• A Poem on the Use of Tobacco by Charles Shaw Adams •

• A Poem on the Use of Tobacco by Charles Shaw Adams •

First published in USA in 1852.


There is a certain plant whose use exceeds.
By far the use of other kinds of weeds;
And what is worthy of a special note,
No animal but man, a worm and goat
Will deign to use — to chew, to smoke, to snuff —
This nauseous, and withal this hateful stuff.
This noxious plant now used so much by msui
Was found at Tobaco in Yucatan;
Its name, Tobacco, it is said to take
From this same fact, if I do not mistake
Its first appearance every eye offends,
And to the nose a noxious odor sends;
It harms the brain, is nauseous to the taste.
Injures the lungs, and does the fluids waste;
Its horrid fume is like the stygian smoke.
Emitted from a hole in Hades broke.
And yet this weed, with deadly poison fraught.
More human minds has into bondage brought.
More tastes depraved, more seeds of sickness
Than any herb upon the “footstool” known;
Wielded more sway, more signal conquests won,
Than ever were achieved beneath the sun.
The force of law, in vain has been applied,
In former years; for this it has defied.
Popes, kings, and legislatures, all combine,
By excommunication, threats, and fine.
To stay its march, and break its iron rod —
It conquers still, and triumphs like a god;
This nauseous weed, despite of all their laws,
Still holds its throne within the human jaws.
Since o’er our race this foe began his sway.
More than three hundred years have passed
Man is the slave. Tobacco is the king,
That loathsome, nauseous, black and dirty
Blush, O my soul, for human nature blush!
That such a foe immortal man should crush,
And from its noble rank, by heaven assigned.
Seduce to abject slavery his mind!
A thing so strange, whoever heard, indeed?
Immortal man enslaved by such a weed!
It is too much! The blood within my veins
Curdles to view my fellow man in chains.
His cause I will espouse — I am his friend —
He must be free — heaven assistance lend!
listen my friends, while I his cause this day
Plead and maintain — then judge ye what I say.
And FIRST, I reason man no slave should be ;
Much less a slave to this vile Luridae.
(A class of poisons, which, as chemists say,
Include the foxglove, henbane, Atropa,
Lobelia, deadly night-shade, and the like.
Whose sad effects the mind with horror strike.)
Tobacco with these deadly drugs is classed.
Nor least in strength, though it is mentioned
For with another class it takes its stand.
Whose common use depopulates the land.
I group, says Hitchcock, (for they do agree
In being poisons, as ’tis plain to see.)
I group together, and reject the sum
Of Alcohol, Tobacco, Opium.
Although in common language they belong
To diverse classes, their effect is one;
And though distinct the ends applied to serve.
This to relax and that to brace the nerve.
Yet their effect will ultimately be
Upon the system, great stupidity;
Of either if a quantum sat you take.
Death will ensue without the least mistake.
Nor should the truth escape, as we proceed.
The worst of these is the Tobacco weed.
The vegetable kingdom can’t produce
More deadly poison, one whose common use
More surely tends, as stubborn facts declare.
To waste the health, the intellect impair;
Nor one whose concentrated power can do
The work of death more sure, more quickly too.
Its oil, (one drop, experiments have shown,)
Placed on the tongue, has in convulsions thrown
A full-sized cat. Three drops were once ap-
She was convulsed, and in three minutes died.
Upon a squirrel’s tongue two drops were
With agitation he was quickly seized,
His nimble body, active feet and head.
Were, in one minute, motionless and dead.
See yonder pale, emaciated frame.
With trembling hands — his nerves all shake
the same —
In sleep disturbed, and with his food distressed.
With dizzy head, and spirits quite depressed;
His stomach sinks, his appetite is gone.
His breathing hard — he raises blood anon.
A walking ghost! Yet his true name I lack —
Dyspeptic? Yes, and Hypochondriact
Yea, more than this; a fool! an abject slave!
Ere long to fill a suicidal grave!
What made him such ? Who did the dreadful
deed ? —
Naught but the use of the tobacco weed.
But can you prove it? To be sure I can,
He quits the weed — again he is a man
That man a slave should be, the thought
Perverted end! he was for freedom bom.
On him the right his Maker did bestow,
To take the name of lord of all below.
Who holds in bondage Africa’s injured race.
