipation of the collection of taxes; article 7 related to
the method of collecting the town taxes. It was decided these should be
farmed out to the lowest bidder, and, on the spot, a citizen secured the
contract at sixty-eight cents on the hundred. Article 8 related to the
powers of the tax collector; 9, to a list of jurors reported by the
selectmen, which was accepted; 10, to methods of repairing highways and
sidewalks; 11, to appropriating money for memorial day. Articles 10 and
11 were passed over, having been covered in the general appropriations,
and the selectmen were instructed to enforce in highway work the
nine-hour law. Article 12, which was adopted, provided for a night
watch; 13, relating to copying the records of Abingdon, had been passed
upon in the general appropriations; 14, providing for widening and
straightening a street, was passed, and $350 appropriated for the
purpose; 15, providing for concrete sidewalks, excited much debate, and
$300 was appropriated in addition to material on hand. Articles 16,
appropriating $350 for draining a street, and 17, requesting the
selectmen to lay out a water course on another street, were adopted.
Article 18, which was carried by a large majority, appropriated, in five
items, discussed and voted on separately, $7,250 for the fire
department. Article 19 appropriated $100 for a town road, 20 $200 for
another, and these were adopted, but 21, by which $325 was asked for
another road, was laid on the table. Articles 22 and 23, appropriating
$75 and $25 for bridges, were passed. Article 24, proposing the
graveling of a sidewalk, was referred to the selectmen. Articles 25, 26,
27, and 28, proposing the laying of sidewalks, were adopted, with
appropriations of $150, $125, $150, and $150; but 29, also proposing a
new sidewalk, was laid on the table. Article 30, proposing a new
sidewalk, was adopted, with an appropriation of $300, but 31, proposing
another, was laid on the table. Articles 32, proposing to change the
grading of two streets, with an appropriation of $500; 33, appropriating
$300 for a highway roller; 34, providing for a public drinking fountain,
and appropriating $200; 35, providing for a new bridge, and
appropriating $75, were all adopted. Articles 36, 37, and 38, providing
for extensions to the water mains, were laid on the table. Article 39,
appropriating $300 for relocation of a telephone line, was adopted; but
articles 40, providing for a memorial building, 41, providing for a town
hall, and 42, providing for a soldiers' memorial, were laid on the
table. Lastly, articles 43 and 44, providing for changes in street
names, were accepted as reported by the selectmen.

After finishing the "warrant," the meeting appropriated $10 to pay the
moderator, fixed $3 a day as the rate for the selectmen, and directed
the latter not to employ as constable any man who had been rejected by a
vote of the town. It was 10.45 p.m. when the assemblage broke up, a
recess having been taken from 5.30 to 7.30.

The proceedings at this meeting were characterized by democratic
methods. When the town officers handed in their reports, they were
questioned and criticised by one citizen and another. A motion to refer
the general appropriation list to a committee of twenty-five met with
overwhelming defeat in the face of the expressed sentiment that about
all left of primitive democracy was the old-fashioned town meeting. One
of the speakers on the town library appropriation was a lady, and her
point was carried. On the question of buying new fire extinguishing
apparatus, there were sides and leaders, with prolonged debate. As to
roads and bridges, each matter was dealt with on its own merits and
separately from other similar propositions. In the election for
officers, women voted for school committeemen.

The only officials of Rockland under annual salary are the treasurer and
town physician. Selectmen receive a sum per diem; constables, fees;
school committeemen make out their own bills. The others serve for

Rockland, politically, is a typical New England town. What is to be said
of its manner of town meeting may, with little modification, be said of
all. Each citizen present at such a meeting may join in the debate. From
the printed copy of the officers' reports he may learn what his town
government has done in the year past; from the printed warrant he may
see what is proposed to be done in the year coming. He who knows the
better way in any of the business is sure to receive a hearing. The
pockets of all being concerned, whatever is best and cheapest is
insured. Bribery, successful only in the dark, has little or no field in
the town meeting.

Provision usually exists by which a town may dispose of any urgent
matters springing up for legislation in the course of the year: as a
rule a special town meeting may be called on petition of a small number
of citizens, commonly seven to eleven.

In a study of the town meeting system of today, in "Harper's Monthly,"
June, 1891, Henry Loomis Nelson brought out many convincing facts as to
its superiority over government by a town board. Where the cost for
public lighting in a New England town had been but $2,000, in a New York
town of the same size it had amounted to $11,000. The cities of
Worcester, Mass., and Syracuse, New York, each of about 80,000
inhabitants, were compared, with the New England city in every respect
by far the more economically governed. Towns in New England are
uniformly superior to others in other parts of the country with regard
to the extent of sewers and paved streets. The aggregate of town debts
in New England is vastly less than the aggregate for a similar
population in the Middle States. The state constitutions of New England
commonly relate to fundamental principles, since each district may
protect itself by the town meeting; but outside New England, to assert
the rights of localities, state constitutions usually perforce embody
particulars. In their fire and police departments, and public school and
water supply systems, New England towns lead the rest of the country.
"The influence," says Mr. Nelson, "of the town meeting government upon
the physical character of the country, upon the highways and bridges,
and upon the appearance of the villages, is familiar to all who have
traveled through New England. The excellent roads, the stanch bridges,
the trim tree-shaded streets, the universal signs of thrift and of the
people's pride in the outward aspects of their villages, are too well
known to be dwelt upon." In every New England community many of the men
are qualified by experience to take charge of a public meeting and
conduct its proceedings with some regard to the forms observed in
parliamentary bodies. But elsewhere in the Union few of the citizens
have any knowledge of such forms and observances. "In New England there
is not a voter who may not, and very few voters who do not, actively
participate in the work of government. In the other parts of the country
hardly any one takes part in public affairs except the office-holder."

John Fiske, in "Civil Government in the United States," (1890), says
that "the general tendency toward the spread of township government in
the more recently settled parts of the United States is unmistakable."
The first western state to adopt the town meeting system was Michigan;
but it now prevails in four-fifths of the counties of Illinois; in
one-sixth of Missouri, where it was begun in 1879; and in one-third of
the counties of Nebraska, which adopted it in 1883; while it has gone
much further in Minnesota and Dakota, in which states it has been law
since 1878 and 1883, respectively.

"Within its proper sphere," says Fiske, "government by town meeting is
the form of government most effectively under watch and control.
Everything is done in the full daylight of publicity. The specific
objects for which public money is to be appropriated are discussed in
the presence of everybody, and any one who disapproves of any of these
objects, or of the way in which it is proposed to obtain it, has an
opportunity to declare his opinions." "The inhabitant of a New England
town is perpetually reminded that 'our government' is 'the people.'
Although he may think loosely about the government of his state or the
still more remote government at Washington, he is kept pretty close to
the facts where local affairs are concerned, and in this there is a
political training of no small value."

The same writer notes in the New England towns a tendency to retain good
men in office, such as we have seen is the case in Switzerland. "The
annual election affords an easy means of dropping an unsatisfactory
officer. But in practice nothing has been more common than for the same
persons to be re-elected as selectmen or constables or town-clerks for
year after year, as long as they are willing or able to serve. The
notion that there is anything peculiarly American or democratic in what
is known as 'rotation in office' is therefore not sustained by the
practice of the New England town, which is the most complete democracy
in the world." In another feature is there resemblance to Swiss custom:
some of the town officials serve without pay and none receive
exorbitant salaries.

