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Committee Of The Connecticut Asylum For The Education And Instruction Of Deaf And Dumb Persons (1817)

Report Of The Committee Of The Connecticut Asylum For The Education And Instruction Of Deaf And Dumb Persons Creator: 1817

Introduction: The founders of the Connecticut Asylum—like most educators of the deaf during the antebellum years—saw their primary goal as saving the souls of deaf children. This goal reflected the influence of the Second Great Awakening and, in particular, religious reformers’ hope that social reforms would help to bring about the Millennium.

Editor’s Note: This is an Abridged Text of the Report.  It does not include names and ages of the residents or the audit of expenses.


IT will be very gratifying to the patrons and friends of this institution to learn, that through the blessing of a kind providence, [View Annotation Text Below – 1 »] its doors are now opened, notwithstanding the numerous obstacles and disappointments which have been encountered from the commencement of our labours. A numerous and interesting family of the unfortunate are already assembled, and we behold those minds which were like a waste hedged about with thorns, now yielding to the cultivation of science, and daily affording promise of abundant intellectual improvement. Are any still skeptical on the subject of promoting the happiness of the deaf and dumb by education? Let them visit the Asylum, and behold the social circle in the evening hour, delighted in exhibiting those first rudiments of learning which they have already acquired. And let the Christian look forward with a humble hope, that many of these immortal souls may not only be rescued from intellectual darkness, but that they may also be brought to a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, and finally be found among the redeemed of the Lord. It cannot be expected that any very interesting details respecting the pupils, should at this time be communicated: but it may be of use to record, in a very brief manner, the origin and progress of that institution, which takes the lead in this western world, in the instruction of those who have hitherto remained neglected and forgotten.

About two years since, seven persons met in this city, and appointed a committee to solicit funds to enable Mr. Gallaudet to visit Europe, for the purpose of qualifying himself to become an Instructor of the deaf and dumb. The generous promptitude with which means were furnished, put it in his power to embark soon after for England. Not meeting with a satisfactory reception at the London Asylum, he went to Edinburgh. [View Annotation Text Below – 2 »] Here new obstacles arose from an obligation which had been imposed upon the institution in that city, not to instruct teachers in the art for a term of years; thus rendering unavailing the friendly desires of its benevolent instructor, and the kind wishes of its generous patrons. After these repeated disappointments and discouragements, in which, however, let us behold a providential hand, Mr. Gallaudet departed for Paris, where he met with a very courteous and favourable reception from the Abbe Sicard, [View Annotation Text Below – 3 »] and soon commenced his course of lessons in the establishment over which that celebrated Instructor presides. An arrangement made with Mr. Laurent Clerc, himself deaf and dumb, one of the professors in the institution of Paris, and well known in Europe as a most intelligent pupil of his illustrious master, enabled Mr. Gallaudet to return to his native country, with this valuable assistant, much sooner than had been expected. By this circumstance, a new zeal in the cause was excited, in some measure commensurate with the more favourable auspices under which the interests of our Asylum now appeared. They arrived in this place in August last, and soon after visited some of our large cities, for the purpose of soliciting funds for the establishment; with what success, may be learned by referring to the treasurer’s account connected with this report. Many instances of individual munificence will be found recorded in the list of donations. The patrons of this institution need not our thanks: they have a higher gratification in the reflection, that they have contributed to the means which are now using, for shedding light upon many an immortal mind, which, but for their munificence, might otherwise have remained in darkness. We solicit their prayers that the means they have furnished may be so blessed as to promote the cause of Christ, and the eternal welfare of those who are here benefited by their bounty.

In May, 1816, the legislature of this state passed an act incorporating this institution; and in October last, made a grant of five thousand dollars in aid of its funds.

The establishment was opened on the 15th April, and it already contains upwards of twenty pupils, whose names are subjoined to this report. A number of them are of full age, some of whom have expressed much interest at the attempts which have been made, as yet in a very imperfect manner, to explain to them some of the simplest doctrines of revelation. When we look back we have surely cause for abundant gratitude to God for what has already been accomplished: and although we have to lament that our means are altogether inadequate to the support and instruction of those pupils who are in indigent Circumstances, [View Annotation Text Below – 4 »] let us look forward with humble confidence that HE, by the word of whose power the dumb spake, can prepare the way before us, and will, if he see fit, make use of this Asylum as an instrument, not only to increase the temporal happiness of those who may become the objects of its care, but to communicate to them a knowledge of himself, as their only Saviour, and of those mansions of rest, where all will equally rejoice in the participation of happiness without imperfection, and without end.

Hartford, June 1st, 1817.



HENRY HUDSON, Committee.

An Act to incorporate the Connecticut Asylum, for the education and instruction of Deaf and Dumb persons.