Is by the just and good esteemed as base;

The following is an extract of a letter from Bev. Solomon Hardy, of
South Wellfleet, Mass., to the author:

“I began to use tobacco when I was about sixteen years old. The prac-
tice was fashionable, and I thought it a mark of a smart spirit to be seen
chewing the quid, and spirting the dark colored saliva from my lips. This
foolish feeling was only temporary. I soon found I had formed a tyrannical
habit. I kept it for the most part till I was thirty-seven years old. I then
made several ineffectual attempts to break it up. My efforts, however,
were not entirely useless. I had already begun to fear, from reading and
experience, that I was engaged in a rumous practice. I strove hard to
break up the habit. But whenever I laid my tobacco aside, my body was
so enfeebled, and my mind so depressed, that I was unfit for any employ-
ment; and tobacco alone would restore my prostrated powers to their
wonted tone. At length I succeeded measurably, and I now think the
habit pretty well conquered. I am fully convinced that it was highly in-
jurious to me. The disagreeable sensations I experienced in attempting
to break off were solely the effect of tobacco. I was then learning what
the bewitching poison had done to my system. I have since learned more
on the subject. I am now free from many disagreeable nervous symptoms
with which I was once afficted. At one time the powers of my mind would
be suddenly paralyzed, accompanied with a kind of swimming sensation
in the brain. At another time my bodily strength would be suddenly pros-
trated. Bodily and mental prostration would sometimes come together.
At other times I felt as if I was either about to die, or to lose my reason,
or go into a fit. In other words I felt as if I was “just going off.” At
other times I would be suddenly agitated with fear to a very distressing
degree. Loss of appetite, listlessness, melancholy and dizziness, were my
frequent companions.
I now believe that all the above symptoms were caused by the use of
tobacco; for Ist, Since I left off the use of tobacco, they left me; and 2nd,
whenever I would resume the use of tobacco for a few days, after I had
measurably dispensed with it, those disagreeable sensations would begin to
return. Had I continued the use of tobacco, I might by this time have
been entirely useless, and mberable indeed. I thank God that he has
opened my eyes on the subject, and given me resolution to bid farewell to
the insidious poison.
I commenced the use of tobacco without suspecting any evil would at-
tend it. Nor did I suspect the disagreeable symptoms above recited, to
have been caused by tobacco, till I had felt them for several years. I could
not now resume the use of tobacco perseveringly, without great guilt, and
my ‘only safety is in a total abstinence’ fix) from it.”


Who holds theu- life at his capricious will,
A tyrant is, and counted baser still.
What shall we say, when man, the sovereign
Of all below, bows of his own accord,
An abject slave — not to a fellow man —
But to the deadly weed of Yucatan?
What shall we say, when he so sweetly rolls
Beneath his tongue a poison that controls
His mind, health, property and life; yea, all
That in this world he can a blessing call ?
We say, though he’s depraved, he does deserve,
Bad as he is, a better lord to serve.
Who serves a lord like this has sunk beneath
His grade, courts death, and chews it in his
Again I say, not only he’s a slave,
Who does tobacco use — he serves a knave.
A scoundrel he, who, with his dirty paw.
Does from your pocket fraudulently draw;
A single fraud, ’tis true, does not amount
To anything that’s worthy of account;
But oft repeated, like the use of rum,
Would rob you in a year of quite a sum.
Three cents a day a trifle may appear,
Yet if you reckon for a single year,
Eleven dollars, with a fraction less,
Is the amount your figures will express.
Some less than this pay for this dirty weed.
While others more than twice this sum exceed;
To some who smoke and chew, their yearly cost
Is FIFTY DOLLARS — just the samc as lost!
And if you think I’m reckoning too fast,
You’ll please to read king James’s” Counter-
“Some do bestow” ( I give his words I think )
“Four hundred pounds upon this precious
But just suppose (within due bounds to speak)
That you expend some twenty cents a week;
In fifty years, if I do not mistake,
It would for you a little fortune make;
Three thousand dollars (worth your saving too!)
Would, in round numbers, all be saved to you!
Your debts with this you could, perhaps, all
With something left against a rainy day.
From calculations accurately made,
‘Tis found that in this land is yearly paid
Millions of money — yes, it will exceed
Fifteen millions — for this nauseous weed.
Suppose we say the real cost is ten,
Of all that’s chewed, and smoked, and snuffed,
what then
Why, money will not cover all the cost
Of this vile drug — much precious time is lost.
