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The Mississippi Institution For The Education Of The Deaf And Dumb

Creator: J.R. Dobyns (author)
Date: 1893
Source: Available at selected libraries
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 2  Figure 3

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THE first mention of the deaf that has been found in any of the State records is in the message of Governor A. G. McNut, sent to the legislature January 5, 1841.


In giving some statistics he says: "There were in the State on June 1, 1840, free white persons deaf and dumb, 69; colored persons deaf and dumb and blind, 118,"


It does not appear that he made any recommendation looking to the establishment of an institution for their education, or that any member of the legislature introduced a bill to that end.


No reference has been found to this subject from that date till the meeting of the legislature in 1852, when Governor James Whitfield made the following recommendation, viz :


"One other institution of a kindred character -referring to the Lunatic Asylum and Institution for the Blind- is still wanted to complete the list of noble charities so characteristic of Southern generosity; I refer to the asylum for the deaf and dumb.


"The poor mute who is permitted to gaze upon the beauties of nature, but whose ears are forever closed to the sweet melody Providence has ordained to gladden the human heart, and whose tongue has never learned to hold social converse with his fellow-creatures or even unite in praises to the Most High, is a subject to claim our most anxious solicitude and prompt us to some action to ameliorate his condition, whilst he can only be taught to appreciate the bounties of Providence and the scheme of redemption by teaching him to read. Let us not withhold from him this exalted privilege so fraught with happiness to all who enjoy its benefits; and whilst he can only converse with his fellow-creatures and enjoy that social intercourse so necessary to the happiness of all by learning to write, let us do something towards unstopping the ears of the deaf and making the dumb to speak through the medium of the pen.


"I would, therefore, recommend that a small appropriation be made, similar to the one made for the benefit of the blind, in order to employ a teacher or teachers and found a school for the benefit of this class of our people, which may be changed or enlarged as circumstances may hereafter require. And with this additional institution the people of Mississippi may justly feel that they have done everything that could be done by legislative enactment to educate the poor and ameliorate the condition of the suffering and afflicted.


"In view of the intimate connection between this and the Institution for the Blind, I respectfully suggest that the two might be blended under one general supervision, thereby lessening the expense to the State without detriment to either."


This recommendation was followed by the introduction of a bill in the House of Representatives, at that session, by Mr. Jones, a representative from Pontotoc county, establishing an institution for the instruction of the deaf and dumb at or near the town of Pontotoc, in Pontotoc county. This bill went to its third reading in the House, when a "rider " was tacked to it, making the institution a department of Oakland College, a flourishing male college in this State at that time. This rider seems to have killed the bill on its final passage. At the session of the legislature in 1854 a similar bill was introduced in the Senate by Mr. Webb, senator from Pontotoc. This "bill was killed " in the house of its friends, and it seems the energetic representatives from Pontotoc gave up the idea of securing this prize.


On Tuesday, February 7, 1854, Col. Erasmus R. Burt, a member of the House of Representatives, and the father of the Mississippi Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb, offered the following resolution, which was adopted, to wit:


Resolved, That the Committee of Education is hereby instructed to inquire into the expediency of enlarging the buildings of the Blind Institute so as to furnish apartments for the education of the deaf and dumb, and report by bill or otherwise.


Col. Burt was a prominent and influential member from Oktibbeha county, and at that session was not only a member of the Committee of Education, but was the chairman of the Committee on Claims, the first in the list of committees.


It will be seen that, instead of this being an asylum or a refuge for the deaf, its very origin was in the idea of education, and every recommendation, act, and resolution had in view the education of the deaf, making it purely an educational institution.


On Wednesday evening, February 22, 1854, just fifteen days after the introduction of that resolution, Col. Burt, from the Committee of Education, made the following report, to wit:


Mr. SPEAKER: The Committee on Education have had under consideration the resolution of the House instructing them to enquire into the expediency of establishing an institution for the education of the deaf and dumb, and have instructed me to report the following bill, and recommend that it do pass.


The report was received; the bill was read the first time and passed to the orders of the day. On the morning of the 28th of February Col. Burt called up this bill, and it was made the special order for that evening at 7 o'clock. When the hour arrived, on motion of Mr. Newman, of Warren county, the special order was taken up. The House resolved itself into committee of the whole, considered the bill, and reported it back without amendment and recommended its passage. The report was received and agreed to and the bill was read the third time. Mr. Liddell moved an amendment by way of a rider. The rider was read the first, second, and third times and passed. The question was then taken on the passage of the bill and rider and decided in the affirmative by the following vote :

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