« PreviousContinue »
BY ABRAM V. COURTNEY,
HIMSELF TOTALLY BLIND.
WITH A MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR.
MIVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY
GIFT OF THE
NOV, 7, 1923
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1835, by
ABRAM V. COURTNEY, In the Clerk's Office of District Court of Massachusetts.
It is not to be expected that, debarred as I am, from the usual advantages of my fellow men, having no access to books, having no eye for the thousand ways and means by which other men obtain information and communicate it to others, that I should be able to communicate my thoughts in the very best manner, or clothe them in the elegance of style. Let him therefore, who is disposed to find fault with the simplicity of my ideas, or the roughness of my expressions, reflect, that they come from one to whom the grand avenue of intelligence is closed. Nevertheless, I flatter myself that what I have to say will not be wholly useless or unentertaining. I have observed, that men generally take an interest in matters relating to the blind, or others deprived of the ordinary means of communicating with their fellows. Whose name is better known to the scientific world, than that of Sanderson, the blind professor of mathematics. Who has obtained a greater degree of notoriety than the deaf, dumb and blind girl, Julia Brace. Such notoriety, I am willing to admit, is not at all enviable; but, nevertheless, the study of the means whereby persons so deprived gain knowledge, cannot be indifferent to any one who wishes to know and understand his own mind. It is not without its practical utility. The faculties are notoriously improved by exercise. Take a man who can see distinctly, and blindfold him, and he is almost perfectly helpless. He stumbles upon snares and into pits, he runs against obstacles. I do no such things. I can estimate distances, distinguish persons and demonstrate a perception of many matters, which, I have found is astonishing to those who are more favored by Heaven than I
The one eye
All this comes of the education of the ear, which, I think, is worth educating. If I communicate to others the means by which they may improve that sense, will it be said that my book, my life, or my example is in vain ? Shall I not at least put a staff into their hands, by which their darkling path may be guided. Suppose a seeing person should undertake to walk over the late Gardiner Green's estate in a dark night, would he not inevitably break his neck? I could do it, without fear or danger. When a man loses an arm, the other is increased in proportion, and has the strength of two.
of the one-eyed man has an augmented power of vision. I do declare that if it could so be that my sight could be restored at the expense of my hearing, I would not accept the offer.
People have sometimes deemed me an impostor, and have consequently treated me rudely, on account of the degree of perfection to which my ear has been cultivated. I forgive them, and wish any one who doubts the reality of my blindness, may try it by any test that does not involve bodily injury. Others have rebuked me for using my humble means of gaining an honest livelihood, saying that the public have made provision for the support of those who are made more or less helpless by the visitation of God. They seem to forget, or not to reflect, that the extinction of one faculty does not injure the others. If you prick a blind man, does he not bleed ?-if you tickle him, does he not laugh ?—if you treat him with contumely, does he not feel mortification and bitterness of heart ? Shall he not also have an honest pride ? If we were to see Mr. Daniel Webster, (to suppose an extreme case,) pedling pins and tape, we should despise him, not because that employment is dishonest or dishonorable, but because he did not improve the high abilities wherewith God has gifted him worthily—not because he did not do well, but because he did not do better. People are despised for being lazy, intemperate, unwilling to exert themselves, and willing to be a burthen to their friends ; but I never heard a man who had lost a leg reproached because he could not run as fast as his neighbors. The loss of a limb does not absolve us from the obligation to use those which
remain. The pension laws of the United States seem to countenance this doctrine. They require that the soldier who applies for a pension should produce a certificate from his regimental surgeon, stating the amount of the injury he has received, whether he is one fourth, one half, or totally disabled; clearly meaning that he is to do the best he can to support himself. Then, though I cannot shake the hall of Fanueil with the thunders of eloquence ; though I cannot wield the axe Ol' ply the oar, is it not more honorable in me to exert such faculties as I retain to procure a subsistence, than to lie a dead weight on the hands of my friends ?
To have done with this long preamble, I will proceed to relate the few principal events of my brief existence. I am now twenty-six years of age, am six feet in heighth, and in bodily power am not inferior tə my fellows. I was born in Albany, and am the child of respectable parents, in the middle walks of life. My father was bred to the seas and was the master of a vessel. He was an American born, and so was my mother. I am pure Yankee, as far as I can trace my ancestry. I was not born blind; but had the use of my eyes for several years, in as much perfection as any boy. At five
in consequence of an inflammation, which was brought about by a violent cold. I lost the sight of the other eye by violent means. It was put out while I was an apprentice, by a chip that flew from a log as I was splitting wood. In the first case, my illness was long and painful. Every thing was done for me that the skill of the faculty and the tender kindness of my parents could suggest, but the vision of that eye perished. I was not, however, aware of it till a year and a half afterwards. I seemed to see as well as before, and as the appearance of the optic was very little changed, no one noticed the defect for a long time. mother was the first to perceive that anything was the matter, and it was then that I became acquainted with my misfortune. However, I felt no inconvenience from it, as far as I can recollect, until I lost the other eye.
When I was young, my parents left Albany, and removed