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BEFORE we enter on the history of inebriating liquors, it may be proper to mention a few of those substances which either possess an intoxicating quality, or have been rendered so by fermentation.
Milk, the most nutritious of all beverages,—and which contains in itself both food and drink, and therefore, without exception, the most perfect of all liquors,-milk, by some nations, has been converted into an inebriating beverage. The Tartars and Calmucks distil mares' or cows' milk, and obtain about six ounces of strong spirit from twenty-one pounds of milk! They are almost as wise and economical as we are in making beer from barley.
Most persons are aware of the extent to which opium is used among the Turks, and the listless idleness and sensuality that it produces. The Koran forbids them the use of wine, and, as a substitute, they have recourse to opium. This pestiferous drug has been imported into China in very large quantities, and so extensive has been its use, and so demoralizing its influence on the Chinese, that the government of that country has taken alarm, and refuses to trade with us in tea, unless we cease to import into their country this baneful narcotic. It is a lamentable fact, that some of our own countrymen and fair countrywomen have adopted the use of this poison. Poor Coleridge deeply bewailed his folly in using so pernicious a drug. "The dreams of an opium-eater" appear not to have been fabulous. Paralysis, lowness of spirits, alienation of mind, convulsions, madness, apoplexy, and death, are among the natural effects of the use of this poison. It was stated to the committee of the House of Commons, that in some parts of the north of England beer-drinking has brought on the vile practice of eating opium. Some of
the poor women there are in the habit of taking it very largely. In the book of Genesis we twice read of "myrrh :" in each place the Hebrew word is, Lot. The Arabic term for the same gum is ledum, or ladanum, whence we have also the Greek Andov and Andavov, the Latin ladanum, and the English laudanum. All these words are evidently derived from the same root, and refer to the same substance. Wine mingled with myrrh was offered to our Lord at his passion; but he would not drink it. This was a stupefying draught-wine mixed with opium, or some preparation of that drug, resembling laudanum, was administered to criminals for the purpose of lessening their sense of pain. And we shall presently have occasion to show that ancient eastern wines owed their chief intoxicating quality to stupefying and poisonous ingredients.
The plant called wild hemp is used as an inebrient in some parts of the East. The people manufacture its leaves into a ball, which they call "bang," and which they swallow. It produces tranquillity of mind, makes them laugh and sing involuntarily, and, like opium, it is said to stimulate courage and excite sensual propensities. It seems that the common flax plant possesses similar properties, and we know that flaxseed is used to give a greater intoxicating power to beer.
In some of the South Sea Islands they make an intoxicating liquor from a root called “ kava,” a species of pepper. The mode of preparing is filthy in the extreme. The servants are employed to chew it, and spit it, when well chewed, into a bowl, and after enough is prepared, water is poured upon it to make it of a sufficient strength; after being well mixed and strained, about a quarter of a pint is drunk. It is disagreeable to the taste, produces stupefaction, and in time reduces those who drink it to skeletons. Filthy as this liquor appears, could the English tippler tell all that has been put into his beer, wine, gin, &c., to make them sufficiently potent, he would be little disposed to revile the beastly taste of the South Sea Islanders, or to pique himself on his own more refined appetite.
In Java and Savu the nations make wine, which they call "tuac," from the fan-palm. On cutting the buds a juice exudes, some of which is partly converted into sugar, and partly into
wine, by fermentation. This liquor, in its unfermented state, is the common drink of the natives.
In some parts of India wine is prepared from the liquor in Cocoa-nuts. In Persia they make wine from peaches; which is also done in South America. A saccharine juice capable of fermentation is also obtained by wounding the sugar-maple tree.
The American Indians make wine from palm juice, and a kind of ale from Indian corn.
The yellow flower, rhododendron, a native of Siberia, infused in hot water, produces a liquor which makes those that drink it outrageous.
Tea, especially green tea, made very strong, and taken in large quantities, produces a species of intoxication. The Chinese poets dwell upon the praises of this beverage. In China, also, spirit is distilled from millet, and likewise from rice: from the latter they also make beer, into which they infuse the seeds of the thorn-apple to make it narcotic. The Turks also use the seeds of the thorn-apple as an inebrient; and sometimes heighten the exhilarating powers of coffee by the addition of opium.
