The history of Switzerland can be traced back to Aug. 1291 when the Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden entered into a defensive league. In 1353 the league included eight members and in 1515, 13. In 1648 the league became formally independent of the Holy Roman Empire. No addition was made to the number of cantons until 1798 in which year, under the influence of France, the unified Helvetic Republic was formed. Tis failed to satisfy the Swiss and in 1803 Napoleon granted a new constitution and increased the number of cantons to 19. In 1815 the perpetual neutrality of Switzerland and the inviolability of her territory were guaranteed by Austria, France, Great Britain, Portugal, Prussia, Spain and Sweden, and the Federal Pact, which included three new cantons, was accepted by the Congress of Vienna. In 1848 a new constitution was approved. The 22 cantons set up a federal government (consisting of a federal parliament and a federal council) and a federal tribunal. This constitution, in turn, was on 29 May 1874 superseded by the present constitution, which also combines the federal principle with a national and local use of referendums. Female franchise dates only from Feb. 1971.
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