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The Ascent to Paris

  • Emmet Kennedy
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Abstract

Education of the deaf through private tutoring was known in Europe well before 1789, but the first systematic language of signs and state school for the deaf only came into being during the reforming monarchy and the French Revolution. Abbé Charles de l’Epée (1712–1789) was the founder of the first classes on rue Moulins in Paris in 1760. His pupil abbé Roch-Ambroise-Cucurron Sicard (1742–1822), named “royal teacher of deaf-mutes” by Louis XVI, cofounded a school for the deaf in Bordeaux in 1786, where he used Epée’s principles. Sicard is known today to historians of the deaf, but he is barely known to others, even the deaf themselves. However, as the national instituteur of the National Institution of Deaf-Mutes, Sicard survived the half dozen regimes that subsidized him until his death in 1822. He was a professor at the first Ecole Normale (1795) and a member of the original National Institute (1796) and the restored French Academy (1803). In addition, he wrote several, often reprinted, books on deaf-mute language and comparative, or “general,” grammar. Many of them are now available online.

Keywords

Sign Language Religious Order Private Tutoring French Revolution Deaf Student 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Catéchisme des sourds-muets (Paris 1792): The phenomenon of Revolutionary girouettes, or “weathercocks,” has been analyzed by the present occupant of the chair of the French Revolution at the Sorbonne, Pierre Serna: La République des girouettes: 1789–1815 et au-délà une anomalie politique: la France de l’extrême centre (Seyssel: Champ Vallon, 2002). The only biography of Sicard to date is that of Sicard’s deaf student Ferdinand Berthier, L’abbé Sicard, Célèbre instituteur des sourds-muets, successeur immédiate de l’abbé de l’Épée (Paris: Charles Donioul, 1873), 207.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Michel Foucault, Birth of the Clinic (New York: Vintage, 1975); Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Vintage, 1977).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Alexis Karacostas, “L’Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets de Paris de 1790 à 1800, Histoire d’un Corps à Corps” (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Université de Paris V [Faculté de Médecine], 1981; 1975). M. C[oste] d’Arnobat, Essai sur de prétendues découvertes nouvelles, (Paris: C. F. Patris, 1803). François Buton, “Les Corps saisis par l’État; L’Éducation des sourds-muets et des aveugles au XIXe siècle. Contribution à la socio-histoire de l’État (1789–1885)” (doctoral dissertation in Social Science [Paris: Ecole des Hautes Études, 1999]), revised and published as L’Administration des faveurs; l’État, les sourds et les aveugles (1789–1885) (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2009).Google Scholar
  4. Alexis Karacostas et al., Du Pouvoir des signes; Sourds et citoyens (Paris: Institut de Jeunes Sourds, 1990).Google Scholar
  5. An excellent general treatment of signs in the Enlightenment, particularly pantomime, is Sophia A. Rosenfeld’s A Revolution in Language: the Problem of Signs in late Eighteenth Century France (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001) and “The Political Uses of Sign Language: The Case of the French Revolution,” Sign Language Studies (Fall 2005): 17–37.Google Scholar
  6. For an eloquent, early recognition of the importance of revolutionary deaf language, see Keith Michael Baker, Condorcet: From Natural Science to Social Mathematics (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1975), 331.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    AN ET/XLIX/1038; Diocèse de Rieux, subdélégation de Rieux, ville de Fousseret, [1743]”; ADHG, C1925; Emile Saurel, L’Instituteur des sourds-muets, sa vie et son oeuvre (Toulouse: Imprimerie Fournié, 1958), 9–10. This is the only source on Sicard’s early years in Le Fousseret and Toulouse. Saurel mentions a relic of the holy cross preserved in Le Fousseret, which was given to him by Pius VI (1775–1799), during a trip Sicard supposedly made to Rome in recognition of his service to the deaf. But this relic may well have been given to Sicard by Pius VII in Paris in 1805, as there is no evidence that Sicard ever went to Rome. See chapter 4.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Cadastre of 1767, ADHG, lm/1/699; Georges Frèche, Toulouse et la région Midi-Pyrenées au siècle des lumières (vers 1670–1789) (Toulouse: Cujas, 1974), 386;Google Scholar
  9. Robert Forster, The Mobility of Toulouse in the Eighteenth Century (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1960); e-mail of Robert Forster to author, November 7, 2011.Google Scholar
  10. 8.
