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JOHN HENRY WICHERN AND THE ROUGH HOUSE
HORN, NEAR HAMBURG.
JOHN HENRY WICHERN, whose name will ever be assa:iated with one of the most interesting educational and reformatory movements of the age, as founder and superintendent of the Rough House, (Rauhe Huus,) near Hamburg, was born in that city on the 21st of April, 1808.*
His father was a notary and sworn translator, and gave his son the advantages of the best education wbich IIamburg afforded. He attended the Johanneum and the academic gymnasium of his native city, and afterward, till 1830, pursued a course of theological study at Göttingen and Berlin. Soon after passing his examination in theology at Hamburg, he went practically to work, visiting the poor and the needy in the corners and the streets of the city, and undertaking the direction of a free Sunday school for poor children, in which he soon assembled four or five hundred scholars and about forty volunteer teachers. Wichern declined the propositions made him at this time to enter upon the duties of a clergyman, as his thoughts were already occupied in planning such an institution as he opened near Hamburg, in the Rough House, at Michelmas, 1833.
The Rough House, (Rauhe Haus,) was the name, by which a small property, on a lane leading out of the village of Horn, four miles from Hamburg was known, consisting of small thatched cottage, shadowed by a large chestput tree, and two or three acres of ground partially cleared up, through which straggled a little brook. In the prosecution of a plan, suggested by his missionary labors among the poor of Hamburg, of establishing a House of Rescue for destitute, vagrant, and vicious children, not yet convicted by the courts of crime, Mr. Wichern, aided by a voluntary association of like minded men, and by a small donation of three hundred dollars, took possession of this rough cottage with his mother, and in a few weeks received into his family three boys of the worst description, and adopted them as his children. One by one, he added to their number from the same class until his family circle, with himself and mother, embraced fourteen persons—twelve of them, the least hopeful of the juvenile population of the city. And there under that thatched roof, with that unpromising ground, with the help of his devout mother, with a well spring of Christian charity in the hearts, and words of kindness on the lips of both, Mr. Wichern succeeded in inspiring those children with the attachments of a home-in cultivating filial affections, almost dormant
* We are indebted for the priucipal facts of this Memoir to the Conversations-Lexicon
in forming habits of profitable industry, and laying the foundations of a good moral character on which they subsequently built up a useful life. From these small beginnings, without the aid at any time of large governmental grants, and of but one large legacy [of $13,500,] the institution has expanded, until in 1854, the grounds included thirty-two acres, portions of which are tastefully laid out in walks and shrubbery, and all of which are highly cultivated; to the original Rough House bave been added fourteen buildings of plain but substantial construction, scattered in a picturesque manner about the grounds, and the principles of Family Organization, Christian Training and Industrial occupation have been preserved and improved, until it has become the working model for a new order of preventive and reformatory agencies in every country of Europe.
Since 1840, as the foundation of asylums for destitute children has followed in Germany, France and England, Dr.* Wichern has aided various enterprises of a similar character. He had already united under the name of the Inner Mission almost all active efforts in Germany for the moral and religious improvement of the destitute and vicious, when chiefly through his instrumentality, the Central Committee for the Inner Mission, was appointed at the first Ecclesiastical Convention, (die Kirchen-Tag,) at Wittenberg, in Sept. 1848. Through this committee of which he was a member, Wichern gained a much wider field for his activity. At the annual meeting of the Kirchen-Tag, and on his travels in every part of Germany he aids by word and deed the establishment of societies and institutions for the promotion of education, and the care of the sick, poor and imprisoned.
Upon his return from a journey to England in 1851, the Prussian government employed him to visit the houses of correction, and prisons of the kingdom, and to attempt their improvement. Prevented by these active duties from literary exertions he has published but little. His work on “the Inner Mission of the German Evangelical Church" (Hamb. 1849,) presents his principles concerning free christian charity and its relations to the ecclesiastical and social questions of the day. Since 1844 he has published the “ Flying Leaves of the Rough House,” (Fliegende Blätter des Rauhen Hause,) in which are contained a portion of the addresses which he has made at the different ecclesiastical conventions.
The accompanying diagrams, copied from a number of the “Flying Leaves,” exhibit the outward aspects of the Rough House, as they appeared to the Editor of this Journal in 1854,--and the article which follows, will present the principles on which it has been conducted.
* In 1851, he received from the University of Talle, the degree of Doctor of Philology.
REFORM SCHOOL, OR COLONIE AGRICOLE,
METTRAY, NEAR TOURS, IN FRANCE.
