Tobacco is not used for food, but the leaves themselves are smoked for the sake of the poison which they contain. The effect of smoking upon one who is wholly unaccustomed to it is to produce nausea and vomiting; but when he becomes somewhat accustomed to it the effect is at first soothing and tranquilizing, relieving anxiety and nervous strain. No doubt it was from this effect that the American Indians were in the habit of smoking it in their “peace pipes,” as a sign that hostilities were laid aside and antagonistic feelings tranquilized. But the secondary effects of the smoking appear in increased irritability and unsteadiness of the nerves; which indeed by excessive use of tobacco frequently become paralyzed. (Compare True Christian Religion #159, 446.)
How like all this is to the principle by which men in their various combinations for gain or for pleasure agree to shut their eyes to their differences, that they may pursue together their common end! At first the idea of thus combining makes them sick with disgust; but they go on and force themselves, and quiet their sensitiveness and even their consciences, and learn to enjoy an artificial, dreamy friendship, from which they are very unwilling to awake. But when the end is attained, and perhaps before, a reaction may come, and show itself in violent irritability and repulsion. If not thus, it may be that the sensitiveness to differences, even in matters of right and wrong, may be wholly destroyed, paralyzed by continual reasonings in behalf of the artificial harmony, breathed in by the thought as the smoke is inhaled by the lungs. The continued use of tobacco has a decided tendency to deaden the moral sensitiveness.
Probably there is a right place for some such reasoning in the strain and confusion of social relations, and a corresponding place for the drug; but it is better to see clearly all matters of difference, especially in matters of right and wrong, to be willing to put away all the wrong in ourselves, and to be kind to others in their efforts; also to lay aside frankly, as of small account, things that are not matters of principle; and thus to secure harmony on an intelligent Christian basis. The immense increase of the use of the drug in our day—no doubt stimulated by the increasing complexity of social relations—seems to be a shirking of this duty; which, nevertheless, will have to be done sometime, perhaps under conditions in some respects more favorable, but in some more difficult. The state of our country in relation to slavery, for some years before the war, was much like that of a man under the influence of tobacco.
The other narcotics belonging to the family seem all to have relation to the narrow and exclusive attachments, friendships, partisanships, which, from childhood, produce on the one hand much of illusion and inertia, and on the other excesses of irritability, passion, and violence.
Author: JOHN WORCESTER 1875