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IDIOT, Persons. A person who has been without understanding from his nativity, and whom the law, therefore, presumes never likely to attain any. Shelf. on Lun. 2.
     2. It is an imbecility or sterility of mind, and not a perversion of the understanding. Chit. Med. Jur. 345, 327, note s; 1 Russ. on Cr. 6; Bac. Ab. h.t. A; Bro. Ab. h.t.; Co. Litt. 246, 247; 3 Mod. 44; 1 Vern. 16; 4 Rep. 126; 1 Bl. Com. 302. When a man cannot count or number twenty, nor tell his father's or mother's name, nor how old he is, having been frequently told of it, it is a fair presumption that, he is devoid of understanding. F. N. B. 233. Vide 1 Dow, P. C. now series, 392; S. C. 3 Bligh, R. new series, 1. Persons born deaf, dumb, and blind, are, presumed to be idiots, for the senses being the only inlets of knowledge, and these, the most important of them, being closed, all ideas and associations belonging to them are totally excluded from their minds. Co. Litt. 42 Shelf. on Lun. 3. But this is a mere presumption, which, like most others, may be rebutted; and doubtless a person born deaf, dumb, and blind, who could be taught to read and write, would not be considered an idiot. A remarkable instance of such an one may be found in the person of Laura Bridgman, who has been taught how to converse and even to write. This young woman was, in the year 1848, at school at South Boston. Vide Locke on Human Understanding, B. 2 c. 11, Sec. 12, 13; Ayliffe's Pand. 234; 4 Com. Dig. 610; 8 Com. Dig. 644.
     3. Idiots are incapable of committing crimes, or entering into contracts. They cannot of course make a will; but they may acquire property by descent.
     Vide, generally, 1 Dow's Parl. Cas. new series, 392; 3 Bligh's R. 1; 19 Ves. 286, 352, 353; Stock on the Law of Non Compotes Mentis; Bouv. Inst. Index, h.t.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
Gomes de Castro de que Gregorio no especula en torno a la ekporeusis en cuanto propiedad (idiotes) del Espiritu Santo (30), seria mas precisa si se pusiera en relacion con esta otra: Gregorio si especula en torno al origen ek patros --o ek theou-- del Espiritu Santo como distinto de la generacion del Unigenito y como caracteristica propia del Espiritu Santo.
It is this latter sense that appears to have prevailed in influencing the modern usage of the word 'idiot' as synonymous for ignorance, but the Greek [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (idios: pertaining or particular to oneself, private) and even its noun form [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (idiotes) were by no means always insults.
Likewise, I picked up Hammurabi by Frederic Boyer, a short, simple work in the same category as Des choses idiotes et douces (Sweet and Foolish Things--winner of the Prix du Livre Inter), which merits a slow reading because it contains all of the profound wisdom of the world since Hammurabi, the ruler of Babylon in 3757 BC, up to the soldier from Oklahoma City, dead in his M2 Bradley on the plains of Babylon.
A private person was an idiotes. A slave, on the other hand, was a 'tool with a soul' to be directed about (EN 1161b4-7).