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Idiocy, As The Effect Of Social Evils, And As The Creative Cause of Physiological Education

Creator: Edward Seguin (author)
Date: January 1870
Publication: The Journal of Psychological Medicine and Diseases of the Nervous System
Source: Available at selected libraries

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THERE are men who contract all that they touch; there are others who enlarge all the ideas with which they come in contact. To see only idiocy in idiots, would be to narrow it. To see beyond, what improvement can accrue to society (1), from the contingent disposition of idiocy; (2), from the actual discovery of means of improving general education by the method expressly contrived for idiots, at once incorporates idiocy -- retrograde phenomenon as it is by itself -- among the agents of progress.


The following considerations on idiocy, having this object, address themselves to the latter class of physicians and physiological teachers:


Many sufferings yet need alleviation, many infirmities cure, many sorrows protection, many weaknesses support; but one rejoices to see that through the flow of egotistic currents, arises now and then in our midst a new islet where the needy can rest. The institutions founded during the present generation in behalf of idiots are charities of that class, and present this unique character, that, called for, conceived and executed by a single jet of the heart and brain, with all their sources of luxuriant and generous society, they have, all at once, attained a degree of material perfection that leaves nothing to wish by the philanthropist or even the misanthrope. How different an aspect was presented at the beginning of this century, in the growth of the institutions for the insane! How long it took to disencumber them from the cold flag-stone, dripping walls, iron bars and carcanets, riveted chains and bolts, and other decorations of the old prison? The ferocious Couthon (so called because he could not see the use of noblemen in livery and of abbots of the alcove in modern society), in his capacity of administrator of the hospitals and prisons of Paris, took an initial interest in that reform. He witnessed at Bicétre the efforts of Pinel, and gave the first authorization to loosen their chains, and let them stand free before their benefactor; though saying at the same time to the hero, "My clear doctor, I give the authorization, but, on your demand, at your risk and peril, sure that they will kill you!" Since then it has taken three generations of Esquirols, Connollys, Leurets, to raise, upon that old soil of horror, the present spruce, placid, and benevolent institution for the insane, hardly distinguishable from that for idiots by its magnitude.


The character of thoroughness of these two classes of institutions has been fully expatiated upon, and justly lauded. Let us reaffirm that it is not a smooth, glittering, and deceitful surface, hut that it represents real improvements in the condition of the inmates of both kinds. But, in the present paper, our object is to treat only of the institutions for idiots; and even to consider exclusively the influence their philosophical management will exercise upon some impending problems whose solution is just now looked for. Therefore, taking for granted that every thing that could be done for idiots, as individuals, is accomplished, and leaving dormant the question of what can be done to counteract the increasing frequency of idiocy and cognate affections as evil entities, we come to the providential phraseology: what idiocy may be good for, translated in utilitarian language? what advantages can we expect from the study of idiocy? what boon may society receive as a moral compensation for the generous hospitality it has bestowed upon idiots? They could, indeed, be considered as above or out of mankind, if they were improved, and faithfully served in and out of their infirmity, and yet remained of no use, for any thing, to anybody. If so, it would be but our fault -- not theirs.


The time has come when, with a due regard for the welfare of idiots and an unremitting zeal for perfecting the hygienic, medical, and pedagogic method of treatment adapted to their abnormal perfectibility, idiocy will have to be observed in its relations to anthropology; and the rationale of its treatment will have to be studied in its bearing upon the most intimate problems of the development of man by education.


1. -- Idiocy reviewed in its Bearings on Anthropology. -- This study was begun by kind lovers of the curious and the wonderful. From time to time appeared one of these monographs,-1- the most ancient of which Linnaeus took care to collect in his "Natural History." We owe to the great Boerhaave, that of John of Liege; to Louis Racine (as one would say in contemporaneous phraseology, Racine le petit), that of Mlle. Leblanc -- a case of imbecility, of obscure origin and doubtful termination, in the mezzotinto of a convent; to Bonaterre and Itard, two chefs-d'oeuvre of description of the boy of the Aveyron, idiotic and savage altogether; to Daumer, the mysterious narrative of Caspar Hauser -- an intelligent child, made practically idiotic by imprisonment between four walls, and seclusion from any thing but a silent jailer and a wooden horse; and to Esquirol, who suffered the name of the present writer to appear with his own on the first monograph of an idiot treated by the physiological method: "Résumé de ce que nous avons fait pendant quatorze mois. -- Esquirol et Seguin, Paris, 1839."


-1- See their list completed up to the "Savage Boy of the Aveyron," and above seventy more recent observations, page 17, passim, and appendix, in "Idiocy," etc., by E. Seguin. William Wood & Co., publishers, 61 Walker Street, New York, 1866.


