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furnish citizen Pestalozzi with a sufficient quantity of beds and other furniture from various national institutions.
5. At stated intervals citizen Pestalozzi will make reports to the Minister on the administration and progress of the institution, which reports will afford means of making the establishment more generally known, and of spreading its benefits.
The Directory adopted these suggestions, and steps were immediately taken to carry them out. But the choice of a locality and of a site for the establishment, as well as other questions of detail, took some time, and before these preliminary matters were settled, a frightful catastrophe gave a new direction to Pestalozzi's unselfish and untiring activity.
The three cantons of Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden, may be said to have been the cradles of Swiss liberty. Strongly attached to their ancient laws and customs, their priests, and the Catholic faith of their fathers, and proud of their old right to be self-sufficing and to govern themselves as they thought best by popular assemblies, they naturally felt nothing but horror for the revolution which had just taken place, and for the single central government which it had set up in Switzerland. The district of Lower Unterwalden borders the lake of the Four Cantons, and consists of a small group of fertile hills rising gradually to that part of the Alps which is crowned by the glaciers of the Titlis, and which commands, on the other side, the valley of the Aar in the canton of Berne. Fertile, well-watered, and happy in a mild climate, this secluded spot, cut off as it seemed from the rest of the world, was cultivated almost as carefully as a garden. It was inhabited by a fine set of people, who in their isolation in the midst of modern civilization, had preserved many of the qualities as well as the defects of the primitive races of the world.
Their flocks were their chief source of wealth, but there was a good deal of cultivated land in the neighbourhood of the village, and an abundance of fruit-trees everywhere. They were simple and frugal in their habits, and though they possessed no knowledge of any industry, and very little instruction, they were yet able to live in comfort and contentment without leading very laborious lives.
According to the laws and customs of the district, the
poor were entitled to help from their relations, even the most distant, as well as from the parish and the State, a right which had gradually encouraged habits of idleness and mendicity amongst a certain portion of the population. In other respects the people of Unterwalden were a gifted race-quick, intelligent, generous, and especially remarkable for a certain æsthetic instinct, which has produced a considerable number of artists of real merit, and which is still evident to-day in all they do, in their dress, their houses, and their chapels, and above all in the small and delicate paintings that have replaced the wayside crosses on the hills. Such were the people who were now asked to take the oath of allegiance to the Unitary Constitution of Switzerland. Upon their refusal, the Directory sent a French army-corps, under the command of General Schauenbourg, to reduce them to submission.
Though they were few in number, they were resolved to sell their lives dearly. Men, women, and children fought like lions, but had at last to succumb to the superior number, tactics, and weapons of their formidable enemies. The French soldiers were exasperated by this unexpected and obstinate resistance. They suffered serious losses, and in consequence gave no quarter, sparing neither age nor sex, and completing their work of destruction by devastating the district by fire.
In the meantime the old and infirm people had assembled in the church of Stanz, the chief town of the district, to pray with their priest, Luci, a venerable old man of sixty. This vast building, which served as a meeting place for the faithful of all the country round, stands in the principal square of the town, and is raised some four or five yards above the level of the road with which it is connected by a large flight of stone steps.
When the victors reached this square, General Corbineau, thinking that the church might prove a fresh centre of resistance, rode up the steps and entered the building, followed by his men. The priest, who was at the altar elevating the host, was shot dead, and an indescribable scene of terror and tumult followed. In spite of the efforts of a few humane officers, the work of revenge did not cease till the arrival of General Schauenbourg two days afterwards.
The Stanz disaster happened on the 9th of September,
1798; the first number of the Popular Swiss News, of which Pestalozzi was the editor, had appeared the day before.
Truttman, sub-prefect of Arth, and the agent of the Government in Lower Unterwalden, made a detailed inquiry into the losses resulting from this terrible event. We find them stated as follows in the report of the Minister of the Interior, Rengger:
"Dead: 259 men, 102 women, 25 children.1
"Buildings burnt: 340 dwelling-houses, 228 barns, 144 small out-houses.
"Approximate value of buildings and furniture destroyed: £85,000.
"Of the 350 people whose houses have been burnt, only 50 are in a position to rebuild with their own money; 97 others require more or less help; 203 have absolutely no means of building again.