The institution or colony of Mettray, four miles from Tours, was founded by M. Demetz and M. le Vicomte de Brétignères de Courteilles, both gentlemen of wealth and high social position, who, associating themselves with other philanthropists, founded in 1837 a society, whose object is thus expressed:
1. To exercise a benevolent superintendence over children of tender years, who have been acquitted of crimnes in consequence of their youth, and which may be confided to their care by the State; to procure for these children, placed in an agricultural institution, a moral and religious education, as well as an elementary instruction; to teach them a trade; to accustom them to the healthy toils of agriculture, and to procure them situations at the expiration of their term, in the country, at the homes of artizans, or small farmers.
2. To watch over the conduct of these children, and to give them all the aid of their patronage as long as they shall need it, or for three years.
The founders of Mettray accepted the sublime doctrine of Christianity, which authorizes a belief in the possibility of regeneration, and permits not to despair of the most abandoned human being; and they have made religion the fundamental principle of their system. “On religion,” writes De Tocqueville, one of its founders, “ depends the future of all penitentiary reforin."
The practice of religion, the love and habit of labor, the spirit of family association, the emulation of example, the cultivation of honor, the habitual obedience to law, and a self-imposed restraint on the use of liberty—these grand and simple ideas embrace all the reforming influence, all the moralizing power of Mettray. Placed here with a view to their restoration to society as freemen and productive laborers, they are here ingeniously indoctrinated with the spirit of the family, habituated to social duties, a self-regulated liberty, and to the constant occupation of their choice. No armed police, no walls, no bolts, no keys, honor alone preserves at once discipline and freedom. “Why,” said a visitor, “ do you not escape ?" “Because there are no walls, and it would be disgraceful,” replied the colonist of Mettray.
The details of organization, instruction, employment, and administration, and the results, economical and reformatory, of this interesting enterprise, will be found clearly set forth in the following report of a visit made by M. Ducpetiaux in 1849, and included in his Report to the Minister of Justice in Belgium.
WORKING AND RESULTS OF METTRAY FOR THIRTY-FOUR YEARS.
To describe Mettray in detail, in its organization, workings, and results, cor-
The power of example upon the young is omnipotent. Whence can the child, reared by irreligious, disorderly, vicious parents, draw those moral principles which are the safeguard of all? The family either kills virtue, or breathes into it the breath of life. The task proposed to himself by the founder of Mettray was to create a moral consti.
tution in the criminals who became his wards, and to substitute for the family.
The advantages of this division into families show themselves more sensibly
M. Demetz avers that he has taken for basis of the reformatory education of Mettray, the religious sentiment; for a bond of union, the family spirit; for order, military discipline--three elements, each strong in itself, but of immense power to hold man to duty, when combined and maile to act in unison toward the same end.
The chief industry at Mettray is agriculture. The device adopted for the colony is, “ To improve the earth by man, and man by the earth ;” and that principle is carried out to the fullest extent. To defend the soil, and to enrich it, is the mission to which the colons of Mettray are called.
llow well these brave you: hs have fulfilled the first part of this mission the following facts attest: All the colons who were from seventeen years of age to twenty, joined the army the moment the French soil was invaded by the Germans in the late war, to the nuinber of one hundrel an 1 eighty, and fought with unsurpassed bravery. Many died on the field of batile; many others were wounded; num. bers distinguished themselves by acts of special valor; four were decorate with the ribbon of the legion of honor, and nine with the military medal; and four received commissions as officers. Among those who received decorations, Mettray names with honorable pride one of her colons, aged nineteen years, an underofficer of engineers, who, during the siege of Metz, crossed the Prussian lines six times to obtoin information, and report it to his general.
As regards the second part of their mission, as named above, almost the entire population of Mettray is engaged in agricultural labors during the months of spring, summer, and autumn. A vası domain, composed of a number of farms, is cultivated by them. To save time and fiuigue in going to and from work, the colons are, to some extent, distributed in different localities. The main boily is at Mettray, but there are two outlying establishments, to which the older boys are drafted, as their good conduct and trustworthiness merit such a distinction, for here they are under much less restraint, and live, in all respects, more like or linary hired laborers on a farin. From one of these establishments the boys come in and spend Sunday with the main body of the colons; but from the o'her only on extraordinary occasions. These outlying posts form a sort of intermediate establishment, similar to that at Lusk, under the Crofton convict system, and serve as a stage of provisional or preparatory liberty.
But though the tilling of the land is the chief employment at Mettray, and is
As I have already said, there were seven hundred and ninety-two boys at
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