The cause of the Imbecile has for some time past been a plea which has never failed to elicit the practical sympathy of the public; yet much remains to be done before we have fulfilled our obligation to those who are not lunatics, and are capable, under suitable conditions, of being made self-supporting members of the community. As in this paper I intend to deal chiefly with the future of the improvable imbecile, I think that in the first place the statement that such an individual after training is independently capable of earning his own livelihood is as absurd as it is impossible. I shall presently endeavour to show that without supervision little or nothing can be expected from an imbecile, however highly trained and educated he may be; his whole disposition and temperament away from control completely negatives the supposition, and actual cases have proved that, unless under sympathetic and intelligent guidance, the life of the imbecile as far as usefulness is concerned is not only a blank, but that the individual himself is a burden, and in some instances a nuisance to society and his friends. Secondly, there can be no doubt that much of the careful and patient instruction bestowed upon such cases at the educational establishments is wasted, for the simple reason that at the expiration of their term there many improved imbeciles gravitate to conditions totally unsuitable for them, and under which it is almost impossible to expect that the training which they have received will, so to speak, have a fair chance. On completion of their term of training it may be that in some cases the parents are dead, and there are no relations or guardians to look after them; for a large number there is nothing but the workhouse. Again, their imbecile temperament causes others, perhaps in a moment of pique, to abandon the work which has been obtained for them possibly only by a vast amount of trouble, and they thus become a burden to their relatives. A third section are, away from supervision, incurably vicious, and many in the course of their career become gaol-birds and convicts. The imbecile is one who is totally, or in part, bereft of the faculties necessary to enable him to take a successful part in the battle of life, and I think that it may be safely assumed that, in the whirl of this nineteenth century, with its attributes of high pressure and overcrowding in every direction, the imbecile can of himself secure no place. His appearance, his mental and often physical deficiencies, are all dead against him, and his unstable equilibrium, manifested in uncertainty of temper and morals, renders him in many cases quite unfit to be trusted away from proper care and supervision. In fact, it is unjust and unfair to forget this by exposing these individuals to risks by trusting them too far.
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