A Counterblaste to Tobacco

From Don’t be like them!

A Counterblaste to Tobacco by King James I

That the manifolde abuses of this vile custome of Tobacco taking, may the better be espied, it is fit, that first you enter into consideration both of the first originall thereof, and likewise of the reasons of the first entry thereof into this Countrey. For certainely as such customes, that have their first institution either from a godly, necessary, or honorable ground, and are first brought in, by the meanes of some worthy, vertuous, and great Personage, are ever, and most justly, holden in great and reverent estimation and account, by all wise, vertuous, and temperate spirits: So should it by the contrary, justly bring a great disgrace into that sort of customes, which having their originall from base corruption and barbarity, doe in like sort, make their first entry into a Countrey, by an inconsiderate and childish affectation of Noveltie, as is the true case of the first invention of Tobacco taking, and of the first entry thereof among us. For Tobacco being a common herbe, which (though under divers names) growes almost every where, was first found out by some of the barbarous Indians, to be a Preservative, or Antidot against the Pockes, a filthy disease, whereunto these barbarous people are (as all men know) very much subject, what through the uncleanly and adust constitution of their bodies, and what through the intemperate heate of their Climat: so that as from them was first brought into Christendome, that most detestable disease, so from them likewise was brought this use of Tobacco, as a stinking and unsavorie Antidot, for so corrupted and execrable a Maladie, the stinking Suffumigation whereof they yet use against that disease, making so one canker or venime to eate out another.

And now good Countrey men let us (I pray you) consider, what honour or policie can moove us to imitate the barbarous and beastly maners of the wilde, godlesse, and slavish Indians, especially in so vile and stinking a custome? Shall wee that disdaine to imitate the maners of our neighbour France (having the stile of the first Christian Kingdom) and that cannot endure the spirit of the Spaniards (their King being now comparable in largenes of Dominions, to the great Emperor of Turkie) Shall wee, I say, that have bene so long civill and wealthy in Peace, famous and invincible in Warre, fortunate in both, we that have bene ever able to aide any of our neighbours (but never deafed any of their eares with any of our supplications for assistance) shall we, I say, without blushing, abase our selves so farre, as to imitate these beastly Indians, slaves to the Spaniards, refuse to the world, and as yet aliens from the holy Covenant of God? Why doe we not as well imitate them in walking naked as they doe? in preferring glasses, feathers, and such toyes, to golde and precious stones, as they do? yea why do we not denie God and adore the Devill, as they doe?

Now to the corrupted basenesse of the first use of this Tobacco, doeth very well agree the foolish and groundlesse first entry thereof into this Kingdome. It is not so long since the first entry of this abuse amongst us here, as this present age cannot yet very well remember, both the first Author, and the forme of the first introduction of it amongst us. It was neither brought in by King, great Conquerour, nor learned Doctor of Phisicke.

With the report of a great discovery for a Conquest, some two or three Savage men, were brought in, together with this Savage custome. But the pitie is, the poore wilde barbarous men died, but that vile barbarous custome is yet alive, yea in fresh vigor: so as it seemes a miracle to me, how a custome springing from so vile a ground, and brought in by a father so generally hated, should be welcomed upon so slender a warrant. For if they that first put it in practise heere, had remembred for what respect it was used by them from whence it came, I am sure they would have bene loath, to have taken so farre the imputation of that disease upon them as they did, by using the cure thereof. For Sanis non est opus medico, and counterpoisons are never used, but where poyson is thought to precede.

But since it is true, that divers customes slightly grounded, and with no better warrant entred in a Commonwealth, may yet in the use of them thereafter, proove both necessary and profitable; it is therefore next to be examined, if there be not a full Svmpathie and true Proportion, betweene the base ground and foolish entrie, and the loathsome, and hurtfull use of this stinking Antidote.

I am now therefore heartily to pray you to consider, first upon what false and erroneous grounds you have first built the generall good liking thereof; and next, what sinnes towards God, and foolish vanities before the world you commit, in the detestable use of it.

As for these deceitfull grounds, that have specially mooved you to take a good and great conceit thereof, I shall content my selfe to examine here onely foure of the principals of them; two founded upon the Theoricke of a deceivable appearance of Reason, and two of them upon the mistaken Practicke of generall Experience.

First, it is thought by you a sure Aphorisme in the Physickes, That the braines of all men, beeing naturally colde and wet, all dry and hote things should be good for them; of which nature this stinking suffumigation is, and therefore of good use to them. Of this Argument, both the Proposition and Assumption are false, and so the Conclusion cannot but be voyd of it selfe. For as to the Proposition, That because the braines are colde and moist, therefore things that are hote and drie are best for them, it is an inept consequence: For man beeing compounded of the foure Complexions, (whose fathers are the foure Elements) although there be a mixture of them all in all the parts of his body, yet must the divers parts of our Microcosme or little world within our selves, be diversly more inclined, some to one, some to another complexion, according to the diversitie of their uses, that of these discords a petfect harmonie may bee made up for the maintenance of the whole body.

