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Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume IV (1876-1877)

Mason, R. Z.
The duty of the state in its treatment of the deaf and dumb, the blind, the idiotic, the crippled and deformed, and the insane,   pp. 25-30 PDF (1.8 MB)

Page 26

26      Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters.
sanity, to counteract the subtle forms of organic disease, and to
educate the feeble-minded and still allow these pre-natal and con-
stitutional disorders to flow on through countless generations of
the unborn. Of course we assume in our argument, that it is the
province of the state, acting from considerations of the highest
political economy, to care by systematized and organized effort, for
such of the unfortunate as cannot care for themselves, or whose
wants friends cannot supply. The insane can, not unfrequently
be rendered happy and useful, but even sane. The idiotic can, by
skillful treatment of the educator be developed into the self-re-
liant, seltf-sustaining intelligent being. The orthopedic surgeon can
bring beauty out of deformity, and can so change those flexures
that deform and weaken the physical anatomy, as to bring nature
to her true and original lines, and impart a new strength and vi-
  But the prosecution of all these lines of experiment and modes
of rendering the combined skill of the civilized world available,
require large outlays of time and money. And is it not vastly
better that the state, acting in her organic capacity as the agent of
human society, should encourage and aid by her own means, the
foundation of institutions for such purposes, rather than to leave
the large numbers of these unfortunate people to the ill-directed
and uncertain efforts of poor, and often unintelligent families, to
get along with their herculean difficulties as best they may ? Is
it not better, therefore, that the state should tax herself a little to
help the blind to become an intelligent, self-sustaining member
of society, or to cure a child of some dwarfing deformity or some
smiting paralytic stroke, rather than tax herself much by and by
in maintaining these victims of relentless misfortune in poor-
houses in the long years of their future? Such a question can, I
apprehend, have but one answer.
   But above and beyond all this, the state has another and more
important duty to perform, to society, than that of merely taking
care of such as have come into the world under the blight of some
terrible misfortune. This other and higher duty is so to modify
its legislation as to prevent the propagation of congenital idiocy,
deforming insanity and organic disease. I know that in venturing

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