    Jean de la Viguerie, Un oeuvre de l’éducation sous l’Ancien Régime: les Pères de la doctrine chrétienne en France et en Italie, 1592–1790 (Paris: Edition de la Nouvelle Aune, 1976), 620–627; “Agrégations depuis l’année 1700 dans la Congrégation de la doctrine chrétienne,” ADHG, 13D.73, fol. 14. Sicard’s appointment to the canonicat of Cadillac was made by the archbishop of Bordeaux, Prince Ferdinandus Max: Meriadec de Rohan, who wrote the letter of appointment in Latin from London on March 28, 1776. Cf. AD Gironde 33: G778.Google Scholar
  11. François Cadilhon. L’Honneur perdu de Monseigneur Champion de Cicé; Dieu, gloire, pouvoir et société à la fin du XVIIIIe siècle (Bordeaux: Fédération Historique du Sud-Ouest, 1986), 212–35, n119.Google Scholar
  12. On the canonicats of Guyenne, see Philippe Loupès, Chapitres et chanoines en Guyenne aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (Paris: Ecole des Hautes Etudes, 1985); Sicard’s social origin—neither peasant nor noble, but rural notable—was typical of a Doctrinaire. Cicé encouraged priestly vocations, which were declining nationally over the century—those in Bordeaux by 20 percent. See Tackett, “L’Histoire sociale du clergé diocésain dans la France de XVIIIe siècle,” Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine 26 (1975): 198–211. Champion de Cicé was often absent from Bordeaux, where some ten canons, among them Sicard, took his place. This did not make de Cicé less of a philanthropist.Google Scholar
  13. See Patrick Taieb, Le Musée de Bordeaux de la musique, 1783–1793 (Rouen: Presses Universitaires de Rouen, 2009), 4, 52–88 on Sicard and Champion de Cicé’s role in this Musée. The Affiches, Annonces et avis divers de Toulouse printed an anonymous letter to the editor in late January or early February 1787 (pp. 46–47), citing the commencement speech the previous September 1786 in which Sicard was praised for his “indefatigable zeal … for the instruction of deaf-mutes from birth,” which raised them out of an “animal” state. Sicard also belonged to a masonic lodge, the Amitié and/or la Vraie loge anglaise, and authored a long denunciation of wayward members. The latter harbored several future Girondins, such as Dominique Garat, Armand Gensonné, and Jean-François Ducos. It excluded theology from its elaborate rituals.Google Scholar
  14. See Johel Coutura, La franc-maçonnerie à Bordeaux: XVIIIe-XIXe siècles (Marseille: Laffitte, 1978);Google Scholar
  15. Louis Amiable, Une loge maçonnique d’avant 1789 (Paris: Alcan, 1897).Google Scholar
  16. There is no evidence that Sicard belonged to a masonic lodge after 1789. On the phenomenon of provincial academies, see Daniel Roche, Le Siècle des lumières en province, 2 vols. (Paris: 1978). For Bordeaux, see AD ironde 33: G778. Sicard demanded restititution of his 10,000 livre salary from his canonicat in Bordeaux during the Terror, Archives parlementaires (hereafter AF), January 8, 1793: LVI, 604.Google Scholar
  17. 12.
    Sicard to Pierre de Léotard, [October] 1788, De Léotard family papers. This and all translations below are by the author. Adrien Cornié, Étude sur l’Institution nationale des sourdes-muettes de Bordeaux, 1786–1903 (Bordeaux: Peels, 1903), 8.Google Scholar
  18. 13.
