This section is from the book "Health Without Medicine. A Treatise On The Laws Of The Human System", by Larkin B. Coles. Also available from Amazon: Philosophy Of Health.
In anticipation of coming responsibilities, every young woman is bound to look well to herself. She can but know that the grand arrangement of nature is that she shall become a mother. Let her also know that her own state of constitution will in a great degree be the type of that of her future offspring. The talent, the moral tone, and the physical health of that offspring will very much depend on her. Let her weigh this matter well, and prepare herself to meet approaching obligations. Let her be prepared to give the right stamp of character to that living immortal being that may hereafter be committed to her charge.
Let her look well to her physical system. Let her diet and exercise be such as to secure a sound and well-balanced nervous system. Let her strenuously and scrupulously avoid all stimulating drinks and condiments which conflict with nature's laws, and do great mischief to the brain and nerves. Let her live naturally, and not artificially. Let her avocations and exercise be such as will give expansion and strength to her whole muscular system. Let her take special pains to expand her chest, that her breathing apparatus may be free in the exercise of its vital functions; for without a full chest, she may plant the seeds of consumption in the constitution of her offspring before its birth.
Let her look well to the character of her own moral constitution. Let her choose those dietetic habits which favor moral culture; and which will tend to give a preponderance to the moral sentiment over the animal system. For the sake of her posterity, if for no other purpose, let her make herself an intellectual being; Let her not live for the mere purpose of mercenary and selfish gratifications, but for God and humanity. Let her not live to eat, and drink, and sleep, but to answer the great purposes of her being.
Let her look well to the character of him who may become her matrimonial associate. Is he an intellectual being, or a mere animal? He should have a good physical system, but has he a soul? Is he a sensual being, living for no other purpose than to fill up the measure of his appetites and passions? Has he corrupted his body and soul by dissolute habits? Are his habits of life adapted to secure to him a sound physical system? for if his course of life is weakening and vitiating his bodily nature, a degree of moral imbecility will be likely to follow in its wake. Is he cultivating a sound nervous system, or is he wantonly pursuing a course that is diminishing the natural energy of his brain and nerves, which will unfit him to meet his responsibility to his posterity?
Let her examine well his temperance habits. Does he appreciate the cause of temperance? if not, there is prima facie evidence, in these days of light, of a laxness of moral principle •which endangers moral rectitude. Is he a young man of total abstinence habits? or does he now and then take a pleasurable draft? If so, he is dealing with that which may, sooner or later, "bite like a serpent and sting like an adder." Trust him not. He is gradually stepping forward and onward in that path which has conducted millions to ruin. Think of the unmeasured woes of the drunkard's family; then stand aloof and be excused from such a destiny. Is the number of the pure small? then prefer single blessedness to double misery. Nay; let the young men of this generation know that they must quit their occasional drams, or go forever wifeless. Let them know that the young women of this generation cannot consent to share with them so fearful a responsibility as that of having a family of children whose only inheritance must be the hereditary taint of a drunken father.
Let her see whether there is any other hurtful habit of which he is the slave. If he he free from the corrupting and debasing power of alcohol, is he free from that slower, surer, and more deadly poison, tobacco? Let every young lady who sets any value upon herself, look well to this matter. When she sees a young man so lacking in the essential qualities of a gentleman that he needs a cigar to finish him, let her be determined that she will prefer the acquaintance of those who do not require this appendage. And let her never suffer herself to be courted by one of corrupted breath and TOBAOCONIZED BRAIN. Let her never marry one whose habits will ever annoy her, and whose system is under a poison that is enervating the vital and moral energies of his whole nervous constitution, and that will affect her posterity.
Will any one say this is a matter of fancy and not of fact? How comes it that the general idea that the physical condition of parents has a bearing upon the physical character of children, is universally admitted, and yet there are no individual instances in which it is true? The truth is that there are individual instances the world over, and everywhere; but nobody seems to realize it; yet in every case where either of the parents' habits are contrary to physical law, they are doing an injury which. will be more or less felt in the generation following them.
Let every young woman and every young man bring common sense and reason to hear upon this great and momentous subject. Let them so take care of themselves as to be prepared for the sober realities of life. Let them so fulfil their responsibilities, as that, when years shall have passed away, and their family circle is gathered around them, they may not have cause to look back with sorrow upon the past, and with fearful forebodings toward the future. Let them be so careful in the selection of connubial associates, that they may prove a mutual comfort to each other, and a blessing to the generations which follow them.
Let them beforehand count the cost of indulgence in intemperate appetites and sensual dispositions, which must inevitably tend to en-stamp upon their offspring grossness of moral depravity. Let them not in this way make themselves responsible for the evil conduct of their children, which may bring their gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. But let them, by their physical, moral, and intellectual culture of themselves, be prepared to bring into existence a class of beings whose physical, moral, and intellectual character shall enable them to enjoy life, be an ornament to society, and a blessing to the world.