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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/319

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to interfere with the production and sale of opium, with a view of restricting or preventing its consumption, would be utterly futile, and in the case of the former country would undoubtedly lead to revolution.

One witness, Surgeon-General Sir William Moore, stated as the result of thirty-three years' service and observation in India, that opium-smoking is practically harmless, and opium water not only harmless, but beneficial in moderation, and a prophylactic against malarial fever.

The following circumstance was also regarded as substantiating this position: During the years 1893-'94 the island of Hong-Kong, on the Chinese coast, was ravaged by a pestilence, in the nature of a filth disease, of great malignity. Since its abatement it is claimed, with an accompanying array of evidence, that the opium smokers and eaters were almost without exception exempted from the pest.

Very naturally, also, the (British) Indian civil-service officials, holding the view that the large revenue derived by the Government from the monopoly of the production and sale of opium is in no sense a tax burden upon the Indian people; and recognizing also the great difficulty (but absolute necessity) of making good the deficiency consequent upon the abrogation of such revenue through new and additional taxation upon the people, were unanimously of the opinion that any change in the existing system in respect to opium would be in the highest degree inexpedient and unwarranted. When the question was put to Sir John Strachey, who in the course of thirty-eight years of Indian civil service has filled almost every post, from the most subordinate to the governorship of provinces and membership of the Government of India, how he accounted for the great contrariety of belief in respect to the opium question, he made answer as follows:

"The ignorance that prevails in this country [England] regarding everything Indian is enormous, and is not confined to those whom we expect to be ignorant, but extends to the most highly educated classes. It extends to all Indian subjects—history, geography, the conditions and habits of the people, the constitution of the Government—in fact, everything. I will give an illustration which always seems to me to have a useful bearing on this opium question. Mr. Buckle, in his History of Civilization, derives all the distinctive institutions of India and the peculiarities of its people from the fact, that the exclusive food of the natives of India is rice. It follows from this, he tells us, that caste prevails, that oppression is rife, that rents are high, and that customs and laws are stereotyped. I have no doubt that if Mr. Buckle had been asked, he would have said that the same cause accounted for the consumption of opium in India. I sometimes ask my English