Chapter 5



The Allemends of Switzerland(1)



In the primitive cantons of Switzerland, institutions of the most democratic character conceivable have secured the inhabitants from the most remote times in the enjoyment of liberty, equality and order, and as great a degree of happiness as is compatible with human destinies. This exceptional good fortune is attributable to the fact, that ancient communal institutions have been preserved, and with them the primitive communal ownership.

The French revolution committed the error, every day more apparent, of endeavouring to found democracy by crushing the only institutions which can make it possible. It set up abstract man, the isolated individual, and theoretically recognized in him all his natural rights, but at the same time annihilated everything that could attach him to preceding generations, or to his existing fellow-citizens, -- the province with its traditional liberties, the commune with its undivided property, and the crafts and corporations, which united in a bond of brotherhood workmen of the same trade. These associations, the natural extension of the family, had sheltered the individual: though perhaps sometimes a fetter, they were always a support; while binding men down, they also strengthened them; they were the hive in which individual life was carried on. In times of adversity there was a guarantee of assistance; in ordinary times, a supervision which kept men in the right path, a power of defence when their rights were attacked, and a tradition for new generations. The present was connected with the past by the privileges and advantages derived from the institution. In modern days the individual is lost within the nation, an abstract idea which is only realized for most of us under the form of the receiver who demands the taxes, or the conscription which imposes military service. The commune has lost all local autonomy, and is become a mere wheel in the machinery of administration, obedient to a central power. Communal property in almost every case has been sold or diminished. Man, coming into the world with wants to be satisfied, and with hands to labour, can claim no share in the soil for the exercise of his energy. Industrial crafts are no more: the joint-stock compares which have taken their place are a means of associating capital not men. Religion, a powerful bond of union, has lost most of its fraternal power; and the family, shaken to the foundation, is little more than a system of succession. Man is a social creature; and the institutions have been destroyed or weakened in which his sociability could express itself and form a solid basis for the state.

Attempts are made, now-a-days, to fill in the blank made by the centralization of the primitive system and the Revolution, by founding trades' unions: but these have no feeling of brotherhood or religion, no tradition and no juridical principles; too often they are merely aggressive associations for maintaining a struggle with the capitalists. At the risk of being thought "reactionary," the author has no hesitation in asserting that two institutions formerly existed, which should have been preserved and improved as the foundation of modern democracy, -- viz. communal autonomy, and communal property. Politicians have striven to destroy the former, and economists to banish the latter; but it is an immense mistake, and will everywhere hinder the establishment of democratic institutions, at any rate until a remedy is devised.

If in any country these institutions have been preserved, and, at the same time, liberty, equality and order have been maintained for centuries, we are induced to think that these facts are connected as cause and effect; and it may be useful to study under what conditions the country has enjoyed these rare advantages. The remarkable point is that these institutions existed among all nations originally; but in almost every case they have been destroyed or radically modified with the lapse of time. In Russia alone the property of the commune has been preserved, although the nobility, created in the sixteenth century, deprived it of half its possessions, and reduced the inhabitants to serfage. In France feudalism depressed the communes, but did not destroy them; it was reserved for royal despotism and the subsequent passion for uniformity at the time of the French revolution, to deal their death-blow. In Germany the commune was mutilated by the nobility and by administrative centralization. In England, by a strange contrast, while the towns preserved all their liberties and obtained a voice in the lower House, the rural commune was consumed by the manor, so that no vestige remains, except in the ecclesiastical element, the vestry or parish. Hence arose the profound degradation of the agricultural labourer, who is only now awakening to enter on a struggle with his employers.

There has never been a more radical democracy than that which has existed for a thousand years in Switzerland; its application in a more absolute form cannot even be conceived. In the cantons of Uri, Schwytz, Glaris, in the Appenzells, and in the two Unterwaldens, the people govern themselves directly, without any intermediate representative body. In the spring, all the citizens of full age meet in a single assembly, in the open air, to pass laws and to nominate the officers charged with their execution. This is the old "May Field" of the Germans, where all the warriors assembled in arms, and expressed their decision by the wapentak, or clash of arms. To the present day, the inhabitants of the outer Rhodes(2) of Appenzell come to the general assembly, one year at Hundwyl and the other at Trogen, each carrying in his hand an old sword or ancient rapier of the middle ages, which forms a quaint contrast with their black clothes and family umbrella. These assemblies are called landesgemeinde, that is "national commune," a strictly precise term, implying that the whole country forms, so to say, a single commune. This was the case originally. Historical documents shew us, in the early part of the middle ages, German tribes occupying, one the territory of Unterwalden, another that of Uri, and the third that of Schwytz, as undivided marks. Later, as different villages were formed, they constituted separate autonomic communes; but the great commune of the canton with the general assembly of all the inhabitants, the landesgemeinde, was maintained. We find, therefore, a form of government perfectly free and democratic. This absolute self-government, dating from the most remote times, has been transmitted uninterruptedly to the present day. Nations did not start with patriarchal royalty, as has often been asserted from an exclusive study of heroic Greece, but rather with republican institutions. Madame de Stael was right. Liberty is ancient, despotism modern.

Direct government, which Rousseau considered no longer possible, can subsist in the primitive cantons, partly because the territory is very small, and also because the duties of legislation are reduced to a very small compass. Most kinds of business are carried on in the commune. Foreign relations are the province of the confederation. The manner of life is simple, and custom still exercises a considerable empire. Accordingly there are but few laws to be made. The landamman presents them to the assembly, every citizen having the right of initiative or amendment. The discussions are at times very animated, and even violent; but an early division is demanded, as every one is anxious to get home again. The abuse of parliamentarianism, the peculiar curse of States governed on the representative system, is thus avoided.