The oldest of these documents, preserved by Linnaeus, belonged to that class whose main object was -- irrespective of their solid foundation on facts -- to be wondered at. The later were of the sentimental cast, whose characters and incidents affect the physiognomy of arguments in the great lawsuit of Nature versus Priesthood. From Itard to this day the monographs of idiots were either psychical, anatomical, or physiological, but none of them bore the marks of general observation pertaining to the labor of a true anthropologist. To be ourselves one of the delinquents may give us the right -- at least it gives us the pluck -- of declaring that we for one, and possibly we as a whole (Itard less than any of us), have been sadly deficient in the catholicity of our biological knowledge; and that if we stood by the idiot with a human desire to help him, and did him justice in the main, we handled idiocy with awkward and incomplete grasp, and did not do justice to the whole of the problems it includes.


Some years ago this avowal would have made an unfavorable impression in reference to the whole matter upon a numerous class, holding an influential position between the friends and the inmates of the new institutions. But now the schools have done too much good to their pupils to be shaken by the disclosure of an imperfection which does not affect their direct object, the training of idiots. On the contrary, the taking the problems to be mastered bravely by the horns, will strengthen those engaged in the fight, consolidate their social position, and. elevate their scientific character.




It must be studied by itself in its generality, as if it were an abstract being, an entity. This view includes all historical and statistical documents on its proportion to population and sexes; on its gravity; on the number of functions modified by it; on its concurrence with or apparent relation of cause and effect to other affections. It includes, besides, the study of isolated idiots, in view of following through their life, treatment, and beyond death, the elucidation of certain questions of correlation of organ to function, which are the desiderata of the present hour, and whose success depends, in a great measure, upon the selection of typical cases.


It is not every idiot that is endowed with the wretched conditions necessary to lay the foundations of a complete monograph: some would offer excellent traits, but there is an hiatus in their history; or others conic with an uninterrupted record, running back, as it is desirable it should, unto uterine life, but their case presents no general interest, nor special points worthy of attention; or is associated -- we might almost say polluted -- with other diseases, epilepsy, for instance, whose deleterious effects upon activity and feeling confuse the symptoms, and whose future organic alterations, on the cadaver, may be mistaken for pathological evidences of idiocy.


On the other hand, if few idiots are fit subjects for general monographs, more are precious for the interpretation of isolated points of diagnosis, pathology, therapeutics, and even normal physiology. But these limited observations are limited only in regard to the point to be enlightened. In every other respect, to be valuable, they must he as thorough as the most extensive monographs; otherwise some important elements of judgment would escape. For instance, if one has prosecuted for months the development of a missing function, as if he had given years of attention to a general training, it is equally important, in either case, that he keeps notes complete of the general disabilities, of subsequent general progress, and eventually of the anatomical and histological condition of the different nerve-tissues at least.


For these and other reasons, the typical cases destined to serve as sample-material for the philosophical history of idiocy have to be chosen as early as possible, and worked eventually through several generations of observers. Otherwise there is treatment, but no observation, and, therefore, no experience. Idiots are improved, the knowledge of idiocy is not; and, for fear that constant familiarity with the sight of idiots, in all their modalities, or modes of being, would blunt the sense of the standard man in the mind of the observer, we consider paramount that any investigation made on idiocy upon idiots be conducted pari passu upon normal subjects with the strictest similarity; at play, at school, on the sick-list, or on the cold slab, when possible; everywhere, near the abnormal, the normal; next to the shadow, the light.


This study and parallelism lead us to new inquiries:


1. What Causes Produce Idiocy and Collateral Affections? -- Though no general question is so identified with the former researches relating to individual idiots, yet it has not received, so far as we know, that authoritative solution that would prevent much evil and produce much more good. It is evidently one of those questions that could not be answered by indirect prospecting, and must be inquired into with the direct object in view of eradicating idiocy itself from our midst, if possible. But is not every thing good possible to men? and why did they conglomerate in families, tribes, and nations, and why do they try to unify now in one humanity, but to extend to larger tribes these once reputed impossible benefits? Have they not already eradicated anthropophagy and leprosy? -1- Are we not now rapidly suppressing slavery, small-pox, cretinism? And what retards the. disappearance of idiocy, and an elevation of the moral type of mankind comparable to the physical beauty which has retaken its seat on the human face by the atoxic effect of vaccine? Nothing so much as the insufficiency of its etiology; show us its cause, and. we will stamp it out.