Twelve millions yearly would not be enough
For wasted time upon this odious stuff;
‘Twould take some half a million more, to pay
For all the time that’s wasted in this way.
Nor is this all; with wasted wealth and time,
There will be surely poverty and crime.
For pauper tax we safely may set down
Three millions more — ’tis felt in every town.
The total sum of items, told before,
A fearful sum! and to our land’s disgrace.
We say, it is a worse than yearly waste.
Should Uncle Sam a tax like this demand,
Rebellion would burst forth throughout the
Were it applied the plague or death to buy,
Each breath would bear a murmur or a sigh.
And yet it goes to make men fools and slaves.
Purchase disease and shame, and early graves.
Much better far applied to common schools,
Than making beggars, idlers, sots and fools.
Applied to feed the hungry and the poor,
For what a number it would bread procure!
Or used to distribute the Word of Life,
‘Twould rescue thousands from a noisy strife;
Or spent to some the Gospel trumpet’s blast,
Millions of souls ‘twould bring to heaven at last.
Who pays this dreadful tax “to gain this
The infidel, the Soldier of the Cross,
The monarch on his throne, the abject slave.
Alike the statesman, drunkard, and the knave;
The female sex (I blush to tell the truth!)
Pay their proportion, and the tender youth;
In this one thing all classes now agree,
To spread disease, and crime, and poverty.
But THIRDLY, there’s another reason still,
Besides the shame of paying such a bill.
Why man, my brother, should not be a slave
Much less to serve a despot and a knave.
This reason is so obviously seen.
It has ere this anticipated been;
For it has passed the notice of but few —
I mean, he serves a filthy master too.
Who’s seen them make cigars, has seen them dip
The noxious leaf, that they might form the tip
A sweeter morsel for the smoker’s taste.
In urine stale, or other filthy waste
And then, my friends, just think there’s naught
The filth that from the chewer’s mouth proceeds.
Two ounces chewed a day, ’tis said, produce
A half a pint of vile tobacco juice,
Which, if continued five and twenty years,
From sober calculation it appears,
With this foul stuff would near five hogsheads fill.
Besides old quids a larger parcel still
Nor am I with this calculation done —
He in that time has chewed a half a ton —
A wagon-load — of that which would of course
Sicken a dog, or even kill a horse.
Could he foresee, but at a single view,
What he was destined in his life to chew.
And then the product of his work survey.
He would grow sick and throw his quid away
Or could the lass, ere she had pledged to be
His loving wife, her future prospect see;
Could she but know that through his mouth
would pass,
In this short life, this dirty, loathsome mass,
Would she consent to take his hand for life,
And wedded to this filth, become his wife?
And if she would, say, where’s the, pretty miss,
That envies her the lips she has to kiss.
Nor is this all – this dirty practice leads
To kindred habits and to filthy deeds.
To smoke and chew, an able Statesman thinks.
Creates a thirst for stimulating drinks.
Full many a one (who envies him his lot?)
Both smokes and chews, then drinks and dies a
The chewer’s filthy deeds who has not seen,
Has to the passing world a stranger been.
I’ve seen the house of God— its aisles, its pews,
Long bear the filthy marks of him that chews.
I’ve seen the sacred desk (Oh God, forbid!)
Sometimes polluted by the pastor’s quid.
I’ve seen -the wall beside a certain bed
Of one who chews tobacco — near the head —
Bedaubed and blackened with this hateful juice,
While near it lay old quids for future use.
I’ve seen the woman, who loved snuff so well,
(How much she took no mortal tongue can tell,)
Pick up old quids and dry them by the fire.
And grind them up to sate her strong desire.
I’ve seen the bride upon her wedding gown
The dirty pipe and filthy weed lay down,
And then prepare the hateful thing to smoke,
Before she had the nuptial silence broke.
And, like a daughter true of mother Eve, —
Her new-made husband she did not conceive
Was constituted HEAD, and not a limb, —
She smoked herself, and gave the pipe to him;
And he, like Adam, in submission true,
Took from her hand the pipe, and smoked it too.
But I forbear; for time would surely fail.
To tell the whole of this disgusting tale.
Who’s travelled in the steamboat or the stage.
Has seen this weed all decency outrage.
And he can tell by his olfactory nerves,
What master the tobacco user serves.
But though convinced that what I’ve said is true,
Youll make excuse, perhaps, as others do.
