Mr. Rublee to Mr. Fish.
Berne , July 26, 1873. (Received August 22.)
Sir: The Federal Assembly of Switzerland, now in session, has decided to meet on the third of November next, and to hold a special session at that time for the purpose of renewing the attempt to revise the existing constitution.
In compliance with the motion adopted by the two houses in December last, the Federal Council has submitted a report upon the question of revision.
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Adopting as the basis of deliberations the project of revision rejected last year by a small majority of the popular vote, the Federal Council proposes a number of modifications of the project in question, and some additional articles. The report seeks to conciliate the more moderate class of the anti-revision majority of last year by sundry concessions to the cantonal or state rights sentiment, and is, for the most part, favorably received by the press, excepting, of course, the organs of the Ultramontane party.
It drops the clause in the former project which authorized the federal government to fix the minimum of instruction to be given in the primary schools. It enlarges and gives a more clear and definite form to the articles relating to the rights of conscience, liberty of worship, and other cognate matters; civil marriage is made obligatory. The keeping of the civil registers is withdrawn from the hands of the clergy; a new article specifically prohibits the erection of bishoprics within the territory of the confederation without the assent of the government.
In regard to the organization of the army and the adoption of a uniform code of civil and penal law, some concessions, for the most part rather in form than in substance, are made to cantonal feeling. The paragraph requiring that each of the three national languages shall be represented in the federal tribunal is omitted.
There is also a new article, authorizing the Federal Council to expel any person from Swiss territory who assumes to exercise official functions therein in the name of a foreign power or authority without the [Page 1090] assent of the confederation, which of course has already been seized upon by the Catholic party as an admission that, in decreeing the expulsion of Mgr. Mermillod, the Federal Council acted without authority of law, and in violation of the rights of a Swiss citizen.
The report of the Federal Council has been referred to a committee of the two chambers, which will report upon it to the Federal Assembly at the opening of the special session in November.
I have, &c.,