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Existing State Of The Art Of Instructing The Deaf And Dumb

Creator: Frederick A.P. Barnard (author)
Date: September 1835
Publication: Literary and Theological Review
Source: Available at selected libraries

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By Prof. Frederick A. P. Barnard, of the New-York Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb.


1. Institution des sourds et muets par la voie des signes methodiques; outrage qui contient Ie projet d'une langue universelle, par l'entermise des signes naturels, assujettis a une méthode. Par M. I'Abbé de L'Epéee. Paris, 1776.


2. Le sourd-muet entendant par les yeux, ou triple moyen de communication avec ces infortunés, par desprocedis abbreviatifs de l'écriture; suivi d'un projet d'imprimerie syllabique. Par le Père d'un sourd-muet. Paris, 1829.


3. Vocabulary for the instruction of the deaf and dumb, upon the principles established in the Manchester school. By William Vaughan. London and Manchester, 1828.


4. Erster, zweiter, dritter und vierter Berichte des Verwaltungs-Ausschusses der am 28 May 1827, gestifieten Taubstummen-Schule für Hamburg und das Hamburger Gebiet. Hamburg, 1828-1834.


From the comparative frequency with which the periodical press has been made, in the course of the past few years, the instrument of conveying information to the public, relative to the instruction of the deaf and dumb, the principal facts connected with the history of this art, at least in our own country, may be considered as generally known. It will hardly be expected, therefore, that, in treating the subject proposed at the head of this article, the writer should task himself with again repeating incidents, which, if not familiar to all, are probably so to most, and respecting which information may be elsewhere easily obtained.


Every institution erected for the humane purpose of ministering relief to those unhappy beings, whom Providence, in its inscrutable decrees, has condemned to endure the misery of perpetual silence, must be an object both of interest and of admiration to the philanthropist. To his eye every such institution, isolated amid the broad expanse of human selfishness, seems a gentle star, shedding abroad a lustre not of this world, the brightness of that heavenly charity, which breathes itself in the precept, "As ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so unto them, for this is the law and the prophets."


But as all such luminaries, like those which lend to the sky above us its variety and its beauty, possess a common charm, so they have each their peculiar claims to admiration. "There is one glory of the sun, another of the moon and another of the stars; and one star different from another star in glory." In giving an account, therefore, of the art of deaf-mute instruction as it exists, it will be necessary to describe the methods which have characterized different schools, and which have not even yet become blended into one.


We need not take the trouble to inform our readers, that the practicability of instructing the deaf and dumb is a discovery comparatively modern. Within the scope of authentic history, we find no notice of any attempt to remove the obstacles, which nature seems to have interposed between these helpless beings and the knowledge of that world in which, surrounded by darkness and mystery, they live a kind of dreamy and unreal life, till the sixteenth century of the Christian era had more than half passed away. To the philosophers of Greece and Rome, in the brightest days of those republics, the condition of the miserable deaf-mute seemed utterly desperate. The same view of the case has been taken by distinguished men, in times very near to our own; and in all ages, not even our own entirely excepted, this, our wretched fellow-man, has been made more wretched still, by a thousand popular prejudices; some having their origin merely in a sentiment of disgust, like that which we experience in the contemplation of any monstrous existence; and others, yet more injurious, in a creed, which, strange as it may seem, presumed the deaf-mute, on the evidence of his misfortune, to be labouring under the curse of Heaven, and carrying about with him, like Cain, the perpetual witness of God's displeasure. Thus it was for century after century. The wretched, so far from receiving commiseration or relief, were unrelentingly persecuted, or shunned as those who bore upon them the mark of the beast. To them the world was indeed a vale of tears.


The first instructor, so far as we know, Peter Ponce, a Benedictine of Ogna in Spain, died in the year 1584. After him sprang up, in various parts of Europe, including the British islands, isolated individuals labouring in the same cause, and in general believing, each for himself, that the art had originated with him. But the light which thus broke forth front time to time, at points too widely separated to allow the radiance to blend, was a brightness without a nucleus, and was speedily swallowed up in the general darkness. No instructor founded a permanent school, until the year 1760, when the Abbè De l'Epée established at Paris, at his own expense, an institution which he continued to conduct during a period of twenty-nine years, and which, after his death, was adopted and perpetuated by the government of France. Before that event, however, viz: in the year 1778, an institution under the patronage of the Elector of Saxony, had come into existence at Leipzig, with Samuel Heinicke, a kind of universal genius, a man previously of various occupations, and subsequently of considerable celebrity, at its head.

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