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A Vindication of England's Policy with Regard to t

Called respectively Bengal and Malwa opium


Java and Sumatra and the neighbouring islands, it is mostly smoked; and, of course, the Chinese carry the habit with them wherever they go. Even America has caught the infection, and the rapid progress of the habit, especially among the lower orders, called forth vigorous coercive measures. It may be that these will have the desired effect; but that will only be because the Americans have no natural craving for the drug, and prefer their national taste for gin and whiskey and rum. Some of the more violent opio-phobists, pointing to the spread of this "horrid and infectious vice" among the Americans, hint in almost triumphant tones that the secret use of opium in England is already considerable, and still increasing, as though it were a Nemesis, too long delayed, for her crimes.[54] If we may believe De Quincey,[55] opium-eating was by no means an uncommon thing among the upper classes, even in his day; and Dickens, in his description of an opium-den in _Edwin Drood_, draws no doubt upon his stores of personal knowledge acquired in his youthful rambles among the streets of London. However, we cannot think there is any real danger of the English people deliberately taking to opium. Tobacco answers every purpose. But it is an undoubted fact that the mortality among children in large towns like Bradford and Manchester is due, in a great measure, to their being unwittingly dosed with opium, which enters largely into the composition of soothing syrups, cordials, and elixirs of all kinds.[56] It has been estimated that 300,000 lbs. of opium are imported annually into the United Kingdom, only a part of which can be used medicinally.[57]

Before speaking more particularly of the political agitation against our policy with regard to opium, it will be necessary to state shortly what that policy has been in the case of India. The opium from which India derives her revenue is of two kinds, called respectively Bengal and Malwa opium. The former is that grown by the Government agencies at Patna and Benares; the latter, that grown by the native states of Scindia and Holkar, which has to pay a heavy duty in passing through our territory. With regard to the Government monopoly of Bengal opium, our policy has been very vacillating in past time; and mainly to this cause may be ascribed the fluctuations in the revenue derived from this source. The opium revenue amounted in 1838 to L1,586,445 net, which by 1857 had risen to L5,918,375. In 1871 the large total of L7,657,213 was reached, and this has been still further increased in the last decade to eight and a half millions. The constancy of increase noticeable in the revenue for the last few years has been due in great measure to the adoption of a plan proposed by Sir Cecil Beadon in 1867 that a reserve stock of opium should be formed from the abundance of fruitful years to supply the deficiencies of lean ones; so that a certain fixed amount of the drug might be brought into the market every year. This reserve stock, which amounted in 1878 to 48,500 chests, by constant demands upon it has diminished to 12,000 chests. The amount sold yearly has, in consequence, been lowered from 56,400 to 53,700 chests, and a further reduction to 50,000 chests is contemplated.[58] The revenue, therefore, is not likely to be in excess of the amount received 1881-2, which was eight and a half millions (net), of which three and a half millions are due to the export duty on Malwa, the other five millions to the direct profit on the Bengal drug.


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