1. BE it enacted by the Governour and Council and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, That John Caldwell, Nathaniel Terry, Daniel Wadsworth, Mehitable Wadsworth, Susan Tracy, Ward Woodbridge, Henry Hudson, Daniel Buck, Mason F. Cogswell, Joseph Battell, William H. Imlay, Charles Sigourney, David Porter, David McKinney, Isaac Bull, Thomas S. Williams, John Morgan, Samuel Tudor, Jr. John Butler, George Goodwin, John Beach, James Ward, Roswell Bartholomew, George Smith, Joseph Rogers, Moses Tryon, Jr. Nathan Strong, Jr. Charles Seymour, James H. Wells, Jonathan W. Edwards, William W. Ellsworth, William Watson, Russel Bunce, Eliphalet Terry, Seth Terry, Lynds Olmsted, Thomas Lloyd, James B. Hosmer, Joseph Trumbull, Samuel Tinker, Horace Burr, Russel Talcott, Christopher Colt, Eliphalet Averill, Nathaniel Patten, Joseph Wells, William Ely, Spencer Whiting, Barzillai Hudson, Jr. Jonathan Law, George Goodwin, Jr. Daniel Crowell, Charles Goodwill, Michael Shepherd, Caleb Goodwin, Dudley Buck, Aaron Chapin, Jared Scarborough, Barzillai Hudson, Jacob Sargeant, Peter Thatcher, Talcott Wolcott, Nathaniel Spencer, and their associates be, and they hereby are formed into, constituted and made, a body politic and corporate, by the name of “The Connecticut Asylum for the education and instruction of Deaf and Dumb persons,” and by that name they and their successors shall, and may have perpetual succession: shall be capable of suing, and being sued, pleading, and being impleaded in all suits of what nature soever, may have a common seal, and may alter the same at pleasure, and may also purchase, receive, hold and convey, any estate real or personal, the annual income of which shall not exceed five thousand dollars.

2. And be it further enacted, That the said Asylum may from time to time, elect a President, and such other officers as they may find necessary or convenient, may elect additional members, and the said Asylum may make bylaws, respecting the number, qualifications, and duties, of their officers; the mode of election and admission of members, the time, place, and manner of holding their meetings, and the number necessary to make a quorum, and all other by-laws which they may deem necessary for the due regulation of said Asylum, not repugnant to the laws of this State or of the United States.

3. And be it further enacted, That the first meeting of said Asylum be held at the State-House in Hartford, on the second Monday of June next.

4. And be it further enacted, That this act or any part thereof, if found inadequate, or inconvenient, may be altered, amended, or repealed.

General Assembly, May Session, 1816.

of the House of Representatives.


Attest. THOMAS DAY, Secretary.


At a Meeting of the Connecticut Asylum for the education and instruction of Deaf and Dumb persons, held at the State House in Hartford, 24th June 1816.

JOHN CALDWELL, Esq. Chairman. HENRY HUDSON was chosen Secretary pro. tem.

The following articles were adopted as by-laws for the government of the Society.

Art. 1. The Connecticut Asylum for the education and instruction of Deaf and Dumb persons, shall be established in the town of Hartford.

Art. 2. The annual payments of five dollars shall constitute the person who has paid since the act of incorporation, or shall hereafter pay that sum, a member of the Society, for the year commencing at the annual meeting next subsequent to such payment: and the payment of fifty dollars, a member for life. The payment of one hundred dollars, shall constitute the person who has, or shall hereafter pay that sum, a Director for life, and the payment of two hundred dollars, a Vice-President for life.

Art. 3. The Society shall annually choose ten Directors, who together with the Directors for life, shall manage the concerns of the Society. They shall choose a Clerk for the year. The Clerk shall record the doings of the board, and lay them before the Society at their annual meeting.

Art. 4. The Society shall annually choose a President, eight Vice-Presidents, a Treasurer, and Secretary, who shall be ex-officio, additional Directors of the Society. At every meeting of the Society, or of the board of Directors, the President, or in his absence a Vice-president shall preside, or in the absence of both, a chairman to be chosen for that purpose. The Secretary shall keep a record of the transactions of the Society, and correspond in their name. All the officers of this Society shall be chosen by ballot.

Art. 5. The Treasurer shall keep the accounts of the Society, receive the monies, pay the orders of the Directors and report to the Society the state of their funds at the annual meeting, present his accounts to the board of Directors when requested, and procure on accepting his office, bonds to the satisfaction of the board, for the faithful execution of his trust.

Art. 6. The stated annual meeting of the Society shall be holden in the City of Hartford, on the first Saturday after the second Thursday of May. It shall be the duty of the Secretary to call a special meeting of the Society, at the request of five of the Directors. Notice of all meetings of the Society shall be given in two news-papers printed in Hartford, at least two weeks previous to the proposed meeting.

Art. 7. The Directors shall meet in Hartford ten days after they shall have been chosen, and then by their own adjournments through the year. A majority of the board or six annual Directors with such other Directors as may be present, shall constitute a quorum for business; but in case a quorum of the board does not meet, the President, a Vice-president, the Secretary, or in their absence, the members present may adjourn the meeting to some future date.

Art. 8. Alterations and amendments in these articles may he made by a majority of the members present, at an annual meeting of this Society, or at a special meeting of the Society called for the purpose, and at no other.

Art. 9. A meeting of the Directors may at any time be called by the President, or in his absence by a Vice-President, giving ten days notice, by publishing the same in one of the newspapers in the City of Hartford.


1. Mason Cogswell and other backers of the asylum raised thousands of dollars from private donors and obtained thousands more via a charter from the state of Connecticut.

2. Thomas Gallaudet visited the Braidwood Academy in Edinburgh, which was a for-profit school that focused on teaching deaf children to speak.

3. Sicard was the foremost educator of the deaf in France. Unlike the Scots, Sicard taught his students using sign language.

4. The asylum eventually began admitting students whose families could not pay tuition or room and board. State funding paid for such students.

Source: American School for the Deaf, Publisher: Hudson and Co., Hartford: 1817. Disability History Museum, (January 27, 2014).

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