Twenty-Seventh Annual Report . . .


  This interesting pamphlet contains the following statement:

  “From the catalogue herewith returned, it will be seen that the present number of pupils is two hundred, being a large increase on the number of any previous year, and with the single exception of the Institution of London, a much larger number of deaf mutes than has ever been collected together in one school. Of these there are supported by the State of New-York, one hundred and sixty; by the State of New-Jersey, three; by the Corporation of New-York, thirteen; by their friends, fourteen; and by the institution, ten.

  “This large increase is mainly owing to the act, to which the Board refer with high gratification, passed at the last session of the Legislature, making provision for four additional State pupils from each Senate District; thus increasing the number of State beneficiaries from one hundred and twenty-eight to one hundred and sixty.”

  The “Elementary Lessons for the Deaf and Dumb,” prepared by the Principal of the Institution, Mr. Harvey P. Peet, have been adopted as “a textbook for elementary classes in eight of the ten American Institutions for the Deaf and Dumb, and in some of the British Isles. It has even found its way to China, where it is used in the Missionary Schools, for teaching the vocabulary and structure of our language to the youth of the Celestial Empire.”

  We observe also, with pleasure, that dwelling houses are to be provided for the valued teachers of the School, so that the scene of their labors shall become, in every sense, their home. Whoever understands the workings of the affections on the mental powers will know that this generosity of treatment is essential to securing the best aid in these enterprises. But there is such frequent blindness or insensibility testified in similar cases that an instance to the contrary is pleasant to behold.

  Fortunately, the qualifications for teaching in these institutions are something positive. Either a man is well qualified for instructing the deaf mute, or the blind, or he is not; his adaptation to such an office can be judged of with tolerable justice by all men. The agents and arrangements in such institutions are not likely to be affected by changes in politics, fashion, or opinion, as almost every thing else is in our revolutionary country, and therefore something radically, positively, and progressively good may be hoped in these departments.

  In Mr. Peet’s establishment, the speaking radiance of look in many of the pupils is a sufficient voucher for the benefits of that ministry which has lifted the heavy pall from their young lives, and defeated the worst action of their fate. That they have their share in all the best gifts of this earthly life the following little composition by one of them sufficiently proves:

  “The Mind.—What is the Mind, and what does it enable us to do?

  “The Mind is the intellectual part of the soul. It is spiritual. It is immaterial. It is immortal. It is invisible. It is intangible. It is without color. It is without form. It is without weight. It is supposed to be situated in the head. It dwells in the brain, on whose throne it sits. It is the king of the whole body. It gains itself knowledge of the external world by means of the five senses of the body. It is very active. It operates daily in acquiring knowledge of all external objects of the world. It is very subtile in its nature. It is much quicker in its movements than lightning. Its operations of thought are fleeter than a flash of electricity. The senses are the attendants of the Mind. The nerves of the brain are its servants. The limbs and all parts of the body are its subjects. They are all obedient to the Mind. They are subservient to it. The Mind possesses the faculty of perception by the five senses. It enables us to think, conceive, imagine, reflect, remember, recognize or recollect, and memorize the knowledge of past events or ideas. It also enables us to reason, distinguish, measure and estimate the values of the worldly goods—to count all things—to compare things, and to determine, &c. &c. We must thank our Creator of the Universe for having kindly bestowed upon us such a noble Mind. It is the most important and the noblest part of our system.”

  As we range the crowded streets, we meet not many in enjoyment of all the advantages of a complete organization who evince the consciousness of our nobler life and its infinite joys expressed in this little essay. It has been remarked of the Deaf and the Dumb that they have, frequently, a purity and religious fervor of expression, as if they were kept in a better state by remaining ignorant of a large portion of the wicked and mean things that fly from tongue to tongue in common society. No less observable is an uncommon vivacity of eye when the thoughts have once been awakened, which seems to say that the mind only vindicates its powers the more, from being necessarily more introverted than with others.