The protoxide of nitrogen, when inhaled into the lungs, produces a species of inebriation, though of a very innocent character. The vapor of alcohol has been known to intoxicate. A young man whom I knew lately returned from London in a state of mental aberration; he became worse and worse, and at length died raving mad. He was a very pious man, and bore an excellent character, but was employed in one of the London wine-vaults, and the mere fumes of the alcohol robbed him of his reason and of his life. He was never addicted to drinking; it was the vapor of the wines that slew him.
The effects of the smoke of tobacco, and also of the excitation from snuff, are well known. Young smokers generally, on commencing the filthy habit of smoking, become partially intoxicated.
From these historical facts, it is evident that various other substances besides alcohol possess an intoxicating quality. The degree of poison they contain, the quantity of stimulus or excitement which they are capable of producing, and the peculiar and various manner in which they affect the body and the mind of
man, may be very different indeed; still if they produce unnatural excitement, depression, or stupefaction-if they elevate the mind with joy for which no rational cause can be assigned—if they inflame the passions and madden the intellect—and if, while they exhilarate, they poison the body—then may they justly be termed intoxicating. Were I to drink but one cup of strong tea on going to bed, I should not close my eyes for the whole night. I believe a few cups would drive me mad. A small quantity of either tea or coffee would render me nervous and depressed in the extreme. There is no doubt that the hysterical and epileptic affections which are so painfully felt by many of the fair sex, should be attributed solely to the quantity of strong tea which they are in the habit of drinking. Our grandmothers, who drank neither of these stimulating beverages, were far stronger and healthier than the men of the present generation. That will doubtless be a happy period, both for the health of the body and the vigor of the mind, when stimulants of all descriptions are banished, and their place shall be supplied by healthful exercise and rational mental discipline. One of the great evils of the fall is idleness. People want excitement, but are too idle to rise in the morning betimes, to walk, to labor, or to think, and, as a substitute for natural exertion, fly to tea, coffee, opium, or alcohol. The effects of these stimulants are very different, but still in each case the excitement is artificial, and arises neither from the proper circulation of healthy and nutrient blood, nor from the rational and moral elevation of the soul. The "opium" of the Turks, the "bang" of the east, the "kava" of the South Seas, the "rhododendron" of Siberia, the "tuac" of Java, the tea, coffee, tobacco, and snuff of England, and the alcohol of every country where it exists, produce various descriptions of elevation, unnatural action, or stupefaction; but in each case the excited being more resembles an automaton or a galvanized lifeless body than an individual moved by a natural, rational, or moral principle of action.
From these facts also, and the essentials to fermentation stated in the last chapter, it is evident that wines have not always owed their intoxicating power to alcohol or vinous fermentation. In all hot countries there are three things which obstruct, if not
altogether prevent vinous fermentation, and which must at all events have rendered it impossible in ancient times to have produced strong alcoholic wines; these are the quantity of sugar in the grape or other fruits, the heat of the country, and the nonexistence of alcohol or ardent spirit in its pure or unmixed
1. The great quantity of sugar in the fruits of those countries. We all know that even in England a warm summer will greatly increase the saccharine qualities of grapes and other fruits; and we attribute the superior sweetness of foreign fruits to the high temperature of the countries in which they grow. Hence we produce artificial heat in our hot-houses. If we place a jar of common flour in an oven to bake it becomes sweet. Now all these facts show that heat, in most cases, is essential to the existence of a large quantity of saccharine matter. We also just now showed that an excess of sugar in the grape is unfavorable to the production of a strong alcoholic drink. It is impossible to obtain strong alcoholic cider out of very sweet apples, and for the same reason it is impossible to obtain strong wines from very sweet grapes. But the grapes of Palestine, Asia Minor, Egypt, &c., were exceedingly sweet. If in France, where the saccharine qualities of the grape are most favorable to perfect fermentation, the wines, when unmixed with alcohol are weak; if the strongest wine that the pure juice of the grape yields, does not contain more than eight per cent. of spirit, then how weak the wines must have been in those climates whose high temperature gave to the fruits an excess of saccharine matter; and consequently the wines of Palestine and other hot climates, if allowed to ferment previous to the invention of stills and distillation, must have had in them a very small portion of alcohol, and for want of more spirit would immediately have turned sour.
2. The heat of eastern countries must have been very injurious to the vinous fermentation of their very saccharine, and consequently, weak vines. We are told on the best scientific authority, that at a temperature of 75 degrees, the acetous fermentation of such liquors will commence. In England we have often witnessed the effects of a less degree of heat than is here mentioned in turning beer and cider sour, and which has arisen