_The Referendum in States, Cities, Counties, Etc._

Few are aware of the advances which direct legislation has made in state
government in the United States. Many facts on this subject, collected
by Mr. Ellis P. Oberholtzer, were published in the "Annals of the
American Academy of Political and Social Science," November, 1891.
Condensed, this writer's statement is as follows: Constitutional
amendments now go to the people for a vote in every state except
Delaware. The significance of this fact, and the resemblance of this
vote to the Swiss Referendum, are seen when one considers the subject
matter of a state constitution. Nowadays, such a constitution usually
limits a legislature to a short biennial session and defines in detail
what laws the legislature may and may not pass. In fact, then, in
adopting a constitution once in ten or twenty years, the voters of a
state decide upon admissible legislation. Thus they themselves are the
real legislators. Among the matters once left entirely to legislatures,
but now commonly dealt with in constitutions, are the following:
Prohibiting or regulating the liquor traffic; prohibiting or chartering
lotteries; determining tax rates; founding and locating state schools
and other state institutions; establishing a legal rate of interest;
fixing the salaries of public officials; drawing up railroad and other
corporation regulations; and defining the relations of husbands and
wives, and of debtors and creditors. In line with all this is a
tendency to easy amendment. In nearly all the new states and in those
older ones which have recently revised their constitutions, the time in
which amendments may be effected is as a rule but half of that formerly
required. Where once the approval of two successive legislatures was
exacted, now the consent of one is considered sufficient.

In fifteen states, until submitted to a popular vote, no law changing
the location of the capital is valid; in seven, no laws establishing
banking corporations; in eleven, no laws for the incurrence of debts
excepting such as are specified in the constitution, and no excess of
"casual deficits" beyond a stipulated sum; in several, no rate of
assessment exceeding a figure proportionate to the aggregate valuation
of the taxable property. Without the Referendum, Illinois cannot sell
its state canal; Minnesota cannot pay interest or principal of the
Minnesota railroad; North Carolina cannot extend the state credit to aid
any person or corporation, excepting to help certain railroads
unfinished in 1876. With the Referendum, Colorado may adopt woman
suffrage and create a debt for public buildings; Texas may fix a
location for a college for colored youth; Wyoming may decide on the
sites for its state university, insane asylum and penitentiary.

Numerous important examples of the Referendum in local matters in the
United States, especially in the West, were found by Mr. Oberholtzer.
There are many county, city, township, and school district referendums.
Nineteen state constitutions guarantee to counties the right to fix by
vote of the citizens the location of the county seats. So also usually
of county lines, divisions of counties, and like matters. Several
western states leave it to a vote of the counties as to when they shall
adopt a township organization, with town meetings; several states permit
their cities to decide when they shall also be counties. As in the
state, there are debt and tax matters that may be passed on only by the
people of cities, boroughs, counties, or school districts. Without the
Referendum, no municipality in Pennsylvania may contract an aggregate
debt beyond 2 per cent of the assessed valuation of its taxable
property; no municipalities in certain other states may incur in any
year an indebtedness beyond their revenues; no local governments in the
new states of the West may raise any loans whatever; none in other
states may exceed certain limits in tax rates. With the Referendum,
certain Southern communities may make harbor improvements, and other
communities may extend the local credit to railroad, water
transportation, and similar corporations. The prohibition of the liquor
business in a city or county is often left to a popular vote; indeed,
"local option" is the commonest form of Referendum. In California any
city with more than 10,000 inhabitants may frame a charter for its own
government, which, however, must be approved by the legislature. Under
this law Stockton, San José, Los Angeles, and Oakland have acquired new
charters. In the state of Washington, cities of 20,000 may make their
own charters without the legislature having any power of veto. Largely,
then, such cities make their own laws.

In fact, the vast United States seems to have seen as much of the
Referendum as little Switzerland. But the effect of the practice has
been largely lost in the great size of this country and in the loose and
unsystematized character of the institution as known here.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the "American Commonwealth" of James Bryce, a member of Parliament,
there is a chapter entitled "Direct Legislation by the People." After
reciting many facts similar in character to those given by Mr.
Oberholtzer, Mr. Bryce inquires into the practical workings of direct
legislation. He finds what are to his mind some "obvious demerits." Of
these demerits, such as apply to details he develops in the course of
his statements of several cases of Referendum. In summing up, he further
points out what seem to him two objections to the principle. One is that
direct legislation "tends to lower the authority and sense of
responsibility of the legislature." But this is precisely the aim of
pure democracy, and from its point of view a merit of the first order.
The other objection is, "it refers matters needing much elucidation by
debate to the determination of those who cannot, on account of their
numbers, meet together for discussion, and many of whom may have never
thought about the matter." But why meet together for discussion? Mr.
Bryce here overlooks that this is the age of newspaper and telegraph,
and that through these sources the facts and much debate on any matter
of public interest may be forthcoming on demand. Mr. Bryce, however,
sees more advantages than demerits in direct legislation. Of the
advantages he remarks: "The improvement of the legislatures is just what
the Americans despair of, or, as they would prefer to say, have not time
to attend to. Hence they fall back on the Referendum as the best course
available under the circumstances of the case and in such a world as the
present. They do not claim that it has any great educative effect on the
people. But they remark with truth that the mass of the people are equal
in intelligence and character to the average state legislator, and are
exposed to fewer temptations. The legislator can be 'got at,' the people
cannot. The personal interest of the individual legislator in passing a
measure for chartering banks or spending the internal improvement fund
may be greater than his interest as one of the community in preventing
bad laws. It will be otherwise with the bulk of the citizens. The
legislator may be subjected by the advocates of women's suffrage or
liquor prohibition to a pressure irresistible by ordinary mortals; but
the citizens are too numerous to be all wheedled or threatened. Hence
they can and do reject proposals which the legislature has assented to.
Nor should it be forgotten that in a country where law depends for its
force on the consent of the governed, it is eminently desirable that law
should not outrun popular sentiment, but have the whole weight of the
people's deliverance behind it."

_The Initiative and Referendum in Labor Organizations._

The Referendum is well known to the Knights of Labor. For nine years
past expressions of opinion have been asked of the local assemblies by
the general executive board. The recent decision of the order to enter
upon independent political action was made by a vote in response to a
circular issued by the General Master Workman. The latter, at the annual
convention at Toledo, in November, 1891, recommended that the Referendum
form a part of the government machinery throughout the United States.
The Knights being in some respects a secret organization, data as to
referendary votings are not always made public.

For the past decade or longer several of the national and international
trades-unions of America have had the Initiative and Referendum in
operation. Within the past five years the institution in various forms
has been taken up by other unions, and at present it is in more or less
practice in the following bodies, all associated with the American
Federation of Labor:

                                            No. of      No. of Members,
     National or International Union.    Local Unions.  December, 1891.

