Tell, William

, one of the heroes of Swiss liberty, in the beginning of the fourteenth century, a man of property, and of good, though not distinguished family, was an inhabitant of the village of Burgeln in the country of Uri. In 1307 he was one of the persons engaged in the conspiracy against the Austrian government. The bailiff, or governor, Herman Gesler, either from a suspicious disposition, or having received some intimation of an impending insurrection, resolved to ascertain who would most patiently submit to his dominion. For this purpose he is said to have raised a hat upon a pole,* as an emblem of liberty, and commanded Tell, among others, to pay obeisance to it. “The youth Tell,” says Muller, “a friend to freedom, disdained to honour in a servile manner, and on an arbitrary command, even its emblem.” Then it was that, according to the current story, Tell was commanded by Gesler to | shoot an arrow at an apple placed on the head of his own son; and, though reluctant, compelled to do it, bv the menace of immediate death, both to him and the infant if be should refuse. Tell cleft the apple without hurting the child but could not refrain from informing the tyrant that, had his aim proved less fortunate, he had another arrow in reserve, which he should have directed to the heart of his oppressor. By this manifestation of his courage and sentiments, he induced the bailiff to confine him; who, afterwards, mistrusting the friends and relations of Tell, resolved to carry him out of the country of Uri, across the lake of Lucern; though contrary to the acknowledged privileges of his countrymen. On the lake, as they were crossing, a violent storm arose; and Gesler, who knew Tell to be very skilful in the management of a boat, ordered his fetters to be taken off, and the helm committed to him. Taking advantage of this circumstance, Tell steered the boat close to a rock, leaped upon a flat part of it, scrambled up the precipice, and escaped. Gesler also escaped the danger of the water, but, landing near Kusnacht, fell by an arrow from the bow of Tell, whose skill he thus proved a second time, to his cost. Gesler thus perished by the indignation of a private man, without any participation of the people, and before the day appointed for their insurrection. Tell retired to Stauffacher, in the canton of Schwitz, and on the new year’s day ensuing, all the Austrian governors were seized and sent out of the country. In 1354, forty-seven years after this event, Tell is supposed to have lost his life in an inundation at Burgeln.

A chapel has been erected by his countrymen on the spot where he resided, and another on the rock where he landed: but, from the simplicity of the people, and of the times in which he lived, no particular honours or emoluments were assigned to his progeny, who appear to have lived in obscurity. The last male of his race, of whom we have any account, was John Martin Tell, of Attinghausen, who died in 1684. His descent in the female line became extinct in 1720. Crasser, a Swiss writer, long ago remarked the resemblance between the incident of the apple, as commonly related of Tell, and that told of Tocco, a Dane, by Saxo Grammaticus and from this coincidence, some have supposed the latter, at least, to be fictitious this, however, does not amount to a proof. It is possible, | though perhaps not probable, that it may have happened twice. 1


Muller’s Hist. of Switzerland, vol. I. p. 611.