Almost everywhere deliberative assemblies remain too long together: they irritate and weary the country; sometimes communicating to it the passions by which they are themselves animated, and sometimes arousing an extreme movement in opposition when they have ceased to represent piblic opinion. When the assemblies are prorogued, the country is at rest, and devotes itself to business, to art, literature, industry or commerce. Scarcely, however, have parliamentary discussions recommenced when everything is once more called in question: exasperated parties are at issue; and the government, compelled to devote its whole power in warding off the attacks of its adversaries, has no time to consider questions of general interest. The passions of the nation are aroused over contests in which a portfolio is the prize. The parliamentary system thus degenerates into contests of intrigue in the chambers, and contests of influence, too often corrupt, in the elections. America, Germany, and England have been preserved from the abuse of parliamentarianism, which, in France and Italy, has become an absolute cause of disorder. The best means of escaping it is to reduce the functions of the central power by extending those of local powers, -- of the province, that is to say, and the commune.

In Switzerland, the communes enjoy almost absolute autonomy. They not only frame their own regulations, but even their own constitution, so long as it is not contrary to the laws of the State. They administer independently everything relating to their schools, churches, to the police, the roads, and the care of the poor. They have free power of nominating all their officers, and of fixing their local taxation. The State only meddles with the communal administration so far as to preserve the hereditary patrimony of the commune from destruction, and to prevent the violation of general laws. The interference of the central power is rather greater in certain cantons, such as Fribourg, Geneva and Berne; in others, such as Appenzell and the Grisons, it is reduced to nearly nothing. The State is only a federation of independent communes, which existed before its birth, and can live without it. The central power exercises no administrative control over the local authorities; the violation of a general law is the only ground for its interference. It can only reach the citizens through the medium of the communes; and it is the latter which vote the taxes and pass the laws, the establishment of which belongs to the people, in virtue of the Constitution. Decentralization here is excessive. Communal federalism pushed to this extreme degree takes away all consistency from the State, and reduces the nation to dust. As Tocqueville has demonstrated, the superiority of the United States' constitution consists in the fact, that, while the independence of the federated states is respected, the central power, for the duties which it has reserved towards itself, addresses the citizens directly, by means of its own agents, nominated and distributed by itself.(3)

The reason that the republican system is so firmly established in Switzerland is, that it has its roots in minute districts. If for centuries it has been a guarantee alike of order and liberty, this is due to the fact that, most matters of public interest being decided in the commune, the changes, which elections bring about in the composition of the government, exercise only a secondary influence. It is impossible to found a republic, as has been attempted in France, by maintaining a centralization, which leaves in the hands of an assembly or a president the power of deciding everything. A civilized country can never tolerate a system, which, at every general election, and at every renewing of the executive power, once more calls into question the whole political and social organization. If all the organs of national sovereignty are to be elective, some limit must be put on their authority, and some restraint on the functions of the central power. In the United States, as in Switzerland, the commune, or township, is the principal focus of political and administrative life. In the township most of the common interests are managed. The State is composed of a union of independent and autonomic townships, just as living creatures are made up of an infinite number of connected cells, each of which is endowed with individual activity.

The characteristic distinguishing the Swiss commune from the American commune, and imparting to it a much greater importance, is that it is not merely a political and administrative institution; it is also an economical institution. It does not simply give its members abstract rights; it procures them also in some measure the means of existence. As elsewhere, it supplies the expenses of the school, the church, the police and the roads; but more than this, it secures to its members the enjoyment of property, the essential condition of true liberty and independence. This curious aspect of the primitive Swiss communal organization we will endeavour to describe.

We have seen how, in all nations, by a slow and universally similar evolution, the commune and property were developed in the mark. The mark we have seen was the common domain of the clan. Under the pastoral system, the enjoyment of the pasturage and forest was undivided. Each patriarchal family cut the wood necessary for its wants, hunted its game in the forest, and sent its cattle on to the pasture land.

On the introduction of agriculture, the enjoyment of the portion of the mark brought under cultivation ceased to be undivided: it became individual property, but only temporary property, for the space of a life at most. There was only a usufruct; a jus possessionis, similar to that which the Roman citizen exercised over the Ager Publicus; the dominium, the eminent domain continued to belong to the tribe. This change in the mode of enjoyment was the necessary consequence of the change from the pastoral to the agricultural system. The cultivation of grain requires labour, manure, and the application of a certain outlay to the soil: this work cannot be properly carried out, unless he who executes it is sure of reaping the fruit of his outlay. Hence the necessity of individual occupation. On the other hand, as an equal right to live by his labour was recognized in every head of a family, a new allotment had to be made from time to time, that every one alike might be put in possession of the part which fell to him. Thus the clan retained a sort of eminent domain, and periodically effected a new partition of the soil. As we have seen, this primitive organization of the mark has been perpetuated in several countries, particularly Java, and Russia. Elsewhere, a few families, attaining greater power, retained their portion, which has been transmitted by hereditary descent. So private property, the type of which we must seek in the quiritary ownership of the Romans, came into existence.

Among nations of German origin, or in countries conquered. by the Germans, the feudal system made gradual encroachments on the mark. In England, where, in consequence of the Norman conquest, feudalism was organized more completely and systematically than anywhere else, the manor finally absorbed the forest and pasture-land of the communes. The cultivated lands, tilled by the peasants, were soon released from periodic partition. Hence there remain hardly any traces of the primitive mark in England. The complete and absolute dominium of the Roman law, however, has never been recognized. In strict law, the English soil, conquered by William, and distributed by him to his vassals, still belongs to the Sovereign. The possessors of it are mere tenants of the Crown.(4)

In France the peasants, remaining for a long time associated in family groups, succeeded in preserving their communal property. This property, however, attacked as it is by economists, broken in upon by laws of compulsory partition, and always badly managed, hardly yields anything. The use of it is badly regulated, and it only survives as a relic of the past, in strong contrast with the existing agrarian economy. In Switzerland the case is quite otherwise. In the high valleys feudalism was not introduced till late; it never attained to much power, and before the end of the middle ages it had completely disappeared. The democratic institutions of the primitive mark were therefore maintained in all their vigour. Although private property has by degrees spread considerably, communal property has not disappeared. Under regulations, continually increasing in precision, it has followed a regular juridical development, and still plays a very important part in the economic life of the Alpine cantons.

