William E. RappardPennsylvania and Switzerland

2.27 William Rappard, Pennsylvania and Switzerland; the Americanization of the Swiss Constitution, 1940 in Varia Politica, publiés ou réinprimés à l occasion du soixant-dixième anniversaire de William E. Rappard, Zurich, 1953 p. 316-338, full text

a) Background

The text at hand is an example of the purpose of this Anthology not to lose sight of the longstanding and special relationship between the United States and Switzerland in legal matters. The text “Pennsylvania and Switzerland”: The American Origins of the Swiss Constitution is a good case of “how ideas travel” in a two-way street of cultural encounter and exchange in law and legal culture between Switzerland and the United States. The text is reprinted in the volume Varia Politica, which contains a selection of texts, re-edited for the occasion of the seventh birthday of William E. Rappard in 1953. The text is an extract of the monograph prepared by the author for the occasion of the Bicentennial Conference of the University of Pennsylvania in September 1940.

William Rappard started his career, as a young professor at Harvard University and thereof became an early representative of a rising school of international political science. He then is an eminent cosmopolitan professor of economics, economic history and political science in Geneva. He advised the government of Switzerland over a long period of time on key matters of foreign policy. From 1917 to 1919, William Rappard was a member of various Swiss diplomatic missions to Washington, D.C., London and Paris, including service with the Swiss delegation to the peace conference in France that ended the First World War. He made a strong impression on President Woodrow Wilson and was highly influential in persuading him to choose Geneva as headquarters of the League of Nations. William Rappard’s greatest institutional contribution between the world wars was his co-founding in 1927 of the Graduate Institute for International Studies in Geneva, with Paul Mantoux, the internationally respected economic historian and expert on the industrial revolution. For many years he was Rector (President) of tge University of Geneva.

William Rappard was a close observer and avid scholar of complex cultural exchances in law and legal culture between Switzerland and the United States. The text at hand was already written in 1912 and published in the “American Academy of Political and Social Science”. During World War II he had a principled discussion with Heinrich Goebbels at the home of essayist and diplomat Carl J. Burckhardt outside Geneva. He was an ardent conservative and guardian of swiss voices and briefly was a member of the Swiss Parliament. After World War II he was part of the delegation of Switzerland in the negotiations of the Washington Agreements, regularising the relationship between Switzerland and the United States after World War II. Besides having an American passport by origin he is a representative of the Romandie, the French speaking part of Switzerland. He mostly wrote his texts in French and in English.

William Rappard’s greatest institutional contribution between the world wars was his co-founding in 1927 of the Graduate Institute for International Studies in Geneva, with Paul Mantoux, the internationally respected economic historian and expert on the industrial revolution.

b) Summary

The monograph itself, which extends over 70 pages, was considered too long to be reproduced in the volume. The text therefore only contains those parts that most clearly show the influence exercised by the American Constitution on the drafting of the Swiss Constitution of 1848. William Rappard’s text analyses the subject as from a historical perspective, as all political science according to William Rappard must be, if it wishes to become worthy of its name. The text starts with the sentence “The deep constitutional gratitude which Switzerland owes to the United States in general and Philadelphia in particular is such that it can never be repaid”.

The monograph itself, which extends over 70 pages, was considered too long to be reproduced in the volume. The text therefore only contains those parts that most clearly show the influence exercised by the American Constitution on the drafting of the Swiss Constitution of 1848. William Rappard’s text analyses the subject from a historical perspective, as all political science according to William Rappard must be, if it wishes to be worthy of its name. The text starts with the sentence “The deep constitutional gratitude which Switzerland owes to the United States in general and Philadelphia in particular is such that it can never be repaid”.

William Rappard continues as follows: “In 1848 the Swiss ship of state, after a stormy voyage of over 55 years, at last came to port. It found refuge in the constitutional harbor, which had been discovered and chartered by the American statesmen assembled in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia more than half a century before”. According to Rappard, the transformation of the Swiss confederation to a fully-fledged nation state “was carried out in conscious and deliberate imitation of the American model”. The text is not a summary of the constitutional history of Switzerland from 1798 to 1848; it is a recall of the most significant references to the American example made in public discussion in Switzerland in the course of half century and to show why it finally prevailed. Rappard devoted these sequences of excerpts exclusively to what might be called the case of American-Swiss Constitutional Contagion of 1798-1848.

The first extract of the “The Revolutionary Period” referring to Jean-Jacque Cart is a testimony for a Swiss lawyer having spent two years in Boston from 1769 to 1771. Back in Switzerland he practiced law in his home town before being forced to flee for being involved in the French revolution and settling as a farmer in New York. The revolution of 1798 brought him back to Switzerland; he became a member of a parliamentary formation and constantly drew on his American knowledge and experience.
The excerpt dealing with the chapter “The Restoration 1814-1830” deals with the most active centre of Swiss political thought during the Restoration: the Helvetic Society, it highlights various writings of the President of the Helvetic Society, the historian Heinrich Zschokke.

Rappard then turns to the texts of the doctor philosopher Paul Ignanz Troxler in the monograph entitled “The struggle for and against the American System, 1834” and several pamphlets and texts; one of them a “draft fundamental law for the Swiss confederation”. Troxler remained faithful to the conception of the draft outline throughout his life. Fifteen years later, he published one of his last political pamphlets under the title “The Constitution of the United States of America as a model for the Swiss Federal Reform” and together with other militant colleagues greatly influenced the formation of the Swiss constitution in 1848, in particular with respect to the introduction of a bicameral system.
Rappard’s conclusion of this collage and sequence of excerpts reads as follows:

“The story of how the United States, by the force of her example, contributed to the conversion of Switzerland to the principles of bicameral federalism, devised in Philadelphia in 1787, thus reaches its normal conclusion. It has been told with sufficient detail to be fastidious, I fear, but also, I venture to hope, with sufficient clarity to be enlightening. Its special historical interest is limited to the two democracies concerned and, even within their boundaries, is hardly such as to suggest any headlines that might startle the general public. What is of universal interest, however, is the lesson it teaches, the political lesson of how general union can be combined with local freedom. That lesson, which the disunited nations of the world have still to learn from the United States of America, as the united cantons of Switzerland learned it from them nearly a century ago, is one of peculiarly tragic timeliness today. That it has long been understood to be one of world importance is shown by a statement made more than seventy years ago by my fellow countryman Professor Rütimann. In the preface of his monumental comparative study of American and Swiss constitutional practice (see text 2.31), he wrote:

“The North American Union at present unites about forty states of quite unequal size and power in a community of law from which not only war, but also every other form of self-help, has been excluded as entirely dispensable. Likewise in small Switzerland, which was formerly decried as the seat of constant anarchy and wild discord, the federal state has since 1848 justified itself as a foundation on which the citizens of twenty-five cantons, in spite of their diversity of speech, of faith, of political views and of material interests, have been able to live together in happy and ordered circumstances and to develop in common a gratifying prosperity. If mankind is perfectible and capable of constant progress, Europe will also sooner or later come to see that its peoples are one to another as members of one body; that the solidarity between them is real; that every wound inflicted upon one of them spares none of the others; that any conflict between them is susceptible of a look upon our present international law in much the same light as that in which we today look upon the medieval law of reprisals”.

c) Text

You can find a scan (PDF) of the original text here:
A_2.27_RAPPARD_Pennsylvania and Switzerland

© Prof. Jens Drolshammer, office@drolshammer.com,  www.drolshammer.net

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