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isolated district was Strasbourg, abounding in wealth and knowledge, and all the refinements of civilization. He determined to open a regular communication between the Ban de la Roche and that city; to find there a market for the produce of his own district, and to bring thence in exchange new comforts and new means of improvement. He assembled the people, explained his objects, and proposed that they should blast the rocks to make a wall, a mile and a half in length, to support a road by the side of the river, over which a bridge must also be made. The peasants, one and all, declared the thing was impossible; and every one excused himself from engaging in such an unreasonable scheme. Oberlin exhorted them, reasoned with them, appealed to them as husbands and fathers—but in vain.
He at last threw a pickaxe upon his shoulder, and went to work himself, assisted by a trusty servant. He had soon the support of fellow-laborers. He regarded not the thorns by which his hands were torn, nor the loose stones which fell from the rocks and bruised them. His heart was in the work, and no difficulty could stop him. He devoted his own little property to the undertaking; he raised subscriptions amongst his old friends; tools were bought for all who were willing to use them. On the Sunday the good pastor labored in his calling as a teacher of sacred truths; but on the Monday, he rose with the sun to his work of practical benevolence, and, marching at the head of two hundred of his flock, went with renewed vigor to his conquest over the natural obstacles to the civilization of the district.
In three years
the road was finished, the bridge was built, and the communication with Strasbourg was established. The ordinary results of intercourse between a poor and a wealthy, a rude and an intelligent community, were soon felt.
The people of the Ban de la Roche obtained tools, and Oberlin taught their young men the necessity of learning other trades besides that of cultivating the earth. He apprenticed the boys to carpenters, masons, glaziers, blacksmiths, and cartwrights, at Strasbourg. In a few years, these arts, which were wholly unknown to the district, began to flourish. The tools were kept in good order, wheelcarriages became common, the wretched cabins were converted into snug cottages; the people felt the value of these great changes, and they began to regard their pastor with unbounded reverence.
Oberlin, however, had still some prejudices to encounter in carrying forward the education of this rude population. He desired to teach them better modes of cultivating their sterile soil; but they would not listen to him. What,” said they, with the common prejudice of all agricultural people in secluded districts, what could he know of crops, who had been bred in a town?” It was useless to reason with them; he instructed them by example. He had two large gardens near his parsonage, crossed by footpaths. The soil was exceedingly poor; but he trenched and manured the ground, with a thorough knowledge of what he was about, and planted it with fruit trees. The trees flourished, to the great astonishment of the peasants; and they at length entreated their pastor to tell them his secret. He explained his system, and
gave them slips out of his nursery. Planting and grafting soon became the taste of the district, and in a few years the bare and desolate cottages were surrounded by smiling orchards. The potatoes of the canton, the chief food of the people, had so degenerated, that the fields yielded the most scanty produce. The peasants maintained that the ground was in fault; Oberlin, on the contrary, procured new seed. The soil of the mountains was really peculiarly favorable to the cultivation of this root, and the good minister's crop of course succeeded. The force of example was again felt, and abundance of potatoes soon returned to the canton.
In like manner, Oberlin introduced the culture of Dutch clover and flax, and at length overcame the most obstinate prejudice, in converting unprofitable pastures into arable land. Like all agricultural improvers, he taught the people the value of manure, and the best modes of reducing every substance into useful compost. The maxim which he incessantly repeated was, “ let nothing be lost.” He established an agricultural society, and founded prizes for the most skilful farmers. In ten years from his acceptance of the pastoral office in the Ban de la Roche, he had opened communications between each of the five parishes of the canton, and with Strasbourg, introduced some of the most useful arts into a district where they had been utterly neglected, and raised the agriculture of these poor mountaineers from a barbarous tradition into a practical science. Such were some of the effects of education in the most comprehensive sense of the word.
The instruction which Oberlin afforded to the adults of his canton was only just as much as was necessary to remove the most pressing evils of their outward condition, and to impress them with a deep sense of religious obligation. But his education of the young had a wider range.
When he entered on his ministry, the hut which his predecessor had built, was the only schoolhouse of the five villages composing the canton. It had been constructed of unseasoned logs, and was soon in a ruinous condition. The people, however, would not hear of a new building; the loghouse had answered very well, and was good enough for their time. Oberlin was not to be so deterred from the pursuit of his benevolent wishes. He applied to his friends at Strasbourg, and took upon
himself a heavy pecuniary responsibility. A new building was soon completed at Waldbach, and in a few years the inhabitants in the other four parishes came voluntarily forward, to build a schoolhouse in each of the villages. Oberlin engaged zealously in the preparation of masters for these establishments, which were to receive all the children of the district when of a proper age.
But he also carried the principle of education farther than it had ever before gone in
any country. He was the founder of infant schools. He saw that, almost from the cradle, children were capable of instruction ; that evil habits began much earlier than the world had been accustomed to believe; and that the facility with which mature education might be conducted, greatly depended upon the impressions which the reason and the imagination of infants might receive. He appointed conductrices in each commune,
paid at his own expense; and established rooms, where children from two to six years old might be instructed and amused; and he thus gave the model of those beautiful institutions which have first shown us how the happiness of a child may be associated with its improvement, and how knowledge, and the discipline which leads to knowledge, are not necessarily
" Harsh and crabbed, as dull fools suppose.”
The children in these little establishments were not kept “from morn till noon, from noon till dewy eve,” over the horn-book and primer. They learnt to knit, and sew, and spin ; and when they were weary, they had pictures to look at, and maps, engraved on wood, for their special use, of their own canton, of Alsace, of France, and of Europe. They sang songs and hymns; and they were never suffered to speak a word of patois.
When the children of the Ban de la Roche--the children of peasants, be it remembered, who, a few years before the blessing of such a pastor as Oberlin was bestowed upon them, were not only steeped to the lips in poverty, but were groping in that darkness of the understanding which too often accompanies extreme indigence--when these children were removed to the higher schools, which possessed the most limited funds, they were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, astronomy, sacred and profane history, agriculture, natural history, especially botany, natural philosophy, music, and drawing. Oberlin reserved for himself, almost exclusively, the religious