The lands of the communes in Switzerland are called Allmenden, which seems to signify that they are the common domain of all. In a restricted sense, the name Allmend is applied to that portion of the undivided domain, situated near the village, which is devoted to agriculture.

The common territory consists of three distinct portions -- forest, meadow, and cultivated land -- Wald, Weide und Feld. Certain villages, such as those in the cantons of Zug and Schwytz, where there are marshy plateaus, possess besides lands where rushes are cut for litter (Riethern), and others wbere turf is cut for firing (Torfplaetze). Commonable land is not there, as with us, a bare waste, or sterile heath, pasturing a few miserable sheep, and presenting a picture of neglect and desolation. It is a domain managed according to strict rules dictated by the requirements of systematic agriculture. All the inhabitants regularly take part in its management, and the produce is as great as on private domains, for the cultivated land of the allmend will let at 250 or 300 francs the hectare. This domain provides those, who are entitled to the use of it, with the means of satisfying the first wants of life. It supplies turf or wood for firing, timber for the construction or repairing of the châlet, and the construction of household articles, tools or agricultural implements -- in a word lodging and furniture; a summer pasturage for the sheep and cows, which yield milk, butter, meat and wool -- or animal food and clothing; and finally a plot of cultivated land, yielding corn, potatoes and vegetables.

In many villages the portion of cultivated land which falls to each family is abundantly manured and used as a kitchen garden: it is sufficient to contribute largely to the vegetable portion of the food supply. At Stanz every occupier is entitled to 1,400 klafter, which amount to 45 ares; or more than an English acre. In the canton of Saint-Gall the village of Buchs allows each of the cultivators 1,500 klafter or about half a hectare of excellent land, as well as firewood for the whole year, and alp for a considerable head of cattle; and besides this, it derives from its communal property a revenue sufficient to support the schoolmaster and pastor, and to meet all public expenses without imposing any tax. At Wartau, also in the Oberland of Saint-Gall, every occupier receives 2,500 klafter or 80 ares in usufruct.

Mere habitation within the commune, or even the exercise of political membership, is not sufficient to constitute a title to the enjoyment of the communal domain; descent from a family, which has possessed the right from time immemorial, or at least from before the commencement of the present century, being necessary. Collective succession is based on succession in the family, that is to say, descent in a privileged family gives the right to a share in the collective inheritance. In theory it is the association of descendants of the original occupants of the mark continuing to enjoy what remains of its domain. Thus, in the same village, side by side with a group of persons using the commonable land, may be found inhabitants excluded from all the advantages which so materially improve the position of the former, and there are thus, as it were, two distinct communes involved one within the other. The Beisassen, or simple residents as they are called, have often complained of this distinction, which has given rise to violent struggles between the reformers, who demand equal rights for all, and the conservatives, who endeavour to maintain the old exclusion.(5) Even in those cantons where the most absolutely equal democracy that has ever existed is established, there is ground for a struggle between the spirit of tradition and the spirit of levelling. As there is no general law on the subject, the results of this struggle have not been everywhere the same; but generally arrangements have been adopted securing certain rights to the mere residents, or Beisassen. Thus they may have firewood from the forest, but not timber. They may only send the young cattle, and in some cases one or two milking cows, but no more, on to the alp. In the Allmends of the plain they are allowed even less: they are often entirely excluded; in some cases they only participate in the drawing of lots for the plots of cultivated land or gardens.

We have but little documentary evidence as to the primitive mode of occupying the Allmenden. When the population was very slight in proportion to the territory at its disposal, regulations were hardly necessary. Every one cut what wood he required in the forest, and depastured on the alp all the cattle he possessed. It was only later on, when the number of copartners became too large to allow of an unlimited right of user, that the interposition of rules was called for, and they merely sanctioned ancient custom. These regulations became stricter and more precise in proportion as the wants of the community increased. There has thus been a certain juridical evolution; but the fundamental principles of the law have changed as little as the alp itself, or the pastoral economy practised on it. The Swiss Allmend thus affords us even now a picture of the primitive life of the ancient inhabitants of the plateaus of the Iran.

The oldest rules of the Allmend which have been published date from the fifteenth century. Every community possesses an old chest, or ancient trunk, in which are preserved all the documents relating to the domain of the corporation. Besides the fundamental regulation, which may be called the constitution of the society, -- Einung or Genossenordnung, -- this chest contains the judgments deciding any contested point, agreements with neighbouring villages, and the official reports of decisions passed in the ordinary assemblies of May and December. This respect for ancient tradition is a great source of strength in Switzerland; for, as they are more democratic and equal the higher they go back into antiquity, these traditions are exactly in harmony with the requirements of the age which seeks to establish democracy. They have this great advantage over the innovations attempted in the present day, that they have lasted for thousands of years, being maintained and perfected by the free will of men who appreciate their advantages. This leads us to suppose that they are conformable to natural law, that is, to the wants of human nature.

