Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

762 BLINDNESS AND THE BLIND.

<rT

•' of time, and the instruments and methods

of this knowledge must 'for many years corno to tlit'in from abroad. Afairsprinkling of the Japanese wjll also learn English, and perhaps German; for the purposes!

. From The Spectator.

BLINDNESS AND THE BLIND.*

This interesting volume is rendered still more interesting by the fact that its au

. - ... j .. ,,-. -. , thor has been blind from early infancy,

of trade, and wi 1 thus acquire all the ben- Mp ^ u the Direclor of the A*sociaefits that attend an imperfect knowledge of another language. The literature of the civilized world will some day permeate in a faint degree the Japanese mind, although the degree in which the literature of an alien civilization affects the minds of men, is curiously small, as is visible every day in India even in the case of the cleverest young Baboos, who know all about Shakespeare, and can analyze his character, and quote his plays, aud yet give Englishmen the impression that their notion of Shakespeare, so far as they are not using mere clever verbiage, is quite distinct from ours. The great importance of the English and American trade at first will probably give English literature a predominance in Japan, if European literature has any hold there at all. But at present the Germans are before us. and a traveller recently stated that in a Japanese seaport, while in. nine shops he could buy German books, he could only buy English books in one. Some religious changes will also probably follow on commercial intercourse. Chri>tianity is now completely tolerated iu Japan, and an edict has been issued forbidding altogether the use in devotional rites of obscene emblems, which is at least a concession to that sort of right feeling which urges propriety when it is obvious that dirty linen can no longer be washed at home. It is even said that the Mikado could without any difficulty declare Christianity the national religion, and perhaps may do so; and that the Japanese indifference to religion is great enough to ensure that a large number of his subjects. and perhaps the majority, would call themselves whatever he wished. It is difficult to see that such a mere outward change is much to be wished for, aud if there were nothing else to hinder it, a serious obstacle would be interposed when the Mikado found that in favouring one denomination of Christians he would offend others, and that a politic-dl movement to conciliate foreigners might end in stirring up a bitterness among them which would extend to his own people.

tion for Promoting the General Welfare of the Blind. His position has enabled him not only to collect a variety of curious facts with regard to tho»o who are thus afflicted, but also to give the results of much practical experience. The writer considers it advisable that blind children, should be treated as far as possible like "sighted " children, and that their freedom of action should be encouraged from earliest youth. .It is a mistake to make them too dependent, a most mischievous mistake to forbid them walking out alone from fear of possible' mishaps. The blind child should be taught to do everything for himself, and "should be permitted to join in common recreations, such as leap-frog, touch, hoop-bowling, skipping with a rope, shuttlecock, marbles. &c., and even the sports of sliding and snowballing should not be forbidden, as they greatly tend to strengthen the system and to give a correct idea of distance. Hiding on horseback when attainable will be found of great service, and gymnaatic exercises are much to be commended." We are reminded, too, by the writer's narrative that while blind children may follow most of the sports of childhood, blind men and women are not debarred from a number of pursuits for which eyesight might be deemed indispensable. Thus we read once more of the brave John, King of Bohemia, who died lighting valiantly, and whose motto, •' Ich dien." is now worn by the Prince of Wales; of Ziska, the one-eyed, who lost his remaining eye in battle, but fought and conquered for I5ohemia notwithstanding; of the blind philologist Scapinelli, one of the most accomplished scholars of his day; of Count de Pagan, who on becoming blind devoted himself to the study of fortification and of geometry; of Dr. Nicholas Saunderson, who, although blind almost from his birth, lectured upon optics, and was professor of mathematics in the University of Cambridge; of Sir John Fielding, half-brother of the great novelist, and Chief Magistrate of Bow Street PoliceCourt, whose " acuteness on the magisterial bench may have been equalled, but has never been surpassed;" of Huber, theem

Btindnega and the Blind; or, a TVcafwc on {Aa Science of Ti/phology. By \V. Hid ka Levy, F.li.O S. London: CUapmaii aud Hall.

