A Counterblaste to Tobacco

King James I of England


A Law of James about Tobacco

The foregoing Invective was written by the King of Great Britain. How early its royal authorship was avowed, I know not: but it was generally known long before its insertion in the collected edition of the King's Workes, published in 1616.

King James stopped not, in his Crusade against Tobacco, at words. In the following Commissio pro Tabacco he added Fines and Blows:

JAMES, by the Grace of God &c. to our right Trustie and right Welbeloved Cousen and Counsellor, Thomas Earle of Dorset our High Treasourer of Englande, Greetinge.

Whereas Tabacco being a Drugge of late Yeres found out, and by Merchants, as well Denizens as Strangers, brought from forreign Partes in small quantitie into this Realm of England and other our Dominions, was used and taken by the better sort both then and nowe onelye as Phisicke to preserve Healthe, and is now at this Day, through evell Custome and the Toleration thereof, excessivelie taken by a nomber of ryotous and disordered Persons of meane and base Condition, whoe, contrarie to the use which Persons of good Callinge and Qualitye make thereof, doe spend most of there tyme in that idle Vanitie, to the evill example and corrupting of others, and also do consume that Wages whiche manye of them gett by theire Labour, and wherewith there Families should be releived, not caring at what Price they buye that Drugge, but rather devisinge how to add to it other Mixture, therebye to make it the more delightfull to their Taste, though so much the more costly to there Purse; by which great and imoderate takinge of Tabacco the Health of a great nomber of our People is impayred, and theire Bodies weakened and made unfit for Labor, the Estates of many mean Persons soe decayed and consumed as they are thereby dryven to unthriftie Shifts onelie to maynteyne their gluttonous exercise thereof, besides that also a great part of the Treasure of our Lande is spent and exhausted by this onely Drugge so licentiously abused by the meaner sorte, all which enormous Inconveniences ensuinge thereuppon We doe well perceave to proceed principally from the great quantitie of Tabacco daily brought into this our Realm of England and Dominions of Wales from the Partes beyond the Seas by Merchauntes and others, which Excesse We conceave might in great part be restrayned by some good Imposition to be laid uppon it, whereby it is likelie that a lesse Quantitie of Tabacco will hereafter be broughte into this our Realm of Englaud, Dominion of Wales and Town of Barwick then in former tymes, and yet sufficient store to serve for their necessarie use who are of the better sort, and have and will use the same with Moderation to preserve their Healthe;

We do therefore will and command you our Treasurer of Englande, and herebye also warrant and aucthorise you to geve order to all Customers Comptrollers Searchers Surveyors, and all other Officers of our Portes, that, from and after the sixe and twentith Day of October next comynge, they shall demaunde and take to our use of all Merchauntes, as well Englishe as Strangers, and of all others whoe shall bringe in anye Tabacco into this Realme, within any Porte Haven or Creek belonging to any theire severall Charges, the Somme of Six Shillinges and eighte Pence uppon everye Pound Waight thereof, over and above the Custome of Twoo Pence uppon the Pounde Waighte usuallye paide heretofore;

And for the better execution hereof, bothe in the Reformation of the saide Abuses, and for the avoydinge of all Fraude and Deceipte concerninge the Paymente of the saide Imposition and Custome, Our Will and Pleasure is that you shall in our Name straightlye charge and commaunde all Collectors Customers Comptrollers Surveyors, and other Officers whatsoever to whome the same maye belonge, that they suffer noe Entries to be made of anye Tabacco at anye tyme hereafter to be broughte into anye Porte Haven or Creeke within this our Realme of Englande, the Dominion of Wales, and Towne of Barwicke, or anye parte of the same, by anye Englishe or Stranger, or anye other Persone whatsoever, before the saide Custome aqd Imposition before specified be firste satisfied and paide, or Composition made for the same with oure saide Customers, Collectors, or other Officers to whome the enme apperteyneth, uppon Payne that if anye Merchaunte Englishe or Straunger, or other whatsoever, shall presume to bringe in anye of the saide Tabacco, before suche Payemente and Satisfactione firste made, That then he shall not onelie forfeite the saide Tabacco, but alsoe shall undergoe suche furthere Penalties and corporall Punishmente as the Qualitie of suche soe highe a Coutempte against our Royall and expresse Commaundemente in this mannere published shall deserve.

Wytnes our self at Westminster the seaventeenth Day of October. [1604].

Per ipsum Regem.

Rymer Fœdera, xvi. 601. Ed. 1715.

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