You say your stomach’s watery and cold —
You use the pipe, or quid, because you’re told
It has been tried, and will at once increase
Expectoration, and the water’ll cease.
Or indigestion is the ail you plead.
And smoking is the remedy you need;
Your eyes are weak, or you’ve an aching head.
And you take snuff, for that is good ’tis said;
Or your defective teeth you would preserve.
And this you find, relieves the aching nerve;
Or better still you think is your excuse.
The rising of your food demands the use.
Besides, against contagion it will guard,
And you complain, it is amazing hard
That you can’t have so good an antidote,
When health alone ‘s the object you promote.
But such excuses of the devotees
Of this foul drug are mere apologies;
Reasons they are not, it is very clear,
The common notion is delusion sheer.
For eyes diseased, or to digest the food,
Or save the teeth, this hateful weed is good.
Physicians say, ’tis common sense abused —
There’s no disease for which it need be use;
It is a poison, and to sum the whole.
It ruins health, life, property and soul.
Is this the case? then let me ask each one.
What ought? what can? and what must now
be done?
To make decision were it left to me,
I would propose a simple remedy.
One thing is needful and alone but one —
Its use abandon, and the work is done.
And I may challenge all the world to say.
How they would do it in a better way.
I now appeal to all experience —
When was it done, except by Abstinence?
The love of sin, when was it once subdued.
Or habit cured, while it was still pursued
To make the cure complete, it will require
No less a thing than abstinence entire.
Who, by its use his self-control has lost,
This may indeed, a mighty effort cost ;
That he’ll have cravings for a while, ’tis clear,
Yet if he will but three weeks persevere,
I will ensure, that when the effort’s made,
With health and freedom he’ll be richly paid.
From what’s been said, you must I think, con-
The evil is of no small magnitude.
No less the public, than the private weal,
Requires me now to make a strong appeal
To Christians; yea, to all the friends of man.
To lend their aid, and do whate’er they can
To save the land, and set the people free
From this vile curse — this worst of slavery.
The effort to be made, though great, I’m sure
Is safe, and will no doubt, effect a cure.
The antidote is easily applied,
With moral power enlisted on our side.
To make the effort let each one agree —
The work is done — the nation will be free.
In this good cause, and for the public weal,
To PATRIOTS I make my first appeal.
Your patriotic spirit spurns to show
A poltroon face before your country’s foe.
Should war invade the land, you would arise
To quell the foe, at any sacrifice ;
And shall this weed, whose common use de-
The public morals, and the mind enslaves.
Its deadly poison through the land extend.
Nor yet the patriot assistance lend
To stay the curse — to save the waste of wealth,
Of life, of mental energies, and health
Who has examined both the breadth and length
Of this portentous evil, and its strength.
Yet feels on him this subject has no claim.
Does not deserve a patriotic name.
Do you inquire, as to your country true,
What duty in this case devolves on you ?
What efforts you must make against this weedl
The answer is an easy one indeed.
From this narcotic evermore abstain.
Urge on your friends their duty to refrain —
To practice thus if you will all agree.
The work will soon be done — the nation free.
We put the question. Patriots to you.
In this good cause will you your duty do?
To Christians next let my appeal be made.
In view of what eternal truth has said.
“Deny thyself and take thy daily cross,
The pleasures of the world account but loss.
Depart from evil, its appearance shun.
Ere all thy duty to the Saviour’s done.”
Now let me ask, can they be Christians true,
Who smoke this weed, or this narcotic chew?
Do they deny themselves, can we suppose.
Who daily snuff this poison to their nose
Is there no sin in what destroys the health.
Dethrones the reason, makes a waste of wealth?
For this vile weed would Christ a farthing waste.
Were he on earth? Or would he touch or taste
The dirty thing, whose hateful, nauseous smell
Proclaims its fitness for the world of hell?
And can you friends, whose names are in his book.
Who through his blood for heavenly blessings look
Can you, whom he expects the world to light
By your example, think that you are right?
Can you believe you are his friends indeed.
While you are slaves to such a filthy weed?
Ye are his servants whom ye do obey
With willing mind the sacred Scriptures say.
Then let each Christian in the land proceed,
From this time forth, to quit this dirty weed;
Let him persuade to abstinence entire.
Alike the blooming youth and aged ske;
Then is the work of this reform begun.
And if pursued, will very soon be done.
We put the question. Christian friends to you,
In this reform will you yowr duty do ?
