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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29

Chapter I. — Introductory

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Chapter I.


1.—One of the most extraordinary phenomena in this world of wonders, and one of the most significant to the philanthropist, is the fascination exercised over the human race by a certain class of substances termed "narcotics." In almost all ages of the world, in all climates, and in all social conditions, this fascination prevails. Whether it be ardent liquors, tortured by man's ingenuity from fruit and grain; or the juice of the poppy, or of hemp; or the intoxicating fungus found in some regions of the globe; some form of narcotic seems to be in use everywhere, and with the same remarkable results. Alcohol, opium, and tobacco, however, are the most generally known and most widely spread.

2.—The charm of this class of substances depends on certain nervous sensations of a pleasurable character; and although these are followed by depression and suffering, often amounting to agony, the action of the narcotic is such that, by a fatal delusion, the victim is led to seek relief in another dose. Thus, by repeated use, a habit is formed and a craving established, whose power and intensity increase by indulgence.

3.—This craving, in a large number of cases, becomes extremely powerful, gradually breaking down all prudential and moral considerations. So alluring indeed is the weakness for narcotic indulgence, that it constitutes one of the most powerful means of exciting and stimulating the lower nature. While lessening the power of resistance, it multiplies temptations, increases their force, and closes the heart to purifying and ennobling influences.

4.—Our present inquiries are directed to the nature and effects of tobacco; especially upon the young. Though less obvious than alcohol in the social mischief produced, tobacco, startling as the page 6 assertion may seem, is none the less certain in its injurious influence. It is capable of producing many of the worst evils usually ascribe to alcohol and opium, the main features of its action being essentially the same.

5.—With the general extension of the use of tobacco there has been a rapid increase of the practice of smoking among the young. Not only growing youths and young men, but even boys of tender age, have acquired the habit. Thoughtful persons look with alarm at children of six or seven years of age puffing the poisonous smoke, or chewing the noxious leaf, with the air of veterans. Smokers of riper years are peculiarly disgusted with the spectacle. Physicians assert that on the young and undeveloped frame the action of narcotics is mischievous in the extreme; resulting in a stunted and blighted manhood, and constant liability to disease of the most serious nature. With the body enfeebled, the powers of the mind impaired, and the morale destroyed, a proneness to evil associations is engendered, and thus in many cases the way is prepared for a vicious career.

6.—In every properly constituted human being there is a capacity for the development of a pure and noble and beneficent manhood, capable of enjoying intensest and most exalted pleasure, and of ministering to such pleasure in others; as well as a capacity, through perverted faculty, of extreme misery. A right estimate of the value of a single heart for joy or misery, for usefulness or mischief, would lead to earnest desire for the best possible influence on the rising generation of Englishmen, that they may grow up to be not a curse but a blessing, to themselves and others.

7.—Time and money are now being employed more freely than ever on the education of the young. But school influence will be of little avail, unless our youths are trained in habits of virtue and manly self-denial. In the following pages we have to trace the effects of tobacco in combating the labours of the educator, and in neutralizing the refining and elevating influences he brings to bear.