Alfred KölzStaatsideen aus dem “atlantischen” Raum

2.30    Alfred Kölz, Neuere Schweizerische Verfassungsgeschichte, Ihre Grundlinien vom Ende der alten Eidgenossenschaft bis 1848, Bern 1992; exerpt: Staatsideen aus dem „atlantischen“ Raum, p. 919-920

[Ideas of government originating in the “atlantic” area ]

a) Background

The text at hand is an excerpt of Alfred Kölz’s “Neue Schweizerische Verfassungsgeschichte, Ihre Grundlinien vom Ende der alten Eidgenossenschaft bis 1848“. The text reflects the concluding remarks of the second volume which was published shortly after Alfred Kölz’s unfirmely death.
Kölz was a Swiss Professor of Law at the University of Zurich. He has written the seminal work on the history of the Swiss constitution in two volumes with two accompanying source books. He was a well-known teacher, as well as an out-of-the-box political thinker. Together with Professor Jürg Paul Müller of the University of Berne he wrote – as part of a student seminar – a basic draft for a new Swiss constitution. He was well known for his political independence as well as his opinions on popular rights and environmental protection.

b) Summary

The posthumously edited and published 2nd volume of the seminal Verfassungsgeschichte und ihre Grundlinien in Bund und Kantonen seit 1848 contains remarks on the attempts for a total revision of constitutions after World War II (chapter 26), enforcement of a sovereignty of the people (chapter 27) and its constitutional history as source of inspiration for the future of Europe (chapter 29).
The concluding remark is the excerpt at hand. It deals with the Ideen aus dem “Atlantischen” Raum (Ideas of government from the “Atlantic area”). Kölz’s interesting view of the circular travels of ideas in the Atlantic Area is an important part of the ideas that became effective in the times of the Helvetic, the regeneration and the democratic movement in Switzerland which originated in ideas of natural law of enlightenment; in particular in the creative constitutional thinking of the American and French revolutions. These ideas that were developed in the “Atlantic area” were received with particular enthusiasm in Switzerland, since despite the aristocratic developments in the 17th and 18th century, a republican thinking based on cooperative forms of democracy survived. Additionally, certain direct-democratic institutions such as the referendum, the initiative and occasionally the recall have been taken over at an early stage in various terms. On the other hand in the 1890 of the 19th century democratic movements, particularly in the Western States of the American Union, were parallel and similar to those in Switzerland. It was the case not only with respect to the economic and the social problems but also with the means for their solution. The target was a “populist movement” against the power of the trusts and the economic privileges of the abuses of power by the politicians. Kölz assumes that the ideas have been brought to the attention of the people in the Western States of the Union by Swiss emigrates, particularly from the Canton of Zurich and the Confederation. The developments led to the initial integration of a popular initiative, the referendum and the recall in most of the Western States. These developments lead to travels of democratic thinking of the French revolution and of the Swiss democratic movement to the United States. (See text 2.17 by William Rappard and text 2.18 by James Hutson)

c) Text

You can find a scan (PDF) of the original text here:
A_2.30_KOLZ_Atlantischen Raum

© Prof. Jens Drolshammer,,

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