Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

tion in law-suits and fruitless efforts to give an appearance of vitality to an institute already as good as dead, and lastly, of not having opened his eyes till it was impossible to go on any longer.

The fact is that Pestalozzi never had the disposal of his two thousand pounds; that Schmidt, clever as he was, was a very bad administrator; and that the noble friend of humanity died as poor as he had lived.

The final and complete ruin of his hopes seems to have come upon Pestalozzi suddenly, for, a few weeks before the date of his declaration to the public, he was still occupied with the question of repairs, towards which, on the 30th of January, 1824, the municipality had voted him a grant of fifty pounds.

Meanwhile all the pupils in a position to pay had left the institute, a few poor children alone remaining. Gottlieb and his wife had gone to farm at Neuhof; and Pestalozzi, almost penniless, still owed the town arrears of rent for the field that he had taken on lease in 1817.

The rest of this year, 1824, was spent in struggling against these financial difficulties, the old man's distress at one time being so great that he allowed himself to be persuaded to take a step which, in spite of our knowledge of Schmidt's ascendancy over him, would be absolutely incredible were it not that the proof of it is still to be seen in the Yverdun archives. When pressed by the Municipality for the arrears of rent above mentioned, the old man, in a letter dated the 5th of November, 1824, asked that his debt should be reduced by the amount of an indemnity due to him for having been to Basle in 1814 at the time when it seemed likely that a military hospital would be established in Yverdun.

As Schmidt took the management of these financial matters entirely out of Pestalozzi's hands, the old man was able to devote a great deal of attention to his literary work. He was chiefly engaged now in elaborating his elementary exercises of language, but he also, about this time, completed and published a pamphlet of some eighty pages, entitled Views on Industry, Education, and Politics, in connection with the State of our Country before and after the Revolution, and bearing the motto, Know Thyself.

In this interesting work, which deserves to be better known, the author looks forward to a great development of

industry and capital, and to a correspondingly great increase in the numbers of those who, dependent upon their daily earnings for a livelihood, are more exposed than any other class to discontent and misery, a state of things which will only serve to aggravate the existing antagonism between the classes. The only remedy for all this lies, in his opinion, in a good system of popular education. At the end of the book are two appendices; one giving "the picture of a poorschool," the other treating of "the religious education of the children of the poor."

Whilst Pestalozzi, carried away by his heart and imagination, was thus giving himself up to philanthropic speculations, his ruin was slowly being consummated.

Schmidt's harshness and domineering spirit had made him many enemies. People blamed him for the many unworthy things Pestalozzi had done in the last few years, and reproached him for having caused the ruin of the institute. Under these circumstances it was soon felt that it would be well to get him out of the place, and so render a signal service not only to Pestalozzi and his institute, but also to the town. Schmidt had never complied with the formalities that the law required from all strangers domiciled in the canton, and ugly rumours-which, however, we have reason to believe were unfounded-had been circulated about his morality. Representations to this effect were now made to the Council of State of the canton by some persons whose names have never transpired, but whose opinions were certainly shared by the great majority of the inhabitants of Yverdun. These complaints had the desired result; for there is an entry in the secret register of the Council, dated the 6th of October, 1824, which runs as follows:

"The commissioners of police report that having been informed that Mr. Victor Joseph Schmidt, a Tyrolese, had encouraged certain acts of immorality in Mr. Pestalozzi's institute at Yverdun, they instructed the justice of the peace to examine Mr. Theodore Frank, a master in the said institute, who was said to be in a position to give information in the matter.

"From this gentleman's depositions, and from further information furnished by the justice of the peace, Mr. Schmidt appears to be gravely compromised.

"The Council of State therefore, adopting, with certain modifications, the suggestion of the commissioners, have decided to expel Mr. Schmidt from the canton, and write the following letters:

"1. To the Justice of the Peace of the District of Yverdun.

"Sir,

"The Council of State requests you to inform Mr. Victor Joseph Schmidt, who is from another canton, and has been living in Mr. Pestalozzi's institute without having first obtained the right of residence in Yverdun, that he must leave the canton within six weeks from this date.

"In this connection the Council of State cannot refrain from expressing its surprise that Mr. Schmidt should have been allowed to reside in Yverdun for so long without fulfilling the necessary conditions of residence, and requests that for the future you will see that the law is more strictly observed. "2. To the same. Confidential.