    C. Bloch, L’Assistance et l’état en France à la veille de la Révolution (Paris, 1908), 235; on Epée and his predecessors, see Du Pouvoir des signes, 1–30 (on Epée, see 35–50). Allegations of charlatanism were made against Epée and Sicard, who were seen as mere followers, rather than innovators. Pierre Coste, Essai sur de prétendues découvertes nouvelles dont la plupart sont agées de plusieurs siècles (Paris: C.-F. Patris, an XI [1803]).Google Scholar
  19. 14.
    De l’Epée, Institution des sourds et muets, ou Recueil des exercices soutenues par les sourds et muets pendant les années 1771, 1772, 1773 et 1774; ZZ Bazot, Eloge historique de l’abbé de l’Epée, fondateur de Sourds-Muets (Paris: Barba, 1849), 22 and passim;Google Scholar
  20. “Extrait des Mémoires de l’Académie Royale des Sciences,” July 9, 1749, regarding Jacob Péreire’s success in teaching D’Azy d’Etavigny; J. J. Valade-Gabel, Péreire et de l’Epée, Discours prononcé à la distribution des prix de L’Institut National des Sourds-Muets de Bordeaux, 25 avril 1848 (Bordeaux: Imprimerie de Durand, 1848);Google Scholar
  21. Maryse Bézagu-Deluy, L’Abbé de l’Epée, instituteur gratuit des sourds et muets, 1712–1789 (Paris: 1990), 145, 154, 160–61, 223, 238–39, 251, 269–70.Google Scholar
  22. This special book is the best to date on Epée. See also Camille Bloch and Alexandre Tuetey, Procès-verbaux et rapports du Comité de mendicité de la Constituante 1790–91 (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1911), 740–41. C. F. Deschamps, Cours élémentaire des sourds et muets (Paris: Debure, 1779); Pierre Desloges, Observations d’un sourd et muet, sur un cours élémentaire d’éducation des sourds et muets (Amsterdam: Morin, 1779). De l’Epée, Institution des sourds et muets, 1774, 23, 18–19, 40–52, 92, 126–27, 140–41, 145; Institutions, 1777 (Paris: Butard): 14, 29–30, 35, 94, 101, 105, 161. See the engravings of Benedictine Pedro Ponce de Léon, of Jacob Péreire, and of other predecessors of Epée in MS. No. 3504, Bibliothèque Sainte Geneviève (Paris). 15. Sicard, Théorie des signes, ou introduction à l’étude des langues ou le sens des mots, au lieu d’être défini, est mis en action, 2 vols. (Paris: Institution des Sourds-Muets, 1808), 68;Google Scholar
  23. [De l’Epée], J. A. A. Rattel, ed., Dictionnaire des sourds-muets (Paris: Ballière, 1896) v. “austère.” A photocopy of the original MS exists in Gallaudet Library archives. The significance of Sicard’s Théorie is that it described gestures in print without which Epée’s signs would soon disappear.Google Scholar
  24. Gestures alone, especially when made conventional, as Epée attempted to do, promised to provide a universal natural language as opposed to conventional or arbitrary written language. Chinese pictographs are visual, but also are arbitrary rather than natural. See James R. Knowlson, “The Idea of Gesture as a Universal Language in the XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries,” The Journal of the History of Ideas 26 (1965): 495–508. See also Ferdinand Berthier, Sicard’s student and first biographer, L’abbé Sicard, 207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Before the Revolution the abbé J. Ferrand left a manuscript dictionary of signs that was not published until 1897 (by J. Rattel). It does describe gestures that differed from Epée’s. It predates Sicard’s dictionary in composition but not publication. See Renate Fischer, “Abbé de l’Epée and the Living Dictionary,” in J. V. van Cleve, ed., Deaf History Unveiled: Interpretations from the New Scholarship (Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 1993), 19, 15. While Epée wrote no dictionary of signs, he considered himself “a living dictionary of signs” (Fischer, 15). Apparently the “first” work of this nature was a manual alphabet by the Spanish priest Juan Pablo Bonet (1573–1633) entitled Reducciòn de las letras a enseñar a los mudos. Bonet followed the path blazed by the Benedictine monk Pedro Ponce de Léon (1520–1584) in the latter part of the sixteenth century. A certain amount of deaf historical scholarship has been devoted to unmasking claims of having “invented” sign language (as Coste did already in 1804). Epée’s contribution was to have made signs methodical and systematic, and to have made them dominant (over oral methods, which prevailed in the Germanic states) and finally to have been one of the first (with Wallace and the Braidwoods in England, the Storcks in Austria, and the Heinickes in Berlin) to introduce classroom instruction for the deaf instead of tutoring. We argue below that Epée’s reputation as the founder of deaf instruction is exaggerated. See Henk Betten’s very helpful survey/dictionary, Deaf Education in Europe: The Early Tears, (n.p., 2013).Google Scholar
  26. 16.
