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New York State Asylum For Idiots, Second Annual Report Of The Trustees

Creator: n/a
Date: February 10, 1853
Source: Steve Taylor Collection

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May we not feel certain (even when the most moderate anticipations only are allowed us), that each grade of idiocy will pass by such educational process into grades higher?


May we not confidently hope, that some of these children upon whom the stamp of idiocy has been set by an erroneous public opinion, will pass in the future, and as the direct result of our labors, beyond the line of social disability, the line between idiocy and ordinary human intelligence?


It may be well to state, here, that the means by which thus much has been already accomplished, have not exceeded the expectations of the originators of the asylum, nor the resources appropriated to the objects from the State treasury. I have all confidence in the sufficiency of our funds to carry us through the two years for which the appropriation was made, beside leaving us, at the end of that period, with some $2,000 worth of furniture and stock.


With this experience as to the practicability of educating idiots, practicability as relating to the object, and the expense of accomplishing that object, there remains a question for your consideration, at this time, relating to the future condition and success of this asylum.


Two legislative years have elapsed since a law was passed establishing the New-York asylum for idiots, and making provision for its support for the space of two years, the extent of the constitutional power of the Legislature. To you was entrusted the carrying out of the provisions of that act. Scarcely had six months elapsed, when, as a result of your suggestion, in the first annual report, of our having room for a few more pupils, and after an opportunity, very generally improved, had been afforded to the members of the two Houses and our citizens, for the personal inspection of the commencement of our labors, an additional appropriation was made. This addition was for the support of a number of pupils, to the very extent of the buildings which we now occupy. The expectation of the Legislature originating the asylum, and of the succeeding one, was, that if, at the expiration of the two years, the reasonable hopes of the friends of the institution should have been fulfilled, then should it be placed upon a more permanent basis, a scale more commensurate with the wants of the class for whom it was designed.


To you, as I have before mentioned, was entrusted the guardianship of the asylum, and in your testimony as to the success of the experiment, and your reasonable recommendations as to future State provisions, it may be, with propriety assumed, that future Legislatures will repose great confidence. The very constitution of the board is designed to give importance and force to any opinion or recommendation that should emanate from its members; consisting as it does of gentlemen, well known throughout the State, and residing near the asylum, and of some of the leading State officers, representing other portions of the State, and who might add to the influence of private character, the weight of official dignity.


It is for me only to present the facts at this time, and to make such suggestions, for your consideration, as would naturally occur to me from my experience in the education of idiots.


You understand, better than I possibly can, the deep-seated nature of the principle relating to public charitable institutions that has pervaded every successive Legislature for more than thirty years, and which has made New-York pre-eminent in acts of public benevolence and philanthropy. You, always resident in the State, and conversant with her legislative history, have witnessed the growth of this principle, from its first manifestation in a partial assistance to institutions of that character, founded by private endowments, till by successive steps they have learned to lean, almost entirely, and with full confidence, on the strong arm of the State for support.


You understand, equally well, how, from the very nature of our free institutions, the obligation springs on the part of government, to care and provide for those wants of its subjects, the supply of which, are beyond the reach of private ability. Nor is that obligation diminished, but rather increased by the low degree, the infirmity, or the affliction of the subject.


Education, the highest want of any individual in a Republican State, becomes a necessity when he is thrown without the pale of society by any infirmity of his nature: when deprived of any organ of sense, as in the case of the deaf mute and the blind, or when the reasoning faculty is measurably undeveloped, as in the case of idiots.


You understand, too, that such an asylum as ours, furnishes the only means of development to a class that can never be benefited by ordinary methods of education; the only means of enlarging their capacities for useful occupation and rational enjoyment, and the only means for removing or diminishing their disabilities for ordinary human relations.


You will appreciate the bearing of the fact, that idiots, for the most part, must be supported somewhere at public expense, if not in a State institution; and when they are not thus provided for, the burden of their support and care often falls heavily upon those who, from pecuniary and other reasons, are not adequate to it.

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