Reading Room: Chewing and Spitting Taken to a Vote

The 1831 meetings of the Baltimore Annual Conference were held in Foundry Church. On March 23 a petition signed by a number of Foundry members, as well as other Methodists from Georgetown and Washington, was presented to the Conference. The subject was the use of tobacco.

The petition pointed out that "the practice of chewing tobacco has grown to such an extent amongst our members, and others who regularly attend our houses of worship, and has become so great a nuisance in the house of God as to require serious attention."

The petitioners said that persons who were not accustomed to the use of tobacco "will not continue long to attend the public worship of God in a Church where they are liable to be spit upon." They always ran the hazard of ruining their clothes in conforming "to our mode of worship by kneeling on the floor. We have been often pained to see the floor, the benches, and the walls . . . besmeared and stained in a manner so filthy."

It was stated that the young men of the church were adopting the practice. Some felt they would be exposed to the hazard of falling into the "use of ardent spirits as a consequence of chewing tobacco." In addition, although many men said they were too poor to pay their class money to the church, they always had enough to buy tobacco. The petition was pointed directly at the preachers: "Let the pulpit no longer give encouragement to this practice, and then the pulpit may remon­strate against it successfully."

The next day the Conference unanimously disapproved the practice of spitting tobacco juice "on the floors and in the Pulpits of our Church."


This article, originally titled "Tobacco Chewing in Church" is provided and used with permission from Papers of Homer Calkin, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.