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Educational IReprinte

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In reprinting this volume, our purpose is only to make avail-
able for all students of the education of mental defectives a book
of very great historical importance, not to guide such students in
estimating the truth or present worth of the body of ideas which
it presents. Hence there are no notes or editorial comments, and
the original text has been left unaltered except in the case of a
few obviously unintentional misprints. The descriptions of cases
appended to the original are here omitted.

Committee on Publications,


June, 1907.


Preface 5

Bibliography 7

Introduction 9

i st. Origin of the Methodical Treatment of Idiots 12

ad. History of the Physiological Method of Education 18


Definition 29

Cause 29

Circumstances in which it is produced 30

Endemic Idiocy 32

Idiocy, simple, of Central or Peripheral Origin 34

Pathology 34

Appearance in Infancy 39

Motor Symptoms 41

Sensorial Symptoms 43

Deficiencies of Speech and Intellect 46

Moral Sense 47

Comparison of Idiots with their Congeners 48

The Protection they need 53

The Anthropological Discoveries made and expected from the Study

of Idiocy 55


Method 57

Prevention of Idiocy 59

Treatment in Infancy 60

General Precepts 62

Where Education begins 62

System denned 67

Training of Movement 68

Two Immobilities 71

Locomotion 74

Prehension 77

Training of the Hand 81

Correction of Special Anomalies . 83

A few Apparatuses of Special Gymnastics 84

Imitation, Personal and Objective 89

Education of the Senses 93

Teaching the Speech 106

Teaching the Elementary Notions 115


Teaching Drawing, Writing, and Reading 120

Passive and Active, Individual and Group Teaching 125

Reading-matter 129

Object-lessons 131

Qualification, Actions, Relations, Numbers 132

Memory and Imagination 135

Rsum of the Method 139


History 148

Definition 1 49

Analysis 150

Authority and its Modes of Expression 152

Command, Immediate, Mediate, Contingent, etc 157

Moralization of Food, Labor, etc 164

Pleasures, Pains, and Affection 167

Socializing Idiots 170

Foundation of the Moral Treatment 170


Name 172

Buildings and Internal Arrangements 174

Out-door Resorts 182

Intellectual Institution 183

Selection of the Pupils 183

Their Number and Grouping 185

Officers, Attendants, Matrons 1 88

Teachers, Gymnasts, etc 191

Superintendent 193

What Society expects in return for the Foundation of the Institution
for Idiotic Children .201


Twenty years have passed away since the publication of
any treatise on the treatment of idiots.* This period has
been appropriately filled by the practical labor of founding
schools and endowing public institutions for these children.
The preceding period had been occupied by the framing of
the physiological method of education; and the next period
will be devoted to new studies on the subject.

This present time seems therefore particularly favorable
for the writing of a book embodying: ist, Our present knowl-
edge on idiocy; 2d, The method of treating idiots; 3d, The
practice of the same; and 4th, An outline of the direction to
be given to the scientific efforts of the friends of idiots, and
of the apostles of universal education.

Deprived of language by voluntary change of nationality,
and engaged in the fulfilment of private duties, we did not
take our share in the treatment of idiots in this Republic;
but we were never distant from the subject and we reentered
it as soon as circumstances permitted.

We accepted the hospitalities of the New York Institution
as one of our means of study. The superintendents of all the
schools for idiots, and one of their trustees, tendered their
assistance in the shape of liberal subscriptions ; William Wood
undertook the publishing, though knowing that it could not
be of pecuniary advantage; and Dr. E. C. Seguin revised the
work with the double object in view of saving its language
from our Gallicisms and from common-place corrections ;
cheerless task for any one but for a tender and dutiful son,
in doing which, he has fathered the last-born of the mind
of his father. Unhappily, towards the close of the work, it
became necessary, on account of his health, to leave for
Europe, so that the defects left therein will be ours.

NEW YORK, May, 1866.

* While these pages are passing through the press we are apprised of the publication o f
the treatises of Drs. Down, Duncan, and Millard, to which we are happy to give a place
in our bibliographic list.


