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of the sense of hearing and the use of speech, his own experience and that of his pupils themselves demonstrated fully to him, that nothing can supply to them the place of their natural language, the language of signs, of which all languages spoken or written, are no more to them than translations.
The language of signs, then, ought to fix the attention of every enlightened man who makes it his study to improve the various parts of public instruction; this language, as simple as nature, is capable of extending itself like her, and of attaining the furthest limits of human thought. This language of signs is universal, and the deaf and dumb, of whatever country they may be, can understand each other as well as you who hear and speak, do among yourselves. But they cannot understand you; it is for this reason that we wish to instruct them, that they may converse with you by writing in the room of speech, and know the truths and mysteries of religion.
Mr. Sicard's first steps, and even the difficulties presented to him by his pupils, made him soon feel the necessity of proceeding according to the strictest method, and of fixing their ideas as well as the knowledge they were progressively acquiring, permanently in their memory, so that what they already knew, might have an immediate connection with what they were to learn ; his pupils, unable to comprehend him, if the instruction which he wished to give them did not coincide with that which they had received before ; for thus they stopped his progress, and he could not accomplish his purpose but by resuming the chain of their ideas, and constantly following the uninterrupted line from the known to the unknown. It was thus that he succeeded in making them comprehend the language of the country in which he instructed them. This natural method is applicable to all languages. It proceeds by the surest and shortest way, and may be applied to all the channels of communication between one man and another.
It is by this method that Mr. Sicard has brought the deaf and dumb to the knowledge of all the kinds of words, of which a language is composed, of all the modifications of those words of theirvariations and different senses; in short, of all their reciprocal influence.
In this manner the nouns become to the deaf and dumb the signs of all the objects of nature; words, which indicate qualities, become thesigns of the accidents, variations and modifications which they perceive in objects. Mr. Sicard has made them comprehend, that qualities may be conceived of as detached from the object; whereby the adjective is far better defined than in the grammar written for youth, and by which means, also, he has so very rapidly led them to the science of abstraction. Besides, Mr. Sicard has made them conceive, that the qualities, which, in their eyes, appeared inherent in the objects, could be detached from them by thought; but then it was necessary to unite them to objects, and they themselves pointed out the necessity of the junction by a line. Mr. Sicard has taught them that, in all languages, this line is translated by a word affirming existence; in French, by the verb être; in English, by the verb to be. Tree--green, or tree is green, , has equally represented to their minds the object existing in conjunction with its quality, or the quality inherent in the object.
Mr. Sicard has thus made them understand the nature of the verb, and by making them afterwards comprehend that the verb could express either an existence, or an action present, past, or future, he has led them to the system of conjugation, and to all the shades of past and future, adopted iä all the various languages written or spoken; an admirable system, in which the influence of the genius and of the thoughts of ages is perceptible.
It is to this system, which embraces all possible combinations, and which unites all thoughts, that the language of the deaf and dumb accommodates itself with wonderful facility. The proofs of this assertion, given by Mr. Sicard's pupils, must astonish even the best informed men.
By the same method of proceeding from the known to the unknown, he has subsequently brought to the perception of his pupils, the characters, use, and influence of all the other words, which, as parts of speech, unite, modify, and determine the sense of the noun, the verb, and the adjective.
It is thus that at length Mr. Sicard has led his pupils to analysè with facility the simplest propositions, as well as the most complicată ed phrases and sentences, by a system of figures, which, by always distinguishing the name of the object which is either acting, or receiving the effect of an action, the verb and its government direct, indirect, or circumstantial, embraces and completely displays all the parts of speech.—The use of this method, when generally adopted, will simplify the rules of grammar in all languages, and facilitate, more than any other method, the understanding and translating, both of modern and ancient languages.
This is the way by which Mr. Sicard has initiated his pupils into the knowledge of all the rules of universal grammar, applicable to the primitive expression of signs, as well as to all spoken and written languages.
