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EDUCATION OF THE BLIND.
It is a trite observation, that our language is inadequate to express thought, especially in the investigation of a new and philosophical subject. But there is a yet greater difficulty, that when errors are discovered, or enlarged views acquired, one must continue to use words and figures, which convey to others an opposite meaning. For instance, the philosopher, who sees in decay and death a link in the chain of benevolence, a beautiful provision for the extension of the blessings of life and existence to myriads, instead of thousands, must continue to talk of it as a melancholy thing. If he sees a man fall from a house top, and crush his bones to atoms, he must speak of it as a misfortune, or not at all,--for if he considers it a proof of wisdom and benevolence, that the law of gravitation acts promptly and irresistibly, that the man who fell, as well as himself, ought to rejoice that the law is inexorable,-he must not say it, at least in common language, or he would be deemed mad.
So with blindness : in common language we speak of it as a misfortune; as a sad fate to which a portion of our race is doomed; but when we look into the economy of physical nature, and see how it results from the operation of wise and benevolent laws; or into the economy of the moral world, and see how it effects wise and benevolent ends,—and thus
view it a cause of admiration and gratitude to Divine wisdom, we have no language to express the feeling, but continue to talk of the misfortune, and to say we must bow resignedly, but sadly, to the dark will of God.
The infidel sees in these apparent imperfections of the wonders of nature, a want of foresight or of power in the great Author ; the scoffer throws out his taunt about the injustice of unmerited suffering; and even the Christian, when he sees a poor blind man groping his way in utter darkness, from the cradle to the grave, is apt to ask, complainingly, Lord, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
It is true that confiding faith in Divine benevolence, of which the Christian sees a thousand proofs, cannot be shaken by rare or apparent exceptions; and he answers, in the words of him who spake as never man spake, “neither this man, nor his parents did sin, but that the ways of wisdom may be manifested.” But how few conceive the full import of these words ! how few perceive in this simple language, addressed to simple men, at a period when the science of mind as yet was unknown, all that philosophy and wisdom, during twenty generations, have been only explaining and illustrating !
It would be a work of supererogation in me, to attempt to show, to such an assembly, any of the reasons why congenital physical imperfections, or even intellectual imbecility and idiocy, should be considered as coöperating with every other providence of God, to the welfare and happiness of the human
The reasons are obvious to all who take a broad view 'of nature; and even those who do not, have only to consider what inan, as he is now constituted, would be, if there were no want, no pain, no affliction in the world. Where would be pleasure, without pain, where sympathy without sorrow, where benevolence without an object?
But the apparent imperfection of nature's works do not exist alone that man may lament them. Sorrow and suffering are not sent into the world merely, that man may be condolent
and charitable: his intellect, as well as his feeling, is to be exerted.
There is a task for his head, as well as for his heart; and he who sets himself resolutely about investigating and remedying an evil to which his mind is subject, is more charitable, and more useful to his fellows, than he who does nothing but give liberal alms, and whose tears are ever ready at a tale of sorrow, or a sight of wo. Science may be more useful to the world than charity, in the common acceptation of the term. The world owes more to Jenner, than though he had founded an hundred bospitals; and be who should rid the world of pauperism, would do more for it than many Howards ; for the existence of alms and almshouses is as much the disgrace of society, as amputations are of surgery ;-—it is an acknowlment that the evil cannot be cured.
It is wisely ordained, that there shall ever be inequality among created beings; an inequality which extends over the moral and intellectual, as well as the physical world. How far the intellectual inequality results from the physical, it behoves me not now to inquire. However much I may be inclined to think that the character of the intellect must be influenced altogether by the character of the physical, I will assume no more than all will grant, viz., that mind can only manisest itself in this state of being, through the body; that a certain part of this body is more essential to such manifestation than the others ; in a word, that without brain there can be no manifestation of mind, and that, if it exists in a very small quantity, or is very much diseased, the possessor is but an idiot. But this is no more making the brain mind, than the heart is mind; for, without the action of the heart, the brain is but a lump of fat.
Farther, it is necessary for the full development of mind, that the brain should be acted upon by the external senses; we must hear, see, taste, smell and touch, in order to know and think. But these senses, or the organs of them, are of secondary consequence; the brain must exist, or even vegetative life cannot go on; an idiot may live, and have his physical being perfectly developed ; an acephalous man could not even exist.
Again, the brain may exist perfectly formed and ready for action, but if the organs of the external senses are wanting, no manifestations of mind can be made through it. Philosophers might once have disputed about what would be the condition of that being who should be without touch, or sight, or sinell, or hearing, but the merest tyro in science would be ashamed of wasting an hour upon it now.
You may think I am preaching phrenology to you, gentlemen ; but I am trying to preach only plain common sense. If that and phrenology be one and the same thing, it is not
Assuming then, what all will grant, that the brain must be acted upon through the senses, in order that mental manifestations may be made through it, the question occurs, whether all the organs of sense are necessary; or whether, when one or more is wanting, compensation may be made by the inferior action of the others; and if the latter, then which of the organs are of the most consequence.
It must be conceded, that where one of the senses is wanting, the intellect can never be fully developed in all its parts ; nor can compensation be made by the superior activity of other senses. For instance, one function of mind is to perceive and appreciate sounds ;—now if a person is born deaf, he can never by any effort of his own, appreciate, or even conceive of sound. One advantage of sound, indeed,—that of conveying ideas by spoken language,—be may receive in another way, by visible signs, or by written characters. But this is part only of the function of hearing; it is one way only by which the auditory nerve affects the brain. To all the rest, the mind must be a stranger. Now the question occurs,—and an important one it is too,—which of the senses are most important for the development of mind, and which should be made use of in education. Leaving aside the abstruse question, whether all