|The Robert Owen Museum. Photo by "Indigo Goat" Some rights reserved|
On the Continent 1818
166 Soon after this, Professor Pictet, the celebrated savant of Geneva, came to invite me to France and Switzerland and the continent generally. He said that his friend Cuvier, the celebrated French naturalist, would come over and meet us in London, and we could return with him to Paris. The Duke of Kent gave me a letter of introduction to his friend the Duke of Orleans (afterwards King Louis Philippe). A French frigate was sent to bring [our] party to France. After landing at Calais, we travelled by carriage to Paris.
167 My first visit was to the Duke of Orleans. He was at this time a thoughtful watchful character. My views were too well known, he said, to allow him openly to appear to countenance me. The next day we visited the Prime Minister. He said that he was deeply interested in my late public proceedings in London, which he added, were too profound and too advanced for immediate adoption.
168 I was next introduced to La Place, the astronomer and Alexander Von Humboldt the scientist. We often met [them] to converse freely on public affairs. It was surprising to discover their childish simplicity relative to human nature and the science of society.
169 I remember the Duke de la Rochefoucault, who took me to see his cotton spinning manufactory. I examined the business and found that I was manufacturing the same fineness of yarn, but of much better quality, at New Lanark, at fourpence per pound cheaper. Evidently the Duke required a high duty on 170 British cottons to enable him to proceed.
For six weeks the Professor and I luxuriated amidst the most distinguished men in Paris. I was made the lion of Paris. I was continually at a loss to account for [this]. After this, the Professor and myself, joined by my sisters-in-law, proceeded to Geneva, [where] 172 I was gradually introduced to all the elite. 173 I paid a visit to my partner, Mr John Walker of Arno’s Grove, who was residing on the Lake of Lucerne.
174 On my return to Professor Pictet at Geneva, we visited the three then most noted schools for the poor in Switzerland. The first was Father Oberlin’s Catholic school, well conducted on charitable principles, according to the old mode of teaching. 176 The great earnestness and benevolence of this poor curé interested me very much.
177 Our next visit was to Yverdun, to see Pestalozzi, [whose] theory was good, but whose principles were those of the old system. His school was one step in advance of ordinary schools. We were much pleased with the honest simplicity of the old man.
We [then] went to Hofwyl, and I was introduced to M. de Fellenberg, who had a poor school and also another for pupils of the more wealthy and upper classes. Here we remained for three days. I found that M. de Fellenberg possessed rare administrative talent and a good knowledge of human nature. His school for the poor [was] admirably conducted, 178 and the schools of the upper class [were] two or three steps in advance of any I had yet seen. M. de Fellenberg became a disciple of my “new views”. I strongly recommended him to commence an infant school, [but] he judged that 179 he had as much on his hands as one man could direct.
My two eldest sons, Robert Dale and William, were now sixteen and fourteen years of age. They had received as good a private education as could be given by well selected governesses and tutors. Their characters had been formed on rational principles and I had no fears to send them from home to acquire foreign languages. I looked everywhere for the best surroundings in which to place my sons, to complete their education. I had seen nothing to equal this establishment. I agreed to send my sons and place them under M. de Fellenberg’s especial care.
I intended to visit Frankfurt, and to be at Aix-la-Chapelle during the Congress of Sovereigns. It was agreed that Mr Walker should take the place of the Professor, and should assist me in Germany. I reluctantly parted from the Professor. 182 I wrote at Frankfurt the two memorials which I intended to present to the Congress of Sovereigns. I had them printed in English, French, and German, in the same pamphlet. The Germanic Diet was now sitting in Frankfurt, attended by the representatives of twenty-two different governments.
I had a letter [of introduction] to M. Bethman, the well-known Frankfurt banker 183 and host of Emperor Alexander of Russia. The secretary to the Congress, M. Gentz, had arrived. He was in the full confidence of the leading depots of Europe, and in favour of the old system of society. M. Bethman arranged a sumptuous dinner, and invited the secretary and myself.
When the dinner was over, the conversation was so directed as to engage the secretary and myself in a regular discussion. I stated that the means now existed, for society founded upon the principle of union, to saturate society with wealth sufficient to supply the wants of all through life. “Yes,” the learned secretary replied, apparently speaking for the governments, ”we know that very well, but we do not want the mass to become wealthy and independent of us. How could we govern them if they were?”
184 I had discovered that I had a long and arduous task before me, to convince governments and governed of the gross ignorance under which they were contending against each other, in direct opposition to the real interests of both.
186 As soon as the sovereigns met, I hastened to Aix-la-Chapelle, and completed the two memorials to the Governments of Europe and America. I applied to Lord Castlereagh, the representative of the British government at this Congress. He promised to present these documents to Congress. He did so, and it was [later] stated to me that [they] were the most important documents presented.