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of the people ; in all charitable institutions, which accustom
the poor to eat bread they have not earned, he saw nothing
but temporary remedies, which, in the end, do but aggravate
the evil.

He held these convictions so strongly, and his desire to
improve the condition of the people was so real, that he
decided to carry out an experiment in his own house and on
his own land, hoping in this way to make Neuhof the model
and centre of this great work of regeneration.

Having failed in his attempts to grow madder, and also
in his attempts to establish a cheese-dairy, for which purpose
he had laid down a considerable quantity of pasture-land,
he had found it necessary to conduct his operations on a scale
more consistent with his reduced means. But he still owed
some four hundred pounds of the purchase money, and had
not only to complete his buildings, but to carry out the
various improvements he had begun on the land.

He had tried the system of paid workmen, but with very
unsatisfactory results ; he found that they seldom worked
with a will, that they nearly always had inveterate vices,
and hopelessly bad methods ; he hoped more, however, from
the children, who, brought up under his own roof, would
owe him everything.

He was determined then, at all costs, to undertake this
new work. Many years afterwards, in the Song of the Sioan,
he spoke of his determination in these words :

' Our position entailed much suffering on my wife, but
nothing could shake us in our resolve to devote our time,
strength, and remaining fortune to the simplification of the
instruction and domestic education of the people."

In the winter of 1774 the experiment began, and several


children, some from the neighbouring villages, some mere
vagrants from the roadside, went to live at Neuhof with
Pestalozzi, who clothed them, fed them, and treated them
in every way as his own. They were always with him,
sharing in the work of the garden, the fields, and the house,
and in bad weather spinning cotton in a large out-house.
Very little time was given to actual lessons ; indeed the chil-
dren were often taught while working with their hands,
Pestalozzi being in no hurry to teach them to read and write,
convinced as he was that this is only useful for those who
have learned to talk. He gave them constant practice in
conversation, however, on subjects taken from their everyday
life, and made them repeat passages from the Bible till they
knew them by heart.

This first experiment, which was made with not more than
twenty children, was apparently a complete success. In a
few months the appearance of the poor little creatures had
entirely changed; notwithstanding the extreme simplicity
of their fare, they looked strong and robust, and their faces
wore an expression of cheerfulness, frankness, and intelli-
gence, which, when they first arrived, had been entirely
wanting. They made considerable progress with their
manual work, as well as with the lessons that were joined
to it, taking great pleasure in both. All they did and said,
moreover, seemed to express their appreciation of their bene-
factor's kind care for them.

In this way the year 1775 passed. But the experiment,
modest as it was, was far beyond Pestalozzi's means, nor
did the work of the children in any way suffice for the proper
cultivation of his land. Many more were anxious to come,
it is true, and Pestalozzi longed to receive them, but he
could not do so without new domestic arrangements and
increased expense.

This experiment at Neuhof had been talked of far and
wide, and had excited the interest and admiration of all such
men as were capable of appreciating the beautiful and noble
thought that had suggested it. Money was offered to Pesta-
lozzi to carry it on with, and he was advised to appeal to the
friends of humanity for help to extend his undertaking, and
so make it a complete success.

This advice he was not slow to follow, and in the begin-
ning of 1770 his appeal appeared in the weekly paper, pub-


listed by Iselin of Basle, entitled, EpJiemerides of Humanity
(p. 293). It ran thus :

Appeal to the friends and benefactors of humanity to
support an institution intended to provide education
and work for poor country children.

" I appeal to the friends and benefactors of humanity to
help me to maintain an institution which I can no longer
maintain alone.

" I have for a long time thought it probable that, under
favourable circumstances, young children might be able to
earn their own living without undue labour, provided that
enough capital were advanced to organize an establishment,
in which they would not only live, but at the same time re-
ceive a certain elementary education. I consider that any
careful experiment in this direction would be of the highest
importance for humanity.

