Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/785

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THE REMEDIES OF NATURE.

all the natives of the Italian Peninsula, but kidnapped all the "barbarians" they could lay their hands upon! The French and Spaniards of the last century were deeply shocked at the indiscriminate manhunts of the Algerian corsairs, and even refused to retaliate on the men of Argel, because, in spite of their black turpitude, many of those misbelievers had something like a Caucasian skin on their faces, but those same moralists thought it perfectly proper to kidnap and cowhide the black sons of Ham; but, since the children of a negress were as salable as their mothers, and miscegenation and mistakes could not always be avoided, it sometimes happened that the auctioneer got hold of a white slave, till William Wilberforce at last arrived at the grand conclusion that all human slavery is wrong. More than a hundred years ago, Dr. Boerhaave entered an emphatic protest against rum, French high-wines, and "other adulterated spirits," but confessed a predilection for a drop of good Schiedam. Dr. Zimmermann objected to all distilled liquors, but recommended a glass of good wine, and a plate of beer-soup—the latter a Prussian invention, and one of those outrages on human nature that embittered the childhood of Frederick the Great. The hygienic reformers of our own country denounce intoxicating drinks of all kinds, but connive at mild ale, cider, opiates, narcotics, and patent "bitters." The plan has been thoroughly tried, and has thoroughly failed. We have found that the road to the rum-shop is paved with "mild stimulants," and that every bottle of medical bitters is apt to get the vender a permanent customer. We have found that cider and mild ale lead to strong ale, to lager-beer, and finally to rum, and the truth at last dawns upon us that the only safe, consistent, and effective plan is Total Abstinence from all Poisons.

We have seen that the poison-habit is a upas-tree that reproduces its germs from the smallest seeds; but where did the first seed come from? How did the life-blighting delusion happen to take root in the human mind? "Man is the only suicidal animal," says Dr. Haller, "and the first opium-eater was probably some life-weary wretch who tried to end his misery by a lethal dose, and found that his poison could be used as a temporary nepenthe." The physiologist Camper ascribes the introduction of alcoholic liquors to the experiments of unprincipled physicians; but the most plausible theory is the conjecture of Fabio Colonna, an Italian scientist of the seventeenth century. "Before people used wine," says he, "they probably drank sweet must, and preserved it, like oil, in jars or skins. But in a warm climate a saccharine fluid is apt to ferment, and some avaricious housekeeper may have drunk that spoiled stuff till she became fond of it, and thus learned to prefer wine to must." Not a compliment to human nature, but quite probable enough to be true. An animal would have preferred water to spoiled grape-juice, but even at a very early period of his development the Nature-despising homo sapiens may have learned to