  Journeymen Bakers                           81                 17,500
  Brewery Workmen                             61                  9,500
  United Broth'h'd of Carpenters and Joiners 740                 65,000
  Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners          40                  2,800
  Cigar-Makers                               310                 27,000
  Carriage and Wagon Makers                   11                  2,000
  Garment Workers                             24                  4,000
  Granite Cutters                             75                 20,000
  Tailors                                    170                 17,000
  Typographical Union                        290                 28,000
     Total                                                      192,800

Direct legislation has long been familiar to the members of the
International Cigar-Makers' Union. Today, amendments to its
constitution, the acts of its executives, and even the resolutions
passed at delegate conventions, are submitted to a vote by ballot in the
local unions. The nineteenth annual convention, held at Indianapolis,
September, 1891, provisionally adopted 114 amendments to the
constitution and 33 resolutions on various matters. Though some of the
latter were plainly perfunctory in character, all of these 147
propositions were printed in full in the "Official Journal" for October,
and voted on in the 310 unions throughout America in November. The
Initiative is introduced in this international union through local
unions. When twenty of the latter have passed favorably on a measure, it
must be submitted to the entire body. An idea of the financial
transactions of the Cigar-Makers' International Union may be gathered
from its total expenditures in the past twelve years and a half. In all,
it has disbursed in that time $1,426,208. Strikes took $469,158; sick
benefits, $439,010; death benefits, $109,608; traveling benefits,
$372,455, and out of work benefits, $35,795. The advance of the
Referendum in this great union has been very gradual. It began in 1877
with voting on constitutional amendments. The most recent, and perhaps
last possible, step was to transfer the election of the general
executive board from the annual convention to the entire body.

The United Garment Workers of America practice direct legislation under
Article 24 of their constitution, which is printed under the caption,
"Referendum and Initiative." It prescribes two methods of Initiative.
One is that three or more local unions, if of different states, may
instruct the general secretary to call for a referendary vote in the
unions of the national organization. The other is that the general
executive board must so submit all questions of general importance. The
general secretary issues the call within two weeks after the petition
for a vote reaches him, and the vote is taken within six months
afterward. Eighteen propositions passed by the annual convention of this
union at Boston, in November, 1891, were submitted to a vote of the
local unions in December.

In 1890, the local unions of the International Typographical Union, then
numbering nearly 290, voted on twenty-five propositions submitted from
the annual convention. In 1891, fourteen propositions were submitted. Of
the latter, one authorized the formation of unions of editors and
reporters; another directed the payments to the President to be a salary
of $1,400, actual railroad fares by the shortest possible routes, and $3
a day for hotel expenses; another rescinded a six months' exemption from
a per capita tax for newly formed unions; another provided for a funeral
benefit of $50 on the death of a member; by another an assessment of ten
cents a month was levied for the home for superannuated and disabled
union printers. All fourteen were adopted, the majorities, however,
varying from 558 to 8,758.

_Is Complete Direct Legislation in Government Practicable?_

The conservative citizen, contented with the existing state of things,
is wont to brush aside proposed innovations in government. To do so he
avails himself of a familiar stock of objections. But have they not all
their answer in the facts thus far brought forth in these chapters? Will
he entertain no "crazy theories"? Here is offered practice, proven in
varied and innumerable tests to be thoroughly feasible. He is opposed to
foreign institutions? Here is a time-honored American institution. He
holds that men cannot be made better by law? Here are facts to show that
with change of law justice has been promoted. He deems democracy
feebleness? Here has been shown its stalwart strength. He is sure
workingmen are incapable of managing large affairs? Let him look to the
cigar-makers--their capacity for organization, their self-restraint as
an industrial army, the soundness of their financial system, the mastery
of their employers in the eight-hour question. He believes the
intricacies of taxation and estimates of appropriation beyond the
average mind? He may see a New England town meeting in a single day
dispose of scores of items and, with each settled to a nicety, vote away
fifty thousand dollars. He fears state legislation, by reason of its
complexity, would prove a puzzle to the ordinary voter? Why, then, are
the more vexatious subjects so often shifted by the legislators to the

The conservative objector is, first, apt to object before fully
examining what he dissents from, and, secondly, prone to have in mind
ideal conditions with which to compare the new methods commended to him.
In the matter of legislation, he dreams of a body of high-minded
lawgivers, just, wise, unselfish, and not of legislators as they
commonly are. He forgets that Congress and the legislatures have each a
permanent lobby, buying privileges for corporations, and otherwise
influencing and corrupting members. He forgets the party caucus, at
which the individual member is swamped in the majority; the "strikers,"
members employing their powers in blackmail; the Black Horse Cavalry, a
combination of members in state legislatures formed to enrich themselves
by plunder through passing or killing bills. He forgets the scandalous
jobs put through to reward political workers; the long lists of doubtful
or vicious bills reviewed in the press after each session of every
legislative body; the pamphlets issued by reform bodies in which perhaps
three-fourths of a legislature is named as untrustworthy, and the price
of many of the members given. The City Reform Club of New York published
in 1887: "As with the city's representatives of 1886, the chief objects
of most of the New York members were to make money in the 'legislative
business,' to advance their own political fortunes, and to promote the
interests of their factions." And where is the state legislature of
which much the same things cannot be said?

The conservative objector may not know how the most important bills are
often passed in Congress. He may not know that until toward the close
of a session the business of Congress is political in the party sense
rather than in the governing sense; that on the floor the play is
usually conducted for effect on the public; that in committees, measures
into which politics enter are made up either on compromise or for
partisan purposes; that, finally, in the last days of a session, the
work of legislation is a scramble. The second day before the adjournment
of the last Congress was thus described in a New York daily paper:
"Congress has been working like a gigantic threshing machine all day
long, and at this hour there is every prospect of an all-night session
of both houses. Helter-skelter, pell-mell, the 'unfinished business' has
been poured into the big hopper, and in less time than it takes to tell
it, it has come out at the other end completed legislation, lacking only
the President's signature to fit it for the statute books. Public bills
providing for the necessary expenses of the government, private bills
galore having as their beneficiaries favored individuals, jobbery in the
way of unnecessary public buildings, railroad charters, and bridge
construction--all have been rushed through at lightning speed, and the
end is not yet. A majority of the House members, desperate because their
power and influence terminate with the end of this brief session, and a
partisan Speaker, whose autocratic rule will prevail but thirty-six
short hours longer, have left nothing unattempted whereby party friends
and protégés might be benefited. It is safe to say that aside from a
half dozen measures of real importance and genuine merit the country
would be no worse off should every other bill not yet acted upon fail of
passage. Certain it is that large sums of money would be saved to the
Government." And what observer does not know that scenes not unlike this
are repeated in almost every legislature in its closing hours?

As between such manner of even national legislation on the one hand, and
on the other the entire citizenship voting (as soon would be the fact
under direct legislation) on but what properly should be law--and on
principles, on policies, and on aggregates in appropriations--would
there be reason for the country to hesitate in choosing?

Among the plainest signs of the times in America is the popular distrust
of legislators. The citizens are gradually and surely resuming the
lawmaking and money-spending power unwisely delegated in the past to
bodies whose custom it is to abuse the trust. "Government" has come to
mean a body of representatives with interests as often as not opposed to
those of the great mass of electors. Were legislation direct, the circle
of its functions would speedily be narrowed; certainly they would never
pass legitimate bounds at the urgency of a class interested in enlarging
its own powers and in increasing the volume of public outlay. Were
legislation direct, the sphere of every citizen would be enlarged; each
would consequently acquire education in his rôle, and develop a lively
interest in the public affairs in part under his own management. And
what so-called public business can be right in principle, or expedient
in policy, on which the American voter may not pass in person? To reject
his authority in politics is to compel him to abdicate his sovereignty.
That done, the door is open to pillage of the treasury, to bribery of
the representative, and to endless interference with the liberties of
the individual.


What I set out in the first chapter to do seems to me done. I essayed to
show how the political "machine," its "ring," "boss," and "heeler,"
might be abolished, and how, consequently, the American plutocracy might
be destroyed, and government simplified and contracted to the field of
its natural operations. These ends achieved, a social revolution would
be accomplished--a revolution without loss of a single life or
destruction of a dollar's worth of property.