1. Note Historique sur le Sauvage de L'Aveyron. Prof. Bonaterre,
Paris: 1799.

2. Discussions on the same subject between Pinel and Itard, before
the French Academy of Sciences. See Memoires: 1799.

3. De L'Education d'un Homme Sauvage. Itard. Paris: 1801.

4. Rapport sur le Sauvage de L'Aveyron. Itard. Paris: 1807.

5. Observations pour servir a 1'histoire de 1'Idiotie. Dans Les Maladies
Mentales, Esquirol. Paris: 1828.

6. Re'sume' de ce que nous avons fait pendant quatorze mois. Es-
quirol et Seguin. Paris: 1839.

7. Conseils a M. O., sur L'Education de son enfant idiot. E. Seguin.
Paris: 1839.

8. Theorie et Pratique de L'Education des Idiots (Lecons aux jeunes
idiots de L'Hospice des Incurables), premiere partie. E. Seguin:

9. Ditto. Seconde partie. Paris: 1842.

10. Hygiene et Education (extrait des Annales d' Hygiene et de Medi-
cine le"gale). E. Seguin. Paris: 1843.

11. De L'Idiotie chez les Enfants. Felix Voisin. Paris: 1843.

12. Essai sur L'Idiotie. Belhomme. Paris: 1843.

13. Goitre and Cretinism. Dr. Niepce. Paris: 1845.

14. Images Gradue"es a 1'usage des Enfants Arrie're's et Idiots. E. Seguin.
Paris: 1846.

15. Traitement Moral, Hygiene et Education des Idiots, etc. E. Seguin.
Paris: 1846.

1 6. Remarks, Theoretical and Practical, on the Education of Idiots
and Children of Weak Intellect. W. R. Scott, Ph.D. London:

17. J. R. Pereire, Analyse Raisonne"e de sa Me"thode. E. Seguin. Paris:

18. Idiocy, by Forbes Winslow. London: 1848.

19. Cretinism and its Treatment. Dr. L. Guggenbuhl. Berne: 1848.

20. Cause and Prevention of Idiocy. Dr. S. G. Howe. Boston, Mass.:

21. Report of the Commission created by the King of Sardinia for the
Study of Cretinism. Turin: 1850.

22. Researches on Idiocy and Cretinism in Norway. Dr. Stalst. Christ-
iania: 1851.

23. Statistic Studies on Idiocy. Hubertz. Copenhagen: 1851.

24. Die Heilung und Verhtitung des Cretinismus und Ihre Neuesten
Fortschritte. Dr. J. Guggenbuhl. Bern un St. Gallen: 1835.

25. Teaching the Idiot. Rev. Edwin Sidney, A. M. London: 1854.

8 Bibliography.

26. On the Possibility of Educating Idiot Children, etc. Dr. Erchricht.
Copenhagen: 1854.

27. Cretinism and Idiocy. Dr. Blackie. Edinburgh: 1855.

28. Idiot Training. Rev. Edwin Sidney. London: 1855.

29. Idiots and the Efforts for their Improvement. Dr. L. P. Brockett.
Hartford, Conn.: 1856.

30. Report of Commissioners on Idiocy in Connecticut. Dorchester,
Knight & Brockett: 1856.

31. Essay on Idiots' Instruction. Dr. Freedman Kern. Gohlis: 1857.

32. Handbook on Idiocy. James Abbot. London: 1857.

33. Die gegenwartige Lage der Cretinen, BlOdfinnigen und Idioten in
den Christlichen Landern. Julius Desselhoff. Bonn: 1857.

34. The Mind Unveiled. Dr. J. N. Kerlin. Phila.: 1858.

35. Two Visits to Earlwood Asylum for Idiots. Rev. Edwin Sidney,
A.M. London, 1859, 1861.

36. The Method of Drill, the Gymnastic Exercises, and the Manner of
Teaching Speaking used at Essex Hall, Colchester, for Idiots, Simple-
tons, and Feeble-minded Children. E. Martin Duncan, M.B. (Lond.).
London: 1861.

37. Some Suggestions on the Principles and Methods of Elementary In-
struction. Dr. H. B. Wilbur, Superintendent of the New York
State Asylum for Idiots. Albany, N. Y. : 1862.

38. Essay on Idiocy. Dr. Coldstream. Edinburgh: 1862.

39. The Idiot and His Helpers. W. Millard, Essex Hall, Colchester:

40. Lunacy and Law, together with Hints on the Treatment of Idiots.
P. E. D. Byrne, L.R.C.P., and M.R.C.S. London: 1864.

41. A Fete-day at Earlswood Asylum for Idiots, June, 1864. Rev.
Edwin Sidney. London: 1864.

42. The Training of Idiotic and Feeble-minded Children. Cheyne Brady,
Esq., M.R.I.H. Dublin: 1864.

43. Idiocy, its Diagnosis and Treatment by the Physiological Method,
etc. E. Seguin. Albany, N. Y. : 1864.

44. Idiot Asylums. In Edinburgh Review, No. CCXLIX. July: 1865.

45. A Treatise on Idiocy and its Cognate Affections. *J. Langdon H.
Down, M.D., Lond., Physician to the Asylum for Idiots. (In press.)