-1- Moral and physical evils are so intimately connected, one with the other, that they look like two names for the same thing. For instance, the eating of an animal substance, culminating in anthropophagy, is everywhere punished by lepra, as the slave-trade germinates in slavers' bottoms the pustula of the small-pox, and so forth.


This is no place to repeat old surmises, that experience has yet neither accepted nor rejected; but for new facts acquired by recent experience. Persons engaged in the treatment of idiots are nearly unanimous upon the fact that the victims of idiocy grow more numerous. If so, the causes of this infirmity must be on the increase; and what are those now at work?


Referring idiocy, in the main, to the conditions of uterine life, what recent circumstances have occurred that could have further impaired the woman as a breeder of embryo and foetus? Her intellectual culture, social and physical gratifications, have fully kept pace with those of her partner. Her relations to the latter are, if any thing, more equal and independent than formerly. He, certainly, is less overbearing, less rude and brutal (according to social station), than he was in the good old time. She has more right to her own, and to what he makes, and yet woman is not satisfied. Then, what is the matter? The gist of the matter seems to be: "Better," said Enfantin and J. S. Mill, "if women would tell it themselves;" that, with, more subjects of gratification of mind and body to-day than in the past centuries, women are uneasy, unhappy, because they do not feel themselves adequate to their task. Their education -- a jumble of that which has made all the male inutilities we have known -- has not taught them an iota of womanhood. Their hygiene and habits have disqualified them for motherly functions; city and house narrownesses do not offer more room for a new-comer than their slender pelves; their tastes run toward niceties incompatible with married life; fecundation is the result of maladroitness; its product, unwelcome, ill-fed, ill-treated before as after birth, conceived in apprehension, remains a nervous ruin, or disappears in a storm of some sort. At this spectacle we can sorrow, but not wonder. Can we expect woman to know what she has not learned, or to resent feelings whose warmth never descended into herself? How, besides, can she conceive and nurture, with a living enthusiasm, a child she has no strength to carry, no room to grow, no substance to feed, no idea how it is to be handled, cared for, etc.? The heaviest task when it is not the dearest, she shifts it off; coming out from the struggle with a sad countenance and emaciations foreboding early degeneracy of her vital organism. To be frank, we physicians, teachers, and parents, are more culpable than herself.


On the opposite side, referring to the many women overfaithful to their vow to help their mates any way, any how, we should say that their task, their whole task, as mothers and wives -- heavier than many hard laboring men could stand -- has of late been greatly aggravated by their being made participators in anxieties external to the, home. Too few husbands spare their young wives in this; and many women -- be it genuine eagerness or natural inconsideration -- rush to an often impossible rescue of the sinking fortunes of the family, and too often, thereby, prepare their own destruction. It is of no use to enter into particulars; when a pregnant woman has, besides the trials of gestation, and during that exalted state of all functions, to endure the multiple trials commanded by an heroic or silly sense of duty, the chances are many that her infant will bear the stigma of the struggle. And what is the fatality that, to-day more than ever, pushes men to undertake more than they can do; and, as a sequel, women to make ultimate sacrifices?. . .In nearly every case it is the rent -- the rent, growing by day, by night, in work, in sleep, in sickness, in death. Increasing every year, the rock of Sisyphus was a pebble compared to it. The renter knows no remission, no alleviation, no day of the Lord. He is the lord, and more, the landlord. Under his sway Christ had not a stone to rest His head. The foetus has no place to grow in peace. Woe to the pregnant woman and her fruit caught under that crushing millstone!


The ancients were wiser. By the regulations of the Bible, the young Israelite couples were allowed to live one happy year free from labor and necessities. This was economy, since it cost less than the lifelong support of infirm children, born of ill-developed and care-worn young women, who themselves hardly ever recover from the simultaneous drain on their constitution of pregnancy, over-work, and moral distress.


On the contrary, no wonder that, from the martyrs of the flat and depressing dramas silently enacted to-day for a miserable livelihood, are born children, not only idiotic and epileptic, but insane. This is a remarkable instance of interpolation of a new link in the chain of adaptation. When pregnant women were simply exposed to home brutalities and privations, their idiotic children were of the simplest types. When the mother had, besides, the mental activity that education and society develop, the idiocy of her child was of a more complex character. But as soon as women assumed the anxieties pertaining to both sexes, they gave birth to children whose like had hardly been met with thirty years ago: insane before their brain could have been deranged by their own exertion; insane, likely, by a reflex action of the nervous exhaustion of their mother.


