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 view of these facts, just adduced, the responsibilities which fall on those who are now liable, or may at some future period become liable, to be fathers, are incalculable. That man who practically disregards his obligations touching this matter, is not fit for the society of intelligent beings. While he lives as he lists, following out his depraved and self-created appetites, regardless of his obligations to himself, his generation, and his God, he is only fit to herd among swine and grovel in the mire of his own sensuality. We see that the rudiment of the future being is of paternal origin, and that the quality of constitution possessed by the parent determines in a great degree the character of that future being. Hence the conclusion is legitimate, that inattention to such responsibilities is in a high degree reprehensible.
Any departure from strict obedience to nature's laws tends to weaken the system. And any process which, in any degree, produces this result, proportionably disables an individual for meeting his obligations to his race. That man who uses alcoholic liquors, is steeping his brain and nerves in the poisonous cup. He is taking one of the most deadly enemies to human life into the very citadel of his being. His brain, from whence the germ of a future being proceeds, is steaming and fuming by the alcoholic fires which he has there kindled. Can this man suppose that he can take his daily, or even occasional dram, and his children escape the consequences? Ay, they cannot escape. As a general rule -- which may have exceptions -- there will be found unusual physical or moral defects; and perhaps both.
A case in proof is at hand: a father of nine children became by degrees a confirmed drunkard. When first married, and until after his fourth child was born, he remained temperate; but being unfortunate in business, he suddenly became, and continued, addicted to his cups; during which time his other five children were born. One of these was convicted of robbery, and served an apprenticeship in the state prison; another of theft; another of larceny; another became a drunkard; the fifth was an idiot. The mother of all these was an excellent woman, and his first four children were intelligent and upright. These facts are not alone; many are there of a similar character which testify to the same general truth.
That man who chews and smokes his tobacco, is the individual to be addressed on this subject. He is doing that to himself which should be called gradual suicide; and that for his future offspring which should be denominated manslaughter. It is to him that truth would direct her long and pointed finger, saying, "Thou art the man." His brain and nerves are tinctured with that foul and loathsome thing, which none else will ever eat except the miserable tobacco worm, and the rock goat of Africa, whose effluvia none but himself can endure. He is daily taking into his system an amount perhaps of the real essence of that wretched poison sufficient, when given to those who are unaccustomed to its use, to destroy at once the lives of half a dozen men. His nervous susceptibilities to its immediate effects are blunted; but the genuine poison, which, under other circumstances, would kill him, and many others with him, is nevertheless lodged daily in his system, and must sooner or later cause him to pay the penalty of violated law.
And where principally has this poison lodged itself? On the brain and nerves. It is through this medium making gradual inroads upon his own physical and mental systems, and those of his immediate posterity. His brain, which is to give origin to other beings, is saturated with the poison. A poison, too, which affects not only his brain and nerves, but every gland, every membrane, and every tissue of his body. His children cannot escape being sharers of its hurtful agency. In view of this undeniable fact, will our young men, for fashion's sake, or for a depraved, unnatural appetite's sake, continue this wicked gratification? Will they, in spite of consequences, and in defiance of solemn obligation, go on, puffing their cigars or chewing the deadly weed? Do they lack for moral courage to face and defend themselves against that created, depraved and infernal appetite? Are they beyond the reach of recovery -- drawn down the current of an enslaving and overpowering propensity? Do they give it up? or has tobacco so deadened their moral sensibilities -- which it is capable of doing -- that they can look upon this whole subject with a dogged indifference?
People are apt to think that because a certain habit -- which they perhaps in theory admit to be bad -- does not destroy life, or immediately make them invalids, they are getting no harm, and are under no need or obligation to change their course. They judge of their obligations to physical law as they do of their obligations to moral law; that because judgment against an evil-doer is not executed speedily, they may sin on with impunity. But punishment for violated physical law will sooner or later come; and if they who offend could bear the rod alone, their crime against nature's government would seem to be of less consequence; but when we know that their innocent offspring must bear a part of the punishment due to their parents, their offence seems to swell to a tenfold magnitude.