The mode in which the inhabitants exercise their right in the Allmend differs more or less in the several communes. It not also varies according to the nature of the. property. It is the same for the alp, for the forest, for the turf and the cultivated lands. When the group of habitations in the centre of the mark was transformed from a village into a town, it became difficult to maintain the ancient method of enjoyment. Nevertheless, at Berne, the woods are still allotted among the persons entitled. In the industrial town of Saint-Gall each of them receives annually half a fathom of wood and a hundred fagots, or a plot of arable land. The town of Soleure distributes among the occupiers a considerable supply of firewood, varying from five fathoms to a half fathom of beech and fir, according to the class of persons entitled. In many localities the communal lands are let, and the profits applied to defray public expenses. Sometimes there is a surplus, which is apportioned in money; but nearly all the communes which have arable lands allot them among the commoners. There are infinite varieties of detail in the manner of enjoyment of the several communes. The methods can, however, as the Pastor Becker remarks, be classed with sufficient accuracy according to the types afforded by the three cantons of Uri, Valais and Glaris.

Uri is, as seems to be signified by the root of the word, Ur, pre-eminently the primitive district. At the present day it forms a single mark, without any division into communes. Villages have been formed, Fluelen, Altdorf, Bürglen, Erstfeld, Silenen, Amstäg, Waset, and Andermatt; but except for the care of the power, which is to some extent in their charge, these villages do not form distinct political corporations. They are not true communes; the inhabitant exercises his right of user in any locality to which he may remove. The inhabitant of Silenen may send his cattle into the valley of Schaechenthal, and the inhabitant of this valley may send his on to the alp of the Surènes. In this system there is no other division than that traced by nature itself, which has divided the canton into two distinct parts, the district of Uri, and that of Urseren, separated by the deep gorge of the Schoellenen, bordered on both sides by perpendicular granite rocks, with the Reuss roaring at the bottom. There are, therefore, as it were, two marks, tbe upper mark above the Urner Loch, and the lower mark below it.

In the lower mark, a great part of the plain has become private property; the woods, alps and a few allmends, in the neighbourhood of the villages, alone remaining in the primitive community. In the high valley of Urseren, fiiteen kilometres in length and two at the most in breadth, the splendid pastures, watered by the Reuss and by the mists of the glaciers, belong to the body of commoners of Urseren.

A touching legend is attached to the method in which the boundary between the marks of Uri and Glaris was formerly fixed. The two cantons are separated by frozen peaks and a lofty chain of mountains everywhere except at the Klausen passage, through which one can easily pass from the valley of the Linth to that of the Reuss. In times past, there were disputes and struggles between the people of Uri and Glaris as to the debateable boundary of their pastures. To decide the question, they agreed that, on St George's day, a runner should start at the first cock-crow from the bottom of each valley, and that the frontier should be fixed at the point where they met. The start was to be superintended by inhabitants of Glaris at Altdorf, and by inhabitants of Uri at Glaris. The people of Glaris fed the cock, which was to give the signal to their runner, as much as possible, hoping that, being in full vigour, it would crow early in the morning. The people of Uri, on the contrary, starved their cock; hunger kept it awake, and it gave the signal for the start long before dawn. The runner started from Altdorf, entered the Schaechenthal, crossed the top and began to descend on the other side towards Linth. The Glaris cock crowed so late that their runner met the one from Uri far down the slope on his side. Desperate at the thought of the disgrace which would be reflected on his countrymen, he begged earnestly for a more equitable boundary. "Hearken," answered the other, "I will grant you as much land as you can cross, ascending the mountain with me on your back." The bargain was struck. The Glaris man ascended as far as he could, when he fell dead from fatigue on the banks of the stream called Scheidbaechli (the boundary brook). This is why Urnerboden, situated on the slope facing Glaris, beyond the division of the water, belongs to Uri. It is a curious legend, in which, as so often in Swiss history, the citizen gives his life for the good of his country.

There is no precise measurement of the extent of the allmends in Uri. An estimate made in 1852 reckons the alps belonging to the lower district of the canton as containing 5.417 kuhessens(6). As the district numbers about 2,700 families of commoners, this allows about the keep of two cows on an average for each family.

The communal forests are of great extent, valuable and well kept up; they are worth at least 4,000,000 francs, which makes a capital of about 1,400 francs for each family. To shew how the petition of the wood is effected, we will give the table of that made in 1865, in the village of Schaddorf, near Altdorf.(7) The first class is that of citizen shareholders who have had for a whole year "fire and light," Feuer und Licht, who heat an oven and possess property: they are entitled to fell six large firs; their number amounted to 120. The second class comprises those who have fire and light, an oven, but no property: they are entitled to four firs. There were 30 in this category. The third class is that of persons living alone, and having no property: there were nine of them, each being entitled to three fir trees. Finally, in the fourth class are those commoners who have had fire and light, but who have no house of their own: they can only claim two fir trees. There were 25 of them. The total number of commoners was therefore 184. Of these, 52 had obtained, in addition, timber for new buildings or for repairs; 178 large trunks having been allotted for this purpose. These distributions are large, and enable the families to live in comfort: and nowhere are the cultivators so well lodged as in Switzerland. This explains the origin of the châlets which the stranger admires. The communal forest allows of their construction and their maintenance.

Besides its alp and forest, the mark of Uri possesses 400 hectares of cultivated land, which when equally distributed give about 14 ares of garden to each family, from which to raise vegetables and fruit, and flax or hemp for the household linen. All this does not make a competence, but it is a gueanteed means of attaining it; in any case, it is a certain preservative against extreme distress. Add to what is supplied by the communal property the produce of private property and individual labour, and all essential wants are amply provided for.

