This is a short extract from a long, rambling article about Pale Ale. Most is - how can I put this politely? - total bollocks. The theory about alcohol sucking all the oxygen out of the blood so waste products can't be destroyed is an interesting fantasy, but belongs more to the Middle Ages than the age of science.
But, despite all its obvious failings, it does contain a few fascinating facts.
"We choose India, then, for our battle-ground with the champions of the Burton Pale Ale; and it is most assuredly not for them to decline the combat within these lists ; for among the great benefits which the Messrs Allsopp and their coadjutors claim to have conferred upon mankind, the greatest, on their own showing, is the saving of life and health which has resulted from the extensive consumption of their liquor by European residents in India, as tested by an experience of thirty years. Upon this subject, their hired scribe, the 'London Citizen,' becomes highly eloquent; the very profitable nature of the trade affording the strongest motives that a venal writer can appreciate, to use his endeavours in its defence:—
'Since the period in question, the consumption of the article has increased with a rapidity commensurate with the growing knowledge of its potency in warding off the deadly effects of climate—the pernicious consequences of exposure to the blighting heats and not less dangerous malaria and nightly dews which planted the seeds of death in thousands of our countrymen in the East, and which, in former times, on an average of years, dug the graves of fifty per cent, of all new comers within thirty months of their arrival. Things in India are changed since then. Fearful experience, dearly purchased, has brought its plentiful crop of knowledge, and, amongst other descriptions of knowledge, that of the dietetic observances which all must obey who would live to see Old England once more, and not die during their probationary " seasoning," as it is locally termed. The consequence is, that, at the present day, the scale of mortality in most of our Oriental possessions can be calculated at the Institute for Actuaries, for ordinary seasons and circumstances, with nearly as much precision as for the meridian of Devonshire or Hants, Improved dietary regulations have done much towards this auspicious change; and amongst the articles whose use has conduced to the sustainment of the stomach and the digestive faculties, to the abrogation of the old and gloomy proverb which associated " an Indian liver" with early decay and death, a most honourable and conspicuous place is assigned to " Allsopp's Pale Ale." To the increased consumption of this salutary preparation may, in great measure, be ascribed the presence amongst us of so many " old Indians," veteran octogenarians, the bulk of whom, fifty years ago, would have died in their prime, but who now survive to " sit at home at ease," in the enjoyment of their well-won wealth and laurels. Such is the verdict of the medical profession, and in that verdict good sense and intelligence acquiesce.'
Very strong evidence to the same effect is afforded by the experience of the comparative rates of mortality of the three divisions of the Indian Army, which was published some time since by Lieutenant-Colonel Sykes, whose official position gives to these statistics the stamp of the highest authority. The annual loss by death, in the European troops of the three presidencies respectively, on au average of twenty years, previously to the date of the returns, was as follows :—
Bengal, 73.8 per 1000.
Bombay, 50.7 per 1000.
Madras, 38.4 per 1000.
Now, there cannot be shown to be any other reason for the extraordinary difference in these rates of mortality—the annual loss of a regiment a thousand strong being nearly twice as great in Bengal as in Madras, and nearly one-half more than in Bombay—than the mode in which the troops (to use an American phrase) are 'liquored.' The Bengal army, we learn from Colonel Sykes, has no supply of porter, but is furnished with rum, a spirit peculiarly unwholesome in hot climates. On the other hand, the Madras army consume large quantities of porter, and drink comparatively little spirits, what they do consume being arrack, which seems in a degree less pernicious than rum. The Bombay troops had only recently commenced the consumption of porter; and the spirit they drank is understood to be more wholesome than rum, and less so than arrack. We have since been informed by Colonel Sykes, that the substitution of porter for spirits has produced the same good effect in the Bombay army that it had previously worked in the Madras; the mortality in the former during the last few years being reduced nearly to the level of the latter.
"The Scottish Review", 1853, pages 13 - 15.
Those fatality rates are scary. I've rethought my plan to join an East India Company regiment. The odds of survival look shit. After fifteen years in Bengal, everyone would be dead. And that's without combat.
That's not why I've published this text, eerily compelling as those number may be. I'm not sure what the temperance author would make of my reading of his piece. Probably that it demonstrates the debility of the drunkard. It was the references to Porter that grabbed my attention. Poor, old neglected India Porter. Is it just class considerations that have focused everyone's attention on India Pale Ale?
The phrase "Since our officers have taken to drinking bitter ale instead of brandy and water" is revealing. Especially when compared to the Porter references in the last paragraph. "Madras army consume large quantities of porter", "The Bombay troops had only recently commenced the consumption of porter". They refer to consumption by the army as a whole and not just the officers.
As you can see from the table below, Whitbread exported a considerable proportion of its total Porter output to India in the 1850's and 1860's:
|Whitbread Porter output 1850 - 1867|
|Year||India Porter||% contract||total all Porter|
|Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives|
Typical, the emphasis put on Pale Ale. Another case of only paying attention to the upper classes and ignoring the plebs. There's something else that never seems to change.