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Sonderbund (zônˈdərbŏnt) [key] [Ger., = separate league], 1845–47, defensive league of seven Roman Catholic cantons of Switzerland; it was formed to protect Catholic interests and prevent the establishment of a more centralized Swiss government. The cantons were Lucerne, Fribourg, Valais, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, and Zug. The rise of the Radical party in the majority of cantons had resulted in anti-Catholic measures such as the closing (1841) of all convents in Aargau. When Lucerne retaliated (1844) by recalling the Jesuits, armed bandits of Radicals invaded the canton. This action, combined with the Catholic cantons' opposition to the Radicals' program of a more unified federalization (which imperiled the position of the predominantly rural, reactionary, and sparsely populated Catholic cantons), provoked the seven cantons to form a defensive alliance (1845). The Radical majority in the federal diet declared the Sonderbund dissolved (1847) and shortly afterward sent an army, under Gen. Guillaume Henri Dufour, against the separatist forces. Lord Palmerston, the British foreign minister, helped prevent foreign intervention, and in an almost bloodless campaign the Sonderbund was defeated. The adoption (1848) of a federal constitution ended the virtual sovereignty of the individual cantons. The Society of Jesus was banned from Switzerland, and the establishment of new religious houses was forbidden.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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