"The most unfortunate, however, are the very large number who had no houses of their own, and have lost everything they possessed. Amongst these are 111 infirm old men; 169 orphans, not counting 77 who have been provided for by private charity in other cantons; and lastly, 237 other children who, without being orphans, are still practically homeless on account of the utter destitution of their families."
The Directory at once took steps to send help to these unfortunate people. On the 18th of November it was decided to found an orphan home in Stanz, and the ministers Stapfer and Rengger were instructed to prepare a plan and find a director for the establishment. They decided to make use of the outer premises of the women's convent, and part of the large field adjoining. But neither the heads of the convent nor the council of the canton were consulted in the matter, and this choice excited violent opposition. In consequence of the objections raised by the convent authorities, the council pointed out to the minister Stapfer the grave inconvenience of placing an orphan asylum in a building which was already used by the nuns as a girls' school, and
1 This first computation was undoubtedly incomplete, for the monument erected in Stanz cemetery in 1807 makes the number of dead
of taking over out-buildings in which the servants lived who were charged with the management of the cattle and the estate. The Government, however, was firm, and its orders were carried out.
At the same time Rengger had instructed the sub-prefect Truttman, and Meyer, Minister of Justice and Police, to try and find a man and his wife to take entire charge of the proposed establishment. But as they deemed it essential that the Director should be a Catholic, all their efforts were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile Pestalozzi was burning with the desire to go and be a father and teacher to the Unterwalden orphans; it seemed indeed almost a providential opportunity for putting into practice the ideas which had so long engrossed his attention. He accordingly informed directors Stapfer and Legrand of his wish.
To the latter he had already fully explained his views and plans, and he had done so the more freely and gladly that he had found him to be not only thoroughly sympathetic but in complete agreement with him.
A new plan presented by Pestalozzi was warmly recommended by Stapfer, Rengger, and Legrand, and on the 5th of December, 1798, the Directory issued a decree, the principle clauses of which were as follows:
"The immediate control of the poor-house at Stanz is entrusted to citizen Pestalozzi.
"Children of both sexes, taken from among the poorest, and especially from the orphans in the Stanz district, will be received in it and brought up gratuitously.
"Children will not be received before the age of five years; they will remain till they are fit to go into service, or to learn such a trade as could not be taught them in the establishment.
"The poor-house will be managed with all the care and economy that such an institution requires. The children will gradually be led to take part in all work necessary for the carrying on and support of the establishment. The time of the pupils will be divided between field-work, house-work, and study. An attempt will be made to develop in the pupils as much skill, and as many useful powers as the funds of the establishment will allow. So far as it is possible to do
so without danger to the industrial results which are to be aimed at, a few lessons will be given during the manual labour.
"All the out-buildings of the women's convent at Stanz are to be devoted to the purposes of the establishment, as well as a certain portion of the adjoining meadow-land. These buildings will at once be repaired and fitted up for the reception of eighty pupils, according to the plans drawn up by citizen Schmidt, of Lucerne. For the founding of the asylum, the Minister of the Interior will, once for all, place a sum of two hundred and forty pounds at the disposal of the committee (Pestalozzi, Truttman, sub-prefect of Arth, and the priest Businger of Stanz)."
A new editor was at once found for the Popular Swiss News, and on the 7th of December Pestalozzi arrived in Stanz to superintend the repairs.
A few days later his wife wrote the following lines in her diary:
"In December, 1798, Pestalozzi went to Stanz to take charge of a number of children whose parents were killed in a sad combat because they would not accept the new Constitution. It is a great trouble to us all, to faithful Lisbeth, and our friends, as well as the children and myself, to see him undertake such a task at his age. When I told him of our anxiety, he answered:
"My fate and yours will now be decided. If your husband has not been misunderstood, if he really deserves the scorn and neglect with which he has generally been treated, there is no hope for us. But if I have been unfairly judged, if I am really worth what I think I am, you will soon find me a comfort and support. But enough; your words stab me to the heart; I can no longer bear your incredulity. Write to me then hopefully. You have waited thirty years, will you not wait another three months? I have not yet any children here, but plenty of workmen. The Government are giving the undertaking wise support, and are showing me much good will."
The alterations and repairs had been begun at a bad time of year, and proceeded slowly; the winter was early and