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the blind can attain as much excellence in mathematical, geographical, astronomical, and other sciences, as many seeing persons; and that he can become as good a teacher of music, language, mathematics, and other sciences; all this and yet more can he do.” The ambition, from the very
beginning of the enterprise, was far higher than that of rescuing a few hundreds of blind persons from pauperism and dependant habits; it was proposed to try how noble a company of beings the blind might be made, and thus to do justice to the individuals under treatment, and to lift up the whole class of the sightless out of a state of depression into one of high honour, activity, and cheerfulness. The story, besides being a pleasant one, is a fair illustration of American charity in its principles and in its methods, and I will therefore give it in brief. I do not believe there exists in Amer. ican literature any work breathing a more exhilarating spirit of hopefulness, a finer tone of meek triumph, than the Reports of the New-England Institution for the Education of the Blind.
It appears to be only about five-and-forty years since the education of the blind was first undertaken; and it is much more recently that any just idea has been formed by any. body of the actual number of the blind. Even now few are aware how numerous they are. The born-blind are far fewer than those who lose their sight in infancy. Taken together, the numbers are now declared to be, in Egypt, one blind to every three hundred ; in Middle Europe, one to every eight hundred ; in North Europe, one in a thousand. In the United States, the number of blind is supposed to be eight thousand at the very least.
The announcement of this fact caused a great sensation in New England. The good folks there who had been accustomed to bestow their kindness each on some sightless old man or woman, or some petted blind child in his own village, had not thought of comparing notes to ascertain how many such cases there were, and were quite unaware of the numbers who in towns sit wearing their cheerless lives away by their relations' firesides ; no immediate stimulus of want sending them forth into the notice of the rich and the philanthropic.
The first step was the passing of an act by the legislature of Massachusetts, incorporating trustees of the New-England Asylum for the Blind. These trustees sent Dr. Howe to Eu
rope to study the similar institutions there, and bring back the necessary teachers and apparatus. Dr. Howe's report on his return is extremely interesting. He brought over a blind teacher from Paris, who, besides being skilled in the art of communicating knowledge, is learned in the classics, history, and mathematics. With him came a blind mechanic from Edinburgh, who instructs the pupils in the different kinds of manufacture, on which many of them depend for a subsistence.
Six young persons were taken at random from different parts of the State of Massachusetts, and put under tuition. They were between the ages of six and twenty years. At the end of five months all these six could read correctly by the touch; had proceeded farther in arithmetic than seeing children usually do in the same time; knew more of geography; had made considerable attainment in music; and offered for sale moccasins and doormats of as good quality and appearance as any sold in the shops of Boston. The legislature testified its satisfaction by voting an annual appropriation of six thousand dollars to the institution, on condition of its boarding and educating, free of cost, twenty poor blind persons from the State of Massachusetts.
The public was no less delighted. Every one began to inquire what he could do. Money was given, objects were sought out ; but some rallying-point for all the effort excited was wanted. This was soon supplied. A wealthy citizen of Boston, Colonel Perkins, offered his mansion and outbuildings in Pearl-street as a residence for the pupils, if, within a given time, funds were raised to support the establishment. This act of munificence fully answered the purposes of the generous citizen who performed it. Within one month upward of fifty thousand dollars were contributed and placed to the credit of the institution. The legislatures of ihree other New-England states have made appropriations for the object; an estate joining Colonel Perkins's has been purchased and thrown into a playground ; the establishment contains five officers and about fifty pupils, and it is in contemplation to increase the accommodations so as to admit more. The funds are ample, and the means of instruction of a very superior kind.
The business of the house is carried on by the pupils as far as possible, and mechanical arts are taught with care and diligence ; but the rule of the establishment is to improve
the mental resources of the pupils to the utmost. Those who cannot do better are enabled to earn their livelihood by the making of mats, baskets, and mattresses; but a higher destination is prepared for all who show ability to become organists of churches, and teachers of languages and science. I saw some of the pupils writing, some sewing, some practising music, some reading. I was struck with an ex. pression of sadness in many of their faces, and with a list. lessness of manner in some ; but I am aware that, owing to the illness of the director and some other circumstances, I saw the establishment to great disadvantage. I believe, however, that not a few of its best friends, among whom may perchance be included some of its managers themselves, would like to see more mirthful exercises and readings introduced in the place of some of the exclusively religious contemplations offered to the pupils. The best hom. age which the guardians of the blind could offer to Him whose blessing they invoke is in the thoroughly exercised minds of their charge ; minds strong in power, gay in innocence, and joyous in gratitude.
