Unus Pro Omnibus, Omnes Pro Uno, House Of Switzerland

The political slogan ‘One for all. All for one’ has gained new relevance during the coronavirus crisis. The maxim came into widespread use in Switzerland in connection with coping with natural disasters in the 19th century, but it has its roots in the early 16th century.

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Memorial sheet to mark the revision of the Swiss Federal Constitution, 1874.Swiss National Museum

In the second half of the 19th century, the fledgling state used this maxim to appeal to the sense of national unity. Each individual canton had to make certain that it served everyone’s interests to hand over sovereignty to the Federal state. And in particular, the conservative Catholic groups which had opposed the founding of the Federal nation had first to be won over by the liberal state.

On this political basis, the motto then also displayed its solidly uniting effect in the event of disaster, as climate historian Christian Pfister has shown. Following the devastating Glarus fire in 1861, a nationwide fund-raising campaign collected an enormous sum of money. This not only provided vital material aid, but also created a feeling of community. In line with the motto: ‘All the cantons of Switzerland for one Swiss canton’, or simply ‘the whole Swiss nation for the destitute people of Glarus’, a mark of national solidarity and duty was signalled.

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Winkelried monument in Stans.

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Swiss National Museum

Into the second half of the 20th century, Winkelried remained a well-known figure primarily due to two works: firstly, Zurich historical painter Ludwig Vogel’s oil painting ‘Die Eidgenossen bei der Leiche Winkelrieds’ (The confederates with Winkelried’s corpse) dating from 1841, and secondly, the Winkelried monument created by Ferdinand Schlöth and formally unveiled in Stans in 1865. Until the 1970s, Swiss schoolchildren had the Winkelried message drummed into them through school murals, textbooks and children’s literature. So today, it’s mainly Swiss people aged over 65, those who are particularly at risk from the coronavirus crisis, with whom the Federal Council’s appeal: ‘One for all. All for one’ is most likely to strike a chord.

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Swiss National Museum

Three museums – the National Museum Zurich, the Castle of Prangins and the Forum of Swiss History Schwyz – as well as the collections centre in Affoltern am Albis – are united under the umbrella of the Swiss National Museum (SNM).

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