Hertenstein was elected to the Swiss Federal Council on 21 March 1879 and died in office on 27 November 1888. He was affiliated to the Free Democratic Party of Switzerland. During his office time he held the Military Department and was President of the Confederation in 1888.
Hertenstein died while in office as President of the Confederation and is so far the only holder of this office who did not finish his term.
- Profile of Wilhelm Hertenstein with election results on the website of the Swiss Federal Council.
- Otto Sigg: Wilhelm Friedrich Hertenstein in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland, 2002-03-28.