If the present condition of women has such and other correlated influences upon the future generation, this evil must be made a valuable argument to change that position. But, what is the use of putting on the gloves of hypothesis, when we refer, to a great extent, the malformations, ill-nutrition, and anomalous tendencies, of children to the inactive, useless, and unreal education of women? The facts speak higher than our voice, when showing the most healthy, well-balanced and serviceable children to be born of women, hardly educated at all, but used to a hearty life. Truly, those who cause women to receive an anti-physiological education might dread fantastic procreations; and foresee, under the impossible forms of the young lady, the wavering penumbra of the idiot, insane, or epileptic.


The other evil is more complex, though having, too, its root in improvident education. We overburden women; they overburden themselves, and choose or accept burdens unfit for them. Besides, their uneasiness results from being moved by several inward currents, neither of them strong enough to cut an open channel through the social obstacles. Among others, is the current toward matrimony, swift sometimes, rarely strong enough to overcome the asperities of a day and night dependence, the heaviest of all; and marriage is that, or a lie. Another current is toward freedom. Being less subjected to animal instincts, and therefore not so easily subdued as women of other ages, heavier fed and less intellectual, those of to-day declare their independence and seek for it. But they do not possess, to the same degree with men, the two elements of it, capital and working capacity; so that most of these protestants against the rule of man are yet reduced to the, so far, only orthodox course -- of accepting the means of support from the envied sex. This is a very painful state of transition for both parties, in which men do rarely appear to have received, in feminine money, the equivalent of their would-be liberality; and women suffer from their incapacity of being, one way or the other, neither dependent with contentment, nor free with self-reliance. Children gotten under such moral and other pressures, cannot truly be said to be born from the union, but rather from the disunion of their parents; conceived in antagonism, they can only be excessive in their tendencies, or monstrous in their organization. This condition of family affairs will last till physiological education shall have fairly developed the tendencies of women; of some for motherhood and matronly station, of others for artistic talents of various grades, which can insure their independence.


There is nothing new in this position. On the contrary, it is so old that it seems to be entirely forgotten. Nobody seems to remember that once the laws, habits, and religions even, provided not for one class of women only, but for all classes. Such sayings as that of Taney about some men, that some women have no rights that we are bound to respect, is a modern infamy. Let us sooner recall the times of Pericles, when the greatest statesman of Greece was his unmarried friend and adviser, Aspasia, one of the hetairoe -1- of Athens. Then all classes of women were respected, or at least had their rights acknowledged, because all had their archetype in the Greek heaven, Olympus. But, as for us, we had only one type of womanhood; and our incredulity or its uselessness has broken it. Alas! The rekindled worship of the Virgin Mary does not protect the mothers better than the Madelines, and serves only as a delusive mirage to lull the despair of nuns. In our Blessed Lady, the impossible has killed the ideal. Truly, in a tradition which dates but of yesterday, we have carved, out of reality, a beautiful type of womanhood, whose reflex influence can be read on the countenance of American mothers. But Martha Washington's face, whose beauty is virtue, can be reached by the young woman only through an intermediate type of youthful perfection, that is yet to come out from the development of the national character. In the absence of that educational type, it is fortunate to be enabled to say that so many young women resist expensive necessities by the sole power of their inward excellence. But, of course, treating of idiocy, we meet with the unfortunate exception.


-1- See the learned researches of L. T. Brockett on the historical conditions of women, in his book, "Woman's Rights, Wrongs, and Privileges."


The foregoing causes of the increase of idiocy and kindred infirmities should be particularly investigated; and if it is demonstrated that these causes produce, generally, the disastrous consequences which the writer has observed in his limited experience, those causes ought to be combated with all the force of our moral and professional character, as well as with the arguments drawn from past experience and knowledge. For this emergency, the domain of physic becomes commensurate with the want of society; not by any assumption of our own, but because it happens that, in the present period, no other men, as a body, possess, to the same degree as physicians do, the cyclopedic elements of judgment.


None but physicians are qualified to inquire, and even to pry into these questions of human affinities, gestation, breeding, physiological training, emasculation of capacities, social vampirism of the idle upon the busy people, etc., which as a leaven, the rise or disorganization of certain human families. Rome declined, and Constantinople crumbled, not because the priests of Jupiter or Cybele, or St. Sophia, ignored these questions, but because those who ought to have studied and solved them with authority, as did Hippocrates, Arefaeus, Alexander of Trales, neglected the philosophy of physic, and its application to social sciences, for the disputes on pharmacology and demonology, or between herbs and amulets, etc. But, among physicians, none are better qualified to fulfil this philosophical duty than those engaged in the treatment of idiocy.


We say "idiocy," because the time has come for the treatment of "idiots" to take somewhere that synthetical shape of a comparative study of idiocy contrasted with normal youth; of the means of educating idiots and other children; of the methods of renovating life itself where it is deficient in the ill-born, and of increasing it where it exists in the well-born child.


