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PLANS OF NATIONAL EDUCATION.
Legrand, one of the “directors,” who had arrived at a decided conviction that national regeneration, founded upon a better education of all, but especially of the lower, classes, was the only means of turning the late changes in the social system to some permanently good account. On this subject he conferred with Pestalozzi, and they both agreed that the most powerful effect might be produced by giving to a considerable number of the poorest children such an education as would put them in possession of all the advantages of civilization, without rendering them discontented with their station in life. To educate men whose happiness should not depend on their fortunes, nor their virtue on their circumstances, free men in the true sense of the word, was indeed the way to save the cause of liberty from the shipwreck which it had suffered in the revolution. The importance of this subject was so fully impressed upon the mind of Legrand, that he, who was sometimes heartily tired of his directorship, promised his friend not to resign until he should have procured him an opportunity of realizing his views. Encouraged by the warm and affectionate support of this noble patriot, Pestalozzi laid his views officially before the government, and met with the most favorable reception from the two secretaries of state, Rengger and Stapfer, to whose departments the subject more particularly belonged. The directoire promised to supply him with the pecuniary means which the execution of his plan required, and he was already engaged in selecting an appropriate spot in the cantons of Zurich, or Argovie, when a dreadful event occurred, which called him to a different scene of action.
The French invasion, supported by a revolutionary party in the country itself, had, almost in an instant of time, given a new aspect to the northern, western, and eastern parts of Switzerland, where a harsh and insolent dominion of the fortified cities over the open land, and of aristocratic families over the mass of the citizens, had, during the last century, gradually loosened all the ties of society. Very different was the state of the ancient democratic cantons, situated round
THE DEMOCRATIC CANTONS.
the lake of Lucerne, whose inhabitants had preserved all that simplicity and vigor for which they were celebrated in the days of William Tell and Arnold Winkelried. The principle vox populi, vox Dei, was here upheld, not by legal fiction, but in reality. The suffrages of all its freeborn men, assembled annually, in spring, at the Landsgemeinde, were still the expression of the sovereign will, to whose decision all legislative measures were submitted ; and the sword of authority returned after each twelvemonth into the hands of the people, in whose name it was wielded, to be committed by them to whomsoever they should think fit. Under this constitution, which of all others seems to open the widest field for ambition and contention, these pastoral tribes of primitive character had, for the lapse of three centuries, preserved a feeling of union greatly strengthened by the tie of faith ; for the Reformation, which had divided the minds in all the other parts of Switzerland, had not penetrated into these mountains, and the Roman Catholic church reigned there undisturbed in the venerable simplicity of her earlier and better days. Of a people thus nursed up in the highest political freedom and the most perfect spiritual subjection, it was not to be expected that they would allow themselves willingly to be incorporated in the new “Helvetic republic," which was governed by a representative federal government invested with military power, and in which the “schismatic" doctrines of Protestant Switzerland were allied with the Deism or rather Atheism of the French Terrorists. Their dearest birthright, the right of self-representation in the sovereign assembly, and the ground of their hope in the world to come, the inviolable faith of the Catholic church, were attacked together; and the democratic cantons resisted the invasion with a resolution and perseverance which could only be equalled by their attachment to the interests which were at stake. But that spirit of centralization and “arrondissement" which presided in the councils of the French republic and of the new Swiss government constituted under its auspices, knew of no respect for national and religious peculiarities;
and the conflict that ensued could, therefore, be no other than a war of extermination.
The fury of this war burst in the month of September, 1798, upon the canton of Unterwalden, whose capital, Stantz, was laid in ashes by the victorious French troops; and the small number of its defenders that escaped the general slaughter, forced to seek refuge in the most impervious recesses of their mountains. After a horrible massacre, in which neither age nor sex was spared, the whole of the lower valley presented one great scene of devastation.
“Stantz-a melancholy pyre!
And her hamlets blaz'd behind,
Widowed mothers with their children, families of orphans, were wandering without protection, without support, among the smoking ruins, and through the fields that were drenched with the blood of their husbands and fathers; and, instead of the herdsman's cheerful song, the wild rocks re-echoed the voice of lamentation and of wailing. High as the heat of party ran in those days, the Helvetic government deeply and sincerely lamented the sanguinary vengeance with which their allies had visited one of the states of the ancient Swiss federation, and, by affording to the distressed inhabitants all the assistance in their power, hastened to mitigate the impression which the intelligence of the event could not fail to produce throughout the whole land. The most active measures were taken to rebuild the destroyed dwellings; the scattered remnants of the population invited back under the most solemn assurances of security, and supplied with provisions. This was the scene which the government proposed to Pestalozzi for the first experiment of his plan of national education.
The Ursuline Convent-First Difficulties Conquered - An Inter esting Family-Hints for Practical Instruction
Blossoms and Fruits.
REGARDLESS, though not ignorant, of the incalculable difficulties that awaited him, he followed the call of humanity, and leaving his family behind him, proceeded to Stantz. The new convent of the Ursulines, which was in progress of building, was assigned to him for the formation of an asylum for orphans and other destitute children; and ample funds were provided for making the necessary arrangements. But in a country which war had converted into a desert, it was not easy, even with an abundance of pecuniary means, to procure, without great delay, the most necessary implements of such an establishment. The only apartment that was habitable on Pestalozzi's arrival, was a room of scarcely twentyfour feet square, and this was unfurnished. The rest of the edifice was occupied by carpenters and bricklayers; but even if there had been rooms, the want of kitchen utensils and beds would have rendered them useless.
Meanwhile, upon the news being spread that such an asylum was about to be established, the children presented themselves in scores; and, as many of them were unprotected orphans, some without a place of shelter, it was not easy to turn them away.
The one room which served for a schoolroom in the day, was at night provided with some scanty bedding and converted into a sleeping room for Pestalozzi and as many
of his pupils as it would hold. The rest were quartered out for the night in some of the surrounding houses, and came to the asylum only in the day time. Under such circumstances it was impossible to introduce any sort of regularity, or even to maintain physical cleanliness; and disorder
THE URSULINE CONVENT.
being once established in the house, it was a most difficult task to check it afterwards among a number of children whose previous habits were so unfavorable to order. Diseases, and those of the very worst description, were imported from the beginning, and not easily got rid of in a house where, at first, no separation was possible; besides which, the dust occasioned by the workmen, the dampness of the newly erected walls, and the closeness of the atmosphere, arising from the numbers stowed together in a small apartment, at a season which did not allow of much airing, rendered the asylum of itself an unhealthy abode.
Considering all these circumstances, the state of the house the condition of the children, the privations and hardships to which Pestalozzi was exposed, and the exertions which he was obliged to make, there seems to be no exaggeration in the description which he himself gives of this experiment as of a desperate undertaking. Indeed, even after the first impediments were removed, its success must have been very problematical. The constitutions of the children were impaired, their minds hardened, and their characters degraded by the course of life which they had been obliged to lead since the disaster. Some of them were the offspring of beggars and outlaws, whom not the national calamity, but the vicious courses of their parents, had reduced to the extreme of wretchedness, and who were inured to falsehood and impudence from their earliest childhood. Others, who had seen better days, were crushed under the weight of their sufferings, shy and indolent. A few of them, whose parents had belonged to the higher classes of society, were spoiled children, accustomed formerly to all sorts of enjoyment and indulgence; they were full of pretensions and discontent, depressed but not humbled by their misfortunes, envious of each other, and scornful towards their more lowly companions. The only thing which they had all in common was the physical, intellectual, and moral neglect to which they had been exposed, and which rendered them all equally