to Mr. Evarts.
Berne, May 19, 1879. (Received June 2.)
Sir: The returns thus far received, in regard to the voting which took place yesterday on the amendment to article 65 of the federal constitution [Page 972] concerning the death penalty, though incomplete, leave no doubt that the proposed amendment has been accepted by the people by about 15,000 majority. The total vote appears to be about 370,000, and the largest majority was that of the canton of Zurich, which amounted to 17,000 against its adoption, while the neighboring canton of St. Galle gave the second largest majority (on either side) in favor of the amendment, amounting to about 10,000.
In the canton of Berne a very light vote was cast, and had it not been for the newspapers it would have been difficult yesterday to realize that an election was taking place. So little interest did the question invoke in this canton, that with a population exceeding that of the canton of Zurich by over 220,000, the vote cast was about 5,000 less here than there.
The cantons voting in favor of the amendment, if the returns are correct, are Lucerne, Uri, Schwytz, Unterwalden (Upper and Lower), Glarns, Zug, Freiburg, Soleure, Schaffhonsen, Appenzell, (Inner and Outer Rhoden), St. Galle, Orisons, Argovie, Vaucl, and Valais.
Those voting in the negative are Zurich, Berne, Basle (Villa and Campagne), Thurgovie, Neuehatel, Geneva, and probably Tessin.
As previously reported to you in my No. 172, the present decision has been quite as much one of a purely political character as a test of popular opinion of the merits and demerits of capital punishment.
The question of the introduction of the death penalty is now restored to the competence of the respective cantons from whom the hitherto existing article 65 of the constitution of 1874 took it, subject only to the limitation of the amendment that it shall not be imposed for a political offense, and that corporal punishments are abolished.
To obtain a true verdict of the people respecting capital punishment, it would be necessary for the different cantons now to submit the question of its re-establishment to the popular vote within their respective jurisdictions.
I have, &c.,