« PreviousContinue »
of having done our best to benefit our fellow men, even if our good offices are not kindly received, or duly appreciated.
2"Let it be remembered," says the author of the Friend of Peace, in his reasons for believing that efforts for the abolition of war will not be in vain, "that the charge of a chimerical project, or Utopian scheme,' has been uniformly made against the first efforts for the abolition of any popu lar custom; yet many such attempts have succeeded, to the astonishment and joy of those who once regarded them as fit subjects of ridicule."
3 In a letter of Doctor Rush, to George Clymer, Esq. "on the amusements and punishments proper for schools," he says, "I know how apt mankind are to brand every proposition for innovation, as visionary and Utopian; but good men should not be discouraged by such epithets, from their attempts to combat vice and error.
4 After noticing many of the most valuable discoveries and improvements for meliorating the condition of man, which have been denounced as Utopian projects, he concludes his letter, with an anecdote of a minister in London, who, after employing a long sermon, in controverting what he supposed to be an heretical opinion, concluded it with the following words: "I tell you, I tell you, my brethren, I tell you again, that an old error is better than a new truth."
5 "We ought not to shrink from the investigation of truth, however unpopular, nor conceal it, whatever the profession of it may cost. Though exertions of this sort are sometimes imputed to unworthy motives, and disinterested attempts to serve the best interests of humanity, are frequently rewarded with insult and reproach, we ought to reflect that this is the treatment which the advocates of truth have met with in almost every age. 99*
6 As it is our design to promote the prosperity of society in the aggregate, it is hoped that individuals, whose occupations depend on those popular follies which we shall endeavor to exterminate, will not be offended at the course which a sense of duty impels us to pursue. "It will be impossible to do much good without some persons accounting themselves injured by what you do. You will unavoidably serve some interests to which others are inimical."†
7 We cannot subscribe to the doctrine of Goldsmith, that
* Gov. Miller's Message to the Legislature of North Carolina, in 1815. Essays to do Good.
luxury and fanciful fashions are beneficial, upon a general scale, because they multiply employment for the laboring classes of society. The rational wants of mankind are sufficiently numerous to employ the industry and ingenuity of all who are able and willing to labor.
8 To scrutinize and determine the propriety or impropriety of ideas and habits acquired from precept or example in early life, (when their correctness is not called in question,) we need the faculty of divesting ourselves from the influence of previous impressions, and of viewing things with which we have been long familiarized, as though they were newly presented to our senses.
9 Regardless of the shafts of wit or resentment, or the imputation of eccentricity, we shall endeavor to exhibit a faithful chart of the mistakes and eccentricities of society.
10 The most universal, mischievous, expensive, and inexcusable customs of the present age of luxury and extravagance, are those of adopting sugar, tea and coffee, ardent spirits and tobacco, as articles of daily consumption. These insatiable, but fashionable leeches to the public wealth, and canker-worms to health and life, ought to be extirpated, if it were for no other reason than their enormous expense, but still more for their deleterious effects.
11 The habitual free use of sugar, has been justly condemned, as injurious to health, by Locke, Buchan, Willich, and others. It is employed to disguise the taste of several other pernicious articles; as tea, coffee, distilled spirits, &c. until the reluctant appetite is perverted and reconciled to their daily use. The mischief of coffee and tea is increased by the hot water in which they are drank. Coffee, though useful medicine, if drank constantly, will at length induce a decay of health and hectic fever. *
12 Tea possesses an acrid astringent quality, peculiar to most leaves and exterior bark of trees, and corrodes and paralyzes the nerves. Is nature so partial that she has denied the American continent a single product fit for an infusion at our tables? Is it fashion, or depraved appetite, or both, that induces nearly all the inhabitants of America, to drink China tea and West India coffee, in preference to the far more nutritious and salubrious drinks, which may be prepared from the various farinaceous seeds, milk, and other materials of domestic production?
*See Dr. Willich's Art of preserving Health and prolonging Life.
13 We have late accounts from China, that in the course of six months American ships alone deposited in Canton the enormous sum of five millions of dollars! Deluded Americans! Boasters of patriotism, liberty, virtue and independence! Will you remain politically and intellectually blind, until your last silver dollar is shipped to China for tea; and your last bushel of wheat to the West Indies for coffee, rum and sugar?
14 What avails the heroism, the sacrifice of blood and treasure, and the indescribable sufferings of your fathers in resisting British compulsion, while you voluntarily bestow ten fold more tribute upon foreign nations than a monarch would demand?*
15 "When navigation is employed only for transporting necessary provisions from one country, where they abound, to another where they are wanting; when by this it prevents famines, which were so frequent and so fatal before it was invented and became so common; we cannot help considering it as one of those arts which contribute most to the happiness of mankind.