" In the poor district in which I live, I have been struck
by the misery of children placed with peasants by the parish.
I have seen them crushed by hard selfishness, and left for the
most part without spirit or energy, I might almost say with-
out life in body or soul, and I have seen them grow up
entirely devoid of those feelings and powers that make useful
and upright men. As the situation of my property near
Koenigsfelden seemed favourable for the purpose, I felt irre-
sistibly impelled to put my idea into execution. I thought
at first that my means would be sufficient, but I find now
that they are not. Still, more than a year's experiment has
convinced me that now that the first difficulties have been
surmounted, there is nothing to prevent my plan being
carried to a successful issue.

" I have proved that children will thrive and grow on the
very simplest diet, if properly varied ; such, for instance, as
potatoes or other vegetables, and a little bread.

" I have proved that it is not regular work that stops the
development of so many poor children, but the turmoil and
irregularity of their lives, the privations they endure, the
excesses they indulge in when the opportunity offers, the
wild rebellious passions so seldom restrained, and'the hope-
lessness to which they are so often a prey.

"I have proved that children, after having lost health,
strength, and courage in a life of idleness and mendicity,


have, when once set to regular work, quickly recovered their
health and spirits, and grown rapidly. Such is the effect
of altered circumstances, and the absence of disquieting

" I have found that when taken out of their abject con-
dition, they soon become kindly, trustful, and sympathetic ;
that even the most degraded of them are touched by kindness,
and that the eyes of the child who has been steeped in
misery, grow bright with pleasure and surpiise, when, after
years of hardship, he sees a gentle friendly hand stretched out
to help him ; and I am convinced that when a child's heart
is thus touched, his whole moral nature is the better for it.

" I have found, too, that living together in a well-managed
house not only lessens the expense of supporting these
children, but increases their zeal for work, and encourages
their proper development.

" Had I but had the necessary means, I do not doubt but
that I should have succeeded in my object and attained these
two great and useful results : instruction adapted to the
limited needs of ordinary workmen, and the rescue of chil-
dren from the very lowest conditions of humanity. The boy
who only grows up into a vagabond, perhaps a criminal ;
the girl, who, without guide or support, prepares for herself
a life of misery and dishonour; all, in short, who would
almost inevitably be lost both for themselves and their
country, these are they whom I was anxious to save, and
whom I wished to prepare by education for a useful and
active life.

" From an economical point of view, and in many other
respects, the position of my house and land seems admirably
adapted for the purpose ; but to this simple and feasible
scheme of agricultural education I unfortunately joined
a great industrial and commercial experiment, and with
culpable thoughtlessness, entered on paths entirely unknown
to me, and engaged in undertakings of too varied and com-
plicated a character. These experiments did not answer
my expectations, and I found myself suddenly deprived of
resources on which I had thought I could depend, and in
imminent danger of ruin. I had therefore to abandon com-
merce and industry, and return, not too late I hope, to my
original idea of simply educating children.

" But to-day I can no longer do even that without help,


and I accordingly submit my plan to the friends and bene-
factors of humanity.

" My prayer is that they will advance me a small sum
yearly, for six years. After the tenth year, the money will
be paid back in yearly instalments from the earnings of the
workmen I have trained.

" I promise that if I succeed in getting this help, I will
abandon every other occupation, and devote my whole time
and strength to the education of poor friendless children. I
promise that the number of the children shall be regulated
by the financial support I receive. I promise to teach them
all to read, write, and cipher ; I promise to give all the boys,
so far as my position and knowledge will allow me, practical
instruction in the most profitable methods of cultivating small
plots of land, to teach them to lay down pasture-land, to
understand the use and value of manures, to know the differ-
ent sorts of grasses, and the importance of mixing them ; the
nature and use of marl ; the effect, still disputed, of the
repeated application of lime ; the management of fruit-trees,
and perhaps of a few forest trees. All this will come naturally
out of the work connected with the actual needs of the house,
and will not be a special study calling^ for increased expense.
It will be the household needs, too, that will give the girls
an opportunity of learning gardening, domestic duties, and

" The chief occupation in bad weather will be cotton-

" I undertake to furnish all these children with suitable
food, clothing, and lodging, and have already made many of
the necessary alterations and arrangements in my house.