"Sir,

"Considering the relations which exist between Mr. Pestalozzi and Mr. Schmidt, it is probable that the latter's expulsion will cause this old man, to whose many misfortunes nobody can be indifferent, considerable pain. The Council of State being anxious, as far as possible, to soften this blow to Mr. Pestalozzi, requests you therefore, before notifying its decision to Mr. Schmidt, to send for Mr. Pestalozzi, and, without entering into any details as to the charges brought against his colleague, give him to understand that important considerations, affecting both his institute and public order, have compelled the Council to take this step; but that the esteem and respect in which he has always been held are by no means shaken, and that the Government's interest in his work will remain the same.

"You will easily understand that the object of this confidential letter is, on the one hand, that you may avoid anything which would be likely to give publicityto these unpleasant facts; and, on the other, that you may do all you can to spare the feelings of an old man who, on account of his useful work, his devotion to his fellow-creatures, and his present unfortunate circumstances, deserves especial consideration." The justice of the peace was thus instructed to make

Pestalozzi understand a decision of which he was not even to be told the reason-a difficult task, in which he does not

seem to have thoroughly succeeded. Be that as it may, Schmidt easily persuaded Pestalozzi that the blow was directed against his institute and himself, and the old man accordingly addressed violent protestations to the Council, pointing out that to send away a man whom he could not do without was tantamount to making him go himself. But his protestations were in vain; the Council would grant nothing but a few months' respite.

In letters dated the 19th and 21st of February, 1825, Pestalozzi announced to the Municipality that he was leaving Yverdun; but he also announced that he should some day return, and that he still claimed possession of the Castle. Now that his institute had ceased to exist, however, the Municipality did not feel bound to allow him the use of the Castle any longer; and yet it was not till they had been in correspondence with him for two years, and had actually begun to take legal steps for its recovery, that they regained possession of the building, in which Pestalozzi had left a single servant and his natural history collections, everything else having been sold.

It was with some show of reason, therefore, that Schmidt, in a pamphlet published in 1847 entitled, Pestalozzi and his Neuhof, attributed the final closing of the Yverdun institute to the Vaudese Council of State.

Pestalozzi left Yverdun with Schmidt early in March, 1825, and found a home with his grandson Gottlieb, at Neuhof, a place he had himself made and the scene of his first efforts for helping the people.

Some of his biographers have stated that Pestalozzi was anxious to take to Neuhof the pupils still left at Yverdun, but that none of them were willing to accompany him. The Municipality, on the other hand, in a report addressed to the Council of State, affirms that some time before the institute was closed there was not a single pupil left. Both of these statements, however, are incorrect; for, as we shall see presently, it is certain that at least four of his former pupils went with him to Neuhof.

The institute of Yverdun had lasted for twenty years, and had enjoyed an unexampled prosperity; before it ceased to exist, it had fallen to the lowest degree of abasement.

CHAPTER XVI.

PESTALOZZI'S LAST YEARS.

In retirement at Neuhof he writes his last works and builds a pauper-school. Papers read before the Helvetian Society at Langenthal, and the Society of the Friends of Education at Brugg. Last sign of his love for the poor. Biber's pamphlet. Death of Pestalozzi. His funeral. His present

tomb.

PESTALOZZI, nearly eighty years old, has now lost his last hopes and last illusions; he has outlived his work, a calamity the very thought of which had made him shudder. The great dream of his life is over; the ideal which he has so passionately striven after from his youth, which has been, as it were, the one object of his love and faith, and to which he has sacrificed everything else, is now for ever gone. Schmidt, his self-imposed master, is still with him, leading him like a child, but there can be little doubt that this tyrannical control was very irksome to the old man, for though he had submitted to it voluntarily, it was only because it seemed to him like a fatal necessity imposed upon him by his gratitude and the interests of his work. Already in his discourse of the 12th of January, 1818, he had admitted that he was well aware of Schmidt's faults, and often suffered from them.

One would imagine that so much misfortune and so many disappointments would have broken the old man's courage, and crushed the activity and originality of his genius. But it was not so, for he had no sooner reached Neuhof than he eagerly took up his pen again, writing first his Song of the Swan, one of his most remarkable works, and as it were his dying instructions to posterity in the matter of education; and then the Experiences of My Life, a book in which he gives an account of his whole career, blaming himself for all his misfortunes, and endeavouring to exculpate Schmidt,

« ForrigeFortsæt »