James Madison (Kyle Jenks) and Dolley Madison (Elissa Paulisson) at the Hirschpfeffer Conclave January 20, 2018. Photo take with Mr. Jenks' camera by Jim Scherrer. Copyright 2018 by Mr. Jenks.

2018 Hirschpfeffer Conclave

Celebrating the Bundesbrief's Contributions to the Constitution

by Ron Duquette

The International Bundesbrief Society, founded by Jim Scherrer, and for which he is the CEO, was inspired by the arrival of the only extent copy of the world's oldest mutual defense pact on exhibition at the National Constitution Center in 2006.


Written in 1291 between the "forest" cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden, the Bundesbrief guaranteed protective action by the other cantons' military forces in the event one or the other of them were attacked.  It is considered to be, along with Magna Carta and other constitutional documents, a step in the development of constitutional procedure and law.

So precious is this document to the sense of Switzerland's political "raison d'etre" that after this departure from Switzerland, the Swiss Parliament, at the instance of the Swiss people themselves, passed a law forbidding this document to ever again leave Switzerland.  The IBS honors that by promoting a greater understanding of constitutional law, procedure, democracy.

President and Mrs. Madison were pleased to join others at the Hirschpfeffer Conclave hosted by Mr. Scherrer. where they learned more about the Bundesbrief. The Conclave itself is a congenial gathering of like-minded (and for the most part, German-Swiss descendants here in this country, though there are some first-generation immigrants in that group) who honor a winter activity of the forest (and other German-speaking) cantons by having a traditional dish, the "hirschpfeffer" stew, which is a venison stew, garnished with sides typical of what would have been available in the winter in the mountains of north-central Switzerland.