Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Political Culture of the Sister Republics, 1794-1806

The Political Culture of the Sister Republics, 1794-1806: France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy

Joris Oddens
Mart Rutjes
Erik Jacobs
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 238
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Political Culture of the Sister Republics, 1794-1806
    Book Description:

    In this book, leading historians of the French, Batavian, Helvetic, Cisalpine, and Neapolitan revolutions bridge the gap between the historiographies of the so-called Sister Republics and explore political culture as a set of discourses or political practices. Parliamentary practices, the comparability of "universal" political concepts, late-eighteenth-century Republicanism, the relationship between press and politics, and the interaction between the Sister Republics and France are all examined from a comparative, transnational perspective.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-2241-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. Timeline of the Sister Republics (1794-1806)
    (pp. 9-16)
  4. The political culture of the Sister Republics
    (pp. 17-32)
    Joris Oddens and Mart Rutjes

    On the morning of Monday, 22 January 1798, the inhabitants of The Hague witnessed a revolution within a revolution. Almost exactly three years earlier, reformist Dutch citizens had proclaimed the so-called ‘Batavian’ Revolution after the invasion of a French revolutionary army had caused the oligarchic regime of the Orangist stadholder to implode. In May 1795, the French had officially recognized the independence of a Batavian Republic. In March 1796, the Batavian revolutionaries had established aNationale Vergadering, a legislative and constituent assembly loosely modelled on the FrenchAssemblée Nationale. In May 1797, the members of this Dutch National Assembly had...

  5. ‘The political passions of other nations’ National choices and the European order in the writings of Germaine de Staël
    (pp. 33-40)
    Biancamaria Fontana

    What I shall try to do in this contribution is to show that the subject of the present volume – the Sister Republics – is not just of interest to professional historians but to anyone who is concerned with the future of our European societies. This may sound a bit pretentious or too far-fetched but it is, I believe, a crucial point. Today, more than ever, we need to learn from our common past and to face our equally common future with some clarity of purpose.

    The phrase ‘Sister Republics’ does in fact belong to a very particular moment in...

  6. 1. The transformation of republicanism

    • The transformation of republicanism in the Sister Republics
      (pp. 43-48)
      Andrew Jainchill

      The revolutions that swept through Europe and the Americas in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries transformed republicanism as a political language. By the end of the Age of Revolution, the early modern classical-republican tradition had, on the whole, given way to ‘modern republicanism’ in one form or another.¹ Modern republicanism, limned more than established in the crucible of revolution, would ultimately provide the dominant framework of modern political legitimacy. As the essays by Wyger Velema and Urte Weeber in this section demonstrate, the end of the Old Regime meant the transformation of republicanism as a political category.


    • ‘Republic’ and ‘democracy’ in Dutch late eighteenth-century revolutionary discourse
      (pp. 49-56)
      Wyger R. E. Velema

      Historians of the early modern Dutch Republic have repeatedly argued that Reinhart Koselleck’s notion of a conceptualSattelzeit, running from roughly 1750 to roughly 1850, is of very little use to them.¹ One has to admit that they seem to have a point. For it is undeniable that such a uniqueSattelzeitis absent in the Dutch case. When we look at the development, or – as some would prefer – the ‘modernization’ of political concepts in the period of the Dutch Republic, it soon becomes clear that several periods of rapid conceptual change may be discerned, all of them...

    • New wine in old wineskins Republicanism in the Helvetic Republic
      (pp. 57-64)
      Urte Weeber

      When examining the transformation of republicanism in Switzerland in the aftermath of 1798, one has to answer a number of questions. What does republicanism mean? What was the nature of the republicanism (or republicanisms) that existed in Switzerland before the introduction of the Helvetic Constitution of 1798? Who were its supporters? What kind of republicanism unfolded around and after 1798? Is it possible to call it a transformation in the sense of the Latin termtransformare, or is it better to speak of an innovation? Did anything change at all? This chapter tries to answer these questions.

      Since the publication...

  7. 2. Political concepts and languages

    • Revolutionary concepts and languages in the Sister Republics of the late 1790s
      (pp. 67-72)
      Pasi Ihalainen

      Political debate was transnational in the Europe of the 1790s to a higher degree than ever before. Varieties of Enlightenment thought and ideas of the gradually radicalizing French Revolution crossed national boundaries. Traditional monarchies were challenged by the strengthening of older oppositional discourses and the rise of new oppositional discourses, which often emphasized the involvement of ‘the people’ as ‘citizens’ in political debate and decision-making side by side with the ruler and old elites, and which sometimes also redefined ‘democracy’ as a form of government. The expanding – and in the case of several countries increasingly free – printed media...