"I promise to give the most conscientious attention to their
religious instruction, and to do all I can to put gentleness and
purity into their hearts.

" I have still to add that in support of my views I can
point to the twenty children who are now living and working
wiyth me. They are in perfect health, and their happiness, in
spite of hard work, has surpassed my expectations. Their
general cheerfulness and courage, and the delicate feeling and
affection of which several of them have given proof, fill me
with great hopes for the future. The care and expense of
these children will continue to be mine alone."


Pestalozzi then promises to give a yearly account of the
progress of his work, and asks to have it inspected, so that
no money may be given unless his promises are found to have
been faithfully performed. He then mentions a few names
of prominent men who have already expressed approval of his
plan, and are prepared to give the necessary information to
any who desire it. The appeal closes with these words :

"Friends of humanity, notwithstanding all my mistakes
and the injury I have done myself by my precipitation, will
you still give me your confidence, and support an undertaking
which, though it is beset with dangers, is likely to have the
happiest results, my past errors having taught me many

" Neuhof, Koenigsfelden, December 9th, 1775,


Amongst the men of talent and influence who approved of
the enterprise, none supported it with more zeal than Iselin,
of Basle, the editor of the EpJiemerides, a high-souled and
noble-minded man of whom his country should be proud. Soon
after Pestalozzi's appeal had been made public, Iselin made
the following announcement in his paper :

" We are happy to state that Mr. Pestaloz has not ap-
pealed for help in vain. The Council of Commerce of the
Berne Republic, together with many private individuals,
have promised to support him, so that there is a reasonable
hope of his work being continued. In further explanation of
his views, we hope shortly to publish some letters from Mr.
Pestaloz, in which will be found many excellent ideas on
the rural education of poor children."

The letters thus announced by Iselin, together with notices
of the establishment at Neuhof and evidence as to its work-
ing, were collected from the Ephemerides, and published by
Seyffarth in his complete edition of Pestalozzi's works (vol.
viii.). These various documents throw a new light on this
attempt to regenerate the working classes, regeneration no

1 Pestalozzi's family often signed Pestaloz or Pestaluz, probably to give
their Italian name a termination more in keeping with ihe language of


less needed in many countries to-day. As their length un-
fortunately does not allow us to give them in full, a short
summary must suffice.

First letter to N. E. T. (Undated.}

Pestalozzi points out that the defect of ordinary institutions
for the education of poor children is that the children are not
brought up consistently with the position that they will pro-
bably occupy in after life ; they contract habits which they
will afterwards have to give up ; they do not learn to be
satisfied with merely having their most pressing wants sup-
plied ; they form no habits of steady application or frugality,
because they know that whatever they may do, they cannot
want for anything.

Second letter, to the same, January 10fA, 1777.

Poor children must be brought up in private establishments
where agriculture and industry are combined, and where the
living is of the very simplest ; they must learn to work
steadily and carefully with their hands, the chief part of
their time being devoted to this manual work, and their
instruction and education being associated with it.

The work of the children must pay for their keep ; in this
way they will be working for themselves, and their style of
living will depend on the success of their work.

But is it possible for children's work to pay for their keep,
and if so, under what conditions ? Pestalozzi examines this
question with the greatest care.

He supposes an establishment receiving children at the
age of eight or nine years and keeping them for six years.
The first year he would admit twenty-five, the second fifteen,
the third fifteen, and so on each year till the total number of
a hundred pupils was reached. Then he calculates for each
year, on the one hand, the earnings of each child at cotton-
spinning according to his age, on the other, the expenses of
the establishment, and from this calculation it results that
after the sixth year the establishment would have paid all its
expenses and would be making a clear profit.