The principle which here directs the partition of the produce of the communal possessions is that of the most remote times: to every one according to his wants: as, however, wants vary not according to personal requirements, which are nearly identical, but according to those of each iudividual property, which differ widely, it follows that the rich are benefited and the poor sacrificed. In practice, he who has no cattle gets no profit from the alp: while he who has twenty or thirty cows to send on to it derives a considerable revenue from it. The commoner, who has a large châlet in the village and another on the mountain, with large lofts and stalls, requires much wood for repairs and for burning. He is entitled to six large trees for firing, and to as much timber as experts shall deem necessary. The commoner who lives with another has but two fir trees. Equality only asserts itself in the allotment of cultivated land. As the Pastor Becker says, in the words of the Gospel, "to him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly; but from him that hath not, shall be taken even that which he hath." The system was strictly just at a period when there was no private property, and when consequently each family could derive the same profit from the common stock, but at the present time each commoner profits by the communal domain in proportion to the extent of his private property.

The general principle being that a commoner can only send on to the common pasture the cattle which he has kept in his stalls during the winter, it follows that unless he has a separate meadow of his own to grow hay he has no fodder for cattle in winter, and consequently in the spring has no cattle to send up on to the alp. To put some limit on the privilege of the persons most rich in herds, it was decided that no one should send more than thirty cows or their equivalent on to the alp. This rule, however, was inadequate, and for long past, here, as in Florence, Athens, or Rome, the great and the small, the fat and the lean, have been at issue. The matter in dispute bears a strong resemblance to that which set patricians and plebeians at strife with regard to the occupation of the ager publicus. There is, however, this difference that, contrary to what is the case in most of our large States, in Uri the "fat" are in the majority. Out of 2,700 families, 1,665 own cattle: there are only 1,035 without any. The malcontents are therefore in a minority, and neither by their vote nor by use of force -- to which in fact they have never thought of resorting -- have they been able to obtain an alteration of the primitive system, which dates from the time when there was no distinction of rich and poor. To silence the most clamorous demands, 15 or 20 ares of garden have been granted to each commoner for the growth of vegetables; besides which they have wood for fires and baking.

As a right of equal enjoyment is, in theory, recognized in every commoner, which he can enforce the moment he fulfils the requisite conditions, to secure greater equality the extent of the arable Allmend should be increased so as to realize as large a revenue as the alp. This is very much what has been done in the canton of Glaris, which presents the type of the second mode of enjoyment.

Among the primitive cantons, Glaris is the one which has departed furthest from the ancient modes of partition. The produce of the greater part of the communal lands, instead of being divided directly among the inhabitants, is employed to cover the expenses of the commune. There is here no longer any trace of the primitive mark comprising the whole district. What remains of the collective domain has become the property of the communes, which have attained full development. These communes have ceased to possess alps; which were nearly all sold, after a great calamity which nearly ruined the district. At the present day, the commonable alps are let by auction for a certain number of years; and, in complete opposition to ancient principles, strangers may obtain them as well as citizens. The rent goes to the communal treasury. Formerly, the lessees had to render annually a certain quantity of butter, Anken, which was divided among the commoners; and newly-married couples were also entitled to a chamois for tbe marriage-feast. But now the chamois is rare, and the butter is exported to a distance, instead of being distributed among the inhabitants. Some communes also sell by public auction the timber cut from the forest: others divide it among the commoners, reserving a certain proportion. The dry leaves for litter are equally divided; they are distributed by lot, or else every one goes on a fixed day and collects what he can of them. As the forests, in which they may be gathered, are generally situated on the steepest slopes, it frequently happens that some of the inhabitants are killed by falling from their giddy heights.

The point which merits attention in Glaris, is the care the communes have taken to preserve a sufficient extent of arable land for distribution among the members. If the number of inhabitants increases, or if any parcels are sold for manufactories or private building purposes, the commune purchases fresh land, that the portion of each family may remain the same. A widow, children living together without parents, or even a son or daughter of full age, provided they have had "fire and light" within the commune for the space of a year, are alike entitled to a share. These shares vary from 10 to 30 ares, according to the extent of the communal territory. Each member retains his lot for ten, twenty, or thirty years: at the end of this period, the parcels are re-formed, measured, and again assigned by lot. Every one makes what use he likes of his plot, cultivating whatever he requires. He can even let it or lease it to the commune, which will pay him rent for it. These parcels, which lie close to the dwelling-houses, are admirably cultivated. They are actual gardens; and commonly let at the rate of 3 francs an are. Every member may send on to the common pasture the cattle which he has kept through the winter; but he pays a tax per head, except for goats, which are the 'poor man's cow and the favourite animal in the canton, to which it gives the famous cheese, schabzieger.

There are also in this district many private corporations which own lands. Ten, twenty, or thirty cultivators form an association possessing pasture and arable land.(8) The produce of the joint property is divided among the associates in proportion to the number of shares which each possesses. In the village of Schwaendi, the commune can only assign to each family a few ares of cultivated land; but, thanks to these joint-properties, each member farms on the average 12 ares of land; and many of them have double that quantity. We have here, then, a perfect type of cooperative societies applied to agriculture, which have lasted for centuries, and which contrihute in no small degree to the well-being of those who participate in them. The same spirit of association led the inhabitants of Schwaendi to establish a cooperative society for consumption as well as production; and such a society exists now in the majority of the industrial communes.

It is remarkable to see in this country the agrarian organization of a most remote period in combination with the conditions of modern industry, and how the right of occupation in the common mark betters the lot of the workman in the great manufactures. Glaris is not, like Uri and Unterwalden, a purely pastoral canton; it is one of the districts of Europe where relatively the largest number of hands are employed in industrial occupations. Out of 30,000 inhabitants, 10,000 live directly by such occupations, and nearly all the others indirectly. Here, thanks to the communal property, the workmen of the commune obtain, of right and without payment, what the workmen's building societies at Mulhouse secure to their members on payment of a certain sum, viz., a garden for the growth of vegetables. There is, moreover, this difference: at Mulhouse the garden is a scrap of a few square yards; at Glaris it is a field for the cultivation of potatoes, vegetables, and fruits. Nearly all the members of the commune can keep a cow, or at any rate some goats. They have their house, and pay little or no taxes. The expenses of the public service are defrayed out of the revenue of property set apart for the purpose. The school, the church, the board of charity, have their separate alp, forest and arable, the produce of which is sufficient for their maintenance.

