BASEL CANTON (Fr. Bâle), one of the most northerly of the Swiss cantons, and the only one (save Schaffhausen) that includes any territory north of the Rhine. It is traversed by the chain of the Jura, and is watered by the Birs and the Ergolz, both tributaries (left) of the Rhine. It is traversed by railways from Basel to Olten (25 m.) and to Laufen (14 m.), besides local lines from Basel to Flühen (8 m.) for the frequented pilgrimage resort of Mariastein, and from Liestal to Waldenburg (8 m.), From 1803 to 1814 the canton was one of the six "Directorial" cantons of the Confederation. Since 1833 it has been divided into two half cantons, with independent constitutions.
One is that of Basel Stadt or Bâle Ville, including, besides the city of Basel, the three rural districts (all to the north of the Rhine) of Riehen, Bettingen and Klein Hüningen (the latter now united to the city). The total area of this half canton is 13.7 sq. m. only, of which 11 sq. m. are classed as "productive," forests occupying 1.5 sq. m., but its total population in 1900 was 112,227 (of whom 3066 inhabited the rural districts), mainly German-speaking, and numbering 73,063 Protestants, 37,101 Romanists (including the Old Catholics), and 1897 Jews. The cantonal constitution dates from 1889. The executive of seven members and the legislature (Grossrat) of 130 members, as well as the one member sent to the Federal Ständerat and the six sent to the Federal Nationalrat, are all elected by a direct popular vote for the term of three years. Since 1875, 1000 citizens can claim a popular vote (facultative Referendum) on all bills, or can exercise the right of initiative whether as to laws or the revision of the cantonal constitution.
The other half canton is that of Basel Landschaft or Bâle Campagne, which is divided into four administrative districts and comprises seventy-four communes, its capital being Liestal. Its total area is 165 sq. m., of which all but 5 sq. m. is reckoned "productive" (including 55.9 sq. m. of forests). In 1900 its total population was 68,497, nearly all German-speaking, while there were 52,763 Protestants, 15,564 Romanists, and 130 Jews.
The cantonal constitution dates from 1892. The executive of 5 members and the legislature or Landrat (one member per 800 inhabitants or fraction over 400), as well as the single member sent to the Federal Ständerat and the three sent to the Federal Nationalrat, are all elected by a direct popular vote for three years. The "obligatory Referendum" obtains in the case of all laws, while 1500 citizens have the right of "initiative" whether as to laws or the revision of the cantonal constitution. Silk ribbon weaving, textile industries and the manufacture of tiles are carried on.
(W. A. B. C.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)