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The French at Stanz.
he at once set to work to serve the new government with his pen. The Directors gladly welcomed such an ally as the author of Leonard and Gertrude, and they made him editor of a newspaper intended to diffuse the revolutionary principles among the people. Naturally enough they supposed that he, like other people, "wanted" something; but when asked what he wanted he replied simply that he wished to be a schoolmaster. The Directors, especially Le Grand, took a genuine interest in education, and were quite willing that Pestalozzi should be allowed a free hand in his "new departure." They therefore agreed to find the funds with which Pestalozzi might open a new Institution in Aargau.
§ 45. But the editorship and the plans for the new Institution came to an abrupt ending. The Catholic cantons did not acquiesce in giving up their local liberties and being subjected to a new government in the hands of men whom they regarded as heretics and even atheists. Consequently those missionaries of enlightenment, the French troops, at once fell upon them and slaughtered many without distinction of age or sex. The French, we are told, did not expect to meet with resistance; so their light became lightning and struck dead the stupid people who could not or would not see. "Our soldiers" (it is Michelet who speaks)" were ferocious at Stanz." (Nos Fils, 217). This ferocity at Stanz in September, 1798, was in secret disapproved of by the Directors, who were nominally respon.sible for it. But all they could do was to provide in a measure for the "111 infirm old people, the 169 orphans, and 237 other children," who were left totally destitute. Le Grand proposed to Pestalozzi that he should, for the present, give up his other plans and go to Stanz (which is on
Pestalozzi at Stanz.
the Lake of Lucerne) to take charge of the orphan and destitute children. Pestalozzi was not the man to refuse such a task as this. He at once set out. Some buildings connected with an Ursuline convent were, without the consent of the nuns, made over to him. Workmen were employed upon them, and as soon as a single room could be inhabited Pestalozzi received forty children into it. This was in January, 1799, in the middle of a remarkably cold winter.
46. Thus under circumstances perhaps less unfavourable than they seemed began the five months' trial of pure Pestalozzianism. The physical difficulties were immense. At first Pestalozzi and all the children were shut up day and night in a single room. He had throughout no helper of any kind but one female servant, and he had to do everything for the children, even what was most menial and disgusting. As soon as possible the number was increased, and before long was nearly eighty, some of the children having to go out to sleep. But great as were the material difficulties, those arising from the opposition and hatred of the people he came to succour were still worse. To them he seemed no philanthropist, but only a servant of the devil, an agent of the wicked government which had sent its ferocious soldiers and slaughtered the parents of these poor children, a Protestant who came to complete the work by destroying their souls. Pestalozzi, who was making heroic efforts in their behalf, seems to have wondered at the animosity shown him by the people of Stanz; but on looking back we must admit that in the circumstances it was only natural.
§ 47. And yet in spite of enormous difficulties of every kind Pestalozzi triumphed. Within the five months he
Success and expulsion.
spent with them he attached to him the hearts of the children, and produced in them a marvellous physical, intellectual, and moral change. "If ever there was a miracle," says Michelet, "it was here. It was the reward of a strong faith, of a wonderful expansion of heart. He believed, he willed, he succeeded." (Nos Fils 223.)
What was the great act of faith by which Pestalozzi triumphed? According to M. Michelet he stood before. these vicious and degraded children and said, "Man is good." Pestalozzi does not tell us this himself; and as a benighted believer in Christianity, I venture to differ from the enlightened Michelet. As far as I can judge from Pestalozzi's own teaching the source of his strength was his belief in the goodness not of Man but of God.
§ 48. But encouraged and rewarded as he was by the result, Pestalozzi could not long have maintained this fearful exertion. He was over fifty years of age, and he must soon have succumbed ; indeed he was already spitting blood when in June, 1799, the French soldiers, whose action had brought him to Stanz, drove him away again. Falling back before the Austrians they had need of a hospital in Stanz, and demanded the buildings occupied by Pestalozzi and the children. So almost all the children had to be sent away, and then at last Pestalozzi took thought for his own health and retired to some baths in the mountains. But most of his peculiarities in teaching may be said to date from the experience at Stanz; and I will therefore give this experience in his own words.
