Geneva Revolution of 1782

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The Geneva Revolution of 1782 was a short-lived attempt to broaden the franchise and include men of modest means in the republican government of the city state.

In 1782 the constitution of the small city-state of Geneva limited the franchise to 1,500 well-to-do male burghers, (upper middle class citizens, mostly merchants.) About 5,000 lower middle-class natives, male Genevans born to long-standing Geneva families, lived in the city but were excluded from voting or serving in office. These men worked as artisans and craftsmen in various trades, principally watchmakers. Also excluded from the franchise were an even larger number of habitants, residents whose roots lay in the canton but outside the city, or whose families had immigrated to Geneva from elsewhere.[1]

Agitation for a broader franchise had been ongoing for years; on 5 February 1781, unenfranchised men, habitants, and natives, broke into the municipal armory and armed themselves. In response, the General Council of Geneva, the largest of the city's legislative bodies, voted to grant voting rights to 100 natives and 20 habitants. However, the more elite legislative body, the Genevan Small Council, baulked at ratifying this token offer of enfranchisement, stalling for over a year before, in April 1782, voting to block the enfranchisement.[2] Within hours of the vote, revolutionists occupied the City Hall, closed the city gates, held the "no voters (called Negatives) hostage, and convinced the Representatives of the General Council to support them.[2]

The city's wealthy burghers countered by persuading the Kingdom of France, the city-state of Bern, and the Kingdom of Sardinia to send professional troops. The leaders of the aborted Revolution fled by ship across Lake Geneva. The city was returned to government by the burgher elite.[2]