46. A Manual for the Classification, Training, and Education of the
Feeble-minded, Imbecile, and Idiotic. By P. Martin Duncan, M.B.,
Lond., F.G.S., F.A.S.L., Honorary Consulting Surgeon to the East-
ern Counties Asylum for Idiots and Imbeciles; and William Millard,
Superintendent of the Eastern Counties Asylum for Idiots and Im-

There have been, no doubt, many other valuable publications on the
subject; for instance, the Essays of Dr. J. Conolly and Dr. Twining, but
we have not been able to obtain them. To these must be added the An-
nual and other Reports of the various Institutions for Idiots in this
country and abroad.



Idiots have been educated in all times by the devotion of
kind-hearted and intelligent persons and with the best means
they could borrow from ordinary schools ; until the progress
of physiology opened the possibility of the adaptation of
its principles to the general training of children. But other
elements were mature. The right of all to education was
acknowledged if not yet fulfilled with the imperfect means
at command; the deaf and the blind were already instructed
by special methods; and several children, marked by nature,
accident, or crime, with the characters of idiocy, had been
subjected to physiological and psychological experiments.
Can idiots be educated, treated, improved, cured? To put the
question was to solve it.

There is a sort of mysterious upheaval of mankind in the
way new things spring up, which commands our awe. At
a given hour, anything wanted by the race makes its appear-
ance simultaneously from so many quarters, that the title of
a single individual to discovery is always contested, and
seems clearly to belong to God manifested through man. The
origin of the methodical treatment of idiots, though apparently
of secondary importance, is nevertheless one of these neces-
sary events, coming when needed for the co-ordination of
progress. Nothing can give a better instance of the simul-
taneity of feeling this new idea encountered, than the readi-
ness with which all nations encouraged the formation of
schools for idiots, and the unconcerted unanimity of lan-
guage elicited at the foundation of these establishments by
minds separated otherwise by vast intellectual distances.

It was our fortune to be a guest at one of these solemnities,
where individuals certainly spoke more the language of man-
kind than their own ; manifesting clearly wherefrom the spirit
of the occasion came. It was at the ceremony of the laying
of the corner-stone of the first school built expressly for

io Idiocy, and Its Treatment.

idiots in this country at Syracuse, New York, September
8, 1854.

The Rev. Samuel J. May began in these terms : " Twenty-
five years ago, or more, in the early days of my ministry, I
encountered, as every man who thinks at all must sooner
or later encounter, the great problem of the existence of
evil the question, how the Good God, the Heavenly Father,
could permit his children of earth to be so tempted, tried,
and afflicted as they are. I was unable to avoid this per-
plexing subject; so I met it as best I could, in full faith
that the wisdom and goodness of God will be justified in
all his works, and in all his ways, whenever they shall be
fully understood.

" I endeavored to lead my audience to see what, in almost
every direction, was very apparent to myself, that evil is a
means to some higher good; never an end; never permitted
for its own sake, certainly not for the sake of vengeance.

" I was able easily to trace out the good effects of many
evils; to show how they had stimulated mankind to exertion
and contrivance, physical and mental; to tell of the discov-
eries, inventions, and improvements that were the conse-
quences. In particular, I dwelt upon the sad privations
those individuals are subjected to who were born deaf or
blind. The institution of the Asylum for the Deaf and
Dumb, at Hartford, was then of recent date, and a school
for the blind was said to have been opened in Paris. These
institutions were then of great interest to the philanthropist;
and I found no difficulty in showing that the philosophy of
mind, and the science and art of education in general, had
been much improved by the earnest and successful endeavors
which benevolent persons had made to open communications
with the minds and hearts of persons deprived of one or more
of the most important senses.

" But there was idiocy idiocy so appalling in its appear-
ance, so hopeless in its nature; what could be the use of
such an evil? It were not enough to point to it as a conse-
quence of the violation of some of the essential laws of
generation. If that were all, its end would be punishment.
I ventured, therefore, to declare with an emphasis enhanced,
somewhat, perhaps, by a lurking distrust of the prediction,

Introduction. 1 1

that the time would come when access would be found to
the idiotic brain; the light of intelligence admitted into its
dark chambers, and the whole race be benefited by some new
discovery on the nature of mind. It seems to some of my
hearers, more than to myself, a daring conjecture.

" Two or three years afterwards I read a brief announce-
ment that in Paris they had succeeded in educating idiots.
I flew to her who would be most likely to sympathize in
my joy, shouting, ' Wife, my prophecy is fulfilled ! Idiots
have been educated ! ' .

