Chapter 15: Revolution in St. Gallen

1796 aged 60

January (no exact date) "How all of us are beginning the new year"

" [...] I cannot call to mind any New Year that has begun in such stillness and silence, no gunshots, music or song, as is usual with us. Everything seems wrapped in mourning, here at least. Though in the first days we were besieged by whole swarms of beggars, thousands of them. In St. Gallen it is said that over five thousand of them have settled there. And the same in Herisau. At both places several thousand guilders are being doled out. All victuals are very dear, though somewhat better than they were, with the cotton trade things are worse and worse and hunger and poverty are ever increasing. And in the spring, when potatoes and other garden stuff are eaten up, which is already the case with many people, the shortages will probably become worse. May God have mercy on all those who are poor and needy.

Meanwhile I again began, as usual, to go once a month to St. Gallen, to obtain a little money for the muslin yarn I have collected, poor stuff as it is, and to visit my worthy friends, to confide my anxieties to them and seek advice and comfort. The merchants are undecided as to what to do. But one can still find patriots among them, who put themselves to all kinds of trouble to prevent the muslin trade from going under completely, and who spare neither money nor effort to find work and bread for the poor spinners and weavers. On the other hand some of them care little for other people and look only to themselves and their profits. Let them continue to do so. Each kind will reap the fruits of their own deeds." [Voellmy, v 2 pp 255-256]

28th Jan. Bräker's granddaughter Susanna Bräker is baptised in Wattwil. [Chronik, p 432]

In September 1795 the French invasion of the Netherlands had at first been successful, but the French troops were soon pushed back across the Rhine by the Austrians, and at the turn of the year an armistice was declared. [Chronik, p 432]

March (no definite date) Bräker writes a dialogue about the war, with four characters: Joel, Marx, Schleiffer and "the Prussian", a Swiss mercenary, probably representing Bräker's own views. The "Prussian" defends the behaviour of the people of Toggenburg, who have not risen against their rulers as the people of Gossau have done. He declares himself satisfied with the laws made by the rulers and defends himself against the reproaches that the Toggenburgers are slaves because they still tolerate authority. He defends the Landvogt Karl Müller-Friedberg and points out the deterioration of law and order in other parts of Switzerland, where "any rascal... can propose new laws - and if he has a ready tongue and understands the mind of the farmers he will carry his point - however unjust it might be." [Chronik, p 433]

At the beginning of April Bräker has little to report, food is short for both man and beast. On the 3rd Bräker's grandson Johann Ulrich Zwicky is baptised in Wattwil. Later in the month he records his decision not to write of his own problems, and to face the future calmly, to work hard so that his affairs may at least get no worse. He follows this at once, however, by a "Soliloquy - again about - nothing", lamenting his dire financial situation. He fears he may have to hand over his house and all his possessions to pay off his debts, which have risen to 2000 guilders. He regrets the sums expended on his children, especially on the "accursed factory" of his son-in-law Johannes Zwicky. [Chronik, p 434]

The awakening of Nature in May is for Bräker an image of the resurrection of the dead. Everything wakes from its sleep. "Away with cares and grief - away with all ideal worlds - reality is best of all. In reality one sees glimpses of an almighty being - a being worthy of our prayers." But later in the month Bräker continues to paint a grim picture. People are turning