SOLEURE CANTON (Ger. Solothurn), one of the cantons of northwestern Switzerland. Its total area is 305-5 sq. m., of which 294 sq. m. are reckoned as "productive," 111-3 sq. m. being covered by forests and -29 sq. m. by vineyards. Save two small districts in its southern portion the whole canton is situated in the Jura range, while it is said to be the most irregular in shape of all the Swiss cantons, this being accounted for by the Fact that it consists simply of the territories won at differetit dates by the town from which it takes its name. It includes most of the Aar valley between the towns of Bienne and Aarau, neither of which is in the canton, while in its northern portion the waters join the Birs River, and in its southern portion is the last bit of the Emme before its junction with the Aar. It comprises three isolated districts, of which one (Steinhof) on the south is an " enclave " in the canton of Bern, while the others, Hofstetten, that includes the famous pilgrimage resort of Mariastein, and Klein Liitzel, are on the Alsatian frontier, and bounded by the cantons of Bern and of Basel. The highest point in the canton is the Hasenmatt (4748 ft.) which forms the culminating summit of the Weissenstein ridge, that rises just north-west of the town of Soleure, and boasts of an hotel well-known as a ;reat centre for the air and whey cure. The canton is well supplied in its southern portion with railways, the main line 'rom Bienne to Aarau running through it past the great junction of Olten, where the direct lines from Lucerne by the St Gotthard, rom Bern, from Zurich, and from Basel all unite. Formerly the districts composing the canton were in the dioceses cf Lausanne, Basel and Constance, but since the complete reorganization of 1814 they are all in the diocese of Basel, the bishop of which has his chair in Soleure. In 1900 the population was 100,762, of whom 97,930 were German-speaking, 1912 French-speaking, and 829 Italian-speaking, while 69,461 were " Catholics " (the census dqes not distinguish between Romanists and Christian Catholics, who are still fairly strong here), 31,012 Protestants, and 159 Jews. The capital is Soleure, while the only other important town is Olten (6969 inhabitants). Between Soleure and Granges or Grenchen (5202 inhabitants) is the village of Selzach, where since 1893 a passion-play has been performed every summer by the inhabitants.
Till about 1850 the canton was mainly agricultural and pastoral, its pastures numbering 209, capable of supporting 4179 cows and of an estimated capital value of 2,395,215 francs. Nowadays it is distinguished for the variety of its industries, especially in and around Soleure and Olten, among them being watch-making, shoe-factories, cotton-spinning and cement factories.
The canton is divided into ten administrative districts, that comprise 132 communes. The present cantonal constitution dates from 1887, but was revised as to some Important points in 1895. The Kanlonsrat, or legislative assembly, is elected (since 1895 according to the principles of proportional representation) by all citizens over twenty years of age, in the proportion of one member to 800 inhabitants. Since 1895 the people have elected the Regierungsrat or executive, consisting of five members. In both cases the period of office is four years, though on the demand of 4000 citizens a popular vote must be taken as to whether the existing members shall continue to sit or not. In the canton the " obligatory referendum " and the " initiative " have obtained since 1875. By the former all laws passed by the legislative assembly, and all financial resolutions involving the expenditure of 100,000 francs, or of an annual sum of 15,000 francs, must be approved by a popular vote. By the latter 2000 citizens can compel the legislative assembly to consider any proposal for making a new law or for amending an old one. Further, the demand of the majority of the assembly or of 3000 citizens is sufficient to necessitate a popular vote as to the advisability of revising the constitution, the revised draft itself requiring a further popular vote. The two members of the federal Standerat and the five members of the federal Nationalrat are also chosen by a popular vote.
AUTHORITIES. J. Amiet, Das St Ursus Pfarr-Stift d. Stadt Soleure, 6 pts. (Soleure, 1878-1890), and Die Grundungs-Sage der Schwesterstadte, Solothurn, Zurich, und Trier (Soleure, 1890); G. Bloch, Bilder aus d. Ambassadorenherrschaft in Soleure, 1554-7791, (Biel, 1898); W. Flury, Die industrielle Entwickelung d. Kant. S. (Soleure, 1908); K. Meisterhans, Alteste Geschichte d. Kant. Soleure bis 687 (Soleure, 1900); J. R. Rahn, Die MiMalt. Kunstdenkmaler d. Cant. Soleure (Zurich, 1893); K. E. Schuppli, Geschichte der Stadtverfassung von Soleure (Basel, 1897); P. Strohmeier, Der Kant. Soleure (St Gall and Bern, 1836); A. Striiby, Die Weidewirthschaft im Kant. Soleure (Soleure, 1896); and E. Tatarinoff, Die Betheiligung Solothurns am Schwabenkrieg, 1400 (Soleure, 1899).
(W. A. B. C.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)