Pestalozzi then goes on to say that in his district, agri-
culture alone will not support all the inhabitants, and has to
be supplemented by some form of industry, adapted to the
particular conditions of the place. As to agriculture, very


expensive operations are, of course, not possible for the poor ;
all they can hope for is to have a small piece of land to culti-
vate, the produce of which will provide for their household
wants, and perhaps leave them something to sell. He there-
fore teaches his children hardly anything but the cultivation
of vegetables, in which he finds that they take a great
interest ; afterwards, having seen how much can be got out
of the land by steady and intelligent labour, they will be
eager to have some of their own.

Pestalozzi then comes to the religious question. We will
here give his own words :

"What a terrible responsibility for the director, who,
should he let the children forget their God, their Father,
their Saviour, or fail to implant in them the faith in God's
revelation, which is our only support in trouble and the hope
of the eternal life to which we are called, will surely be made
to account for his neglect of these young souls ! The director
should be, as it were, a father to the children ; their progress
in application and in wisdom should cause him a father's
joy ; the daily improvement in their powers, their minds and
hearts should raise his own character, and so be his reward ;
if this were not so, the work would not be worth his trouble
and would profit him nothiag."

Third letter, to the same.

Neuhof, March 19th, 1777.

Pestalozzi here gives an account of the results of his
experiment for the past three years; from which he concludes
that success in his enterprise is not at all impossible. For
instance, it is possible to make the work of the children pay
for their maintenance ; for the amount both of earnings and
expenses has entirely justified his calculations.

It is possible to encourage their growth and keep them
strong and well on a very plain and inexpensive diet, for they
eat hardly anything but vegetable food ; and though they
work hard, they are very robust ; the strongest go about in
summer bareheaded and without shoes or stockings. ( Jacobli,
the director's only son, is treated in the same way.)

It is possible in a very short time not only to make them
moderately good workers, but at the same time to teach them
all that it is most necessary for them to know.


But there have been unforeseen difficulties :

1st. There are some children so accustomed to a vagrant
life that they cannot be induced to give it up.

2nd. There are some parents so ungrateful and unnatural
that they will sacrifice the welfare and future of their children
for the smallest immediate advantage ; they come to Neuhof
and entice them away the very moment they see that they
are clean, in good health, well clothed, and in a position to
earn something.

The past year has been a hard one for the establishment ;
Mrs. Pestalozzi has been seriously ill nearly the whole time.
In spite of the greatest attention to cleanliness, several
children have suffered from an infectious skin disease. There
have also been twenty-four cases of measles in the house, all
ending happily, however. Finally the crops have suffered
three times from hail storms.

But Pestalozzi is not discouraged ; he will never forsake
the work, nor will his wife. But he thinks it can never
prosper, or meet with complete success, unless, by formal
agreements with the parents and by the help of the authori-
ties, it is made impossible for any child to be taken away
from the establishment before his full time is up.

A few words on the most degraded portion of humanity.
An appeal to the charitable to come to its assistance.

Neuhof, September 18th, 1777.

In this paper Pestalozzi gives a detailed account of a dozen
of these poor children. They came to him in a state of such
degradation as to excite almost as much fear as compassion ;
they seemed absolutely incapable of doing anything but
harm either to society, their families, or themselves.

Many of them, however, were very intelligent, and nearly
all have improved very much already, and are beginning to
work well enough to earn their own living. Judging from
his experience, Pestalozzi thinks that even the weakest and
most feeble-minded ones may be saved.

But the director must be a father to them, no other re-
lationship being really efficacious and salutary in this sort cf

The children must remain in the establishment five or six
years, and must be kept from the influence of their reaJ


parents, whenever such influence is unmistakably pernicious.
Pestalozzi has now thirty-six children in his house; this
number will be increased next spring, and the financial
position of the establishment will be thereby improved.

Educational Establishment for poor children at Neuhof,
in Aargau. (Undated.)

