Johann Rudolf Wettstein

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Johann Rudolf Wettstein (27 October 1594 – 12 April 1666) was a Swiss diplomat and one-time mayor of Basel, who achieved fame through his diplomatic skills, culminating in Swiss independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1648. He was born and died in Basel.

Family[edit]

His father Hans Jakob, a wine grower, had migrated from Russikon in the Zurich region and worked in the Basel hospital, eventually becoming hospital supervisor. His mother's maiden name was Magdalena Betzler. In 1611 Johann Rudolf married Anna Maria Falkner.

Career[edit]

Wettstein himself attended the “Schule auf Burg,” the present-day secondary school located at the Münsterplatz in Basel. Afterwards he concluded a chancellery apprenticeship in Yverdon and Geneva. The Historical Lexicon of Switzerland records that Wettstein's marriage was not a happy one. Apparently for that reason he moved to Venice in 1616.

In 1620, after his return to Basel, Wettstein was elected to city council. His career in the public service progressed with increasingly responsible positions. In 1635 he became senior guild master, and was elected mayor of Basel in 1645.

Swiss independence[edit]

Wettstein participated in the negotiations for the Peace of Westphalia in 1646/47 as a delegate for the Old Swiss Confederacy, without having been invited, and initially also without accreditation by the Confederacy. After long, hard, and skilful mediation he achieved official recognition of Swiss independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1648.

Later life, death and posthumous recognition[edit]

During the 1653 Peasants’ War in the Basel region Wettstein was responsible for the public execution of seven peasant leaders.

Wettstein died in Basel in 1666. He is generally acknowledged as one of the most competent politicians of his era, but also as a prominent exponent of the absolutist tendencies within the Swiss Confederacy.

Associated with Switzerland's independence, Wettstein's name first became prominent around 1750, and reached its zenith during World War II, when the country's sovereignty was challenged once more.

A bridge built across the Rhine in Basel in 1881 bears his name. In addition, a local square, street and boulevard have been named after Wettstein.

Sources[edit]

  • Julia Gauss / Alfred Stoecklin: Bürgermeister Wettstein. Der Mann, das Werk, die Zeit, Basel 1953.
  • Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz. Article on Wettstein prepared by Franz Egger: http://www.hls-dhs-dss.ch/textes/d/D19086.php
  • Historisches Museum Basel (Hg.): Wettstein - Die Schweiz und Europa 1648, Begleitpublikation zur gleichnamigen Ausstellung, Basel 1998.
  • Stefan Hess: Der Weinberg des Herrn Burgermeister. Johann Rudolf Wettstein als Weinproduzent, in: Basler Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Altertumskunde 98 (1998), S. 35–47.