    • Useful citizens. Citizenship and democracy in the Batavian Republic, 1795-1801
      (pp. 73-84)
      Mart Rutjes

      The concept of citizenship in the Dutch Republic changed dramatically at the end of the ancien régime. During the revolutionary era, the primary meaning of citizenship as the privileged membership of the urban community gave way to the notion that a citizen was first and foremost a member of the nation-state. The citizens of the nation-state would enjoy certain basic rights on an equal basis, such as the freedom of speech, assembly, and religion as well as the protection of property.¹

      The development of national citizenship in the Netherlands was far from straightforward for a number of reasons. To begin...

    • From rights to citizenship to the Helvetian indigénat Political integration of citizens under the Helvetic Republic
      (pp. 85-96)
      Silvia Arlettaz

      The Helvetic Republic,Une et Indivisible, was established by the Constitution of 12 April 1798.² This constitution was imposed by France and was intended to create a nation with a republican system. It abolished federalism so that cantons were reduced to the status of mere administrative units, whilst the communes were stripped of their prerogatives. Sovereignty was no longer a monopoly of privileged families; henceforth it was to be embodied in ‘the totality of citizens’. The nation became the foundation of society. The relationship between the individual and the state underwent a historic shift: from the commune to the Fatherland,...

    • The battle over ‘democracy’ in Italian political thought during the revolutionary triennio, 1796-1799
      (pp. 97-106)
      Mauro Lenci

      The revolutionarytriennioin Italy was a sort of linguistic laboratory¹ which saw substantial semantic mutations of the term ‘democracy’. It left behind the etymological deadweight of the classical era with its conception of direct democracy, above all the Athenian and Spartan models, and at the same time caused a sort of ‘democratization’ of the republican tradition as interpreted by Niccolò Machiavelli and Montesquieu. Both processes sought to engender a new form of representative democracy fundamentally based on the sovereignty of the individual-citizen-male voter in a universal sense (some, however, proposed enfranchising women as well). The concept of representative democracy...

  8. 3. The invention of democratic parliamentary practices

    • Parliamentary practices in the Sister Republics in the light of the French experience
      (pp. 109-114)
      Malcolm Crook

      Historians have in recent years become increasingly involved in bringing together the experience of Europeans, and indeed people all over the world, during the Age of Revolution (1750-1850).¹ To be sure, Robert Palmer and Jacques Godechot introduced an Atlantic dimension to the map in the 1960s. However, the reception of their work was somewhat mixed and the French Revolution, like contemporary events elsewhere, was subsequently studied from an internal point of view for the most part.² Yet this was to ignore its transnational dimension, which is now attracting renewed interest and forms the subject of the essays collected in this...

    • Making the most of national time Accountability, transparency, and term limits in the first Dutch Parliament (1796-1797)
      (pp. 115-126)
      Joris Oddens

      Over the past fifty years, historians have come to see the closing decades of the eighteenth century as fundamental to the rise of a ‘modern’ concept of time. This is largely due to the German historian Reinhart Koselleck, who wrote a number of articles on this topic during the 1960s and 1970s.¹ Both for Koselleck and other historians connected to the Germanbegriffsgeschichteschool, the ‘shock of revolution’, and in particular the French Revolution, has been the most important catalyst for new ideas about time and a ‘rupture in continuity’, that is to say the notion, widespread among contemporaries, that...

    • The invention of democratic parliamentary practices in the Helvetic Republic Some remarks
      (pp. 127-134)
      André Holenstein

      On 12 April 1798, 121 deputies gathered for the constitutive session of the first parliament in Swiss history in the small town of Aarau – a meeting place which was equally accessible from all regions of the country. To proclaim Aarau as the provisional capital of the new republic and as the seat of the first Helvetic parliament, however, had a highly symbolic significance, too. Only a few weeks before, the Federal Diet – a congress assembling representatives of the old power elites from the 13 sovereign republics of the Swiss Confederation – had met for the last time in...

    • The Neapolitan republican experiment of 1799 Legislation, balance of power, and the workings of democracy between theory and practice
      (pp. 135-140)
      Valeria Ferrari

      Beginning with these words, in early April 1799, Francesco Mario Pagano set out to explain the content of the constitutional project he had been called upon to prepare for the members of the provisional government of the republic proclaimed in Naples on 21 January that same year.

      Although it never came into operation, the Constitution of 1799 in some ways provides a litmus test for the disputed historical assessment of the Neapolitan Republic of 1799. For the passage of time does not appear to have given us the serenity of at least a broadly shared, if not unambiguous, vision of...

  9. 4. Press, politics, and public opinion

    • Censorship and press liberty in the Sister Republics Some reflection
      (pp. 143-150)
      Simon Burrows

      In early 1798, the veteran Swiss journalist Jacques Mallet du Pan informed his friend, the abbé de Pradt:

      As for the public… one must leave the continent in order to speak to it; for there is no longer anywhere where anyone can print a line against the Directory and its manoeuvres […] Your continent horrifies me with its slaves and executioners, its baseness and cowardice. Only in England can one write, think, speak or act.¹

      The situation he describes implies a strange inversion of revolutionary values. For press liberty was enshrined at the heart of the founding document of the...

