The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 36
Summary of Research
Summary of Research.
What I may call the preliminary and physiological part of my research was now concluded. I had learned purely by experimental observation that, in its action on the living body, this chemical substance, alcohol, deranges the constitution of the blood; unduly excites the heart and respiration; paralyses the minute bloodvessels; increases and decreases, according to the degree of its application, the functions of the digestive organs, of the liver, and of the kidneys; disturbs the regularity of nervous action; lowers the animal temperature; and lessens the muscular power.
Such, independently of any prejudice of party or influence of sentiment, are the unanswerable teachings of the sternest of all evidences, the evidences of experiment, of natural fact revealed to man by experimental testing of natural phenomena. If alcohol had never been heard of, as nitrite of amyl and many other chemical substances I have tested had never been heard of by the masses of mankind, this is the page 13 evidence respecting alcohol which I should have collected, and these are the facts I should have recorded from the evidence.
This record of simple experimental investigation and result respecting the action of alcohol on the body were incomplete without two other observations, which come in as a natural supplement. It will be asked: Was there no evidence of any useful service rendered by the agent in the midst of so much obvious evidence of bad service? I answer to that question that there was no such evidence whatever, and there is none. It has been urged, as a last kind of resource and excuse, that alcohol aids digestion, and so far is useful. I support, in reply, the statement of the late Dr. Cheyne, that nothing more effectively hinders digestion than alcohol. That "many hours, and even a whole night, after a debauch in wine, it is common enough to reject a part or the whole of a dinner undigested." I hold that those who abstain from alcohol have the best digestions; and that more instances of indigestion, of flatulency, of acidity, and of depression of mind and body, are produced by alcohol than by any other single cause.
This excuse removed, there remains none other for alcohol that is reasonably assignable except that temporary excitement of mind which, in spite of the assumption of its jollity and happiness, is one of the surest ultimate introductions to pain and sorrow. But if there be no excuse favoured by scientific research on behalf of alcohol, there is sufficient of appalling reasons against it superadded when the pathological results of its use are surveyed upon the physiological. The mere question of the destructive effect of alcohol on the membranes of the body alone would be a sufficient study for an address on the mischiefs of it. I cannot define it better, indeed, than to say that it is an agent as potent for evil as it is helpless for good. It begins by destroying, it ends by destruction, and it implants organic changes which progress independently of its presence even in those who are not born.