Whoever has read the foregoing chapters has seen these facts

(1) That much in proportion as the whole body of citizens take upon
themselves the direction of public affairs, the possibilities for
political and social parasitism disappear. The "machine" becomes without
effective uses, the trade of the politician is rendered undesirable, and
the privileges of the monopolist are withdrawn.

(2) That through the fundamental principles of democracy in
practice--the Initiative and the Referendum--great bodies of people,
with the agency of central committees, may formulate all necessary law
and direct its execution.

(3) That the difference between a representative government and a
democracy is radical. The difference lies in the location of the
sovereignty of society. The citizens who assign the lawmaking power to
officials surrender in a body their collective sovereignty. That
sovereignty is then habitually employed by the lawgivers to their own
advantage and to that of a twin governing class, the rich, and to the
detriment of the citizenship in general and especially the poor. But
when the sovereignty rests permanently with the citizenship, there
evolves a government differing essentially from representative
government. It is that of mere stewardship and the regulation
indispensable to society.

_The Social Forces Ready for Our Methods._

Now that our theory of social reform is fully substantiated by fact, our
methods shown to be in harmony with popular sentiment, our idea of
democratic government clearly defined, and our final aim political
justice, there remains some consideration of early possible practical
steps in line with these principles and of the probable trend of events

Having practical work in view, we may first take some account of the
principal social forces which may be rallied in support of our

To begin with: Sincere men who have abandoned hope of legislative reform
may be called to renewed effort. Many such men have come to regard
politics as inseparable from corruption. They have witnessed the
tediousness and unprofitableness of seeking relief through legislators,
and time and again have they seen the very officials elected to bring
about reforms go over to the powers that exploit the masses. They have
seen in the course of time the tricks of partisan legislators almost
invariably win as against the wishes of the masses. They know that in
politics there is little study of the public needs, but merely a
practice of the ignoble arts of the professional politician. Here,
however, the proposed social reorganization depends, not on
representatives, but on the citizens themselves; and the means by which
the citizens may fully carry out their purposes have been developed. A
fact, too, of prime importance: Where heretofore in many localities the
people have temporarily overthrown politician and plutocrat, only to be
themselves defeated in the end, every point gained by the masses in
direct legislation may be held permanently.

Further: Repeatedly, of late years, new parties have risen to demand
justice in government and improvement in the economic situation. One
such movement defeated but makes way for another. Proof, this, that the
spirit of true reform is virile and the heart of the nation pure. The
progress made, in numbers and organization, before the seeds of decay
were sown in the United Labor party, the Union Labor party, the
Greenback-Labor party, the People's party of 1884, and various
third-party movements, testify to the readiness of earnest thousands to
respond, even on the slightest promise of victory, to the call for
radical reform. That in such movements the masses are incorruptible is
shown in the fact that in every instance one of the chief causes of
failure has been doubt in the integrity of leaders given to machine
methods. But in direct legislation, machine leaders profit nothing for
themselves, hold no reins of party, can sell no votes, and can command
no rewards for workers.

Again: The vast organizations of the Knights of Labor and the
trades-unions in the American Federation of Labor are evidence of the
willingness and ability of wage-earners to cope practically with
national problems. And at this point is to be observed a fact of capital
significance to advocates of pure democracy. Whereas, in independent
political movements, sooner or later a footing has been obtained by a
machine, resulting in disintegration, in the trades organization, while
political methods may occasionally corrupt leaders, the politician labor
leader uniformly finds his fellow workmen turning their backs on him.
The organized workers not only distrust the politician but detest
political chicanery. Such would equally be the case did the wage-workers
carry into the political field the direct power they exert in their
unions. And in politics this never-failing, incorruptible power of the
whole mass of organized wage-workers may be exerted by direct
legislation. Therewith may be had politics without politicians. As
direct legislation advances, the machine must retire.

Here, then, with immediate results in prospect from political action,
lies encouragement of the highest degree--alike to the organized
workers, to the men grown hopeless of political reform, and to the men
in active rebellion against the two great machine ridden parties.

Encouragement founded on reason is an inestimable practical result.
Here, not only may rational hope for true reform be inspired; a lively
certainty, based on ascertained fact, may be felt. All men of experience
who have read these pages will have seen confirmed something of their
own observations in direct legislation, and will have accepted as
plainly logical sequences the developments of the institution in
Switzerland. The New Englander will have learned how the purifying
principles of his town meeting have been made capable of extension. The
member of a labor organization will have observed how the simple
democracy of his union or assembly may be transferred to the State. The
"local optionist" will have recognized, working in broader and more
varied fields, a well tried and satisfactory instrument. The college man
will have recalled the fact that wherever has gone the Greek letter
fraternity, there, in each society as a whole, and in each chapter with
respect to every special act, have gone the Initiative and the
Referendum. And every member of any body of equal associates must
perceive that the first, natural circumstance to the continued existence
of that body in its integrity must be that each individual may propose a
measure and that the majority may accept or reject it; and this is the
simple principle of direct legislation. Moreover, any mature man, east
or west, in any locality, may recall how within his experience a
community's vote has satisfactorily put vexatious questions at rest.
With the recognition of every such fact, hope will rise and faith in the
proposed methods be made more firm.

_Abolition of the Lawmaking Monopoly._

To radical reformers further encouragement must come with continued
reflection on the importance to them of direct legislation. In general,
such reformers have failed to recognize that, before any project of
social reconstruction can be followed out to the end, there stands a
question antecedent to every other. It is the abolition of the lawmaking
monopoly. Until that monopoly is ended, no law favorable to the masses
can be secure. Direct legislation would destroy this parent of
monopolies. It gone, then would follow the chiefer evils of governmental
mechanism--class rule, ring rule, extravagance, jobbery, nepotism, the
spoils system, every jot of the professional trading politician's
influence. To effect these ends, all schools of political reformers
might unite. For immediate purposes, help might come even from that host
of conservatives who believe all will be well if officials are honest.
Direct majority rule attained, inviting opportunities for radical work
would soon lie open. How, may readily be seen.

The New England town collects its own taxes; it manages its local
schools, roads, bridges, police, public lighting and water supply. In
similar affairs the Swiss commune is autonomous. On the Pacific coast a
tendency is to accord to places of 10,000 or 20,000 inhabitants their
own charters. Throughout the country, in many instances, towns and
counties settle for themselves questions of prohibition, license, and
assessments; questions of help to corporations and of local public
improvement. Thus in measure as the Referendum comes into play does the
circumscription practicing it become a complete community. In other
words, with direct legislation rises local self-government.

_The Principles of Local Self-Government._

From even the conservative point of view, local self-government has many
advantages. In this country, the glaring evils of the State, especially
those forming obstacles to political improvement and social progress,
come down from sources above the people. Under the existing
centralization whole communities may protest against governmental
abuses, be practically a unit in opposition to them, and yet be
hopelessly subject to them. Such centralization is despotism. It forms
as well the opportunity for the demagogue of to-day--for him who as
suppliant for votes is a wheedler and as politician and lawgiver a
trickster. Centralization confuses the voter, baffles the honest
newspaper, foments partisanship, and cheats the masses of their will. On
the other hand, to the extent that local independence is acquired, a
democratic community minimizes every such evil. In naturally guarding
itself against external interference, it seeks in its connection with
other communities the least common political bonds. It is watchful of
the home rule principle. Under its local self-government, government
plainly becomes no more than the management of what are wholly public
interests. The justice of lopping off from government all matters not
the common affairs of the citizens then becomes apparent. The character
of every man in the community being known, public duties are intrusted
with men who truly represent the citizens. The mere demagogue is soon
well known. Bribery becomes treachery to one's neighbor. The folly of
partisanship is seen. Public issues, usually relating to but local
matters, are for the most part plain questions. The press, no longer
absorbed in vague, far-off politics, aids, not the politicians, but the
citizens. Reasons, every one of these, for even the conservative to aid
in establishing local self-government.

