GREAT OBJECTS OF THE STATE'S CHARITY
AS THE Western and Atlantic Railroad's net earnings increased, Georgia grew more generous with state institutions. In 1852 Governor Howell Cobb proposed that "one-third of the large revenue of the State Road shall be devoted to the maintenance of the three great objects of the State's charity: the Lunatic Asylum, [the school for] the Deaf and Dumb, and the school for the Blind." And it was. In the second half of the 1850s, the state supplied the three institutions with nearly twice as much support ($446,720) as during the first half of the decade ($231,675).1 More than in the 1810s or the 1830s, in the late 1850s Georgia could and did increase its spending on institutions of social welfare and social control, just as it did on education. The penitentiary, too, reflected changes in the state's finances, although many Georgians wished it would pay its own way.
Some institutions embodied more coercion than benevolence. Social welfare best characterized those whose inmates were voluntary, social control those that involved force. Most people entered Georgia's insane asylum no more voluntarily than those incarcerated in the penitentiary. Chronology suggests the priorities of antebellum Americans: The most coercive institutions opened first, the more benevolent ones last. Thus Georgia's penitentiary opened in 1817, its insane asylum in 1842, and its schools for the deaf and the blind at about midcentury.
The development of Georgia's social welfare facilities demonstrated the diffusion of men, institutions, and ideas in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. Therapeutic institutions for the deaf, the blind, and those considered mentally ill had their genesis principally in France in the late eighteenth century, though pioneer efforts also occurred in England, Germany, and the United States. In 1775 Abbé Charles Michel de l'Epée founded a school for the deaf, where he matured a system of sign language to enable his students to communicate. Ten years later, Valentin Haüy adapted some of de l'Epée's ideas when he founded a school to render blind people both