But names do not only express physical objects; there are some which represent abstract objects. Whiteness, greatness, beauty, heat, and many other words, do not express objects existing individually in nature, but ideas of qualities, common to several objects; qualities, which we consider detached from the objects to which they belong, and of which we make an intellectual substantive, created by the mind. -As soon as Mr. Sicard taught the deaf and dumb to comprehend that the will, which determines our senses and our thoughts, is not the action of a physical being, which can be seen and touched, he gave them a consciousness of their soul, and made them fit for society and for happiness. The affecting expression of their gratitude proves the extent of that benefit.
He advanced a step further, and the access to the highest conceptions of the human mind was opened to them. Mr. Sicard has found it easy to make them pass from abstract ideas to the most sublime truths of religion. They have felt that this soul, of which
they have the consciousness, is not a fictitious existence, is not an abstract existence created by the mind; but a real existence, which wills and which produces movement, which sees, which thinks, which reflects, which compares, which meditates, which remembers, which foresees, which believes, which doubts, which hopes, which loves, which hates. After this, he directed their thoughts towards all the physical existences submitted to their view through the immensity of space, or on the globe which we inhabit; and the regularity of the march of the sun and all the celestial bodies; the constant succession of day and night; the return of the seasons; the life, the riches and the beauty of nature ;-made them feel that nature also had a soul, of which, the power, the action, and the immensity, extend through every thing existing in the universe;a soul which creates all, inspires all, and preserves all. Filled with these great ideas, the deaf and dumb have prostrated themselves on the earth along with Mr. Sicard himself, and he has told them that this soul of nature is that God whom all men are called upon to worship, to whom our temples are raised, and with whom our religious doctrines and ceremonies connect us, from the cradle to the grave.
All was now done ; and Mr. Sicard found himself able to open to his pupils all the sublime ideas of religion, and all the laws of virtue and of morals.
You see by the above particulars, ladies and gentlemen, what Mr. Sicard has achieved for his pupils. Their replies to the ques. tions which have been proposed to them in France, sufficiently prove that they have run the career which I have above delineated. This career is that which a man, gifted with all bis senses, and who is to be instructed, ought alike to run. The arts and sciences belong to the class of physical or intellectual objects; and the deaf and dumb, like men gifted with all their senses, may penetrate them according to the degree of intelligence which nature has granted them, as soon as they have reached the degree of instruction which Mr. Sicard's system of teaching embraces and affords.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you will take the pains of reflect ing ever so little upon the excessive difficulties which this mode of instruction presents, without cessation, you will not believe, as many people in this country do, that a few years are sufficient, in order that a deaf and dumb person may be restored to society, and so acquainted with religion as to partake of it with benefit, and to render an account to himself of the reasons of his faith. You will notice, that the language of any people cannot be the mother tongue of the deaf and dumb born amidst these people. Every spoken language is necessarily a learned language for these unfortunate beings. The English language must be taught to the deaf and dumb, as the Greek or Latin
is taught, in the Colleges, to - the young Americans who attend the classes of this kind. Now, will you, ladies and gentlemen, give ydurselves the trouble of interrogating the Professors of the Colleges, and asking them the time required to put a pupil in a state to understand fully the Greek and Latin authors, and to write their thoughts in either of these languages, so as to make them understood by those who would speak these languages, then you would agree with me, that the Greek or Latin would not be more difficult to be taught to the deaf and dumb, than the English; and yet to teach the Greek and Latin in Colleges, the professors and pupils have, for a means of comparison, a language at hand, an acquired language, a mother tongue, which is the English language, in which they have learned to think; whereas the unfortunate deaf and dumb, in order to learn English, have not any language with which to compare it, nor any language in which they may have had the habit of thinking.These unfortunates have for their native language but a few ges, tures to express their usual wants, and the most familiar actions of life. The Abbé de L'Epée demanded for the education of a deaf and dumb person, ten years of constant labour; and yet, after this labour of ten years, none of his pupils had as yet attained the highest degree of perfection. Will this prove that ten years of study will be required, in order that the American deaf and dumb en. trusted to our care may finish their course of instruction ? No, ladies and gentlemen, for them what would be the benefit of the
per fection which Mr. Sicard has given to his method, and with whose system we are acquainted pretty well? I have the pleasure to inform you that the deaf and dumb of this country have very good natural talents, a great facility, an unusual ardour in learning, and an intensity of application which we have rather to moderate than to excite. The time which Mr. Sicard's illustrious predecessor thought necessary, will not then be required by us. From five to seven years only, is the time we wish they may pass with us, (especially if they come to the asylum young,) that they may truly improve in all the common branches of useful knowledge, after so painful and so hard a course of study, and that their teachers may see, with satisfaction, that they have not sowed on the sand.