The institution which I had the best means of observing, and which interested me more than any charitable establishment in America, was the Philadelphia Asylum for the Blind. It was humble in its arrangements and numbers when I first went, but before I left the country it seemed in a fair way to flourish. It is impossible to overrate the merits of Mr. Friedlander, its principal, in regard to it. The difficulties with which he had to struggle, from confined space, deficient apparatus, and other inconveniences resulting from narrow means, would have deterred almost any one else from undertaking anything till better aid could be provided. But he was cheered by the light which beamed out daily more brightly from the faces of his little flock of pupils, and supported by the intellectual power which they manifested from period to period of their course. Of the eleven he found, to his delight, that no fewer than “six were endowed with remarkable intellectual faculties, and three with good ones; while, with regard to the remaining two, the development of their minds might still be expected.” A larger dwelling was next engaged; the legislature showed
1 an interest in the institution, and I have no doubt it is by this time flourishing.
Mr. Friedlander and the matron, Miss Nicholls, had succeeded in rectifying the carriage and manners of nearly all their pupils. As to their studies, the aim is as high as in the New-England Institution, and will, no doubt, be equally successful. 'The music was admirable, except for the pronunciation of words in the singing. It was a great pleasure to me to go and hear their musical exercises, they formed so good a band of instrumentalists, and sang so well. There were horns, flutes, violins, and the piano. As for humbler matters, besides the ornamental works of the girls, the fringes, braids, lampstands, &c., I saw a frock made by one of them during the leisure hours of one week. The work was excellent, the gathers of the skirt being stocked into the waistband as evenly and regularly as by a common mantuamaker. The girls' hair was dressed like that of other young ladies, only scarcely a hair was out of its place; and each blind girl dresses her own hair. They peel potatoes with the utmost accuracy, and as quickly as others. But, with all this care, their cultivation of mind is most attended to. The girls stand as good an examination as the boys in mental arithmetic, geography, and reading aloud.
Before I left Philadelphia the annual meeting of the public in the Music Hall, to see the progress of Mr. Friedlander's pupils, took place. I was requested to write the address to be delivered by one of the blind in the name of the rest; and now I found what the difficulty is to an inexperienced person, of throwing one's self into the mind of a being in such different circumstances, and uttering only what he might say with truth. I now saw that the common run of hymns and other compositions put into the mouths of the blind become no less cant when uttered by them, than the generality of the so-called religious tracts which are written for the poor. 'The blind do not know what they miss in not receiving the light of the sun ; and they would never spontaneously lament about it, nor would they naturally try to be submissive and resigned about privations which they are only by inference aware of. Their resignation should be about evils whose pressure they actually feel. To a blind child it is a greater pain to have a thorn in its foot than not to have eyes; to a blind man it is a greater sorrow not to have got per
under control than to be shut out from the face of nature. The joy of the sightless should, in the same manner, be for the positive powers they hold and the achievements they grasp, and not for what others call compensations for
what they do not miss. To bear all this in mind, and to conceive one's thoughts accordingly; to root out of the ex. pression of thought every visual image, and substitute such, derived from other senses, as may arise naturally from the state of mind of the blind, is no easy task, as any one may find who tries. It led me into a speculation on the vast amount of empty words which the blind must swallow while seeking from books their intellectual food. We are all apt in reading to take in, as true and understood, a great deal more than we verify and comprehend; but, in the intercourses of the blind, what a tremendous proportion does the unreal bear to the real which is offered them!
I saw at the Deaf and Dumb Asylum at Boston one of those unhappy beings, the bare mention of whose case ex. cites painful feelings of compassion. I was told that a young man who was deaf, dumb, and blind was on the premises, and he was brought to us. Impossible as it was to hold communication with him, we were all glad when, after standing and wandering awkwardly about, he turned from us and made his way out. He is not quite blind. He can distinguish light from darkness, but cannot be taught by any of the signs which are used with his deaf-mute companions. His temper is violent, and there seems to be no way of increasing his enjoyments. His favourite occupation is piling wood, and we saw him doing this with some activity, mounted on the woodpile.
It is now feared that the cases of this tremendous degree of privation are not so few as .has been hitherto supposed. In a Memorial of the Genoa Deaf and Dumb Institution, it is stated that there are seven such cases in the Sardinian States on the mainland of Italy; and the probability is that about the same proportion as in other kinds of infirmity exists among other nations. Copious accounts have been given of three sufferers of this class; and a fourth, Hannah Lamb, who was accidentally burned to death in London at the age of nine years, has been mentioned in print. The three of whom we have been favoured with copious accounts are James Mitchell, who is described to us by Dugald Stewart; Victoria Morisseau, at Paris, by M. Bébian; and Julia Brace, at Hartford (Connecticut), by Mrs. Sigourney. All these have given evidence of some degree. of intellectual activity, and feeling of right and wrong ; enough to constitute a most affecting appeal to those who are too late to aid them,