If on this subject there is any truth
In what I’ve said, it must concern the youth.
Conscious of what my duty bids me do.
I make, young friends, my next appeal to yon.
You are the nation’s hope its strength, its prime;
And, under God, you will be called in time,
To take its rule, its mighty counsels weigh.
Its laws enact, its destinies to sway.
The vast importance of the place you’ll hold
In public life, cannot be fully told
No tongue can tell, if you should not be found,
To hold enlightened principles and sound,
What evils to the nation would accrue.
From the mistakes that might be made by you;
And if your habits are impure and base,
Upon your country you will bring disgrace.
But the reverse, if we suppose is true.
Who can describe the public good you’ll do ?
The evils we deplore are more a dread,
Than armed hosts, with Xerxes at their head ;
Yet, with the moral power which you possess,
It lies with you to make these evils less.
Let all the youth in this Republic be
But from the use of this narcotic free,
A nobler cause, I fearlessly maintain,
Brutus and Gracchus never died to gain.
We put the question, then, dear Youth, to you,
In this great work will you your duty do?
Nor am I done — for sure I could not feel
In conscience clear, should I make no appeal
To those untiring men, who would advance
That noble cause — the cause of Temperance.
A work like yours demands that naught exist,
Which can your moral potency resist.
But will complete success your efforts crown,
Till you combine to put Tobacco down
In that good cause can you consistent be
While you are held in this vile slavery
I do aver, your cause you must give up,
While you retain this handmaid of the cup.
We put the question, then, my friends to you,
In such a cause will you your duty do?
The firmest spoke set in the moral wheel.
The LADIES form, — to whom I next appeal.
To you belongs the power; we must concede,
To stop the use of this disgusting weed.
The rising generation you control —
You watch the early buddings of the soul.
You on the tender mind impressions make.
Which mark the course their future actions take;
And thus ’tis plain the habits of the land
Are formed and moulded by the female hand.
Abstain yourselves — let your example teach —
And urge the same on all within your reach ;
In twenty years, I will engage to say.
This filthy practice will be done away.
We put the question, female friends, to you,
In this good work will you your duty do ?
Physicians too, will suffer an appeal —
Are you not called the sickly slave to heal
Slave to a weed, whose common use you know,
Strikes at the health a sure and deadly blow ?
You could relate, if you were so inclined,
Some cases where it stupefied the mind,
And where it made disease more stubborn still,
Defied your means, and baffled all your skill.
You know a deadly poison ’tis, and hence
There is no cure but Total Abstinence.
To urge this truth, is what we ask of you.
By your example, and your precepts too.
This reforniation, which bespeaks your aid,
You will eflect, if such an effort’s made.
Men of the healing art, we now to you
The question put, — will you your duty do?
To those who at the sacred altar kneel.
And preach the Word, I make my last appeal.
On Zion’s walls you stand to watch the foe,
And guide the flock in ways they ought to go;
With trumpet voice the Gospel to declare.
Their sins expose, nor their transgressions spare.
But while you make the way to others sure.
No habit of your own should be impure —
While you “allure to brighter worlds,” I say.
By your example you should ” lead the way.”
Then let me ask, if you may not mislead
Some thoughtless youth, by using this foul weed?
As in the fear of God you should decide.
Whether you follow Christ your perfect guide;
Who, as he went about to cure disease,
And save the soul, sought not himself to please;
Or imitate the great Apostle, Paul,
Who would not make a weaker brother fall.
To eat things lawful he made no pretence,
When to his brother that would give offence.
Would the Apostles such success have found,
Had they to habits like your own been bound ?
Had they been slaves to quids^ cigars and snuff?
But to the wise a word is quite enough.
Throw all your efforts on the side of truth.
Persuade your flocks, especially the youth.
To quit the weed, the slavish habit ceetse.
And walk in wisdom’s Ways whose paths are peace.
Then will this cause a final triumph meet —
This foe of man be laid beneath your feet.
We put the question. Ministers to you,
In this good work will you your duty do?
Did time permit, I would indeed appeal
To those who in this deadly poison deal;
But at this time it must suffice to say,
You deal out death with every ounce you weigh.
The worthy band, whom I this day address,
To you I would my highest joy express,
That in this cause, though recently begun.
You have advanced, and very nobly done;
Arid in conclusion I can only say.
Go on, my friends, until your dying day;
The final triumph of your cause I hail —
It is of God, and must of course prevail.


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