How great is the difference between the lot of the Manchester mechanic, and that of the Swiss commoner. The one lives in an atmosphere thick with smoke, with a dirty garret in an unhealthy lane as his only lodging, and the gin palace as his only distraction. The other, breathing the pure air of the splendid Linth valley, at the foot of the pure snows of the Glarnisch, is subject to the healthy influence of magnificent natural surroundings. He is well lodged; is the cultivator of his own field, which he holds by virtue of his natural add inalienable right of property; he grows a part of his food supply; and is attached to the soil which he occupies, to the commune in whose administration he takes part, and to the canton whose laws he makes directly in the general assembly of the Landesgemeinde, feeling himself connected with his fellow-members by the bonds of a common ownership, and to his fellow-citizens by the common exercise of the same rights.

The gloomy condition of the English workman begets in his mind hatred of social order, of his master and of capital; and consequently a spirit of revolt. The Swiss workman, enjoying all the rights natural to man, cannot rise up against a system which secures him real advantages, and which his vote helps to perpetuate. With him the fair motto of the French revolution, liberty, equality, fraternity, is no empty formula inscribed on the tablets of public documents. His liberty is complete, and has been handed down from remote antiquity; equality is a fact sanctioned by all his laws; fraternity is not mere sentiment; it is embodied in institutions, which make the inhabitants of the same commune members of one family, partaking, by equal right, in the hereditary patrimony.

A third type of enjoyment by the commoners is found in Valais. In that district, the fraternal relations of the patriarchal epoch are still to be found in all their simplicity. Almost all the communes have property of considerable extent, consisting of forests, alps, vineyards, and corn land. As in Uri, the right of using the alp is dependent on private property, insomuch as the number of head of cattle, which each may send on to the common pasturage, depends on the number he can keep through the winter: the forest, however, is divided into parcels, which are distributed by lot among the occupiers. Very minute rules now regulate the management of the woods; and the Union forestière suisse has succeeded in introducing its ideas. It was time for such a measure, as Valais has destroyed its woods in the most disastrous manner. Almost all the gorges, which open into the valley of the Rhone are diswooded to a terrible extent, and are consequently stripped and ravaged by storms and torrents.

The communal vineyards are cultivated in common. Every member of the commune devotes a certain number of days' labour until the wine is bottled. In different localities there are also corn-lands cultivated in the same manner. Part of the communal revenue is expended in the purchase of cheese. The wine and bread, which is the fruit of their joint labour, forms the basis of the banquets, at which all the members of the commune take part, Gemeindetrinket. These are exactly identical with the common meals of Sparta and Crete, or the agapae of the primitive Christians. By these banquets, at which prevails a cordiality animated by the generous wine of Valais, a real brotherly intimacy is maintained among the inhabitants. The women are often present, and moderate the excessive drinking and the words to which, as Rousseau avows, the Swiss wine is apt to lead.

Independently of the communes, societies of riflemen also own common lands, growing wheat and vines, -- bread and wine answering, in the view of the "seigneurs tireurs," to the first necessities of man. Each member of the association furnishes his number of days' work, and the produce is consumed in common repasts, which take place every Sunday, after the rifle competition. The curé of Varne, M. Kaempfen, who supplies these details, says much in favour of the influence exercised by these brotherhoods, alike in a moral and economic aspect. Much is said, in the present day, of fraternity; but little is done to create or maintain the sentiment, which is the soul of human societies. The banquet of equals, the Caenum of the early days of Christianity, is now, unfortunately, nothing more than a liturgic ceremony, a cold symbol instead of being a living reality.

Although taxes increase every year, and the communes have often been pressed to sell their lands, the occupiers have always refused to do so; and have done wisely. As the curé Kaempfen remarks, a vineyard-commoner, Weinbürger, would rather let his wife and children starve than give up these common banquets. In a few localities, for the assistance of the most necessitous, the allmends of the plain have been divided into parcels, which are distributed by lot, to be held for life.

In French Switzerland the communal lands have been reduced since the fifteenth century by partition among the inhabitants.(9) There are still, however, 202 communes owning common lands, which, in 77 villages, represent a revenue of 20 fr. for each inhabitant. On July 13, 1799, the Swiss Republic forbade all partition for this very just reason: -- "These lands are the inheritance of your fathers, the fruit of many years of toil and care; and belong not to you alone, but also to your descendants." The regulations for the enjoyment of the meadows, the woods, and the arable of the commune are the same as in German Switzerland. In 1826, the commune of Pully-Petit put all its lands, previously divided, once more into community, and subjected them to a periodic partition among all the inhabitants every 15 years, a part being reserved for distribution among new families. In the work of M. Rowalewsky, we see how the communal lands became private property by the periodic partition becoming more and more rare, and finally falling into desuetude.

There seem to be no complete statistics of communal property in Switzerland. We must, therefore, be content with what data can be collected conceding certain cantons or certain towns. In the canton of Unterwalden, the value of the communal property is computed for Obwald, with 13,000 inhabitants, at 11,350,000 francs. In Appenzell, the seven Inner Rhodes, with 9,800 inhabitants, own property estimated at about 3,000,000 francs. The property of the commoners of the town of Soleure consists of 5,409 juchart of forest (the juchart being equivalent to 3 1/2 roods); 1,041 juchart of pasture land, and 136 juchart of cultivated land; with the capital and buildings they are estimated at 2,330,338 francs, but they are actually worth three times as much. In the canton of Saint Gall, communal lands are very extensive. Out of 236 alps in the district, which contain 24,472 stoessen,(10) 143 alps with 12,407 stoessen are common domain. The common property of the citizens of town of Saint-Gall itself is valued at 6,291,000 francs. In the canton of Schaffhausen, communal lands comprise 28,140 juchart. The whole territory of the canton being only 85,120 juchart, collective property occupies one-third of it. The greater part of the forests belong to joint owners, who possess 20,588 juchart out of 29,188. In the cantons of Uri, Zug and Schwytz, the allmends are also very extensive.