16 "But when it is employed to transport things of no utility, or articles merely of luxury, it is then uncertain whether the advantages resulting from it are sufficient to counterbalance the misfortunes it occasions, by exposing the lives of so many individuals upon the vast ocean. And when it is used to plunder vessels and transport slaves, it is
* In the present crisis of general embarrassment  in the United States, the considerations of patriotism dictate the universal renunciation of the use of tea and other foreign luxuries, as imperiously as at the commencement of the Revolution. Some respectable families have already commenced a reformation in this respect. The example upon an extensive scale, first mentioned, and to a limited extent, of a number of families in England, who were prevailed on by the influence and eloquence of Wesley, to abstain from the use of tea, chiefly for the laudable purposes of devoting the savings to the relief of the poor, is a sufficient demonstration of the safety of rejecting the habit of tea drinking, as it respects health. The inconvenience was of short duration, and succeeded by an improved state of health, in the cases related by Wesley. The sudden and total disuse of tea, by persons far advanced in life, might produce more injury than benefit to them, as is apt to be the case in the confirmed habit of taking any narcotic, or unnatural stimulant, such as tobacco, opium, spirits, &c. But there is no question of the propriety and duty of rescuing the rising generation entirely from the injurious and costly custom of swallowing, annually, during life, three hundred and sixty-five quarts each of scalding tea, which is well known to anticipate the effects of time, in withering the blooming cheek of youth,
evidently only the dreadful means of increasing those calamities which afflict human nature.
17 "One is astonished to think on the number of vessels and men who are daily exposed in going to bring tea from China, coffee from Arabia, and sugar and tobacco from America; all commodities which our ancestors lived very well without. The sugar trade employs nearly a thousand vessels, and that of tobacco almost the same number.
18 "With regard to the utility of tobacco, little can be said; and, with regard to sugar, how much more meritorious would it be to sacrifice the momentary pleasure which we receive from drinking it once or twice a day in our tea, than to encourage the numberless cruelties that are continually exercised in order to procure it us?”*
19 How is our country to be supplied with those imaginary necessaries of life, (which, however, are converted into real ones by habit,) when it becomes as populous as China? Where shall we find the requisite quantity of silver to purchase tea for three hundred millions of people, and pay for its transportation from the opposite side of the globe ?t
20 The increasing habit of chewing, smoking and snuffing tobacco, is too mischievous a trespasser on the public health and wealth, to be excused from an examination at the bar of reason. We shall not refuse tobacco the credit of being sometimes medical, when used temperately, though an acknowledged poison.
21 While it relieves some diseases, it aggravates others; and is both unnecessary and pernicious to persons in health, especially to youth. Chewing tobacco is almost uniformly injurious. Constantly exciting a discharge from the salivary glands, it exhausts the body of one of its most important fluids; produces obstinate chronic diseases; weakens the organs of digestion, and shortens the term of vital excitability and life.
22 Young persons ought to be prevented from contracting a habit, which is so very reprehensible, both for its waste of vital power and property. The same may be said of smoking tobacco, except that it is more injurious, because commonly practised in greater excess, and in the form of segars, is more
+ We go to fetch earth from China, as if we had none; stuffs, as if we were without stuffs; a small herb to infuse in water, as if our climate did not afford any simples.-VOLTAIRE,
expensive. Snuffing powdered tobacco, when habitual, is disgusting, like both the other modes of using it, and injures the whole nervous system, as well as the sense of smelling. J. T.
Desultory observations on Fashion;-Foreign Goods;Causes and remedy of Pauperism;-Novel Reading;War.
1 We shall next commence an attack on a variety of customs, originating in mistaken fancy, and belonging to the empire of fashion. It is doubtless a rational conjecture, that the annual expenditure of society for superfluities and trifling habits, is as great as for its reasonable necessities. This is a violation of our obligations of duty, both to ourselves, and to succeeding generations.
2 In the wanton dissipation of property, we not only annihilate the amount of its present specific value, but also its multiplying power, for perhaps an infinite space of time. Are not the most affluent men, then, inexcusable, in robbing their posterity in anticipation, by sacrificing the property in their possession, in vain amusements and fashions?
3 Immense sums are continually wasted by almost all classes of both sexes, in superfluities of dress. It will be conceded that the various fluctuating modes and fashions of our attire are adopted with a view to attract and interest the eyes, and attention of others, rather than for our own personal convenience or comfort. If we were all to adhere uniformly to a simple, convenient, and permanent mode of dress, we should soon all be contented.
4 The greatest mischief, probably, which results from frequent and expensive changes in the fashion of our costume, is to be found in the unconquerable desire of people of but little or no property to exhibit (especially when absent from home) a similar appearance to their wealthier neighbors.
5 The custom which enjoins it on the relatives of every deceased person, to incur an extra expense in the purchase of garments of a particular color, as a token of respect and mourning, is peculiarly oppressive to the middle and poorer classes of society. This is a delicate subject, and the writer