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cared for on the ground of their misfortunes ? Are deformed and deficient children now cast out into the wastes to perish? Is any one found in this age who is of Aristotle's opinion, that the deaf and dumb must remain wholly brutish! Does any one approve the clause of the code of Justinian by which deaf-mutes are deprived of their civil rights? Will any one now agree with Cundillac, that the deaf and dumb have no memory, and, consequently, are without reasoning power? If every one living is wiser than to believe these ihings, he owes his wisdom to the benevolent investigation which has been made into the condition of these isolated and helpless beings; an investigation purely benevolent, as it proceeded on the supposition that they were irremediably deficient. The testimony of their best benefactors goes to prove this. The Abbé de l'Epée, Sicard, Guyot of Groningen, Eschke of Berlin, Cæsar of Leipsic, all began their labours in behalf of the deaf and duinb with the lowest notion of the capabilities of the objects of their care, and the humblest expectations as to what could be done for them. Sicard acknowledged a change of views when his experience had become enlarged. He says, “ It will be observed that I have somewhat exaggerated the sad condition of the deaf and dumb in their primitive state, when I assert that virtue and vice are to them without reality. I was conducted to these assertions by the fact that I had not yet possessed the means of interrogating them upon the ideas which they had before their education; or that they were not sufficiently instructed to understand and reply to my questions.
It should be remembered, to Sicard's honour, and that of other benefactors of the deaf and dumb, that their labours were undertaken more in pity than in hope, in benevolence which did not look for, though it found reward. None were more astonished than they at the revelation which took place of the minds of the dumb when the power of expression was given them; when, for instance, one of them, Peter Desloges, declared, with regard to his deaf and dumb acquaintance, “ There passes no event at Paris, in France, or in the four quarters of the globe, which does not afford matter of ordinary conversation among them." The deaf and dumb are prone to hyperbolical expression, of which the above
“Théorie des Signes, pour servir d'introduction à l'étude des langues.” Avertissement.
sentence may be taken as an instance; but it is founded in fact.
The benevolence which undertook the care of this class of unfortunates, when their condition was esteemed hopeless, has, in many cases, through a very natural delight at its own success, passed over into a new and opposite error, particularly in America, where the popular philosophy of mind comes in aid of the delusion. From searing that the deaf and duinb had hardly any capacities, too many of their friends have come to believe them a sort of sacred, favoured class, gifted with a keener apprehension, a more subtile reason, and a purer spirituality than others, and shut out from little but what would defile and harden their minds. Such a belief may not be expressed in propositions or allowed on a full statement; but much of the conversation on the condition of the class proceeds on such an idea ; and, in my own opinion, the education of deaf-mutes is and will be materially impaired by it. Not only does it give rise to mistakes in their treatment, but there is reason to fear bad effects from the disappointment which must sooner or later be occasioned. If this disappointment should act as damper upon the exertions made in behalf of the deaf and dumb, it will be sad, for only a very small number are yet educated at all in any country, and they are far more numerous than is generally supposed. In 1830, the total number of deaf and dumb of all ages in the United States was 6106. Of a teachable age the number was 2000, of whom 466 were in course of education. The number of deaf-mutes in Europe at the same time was 140,000. It is of great importance that the case of so large a class of society should be completely understood, and rescued from one extreme of exaggeration as it has been from the other.
When at New-York I paid a visit one morning, in company with a clergyınan, to the mother of a young lady who was deaf and dumb, and for whose education whatever ad. vantages were obtainable by money and pains had been procured. My clerical friend shared, I believe, the popular notions about the privileged condition of the class the young lady belonged to. Occasion arose for my protesting against these notions, and declaring what I had reason to think the utmost that could be done for deaf-mutes in the present state of our knowledge. The clergyman looked amazed at my speaking thus in the presence of the mother; but I knew
that experience had taught her to agree with me, and that her tenderness made her desire that her daughter's situation should be fully understood, that she might receive due allowance and assistance from those who surrounded her. The mother laid her hand on inine, and thanked me for pleading the cause of the depressed against those who expected too much from them. She said that, after all that could be done, the knowledge of deaf-mutes was generally confined and superficial; their tastes frivolous ; their tempers wilful and hasty; their whole mental state puerile; and she added that, as long as all this was not allowed, they would be placed in positions to which they were unequal, and which they did not understand, and would not be so amply provided as they might be with enjoyments suited to their condition.
