Geneva’s Choice in 1815
5 July 2016
On December 30, 1813, the entry of the Austrian general Count Ferdinand Bubna von Littiz (1768-1825) brought an end to fifteen years of French domination of Geneva.
The city had welcomed the French revolutionary troops enthusiastically in 1798. After the fifteen years of French annexation, French-speaking Geneva stood at an important crossroads in its two thousand years of existence.
On January 1, 1814, the regents from before 1798 proclaimed the independent republic of Geneva, but there was no turning back. Partly as a result of the major powers’ preference at the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) and despite resistance from some Catholic cantons, Geneva joined the Swiss Confederation on May 19, 1815, as the twenty-second canton.
The agreement was ratified by the superpowers in international treaties in 1815 (Paris) and in 1816 (Turin). Switzerland got its final borders, neutrality and sovereignty.
Moreover, Geneva was Protestant, a heritage that it also shared with other Swiss cantons. There was also a shared political and economic history with other Swiss territories, for example at the time of the Burgundian Kingdom in the Middle Ages, and centuries of common enemies, for example, the Dukes of Savoye, but the city always kept its political independence.
Geneva had never been under French rule until 1798 and this experiment was not to be repeated.
It was a good choice. Geneva escaped two world wars, French centralism, the euro and the EU, and the canton was embedded in a federal, multicultural, decentralised and democratic welfare state with a generous, relatively well-functioning model of immigration.