But the radical, looking further than the conservative, will see far
greater opportunities. In local self-government with direct legislation,
every possibility for his success that hope can suggest may be
perceived. If not in one locality, then in another, whatever political
projects are attainable within such limits by his school of philosophy
may be converted by him and his co-workers from theory to fact. Thence
on, if his philosophy is practicable, the field should naturally widen.

The political philosophy I would urge on my fellow-citizens is summed up
in the neglected fundamental principle of this republic: Freedom and
equal rights. The true point of view from which to see the need of the
application of this principle is from the position of the unemployed,
propertyless wage-worker. How local self-government and direct
legislation might promptly invest this slave of society with his primary
rights, and pave the way for further rights, may, step by step, be

_The Relation of Wages to Political Conditions._

The wages scale pivots on the strike. The employer's order for a
reduction is his strike; to be effective, a reserve of the unemployed
must be at his command. The wage-worker's demand for an increase is his
strike; to be effective it must be backed up by the indispensableness of
his services to the employer. Accordingly as the worker forces up the
scale of wages, he is the more free, independent, and gainer of his
product. To show the most direct way to the conditions in which workers
may command steady work and raise their wages, this book is written. For
the wages question equitably settled, the foundation for every remaining
social reform is laid.

To-day, in the United States, in scores, nay, hundreds, of industrial
communities the wage-working class is in the majority. The wage-workers
commonly believe, what is true, that they are the victims of injustice.
As yet, however, no project for restoring their rights has been
successful. All the radical means suggested have been beyond their
reach. But in so far as a single community may exercise equal rights
and self-government, through these means it may approximate to just
social arrangements.

Any American city of 50,000 inhabitants may be taken as illustrative of
all American industrial communities. In such a city, the economical and
political conditions are typical. The immediate commercial interests of
the buyers of labor, the employers, are opposed to those of the sellers
of labor, the employed. To control the price of labor, each of these
parties in the labor market resorts to whatever measures it finds within
command. The employers in many branches of industry actually, and
employers in general tacitly, combine against the labor organizations.
On the wage-workers' side, these organizations are the sole means,
except a few well-nigh futile laws, yet developed to raise wages and
shorten the work day. In case of a strike, the employers, to assist the
police in intimidating the strikers, may engage a force of armed
so-called detectives. Simply, perhaps, for inviting non-unionists to
cease work, the strikers are subject to imprisonment. Trial for
conspiracy may follow arrest, the judges allied by class interests with
the employers. The newspapers, careful not to offend advertisers, and
looking to the well-to-do for the mass of their readers, may be inclined
to exert an influence against the strikers. The solidarity of the
wage-workers incomplete, even many of these may regard the fate of the
strikers with indifference. In such situation, a strike of the
wage-workers may be made to appear to all except those closely
concerned as an assault on the bulwarks of society.

But what are the bulwarks of society directly arrayed against striking
wage-workers? They are a ring of employers, a ring of officials
enforcing class law made by compliant representatives at the bidding of
shrewd employers, and a ring of public sentiment makers--largely
professional men whose hopes lie with wealthy patrons. Behind these
outer barriers, and seldom affected by even widespread strikes, lies the
citadel in which dwell the monopolists.

Such, in outline, are the intermingled political and economic conditions
common to all American industrial centres. But above every other fact,
one salient fact appears: On the wage-workers falls the burthen of class
law. On what, then, depends the wiping out of such law? Certainly on
nothing else so much as on the force of the wage-workers themselves. To
deprive their opponents of unjust legal advantages, and to invest
themselves with just rights of which they have been deprived, is a task,
outside their labor organizations, to be accomplished mainly by the
wage-workers. It is their task as citizens--their political task. With
direct legislation and local self-government, it is, in considerable
degree, a feasible, even an easy, task. The labor organizations might
supply the framework for a political party, as was done in New York city
in 1886. Then, as was the case in that campaign, when the labor party
polled 68,000 votes, even non-unionists might throw in the reinforcement
of their otherwise hurtful strength. Success once in sight, the
organized wage-workers would surely find citizens of other classes
helping to swell their vote. And in the straightforward politics of
direct legislation, the labor leaders who command the respect of their
fellows might, without danger to their character and influence, go
boldly to the front.

_The Wage-Workers as a Political Majority._

Suppose that as far as possible our industrial city of 50,000
inhabitants should exercise self-government with direct legislation.
Various classes seeking to reform common abuses, certain general reforms
would immediately ensue. If the city should do what the Swiss have done,
it would speedily rid its administration of unnecessary office-holders,
reduce the salaries of its higher officials, and rescind outstanding
franchise privileges. If the municipality should have power to determine
its own methods of taxation, as is now in some respects the case in
Massachusetts towns, and toward which end a movement has begun in New
York, it would probably imitate the Swiss in progressively taxing the
higher-priced real estate, inheritances, and incomes. If the
wage-workers, a majority in a direct vote, should demand in all public
work the short hour day, they would get it, perhaps, as in the Rockland
town meeting, without question. Further, the wage-workers might vote
anti-Pinkerton ordinances, compel during strikes the neutrality of the
police, and place judges from their own ranks in at least the local
courts. These tasks partly under way, a change in prevailing social
ideas would pass over the community. The press, echo, not of the widest
spread sentiments, but of controlling public opinion, would open its
columns to the wage-working class come to power. And, as is ever so when
the wage-workers are aggressive and probably may be dominant, the social
question would burn.

_The Entire Span of Equal Rights._

The social question uppermost, the wage-workers--now in political
ascendency, and bent on getting the full product of their labor--would
seek further to improve their vantage ground. Sooner or later they would
inevitably make issue of the most urgent, the most persistent, economic
evil, local as well as general, the inequality of rights in the land.
They would affirm that, were the land of the community in use suitable
to the general needs, the unemployed would find work and the total of
production be largely increased. They would point to the vacant lots in
and about the city, held on speculation, commonly in American cities
covering a greater area than the land improved, and denounce so unjust a
system of land tenure. They could demonstrate that the price of the land
represented for the most part but the power of the owners to wring from
the producers of the city, merely for space on which to live and work, a
considerable portion of their product. They could with reason declare
that the withholding from use of the vacant land of the locality was
the main cause of local poverty. And they would demand that legal
advantages in the local vacant lands should forthwith cease.

In bringing to an end the local land monopoly, however, justice could be
done the landholders. Unquestionably the fairest measure to them, and at
the same time the most direct method of giving to city producers, if not
free access to land, the next practicable thing to it, would be for the
municipality to convert a part of the local vacant land into public
property, and to open it in suitable plots to such citizens as should
become occupiers. Sufficient land for this purpose might be acquired
through eminent domain. The purchase money could be forthcoming from
several sources--from progressive taxation in the direct forms already
mentioned, from the city's income from franchises, and from the savings
over the wastes of administration under present methods.