    Louis-François-Joseph Alhoy, De l’éducation des sourds-muets de naissance, considérée dans ses rapports avec l’idéologie et la grammaire, sujet du discours prononcé à la rentrée de l’Ecole nationale des sourds-muets, le 15 Brumaire Tear VIII (Paris: Imprimerie des Associés, Year VIII [1800]), 7–8; de l’Epée, Institutions 1772, 69. See also the fuller list in the Jd D of Year XI cited below; Christopher B. Garnett, Jr., The Exchange of Letters between Samuel Heinicke and Abbé Charles Michel de l’Epée (New York: Vantage, 1968), 50–66. Heinicke was an early oralist who disputed Epée’s signs. De l’Epée, Institutions, 1772, pt. 2, 104–27; De l’Epée, Institutions, 1774, 24, 76–104, 30, 15; Yves Bernard, “Approche de la gestualité à l’institution des sourds-muets de Paris, au XVIIIe et au XIXe siecle” (doctoral dissertation, Université de Paris, 1999), 1350 ff. Also see the abbé Storck.Google Scholar
  27. 17.
    ZZ Furet, Penser la Révolution française (Paris: Gallimard, 1978).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 18.
    C. Bloch, L’Assistance, 142–45; and Pierre Trahard’s masterpiece, La Sensibilité révolutionnaire, 1789–94 (Paris: Bowing, 1936; 1967). A more recent scientific treatment is Anne V. Vila, Enlightenment and Pathology: Sensibility in the Literature and Medicine of Eighteenth-Century France (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998);Google Scholar
  29. Thomas M. Adams, Bureaucrats and Beggars: French Social Policy in the Age of Enlightenment (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  30. 28.
    M. Diebolt, “Les activités manuels dans une classe d’enfants déficients auditifs,” Revue générale de l’Enseignement de Sourds-Muets 53 (1961): 51; AP (July 21, 1791), 28: 489.Google Scholar
  31. 29.
    Sicard to Léotard, see above n10; Sicard to [?], April 17, 1791, L’Amateur d’Autographes no. 286–87, July [August 1877]; Jean-Claude Meyer, La Vie religieuse de la Haute Garonne sous la Révolution: 1789–1801 (Toulouse: Université de Toulouse le Mrail, 1982), 113. Dominique Julia believes Sicard was not subject to the oath. Donald Sutherland also believes that he was not technically a “refractory” priest. Sicard may be concealing typical religious objections to the oath, common among refractories;Google Scholar
  32. see T. Tackett, Religion, Revolution and Regional Culture in Eighteenth-Century France: The Ecclesiastical Oath of 1791 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 61–67. A year later Sicard would be arrested, nonetheless, on the grounds that he was a refractory, or non-juring, priest. Sicard’s former patron, Champion de Cicé, now garde des sceaux or lord chancellor, persuaded Louis XVI to sign the Civil Constitution of the Clergy in July, but he later emigrated to London rather than sign the actual oath after it was condemned by the pope.Google Scholar

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© Emmet Kennedy 2015

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