This is not the place in which to enter upon the interesting inquiry into the principles of the education of the deaf and dumb; a deep and wide subject, involving matters important to multitudes besides the class under notice. Degerando observed that the art of instructing deaf-mutes, if traced back to its principles, terminates in the sciences of psychology and general grammar. A very superficial view of the case of the class shows something of what the privation really is, and, consequently, furnishes hints as to the treatment by which it may be in part supplied. Many kindhearted people in America, and not a few in Europe, cry out,“ They are only deprived of one sense and one means of expression. They have the infinite human spirit within them, active and irrepressible, with infinite objects in its view. They lose the pleasures of the ear; they lose one great opportunity of spiritual action, both on the world of matter and on human minds ; but this is compensated for by the activity of the soul in other regions of thought and emotion; and their contemplation of their own objects is undisturbed, in comparison with what it would be if they were subject to the vulgar associations with which we have to contend.”
It is true that the dear from birth are deficient in one sense only, while they are possessed of four ; but the one in which they are deficient is, beyond all estimate, the most valuable in the formation of mind. The eye conveys, perhaps, more immediate and vivid pleasures of sense, and is more requisite to external and independent activity; so that, in the case of the loss of a sense after the period of education, the privation of sight is a severer misfortune, generally speaking, than the loss of hearing. But, in the case of deficiency from birth, the deaf are far more unfortunate than the blind, from the important power of abstraction being in them very feeble in its exercise, and sadly restricted in the material on which it has to work. The primary abstractions of the blind from
. birth will be less perfect than those of other children, the great class of elements from visual objects being deficient; but when they come to the second and more important class of abstractions ; when from general qualities of material objects they pass on to the ideas compounded from these, their disadvantages disappear at each remove; till, when intellectual and moral subjects open before them, they may be considered almost on equal terms with the generality of mankind. These intellectual and moral ideas, formed gradually out of lower abstractions, are continually corrected, modified, and enlarged by intercourse with the common run of minds, alternating with self-communion. This intercourse is peculiarly prized by the blind, from their being precluded from solitary employments and amusements; and the same preclusion impels them to an unusual degree of self-communion ; so that the blind from birth are found to be, when well educated, disposed to be abstract in their modes of thought, literal in their methods of expression, and earnest and industrious in the pursuit of their objects. Their deficiencies are in general activity, in cheersulness, and in individual attachments.
The case of the deaf from birth is as precisely opposite as can be imagined, and much less favourable. They labour under an equal privation of elementary experience ; and, in addition, under an almost toial absence of the means of forming correct abstractions of the most important kinds. Children in general learn far less of the most essential things by express teaching than by what comes to them in the course of daily life. Their wrong ideas are corrected, their partial abstractions are rectified and enriched by the incessant unconscious action of other minds upon theirs. Of this kind of discipline the deaf-mute is deprived, and the privation seems to be fatal to a healthy intellectual and moral growth. He is taught expressly what he knows of intellectual and moral growth. He is taught expressly what he knows of intellectual and moral affairs ; of memory, imagination, science, and sagacity; of justice, fortitude, emotion, and conscience. And this through imperfect means of expression. Children, in general, learn these things unconsciously better than they learn anything by the most complete express teaching. So that we find that the deaf-mute is ready at defining what he little understands, while the ordinary child feelingly understands what he cannot define. This power of definition comes of express teaching, but by no means implies full understanding. Its ample use by the deaf and dumb has led to much of the error which exists respecting their degree of enlightenment. They are naturally imitative, from everything being conveyed to them by action passing before the eye; and those who observe them can scarcely avoid the deception of concluding that the imitative action, when spontaneous, arises from the same state of mind which prompted the original action. It is surprising how long this delusion may continue. The most watchful person may live in the same house with a deaf-mute for weeks and months, conversing on a plain subject from time to time, with every conviction of understanding and being understood, and find at length a blank ignorance, or an astounding amount of mistake existing in the mind of his dumb companion, while the language had been fluent and correct, and every appearance of doubt and hesitation excluded. There need be no conceit and no hypocrisy all this time in the mind of the deaf-mute. He believes himself in the same state of mind with those who say the same thing, and has no comprehension that that which is to him literal is to them a symbol. While nothing can be easier than to conduct the religious education of the blind, since all the attributes of Deity are exercised towards them, in interior degrees, by human invisible beings, it is difficult to ascertain what is gained by deaf-mutes under a process of instruction in religion. No instance has been known, I understand, of a deaf-mute having an idea of God prior to instruction. For a long time, at least, the conception is low, the idea pictorial; and, if it ceases to be so, the teacher cannot confidently pronounce upon it; the common language of religion being as easily accommodated by superficial minds to their own conceptions, as adopted by minds which mean by it something far higher and deeper. A pupil at Paris, who was considered to have been effectually instructed in the first principles of religion, was discovered, after a lapse of years, to have understood that God was a venerable old man living