This is a report addressed by Pestalozzi to the supporters
of his undertaking, in which he explains his plans and the
difficulties .that are still to be overcome, and begs them to
continue their support, and to have the establishment in-
spected by competent persons.

The household numbers fifty, including the masters, work-
men, and servants necessary for the proper education and
training of the children and the proper cultivation of the land.

The experience gained at Neuhof shows clearly that it is
absolutely necessary to attach some conditions to the ad-
mission of pupils, and Pestalozzi feels compelled to say that
in future he will receive no child without a formal agreement
with the parents. Town children he will not admit at all,
unless very young, for they are a constant source of trouble.

Pestalozzi ends by repeating his determination to devote
himself entirely to this work.

Then follows a statement by the Berne Agricultural So-
ciety, in which the Society declares that, having had the.
establishment at Neuhof examined by well-known and com-
petent men, it has every confidence that Pestalozzi will make
it succeed, and is glad to be able to commend it to the atten-
tion of the public.

Then comes a note by Iselin, who corroborates the Society's
statement, and offers to receive any donations for the Neuhof
establishment, and forward them to Pestalozzi.

Authentic account of Mr. PestalozzVs Educational Estab-
lishment for poor children at Neuhof, near Birr, in
the year 1778.

This was a pamphlet published by the before-mentioned
Society, containing first a preface by the Society, which
is almost word for word the same as the statement we have
just summarized, and then an account by Pestalozzi himself,
signed " J. H. Pestalozze, Neuhof, February 26th, 1778."


This new account is little more than a repetition of the
others. At the end, Pestalozzi announces that he has received
some sixty pounds in donations, thanks his benefactors, and
begs the public to continue their support.

But the special interest of this pamphlet is that it contains
a detailed account of each of the thirty-seven pupils. As
these details take us to the heart of the matter, and teach us
more than any number of generalizations, we shall give them
word for word :

" I have to-day in my establishment the following chil-
dren :

" 1. Barbara Brunner, of Esch (Zurich), 17 ; admitted
three years ago in a state of utter ignorance, but very in-
telligent. Now she spins, reads, and writes fairly well, likes
singing, is principally engaged in the kitchen.

t. MaTia Hirt; 11 j } tw sisters ' fr m Windiscl1 -

" Frena has a weak chest ; she spins well, is beginning to
sew and write nicely. I am pleased with her character.
Maria is younger and stronger, is quick at everything,
especially figures, and spins remarkably well ; she is quite
strong enough for any work suited to her age.

" 4. Anna Vogt, 19 : ) , . , t TIT j t.

" 5. Lisbeth Vogt, 11 ; } two sisters ' from Mandach -

" They came to me three years ago, terribly neglected in
body and mind ; they had spent their lives in begging. We
have had enormous trouble to make them in the least degree
orderly, truthful, and active. The ignorance of the elder, and
the depth of degradation to which she had sunk are scarcely
credible. She is still idle, but her heart seems to have been
touched. She still feels the effect of her miserable childhood,
and suffers from swollen feet and other ailments ; she is ab-
solutely incapable of out-door work.

" The younger sister is intelligent and robust, but I tremble
at her determined opposition to all good influences. Lately,
however, I have seen, I fancy, some very slight traces of
improvement. She spins fairly well, and can do any sort of
work either in the house or the fields.

" 6. Henri Vogt, of Mandach, 11 ; has been here three
years ; can weave, is beginning to write, works hard at French
and arithmetic, is exact and careful in all he does ; but he


seems cunning and deceitful, suspicious and greedy ; has good

" 7. Anneli Vogt, of Mandach, 11, daughter of Jacob Vogt ;
likes work, spins well, sings prettily, is apt at figures, is
strong and useful out of doors as well as in the house ; has
been here three years.

" 8. Jacob Vogt, her brother, 9 ; here three years. He is
subject to occasional attacks of colic, one of the results of

Online LibraryRoger de GuimpsPestalozzi: his life and work → online text (page 7 of 43)