When men are gathered together for a common purpose,
their object being common, their minds become blended;
they cease to think as many ; the same idea flows from all
brains. So was it at this ceremony. Dr. H. B. Wilbur, Gov.
W. Hunt, the Hons. E. W. Leavenworth, C. H. Morgan,
James H. Titus, the steadfast friends of the new institution,
spoke in the same strain. Letters from involuntary absentees,
Gov. J. C. Spencer, Simeon Draper, William H. Seward, breathed
the same spirit. Dr. S. G. Howe's happy words concluded:
" The institution whose foundation-stone is to be laid, will
be like a last link in a chain it will complete the circle of
the State's charities, which will then embrace every class
whose infirmities call for public aid. It has long included the
deaf mutes, the blind and the insane and it is now to include
the idiots a class far, far more deplorably afflicted than
either of the others.

" The ceremony will be fleeting and soon forgotten ; the
building itself will in time decay, but the institution will
last while the State lasts ; for when the people once recognize
the claim of any class of unfortunates, there is no fear of
their ever repudiating the debt of charity. The bonds lie
deep in the heart of humanity as the foundation-stone you
now lay lies deep in the bosom of the earth."

Even we, though a stranger, unable to appreciate the ele-
vated tone of these aspirations, were rendered capable of
expressing cognate feelings by the contagious influence of
the engrossing topic. We said, " God has scattered among
us, rare as the possessors of talent or genius, the idiot, the
blind, the deaf mute, in order to bind the talented to the
incapable, the rich to the needy, all men to each other, by

12 Idiocy, and Its Treatment.

a tie of indissoluble solidarity. The old bonds are dissolving ;
man is already unwilling to contribute money or palaces for
the support of indolent classes; but he is every day more
ready to build palaces and give annuities for the indigent
or infirm, the chosen friends of Jesus Christ. To see that
stone, token of a new alliance between humanity and a class
hitherto neglected, is the greatest joy of my life; for I, too,
have labored for the poor idiot. . . .

These were a few of the transient expressions of the lasting
feeling evinced at that memorable meeting. Once awakened
in our bosoms, these feelings live for ever, and our actions
are only their translation in deeds and monuments.

To render these feelings into facts, one nation after an-
other has acknowledged its duty towards the idiot. In
Switzerland, Dr. J. Guggenbiihl began to study cretinism
in 1839, and opened his school on the Abendberg in 1842,
simultaneously with that of M. Saegert, at Berlin; both, it is
said, without having any knowledge of our practice, or of
our four successive pamphlets on the treatment and education
of idiots, already published and exhausted. In 1846, Dr.
Kern established a school at Leipsig; and the writings of
Drs. A. Reed, Twining and J. Conolly gave birth to the
first English institution at Bath. In 1848, Sir S. M. Peto
devoted his own mansion, Essex Hall, Colchester, to the
same destination. Scotland opened her first institution in
1852; and in June, 1853, was laid by Prince Albert, the
corner-stone of the school of Earlswood, Surrey. Nearly all
the nations of Europe followed these examples.

As early as 1842-3, Horace Mann and George Sumner had
become familiar with our personal labors at Bicetre, on which
they wrote approvingly, sending over the seeds which soon
rose from American soil. Dr. S. B. Woodward, Dr. Backus,
of Rochester, New York, Judge Byington, Dr. S. G. Howe,
Dr. E. Jarvis, and Dr. H. B. Wilbur, all of Massachusetts,
were the first to move the public opinion of the Legislatures
of their respective States. Indeed, Dr. Backus went so far
as to report a bill to the Senate, at Albany, on the I3th of
January, 1846, for the purchase of a site, and the erection
of suitable buildings, for an asylum for idiots. This bill

Introduction. 13

passed the Senate, and was at first concurred in by the
Assembly, but subsequently rejected on political grounds.
In 1847 it met with a similar fate. Massachusetts, a few
days behind New York at the start, succeeded sooner. The
22d of January, 1846, the Hon. Mr. Byington offered a reso-
lution to the Legislature, for the appointment of a commis-
sion to investigate the condition of idiots in that State. The
resolution passed the House; Dr. S. G. Howe, Judge Bying-
ton, and G. Kimball were appointed Commissioners. Their
report was favorable to the formation of an experimental
school for idiots, which was opened in October of the same
year, and remains in its permanent organization under the
able supervision of Dr. Howe.

But private enterprise moves faster than political bodies.
Dr. H. B. Wilbur had already opened in July, at Barre, Massa-
chusetts, the private institution which he left only at the
call of the State of New York, and which Dr. George Brown
has since so successfully conducted.

