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In the Christian Observer for October last, p. 646, is the following sensible and well-written
article on a very interesting subject. Judging from internal evidence alone, we have no hesitation in attributing the piece to our highly respected countryman, Mr. Gallaudet, superiotendent of the Connecticut Asylum for the Deaf and Duob.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. Is the number of your publication for August, 1818, are some remarks on the “Expediency of teaching the Deaf and Dumb to articulate." I am glad to see that you do not consider any field of benevolent effort beneath your regard, and that you are anxious to do good even to such humble and uncomplaining sufferers as the deaf and dumb. I have always felt a deep interest in these lonely heathen of a Christian land;" and, because I have had very dear friends in this helpless condition, I have endeavored to make myself familiarly acquainted with the modes of their instruction, and even at length to venture so far as to attempt, perhaps in a very imperfect manner, to teach a few of them according to the general outlines of the system pursued by the Abbe' Sicard, whose works on this subject I have studied with deep interest and attention. I was forcibly struck with a remark in the article to which I have alluded in these words: “There is really no more intrinsic connexion between written and spoken words and ideas, than between signs and ideas: indeed, the language of the deaf and dumb is abundantly more significant than any other, inasmuch as it denotes that change which takes place in our bodies and countenances, by the movements of the soul; and so far as intellectual processes bear any analogy to the motions of matter, it shadows forth this analogy in very striking and significant emblems."
This is so true, Mr. Editor, that I think it almost capable of demon. stration, that the deaf and dumb can learn the English, or any other language, only just so far as their own native language of signs is employed as a medium of interpretation. No sounds can be addressed to their ear. If a written or articulate word is addressed to their eye, it must, previous to explanation by signs, be perfectly unintelligible. If I utter the word “hat,” or write it, there is no analogy between either the spoken or written sign and the object; but if I describe, in the native language of the deaf and dumb, this object by appropriate signs, my meaning is at once understood. My pupil has never known the meaning of the word “power." I VOL. XVI.
speak it, and bid him observe the motion of my lips; or I write it, and bid him mark the different letters which compose it, in either case, its import is completely hidden from him. But I pourtray by his own expressive language of signs a huge rock, and a mighty man lifting this rock and hurling it on his antagonist, and then tell him that this is power, and he comprehends me. How shall I give him the import of the word "admiration?” I describe by signs a lofty edifice, I raise one stone upon another to a great height, I adorn it with all the magnificence and beauty of architecture, 1 describe myself as approaching it, I look at it, I pourtray my feelings in my countenance, and by the position of my body and the motions of my hands, I ask hini, "Did you ever feel so?" "Yes." "Well, this is admiration."
I am anxious to lay the foundation of his moral and religious instruction; and before I can proceed, he must become familiar with the import of the terms "good and evil.” Yesterday I saw him angry with his companion; I recal the circumstances of the scene by appropriate signs; 1 pourtray the emotion of anger in my countenance. I point to himself as having indulged the same emotion in his own breast. With a look of inquiry, and expressing by my features and gestures the marks of approbation, I demand whether in that state of feeling he deserved approbation. His conscience furnishes the reply, and he shakes bis head. I tell him that state of feeling was "evil.” I refer to some common acquaintance with whom we are very familiar; I imitate by my looks and gestures lis peculiar kindness of deportment. I describe one act of this kindness which my pupil witnessed. Again, I inquire if this deserved approbation. He assents, and I tell bim such a state of feeling was “good."