  This fact and the unusual education of the whole person, especially the hands, from the habit of using the language of signs, must ever make the society of the Deaf and Dumb deeply interesting to those who are capable of thought and observation. They present, indeed, the most interesting subject for the study of the metaphysician and philologist, and we are surprised that no more use has been made of it. The single fact that they think in signs, not words, opens volumes of speculation.

  Their minds come to ours with the freshness of foreigners, while, at the same time, by community of many circumstances in climate, constitution, &c. we may establish an intimate connection with them and win the full benefit of their impressions as we cannot from a foreigner.

  “It is to be considered that our language is foreign to them. It is as Chinese to a school-boy. Nor have they the advantage which a hearing foreigner would possess in the study of English, by becoming daily more familiar with the usages of the language from the mouths of all with whom he should become familiar. Nor again are they forced, as a foreigner would be, to make frequent trials of their skill in procuring, by means of English, what they need. All their own conversation is in the sign language. Whatever they learn of English must be learned, until they are able to read for themselves, from a few instructors, who, except in the recitation room, almost necessarily speak to them in their native language.”

  It is obvious how favorable this state of the Deaf and Dumb must be to the original poetic elements of language, to the use of likenesses or images, and the direct expression of simple feelings. Their style is naturally a ballad style, and reveals secrets that seemed lost with the cradle of humanity. We have never seen any book more significant in this way than a little English collection of prayers by deaf and dumb boys at a private school founded by some lady, who represented to them, as the Saints Theresa, Rosalia and Cecilia do to the Catholic, the ideal of all that is peculiarly lovely and excellent in woman. The description of moods of mind by these boys, the correspondences discerned between their own lives and the forms of nature, the swelling lyric sweetness with which their aspirations are expressed belong to the highest, simplest state of poesy.

It is from considerations like these that we look with deep interest on this important Institution, no less than from joy at goodness and justice manifested toward a portion of our race less favored by nature than the rest. But, indeed, on this side, we cannot be too grateful to see so many relieved from the tortures of suspicion and the phantoms of doubt which beset the uneducated deaf mute.

  The Institution propose to make partial use of the European methods for teaching the articulation of words. The following extract upon this subject from the Report of the Committee of Instruction deserves to be read and considered:

  “The only other system which has received favor is distinguished, theoretically, by its use of articulation in the place of signs as an instrument of instruction. It is not our purpose to enlarge on the characteristic differences of the two systems and their relative merits.—From the days of Heinicke and De l’Epée, the founders of the German and French schools respectively, each system has had its admirers, and it is therefore no novelty at this day to hear that the Deaf and Dumb can be taught to speak. Indeed it would seem to be most natural for the first attempts in educating a deaf mute, to teach him to use his tongue, and it would be only after the failure of efforts in this way that some other more practicable method would be devised. Hence we find in the history of the deaf-mute instruction that almost invariably the earlier instructors tried to teach their pupils an oral language. Even in the Seventh Century, according to the venerable Bede, (Ecc. Hist. Vol. V. Chap. 2,) John, Bishop of Hagustald, took charge of a deaf mute, and succeeded in teaching him first the sounds of the letters, and then the pronunciation of words and phrases in connected sentences. The first practical treatise on the art of deaf-mute instruction, was published by John Paul Bonet, at Madrid, in 1620. In this work the author gives specific directions upon the manner of teaching a deaf mute to articulate each of the letters of the alphabet and utter words in continuous discourse. Peter Ponce of Spain, who preceded Bonet, also taught articulation. Efforts of the same kind were made by Wallis and Holder in England, Van Helmont and Amman in Holland, Kerger and Arnoldi in Germany, Ernaud and the Abbé Deschamps in France, and many others in later times, especially in Great Britain and Germany. In the countries last mentioned many schools still make use of articulation to a greater or less extent.

