In 1798, France invaded the territory of the Old Confederation and set up a centralised state: the Helvetic Republic. Bureaucracy, which had formerly operated on informal lines, was suddenly transformed; official dispatches and communications multiplied.
All letters from then on bore the heading “liberty and equality”, and featured the figure of William Tell. Having become a household name in France, the hero was now a symbol of the Helvetic Republic.
The members of the Helvetic “directoire”, engaged in building a sister republic to stand alongside France, had understood that a new social model needed to draw on tradition. Who better than William Tell to represent the purity of the revolution against the despotism of aristocracy?