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It was in the year 1308, that the Swiss rose against the tyranny of the Bailiffs appointed over them by Albert of Austria. The field called the Grütli, at the foot of the Seelisberg, and near the boundaries of Uri and Unterwalden, was fixed upon by three spirited yeomen, Walter Fürst (the father-in-law of William Tell), Werner Stauffacher, and Erni (or Arnold) Melchthal, as their place of meeting, to deliberate on the accomplishment of their projects.
“ Hither came Fürst and Melchthal, along secret paths over the heights, and Stauffacher in his boat across the Lake of the Four Cantons. On the night preceding the 11th of November, 1307, they met here, each with ten associates, men of approved worth ; and while at this solemn hour they were wrapt in the contemplation that on their success depended the fate of their whole posterity, Werner, Walter, and Arnold held up their hands to heaven, and in the name of the Almighty, who has created man to an inalienable degree of freedom, swore jointly and strenuously to defend that freedom. The thirty associates heard the oath with awe; and with uplifted hands attested the same God, and all his saints, that they were firmly bent on offering up their lives for the defence of their injured liberty. They then calmly agreed on their future proceedings, and for the present, each returned to his hamlet.”—Planta's History of the Helvetic Confederacy.
On the first day of the year 1308, they succeeded in throwing off the Austrian yoke, and “it is well attested,” says the same author, “ that not one drop of blood was shed on this memorable occasion, nor had one proprietor to lament the loss of a claim, a privilege, or an inch of land. The Swiss met on the succeeding sabbath, and once more confirmed by oath their ancient, and (as they fondly named it) their perpetual league.”
LEAGUE OF THE ALPS.
'Twas night upon the Alps.-The Senn's' wild horn,
His cavern-bed of moss the hunter prest,