  “But the attempt to restore speech to the Deaf and Dumb as a class has never been successful. Individuals have received benefit from efforts made to call into exercise their vocal organs. But whenever a substantial gain has resulted to the pupil by such exercises, it will be found either that he was not entirely deaf and dumb, or, if he were, that he had enjoyed better advantages than could be afforded generally to such pupils, or was possessed of superior natural abilities. In the wonderful achievements recorded of some who have been taught to articulate, it has not been stated, as it should have been, that such persons had never lost entirely the use of speech. Their education consisted in improving a faculty which they had never wholly lost. And even when a pupil has ceased to articulate, having in early life begun to use a spoken language, it is a fact well known to those at all familiar with the practice of deaf-mute instruction, that in the acquisition of a written language, the progress of persons of this class is much more rapid than that of one perfectly deaf and dumb.

  “We have alluded to a distinction which is not always taken into consideration, and which has an important bearing upon the discussion of questions relative to systems of instruction. It is an established fact, that persons are dumb in consequence of their being deaf.—If the deafness be entire and has been from birth, the individual, without special instruction, will be perfectly dumb. Not being able to hear any sounds, he will not, as other children do, naturally learn to imitate them.—But if the deafness be partial, then in proportion as vocal sounds are distinguished, he will copy them, and utter similar sounds with his own voice. There are five degrees of infirmity of hearing, as distinguished by the celebrated Dr. Itard, formerly Physician to the Royal Institution at Paris, in his able work on the Diseases of the Ear and Hearing, (des maladies de l’oreille et de l’audition):

  “1st. That in which articulate sounds are perceptible, when pronounced in an elevated tone of voice.

  “2d. That in which analogous articulations are liable to be confounded.

  “3d. In which articulation is lost, and intonation is alone distinguishable.

  “4th. In which heavy peals, as of artillery or of thunder, only are perceptible, and the human voice no longer produces an impression upon the ear.

  “5. Profound deafness.

  “An Institution for the Deaf and Dumb properly includes persons in each of these various classes, for they are not able to be taught by the ordinary methods of instruction in schools designed only for children who can hear and speak. They require special instruction. But such a difference of condition as appears in these five classes, would suggest some difference in the mode of instruction. Usually from one-fifth to one-eighth of the pupils of a Deaf and Dumb Institution have some ability to articulate at the time of their first admission. The most of these retain some degree of hearing; the others though entirely deaf, are still able to speak, having learned to use their vocal organs before they lost their hearing.

  “Some attention has been given to this class of pupils from time to time since the establishment of our Institution. But the efforts on their behalf have been limited to individuals, and no general classification has been effected so that regular instruction could be given them in distinction from others. The desirableness of such an organization has been often a subject of remark, and has been alluded to with favor in the Annual Reports of the Institution. In the last Report, after referring to the reasons which had appeared to the Board decisive against any attempt to teach articulation to the bulk of our pupils, it is added, p. 15—‘The formation of a class, to include those whose attainments, in this accomplishment, were likely to be of some value, still seemed desirable, but in the way of this there were, and still are, many grave obstacles; the principal of which are, the increased expense for the favored class, the hindrance to their mechanical instruction, and the invidiousness of making a selection.’ Rev. Mr. Day, in his very able and conclusive Report on the Schools for the Deaf and Dumb in Central and Western Europe, expresses the following opinion:—‘That in spite of the peculiar difficulties, even a deaf mute from birth, by unwearied pains, and the expenditure of much time, might, to a certain extent, be taught to articulate in English, I have no doubt, and, where parents have the necessary leisure, I would by no means be understood as dissuading them from the attempt; but, as a regular part of a system of public education, its introduction into our Institutions, I am persuaded, would be a serious misfortune to the cause of Deaf and Dumb instruction.’

  “He then adds:—‘That there are few, usually reckoned among deaf mutes, consisting of those to whom hearing, or the power of speaking, partially remains, to whom instruction in articulation is desirable, is self-evident. These cases are of a peculiar character, and are to be decided on by themselves.’