What must I think of the vain presage which some people draw from certain accidents, purely fortuitous ! I compare these birds of good or bad augury, who imagine that the sight of deaf and dumb persons multiply them, with those weak minds who fear beginning a journey on Friday, or who believe that the meeting of a weasel, the overthrowing of a salt-box, and the salt spread on the table, bring an ill-luck; or who fear hobgoblins, or who say that when there are thirteen persons at table, one of them is to die in the course of the year?
Every creature, every work of God, is admirably well made; but if any one appears imperfect in our eyes, it does not belong to us to criticise it. Perhaps that which we do not find right in its kind turns to our advantage, without our being able to perceive it. Let us look at the state of the heavens: one while the sun shines, another time it does not appear; now the weather is fine, again it is unpleasant ; one day is hot, another is cold; another time it is rainy, snowy, or cloudy; every thing is variable and inconstant. Let us look at the surface of the earth : bere the ground is flat, there it is billy and mountainous; in other places it is sandy; in others it is barren; and elsewhere it is productive. Let us, in thought, go into an orchard or forest. What do we see? Trees high or low, large or small, upright or crooked, fruitful or unfruitful. Let us look at the birds of the air, and at the fishes of the sea, no thing resembles another thing. Let us look at the beasts. We see among the same kinds some of different forms, of different dimensions, domestic or wild, harmless or ferocious, useful or useless, pleasing or hideous. Some are bred for men's sakes; some for their own pleasures and amusements; some are of no use to us. There are faults in their organization as well as in that of men. Those who are acquainted with the veterinary art know this well; but as for us who have not made a study of this science, we seem not to discover or remark these faults. Let us now come to ourselves. Our intellectual faculties as well as our corporeal organization have their imperfections. There are faculties both of the mind and heart, which education improves; there are others which it does not correct. I class in this number idiotism, imbecility, dulness. But nothing can correct the infirmities of the bodily organization, such as deafness, blindness, lameness, palsy, crookedness, ugliness. The sight of a beautiful person does not make another so likewise, a blind person does not render another blind. Why then should a deaf person make others so also ? Why are we deaf and dumb? Is it from the difference of our ears ? But our ears are like yours; is it that there may be some infirmity? But they are as well organized as yours. Why then are we deaf and dumb? I do not know, as you do not know why there are infirmities in your bodies, nor why there are among the human kind white, black, red, and yellow men. The deaf and dumb are every where, in Asia, in Africa, as well as in Europe and America. They existed before you spoke of them, and before you saw them. I have read, in a certain account of Turkey, that the great Sultan knowing not what to do with the deaf and dumb of his empire, employed the most intelligent among them in playing pantomimes before his Highness. The fortytwo deaf and dumb who are here present, except four or six, had never seen each other before, and did not even imagine that there were any others besides themselves. Their parents probably imagined the same. It is not, then, the sight of them which can have produced them. I think our deafness proceeds from an act of providence; I would say from the will of God. And does it imply that the deaf and dumb are worse than other men? Perbaps if we heard, we might have heard much evil, and perhaps blasphemed the holy name of our Creator, and of course hazarded the loss of soul when departing this life. We therefore cannot but thank God for having made us deaf and dumb, hoping that in the future world the reason of this may be explained to us all.