In 1851, the State of New York established an experi-
mental school at Albany, for which the services of Dr.
Wilbur were secured. The result of this experiment, pur-
posely carried on under the eyes of the Legislature, was
so satisfactory that a permanent State institution was erected
in 1854.

In 1852, a private school had been founded in Germantown
by Mr. J. B. Richards, which soon became the " Pennsylvania
Training School for Idiots," at Media. The States of Con-
necticut and Ohio opened their institutions, respectively, in
1855 and 1857; Kentucky in 1860; and Illinois in 1865. Thus
the United States has eight of these schools, in which nearly
one thousand children are constantly in training. And this
is only a beginning. All the Western and Southern States
will soon possess similar establishments; and the city of
New York, with its immense suburbs, cannot much longer
send its idiots to the northern climate of Syracuse, depriving
them of the warmth of the sea-shore, and of the visits of their
friends. But more, New York city must have its institution
for idiots, because it contains the mature talents and growing
capacities in all the branches of human inquiry, whose con-

14 Idiocy, and Its Treatment.

course must be insured to perfect the method of treatment
of these children, and to deduce therefrom the important
discoveries justly expected in anthropology.

If we turn our attention from these monuments of philan-
thropy to the filiation of the abstract idea realized by their
erection, we see a spectacle more imposing still. That idea
of finding modes of training, natural and yet powerful enough
to bring into physiological activity impaired functions, and
even atrophied organisms, did not come directly into the
human mind. Like nearly all discoveries, it came by side-
views of the problem, till a man looking at it in full face
solved it by a mighty effort.

Thus the institutions for deaf mutes of Paris, Groningen,
Bordeaux, Hartford (Conn.), etc., have been cumbered from
their beginning with applications for the admission of idiots,
and have kept the record of the improvement of some of
them, educated side by side with the deaf, by the ordinary process
of teaching; trials dear to charity, like those of private indi-
viduals, but deprived of philosophical import. On the other
hand, how often children, rendered artificially idiotic or
imbecile by ill-treatment and isolation in many forms, have
excited the pity of their age, and thereby were made recipients
of the care of the most philosophical minds. Everybody will
discriminate between these two antecedents ; the former doing
good to individuals, the latter preparing the way for the

The record of these latter children is scant as well as
imperfect, extending to a period in which scientific obser-
vation was nearly unknown. We owe to the great Linnaeus
a list of ten of these phenomena which he, curiously enough,
considered as forming a variety in the genus Homo. We
are indebted to Bonaterre, Professor of Natural History in
the Central School of the Department of Aveyron, France,
for his quotation of it, for curious researches upon each one
of these ten savages, and for his own notice of the eleventh,
" The Savage of the Aveyron."' We transcribe from our own
copy of that extremely rare pamphlet.

ist. Juvenis Lupinus Hessensis. 1544. (A young man
found in Hesse among wolves.)

Introduction. 15

2d. Juvenis Ursinus Lithuanus. 1661. (A young man
found among bears in Lithuania.)

3d. Juvenis Ovinus Hibernus. Tulp. Obs. IV. (A young
man found among wild sheep in Ireland.)

4th. Juvenis Bovinus Bambergensis. Camerar. (A young
man found among herds of oxen near Bamberg.)

5th. Juvenis Hannoverianus. 1724. (A young man found
in Hanover.)

6th. Lueri Pyrena'ici. 1719. (Two boys found in the

7th. Puella Transisalana. 1717. (A girl found in the Dutch
Province of Over-Yssel.)

8th. Puella Campanica. 1731. (A girl found in Cham-
pagne and since named Mile. Leblanc.)

9th. Johannes Leodisensis. Boerhaave. (John of Liege.)

loth. Puella Karpfensis. 1767. (The girl of Karpfen.)

nth. Juvenis Averionensis. Anno Reipublicce Gallicoe
octavo. (The savage of the Aveyron, in the year eighth of
the French Republic.)

It would be curious, but unprofitable, to follow the scanty
traces of method and education left in the legends concern-
ing the ten first cases. " Such was," says Itard, " in those
remote times the defective march of studies, the mania of
explanation, the uncertainty of hypothesis, the exclusiveness
of abstract thinking, that observation was set at naught, and
these precious facts were lost for the natural history of man."
But the rooted faith in which Itard himself was an adept,
that if a true savage meaning a savage, savage even to
savage tribes could be found, his education would evidence
the natural springs of the human mind, obliterated in us by
artificial culture; that faith, which lighted before the psy-
chologist the same Ignis Fatuus that the philosopher's stone
raised before the alchemist, gives a sure guarantee that none

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Online LibraryEdward SeguinIdiocy: and its treatment by the physiological method → online text (page 1 of 19)