From the standpoint of equal rights there need be no difficulty in
meeting the arguments certain to be brought against this proposed
course--such sophistical arguments as that it is not the business of a
government to take property from some citizens to give to others. If the
unemployed, propertyless wage-worker has a right to live, he has the
right to sustain life. To sustain life independently of other men's
permission, access to natural resources is essential. This primary right
being denied the wage-workers as a class, any or all of whom, if
unemployed, might soon be propertyless, they might in justice proceed to
enforce it. To enforce it by means involving so little friction as
those here proposed ought to win, not opposition, but approval.

Equal rights once conceded as just, this reasoning cannot be refuted.
Discussed in economic literature since before the day of Adam Smith, it
has withstood every form of assault. If it has not been acted on in the
Old World, it is because the wage-workers there, ignorant and in general
deprived of the right to vote, have been helpless; and if not in the
New, because, first, until within recent years the free western lands,
attracting the unemployed and helping to maintain wages, in a measure
gave labor access to nature, and, secondly, since the practical
exhaustion of the free public domain the industrial wage-workers have
not perceived how, through politics, to carry out their convictions on
the land question.

Our reasoning is further strengthened by law and custom in state and
nation. In nearly every state, the constitution declares that the
original and ultimate ownership of the land lies with all its people;
and hence the method of administering the land is at all times an open
public question. As to the nation at large, its settled policy and
long-continued custom support the principle that all citizens have
inalienable rights in the land. Instead of selling the national domain
in quantities to suit purchasers, the government has held it open free
to agricultural laborers, literally millions of men being thus given
access to the soil. Moreover, in thirty-seven of the forty-four states,
execution for debt cannot entirely deprive a man of his homestead, the
value exempt in many of the states being thousands of dollars. Thus the
general welfare has dictated the building up and the securing of a home
for every laboring citizen.

In line, then, with established American principles is the proposition
for municipal lands. And if municipalities have extended to capitalists
privileges of many kinds, even granting them gratis sites for
manufactories, and for terms of years exempting such real estate from
taxation, why not accord to the wage-workers at least their primary
natural rights? If any property be exempted from taxation, why not the
homesite below a certain fixed value? And if, for the public benefit,
municipalities provide parks, museums, and libraries, why not give each
producer a homesite--a footing on the earth? He who has not this is
deprived of the first right to do that by which he must live, namely,

_Effects of Municipal Land._

A city public domain, open to citizen occupiers under just stipulations,
would in several directions have far-reaching results.

Should this domain be occupied by, say, one thousand families of a
population of 50,000, an immediate result, affecting the whole city,
would be a fall in rents. In fact, the mere existence of the public
domain, with a probability that his tenants would remove to it, might
cause a landlord to reduce his rents. Besides, the value of all land,
in the city and about it, held on speculation, would fall. Save in
instances of particular advantage, the price of unimproved residence
lots would gravitate toward the cost, all things considered, of
residence lots in the public domain. This, for these reasons: The corner
in land would be broken. Home builders would pay a private owner no more
for a lot than the cost of a similar one in the public area. As houses
went up on the public domain, the chances of landholders to sell to
builders would be diminished. Sellers of land, besides competing with
the public land, would then compete with increased activity with one
another. Finally, just taxation of their land, valueless as a
speculation, would oblige landowners to sell it or to put it to good

Even should the growth of the city be rapid, the value of land in
private hands could in general advance but little, if at all. With the
actual demands of an increased population, the public domain might from
time to time be enlarged; but not, it may reasonably be assumed, at a
rate that would give rise to an upward tendency of prices in the face of
the above-mentioned factors contributing to a downward tendency.

At this point it may be well to remember that, conditions of land
purchase by the city being subject to the Referendum, the buying could
hardly be accompanied by corrupt bargaining.

When the effect of the public land in depressing land values, in other
words in enabling producers to retain the more of their product, was
seen, private as well as public agencies might aid in enlarging the
scope of that effect. The philanthropic might transfer land to the
municipality, preferring to help restore just social conditions rather
than to aid in charities that leave the world with more poor than ever;
the city might provide for a gradual conversion, in the course of time,
of all the land within its limits to public control, first selecting,
with the end in view, tracts of little market value, which, open to
occupiers, would assist in keeping down the value of lands held

But the more striking results of city public land would lie in another
direction. The spontaneous efforts of each individual to increase and to
secure the product of his labor would turn the current of production
away from the monopolists and toward the producers. With a lot in the
public domain, a wage-worker might soon live in his own cottage. As the
settler often did in the West, to acquire a home he might first build
two or four rooms as the rear, and, living in it, with later savings put
up the front. A house and a vegetable garden, with the increased
consequent thrift rarely in such situation lacking, would add a large
fraction to his year's earnings. Pasture for a cow in suburban city land
would add yet more. Then would this wage-earner, now his own landlord
and in part a direct producer from the soil, withdraw his children from
the labor market, where they compete for work perhaps with himself, and
send them on to school.

What would now happen should the wage-workers of the city demand higher
wages? It is hardly to be supposed that any industrial centre could
reach the stage of radical reform contemplated at this point much in
advance of others. When the labor organizations throughout the country
take hold of direct legislation, and taste of its successes, they will
nowhere halt. They will no more hesitate than does a conquering army.
Learning what has been done in Switzerland, they will go the lengths of
the Swiss radicals and, with more elbow room, further. Hence, when in
one industrial centre the governing workers should seek better terms,
similar demands from fellow laborers, as able to enforce them, would be
heard elsewhere.

The employer of our typical city, even now often unable to find outside
the unions the unemployed labor he must have, would then, should he
attempt it, to a certainty fail. The thrifty wage-working householder,
today a tenant fearful of loss of work, could then strike and stay out.
The situation would resemble that in the West twenty years ago, when
open land made the laborer his own master and wages double what they are
now. Wages, then, would perforce be moved upward, and hours be
shortened, and a long step be made toward that state of things in which
two employers offer work to one employé. And, legal and social forces no
longer irresistibly opposed to the wage-workers, thenceforth wages would
advance. At every stage they would tend to the maximum possible under
the improved conditions. In the end, under fully equal conditions,
everywhere, for all classes, the producer would gather to himself the
full product of his labor.

The average business man, too, of the city of our illustration, himself
a producer--that is, a help to the consumer--would under the better
conditions reap new opportunities. Far less than now would he fear
failure through bad debts and hard times; through the wage-workers'
larger earnings, he would obtain a larger volume of trade; he would
otherwise naturally share in the generally increased production; and he
would participate in the common benefits from the better local

But the disappearance of the local monopolist would be predestined. The
owner of local franchises would already have gone. The local land
monopolist would have seen his land values diminished. In every such
case, the monopolist's loss would be the producer's gain. The aggregate
annual earnings of all the city's producers (the wage-workers, the
land-workers, and the men in productive business) would rise toward
their natural just aggregate--all production. As between the various
classes within the city, a condition approximating to justice in
political and economic arrangements would now prevail.

What would thus be likely to happen in our typical city of 50,000
inhabitants would also, in greater or less degree, be possible in all
industrial towns and cities. In every such place, self-government and
direct legislation could solve the more pressing immediate phases of the
labor question and create the local conditions favorable to remodeling,
and as far as possible abolishing, the superstructure of government.