inent naturalist, who invented the glass beehives now in common use; and'of James Holinan, who travelled without an attendant through a large portion of Europe, penetrated five thousand miles into the Russian dominions, performed a voyage round the world, and actually on one occasion saved the vessel by taking the helm. There was a certain John Metcalf, who seems to have pursued his numerous avocations without much hindrance from the loss of sight. It is at least difficult to imagine what more he could have done, had he been able to see. As a boy, he went birds'-nesting with his schoolmates; as a young man. he followed the hounds, he learnt to swim and to dive, had the reputation of being a good boxer, was a good musician, dealt in woollen goods and also in horses, established public conveyances, became a builder and contractor, built bridges, laid down roads, made drains, and accomplished some difficult engineering works which people who had their sight declinrd.,

Mr. Levy has several interesting facts to communicate with regard to the condition of the Blind in Great Britain and Ireland, and about the forty-six institutions established for thi'ir benefit. Whether the affliction of blindness is less prevalent than of old he does not say. One of the chief causes of blindness was small-pox, but if the power of this fearful scourge has been enormously diminished by vaccination, there are other diseases affecting the eyesight which would seem to be on the increase, especially among the ill-fed and illhoused population of our large towns. "Tlie prolific causes of blindness," according to an eminent surgeon, "are small print and gas-light," and the injury arising from these causes is likely to increase rather than to diminish. Cheap newspapers and periodicals, badly printed on bad paper, and bearing, as it were, a mouldy appearance, abound throughout the Empire, and the amount of labour performed under artificial light is of course far greater than of old. '• The injurious effects in this latter case," says Mr. Levy, "seem not so much to result from gas-light per se, as from the quality of the article employed, it being the custom in many establishments to incorporate quantities of sulphur with the gas, in order to increase the illuminating power at small cost to the manufacturer. It is true that the Legislature imposes fines for such conduct, but the penalties are altogether too small to prevent the evil." Half the cases of blindness in the world are caused, we are told,

by Ophthalmia, and Ireland is said to have" suffered more'from this cau.se than any country in Europe. "From ISiO to 1801 no fewer than 199,773 or nearly two hundred thousand ifrrsona suffered from this malady in the irfjh workhouses alone," a statement which appears difficult to reconcile with one on another page, that in 18G1 the total number of the blind in Ireland was 0,879, a number somewhat in excess of that given in the census of 1851. It is remarkable that.in Norway there are three blind people to one in Sweden, but Mr. Levy expresses himself unable to account for this difference. In Iceland the proportion of blind persons is larger than in Norway, but this, is accounted for from the island being in the Arctic circle, " as the reflection of tho moon upon snow is very prejudicial to sight." It would seem that Greece is the only country in Europe in which no institution exists for the relief of the blind, and Mr. Levy asserts that the European nations to whom the islands of the West Indies belong have also neglected the interests of their blind subjects in that tropical region.

One of the most interesting portions of the volume is devoted to a consideration of the unrecognized senses. Mr. Levy writes:

"Whether within a house or in the open air, whether walking or standing still, I can tell, although quite blind, when I am opposite an object, and Ohd perceive whether it be lull or short, slender or bulky. I can also detect whether it be a solitary object or a continuous fence, whether it be a close fence or composed of open rails, and often whether it be a wooden fence, a brick or stone wall, or a quick-set hedge. I cannot usually perceive objects if much lower than my shoulder, but sometimes very low objects can be detected. This may depend on the nature of the objects, or on some abnormal state of the atmosphere. The currents of air c»n have nothing to do with this power, us the state of the wind does not directly affect it; the sense of hearing has nothing to do with it, as when snow lies thickly on the ground objects are more distinct, although the footfall cannot be heard. I seem to perceive objects through the skin of my face, and to have the impressions immediately transmitted to the brain. The only part of my body possessing this power is my face; this I have ascertained hy suitable experiments. Stopping my ears does not interfere with it, but covering my face with a thick veil destroys it altogether. None of the five senses have anything to do with the existence of this power, and the circumstances above named induce mo to call this unrecognized sense by the name of • Facia! Perception."" ,