§ 49. The following is the account given in his letter to his friend Gessner. (I have in part availed myself of Mr. Russell's translation of Guimps, pp. 149 ff.)
At Stanz: P.'s own account.
"My friend, once more I awake from a dream; once more I see my work destroyed, and my failing strength wasted..
"But, however weak and unfortunate my attempt, a friend of humanity will not grudge a few moments to consider the reasons which convince me that some day a more fortunate posterity will certainly take up the thread of my hopes at the place where it is now broken.
"I once more made known, as well as I could, my old wishes for the education of the people. In particular, I laid my whole scheme before Legrand (then one of the Directors), who not only took a warm interest in it, but agreed with me that the Republic stood in urgent need of a reform of public education. He also agreed with me that much might be done for the regeneration of the people by giving a certain number of the poorest children an education which should be complete, but which, far from lifting them out of their proper sphere, would but attach them the more strongly to it.
"I limited my desires to this one point, Legrand helping me in every possible way. He even thought my views so important that he once said to me: I shall not willingly give up my present post til! you have begun your work.'
"It was my intention to try to find near Zurich or in Aargau a place where I should be able to join industry and agriculture to the other means of instruction, and so give my establishment all the development necessary to its complete success. But the Unterwalden disaster (September, 1798) left me no further choice in the matter. The Government felt the urgent need of sending help to this unfortunate district, and begged me for this once to make an attempt to put my plans into execution in a place where almost everything that could have made it a success was wanting.
"I went there gladly. I felt that the innocence of the people would make up for what was wanting, and that their distress would, at any rate, make them grateful.
"My eagerness to realise at last the great dream of my life would have led me to work on the very highest peaks of the Alps, and, so to speak, without fire or water.
"For a house, the Government made over to me the new part of the Ursuline convent at Stanz, but when I arrived it was still uncompleted, and not in any way fitted to receive a large number of children. Before anything else could be done, then, the house itself had to be got ready.
At Stanz: P.'s own account.
The Government gave the necessary orders, and Rengger pushed on the work with much zeal and useful activity. I was never indeed allowed to want for money.
"In spite, however, of the admirable support I received, all this preparation took time, and time was precisely what we could least afford, since it was of the highest importance that a number of children, whom the war had left homeless and destitute, should be received at once.
"I was still without everything but money when the children crowded in; neither kitchen, rooms, nor beds were ready to receive them. At first this was a source of inconceivable confusion. For the first few weeks I was shut up in a very small room; the weather was bad, and the alterations, which made a great dust and filled the corridors with rubbish, rendered the air very unhealthy.
"The want of beds compelled me at first to send some of the poor children home at night; these children generally came back the next day covered with vermin. Most of them on their arrival were very degenerated specimens of humanity. Many of them had a sort of chronic skin-disease, which almost prevented their walking, or sores on their heads, or rags full of vermin; many were almost skeletons, with haggard, careworn faces, and shrinking looks; some brazen, accustomed to begging, hypocrisy, and all sorts of deceit; others broken by misfortune, patient, suspicious, timid, and entirely devoid of affection. There were also some spoilt children amongst them who had known the sweets of comfort, and were therefore full of pretensions. These kept to themselves, affected to despise the little beggars their comrades, and to suffer from this equality, and seemed to find it impossible to adapt themselves to the ways of the house, which differed too much from their old habits. But what was common to them all was a persistent idleness, resulting from their want of physical and mental activity. Out of every ten children there was hardly one who knew his A B C; as for any other knowledge, it was, of course, out of the question.
"The entire absence of school learning was what troubled me least, for I trusted in the natural powers that God bestows on even the poorest and most neglected children. I had observed for a long time that behind their coarseness, shyness, and apparent incapacity, are hidden the finest faculties, the most precious powers; and now, even amongst