My dear Sir,
THE canton of Uri, the place
of the birth and residence of William Tell, shook off the yoke of Austria in
1308, and, with Switz and Underwald, laid the foundation of the perpetual
alliance of the cantons, in 1315. The canton consists only of villages and
little towns or bourgades, and the whole is divided into ten genossamen, or
inferior communities. It has no city. Altdorf, where the general assembles are
held, and the land amman and regency resides, is the principal village.
The land amman and the principal magistrates are elected in the general
assembly, in which all the male persons of fifteen years of age have a right to
a feat and a vote.
The senate or council of regency, in whom is vested the executive power, is
composed of sixty members, taken equally from each genossamen, though they
reside at the capital borough. From this council are taken all the necessary
There are two other councils; one called the chamber of seven, and the other
the chamber of fifteen, for the management of lesser affairs.
The valley of Urseren, three leagues in length and one in breadth, marches
under the banners of Uri a but it is but an ally, connected by treaty in 1410.
It has its proper land amman and council, and has also a bailiwick subject to
The village of Gersaw is a league in breadth and two in length: there are
about a thousand inhabitants. This is the smallest republic in Europe: it has
however its land amman, its council of regency, and its general assembly of
burgesses, its courts of justice and militia, although it is said there is not
a single horse in the whole empire. Such a diminutive republic, in an obscure
corner, and unknown, is interesting to Americans, not only because every spot
of earth on which civil liberty flourishes deserves their esteem, but upon this
occasion is particularly important, as it shews the impossibility of erecting
even the smallest government, among the poorest people, without different
orders, councils, and balances.
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