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Address Of The The Trustees Of The New England Institution For The Education Of The Blind To The Public

Creator:  Edward Brooks, Horace Mann, and S.C. Phillips (authors)
Date: 1833
Publisher: Carter, Hendee & Co.
Source: Perkins School for the Blind

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It is four years since an act incorporating the Trustees of the New England Asylum for the Blind, was passed by the Legislature of Massachusetts. Why so much delay has occurred in commencing operations, will be duly explained.


The Trustees have now the satisfaction of announcing, that their institution has been in actual operation for five months; and that their most sanguine expectations of the capacity of the blind for receiving an education, have been fully verified in the progress of the interesting beings under their charge. But before giving any account of the state of their institution, the Trustees beg leave to make some general remarks on the blind; on the light in which they have been held; and the manner in which they have always been treated by their fellow-men.


Blindness has been in all ages one of those instruments by which a mysterious Providence has chosen to afflict man; or rather IT has not seen fit to extend the blessing of sight to every member of the human family. In every country there exists a large number of human beings, who are prevented by want of sight, from engaging with advantage in the pursuits of life, and who are thrown upon the charity of their more favored fellows. And it will be found, that the proportion is at all times about the same, in the same countries; for not only is the proportion of those who shall be born blind, decreed in the statutes of the Governor of the world, but the number of those becoming so, by what we call accident, is regulated by laws as infallible and invariable; and it is as little probable that by any accident, all mankind should lose their eyes, as that by any precaution all should preserve them. Blindness then is one of the evils entailed upon man, and it becomes him to grapple with it, and try to diminish its pernicious effects.


The blind may be divided into two classes, those born blind, and those becoming blind by disease or accident, the latter class being infinitely the most numerous.


The frequency of blindness varies in different climates, and upon different soils; it is most frequent in that part of the temperate zone bordering upon the torrid; and decreases as we approach the poles. It has been ascertained by accurate censuses taken in different countries of Europe, that the number is fearfully great, and that although they are screened from the public eye, they exist in almost every town and village. In Middle Europe, there is one blind person to every 800 inhabitants. In some Austrian provinces, it has been accurately ascertained, that there is one to every 845 inhabitants; in Zurich, one to 747. Farther north, between the 50th and 70th degree of longitude, they exist in smaller proportions; in Denmark are found one to every 1000. In Prussia, there are one to every 900. Egypt is the country most afflicted with this evil, and it may be safely calculated that there are there about one blind to every 300 seeing person.


In our own country, no means have been taken to ascertain with exactitude the number of blind; the returns made by some censuses, have been ascertained to be very erroneous; nor is there any reason to suppose that the laws which act on nations under the same latitude in Europe, should be null here; indeed, the Trustees have ascertained that in some small towns, not exceeding 2000 inhabitants, and where the census gave but one or two blind, there really exist four, five, and six. These unfortunate beings, sit and wile their long night of life away, within doors, unseen and unknown by the world; and society would be startled, were it told that there exist in its bosom so many of its children who never see the light of heaven; it would hardly credit the assertion that there are more than eight thousand blind persons in these United States; yet, such is undoubtedly the case.


The public must be ignorant of this fact; to suppose it is not so, and yet that it had done nothing for so large a class of the afflicted, would be an impeachment of its charity, and its justice; and the Trustees appeal to it in the full confidence that the ready answer will be, 'what can be done for them?'


Fellow citizens, much can be done for them; instead of condemning the poor blind man to stand at the corner of the street, and ask for charity; or to remain cooped up within the walls of an alms-house, or to sit and mope away his solitary existence among his happier friends, alike a burden to them and himself -- you may give to him the means of becoming an enlightened, happy and useful member of society; you may give him and his fellow-blind the means of earning their own livelihood, or at least of doing much towards it; you may light the lamp of knowledge within them, you may enable them to read the Scriptures themselves,


'And thus, upon the eye-balls of the blind,
To pour celestial day.'


All this you can do by the establishment of institutions for their education; and it is to demonstrate this fact, that this Circular is addressed to you. The Trustees do not ask assistance for the Institution alone, but they call upon the public to consider the situation of the blind everywhere, and every where to extend to them those benefits, which are greater than the most liberal alms that can be bestowed.

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