_Wider Applications of These Principles and Methods._

The political and economic arrangements extending beyond the control of
the municipalities would now, if they had not done so before, challenge
attention. In taking up with reform in this wider field, the industrial
wage-workers would come in contact with those farmers who are demanding
radical reforms in state and nation. As the sure instrument for the
citizenship of a state, direct legislation could again with confidence
be employed. No serious opposition, in fact or reason, could be brought
against it. That the mass of voters might prove too unwieldy for the
method would be an assertion to be instantly refuted by Swiss
statistics. In Zurich, the most radically democratic canton of
Switzerland, the people number 339,000; the voters, 80,000. In Berne,
which has the obligatory Referendum, the population is 539,000. And it
must not be overlooked that the entire Swiss Confederation, with 600,000
voters, now has both Initiative and Referendum. Hence, in any state of
the Union, direct legislation on general affairs may be regarded as
immediately practicable, while in many of the smaller states the
obligatory Referendum may be applied to particulars. And even in the
most populous states, when special legislation should be cast aside, and
local legislation left to the localities affected, complete direct
legislation need be no more unmanageable than in the smallest.

United farmers, wage-workers, and other classes of citizens, in the
light of these facts, might naturally demand direct legislation.
Foreseeing that in time such union will be inevitable, what more natural
for the producing classes in revolt than to unite today in voting, if
not for other propositions, at least for direct legislation and home
rule? These forces combined in any state, it seems improbable that
certain political and economic measures now supported by farmer and
wage-worker alike could long fail to become law. Already, under the
principle that "rights should be equal to all and special privileges be
had by none," farmers' and wage-workers' parties are making the
following demands: That taxation be not used to build up one interest or
class at the expense of another; that the public revenues be no more
than necessary for government expenditures; that the agencies of
transportation and communication be operated at the lowest cost of
service; that no privileges in banking be permitted; that woman have the
vote wherever justice gives it to man; that no force of police,
marshals, or militiamen not commissioned by their home authorities be
permitted anywhere to be employed; that monopoly in every form be
abolished and the personal rights of every individual respected. These
demands are all in agreement with the spirit of freedom. Along the lines
they mark out, the future successes of the radical social reformers will
most probably come. But if, in response to a call nowadays frequently
heard, the many incipient parties should decide to unite on one or a few
things, is it not clear that in natural order the first reforms needed
are direct legislation and local self-government?

To a party logically following the principle of equal rights, the
progress in Switzerland under direct legislation would form an
invaluable guide. The Swiss methods of controlling the railroads and
banks of issue, and of operating the telegraph and telephone services,
deserve study and, to the extent that our institutions admit, imitation.
The organization of the Swiss State and its subdivisions is simple and
natural. The success of their executive councils may in this country
assist in raising up the power of the people as against one man power.
The fact that the cantons have no senates and that a second chamber is
an obstacle to direct legislation may here hasten the abolition of these
nurseries of aristocracy.

With the advance of progress under direct legislation, attention would
doubtless be attracted in the United States, as it has been in
Switzerland, to the nicer shades of justice to minorities and to the
broader fields of internal improvement. As in the cantons of Ticino and
Neuchâtel, our legislative bodies might be opened to minority
representatives. As in the Swiss Confederation, the great forests might
be declared forever the inheritance of the nation. What public lands yet
remain in each state might be withheld from private ownership except on
occupancy and use, and the area might be so increased as to enable
every producer desiring it to exercise the natural right of free access
to the soil. Then the right to labor, now being demanded through the
Initiative by the Swiss workingmen's party, might here be made an
admitted fact. And as is now also being done in Switzerland, the public
control might be extended to water powers and similar resources of

Thus in state and nation might practicable radical reforms make their
way. From the beginning, as has been seen, benefits would be widespread.
It might not be long before the most crying social evils were at an end.
Progressive taxation and abolition of monopoly privileges would cause
the great private fortunes of the country to melt away, to add to the
producers' earnings. On a part of the soil being made free of access,
the land-hungry would withdraw from the cities, relieving the
overstocked labor markets. Poverty of the able-bodied willing to work
might soon be even more rare than in this country half a century ago,
since methods of production at that time were comparatively primitive
and the free land only in the West. If Switzerland, small in area,
naturally a poor country, and with a dense population, has gone far
toward banishing pauperism and plutocracy, what wealth for all might not
be reckoned in America, so fertile, so broad, so sparsely populated!

And thus the stages are before us in the course of which the coming just
society may gradually be established--that society in which the
individual shall attain his highest liberty and development, and
consequently his greatest happiness. As lovers of freedom even now
foresee, in that perfect society each man will be master of himself;
each will act on his own initiative and control the full product of his
toil. In that society, the producer's product will not, as now, be
diminished by interest, unearned profits, or monopoly rent of natural
resources. Interest will tend to disappear because the products of labor
in the hands of every producer will be abundant--so abundant that,
instead of a borrower paying interest for a loan, a lender may at times
pay, as for an accommodation, for having his products preserved.
Unearned profits will tend to disappear because, no monopolies being in
private hands, and free industry promoting voluntary coöperation, few
opportunities will exist for such profits. Monopoly rent will disappear
because, the natural right to labor on the resources of nature made a
legal right, no man will be able to exact from another a toll for leave
to labor. Whatever rent may arise from differences in the qualities of
natural resources will be made a community fund, perhaps to be
substituted for taxes or to be divided among the producers.

The natural political bond in such a society is plain. Wherein he
interferes with no other man, every individual possessing faculty will
be regarded as his own supreme sovereign. Free, because land is free,
when he joins a community he will enter into social relations with its
citizens by contract. He will legislate (form contracts) with the rest
of his immediate community in person. Every community, in all that
relates peculiarly to itself, will be self-governing. Where one
community shall have natural political bonds with another, or in any
respect form with several others a greater community, the
circumscription affected will legislate through central committees and a
direct vote of the citizenship. Executives and other officials will be
but stewards. In a society so constituted, communities that reject the
elements of political success will languish; free men will leave them.
The communities that accept the elements of success, becoming examples
through their prosperity, will be imitated; and thus the momentum of
progress will be increased. Communities free, state boundaries as now
known will be wiped out; and in the true light of rights in voting--the
rights of associates in a contract to express their choice--few
questions will affect wide territories. Rarely will any question be, in
the sense the word is now used, national; the ballot-box may never unite
the citizens of the Atlantic coast with those of the Pacific. Yet, in
this decomposition of the State into its natural units--in this
resolving of society into its constituent elements--may be laid the sole
true, natural, lasting basis of the universal republic, the primary
principle of which can be no other thing than freedom.



Aargau, 12, 13

Abolition of the lawmaking monopoly, 100

"A Concept of Political Justice", i

Adams, Sir Francis Ottiwell ("The Swiss Confederation"), iii

Alcohol, State monopoly, Switzerland, 59

Appenzell, 8, 13, 65

Area of Switzerland, 14, 48

"Arena", 27

Army, a democratic, 41, 42

Assembly, Federal, Switzerland, 22, 35


Bâle, 12, 13, 61

Banking, Switzerland, 54

Berne, 10, 12, 13, 61, 115

Bryce, James, "American Commonwealth", 85

Bürkli, Carl, 16


Canton, organization of the, 34

Cantons (states), names of the twenty-two, 13

Cigar-Makers' Union, 87, 88

Climate, Switzerland, 48

Communal lands, 63, 70

Communal meeting, the, 7, 32, 33
  subjects covered at, 8
  organization, 32

Communes (townships) 2,706 in number, 7

Congress (Federal Assembly), Switzerland, 22, 35

Congress, United States, at work, 92

Considérant, Victor, 16

Constitutions, revision of Swiss, 23
  spirit of Swiss, 31


Dates--First Swiss Constitution, 14
  Federal Referendum began, 14
  Federal Initiative adopted, 14
  cantonal Referendum began, 14
  progress of cantonal Referendum, 15
  French theorists' discussion of Referendum, 14
  cantonal Referendum established in Zurich, 16
  New England town meeting, 80