“Similar sentiments are expressed by Mr. Weld, the Principal of the American Asylum, in the extended and valuable Report of his visit to the Institutions for the Deaf and Dumb in Europe during the last year. He says:

  ‘I can then recommend no fundamental change in the system pursued in the Institution with which I am connected, or in the other American schools. The most faithful use of all the facilities afforded by our present system, it is our constant duty to make, and to devise and adopt every real improvement in our power. Instead of regretting the original adoption of our system by Mr. Gallaudet, I am truly thankful that he was led to its adoption. But I would by no means exclude improvements. Men are neither perfect in their theories, nor in their practice. We have improved on our original system, and we may yet improve, and ought so to do; certainly in practice—if possible, in theory.

  ‘Though then, I cannot recommend the adoption of the German, or any other system, instead of our own, still I do respectfully recommend as an additional means of usefulness, the giving of instruction in articulation and in labial reading, to certain classes of the pupils of the American Asylum. In this number I would include especially those descriptions of deaf and dumb persons, so called, often mentioned in my accounts of the European schools, who retain in a considerable degree the articulation they acquired before becoming deaf, and those who still have some discriminate hearing. These are, on the whole, the classes of persons principally benefited by attention to articulation in the articulating schools I have visited abroad. There is still another class whom I would not exclude from the benefits of a fair experiment. I mean those, few indeed in number, but yet sometimes found, who, possessed of superior natural powers and in all respects under favorable circumstances, are anxious to undertake the labor, and are found so persevering and successful as to warrant its continuance.’

  “In view of the manifest advantages to be derived by a portion of the pupils of our Institution, by affording them facilities for instruction in articulation, and reading upon the lips, the Committee would respectfully recommend that such of the pupils as shall be deemed capable of receiving benefit from the exercise of their organs of speech and practice in labial reading, be provided with the means of regular instruction in these branches. The details of the plan of instruction they would leave for future adjustment.”

  The following letter from a young deaf and dumb child may be deemed by some too childish for so grave a place as this, but we must give it as an instance of how much pure happiness may be afforded by a little act of thoughtful kindness. We should, for our own part, prefer being the giver of the ‘sweet kitten’ to almost any office in the gift of the State of New-York. Blest be the charities of daily life! These little flowers have, indeed, a chance to bloom and bless; they lie too low to be destroyed by the sudden blast that cuts sheer off the tops of the loftiest trees. None so poor that he cannot bring cheer to the forsaken, for a rush candle is more cheering even than a star to the benighted wanderer; and none so powerless that he cannot confer on a childish heart a kingly gift of unalloyed felicity such as is portrayed in these lines:

  “THE KITTEN.—Some years ago, on Sunday, my brother and sister-in-law and myself went to their friends to visit them. My sister-in-law’s favorite parents gave me a pretty kitten. I was very glad. They and myself staid till six o’clock. They and myself came to home in the wagon. I sat on a little bench with the kitten, which slept on my lap in there. At night they and myself arrived at home. I carried my sweet kitten, and I walked through the gate, while I thought that I would be take care good of my kitten. Then I opened my sweet father’s door of his house, I entered the door and saw my brother, Samuel came there from the Institution. He told me that the kitten is yours? I answered yes, it is mine. Sometimes I told my sister that she bring me some milk. She brought me some milk in the saucer. I put it on the floor, and the kitten was not come to drink milk, because it was very afraid. I was sorry. The next day I carried the kitten to my brother’s house. He took care of my sweet kitten. It is a cat now. She has some young kittens. I have seen them last vacation.S. T.

  We regret much to have missed the opportunity of attending the examinations at Mr. Peet’s Institution, in which we have heard others express so much satisfaction.*

“Twenty-Seventh Annual Report and Documents of the New-York Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb to the Legislature of the State of New-York for the Year 1845,” New-York Daily Tribune, 18 March 1846, p. 1.