We can see in Switzerland how the State is born of the mark. The political association is developed on the basis of the economic, agrarian association of the allmend. In primitive times a tribe of Germans (Alemannen) settled in the valleys of Schwytz. In the twelfth century, when documents first notice this group of free men, on the occasion of a dispute with the cloister of Einsideln as to the limits of their mark, they occupied the valley of the Muta, the Sihl, and the Alb. They formed a markgenossenschaft, a society of commoners sharing as joint patrimony Allmends of great extent, the remnant of which at the present day is still called Oberallmeind. In the valley of Arth, another group occupied the villages of Arth, Goldau, Busingen, Röthen and Lauerz. This group also formed a small independent State, which possessed a common domain, the Unterallmeind. The Unterallmeind also exists to this day: it comprises cultivated land, forest and alp, and amongst the rest all the southern portion of the Rigi. Gersau, with its Allmend, likewise constituted an independent state, a republic, which in 1390 was exempted from all suzerainty, on payment of 690 pfund pfenninge, and was only united to Schwytz in 1817 by a free convention.(11)

In the Baden district, as formerly in Alsace, the Allmends were as extensive as in Switzerland; and the system of allotment to which they were subjected was the same. In the plain of Baden and the Rhine valley, the share of an adult member was two or three morgen (from 1.2 to 1.8 acres). In certain villages, such as Heddesheim and Landenbach, it was as much as five morgen.(12) The enjoyment of the parcels of arable was seldom granted for more than a very short term. A fresh partition was effected every year, or in some places every three years. It followed that the soil was not cultivated with the necessary care, as the holder was not certain of retaining his possession. Rau, from whom these details are borrowed, regards the Allmends with great favour. According to him, the motive, which leads to the sale of common lands, viz. the greater produce which individual owners would derive from them, does not exist here, because the Allmends are already under cultivation, and, as a rule, are well farmed. The system, he says, affords this very important advantage, that it provides a valuable resource for indigent families, and preserves them at least from the last extremity of distress. Rau entreats the communes to retain their common arable lands; and quotes cases where the final division of these Lands has led to most mischievous results.(13) He proceeds to offer advice as to the mode of regulating the partition of the Allmends. According to his view, each family should have an equal share; but every one should pay a certain proportional rent, the produce of which should be used to indemnify such members as cannot cultivate their part. The enjoyment should be secured for a term of considerable length, and might be for the life of the occupant. A fault to be avoided is the division of the share of any occupant into too many parcels, which is often detrimental to agriculture. When a lot returns to the common stock for re-apportionment, the outgoing occupant, or his family, if he be dead, should be compensated for the improvements executed by him, for manure, drainage, enclosures, and plantations, that the land may not be neglected during the last years of occupancy. This is a precaution of great importance, which is almost everywhere neglected, and which the inhabitants should endeavour to introduce into the rules of all Allmends.

According to information which the author owes to M. Karl Bücher, who intends devoting a special treatise to the subject, the Allmends still occupy a much greater area in Southern Germany than is generally supposed. They extend as far as Hesse, where they are often constituted on less exclusive principles than in Switzerland. Not only the hereditary burgesses, but all inhabitants, are entitled to a share in the collective property. For instance, the system in force in the small town of Reppenheim, which numbers some 5,000 inhabitants, entitles every inhabitant, after four years continuous residence, to the benefits of the allmend. The whole extent occupied by each family is about four Hessian morgen, or about a hectare. The members cannot claim their share immediately on their marriage or coming of age, but must wait eight years, and then only have a quarter of their entire share. The remainder is granted them from time to time, so that they obtain the full enjoyment when nearly sixty years of age. Every inhabitant may send a cow and some goats on to the common pasturage. He also receives two cubic metres of timber, and one hundred fagots; and if he grows tobacco on his plot of arable, the produce is sufficient for his whole maintenance. It follows from this system that there is no pauperism, and that the aged are always maintained by their relatives. For the right of occupation is extinguished by their death. In the organization of the allmend, the death of the parents is a loss instead of being a gain, as it is made under the system of quiritary succession. Accordingly, the former system tends to strengthen natural affection, while the latter has a contrary tendency. The lands of the allmend are not inferior to others in point of cultivation. Those in the neighbourhood of towns are, in fact, carefully cultivated as market gardens, and give very valuable returns. Thus collective property so organized will compare well in an economic point of view with private property.





1. The materials for this chapter were collected with the greatest difficulty. A visit to the villages of Berne, Oberland, and the borders of the lake of the Four Cantons, was of no use to form a general view of the subject, as the customs were everywhere different. A few Swiss publications were of use; but England, France and Germany afford no information. Maurer and Roscher, generally so exhaustive of all that concerns ancient agrarian customs, say hardly anything of the Swiss Allmenden. Professor Nasse, who has much information on this subject, thinks German economists have paid no special attention to it. The chief sources used in the chapter are :--1. A collection of regulations for the Allmenden of the Schwytz canton. 2. A complete study on communal property in Unterwald, Die Rechtsverhältnisse am Gemeinland in Unterwalden, by Andreas Heusler, professor of law at Basle. 3. A pamphlet full of original and sound views, by Doctor B. Becker, pastor at Linthal, in the canton of Glans, Die Allmeinde, das Grundstück zur Losung der socialen Knage. 4. A study of Professor de Wyss, Die Schweizerische Landsgemeinden, in the Zeitschrift für Schweiz. Recht, 1 Bd. 5. Snells book, Handbuch den Schweiz, Zurich 1844. 6. Das Landbuch von Schwyz, herausgegeben von Kothing, Zurich 1850. 7. Das Landbuch od er Sammlung den Gesetze des Cantons Uri, Flüelen 1823. 8. Private information, due to Professor König of Berne, and M. Schenk, chief of the federal department of the interior.

