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DECLINE OF THE INSTITUTE.
Pestalozzi the first to point it out. Its causes.
Pestalozzi asks the Swiss Diet to inspect his institute. Father Girard's report. Niederer's controversy with the newspapers that disparage the work. He quarrels with Schmidt. The latter leaves the institute. Pestalozzi's yearly discourses. New helpers. French pupils and masters at Ÿverdun. Alexander Boniface. Illness of Pestalozzi. The Allies in Switzerland. Pestalozzi and the Czar at Basle. The Peace appears to bring new prosperity to the institute. Numerous pupils and visitors. Doctor Bell at Yverdun. Internal troubles at the institute. Schmidt recalled. Death of Mrs. Pestalozzi. The other masters impatient with Schmidt's spirit of domination. They leave the institute.
At the end of 1807, when the establishment at Yverdun was at the zenith of its fame and exciting the admiration of scholars and sovereigns; when it was attracting crowds of pupils, disciples and visitors from every country, and filling everybody connected with it with joy and hope, one man alone was dissatisfied, one man alone saw that it could not endure, that it was doomed, like a plant at whose root there gnaws an undying worm. This man was Pestalozzi himself.
It was his habit on New Year's day to assemble the whole of his establishment, and, after passing in review the events of the past year, to give expression to his hopes and fears for the future, speaking quite freely all that was in his heart.
His discourse of the 1st of January, 1808, is full of sadness and discouragement; he pronounced it by the side of his open coffin, which he had ordered to be brought into the room. It runs as follows:
"The old year is gone; the new one is here. I am still in your midst, but feel none of the joy you would expect me
to feel. I seem to see my hour approaching; I seem to hear a voice crying above my head: 'Give an account of thy stewardship, for thou must die.'
"Can I give a satisfactory account? Have I been a faithful steward towards God, towards men, towards myself?
"I am happy, and the sound of my happiness is in my ears like the noise of bees seeking a home. But I must die, and what does this noise tell me? That I do not deserve happiness, that I am not happy. The past year has not been a happy one. The ice has broken under me just where I wanted to walk most surely; my life-work has betrayed defects which I had never suspected; the very bond which unites us has shown itself weak where I thought it strongest. I have seen perdition where I looked for salvation, anger where I looked for peace, coldness where I looked for love. I have seen trust withdrawn at a time when I seemed unable to breathe, to live, without it. There is my coffin. What else is left to me but the hope of the tomb? My heart is lacerated; I am no longer what I was yesterday; love, trust and hope have forsaken me. Why should I still live? Why did God preserve me so miraculously from the feet of the horses? 1 The bandage which blinded me to the truth about my life is torn away. The dream which deceived me as to my value and happiness is gone. What is there left for me to do in a world where I have made nothing but mistakes, where I have ever deceived myself, and where, in an hour, I shall do so again? Yet this present moment, this first hour of the year, should at least put the whole truth clearly and plainly before our eyes. I have made far too much of a happiness I did not deserve.
"Poor, weak, humble, unworthy, incapable and ignorant, I yet set myself to my work. The world accounted it madness, but God's hand was with me. My work prospered. I found friends who loved both it and me. I knew not what I did, I hardly knew what I wanted. And yet my work prospered. It came from nothing, as the world at its
1 In December, 1807, as Pestalozzi was walking with Krusi on a very dark night, he was knocked down by some horses, trampled upon, and thrown into a ditch, from which Krusi drew him out with his clothes torn, but without a scratch. Pestalozzi at once returned thanks to God for this miraculous escape.
creation. It is God's work. Realize, my friends, that it is God's work. And may God's work unite us anew, not as the wicked are united, but as angels with angels You were astonished that I was saved from the horses' feet, but my work has been preserved more marvellously even than my poor body. It is a miracle that I am still alive, but it is a still greater miracle that my work should have escaped the dangers of Burgdorf, Munchenbuchsee, and Yverdun!
"New dangers threaten it, which, with God's help, it will surmount. But shall I surmount them? My heart is full of doubt and fear; I feel that I do not deserve my happiness, that it is about to finish. But my work will subsist, for gold is not consumed, but purified, in the fire.
"But it will not subsist through me. It cannot; I am not worthy that it should; for I have been weak in truth and love. Happiness I have had, though never for long. Often have I allowed it to escape, where a child might have held it. What God was doing for me I looked upon as my own work. In my madness I thought that it was I who worked the miracles with which He surrounded me. I accepted praise for what I had not done, and thought myself the author of a work which was not mine.