I might multiply examples of this kind without number, all of which Would go to prove, that it is impossible, from the very nature of the Case, to teach the deaf and dumb the import of any word except through the medium of signs. It is true, that so far as the meaning of words can be communicated by definitions, so far the pupil may learn by this help; but then the words which compose the definition must have previously been explainod by signs. To prevent mistakes, I ought, perhaps, before this to have observed, that by signs, I mean, not any alphabet on the fingers, which is as purely arbitrary as either written or spoken language; but all that can be expressed by the various changes of the countenance, attitudes of the body and Jimbs, delineation of visible objects by the hands; and all the varieties of pictures and paintings. And this language of signs is significant, copious, perspicuous, and precise, to a degree which I believe would surprise any one, who devotes attention enouglı to become familiar with it. It describes with more rapidity and accuracy than written or spoken language, every object which is addressed immediately to any one of the bodily senses. It pourtrays with a peculiar vividness and beauty all scenes and transactions which are presented solely to the eye. In truth my mind has been more agitated by a description of the day of judgment, which I have seen my ingenious friend Mr. -, who, you know, is deaf and dumb, exhibit in his own native language of signs, than by the loftiest flights of eloquence, which are to be found in the pages of Massillon or Bossuet. He was the judge, and I trembled before him. He was the accepted disciple of Christ, and I almost felt
the rapture which the “Come ye blessed” will inspire. He was the impenitent sinner, and I shuddered with horror at the yawning gui beneath his feet.
Language is but the excitement which gives imagination its force, and memory its power. Signs are as capable of doing this as well under one shape as another; because their use is predicated entirely on the supposition that the thing signified is previously known. Make out an analysis of any term whatever, and resolve it into its radical meaning; in other words ascertain the simple ideas which form the complex one which it denotes. The simple ideas are either derived fron sensation or reflection, either from what the mind notices through the organs of the body, or from what with its own intellectual eye it discovers to be its own phenomena.
Now all these simple ideas can most easily be expressed by the signs of the deaf and dumb; and hence it is that by a suitable arrangement and combination of these signs, there is no term, physical, intellectual, or moral, which they cannot express.
It is only some months since that I witnessed an interview of several hours between my deaf and dumb friend Mr. and a young Chinese, who was quite ignorant of the English language, and also of the language of signs and gestures. Mr.
began to talk to him in his language of signs. The Chinese was at first lost in amazement: but not one balf hour had elapsed before a rapid conversation ensued between them, in which Mr. ascertained many interesting circumstances respecting the birth-place, parentage, occupation and life of the stranger, and also learned the import of nearly twenty Chinese words, some of which denoted quite complex and abstract ideas.
A few days since, a deaf and dumb man, of thirty years of age, visited me. He came from a distance, and was entirely ignorant of written language. I soon ascertained all the important circumstances of his situation in life. I then attempted to ask him, by precisely the same signs which I use among my pupils, if he knew any thing of the spirituality and immortality of the soul. He said his wife had taught him: he pointed to his body and then to the grave, he breathed and drew as it were his breath from his mouth with his hand, and said it would go upwards.--I pray with my pupils morning and evening by signs. This man was present at our devotions. During one of my prayers I described by signs the influence of the Spirit of God in cleansing the heart.
The sacceeding day he referred to our evening prayer; and “what did you mean," said be, aby washing your heart?” I explained it to him by signs, and he seemed well to comprehend me. He conversed without the least difficulty with the other pupils on all common subjects, and told me one day, that one of them did not understand the truth that God sees every thing. This he did by forming a ball with his hand. Then he told me, stretching his look and other hand to a great distance and in various directions, that his clenched hand represented the world. Then he pointed upwards and described some one as looking down upon this ball, and as looking through it, and round it, and sceing every part of it.
From these remarks I derive one simple conclusion, that more instruction can be communicated to the deaf and dumb, in a given
space of time, through the medium of signs, than by any other moans. Ti, then, the cultivation of the powers of the intellect and the affections of the heart, so that the one may be led to love truth after the other has apprehendeil it, be the grand aim of all correct systems of education; it would seem that the principal object towards which the efforts of an instructor of the deaf and dumb should be directed, ought to be the cultivation of the language of signs, and the use of it in his daily intercourse with his pupils.
Just so much time, therefore, as is employed in teaching the deaf and dumb to attempt to articulate, is comparatively lost: for it affords to their minds no new acquisitions of thought; it only furnishes them with one additional way of communicating their ideas; and if the same time and immense labor were expended upon their instruction in new ideas, by the language of signs, they would make much more rapid progress in the atiainment of knowledge.
