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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/318

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September, 1893, created a commission, consisting of nine eminently qualified persons, including two natives of India of high position and unconnected with the Government, and an eminent physician, to inquire into and fully report on this whole subject The first report of the commission, published in 1894 and presenting simply the evidence taken in England, was an exhibit of the most interesting but utterly antagonistic and contradictory opinions and evidence. For the petitioners, sixteen witnesses, mainly missionaries, medical men connected with missions and residents for considerable periods in India and China, were called; and nearly all of these, as the result of personal experience and observation, testified in the most positive manner, and in consonance with popular opinion, that the use of opium physically, morally, and socially is highly deleterious, and ought to be discouraged, and if possible absolutely prevented. Considered by itself this testimony would seem to be conclusive and incapable of refutation. But, on the other hand, an equal number of witnesses—English officials, qualified by education, lengthened residence in India and China, and exceptional opportunities for observation, civil servants, medical men of the highest reputation connected with hospital and sanitary work and with the army in every part of India—gave unqualifiedly contradictory evidence, which may be summed up as follows: That opium has been used for centuries in India and China, without any extensive deleterious influence on the population; that the "Sikhs" of India, who in point of physical structure and health are claimed to be the finest people in the world, and whose religion forbids the use of tobacco, are habitual users of it; that while the excessive use of opium is unquestionably in a high degree deleterious, it is far less so than the excessive use of alcohol; that the use of opium in India and China is comparatively much less than the use of ardent spirits in Great Britain; that the excessive use of it, as by the so-called "opium sot," is the result very largely of the circumstance that the miserably poor afflicted with disease in India, China, and other Asiatic countries where there is no intelligent medical treatment, and little or no hospital service, resort to it as the only means of lessening their sufferings; that so far from the allegation being true that the supply of opium by India to China is disastrous in the highest degree to the people of the latter country, the fact is that the use of the Indian product, owing to its higher quality and price, is almost wholly restricted to the wealthier classes of China; that the cultivation of the poppy for the production of opium is very general in China, and to such an extent that one single province of the empire annually produces more opium than the entire export of India; and, finally, that any attempt on the part of either the Indian or Chinese Government