"This work was founded by love, but love has disappeared from our midst. It could not indeed stay, for we had not foreseen the demands it would make upon us. The work, too, required patience, and I had none. I was even impatient when I should have been grateful. O God, how did I come to this, how did I fall so low? Let me confess my fault before Thee and these my friends. My blindness has exceeded belief. With miracles Thou didst build up my work, with miracles support it, and yet I fancied that it needed little support. Afterwards, when I came to see how much strength it required, I tried to make others do what I myself neglected. I inconsiderately insisted upon what I should have humbly prayed for, and tried to maintain the life of my establishment by forces that my faults and weaknesses had banished from our midst. And so there have been_misunderstandings amongst us, and bonds are broken that I thought fast tied for ever, and hearts estranged that I thought indissolubly united.
"Such is my position. The coffin you see there is my
only consolation. I can no longer do anything to help. The poison at the heart of our work is spreading, and the praise of the world, which is ours to-day, will but encourage it.
"O God, grant that our blindness may pass away! The laurels heaped upon us do but cover a skeleton, for it is only the skeleton of my work which is before us, before my eyes and yours. And I see that the laurels which cover it will be consumed by fire, the irresistible fire of affliction which is coming upon my house. My work will, indeed, subsist, but the consequences of my mistakes will remain. They will crush me; the tomb is my only refuge. "But though I go, you will remain. Would that my words might be burnt into your hearts!
"Friends, be better than I was, that God may achieve, through you, the work I have failed to achieve. Do not, by your faults, heap obstacles in your path, as I have done. Be not deceived, as I have been, by the appearance of
"You are called to a great, an utter sacrifice; without it you will not complete my work.
"Enjoy the present, enjoy the honour which men are heaping upon us, but remember that it will pass like the flower of the fields, which blooms for a moment and is gone.
66 Once more, look at my coffin. Perhaps this very year it will receive my bones or those of a woman who, for my sake, has sacrificed all the happiness of her life. already seem to see these walls hung with black, because this coffin is beneath the ground, because I or my wife, or perhaps both of us, have gone down to the grave. May we rest in peace! May you shed tears of love and pardon over us, and may God's blessing remain with you. I await my end calmly and hopefully. And yet there is another possibility, the mere thought of which fills me with dread: I might live to see my work ruined by my mistakes. This would be a calamity that I should not have strength to endure. I should hang my room with black, and hide myself for ever from the eyes of men, for whose society I should no longer deem myself worthy."
This discourse is too characteristic for us to be satisfied, like other biographers, with quoting a few isolated pas
sages. We have, however, abridged it as far as possible, cutting out everything that was only the repetition or development of ideas already expressed.
Can this indeed be the head of a great institution speaking to his assistants? Is it conceivable that now, at the moment of its greatest prosperity, he should feel obliged to speak thus? There is nothing in this extreme openness and humility on Pestalozzi's part to surprise us; but even allowing for this, what reasons could he have had for taking this view of the position of his institute and of its future? We must endeavour to make his reasons clear.
In the first place, Pestalozzi at that time felt instinctively, though perhaps vaguely, that his work, so far as its realization in an educational institution was concerned, was an impossibility. He explains this at the end of his life in the book entitled, My Experiences, where he says: "I was already lost at Burgdorf by my attempt to do what was utterly foolish and absurd." Indeed, when we remember that his plan in teaching was to follow from the earliest childhood an order entirely different from that followed elsewhere, an order, that is, which should be natural and unbroken; and when we remember, further, that he intended that the power acquired by the child in its first exercises should enable it to surmount subsequent difficulties by its own efforts, we can hardly understand that he should have thought it possible to pursue such a course in an establishment which received children from every country and of every age. It often happened, for instance, that big boys arrived at the institute who could not be placed in the elementary classes with the little children, and who yet were not sufficiently prepared for the higher classes. Some compromise therefore was necessary, the result of which was generally disastrous, not only to the method, but also to the instruction of the pupils.
In the next place, Pestalozzi based morality and discipline on the relations of the family life; he wanted to be a father to his children. This beautiful and touching fiction of paternity, which had been a living and healthful reality in his first experiments, could no longer be maintained in an institution which, from the number of its pupils and their many differences of language, culture, habits, and antecedents, was almost a world. It failed at Yverdun, in spite of heroio