"You Swiss are so proud of your 500,000-man citizen militia.... But what will you do if a 1,000,000-man German Army comes marching across your border?"
"That's easy. Each of us will shoot twice, and go home." --
A reported conversation between a German and a Swiss diplomat, circa 1939.
Seven hundred years ago, when Switzerland was under the domination of the Hapsburgs, a dissolute colonial overlord named Hermann Gessler sought to humiliate the residents of Altdorf, the capital of the central Swiss canton of Uri.
Gessler instructed his minions to erect a tall pole in the town square, at the top of which would be displayed his cap. Every Swiss man who entered the square would be required to pay fealty to Gessler, and the foreign imperial power he represented, by bowing before his cap.
One local resident was a man who distinguished himself by both his virtuosity with a crossbow and his contemptuous hostility toward bullies. Trying to force him to genuflect before another man, let alone his empty cap, would be a bit like trying to relocate the Matterhorn one shovel-full at a time. So while others prostrated themselves before Gessler's headwear, William Tell stood erect, burly arms folded across his broad chest, slowly shaking his head as his derisive laughter echoed through the town square.
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