After the etiology of idiocy, the first symptoms of it which can be appreciated are full of interest, but surrounded by much mystery and uncertainty. They cannot very well be studied in the existing institutions -- where children are admitted quite late in youth. This is somewhat of a new inquiry, which needs sincerity and confidence in both ways, on the part of the mother, and on that of her physician.


What are the early Manifestations of Idiocy? -- a. In the Mother. -- Eventually, we may be called to witness the whole period of gestation, whose circumstances give rise to the suspicion that its fruit may possibly come out altered by idiocy. Here our duty is double toward science -- that we are bound to forward by all fair means -- we are under the particular obligation to watch and note the case in all its particular actions, feelings, ideas, dreams even. After all, if the child comes out right, the world is the gainer; if, on the contrary, our previsions are confirmed, our observations accrue to the benefit of science. But, toward the mother and the new-corner, our duty is very different. We must not awake in her any suspicion of our surmise; nor forget that moral impressions are considered by many -- with or without truth -- as controlling certain results of pregnancy. Neither that, if a woman apprehends our suspicions, she may instantly and thence-forward take her share of them to the detriment of her health, of her nutrition, and of the child; that her interest in the matter is one of life or death, and ours only one of observation. In a word, let us remember, that our first duty is toward the living, the second to science. But those occurrences are rare in which idiocy may be predicted, and the materials for its history prepared with a foresight -- the more precious when we meet with one of them.


Oftener, what we know of the events and incidents of gestation comes to us later, by hearsay, or by the mother herself; sometimes with an indubitable color of truth and reality -- at others, tinted or evidently distorted by the imagination. So that we must pay great attention to what we hear on that score, of events and feelings in pregnancy; but be much more particular about the place we assign to these details in our memory or memorandum.


b. Early Manifestations of Idiocy in Infancy.


The beginning of children, like that of nations, is enshrouded in fables; that of idiots and of great men surpasses all in marvels. Let us only inquire how he suckled, and how long he slavered, and when he began to hold his head, pay attention by the ear or eye, hold and let go intentionally and not much more This is enough to characterize an infant idiot, but does not improve.


c. Our Knowledge of Idiocy in Infancy. -- This knowledge seems to be attainable only by keeping together, like twins, a well and an idiot baby; and we will see in one cradle vigor, command, joy, anger, and tears; in the other flabbiness, no feeling but that of hunger, no laugh, no tears ascribable to human causes. When the time for action arrives, one sits, creeps, fall to rise again; the other, crouched, keeps his hand in his mouth. One begins to speak, the other only moans. When one supplies himself with all the good and bad things he can lay his grasp on, the other would starve, if he was not stuffed with a uniform soft food, often pushed into the gullet by the helping hand, deglutition being as impossible as mastication. All the senses of one are wide awake, of the other dormant. One induces, deduces, supposes, inquires, to botheration; the other continues unimpressed, impassable, isolated, idios.


But these two cradles, or sooner, these two children, but in reality these two types -- since we have in view normal youth and idiocy -- must, as anatomical models, stand in school, he kept in constant parallelism, where idiocy is studied as a branch of morbid physiology. Then, by the sedulous and timely observation of the minute physiological deficiencies, as they prevent action in one child, and of the corresponding efficiencies as they develop themselves in the other, and incite him to action, our sketch will be completed into a perfect and useful likeness of human incapacity contrasted with human capacity.


We say perfect, because it is the work of years, that must be rendered more and more accurate by notation of the minute symptoms in their order of evolution; and useful, because, upon the tested and retested reality and finish of these descriptions, will rest the new means of improvement to be devised by physiological teachers.


d. Symptoms of Idiocy under Training. -- They may be improving, stationary, or increasing. That is the question not only for the individual idiot, but to determine the character of idiocy in a given case, and to test the influence of some parts of the training on children at large.


Every child entering the institution with as complete a record as could be gathered of him and of his family antecedents, this record will grow by a sort of alluvial process from all that is done for him, and its results. At first, and twice a year, oftener repeated in cases of sudden changes, the survey embraces growth as well as functional development; the size, weight, and shape of parts, where it is possible; the color and other qualities of tissues, the proportion of blood-corpuscles, -1- the temperature measured by the thermometer, the contractile power by diverse dynomometers, the tactile sensibility by the aesthesiometer, nourishment, and nutrition, nature of secretions, spontaneity, cheerfulness, and other notable functions, all and each comparable with the same in the average children, that will be kept nearby in training, by the same means and under similar observation.


