Mr. Winchester to Mr. Bayard.
Berne , December 1, 1888. (Received December 17.)
Sir: Mr. Hertenstein, President of the Swiss Confederation, died at 3 o’clock the morning of the 27th ultimo, from the effects of a surgical operation (the amputation of his leg, rendered necessary by a stoppage in the veins) which he underwent on the Saturday previous. The interment took place yesterday, being, it is said, one of the most imposing civil and military demonstrations on a funeral occasion that has ever been made in Switzerland. Mr. Hertenstein was sixty-three years of age, and had been President since January, 1888. He has been a member of the Swiss federal council since 1879, and previous to that had served in both branches of the federal assembly. He obtained the highest rank—that of colonel in the Swiss army—having rendered gallant service in 1848, and was also chief of artillery in the Canton of Zurich, where he resided.
Prior to his appearance in national public life he had made his mark in the Canton of Zurich as a member of the Cantonal Government, and specially in the forestry service, in which his ability and efficiency were most conspicuous. At the time of his death, in addition to the executive functions, he was chief of the federal department of military affairs. He was a man of simple manners and methodic habits, of quiet, sedate manner, and grave countenance. His spirit of equity was in such high repute that he was constantly asked to arbitrate difficulties, and it is related that it was a person against whom he decided in an affair of this kind who first thought of putting him forward as candidate for a seat in the federal assembly. He was noted for his strict [Page 687] probity, attention to business, and watchfulness over the smallest details of all public trusts placed in his hands.
Outside of Switzerland, to most readers the announcement of the death of the Swiss President will, for the first time, convey the news of his name. The Swiss have a way of keeping their current history to themselves, or the outside world has a way of not asking for it, which is much the same thing. They are unique among civilized people for the extreme modesty of their claim upon the attention of mankind. This might imply the highest qualities or the lowest; but no one who knows anything of the little Republic will doubt to which of them it is to be assigned. Certainly Switzerland seems to have attained to that quietism which is one attribute of perfection. It lives, moves, and works without fuss or friction, and is constantly solving in its own way some of the hardest problems of politics; maintaining perfect peace between diverse races and conflicting creeds, and, the most difficult feat-of all, has even made the plebiscitary system a working provision of a written constitution.
During the illness of Mr. Hertenstein nearly all the foreign ministers accredited to Berne received instructions from their respective governments to testify their anxiety for his recovery, and at his death instructions were received for a formal expression of condolence by their ministers on behalf of their governments, and the president of the French Republic sent a personal representative to attend the funeral.
On my arrival here last Sunday, and hearing of Mr. Hertenstein’s critical condition I hastened to express the most profound sympathy, both for my Government and self; and when officially notified of the President’s death, conveyed to the federal council, on behalf of the President of the United States and personally a proper expression of condolence. This I felt constrained to do, not awaiting any special instructions from the Department. I observe in a London paper of yesterday a telegram from New York that “President Cleveland had sent a telegram of condolence to the Swiss Government on the occasion of the death of the president of the Confederation.”
Mr. Hammer, the vice-president, succeeds to the presidency. An election of a new president by the federal assembly takes place during its session this month, and his term will begin January 1, 1889.
I am, etc.,