    • 1798: A turning point? Censorship in the Batavian Republic
      (pp. 151-158)
      Erik Jacobs

      In his standard book on the history of the Dutch press, written in 1943, historian Maarten Schneider remarked that the Batavian Republic features a reversal in theory and practice.¹ Before the revolution, in the Republic of the Seven United Provinces,² the press had been constricted by law, but in practice it had been free to do largely as it pleased.³ In the Batavian Republic, this situation became reversed. The grandiloquent Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1795 and its constitutional counterpart of 1798 both ensured freedom of thoughts, ideas, speech, and consequently of the press – but only theoretically,...

    • Censorship and public opinion Press and politics in the Helvetic Republic (1798-1803)
      (pp. 159-170)
      Andreas Würgler

      The Helvetic Revolution was without doubt the most significant disruption in Swiss history, which had developed rather continuously in the course of four hundred years. The rupture was twofold. First, the new constitution, shaped by the hands of the FrenchDirectoire, abolished the sovereignty of each of the thirteen former cantons; the federalist organization was replaced by a strong central state unknown to Swiss history up to that time, as were the new principles of human rights and the separation of powers. At the same time, this new constitution was introduced and backed by French troops, leading the Swiss people...

    • Liberty of press and censorship in the first Cisalpine Republic
      (pp. 171-180)
      Katia Visconti

      The misfortune of the Cisalpine Republic has often been acknowledged, especially by historians. In the collective imagination, the Cisalpine Republic represents an example of acquiescence to the military protectorate of France. Such a representation is rooted in the dramatic weeks of spring 1799, when Austro-Russian forces invaded the territories of the Republic and the Cisalpine government chose to follow the French ambassador François Rivaud, finding a safe haven in Chambery, and leaving to their fate the patriots and soldiers who chose to defend the republic.¹ French control of the Cisalpine political classes has always been highlighted, with the latter being...

  10. 5. The Sister Republics and France

    • Small nation, big sisters
      (pp. 183-186)
      Pierre Serna

      It is a truth now acknowledged, which the future will have trouble reversing: not only is France no longer a great nation, but in the not so distant future it will no longer be a nation at all. Especially within the European project, her illusions of grandeur have been clearly overtaken.

      This simple factual statement is far from pessimistic. On the contrary, it is utterly optimistic, because historians rewrite the past in the light of what they make of the times they live in. The perspectives on the Helvetic, Batavian, and Cisalpine republics, presented by Annie Jourdan, Antoine Broussy, and...

    • The national dimension in the Batavian Revolution Political discussions, institutions, and constitutions
      (pp. 187-200)
      Annie Jourdan

      Traditional historiography has always denied the Dutch character of the Batavian Revolution. Greatly influenced by the politics of ‘forgiving and forgetting’ of the Orange monarchy (founded in 1813) and by nineteenth-century nationalism, its narratives have tried to erase the nation’s revolutionary moments from Dutch memory. Yet, since the 1980s it is well known that the Dutch experienced a first revolutionary sequence during the 1780s, one that was absolutely independent.¹ The second revolution, between 1795 and 1801, only succeeded with the aid of the French army.² This army remained in the country until 1813 and intervened in Dutch politics several times,...

    • The constitutional debate in the Helvetic Republic in 1800-1801 Between French influence and national self-government
      (pp. 201-210)
      Antoine Broussy

      Though the historiography of the Helvetic Republic has been re-evaluated over the last decades, one must admit that its outlines have long been influenced by the traditional interpretations of nineteenth-century historians.¹ They mostly considered the Helvetic Republic a parenthesis in a long history of independence which had started in the fourteenth century. This observation might appear to be too sharply drawn, but it can be exemplified by three assumptions shared by most standard Swiss historiography.

      First, the stay of the French army until 1803 was interpreted as proof thatLa Grande Nationregarded the Helvetic Republic far less as a...

    • An unwelcome Sister Republic Re-reading political relations between the Cisalpine Republic and the French Directory
      (pp. 211-218)
      Antonino De Francesco

      In the Italian historical and political tradition, it is rather commonplace to emphasize the decisive role of revolutionary France in the genesis of modern Italy. In the depiction of thetriennio– from Napoleon’s descent in 1796 to the overthrow of the Italian republics in 1799 – there are several critical evaluations of the French occupation, which focus on two different aspects of this occupation. First, the Parisian Directory is said to be guilty of introducing an oppressive fiscal system, plundering Italian resources and appropriating Italy’s extraordinary artistic heritage. And second, France is said to have hindered Italy’s political modernization...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-244)
  12. List of contributors
    (pp. 245-248)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 249-318)
  14. Index
    (pp. 319-322)