-1- A certain proportion of red corpuscles in the blood is considered a test of its healthfulness, and less as a proof of anemia. Hence, various means have been devised to find out its composition in given cases. Among the investigators who have succeeded in affixing their names to some of these analyses of the blood are: Becquerel, Schrerer, Schmidt, Scharjin, Zimmerman, Hoppe, Vierordt, and Welcker. More recently Paolo Mantagazza, of the Italian Institute of Sciences, has devised an instrument which he calls the Globulometer, which gives the exact quantity of red corpuscles contained in a sample of blood. One of the advantages of the globulometer is, that it requires but one drop of blood for the experiment. That drop being mixed with a given solution of b. c. soda, a transparent receiver is filled with the mixture, and held before the eye and a specified light, where its degree of opacity indicates the quantity of red disks. This experiment presents several advantages: it requires only a drop of blood, it demands only a few minutes, it can be made at the bedside. Though we personally rejoice in the possession of that little jewel of Italian ingenuity and precision, the globulometer of Dr. Mantagazza, we apprehend that it will not become, what it should be, one of the favorite instruments of positive diagnosis of our professional brothers.


On this point the monographs have attained proportions which permit us to foresee whither their subjects tend. Some have made more or less rapid progress, and qualified for different grades of manhood. Some present meliorations which could not have taken place without the training, though they are mostly attributable to growth, increased strength, automatic habits, and unavoidable surroundings. Some are decidedly as idiotic as ever. Some actually retrograde, either by an ab-initio falling off, or since a certain date, event, or sickness, or by the effects of that young senility of which idiots give the curious, and, as we believe, unique example.


Though individually and socially these results are very different, the first preparing, after a simple practical apprenticeship, to leave the school for the world where most of them need yet a special protection and home-kindness; the second to pass the remainder of their lives in asylums, where comfort, no progress, is looked for; the third to be kept where their observation may most advantageously be completed. But the only complete result, for all of them, of our cases, statistics, and annotations, is to come from --


e. The Post-mortem Examination. -- There on the slab, more glorious than the battle-field, have laid the unknown but honored heroes, who helped Scarpa, Vesalius, Hailer, Morgagni, Bichat, Flourens, Bell, Brown-Séquard, Virchow, Bernard, marshals of the scientific empire, to gain their victories; Harvey to demonstrate the circulation of the blood; as well as Michael Servetus that of the lymphatics, before Calvin had discovered that his brain also circulated ideas worth burning. To be on that slab, field of scientific victories, is certainly a great honor for any of us, who, possibly good for naught in life, may thus become useful in death. To object to it in any case of idiocy would be an act of hostility to progress, if not of idiocy itself doubled with fatuitas. After nursing, educating, cherishing the idiot as no family can, because we do it with the full comprehension of his value in the study of anthropology and physiological education, we want to compare his head, imperfect chef-d'oeuvre of organism, with the written record of its imperfect functions, we conscientiously claim the right, after recording the effects, to pry into the causes, wherever they can be found. We do it with intention, reflection, pure motives, and respectful hands; we would say that it is for us a re1igious ceremony, if rites were progressive, in a religion whose author rewarded his disciples by the post-mortem apparition of his own body, which was the forcible anatomical demonstration of the dualistic theory of mind and matter, upon which science reposed till the times of Spinosa, Gassendi, Laplace, and Huxley.


It has been objected that anatomy did not reveal in insanity as much as was promised in its name. There is truth in the objection, for various reasons, into all of which we cannot enter. Suffice it to say, 1. That the means of investigation at command, till a few years ago, could not reach to the intimate structure, and nature of the nervous tissue, and that some more improvements in this are eagerly looked for; and, besides, that probably a good deal of the attention, hitherto paid to the convolutions, should be directed toward the ganglia; in fact, that the study of the nervous system is just beginning. 2. The expectations about always finding the material lesions of insanity have also many times proved fallacious, because, when a physical cause has produced insanity, an organic lesion may generally be found; but, when it is from mental cause, it may come so late in life, it may be of such minor severity, and of so short duration, that it cannot leave its imprint on the organism. 3. The condition of idiot is absolutely the reverse of this. Idiocy begins to show its presence always at birth, or at the latest when the babe holds yet to its mother by the mammae; and, for its causes, they generally date from some period, more or less remote, of the gestation; besides, it is never a mental anomaly alone, that is to say, isolated from other functional anomalies, as insanity often is. Therefore, as we see in the idiot the effect of the other functional deficiencies upon their respective organs, we are led to expect that the same correlation will obtain between the perceptive and mental functions on one side and the state of the ganglia cerebri, and hemispheres on the other. If we do not err in this, the possibility of demonstrating that correlation in idiocy would be dependent upon the accuracy of the method used in the investigation, and not on eventualities as we apprehend it must, in insanity --