The application then of a thing of a contrary nature, to any of these parts, is to interrupt them of their due function, and by consequence hurtfull to the health of the whole body. As if a man, because the Liver is hote (as the fountaine of blood) and as it were an oven to the stomacke, would therfore apply and weare close upon his Liver and stomacke a cake of lead; he might within a very short time (I hope) be susteined very good cheape at an Ordinarie, beside the cleering of his conscience from that deadly sinne of gluttonie. And as if, because the Heart is full of vitall spirits, and in perpetuall motion, a man would therefore lay a heavy pound stone on his breast, for staying and holding downe that wanton palpitation, I doubt not but his breast would bee more bruised with the weight thereof, then the heart would be comforted with such a disagreeable and contrarious cure. And even so is it with the Braines. For if a man, because the Braines are colde and humide, would therefore use inwardly by smells, or outwardly by application, things of hot and drie qualitie, all the gaine that he could make thereof, would onely be to put himselfe in a great forwardnesse for running mad, by over-watching him selfe, the coldnesse and moistnesse of is our braine beeing the onely ordinarie meanes that procure our sleepe and rest. Indeed I do not denie, but when it falls out that any of these, or any part of our bodie growes to be distempered, and to tend to ail extremitie, beyond the compasse of Natures temperate mixture, that in that case cures of contrary qualities, to the intemperate inclination of that part, being wisely prepared and discreetely ministered, may be both necessarie and helpefull for strengtbniug and assisting Nature in the expulsion of her enemies: for this is the true definition of all profitable Physicke.

But first these Cures ought not to bee used, but where there is neede of them, the contrarie whereof, is daily practised in this generall use of Tobacco by all sorts and complexions of people.

And next, I deny the Minor of this argument, as I have already said, in regard that this Tobacco, is not simply of a dry and hot qualitie; but rather hath a certaine venemous facultie joyned with the heate thereof, which makes it have an Antipathie against nature, as by the hatefull smell thereof doeth well appeare. For the Nose being the proper Organ and convoy of the sense of smelling to the braines, which are the onely fountaine of that sense, doeth ever serve us for an infallible witnesse, whether that Odour which we smell, be healthfull or hurtfull to the braine (except when it fals out that the sense it selfe is corrupted and abused through some infirmitie, and distemper in the braine.) And that the suffumigation thereof cannot have a drying qualitie, it needes no further probation, then that it is a smoake, all smoake and vapour, being of it selfe humide, as drawing neere to the nature of the ayre, and easie to be resolved againe into water, whereof there needes no other proofe but the Meteors, which being bred of nothing else but of the vapours and exhalations sucked up by the Sunne out of the earth, the Sea, and waters yet are the sarne smoakie vapours turned, and transformed into Raynes, Snowes, Deawes, hoare Frostes, and such like waterie Meteors, as by the contrarie the raynie cloudes are often transformed and evaporated in blustering winds.

The second Argument grounded on a show of reason is, That this filthie smoake, aswell through the heat and strength thereof, as by a naturall force and qualitie, is able and fit to purge both the head and stomacke of Rhewmes and distillations, as experience teacheth, by the spitting and avoyding fleame, immediately after the taking of it. But the fallacie of this Argument may easily appeare, by my late preceding description of the Meteors. For even as the smoakie vapours sucked up by the Sunne, and staied in the lowest and colde Region of the ayre, are there contracted into cloudes and turned into raine and such other watery Meteors: So this stinking smoake being sucked up by the Nose, and imprisoned in the colde and moyst braines, is by their colde and wett facultie, turned and cast foorth againe in waterie distillations, and so are you made free and purged of nothing, but that wherewith you wilfully burdened your selves: and therefore are you no wiser in taking Tobacco for purging you of distillations, then if for preventing the Cholike you would take all kinde of windie meates and drinkes, and for preventing of the Stone, you would take all kinde of meates and drinkes that would breede gravell in the Kidneyes, and then when you were forced to avoyde much winde out of your stomacke, and much gravell in your Urine, that you should attribute the thanke thereof to such nourishments as bred those within you, that behoved either to be expelled by the force of Nature, or you to have burst at the broadside, as the Proverbe is.

As for the other two reasons founded upon experience, the first of which is, That the whole people would not have taken so generall a good liking thereof, if they had not by experience found it verie soveraigne and good for them: For answere thereunto how easily the mindes of any people, wherewith God hath replenished this world, may be drawen to the foolish affectation of any noveltie, I leave it to the discreetjudgement of any man that is reasonable.

Doe we not dayly see, that a man can no sooner bring over from beyond the Seas any new forme of apparell, but that hee can not bee thought a man of spirit, that would not presently imitate the same? And so from hand to hand it spreades, till it be practised by all, not for any commoditie that is in it, but only because it is come to be the fashion. For such is the force of that naturall Selfe-love in every one of us, and such is the corruption of envie bred in the brest of every one, as we cannot be content unlesse we imitate every thing that our fellowes doe, and so proove our selves capable of every thing whereof they are capable, like Apes, counterfeiting the maners of others, to our owne destruction. For let one or two of the greatest Masters of Mathematickes in any of the two famous Universities, but constantly affirme any cleare day, that they see some strange apparition in the skies: they will I warrant you be seconded by the greatest part of the Students in that profession: So loath will they be, to bee thought inferiour to their fellowes, either in depth of knowledge or sharpnesse of sight: And therefore the generall good liking and imbracing of this foolish custome, doeth but onely proceede from that affectation of noveltie, and popular errour, whereof I have already spoken.

The complete text of A Counterblaste to Tobacco

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