2. The canton of Appenzell is divided into two halves, the Inner and Outer Rhodes. The word Rhoden denotes a very ancient and curious institution. Each Rhode is made up of a group of a certain number of inhabitants more or less scattered throughout the villages, who assemble to choose deputies for the two councils and to administer certain collective property. The Rhode therefore corresponds to the clan, except that this kind of political corporation is not attached to a fixed portion of territory. The institution, which has certain analogies with the Roman gens, dates from the highest antiquity. For the Landesgemeinde, see an excellent article by M. Rambert in the Revue Suisse (1873), and the Studies of Mr Freeman on the primitive forms of political orgamzation.

3. The organization of society in Barbary, as described in the works of MM. Hanoteau and Letourneux, of which there is an admirable résumé by M. Ernest Benan in the Revue des Deux Mondes, Sept. 1,1873, is identical with that of the Germanic mark and the Swiss democracies. The government is direct: the. people sell-administering. The supreme authority is the general assembly of citizens or djemaa, which exercises alike legislative, executive and judicial power. It nominates a mayor (Amin), who is nothing but the Swiss amman. Landed property is no longer common, as in the primitive mark; but the community still binds private property in very close fetters. The latter owes to the poor the thimeckeret, or distribution of meat. Hospitality is a common charge of the djemaa, as it was of the mark. A Kabyle has a right to demand the assistance of the whole village for the construction of his house. Agricultural works are also carried on by the aid of mutual assistance. Every one in need claims help of the village and is in turn liable to a similar claim. The result of this organization, based on such strict principles of joint responsibility, is, as M. Renan remarks, to hinder the development of wealth, but at the same time to throw an obstacle in the way of the formation of a social residuum, destined to misery by a fatal decree. The similarity between the djemaa of Barbary and the Swiss landesgemeinde is an additional evidence that everywhere human societies were originally constituted in the same way. We may therefore assert that the democratic and autonomic commune is the natural form of society. The superiority of the Swiss communes is due to their having, under the influence of the sentiment of Christian brotherhood, arrived at federation, whereas the djemaas have remained in a state of war with one another.

4. This principle is laid down by Blackstone and all English jurists. Williams, in his treatise On Real Property, says: "The first thing the student has to do is to get rid of the idea of an absolute ownership. Such an idea is quite unknown to the English law. No man is in law the absolute owner of lands. He can only hold an estate in them."

5. A project was recently submitted to the Grand Council of Berne to facilitate the dissolution of communities and to allow of the realization of their property by the communes. One sees with regret this hostility to a system which should be fostered and cleared of abuses. For the study of this question, constantly under discussion in Switzerland, the following works may be consulted:

Rüttimann, Geschichte des Schweiz-Gemeindebürgerrechts, Zurich, 1862; Leuenberger, Studien zur bernischen Rechtsgesehichte, 28; Stettler, Versuch einer urkundlich geschichtl. Entwicklung der Gemeinde und Bürgerrechisverhältnisse im Kt. Bern, in der Zeitschrift für vat erländisches Recht, Vol. 111; Wirth, Beschreibung und Statistik der Schweiz, Vol. II.; Quiquerez, Observations sur l'origine et la destination des biens appelés de bourgeoisie dans le Jura bernois; Blosch, Betrachtungen über das Gemeindewesen im Kt. Bern tend dessen Reform. Bern 1848; Gutatacten über die Reorganisation des Gemeindewesens im Kt. Bern vom 9 Juni 1851. See also Vorträge der Direktion des Gemeinde- und Armenwesens über den Rekurs Lammlingen (vom 11. November 1872), and the Report of the ninth Congress of the Swiss Juristic Association on the question. Ist die Anshebung der Bürger- oder Genossengemeinden und die Verwendung des Vermögens derselben zu allgemeinen Geineinderwecken staatsrechtlich zulässig tend nationalökonomisch zu empfehlen? (Verf. Obergerichtspräsident Dr Bühler sel. in Luzern.)

6. The Kuhessen is the quantity of keep necessary for a milking cow during the summer months. There is the same measure in Frisia and all Germanic countries.

7. See Dr B. Becker, Die Allmeinde, p. 37.

8. In the canton of Appensell also the peasants have recently founded two societies to purchase two pastures, the Wiederalp and the Fählen. The farming is carried on in common; and the shares of the societies are at a premium. See Journal de statistique Suisse, 1866, p. 59.

9. See the interesting work of M. Rowalewsky translated into German, Umriss einer Geschichte der Zerstückelung der Feldgemeinschaft im Kanton Waadf. Zurich 1877.

10. The Stoss, like the Kuhessen, is the indefinite extent necessary to support one cow in summer

11. See Das alte Staatsvervögen des Kantons SchwijzBericht des Regierungsraths an den H. Kantonarath, Schwyz, 1870.

12. See Rau, Lehrbuch der politischen Oeconomie, Vol. II. p. 171.

13. Zeller (Zeitschrift für die landw. Vereine des Gr. H. Hessen, 1848, p. 62, 213, 269) quotes several examples in the South of Germany, where, after the definite partition of the communal lands, the poorest of the cultivators could not preserve their share. They sold their portion, and fell into distress. The common patrimony, repartitioned from time to time, had been an obstacle to

pauperism.