This point gained -- and we think it ought to be made irrevocable by a written agreement with the parents of the pupils before their admission -- we will have secured all the means, as far as the idiots themselves are concerned, of attaining the multiple objects of such institutions -- which mainly are:


a. The causes of idiocy to be thoroughly investigated, and the parties interested in the prevention of these causes, especially young women and their husbands, made aware of the dangers incurred in their posterity by any breach of the laws of moral health and society, which may deeply impress a pregnant or nursing woman. To this department alone the publication of the results of our researches on the intimate, even secret, even criminal, causes of idiocy -- always omitting names, of course -- will do a great deal of good; particularly, in spreading the dread of hereditary punishment set, forth in the Bible, and in enforcing the claim of women to more kindness, and sparing, when they are in the most delicate and impressible condition.


It is not unreasonable to expect that from these, and similar moral improvements, and physically from the transfer of the pregnant women from the crowded abodes of the city to the comfort of airy and wooded regions -- from abundant plain food, exercise, and no excitement -- young mothers would be more able to bear and nurture their children in physiological conditions, and. the children would come out in due season, without the influence of enervation and ill-nutrition which tend to produce idiocy and cognate affections. Hence these evils would rapidly diminish.


b. The treatment of idiocy would soon be the object of clear and simple rules, deduced principally from a parallel of well and idiotic children under similar training. There, any thing that could incite a healthy child to activity and attention, would be tried on an idiot. Any thing which would have made an impression on an idiot, would be tried on a healthy child; rendering manifest the similarity or dissimilarity of impressions of the same phenomena on both. The result would be our gain, soon to be transferred from the experimental to the practical field of education. These results of experiments would be expressed -- we would sooner say cast -- in a series of propositions, whose total would constitute --


c. The principles of physiological education, because they would be strictly drawn from physiological experiments. To attempt to give here an exposition of these principles -- which are already established elsewhere, and are yet susceptible of increase in number, perfection, and extension -- would be like a trial of inserting a full didactic treatise in an article. However, a comprehensive exposition of the mental process by which one of these principles of physiological education was arrived at, does not seem a work of supererogation here, to give the key to the way of discovering new ones.


d. Educating the mind through perceptions instead of prearranged reasonings. When we speak to the reason of a child with our reason, he understands us, more or less correctly or not, always in his own manner, that we can hardly probe on the spot, and whose thoroughness will he shown in his after-life, but still his mind and ours have communicated through ideas. How different it is with an idiot! Our mind addresses itself in vain to his mind, an immured recess, never lighted before. This explains why it was impossible to educate idiots as long as education was simply a process of transfusion of ideas from one mind to another. When that impossibility was demonstrated, we had to look for other means of educating the idiot. These means we knew we could not obtain from psychology, which had already proved its impotence; we looked for them in the resources offered by physiology; we will presently see with what results --


e. Considering all the manifestations of life as expressions of functions, and all functions as resultant from a certain organism, we set aside the scholastic distinction of mind and matter, intellectual faculties and physical functions. Confident that to call them one name or another does not alter their nature, and could not alter the results of our experiments upon them, we assumed simply that --


f. "If we could take hold of an organ, we would be able to make produce its function." From this starting point we graduated our means of educating the functions of idiots upon "the facility of our approach to their organs," and we found that --


g. "The organs of sensation being within our reach, and those of thought out of it, the former are the first that we can set in action." From this selection -- nearly a discovery -- since it became the basis of an important part of the method of training of idiots, resulted the other aphorism --


h. "The physiological education of the senses must precede the psychical education of the mind."


These propositions received support from two classes of historical experiments:


Individual Test No. 1. -- When Itard undertook, in 1801, to educate the savage boy found in the forest of the Aveyron, France, after the Abbé Sicard and other psychologists had tried in vain to communicate ideas to that child of Nature, who knew absolutely nothing but temperature and hunger, Itard succeeded partially in educating him through sensorial impressions. For instance, he could not teach him to read -- that is to say, to attach an idea to certain combinations of letters -- but he could make him identify the figure of a few words with a few things, as, when wanting milk, he presented a card bearing milk written on its face. Milk was not a word, it was a sign for the savage. Of his pure sensorial education, Itard gives another example rather forcible, though not enforced by moral considerations. The boy would sometimes bite a man in anger, as he had done rabbits to satisfy hunger in his former haunts; Itard, once cruelly bitten, immediately opened the window, seized the delinquent by the abdomen, and held him out of a window three stories high, apparently ready to drop him on the pavement. He became very pale, submissive, subdued, and never bit any more.


