Alois von Reding
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Josef Fridolin Vinzenz Aloys Reding von Biberegg (6 March 1765 – 5 February 1818) was a Swiss patriot, military officer and politician. He is best known for leading an early revolt against the Helvetic Republic.
Until 1788, Alois von Reding served in the Schwyzer regiments in the service of Spain, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. After he returned to Switzerland, he became a national captain of the canton of Schwyz.
When the Helvetic Republic, imposed by the French, was introduced in 1798, he led a revolt made up of forces from Schwyz, Unterwalden, and Uri. Many of the cantons resented being denied the right to self-government and the limits on the freedom of worship imposed by the new regime. Heavily outnumbered, von Reding was forced to submit to French General Schauenburg on 13 May.
Revolt Against the Helvetic Republic
In the years leading up to the French Revolution, the spiritual and religious council of the Canton of Schwyz began preaching against the non-Catholic elements of the French Revolution. People were urged to be absolutely against and non-cooperative towards the newly formed Helvetic Republic. After the French Invasion in 1798, cantonal sovereignty and feudalism was abolished. In response, Von Reding led an army of 10,000 men from the Cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden against the French. He was able to gain control of Lucerne and marched across the Brünig pass into the Berner Oberland to support the armies of Bern. Despite winning several battles and capturing several territories, Reding was forced to surrender to the French due to the French gaining control of Settel; a move that allowed the French to pose the threat of capturing Schwyz.
After the Revolt
As a result of Reding’s surrender, the French were quick to take counter measures to prevent such a revolt from recurring. Balthazar Alexis Henri Schauenburg, the commander of the French Revolutionary Army in Switzerland, and Reding agreed to a ceasefire and the Cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden were merged into one Canton which came to be known as the Canton of WaldStatten. This led to the number of councilmen representing the newly formed Canton reduce drastically, thus limiting its effectiveness in the central government.
Formation of Tagsatzung and Downfall
Soon after the formation of WaldStatten, the Swiss who had pledged loyalty to the Helvetic Republic were disgruntled due to the enforcement of Catholicism by the French. This led to frequent violent outbursts 1798 onwards. Switzerland soon developed into a warzone with armies of France, Austria and Russia being highly active. The violence became logistically impossible for the French to control and the Helvetic Republic began to collapse and Napoleon passed the Act of Medallion which saw the re-establishment of the Swiss Confederacy.
Alois Von Reding, along with the support of the federalists, formed a Tagatzung, the legislative and executive council of the Swiss Confederacy. The council was largely formed of senior representatives of the re-established Cantons. The Confederacy continued to face opposition in the form of the Republicans who were largely supportive of the ideas of abolition of sovereign cantons and feudalism. To establish peace with the Republicans, the Confederacy granted them liberty to express their beliefs and gave regular concessions. In spite of these measures, a sense of distrust and conflict between the two parties continued to persist.
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, the mediator between Napoleon and the Confederacy had a major role to play in the Confederacy’s downfall. In a hope to reduce diminish war funding by reducing the currency in circulation, Talleyrand loaned 100,000 English Pounds for 2,53,000 francs i.e. for almost half the price given the then prevailing exchange rates. Talleyrand believed that once peace between the Confederacy and the Republicans was established, and when Reding came to power in a higher capacity, it would be easy to re-exchange the 100,000 English Pounds for the actual Pound-Franc exchange rate. Thus, doubling the amount of Francs in circulation. However, the current dearth of currency in circulation resulted in an extraordinary demand and people began demanding the restitution of the Francs in Pounds. This further soured relations between the Republicans and Confederates. Dolder, who was supposed to become Minister of Finance of the Confederacy when Reding came to power, sided with Vernanac, representative of Napoleon, and left Reding supportless, leading to his downfall. The Confederacy continued to clash with the Republicans till the Confederate State was established in 1848.