The Past is a Foreign...Something

Eyes on the Prize

Or, Yes, This Was For Serious

Americans are competitive; they always have been. We’re obsessed with keeping score, outmaneuvering rivals.

This is especially true when it comes to making money. Just as today we’re concerned about whether or not China is winning the recession, so too in earlier times, competition with Eastern powers was on the menu.

Opium Compete

The answer, obviously, was hells yes.

After all, argued Emanuel Weiss in the pages of the famed Southern journal of politics and business, DeBow’s Review, there was now evidence that Eastern fauna was a boon to the West, so why not flora?

Now that the usefulness of the camel on our south-western frontier has been acknowledged by government, the proposition to import in the same time some camels from Smyrna or Alexandria, along with the date palm, the fig, the olive, the sesame and the poppy seed, will, I expect, no more be scoffed at, as it was the case when I first started this idea…

Just when you think the 19th century can’t get weirder…

1.) Emanuel Weiss, “OPIUM–CAN WE COMPETE WITH THE EAST IN ITS PRODUCTION?” DeBow’s Review and Industrial Resources, Statistics, etc. Devoted to Commerce, Agriculture, Manufactures (New Orleans), January 1856, p. 60 et seq.

Image cite: squacco, “The face of evil,” Flickr, CC License

Corrupting the Youth

Quite Readable, I’ve Heard


Just about the most honest book review I’ve ever seen:

Confessions of an English Opium Eater. Being an extract from the Life of a Scholar. From the last London Edition. Boston: William D. Ticknor, 1841. 16mo. pp. 190. — This work is very neatly got up, and is withal an interesting book. We suppose we ought to know something about it, but we only know that we have often heard it spoken of, and alluded to, as a remarkable book, and we have found it quite readable. We have certain vague impressions abuot its author, but, Reviewers as we are, and therefore expected to know all things, we must confess ignorance, and acknowledge, who Mr. De Quincy was or is, we know not, at this present.
~”Literary Notices and Criticisms,” Boston Quarterly Review, October 1841, p. 523

The BQR was Orestes Brownson’s literary review and all-around philosophical mouthpiece; Brownson, you’ll recall, was the social reformer and philosopher of Democracy who embraced the state as the organic representation of the people, favored John C. Calhoun’s vision of a “concurrent minority,” and rejected the abolitionist critique of slavery as so much “agitation” on the part of the bourgeoisie. Oh, and a convert to Catholicism who became one of the most important American nineteenth-century intellectuals in that tradition.

He was also, apparently, a hell of a review writer.

Ecstaticist, “Opium Bokeh,” Flickr, CC License