Debts, public, Switzerland, 57

Democracy vs. representative government, 5

Dicey, A.V., 28

Diet, 10, 37

Droz, Numa, 19


Elections, semi-annual, 20

Environment of the Swiss citizen, 31

Equal rights, 107

Executive councils, Swiss, 36, 37, 40


Facts established by this book, 95

Fiske, John, on town meeting, 80

Freedom in Switzerland, 57

Freiburg, 12


Garment Workers, United, 88

Geneva, 12, 13, 61

Glarus, 12, 13, 65, 66, 67

Grand Council, 18, 20, 34

Grisons, 12, 13, 61


Highways, Switzerland, 50


Illiteracy in Switzerland, 27

Immigration into Switzerland, 70

Initiative and Referendum in labor organizations, 87

Initiative, cantonal, 11
  Federal, 22
  not a simple petition, 22
  what it is, 10

Instruction in Switzerland, 27


Jamin, P, 17

Jesuits expelled from Switzerland, 58

Judiciary, Swiss, 40

Jurors, Swiss, elected, 40


Land and climate, Switzerland, 47

Land, tenure and distribution of, Switzerland, 63, 70
  Public, 64, 65

Landsgemeinde, 8, 63

Languages in Switzerland, 13

Legislation by representatives, 92

Legislators, pay of Swiss, 35

Legislatures in Switzerland, 34

Local self-government, 101

Lucerne, 12, 13


Machines kill third parties, 98

McCrackan, W.D., 27

Military system, Swiss, 42, 43

Moses, Prof. Bernard ("The Federal Government of Switzerland"), iii

Municipal land, 110


Nelson, Henry Loomis, on the town meeting, 79

Neuchâtel, 12, 13, 61

New England town meeting, 72


Oberholtzer, Ellis P., on Referendum in the United States, 82

Objections to the optional Referendum, 18

Obligatory and optional Referendum, 13, 17

Obligatory Referendum in Zurich, 20

One-man power unknown in Switzerland, 34


Parliamentary government abolished, 30

Political status in Switzerland, 25

Population, Switzerland, cantons, cities, 13, 14

Post-office, Switzerland, 49

Poverty in Switzerland, 68

President of the Confederation, 38

Press, the Swiss, 26

Principles of a free society, 25

Proportional representation, 117


Railroads, Switzerland, 49

Referendum, Federal, Switzerland, 21, 22
  in labor organizations, 87
  instrument of the minority, 22
  in the United States, 72
  in various states, cities, etc., 82
  not the plébiscite, 29
  obligatory, 13, 17, 20
  optional, 13, 17, 18
  what it is, 10

Rittinghausen, 16

Rockland, Mass., town meeting, 73

Rotation in office a partisan idea, 39, 83


Salaries of Swiss officials, 35, 36, 38

Salvation Army, Switzerland, 58

Schaffhausen, 12, 13

Schwyz, 8, 12, 13, 65

Senates, no cantonal, 34

Soleure, 12, 13

Stage routes, Switzerland, 52

State religions, Switzerland, 33

St. Gall, 12, 13, 65, 66

Statistics as to Switzerland, 13, 14

Summary of results of direct legislation in Switzerland, 70

Sunday, votings and communal meetings on, 8

Switzerland long undemocratic, 60


Table--Population, languages, form of passing laws, year of entering
Switzerland, 13

Tariff, protective, Switzerland, 58

Taxes, Switzerland, 52

Telegraph and telephone, Switzerland, 50

Thurgau, 12, 13

Ticino, 12, 13, 59, 66, 67

Typographical Union, 89


Unterwald, 12, 13, 65, 66

Urgence, 17

Uri, 12, 13, 65


Valais, 12, 13, 61, 66

Vaud, 12, 13, 66

Vincent, Prof. John Martin ("State and Federal Government of
Switzerland"), iii
  references to, 8, 32, 34, 61

Vote-buying, 20


Wage-workers in the majority, 106

Wages and political conditions, 103

"Westminster Review", 28, 45

Winchester, Boyd ("The Swiss Republic"), iv
  reference to, 63

Wuarin, Louis, 30


Zurich, 13, 16, 20, 21, 61, 65, 115

Zug, 12, 13







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                                        "American Federation of Labor,}
                                        "New York, May 17, 1892.      }

"_Mr. J.W. Sullivan_:

"DEAR SIR:--I have had the extreme pleasure of reading your
book, 'Direct Legislation,' and beg to assure you that it made a deep
impression upon my mind. The principles of the Initiative and Referendum
so often proclaimed find sufficient elucidation in concise form. The
facts that you have massed together of the practical application of
these principles give the best evidence of thorough research and study.
It is the first time that the labor reformers and thinkers generally
have had this subject presented to them in so able and readable a
manner. Every man who believes in minimizing the evil tendencies of
politics as a trade or profession, cannot fail to be highly interested
as well as pleased upon reading your book.

"In many of the trade organizations the Initiative and the Referendum
are applied, and I have no doubt in my mind whatever that with the
growth and development of the trades-union movement, much will be done
to apply the principles to our political government.

"I am led to believe that now in the New England states, particularly in
Massachusetts, where the town meetings exert a large influence upon the
public affairs of their respective localities, much could be done to
bring the subject of the Initiative and Referendum to the attention of
the masses. I think the trades-unionists of that section of the country
would be more than willing to co-operate in an effort to demonstrate the
practicability as well as the advisability of the adoption of that idea.

"Again assuring you of the pleasure I have had in perusing the work, and
thanking you earnestly for your contribution toward the literature upon
this important subject, I am fraternally yours, SAMUEL GOMPERS,

_President American Federation of Labor_."

       *       *       *       *       *

"What! abandon legislatures and politicians and caucuses and all the
paraphernalia of elective and debating bodies? Well, not quite; still
very much curtailing the functions of these bodies and making laws by
the direct action of the people themselves and curtailing the
interference of professed legislators ... The little volume is worthy of
study, if only to know how some communities get along without the
trouble and contradiction involved in the systems of other popular
constituencies."--_New York Commercial Advertiser_.

"Certainly the author is to be commended for contributing many facts to
our political knowledge--not the least of which is that we are no more,
as we were fifty years ago, leaders of the world in genuinely popular
government--for simplicity of treatment, and a most direct and lucid way
of pointing out the results of certain measures."--_Chicago Times_.

"The author is eminently qualified to describe the working of a law to
which the attention of the electors of this continent is being largely
directed."--_London (Canada) Daily Advertiser_.

"We would recommend the book to every one desirious of learning in brief
terms just what the Referendum is all about, and what good it would
do."--_New Nation_.

"The appearance of such a book is not without political significance,
and Mr. Sullivan's collection of data is convenient to have."--_New York
Evening Post_.

"The author shows that in Switzerland there has been a growth away from
the representative system toward a pure democracy."--_Christian

"The historic facts are stated with a clearness and conciseness that
make them valuable."--_New York Press_.

"Shows plainly how the politician might be abolished."--_Chicago

"Plainly and well written, and should be widely read."--_Christian

"Its subject is of the highest importance to the country."--_Switchman's

       *       *       *       *       *

="Few books have done, we believe, more good in this century."--Rev.
W.D.P. Bliss.=

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