Individual Test No. 2. -- Caspar Hauser, when he came out of his prison, was a perfect blank, as regards both impressions and ideas: having felt nothing, he knew nothing, and had no thoughts. His teacher, Daumer, took precisely that view of him; and, instead of reasoning with him, spoke to his senses, educated them to receive impressions, and ideas resulted from these impressions within a short time. As he had been formerly made an artificial idiot by forced isolation, so, the day he was born to feeling his mind was born also, being formed, by strata of perceptions, as geological treasures have been, or sooner as photographic impressions, whose mass would represent the entire knowledge of a man.


General Test No. 3, by the Affirmative. -- This same mode of treating the mind out of the cultivation of the perceptive powers attained its highest perfection when applied in antiquity to a confederation of peoples, who thereby were enabled to exhibit every four years, not more industrial products, but more human genius, than any nation. Greece, from Asia Minor to Sicily, educated by the sensorial process, sur-excited by the divine types of sensorial perfection, presented to it as a rational and religious teaching by its poets, artists, priests, oracles, historians, attained the royalty of the mind over the world during the Olympic period from Pythagoras to Alcibiades; and --


General Test No. 4, by the Negative. -- The period in which we find the heaviest dunces on earth is that in which mankind reprobated the education of and by the senses, aimed at developing spirituality by purely intellectual education, and became mixed by erudition in the depths of ghostly imbecility. That was the time when individuality was treated like insanity; when Cardan and Paracelsus were branded for having foreseen the alkaloids in crucibles and test-tubes, instead of cultivating the alchemy of the infinite.


Test No. 5, by the Absurd. -- We have seen a race, hardly extinct, of accomplished scholars, who could not tell any thing, even "good-morning," but in the words of Horace, Sophocles, Milton, etc. -- useless as harmless gentlemen caressing a heavy chin encased in a high cravat, when loading the atmosphere with continuous eructations of Greek and Latin.


Thus, the experimental education of a savage idiot, the philosophical development of a young man, previously kept in artificial infancy by isolation, the brilliant and solid results of the polytheistic training of several nations, the humiliating consequences for European intelligence of meta-physical and pseudo-classical training, concur in the demonstration, otherwise and directly given, during the last thirty years, in the school for idiots, that "the physiological education of the senses is the royal road to the education of the intellect: experience, not memory, the mother of ideas."


Let us mark that this touches only one of the problems of education so dear to humanity, vital to our race. The school for idiots has been equally ahead in those questions relating to the effectiveness of and harmony between the different systems, muscular, nervous, etc., by education in gymnastics, imitation, etc.


These institutions having taken the leading part in this movement, given the impulse, or the direct example, to the schools where objects are now the systematic theme of lessons, and the faculty of imitation is trained like the other manly capacities; having thrown already some light upon the phenomena of our half-civilized life which produces idiocy and cognate affections, it could be easily shown that, in giving prominence to the improvement of children upon that method, they have acted in accordance with the public's eagerness which claimed first the individual results of the new institutions, as condition sine qua non of their support; and that, in locating them through the country, in view of the comfort of the inmates, and of the convenience of their families, they have been put out of the reach of the concourse of scientific men and means which are concentrated in capital cities.


This position, excellent for their individual object, the treatment of idiots, may be maintained with advantage, but must be strengthened by the creation of a superior institution for the treatment of idiocy; where questions corollary to this affection, and those issuing from the principle of physiological training; the correction of the early anomalies of the mind, and the training of youth according to the methods most akin to human activity, will be the object -- a school, normal by its intellectual procedures, central by the position it will occupy between exceptional and common schools; in which the principles will be looked for as lovingly as individual pupils are in others; where questions, more than children, will be treated.


This necessity of the situation -- for, if these institutions do not progress, they will retrograde -- demands the selection of a suitable place among scientific surroundings; the direction of a man who understands the philosophy of that labor, the selection of microscopists, anatomists, psychologists, young medical men eager for study, devoted women ready to teach, nurse and to acquire the capacities so much wanted in other schools. With this force at command, there will be treated, besides the questions directly relating to idiocy and medicine, those which touch society through education. It is not a minute too soon.


From all the points of the compass, steam and electricity accumulate men and ideas on this continent that will soon be, for good or evil, the new world; new for evil if the comers invade us, not by the sword, but by their low spirit of submission to Eastern or Western bonzes; new for good, if we are ready, with a powerful physiological system of education, to assimilate them, women, men, children, of all races and colors, to our unity and independence. Science will have once more vindicated its social power.


Such, and many more, are the reflections that crowd around the idea of improving idiotic children. Truly, all ideas are sisters which tend to scientific unity.

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