Karl Ludwig von Haller

Eyridiki Sellou | Mar 30, 2023

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Karl Ludwig von Haller († May 20, 1854 in Solothurn) was a Swiss constitutional lawyer, politician, publicist and national economist in Bern. He is considered a pioneer of early, reactionary conservatism.


Von Haller is the grandson of the polymath Albrecht von Haller (1708-1777). His parents were Gottlieb Emanuel von Haller (1735-1786) and his wife Anna Margarethe Schultheß (1734-1810).

Haller married in Bern in 1806 Katharina von Wattenwyl († February 24, 1808) of an officer in Dutch service and bailiff in Fraubrunnen. The couple had two sons and a daughter:


Raised in Bern in the milieu of the city's Calvinist patrician class, he entered the civil service in 1786 and was active, among other things, in diplomacy and also as a writer. In 1798 he fled from the approaching French revolutionary armies to southern Germany, where he made stops in Augsburg, Nuremberg and Weimar and wrote anti-French and anti-revolutionary writings. After a stay in Vienna from 1800

Having been strongly attracted to Catholicism, he converted in secret in 1820 to the Bishop of Lausanne-Geneva, Pierre Tobie Yenni, and justified this move in his Lettre à sa famille, published as a pamphlet in 1822, which caused a scandal - not least in Protestant Bern - and considerable polemic towards Haller. As a result, he was forced to resign from all public offices. That same year he went to Paris, where he became active as an ultraroyalist publicist, made the acquaintance of de Bonald and Lamennais, and was appointed to the French Foreign Ministry in 1824. He was finally appointed professor at the École des Chartes in May 1830, but was again forced to leave the country in the wake of the July Revolution. After this renewed exile, Haller returned to Switzerland, lived in Solothurn and worked as a conservative publicist and writer until his death in 1854.

The "Restoration

Karl Ludwig von Haller became known far beyond Switzerland through his work "Restauration der Staatswissenschaft" (1816-1834), whose full title is actually: "Restauration of Staats-Wissenschaft oder Theorie des natürlich-geselligen Zustands der Chimäre des künstlich-bürgerlichen entgegengesezt". In this multi-volume main work, which achieved great contemporary fame, he represented a sometimes extreme position of strong, independent princely power, which was conceived as a direct counter-draft to the political thinking of the Enlightenment and the revolutionaries of 1789.

Starting from the assertion that all revolutionary thought is simply based on distortion and obscuration of political and legal reality, and that the princes in truth also possess the undivided right to supreme state power through their original ownership of the state, he develops a theory of the "patrimonial state" in which all social and political relations between people are of a purely private-law and not public-law nature. He uses in his argument a historical critique of contract theory and its basic assumptions, as well as the idea of a natural-divine world order that, without any Enlightenment natural law, assigns to each person his due place in society simply by virtue of the law of the "rule of the more powerful." This point brought Haller in later times the reproach of a "power naturalism", whereas the absence of any public law in his concept, respectively of the public-legal character of the state power, was criticized already early and also from the conservative side. Among other things, he was accused of wanting to revive a "patrimonial state" of the Middle Ages and of using his theory only to defend the interests of the landowning upper class (such as the Prussian "Junkers").


Although his concept was widely criticized and hardly received even within later conservative theorizing, reading the "Restoration" nevertheless had a demonstrable mobilizing effect on some conservative politicians of later decades, such as Ernst Ludwig von Gerlach and his comrades-in-arms in their youth, Carl Ernst Jarcke or Carl Wilhelm von Lancizolle.

Through Gerlach, he also penetrated Savigny's legal environment in Berlin. Although he met with Savigny's radical rejection, he was able - in Bethmann-Hollweg's opinion - to shake the foundations of the most important school of law of the time because of the unrest that arose among Savigny's followers due to important unanswered questions, such as the (philosophical) admission of the "ultimate reasons of state and law" of his historical doctrinal concept.

According to the title of his writing, the historical phase of the "Restoration" after the Congress of Vienna, ca. 1815 to 1830, received its name.


  1. Karl Ludwig von Haller
  2. Karl Ludwig von Haller
  3. ^ Bonacina, Giovanni, “Anticipazioni della teoria della Restaurazione secondo Carl Ludwig von Haller,” Rivista Storica Italiana 122 (2010): 500–59.
  4. ^ Missionen der Berner Regierung nach Genf (1782), Mailand, Paris und Rastatt (1797—1798). Mittheilungen aus dem Nachlaß des Herrn K. L. von Haller. Berner Taschenbuch. 1868.
  5. Hans-Christof Kraus: Haller, Carl Ludwig von. In: Caspar von Schrenck-Notzing (Hrsg.): Lexikon des Konservatismus. Leopold Stocker Verlag, Graz 1996, S. 228–230.
  6. a b c d e et f Portmann-Tinguely 2007.
  7. Schmidt 2007.
  8. Charles de Haller, « Des variations du système libéral », Mémorial catholique,‎ mars 1824, p. 1 à 8 (lire en ligne)
  9. ^ Guglielmo Piombini, "Il diritto naturale nel pensiero controrivoluzionario di Carl Ludwig von Haller", élites, VII, ottobre-dicembre 2003, p. 160.
  10. ^ Hans Fässler: Une Suisse esclavagiste. Voyage dans un pays au-dessus de tout soupçon. (Préface de Doudou Diène). Duboiris, Paris, 2007, pp. 142-145.

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