Nationalism and Internationalism: Essays Inscribed to Carlton J. H. Hayes

By Edward Mead Earle | Go to book overview

THE SWISS PATTERN FOR A FEDERATED EUROPE

CHARLOTTE MURET

TODAY statesmen and economists on both sides of the Atlantic are working to create a United Europe, in the belief that only by federation can that continent recover strength and prosperity. Many difficulties, however, lie in the way. The nations of Europe are deeply divided and the idea of absolute national sovereignty, so harmful both to the League of Nations and the United Nations, has not yet been abandoned.

Those who are working for a European Union would find the study of Swiss history valuable, for the Swiss Confederation is a small-scale model of what a United States of Europe might become in the future. The Swiss cantons have enjoyed 650 years of independence and self-government. Switzerland lies in the very heart of Europe, exposed to all its cross-currents, yet the Confederation has survived a series of wars and upheavals, some of which, like the Thirty Years' War, the wars of the Revolution and the Empire, and the two World Wars, have involved the whole continent and destroyed entire nations. Moreover, the Swiss have managed better than most of their neighbors to adapt their social and economic structure to the developments of the modern world. They have, in fact, demonstrated that a number of diverse sovereign states can act together and create a strong and durable union.

Arguments based on Swiss history are often rejected on three principal grounds; first, that Switzerland is so small that no valid comparison can be made between its cantons and the larger nations of modern Europe; second, that the cantons were less unlike than are the nations of today; and, third, that nationalism as it has developed in modern times was virtually unknown in the age when the Confederation evolved.

In regard to the first objection it may be advanced that in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, while the Confederation came into being, a great majority of the sovereign states of Europe were no larger than the federated cantons, and the problems faced by the latter were of much the same kind as those faced by the

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