This power of seeing with the face is di

'Jhinished by & fog, but not by ordinary darkness. At one time, Mr. Lavy could tell when a cloud obscured the horizon, but he has now lost that power, which he has known' several persons 5*6 ^assess who are totally blind. The serviot rendered by this facial perception will be obvious from the following remarks : — »

"When passing along a street I. can distinguish shops from private houses, ami even point out the doors ami windows, io., and thig whether the doors be shut or open. When a window consists of one entire sheet of glass, it is mure difficult to discover than one composed of a number of small panes. From this it would appear that glass is a bad conductor of sensation, or at any rate of the sensation specially connected with this sense. When objects below the face are perceived, the sensation seems to come in an oblique line from the object to the upper part of the face. While walking with a friend in Forest Lane, Stratford, I said, pointing to a fence which separated the road from u field, • Those rails are not quite as high as my shoulder.' He looked at them and said they were higher. We, however, measured, and found them about three inches lower than my shoulder. At the time of makiug this observation I was about four feet from the rails. Certainly in this instance facial perception was rno'e accurate than sight. When the lower part of a fence is brickwork, and the upper part rails, the fact can be detected, and the line where the two meet easily perceived. Irregularities in height and projections, and indentations in walls, can also be discovered."

A similar sense belongs to some part of the animal creation, and especially to bats, •who have been known to fly about a room without striking against anything after the cruel experiment has been made of extracting their eyes. We may add in conclusion, that all the systems of printing for the blind are reviewed by Mr. Levy, and that his little volume abounds with curious details on a subject which has au interest for everyone.

From The Saturday Review. FRANCE.

The expectation of a peaceful autumn in France will uot be disappointed if M. Gambetta can help it. For some time back his tempestuous energy has been more and more under restraint, and he now declares himself opposed to any agitation for the immediate dissolution of the Assembly. To outsiders the reasons in favour of tliis course seem so overwhelming that there is uo merit in taking it.

But before judging M. Gambetta by this standard two tilings have to be retii >inbered. One is that conclusions equally self-evident nave again and aijain bei-u rejected or passed over by life Republican party. To wait till the pear is ripe before picking it may not be a conspicuous exercise of self-control, but it is an improvement upon the hitherto*invariable custom of stripping the tree as soon as the fruit makes its appearance. The other is that. M. Gambetta has been denounced by his enemies as a revolutionist of the worst type, a Communist without the honesty to declare himself. If there were any truth in this view he would spend the recess ia making inflammatory speeches against the Assembly. By so doing he would inflict more damage on the cause of the moderate Republic than by any other that is open to him. Tlie Republic that is being set up under the guidance of M. Thiers is essentially orderly and conservative. If it could be deprived of this character in the eyes of Frenchmen its remarkable popularity would be gone, and the country would once more be prepared to acquiesce in some kind of Monarchical reaction. This would give the extreme Republicans preci-ely the opportunity they want. The ijreat body of the nation would again be lienated from politics, and power would again be a prize for any reckless faction to clutch at. By keeping silent as regards the dissolutiou of the Assembly, M. Gambetta is helping to prove that a Republic can give French Conservatives the material and social security which they demand of a Government. But a Republic which creates this conviction in minds so narrow and so keen-sighted must have a genuinely conservative character about it. By lending himself to the consolidation of such a system M. Gambetta gives good evidence of the falsity of the accusations levelled against him by the Right. Against its own will the existing Assembly is helping to found the Republic. More than any other body it has the power of doing this without exciting alarm or opposition in the country. But the Republic thus formed will be of a sort which in the eyes of a revolutionist will be as bad as any Monarchy.