Tobacco is one of the most deadly narcotics found upon the list of poisons. A very few drops of its condensed properties will destroy life. It is sometimes used as a medicine, though rarely, in extreme cases, where nothing else will meet the indications in the case. When used, it is generally given by injection, in cases of lock-jaw, convulsions, and so on; but is never given by those who understand its properties, but with the utmost caution: a little imprudence might prove fatal. It should never be used as a medicine except by a judicious physician, even by external application; for so powerful are its poisonous qualities that a small quantity, laid upon the skin, may prove fatal by mere absorption. If any doubt can be indulged in regard to its power, let any one who has never used it chew a small piece, and the genuine power of the article will soon manifest itself. And though the habitual use of it stupefies the nervous susceptibilities, yet the real power of the article is daily absorbed into the system, and is doing by degrees, and perhaps by imperceptible progress, its deadly work. And now returns the momentous question, in view of all the consequences, shall this demon-idol be longer worshipped, or trodden under foot?
All forms of licentiousness are destructive; not only to those who indulge it, but those who may have the sad misfortune to inherit its poisonous fruits. This vice prostrates the whole nervous system, and is destructive to that principle which becomes the origin of life. If those who have ruined their constitutions by habits of this kind should ever become fathers, their children will probably give them sufficient proof that such a paternal relationship is never to be coveted. Another form of licentiousness, no less ruinous to posterity, is, self-indulgence. This secret vice is all but ruining the whole race. It often begins very early in life, and continues till its work of destruction -- if it has not utterly annihilated the reproductive power -- has so enfeebled it as to render marriage inexpedient and even improper.
Any coarse of conduct or habit of living which tends to lower the standard of nervous strength, or to vitiate the fluids of the system, is deleterious to the constitution of the offspring. Every one who ever expects to become a parent, should obey his own physical laws in all things, not merely for himself, but for the sake of his immediate generation.
Mental health, also, is essential to healthy reproduction. Great mental exertion and application -- that application which tends, even temporarily, to diminish the mental force, is injurious for the time being to the reproductive power. This may account for the fact -- in part at least -- that great men seldom leave sons who are able to fill the places of their fathers. The talent of the child may not so much depend upon the degree of talent possessed by the parent, as upon the good condition of his physical, mental, and moral systems. A healthy physical system, with well-balanced brain and nerves, and a well-cultivated moral and intellectual character, make up, then, the great leading qualifications to meet our responsibilities touching this subject.
There is another idea connected with this subject which may be important. There should he in all cases, particularly in men of studious habits, a sufficiency of mental exhilaration, as well as bodily exercise, to maintain an equilibrium of nervous circulation. The clerical profession are in special need of care touching this matter. Their calling involves the general idea, especially in the mind of a scrutinizing community, of great and uniform sedateness of deportment. Hence, partly from the nature of their calling, and partly from the expectations of the people, they are accustomed to suppress that natural buoyancy of spirit, and that letting off of the electricity of mirthfulness, which are common to all persons, and which, for health's sake, should, in some proper way, find opportunity to vent itself.
This suppression of nature's promptings must cause a kind of continual or occasional desire for mirth, which is kept pent up in the cloisters of the soul. It is the same feeling in kind which the boy felt, and could not suppress, when he whistled aloud during the hours of school. Being asked, "Did you whistle, John?" he promptly answered in the negative. "George, did not John whistle?" "Yes, sir." "John, how is that -- did you not whistle?" "No, sir -- it whistled itself." This same kind of would-if-it-could feeling must inevitably exist within those who are comparatively deprived of the privilege of sufficient mental recreation. This may very philosophically account for that proverbial saying, which certainly has some foundation in fact, that the sons of clergymen are the greatest rogues. They have this same would-if-it-could disposition inborn in their mental constitutions.