Swiss Neutrality, Its History and Meaning

Swiss Neutrality, Its History and Meaning

Swiss Neutrality, Its History and Meaning

Swiss Neutrality, Its History and Meaning

Excerpt

Up to a generation ago, the Swiss citizen lived with a feeling of security in foreign relations which we can hardly credit today. Neutrality had come to be taken so much for granted as the fundamental principle of the Federal constitution, and had been so generally recognized in Europe, that it seemed unthreatened and even inviolable. It blended with the republican and democratic ideal to form a national myth of almost religious sanctity. As the axiom of Swiss foreign policy, it had certainly suffered attack both in theory and in fact, but since such crises had always been successfully overcome, Switzerland's faith in the inviolability of her neutrality had merely been confirmed. It was as if the country were girdled with high, protecting ramparts, behind which its people could go about their lawful occasions unmolested. It was during this period of calm in Switzerland's foreign relations that international law assiduously sought a formula for the theory of neutrality.

The outbreak of the first world war in 1914 brought a rude awakening from such illusions. Not only did the belligerents override temporary declarations of neutrality, but ancient charters of neutrality, guaranteeing its permanence, became mere scraps of paper. This was made painfully clear by the violation of Belgian neutrality. Theoretical speculation dissolved like mist in a cruel and naked reality, and all that remained was the anxious and fateful question whether neutrality could be preserved and the integrity of the native soil maintained. When, however, Switzerland had been able to preserve her neutrality intact throughout the war, when she was able to anchor her permanent neutrality in the international covenants of the League of Nations, the old . . .

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