The Left Centre have hit upon a novel levice for relieving the dulness of the Parliamentary vacation. They have made arrangements under which any newspaper that desires it may receive a daily circular containing "appreciations" and "indications " of the line of conduct pursued by the Conservative Republicans. Their ob

[ocr errors]

ject in adopting this plan is probably of an economical character. They wish to save the expense of subsidizing a journal of their own. So long as matter is as scarce as it is at this season, these "appreciations " and " indications" will prob* ably be received with gratitude. As soon as the Assembly meets again, the public will once more be Tc-ft to learn the course of the Left Centre from the action of its members in the Chamber. ,ln announcing the issue of 'this bulletin of its own politi cal state, the Committee of the Left Centre make some observations of a more sensible character than might have been expected from the occasion which calls them forth. Eighteen months ago, they say, we despaired of seeing France survive her misfortunes. To-day we see her with the burden of a foreign occupation almost lifted from her shoulders and her old place in the world brought once more within her reach. Making allowance for much natural exaggeration, this is not an unfair account of the change that has come over the country. The burdens under which France still labours are so serious that we are tempted to forget that the burdens which weighed on her in the spring of 1871 were more serious still. 4It may be a fallacy to argue from the fact of her Government being Republican that the gains of the last year and a half are necessarily due to the Republic. They might conceivably have been realized under another system. But the mass of men are not logicians, and when they see a conspicuous success achieved by a Republic, they will be likely to assume that it could not have been achieved except by a Republic. Indeed for practical purposes the reasoning is sufficiently accurate; at all events the history of France since the close of the war has proved that a Republic is not hostile to the restoration and development of the national forces; and considering how little can be said in favour of any of the forms of government which it is proposed to put in place of a Republic, it is the part of ordinary prudence to accept it with contentment, if not with enthusiasm. The Committee of the Left Centre are evidently a little hurt that M. Thiers should have borrowed from them, without acknowledgment, the phrase " a Conservative Republic." They feel, however, that there is still something for the Left Centre to do. M. Thiers has appropriated their formula, but it still will remain with those who invented it to define its principles, to explain its meaning, and to develop its consequences. To do all this is the mission'

of the mesa,.and lest the press should fail in its duty, the Committee of the Left • Centre are ready to supply the newspapers with a series- of ready-made leading articles. ,,;

The person, however, who is doing most to make the/ecess lively is the President himself. According to the Times' Correspondent "it appears certain" that M. Thiers is meditating a. very decided step forward in the direction of a permanent, as opposed to a provisional, Republic. The Assembly has always laid great stress upon the fact that it is constituent, and M. Thiers apparently intends to take it at its word. He will allow it to constitute a Second Chamber, and for this Second Chamber, jointly with himself he will claim the power of dissolving the Assembly. The ingenuity of this device is considerable. It will be difficult for the Assembly to decline the task assigned to it, for a refusal to give the Executive even so much as a voice in the dissolution of a professedly representative Chamber would be to challenge it to decree a dissolution of its own mere motion, and trust to the result of the elections for a justification of its action. Yet to have the right to dissolve, even though it can only be exercised with the consent of a Second Chamber, is really to have the means of bringing a greatly increased pressure to bear upon the Deputies. In whatever way the Second Chamber is elected, it is likely to pull with the President in the matter of a dissolution. Even if it is elected by the Assembly from its own numbers, its duration will probably be regulated on a different principle, and it will have no personal interest in prolonging the life of a body to which it has no longer any special tie. If it is appointed by the Government, M. Thiers will certainly take care to nominate members of his own way of thinking. If it is elected by the country, it may be trusted to send the Assembly about its business as soon as the President asks it to do so. There is no reason to suppose that M. Thiers will be in any hurry to exercise the power which will thus be conferred on him. Hut the experience of the last Session has probably made it clear to him that, if his hold over the Assembly were a little more visible, it might not be necessary to tighten it quite so often. In theory the power of the Assembly is absolute. The Executive is its creature, and though it is nominally responsible to the country, the fact that it cannot be dissolved deprives this responsibility of almost all its value. In practice the power of the As

