File No. 763.72111/1346
The Minister in Switzerland ( Stovall ) to the Secretary of State
[Received January 5, 1915.]
Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report upon recent events in this country.
The Government of Switzerland, which promptly called its active troops to the frontier in August last, has maintained since that time upon a war footing about 250,000 men. The expense of this army to protect its neutrality upon the confines of France, Germany, Austria, and Italy has been in round numbers one million francs per diem ($200,000). This country seems to be very much in earnest that no hostile invasion of its territory shall occur, and that no part of the belligerent armies shall be forced across her border without being promptly disarmed and interned for the period, of the war Switzerland is careful of her neutrality, next to her independence, and is guarding the country at heavy sacrifice. Although not actually at war, Switzerland is feeling the effects of war on all sides. Its young men are called from the productive arts and industries, many of the manufacturers are idle for the lack of labor and raw material and means and markets of export, there being an especial need of American cotton in the factories at this time.
The National Council is now in session in Berne facing a deficit of fr. 30,000,000; it is earnestly addressing itself to the question of income and budget, and the matter has been carefully gone over by the President and Federal Council and will be fully canvassed by the representatives in both houses. The questions of additional tariff upon telephones, certain forms of round-trip railroad tickets, increased postage upon newspapers, double income and military taxes, and a Government monopoly of tobacco have been seriously considered. The tobacco monopoly has developed strong opposition and may not stand the test of a referendum, if such a referendum is allowed.
The duration of the war is a matter of special importance to Switzerland, which, though not actually engaged must maintain its army upon a war footing.
Affecting the neutrality, a subject very dear to Swiss sentiment, which is strong in spite of the apparent division of the cantons into [Page 4] German Switzerland, French Switzerland, and Italian Switzerland, was the appearance of three English aviators, who flew from Belfort along the Rhine one day last month, and who dropped bombs upon the Zeppelin sheds at Friedrichshafen. It was charged that these airmen had actually flown above a section of Schaffhausen, Switzerland, which jutted out into Germany, just before the Lake of Constance was reached. Friedrichshafen lies upon the German side of the lake. Some of the papers were insistent that the neutrality of Switzerland had been violated and that the British aviators, in reaching Friedrichshafen, had traveled over a section of Swiss territory. The matter was promptly taken up by the Swiss National Council, and the English Government was swift, with that of France, to make disavowal of any such intention. If the aeroplanes had actually passed over any part of Switzerland, it was an inadvertence, they said, since the pilots had been provided with maps and warned by specific instructions. Still, Great Britain added that the question had not been definitely settled and although anxious to respect Switzerland’s wishes in every way possible, the United Kingdom had not yet admitted the right of any country to claim sovereignty over all the air resting above it.
The question is an interesting one, and the discussion is attracting the attention of legal and political leaders. Switzerland contends that if England’s intimation were carried out, German and French aviators might swarm over the country, engaging and pursuing each other, dropping bombs and generally menacing the peace and security of this nation. Such a condition, they strongly urge, might lead to an intolerable violation of all neutrality, as actually as if the warfare were conducted upon her soil.
Swiss patriotism is very strong, and the people appear to be united in spite of the divided sympathies and neighborly feelings for the belligerent nations. At first German Switzerland, which comprises more than three fourths of this country, was openly expressive of German sympathies, but the feeling even in that section seems now to be conservative and impartial. The sentiment of the cantons along the Lake of Geneva is generally believed to be for France. But above all, the people are determined to protect their own country as a whole, and the national spirit in spite of all geographical division is steady and undiminished.
I have [etc.]