This language of signs is capable of a beautiful though complicated philosophical arrangement; and much as sume of the English critics have censured the Abbe' Sicard's system of signs as unnecessarily prolix, and savoring too much of metaphysical subtlety, I am satisfied, from my actual application of it to the minds of the deaf and dumb, that it is founded in nature, and that its general principles correspond with an admirable exactness, to those laws of the human mind, which have of late been so ably developed and defended by one whose name alone I need mention, Dugald Stewart, to revive in the breast of every lover of true philosophy the most profound admiration of exalted talents, and the most grateful remembrance of those talents adorned, in their exercise, with that simplicity, and candor, and modesty which always attend real greatness or soul.
As this language of signs is capable of becoming a vehicle of all important religious truth, and as this truth can thus be communicated to the deaf and dumb long before they are able to read and write the English language correctly; another powerful reason is thus furnished for its cultivation and use. I find no difficulty, in the course of eighteen months, in conveying to the mind of an intelligent pupil all the essential doctrines and important facts of the sacred Scriptures, and of conversing on all the common topics of Christian experience. It is found, too, to be quite practicable to conduct the morning and evening devotions of the family by mere signs. Our prayers are extemporaneous, with a short pause between each petition, which affords the pupils, who stand around the organ of their communication with heaven, an opportunity of offering up mentally what is thus distinctly addressed to their understanding through the medium of sight.
Insulated as they are from all the rest of mankind, they can, thus, soon have the Gospel proclaimed to them; and if the salvation of the soul is an object paramount to all others, it should seem, that in all institutions for the instruction of the deaf and dumb, no time should be lost in pursuing such a method of communication, as will the soonest enable the teacher to make the interesting subjects of his care acquainted with the consoling doctrines of the pardon of sin through the blood of Jesus Christ.
I will only add, that this consideration should deeply engage the attention of all, who are concerned in the manageinent and instruction of asylums for the deaf and dumb; for their responsibility is great indeed. I shall take an early opportunity of adding a few further remarks on the subject of teaching oral language to the deaf and dumb, by way of reply to the sentiments of one of your corresponda ents in your number for December, 1818.
For the Panoplist.
ON A DEATH-BED REPENTANCÉ.
In what way should a minister treat the appearance of such a repentance?
The cases of real penitence on a death-bed, are probably much fewer than is commonly supposed. We cannot certainly determine beforehand, that God will not make many fit subjects for his kingdom at the close of life.
But the analogy, both of the natural and moral world, is against the supposition. The springing blade does not come at once to maturity, nor does the ripening fruit assume in a moment its delicious flavor. So a great proportion of those, who become the friends of God, are renewed in early life. Besides, the thief on the cross is the only instance, wbich the Bible furnishes, of a repentance in the hour of dissolution.
That many, who thought they had repented on a sick-bed, were mistaken, is evident from the fact, that when health returned, their religion was no more. The vows, which they made to devote their lives to God, were forgotten, and their goodness proved like the . morning cloud and early dew.
The minister, when he enters the sick chamber, should bear these things in mind. He should consider the responsibilities of his office, the great danger, that they, who profess to be penitent, are deceived.
Before him lies one, who, in health, disregarded the Gospel. The mild accents of mercy did not melt his obdurate heart; the terrors of the law did not make him tremble; the thunders of Sinai did not make him afraid. But when at length disease scizes upon him, and death stalks before him, he begins to reflect upon his situation. A retrospect of the past fills him with alarm. He looks forward into eternity, and all is dark and gloomy. In imagination, he stands at the mouth of the pit, looks down into the abyss, and the sight overwhelms him with horror.
Something must be done. The pleasures of the world have vanished. Religion is his last and only resort. He is convinced, that without this his perdition is inevitable. But all this alarm, excited by apprehensions of future misery, may originate in mere selfishness. It may, or it may not, result in genuine penitence.
What then is the minister's duty? The heart he cannot know. He sees that the bosom, lately disturbed with distressing fears and apprehensions, has become tranquil, But he is ignorant, whether the light which now shines upon the soni, is the twilight of everlasting day,” or that which will soon go out in rothe blackness of darkness."