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

766 A SECOND CHAMBER IX FRANCE.

iembly is exceedingly limited; Indeed it ideas call it, an " upper " chamber; but it -amounts to little else than'freedom to do does not find equal favour with the poliM. Thiers's ,will with more or less of ill ticians of the continent. They have

learned from experience the extreme dif

grace'. The disadvantage of this state of things is that it providijys M. -Tliiers witli no means of coercing the Assembly short of threaten ng resignation — a step which

under present equivalent to

circumstances would be a new revolution. This • menaie has always, answered M. Thiers's purpose, and would probably continue to answer it. But an Assembly over which the whip has to be publicly waved in this fashion is nut an institution that reflects credit on representative government. The pressure exercised on the Deputies by the knowledge that if they defy the President he can appeal to the nation to judge between him and them, is not open to this objection. All representative bodies are liable by the very law of their being to have the test of a dissolution applied to them, and the wish to shrink from it affects at most I he character for sincerity of the particular Assembly which betrays it.

From The Economist. A SECOND CHAMBEU IN FIIANCB.

The statement currently repeated this •week, that M. Thiers intends in November to ask the Assembly to declare the Republic definitely established, and to pass an organic law, may be premature; but it derives support from one or two incidents, such as the manifesto of the Left Centre that it is entirely in accord with the President, and the announcement that M. Gutnbetta postpones his agitation for a dissolution of the Chamber. If the President has really decided on this course and secured a majority for it, that is precisely the line which the Left Centre, and M. Gambetta as the leader of the Left might be expected to take. There would be a certain advantage moreover in the definitive proclamation of a constitution, and it might be possible, if the representatives have found their electors very decidedly in favour of a Republic, to secure the necessary majority. It is however difficult to believe that an additional piece of information forwarded to the Times that M. Thiers intends to propose the establishment of a second chamber is equally well founded. That idea is a very favourite one with English politicians and correspondents, who indeed seem unable to conceive of a Conservative Republic without a second, or as they, with their English

ficulty of constructing a second assembly which shall not clash with the governing body, which shall have power enough to impose an effective restraint on its action, and which shall havewthe required attribute of comparative permanence. The number of constitutions which have been tried during the last century is very great, but in only two instances have their framers succeeded ia^ establishing an effective Upper House. The American Senate, which is representative, but represents States and not people, and which shares in the executive power, is probably stronger than the House of Representatives; but then the latter body has less power, prestige, or influence over opinion than any Representative Chamber in the world. In conjunction with the President and Senate, it controls taxation; but that is very nearly the limit of its effective functions. Prince Bismarck's new Federal Council, composed as it is of representatives from all the Governments and Princes absorbed in Germany, is a very real and powerful body, and could, if need were, exercise an independent veto on legislation, or assume a very influential initiative. As a matter of fact, its consent is usually asked before legislation is proposed to the Reichstag, and the secrecy of its deliberations enables it to accept arguments which it might be dangerous to produce in public. But no other second chamber out of England has ever been a success. The Prussian llerrenhaus has ever since its creation been a mere embarrassment to the Executive as well as to the Liberals and to the work of legislation. Tiie Italian Senate has never been of the slightest importance or consideration, has never arrested legislation, and would disappear in a Revolution, unrecorded and unnoticed. No one ever hears of the Austrian Upper House, except as receiviug occasionally a diplomatic explanation, nor, though aristocratic power is great in Austria, is it exercised through this assembly. The House of Peers in France, under Louis Philippe, was a debating club of dignified expert?, but it obtained no hold on society, and disappeared in 1843 without a struggle. So also did the E:nperor's Senate, though he had accumulated functions and duties upon that body, and though it contained many of the most powerful persons of the Empire, notably Prince Napoleon, whose speeches were events of European interest.

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »