Opium 1793 – 1829 – part 1

This chapter contains copies of articles published in the newspapers about opium from 1793 to the end of 1838. It may not be an exhaustive list of such articles.

Some of the later opium articles in this chapter also remain within the China chapter as they are necessary to an understanding of events after the India Company’s trade monopoly was ended. I should say that the interested student of ‘trade always finds a way’ might do better to read the complete China chapter in spite of its prodigious length.

Before going any further I must commend the reader to read “British Opium Policy in China and India” by D E Owen. It was published nearly 80 years ago but remains the best work on the subject.

Opium has received a bad press for fifty years because it is addictive like tobacco. The user would justify his habit in respect of its mental effects that seem to stimulate right brain activity (or suppress left brain activity) and elevate consciousness to a socially caring plane. This pleasurable state of consciousness supports its addictiveness.

It will become apparent that the Chinese proscription on opium use arose initially when the government learned it was being used for recreation instead of medicine and it was addictive. It was a commonplace amongst the Dutch on Java to smoke a mixture of opium with tobacco in their pipes as a prophylactic against gastric disease and malaria, however, in China, it was used medicinally solely to treat diarrhoea.

The newspapers do not say how the Chinese started their unique way of ingesting opium. The only other smokers I am aware of are the Dutch in Java which colony had a large Chinese emigrant population. It may be the Dutch practice was adapted and improved by Chinese emigrants to that island and thence was communicated to China. There was always a vibrant trade in opium between Calcutta and Java as revealed in many of the early articles in this chapter.

Opium’s addictive properties confirmed the Chinese government in its choice of action and two other destabilising events assured it would never be tolerated – firstly, the experience of the Viceroy of the Two Kwang in putting down riots in 1830 and again in 1834 when his army was barely capable of fighting due to over-indulgence in opium, and secondly, the outflow of silver, the money of the country, in settlement of the adverse trade balance due to opium imports and the consequent economic distress of the entire populace as the value of copper coin, the money of the market, decreased in proportion with the silver supply.

A description of the smuggling market at Lintin is provided in the edition of 12th April 1828 below. A letter in the 19th April 1836 edition describes poppy farming and the way the Company administered its monopoly. Also in this chapter are the Memorials in 1836 arguing for and against the legalisation of opium use.

I have adopted a convention used in the Jardine Matheson archives in this chapter. References to opium are called ‘the Drug’ whilst references to the myriad purges that were shipped to Britain are ‘the drug(s)’

Sat 2nd February 1793

Country shipping at Canton[1]= 22 vessels of which 20 carried large shipments of cotton. Four country ships brought opium (King George 220 chests, Surat Castle 30, Nancy 40 and General Elliot 170). The Popham also brought 25 chests = 485 chests totally.

Sat 9th March 1793

The Canton opium market continues at $450 per chest with Company’s chop.

Sat 29th June 1793

At Batavia (now Jakarta), opium has been in short supply and retailing at $1,200 per chest but no buyers for whole chests could be found. Two Calcutta ships – the Indus and the Stag – have been unable to sell their cargoes owing to political uncertainty in the Dutch homeland. Both ships have continued further east seeking for native buyers of their goods.

Mr Titsing, who was formerly head at of the Dutch factory at Chinsura, is now at Batavia and is particularly attentive of English visitors.

Sat 4th January 1794

Opium sales at Calcutta at the 1st annual auction (December 1793) average prices:

Bihar 564 rupees per chest; the new Bolipur 305 rupees per chest.[2]

Sat 15th February 1794

Prince of Wales Island (Penang) is soundly financed. The import duty on arrack and opium, together with the tax on houses of entertainment, produces $30,000 per year. Expenditure is $21,000.

(in the next edition the Editor makes a correction – $21,000 is only sufficient to defray the port charges and general administration. The costs of protection (troops and cruisers) is not included and is much more)

Sat 22nd March 1794

The snow Bridget (Butler) of Bengal sailed from Penang to the Pedier coast on 3rd May 1793 with a cargo of opium, guns and stores. Later the same day they discovered a fire in the hold. They adjourned to the long boat and returned to Penang Island. The Governor sent a ship to recover whatever was left.

The coppered hull was brought into port. Some $3,000 in silver had melted together. The remains of the cargo was recovered to a total value of $6,000.

Sat 9th August 1794

News from the East:

Trade on the Pedier coast (S W coast of Sumatra) is very slow as the Bugis have not arrived. They normally buy a great quantity of opium, but have been deterred from coming this year by pirates south of the Malacca Straits.

Sat 9th August 1794

News from China:

  • Opium was selling at Canton for 350 – 550 Taels per chest, depending on quality.
  • Douglas reports the arrival of Venus (Elmore) at Macau on 21st April with an opium cargo.

Sat 30th August 1794

Bengal news – the Calcutta ship Surprise (Green) with a valuable cargo of opium for China is said to have been captured by Malay pirates in Malacca Straits.

Sat 13th December 1794

Opium is unsellable at Canton and 2,000 chests are in storage.

Sat 4th July 1795

The General Meadows (Lloyd) arrived at Calcutta from China with letters to 24th March. Lloyd reports there are still 1,100 chests of opium unsold from last year.

Sat 22nd August 1795

The Botany Bay ship Experiment has arrived at Bombay from Port Jackson via Batavia. Its captain reports the Batavia markets are all depressed. Opium sells at $300 per chest.

Sat 5th September 1795

One of the charges against Warren Hastings related to the opium monopoly he had bought for £400,000.

Hastings gave the opium monopoly to Stephen Sulivan, son of Company’s then Chairman Lawrence Sulivan, in 1781 for a term of four years. Young Sulivan sold this contract to John Benn and others for 350,000 rupees annually. Benn sold the contract to Young for £14,900 annually, Hastings was thus accused of diminishing the value of an important revenue-earner.

Sat 3rd October 1795

Jonathan Duncan, one of Warren Hastings ‘bright young men’, was Resident at Benares (Varanasi) in 1791 – 1795. He supervised the new opium monopoly.

He arrived Calcutta on 4th September en route to Bombay where he will be installed as the new Governor of the Presidency.

His brother will assume the duties of Collector at Benares.

Sat 2nd January 1796

The Lowjee Family (Elliott) arrived here from China (via Penang) last Wednesday. Elliott reports opium was unsellable.

Sat 26th March 1796

The Recovery (Greenway) has arrived at Calcutta from the East. She reports that opium is unsellable on the west coast of Sumatra. She has returned with her entire cargo except for 8 chests sold during the voyage.

Greenway says the opium stock at the Company’s factory at Bencoolen is sufficient to supply the whole coast for 1½ years at current consumption rates. Whilst he was on the Sumatran coast he saw three other ships from Penang and Malacca trying to sell opium too. The market in the Straits and nearby islands is also glutted.

The cause of all this oversupply is the Dutch. They had accumulated a stock in their factories and, fearing impending British occupation, sold the lot for whatever they could get to convert their property to specie.[3]

Sat 2nd April 1796

The Eliza (Gibson) arrived from China last week. No-one is buying opium (the Dutch sell-off has deranged the entire Asian market).[4]

The Company’s treasury is open for receipt of cash in exchange for one year Sight Bills on London or Calcutta at 5/3d per silver dollar (old head[5]). Few subscriptions have been received in view of the depressed state of our smuggling trade.

Sat 24th September 1796

India Gazette, 29th August – The Dart has arrived at Calcutta from China. She reports opium is either very cheap or unsellable. It is believed the continuing disorder in the opium market is due to enforced Dutch sales of their stock.

As soon as Dutch colonists knew that their country was at war with England, they sent all their opium stock East for sale. The government of every Dutch settlement has contributed to the over-supply.

Sat 6th January 1798

India Gazette, 11th December – The Nancy grab (Carnegie), which has just arrived, left Canton on 3rd November. A few days earlier the Armenia (Sands) arrived Canton from Bombay with an opium cargo, 1,200 chests of which remained unsold when the Nancy sailed. The asking price was $180 per chest with no buyers.

Sat 17th February 1798

The Asiatic Mirror, 24th January – 900 chests of opium from Boglepore (Bhagalpur), Patna and Rungpore (Rangpur) have been burned here (Calcutta) by order of the Board of Trade.

This was in pursuit of a new Company Regulation that any opium failing to reach 200 Sicca rupees per chest at auction should be destroyed to assure the reputation of the Company’s supply for quality.

The new law is welcomed by the speculators at Calcutta and should help to raise prices in the Far East.

Sat 22nd December 1798

Capt John Canning has sued the Company. He bought opium at the Company’s sales but it did not accord with the muster. The Calcutta High Court found his evidence insufficiently weighty and dismissed his claim.

Sat 16th March 1799

Letters from Penang say opium is finally in demand again in eastern markets and the price is now $300 per chest.

Sat 10th January 1801

Calcutta – the first sale of this year’s opium took place on 15th December 1800 and the average price obtained was 725 Sicca Rupees a chest.

Sat 10th July 1802

Letter from Captain Burnsides of the Clyde, 14th April 1802:

The market at Batavia is extremely good for Indian imports. Opium is $1,500 per chest and all sorts of Bengal cloth are selling at good prices too.[6]

Sat 8th January 1803

The China market is firm. Opium is selling at $650 – $700 per chest, Bengal cotton at 16 Taels per picul and Bombay cotton at 14.

Sat 16th April 1803

The Clyde (Slater) has arrived at Calcutta and reports the price of opium at Bencoolen and along the west coast of Sumatra is $700 per chest.

Sat 23rd April 1803

Bombay Government Notice, 23rd April:

Anyone wishing to ship goods to China under the relaxation of the Company’s monopoly allowed by the new Charter should send in their sealed proposals before 13th May. The China-bound fleet is expected to start arriving at Bombay in June.

No opium may be shipped.

The proceeds of your China-trade sales plus the freight are to be exchanged at the Company’s Treasury at Canton for 12 month Sight Bills on London at the exchange rate of 5/6d per dollar.

(advertisement is in English, Gujerati and Farsi)

Sat 23rd July 1803

India Gazette, Calcutta – The last Company opium sales produced an average of 1,350 Sicca rupees per chest but our goods are refused on the coast of Borneo, even when offered at only $650 Spanish.

The chiefs there suppose our merchants are cheating them. They do not believe we paid the equivalent of nearly $600 per chest to buy.

One chest was sold in Malacca and a few more in Penang where the buyers were paying $750 – 780 but at Batavia opium was selling only in barter for pepper (at notional values of $910 per chest and $13 per picul i.e. 70 piculs of pepper per chest).

Sat 3rd December 1803

A report from Batavia of 5th September says the VOC[7] has no opium and little money to buy supply. It offered $1,000 a chest but found no sellers. It can only increase the offer price by adding goods for barter as it has itself declared the export of silver illegal at Batavia.

Sat 26th January 1805

The auction of Company’s agency opium on 14th December at Calcutta produced average chest prices of 1,687 Sicca Rupees for Bihar and 1,761 Sicca Rupees for Benares.

Sat 26th January 1805

The country ship La Paix (Wright) has arrived Calcutta from China on 26th December. She reports Prices Current for opium when she left were $1,350 – $1,360 per chest.

Sat 2nd March 1805

Several of the China fleet have arrived back at Calcutta. They say trade at Canton has been profitable this season. Cotton and opium sold at record prices.

Formerly we had nothing the Chinese wanted and we had to pay specie for our tea and silk, but the supposition of economists that China would swallow the silver of the west was confounded this year.

Great quantities of both gold and silver have been exported from Canton.

The great increase in sales of Indian cotton and opium has changed the pattern of trade and the lack of Chinese sugar exports increased the amount of specie we have taken out of China this year. If this continues for a few years it might reduce the value of precious metals in Europe.

Sat 11th January 1806

Mon 16th December – an auction of the Company’s opium at Calcutta today produced average prices of 1,506 Sicca Rupees per chest.

Sat 1st February 1806

George Baring, the Manager of the Company’s Agency House in China, has arrived Calcutta on the Lord Castlereagh.

Opium is down at $1,150 per chest at Canton but sales are still profitable.

Sat 22nd February 1806

The treaty with the Maratha chief Sindhia of 22nd November 1805 is published. Government recites the agreement we made on 30th December 1803 and approves it with the following additions (extract):

  • The Company agrees to make no treaties with the Rajahs of Oudipur, Jodhpur or Kottah or any chief in Malwa, Mewar or Marwar and will not interfere in any agreements Sindhia makes with those chiefs.[8]
  • The Company is now fighting Holkar. When we win, we engage not to give him any lands in Malwa or any lands south of the Chumbal and north of the Tapti Rivers.

Sat 22nd March 1806

The Betsey (Dundas) has arrived at Calcutta from Penang and China. Dundas says he sold his opium in the usual way but the Chinese buyers later rejected 200 chests and the Macau brokers returned them to him to bring back to India.

The retail price at Macau fell instantly from $1,350 to $850 per chest and has alarmed all Calcutta.

On maturer reflection, knowing the opium market is subject to endless deceptions and frauds, the market quickly recovered.

At the last Company auction on 12th February, Bihar sold at 1,570 Sicca Rupees per chest and Benares at 1,520 (i.e. approaching $800 per chest).

Sat 14th June 1806

The American Captain Tubbs has arrived at Batavia with a cargo of Turkish opium from Smyrna. We will observe its marketability with interest.

Sat 20th December 1806

The Gillwell has arrived from China with the news that opium is selling slowly at $810 a chest

Sat 14th February 1807

Capt Burnsides of the Clyde has returned to Calcutta after a voyage to the East. He says opium is a drag everywhere. He could not sell any in Borneo and transferred 10 chests from his stock there to Malacca where he got only $800 per chest. He has nevertheless brought back a considerable quantity of gold dust and other bullion.[9]

Sat 21st February 1807

The Fortitude (Hughes) is taking a cargo of Chinese settlers to Trinidad with some opium to test the market. It called into St Helena for provisions. St Helena has lost all its cargo-workers – they could not be deterred from joining Popham’s South American expedition. Fortunately, the emigrants willingly assisted in off-loading the ships in port.[10]

Sat 21st March 1807

The second annual auction of the Company’s opium at Calcutta in February produced average prices of only 997 Sicca Rupees per chest (less than $500).

Sat 25th April 1807

On 21st April the Portuguese ship Carmo sailed from Calcutta for Macau with a cargo of 1,000 chests of opium, 600 bales of cotton, besides piecegoods and others.[11]

Sat 16th May 1807

The General Wellesley (Ferguson) has arrived at Calcutta from China. The Portuguese merchant A. Barretto and a few Armenians returned as passengers from China on this ship. She left Macau on 1st March at which date opium was selling $950 – $1,100 per chest.

At Penang, where she touched on her return, opium was $600 nominal with no buyers.

Sat 20th June 1807

The Danish ship Elizabeth has arrived at Calcutta from Batavia which she left 11th April. The Dutch Admiral Hartsink was living ashore as his warships are laid-up for want of crews.

The Elizabeth took an opium cargo to Batavia but the speculation was hardly successful – she got nominally $750 per chest but it was a barter trade paid mainly in Japanese copper.[12]

Sat 3rd October 1807

Instructions to the Company’s Medical Board at Madras:

Medicines are permitted to European soldiers to a value of 20 cash per patient per day. This covers all indents for aloes, alum, asafoetida, cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves, camphor, castor oil, gamboge, liquorice, musk, nutmegs, Patna opium, rhubarb, julep, pure nitre, senna, sulphur, Madeira, port, brandy and vinegar.

Purchasing in the bazaars is discontinued.

The Medical Board has certified that the strength and quality of Patna opium is now constant. You may indent for this from Bengal at the rate of Star Pagodas 5.33.60 per lb.[13]When the Patna supply has been increased, all purchasing of other types of native opium will be disallowed.

Sat 16th January 1808

The Jehangir left China on 6th November and has arrived Madras 23rd December. She reports opium is selling there at $1,400 per chest.

Sat 28th May 1808

The Company’s ships now arriving from China under convoy of HMS Bombay have brought £1.5 millions in specie. It’s the most we have ever taken out of China in one season.

No wonder the Company was not selling Bills to the country trade this season.

Opium is selling in Macau at $1,300 per chest.[14]

Sat 27th August 1808

The Mercury has arrived at Calcutta from China and reports opium is selling at about $1,200 per chest.

A small American brig arrived at Macau this season from Mauritius with 100 chests of prize opium bought from the French administrators of that island. This is the first time Americans have traded in Company opium.

The average sale prices per chest at the Company’s auctions between July 1807 – March 1808 equates with $882.

Sat 10th December 1808

The country ship Canton (Falconer) arrived at Calcutta from China on 7th November. Between mid-June and 18th August (two months) some 400 chests of opium were sold in China for an average $1,000 each. Remaining stock is about 3,500 chests.

Sat 25th March 1809

Admiral Drury’s attempted occupation of Macau has caused great financial loss for people involved in the China trade. Bombay merchants alone estimate their losses from the fall in the market at a million Rupees. The detention of the ships is extra. Opium is declining and selling slowly at $950 per chest. At Penang a large shipment went for $740. (N.B. Admiral Drury invaded Macau after the rule and administration of Portugal and its colonies had been passed to Britain by the House of Braganza on their departure for Brazil. It was only belatedly learned that Macau was Chinese territory held by Portugal under an annual grant. On learning this the Admiral withdrew.)

Sat 3rd June 1809

Opium sales in China are satisfactory and the stock is small pending arrival of the new crop from this January’s Calcutta sales – Patna is selling at $1,050 and Benares $1,000.

A great difficulty in China trade continues to be the scarcity of silver which the Americans are no longer bringing due to their trade embargo.[15]

Sat 2nd September 1809

A merchant sought to bring a quantity of Malwa opium into Bombay but it has been confiscated by the Bombay government and will be put up for sale by auction at the Police Office on 6th September.

It is offered in small lots for home consumption only.[16]

Sat 30th December 1809

22nd October – Malacca letters report the opium market there is stopped owing to the non-arrival of the Bugis this year. A month ago a fleet of 21 Bugis proas was sailing up the Straits for this port and for Penang when they encountered the French privateer Piedmontaise out of Mauritius. These proas are indistinguishable from the boats favoured by the local pirates; one has to recognise the crews not the boats. The French thought they were pirates and the Bugis could not make themselves understood to the French. They are brave and warlike people and, when the boats of the Piedmontaise attacked, they fought back wildly, obliging the French to withdraw with the loss of 2 seamen killed and 30+ injured. When the French withdrew the Bugis did likewise and returned directly to their ports of Rhio and Lingin.

Mr Keak, the Malacca trader who has most experience of the Bugis, has sent messengers to the Bugis King telling him of the mistake and asking him to send his people back but they are a proud race and say they will no longer visit British ports. A second fleet of 40 proas learned of the attack on arriving at Rhio and has not continued its voyage up the Malayan coast. Opium is now nominally $900 but if a sale is forced it sells for only $800.[17]

Sat 30th December 1809

The entire stock of opium in China has been sold to the principal merchant of Macau (Judge Arriaga, the second official in the colonial hierarchy) and prices have risen to those shown in the Prices Current.

Sat 17th February 1810

Supreme Court Calcutta, 19th January – Reid v Ganges Insurance Company:

Facts – Radha Mohan Bonarjee shipped 40 chests of opium to Penang. The ship arrived on 10th April and remained 12 days but could only sell 30 chests. The shipowner’s agents at Penang, a branch office of Forbes & Co, agreed to buy the balance of Bonarjee’s 10 chests at market price, contemplating a later voyage to the Pedier coast for pepper where they might dispose of the opium too. The ship sailed on 23rd April and was captured on 3rd May.[18]

Sat 7th April 1810

The Portuguese ship Andromeda (Jose Franco) has arrived at Calcutta on 18th January from Macau. Franco reports opium has declined to $1,000 – $1,050 per chest.

Sat 30th June 1810

The Bheemoolah (Patrick) has arrived at Calcutta from China on 5th June. She reports several American ships have arrived there (the ships that slipped out of New England ports when it appeared the Federal embargo would end) and imports of treasure of $1.5 – 1.8 millions have been made into Canton. This has revived sales of cotton and opium.

We also have a letter from Macau dated 11th April that says there was not a single ship at Whampoa, the first time for many years. The resident merchants hope there will be no arrivals for 3 – 4 months to allow them to sell-off the great stocks of cotton and opium they have accumulated.

The arrival of a ship always affects the market price for its cargo and these fluctuations deter Chinese buyers when prices are high. Opium is selling at $1,090 – $1,100 a chest but sales are slow as it is known in the market that the Portsea is en route with a cargo of new opium.

Sat 22nd September 1810

The Mornington has arrived at Calcutta from China. Opium is $1,080 per chest but will decline once the Portuguese ships arrive at Macau from Calcutta (they bring consignments of Patna and Benares).

Few Americans have arrived Whampoa in the last months and their presence is again needed to restore liquidity to the market.

Sat 20th October 1810

The Auspicious has arrived at Calcutta from China and Malacca. She left Macau on 4th July and reports that at departure opium was nominal at $1,040 a chest with no demand.

The late accommodation by the Viceroy with the pirates had been expected to stimulate opium distribution and increase demand but no effect is yet discernible.[19]Bengal cotton is selling slowly at 13+ Taels. The problem is silver – no Americans have recently arrived.

Sat 1st December 1810

A small Chinese junk registered at Calcutta arrived at its home port from Soofoo on the Borneo coast where it had been plundered of 7 chests of opium and other goods by the native Datu head-hunters. The junk-master says in one voyage he has lost the accumulated earnings of five years trading.

Sat 23rd March 1811

The last opium auction at Calcutta in mid-February produced average prices of 1,682 Sicca Rupees a chest for Patna and 1,558 Sicca Rupees for Benares.

Sat 30th March 1811

The Portuguese ship Andromeda has arrived Calcutta from Macao in early March, via Malacca and Penang, after a voyage of only 37 days.

Fifteen American ships had arrived at Macau by 15th January, before the Andromeda sailed, and silver was abundant.

Opium is flat at $1,000 – 1,050 per chest.

The Canton Government seized a large shipment of silver sycee that some country traders were trying to export. Export of sycee is illegal (its the currency of the country). Chinese policy is to constantly balance its foreign trade and she has enacted a law requiring it. The involved foreigners are incensed and are seeking for ways to recover their great loss.

Sat 11th May 1811

The transport Canada has arrived at Calcutta from Whampoa. She is on the return leg of a voyage to deliver 122 female convicts to Botany Bay. She was licensed to visit China and load a full cargo of tea for the Company’s account. The Company has accumulated 60,000 chests of tea in its Canton warehouse but has inadequate ships to carry it back to London.

At the time of the Canada’s departure, the snow Amethyst (Chimenant) was anchored at Whampoa as the opium store ship. Sales of opium continue strangely dull. The price is unmoved at $1,050 nominal per chest. Indian cotton is selling at 13.5 Taels a bale.[20]

14 American ships had arrived in China at the time of the Canada’s departure.

J W Roberts, for long the President of the Company’s Select Committee in China, had sailed for England on the Wexford.

Sat 18th May 1811

Notice Calcutta, 30th April – Arthur Hogue, Leith Alexander Davidson and John Robertson of M/s Hogue Davidson & Co announce the admission of Walter Davidson and Alexander Robertson to the partnership. The Company will in future trade as Hogue Davidson Robertson & Co.

Sat 18th May 1811

Letter from Canton, 27th February:

The market for Bengal goods has been poor this last two months. Opium at both Macau and Whampoa is nominal at $1,050 – 1,070.

Sat 14th December 1811

The country ship Hope arrived Calcutta from China on 4th December. The price of opium fell in July due to unregulated Dutch sales of stock from Java prior to its invasion by the British and was thereafter trading at $900 a chest.

When the Hope sailed from China there were only two American ships at Whampoa.

Sat 21st March 1812

The latest Calcutta opium sales were held on 18th February 1812 and achieved satisfactory results.

1,943 chests of Bihar were sold at average 1,380 Rupees and 503 chests of Benares sold at average 1,484 Rupees.

Sat 29th August 1812

HMS Cornelia has returned to Batavia from a cruise along the western coast of Borneo.

The captain reports Pontianak is an interesting town. Its run by an Arab named Sheriff Kassim. His grandfather came from Arabia but both Sheriff and his father were born here at Pontianak. He started his commercial life as a pirate and prospered.

When he had sufficient resources he made Pontianak a free port and this produced an inrush of foreigners. He keeps the import / export duties light and the level of trade has steadily increased.

He imports mostly opium and piece goods from Calcutta and exports almost entirely gold dust which is collected from the rivers hereabouts. There is a large Chinese population that tends the land and produces a surfeit of vegetables that constantly fill the town markets. This Chinese endeavour creates Pontianak’s other export trade – provisions for passing ships.

There are other similar towns along this coast, like Mempawah, but Pontianak is the biggest. Each of these towns has a community of industrious Chinese farmers whose labour underwrites the economy.

Sat 12th September 1812

The Matilda has arrived at Madras from Padang, Banda Aceh. She reports trade there is buoyant. The Aceh government has bought a large supply of opium from major importers at $1,200 – $1,300 and the bazaar price has since increased to $1,450 per chest. Strangely British traders landed the same commodity down the coast at Bencoolen but got only $1,000 per chest.

Sat 30th January 1813

Letters from Canton say it was a large import of opium from Batavia that deranged the market and collapsed sale prices. It was a side effect of our occupation of Java. Cotton is also very low.

Sat 5th February 1814

Java Proclamation, 22nd October 1813:

The old Dutch government proscribed private trade in spices, wild nutmegs, mace and in opium. These commodities were reserved as VOC monopolies.

It is the policy of the British government to promote free trade and Governor-General Minto promised this to the Javanese in his Proclamation of 10th September 1811 on occupying the country.

The British provisional administration of Java has repealed all the restrictive laws. You may now trade in all spices and opium provided you bought them from the Company (this was the original way the Company created a false market). This Proclamation is to be translated into native languages and posted at Batavia, Semarang and Surabaya.

Sat 27th February 1813

Calcutta, 5th February – The Portuguese ships Carmo (Pedro) and Andromeda have arrived from Macau which they left on 7th December 1812. They bring passengers Agosta de Sta Jose F Callado, J A Silva and Claudio da Silva. They bring about 1 million Rupees in silver and Company Bills.

Sat 10th April 1813

The Arabella arrived at Madras from China in late March. She left Whampoa on 13th February. She reports opium and betelnut are selling well at $1,170 and $8 per picul respectively.

Sat 31st July 1813

A letter from China via Java says Patna opium is selling at $1,200 a chest in good demand but the Portuguese supply will shortly arrive and depress prices.

Sat 14th August 1813

The Edinburgh Review No 40 has obtained a copy of the papers printed by the Company respecting Charter renewal. Here is an extract:

One of the most instructive of the Company’s acts involves the opium monopoly at Patna that is operated by a few of its servants. This was unable to compete with the quality and quantity of production by the Nabob of Oudh and the Rajah of Benares. In those states there were no advances to farmers or disturbances between the factors. The production of opium in native states was open to competition and it thrived.

How did the Company deal with this robust competition?

It sent an army and put a stop to it militarily, permanently in the case of Oudh and temporarily in the case of Benares, which production was later permitted to drive the expansion of the Company’s own monopoly at Patna.

Sat 1st January 1814

Walter Davidson is a Grand Juror in the first Sessions to be heard by Sir Edward Hyde East, the new Chief Justice of Calcutta.

Davidson is a partner in M/s Hogue Davidson of Calcutta, owner-operators of the ships Swallow (330 ton), Maria (430 tons) and Radnor (455 tons) which were all built in 1813. The business also owns some older vessels.

Davidson has legal training and also assists at Courts Martial.

The Judge mentioned to the Jurors inter alia that other judicial officers had told him Perjury and Forgery are common offences in Calcutta.

Sat 29th January 1814

Letter from Canton, 17th November:

Whilst the Emperor was away from Peking, he left his nine sons in charge. They are hedonists and opium smokers and only one or two show much promise as administrators of a great Empire.

Three of their cousins, acting with 12 eunuchs and a party of about 70 rebels, forced an entrance to the palace and executed thirty of the palace guards. They appear to have intended a coup d’état.

Fortunately the Emperor’s second son cut down one and shot an arrow at another and that was enough to make the rest of them run away. The palace gates were closed after them.

Since then a faithful General has arrested the plotters and they are condemned to death. The eunuchs and cousins, and ten officials who were at best negligent, have been sentenced to slicing; the remaining sixty soldiers are to be beheaded.

Sat 19th March 1814

The 2nd annual sale of the Company’s opium occurred at the warehouse in the Old Fort of Calcutta on 22nd February.

1,922 chests of Bihar and 462 chests of Benares were sold, the former at average prices of 2,032 Rupees and the latter at 1,997 Rupees. Bidding for the Bihar supply was brisk with prices rising from 1,800 to 2,220 Rupees.

Sat 2nd July 1814

At Surabaya the market for opium is so good we are selling it out of the holds at £1,300 a chest. There is no delivery risk at all! There is a demand for hookahs, hookah snakes and fine tobacco.[21]

Sat 2nd July 1814

Letter from Canton, 3rd April:

Opium is now offered at $1,130 per chest but with few buyers and over 800 chests remain in stock. By the time the Madras ships arrive it is expected there will still be a stock of 600 chests overhanging the market. If high prices are maintained at the Calcutta auctions, the speculators will keep their opium here and may eventually profit. If Calcutta prices fall, the speculators will be hurt.

Sat 14th January 1815

The last opium sale at Calcutta (1,512 chests of Bihar and 324 chests of Benares) on 19th December produced 2,631 and 2,313 Rupees per chest respectively whereas the requested price at Canton, according to the Prices Current of 15th October (all nominal due to the confrontation), is $1,170 per chest.[22] This might permit a tiny profit to holders of the new supply but there is no demand and a large stock on hand. The annual opium export for China market is set by the Company at 2,300 chests but on 13th October there remained 1,900 chests at Macau.

Sat 13th May 1815

Batavia – opium has risen to $1,500 a chest but there are few buyers owing to the dearth of silver. We are accepting Dutch Bills of Exchange at 40% discount for our sales. It will be very profitable eventually but ties up capital for long periods.

Sat 13th May 1815

Canton – the Indiaman Wyndham has arrived at Calcutta from China on 17th April with news:

In the continuing trade dispute, the Select is particularly fearful of the big Hongs’ proposal to buy the entire cargo of each ship in turns. This would depress the price of our cotton and opium and might even balance the trade.

Sat 22nd July 1815

The Lady Barlow has arrived at Calcutta from China bringing letters from Macau and Canton up to 11th April:

A letter of late March says the dispute between the Select and the Kwang Tung Provincial government has subsided but gives no explanation. The Select had threatened a stoppage of trade but a continuous arrival of ships with cargo rather damaged its credibility. Some prohibitory Edicts against opium have slowed that market and, whilst the merchants are asking $1,320 a chest, it is only nominal as the Chinese have forced the closure of the markets in both Macau and at Whampoa.

In late February, the Chinese official at Casa Branca, who supervises the Portuguese in Macau, came down to that city and arrested all the major opium dealers. They thought it was a sting and offered money which seems to have angered him more. They have confessed their involvement in opium distribution (a crime) and identified their western suppliers. They have been banished to Ili as slaves of the garrison.[23]

Since then some speculators sold a few chests in Macau to exploit the unmet demand and some of them were caught too. It is absurd for Chinese officials to try to stop this trade because the people will have their opium – its like requiring a western nation to forego alcohol. We have 700 chests remaining in Macau but surveillance is so close we cannot get it out of the warehouses without the risk of discovery and arrest. When this year’s opium arrives we will store it on the ships for better security.[24]

Cotton is not selling well either and, since the departure of the Company’s fleet, the foreign factories at Canton have become quiet. The small Hongs continue to have cashflow difficulties. If they are allowed to trade through they should pay-off their debts in seven years. If they are bankrupted, we will all lose heavily.

Sir Theophilus Metcalfe has arrived at Calcutta on Lady Barlow. He is here to obtain a shipment of silver for the Select Committee at Canton. The stoppage of trade, the continuing absence of the Americans and now the effective suppression of opium distribution have combined to deny the Company its usual source of silver by diminishing the sale of its Bills. The galleon from Acapulco is due at Manila about now and that should help alleviate the silver shortage.[25]

Sat 30th December 1815

Letter from Canton, 6th October – The Wyndham (Nicholl) has sunk but all the cargo of opium and 1,500 bales of the cotton was salvaged. Most of the rest should be recovered too. Our staples are selling well – cotton is 13.5 Taels a bale and opium is selling at $1,480 a chest. There are 20 Company ships at Whampoa that will sail with the winter monsoon in January. Several country ships are also in port.

The Americans recently commenced to supply Turkish opium to the Chinese. The first shipment sold at $1,100 per picul and the second, which was larger, at $770. Five more American ships are on their way here with further supply from Smyrna. This will diminish the price we are able to get for Bengal opium.

There is another strange discrepancy in this market – Bengal and Bombay cotton attract different prices, the former getting ¾ Tael more on average.[26]

1816 – Whole year missing in BL copy

1817 – Whole year missing in BL copy

Sat 21st February 1818

The opium auction last Sat 14th February at Calcutta attracted good prices of 2,200 up to 2,630 Rupees per chest (c. $1,100 – $1,300).

Sat 18th April 1818

India Gazette, 9th March – 80,000 bales of Indian cotton remained unsold at Canton in January. British merchants say the opium price is softened by imports of Turkish by the Americans. They seem to be affecting this important market.

Sat 20th June 1818

The Syren has arrived at Calcutta from Macau on 28th May bringing letters up to 4th April.

The opium stock at Whampoa has been sold and only a fortnight’s supply remains in the hands of the brokers. They will in future have to buy in Macau where prices are now $1,300 for Patna and $800 for Malwa.

Sat 12th December 1818

The Juliana (Kidd) has arrived at Calcutta from China with $800,000 in silver. This will relieve the scarcity of money in circulation at Calcutta. She reports Sir Theophilus Metcalfe is confirmed as President of the Select.

The Hong merchants have received an order to present 300,000 Taels to the Emperor and propose to levy a new tax on cotton to fund it. The Select has protested. Cotton and opium prices have fallen.

Sat 13th March 1819

The Andromeda (Almeida) has arrived at Calcutta from Macau. She reports that opium prices have been under pressure and Baboom, fronting a group of rich Chinese, has bought all the opium in the ships at Whampoa at $800 per chest. It is thought he intends to return the opium monopoly to Macau.

Apart from Baboom’s huge holding, we have had 47 chests landed from the Morning Star and 27 chests from the Portuguese ships – a total import of 70 chests for January 1819.

Sat 16th October 1819

Letter from Canton, 7th June 1819:

Opium is hardly selling – Bengal is $1,000 and Malwa $670.

Sat 30th October 1819

The Shah Byramgore (Kiddle) has arrived from Batavia and China. She reports there are two opium ships trading at Whampoa – Syren and Mentor. A third is loading for Suez. Opium is $950.

Sat 11th December 1819

The Charlotte arrived in port yesterday. She left Whampoa 20th August. The restrictions on foreigners at Canton are almost entirely taken off and smuggling is again the preferred occupation. Company opium is up at $1,300 and Malwa or Turkey are both selling at $900 the picul.

Sat 8th April 1820

The Carmo left China on 27th January and has arrived at Penang. She reports opium was $1,250 a chest.

Sat 13th May 1820 Extraordinary

Regulation 2 of 1820 was enacted 10th May by the Bombay Governor-in-Council. Regulation 1 of 1818 enacted at Calcutta imposed a duty of 12 Rupees per Seer (2 lbs) on non-Company opium (opium manufactured outside its own territories but brought within its jurisdiction) but there is judicial doubt whether the terms are enforceable in Bombay. Regulation 2 of 1820 removes that doubt.

This Regulation extends the Calcutta Act to Bombay, as follows:

Any opium imported to Bombay Presidency that does not accord with the terms of this Regulation will be confiscated and sold along with the carrying ship, boat, cart, camel, etc., – one third of the sale proceeds to the informer and two thirds to the Company.

Informers must give evidence on Oath to the magistrate or collector who will issue a Warrant to any public officer or other trust-worthy person to enter ships, buildings and all sorts of private property, using force if necessary, to search for opium.

He will place any seizures securely in the Company’s nearest warehouse. Claimants have ten days to register a claim before the magistrate. People found in possession of non-Company smuggled opium will have their opium confiscated and will pay double-duty on the quantity seized.

Seizures of less than one maund or 500 Rupees value will be disposed of summarily in the Recorder’s Court or by the local magistrate. Seizures of more than one maund or over 500 Rupees will be dealt with on information in the Recorder’s Court or by suit in any Zillah Court.

The Regulation is also printed in Mahrati and Gujerati languages.

Thurs 25th May 1820 Extraordinary

The new opium regulation again, in Gujerati only.

Thurs 1st June 1820 Extraordinary

The opium Regulation again, in Mahrati only

Mon 10th July 1820 Extraordinary

The opium Regulation appears again, in Farsi only

Mon 2nd October 1820 Extraordinary

The new opium regulation again, in Gujerati only.

Sat 4th November 1820

Letter from Malwa, 16th September – the grain and cotton crops from this district are usually good and the weather is very pleasant. In the south is the Vindhya Range rising above 2,000 feet and this slopes gently down to the north. Beautiful streams flow everywhere.

The southern part of Malwa was largely depopulated during our recent Pindari War, but in the last three years it has recovered both part of its former population and part of its agricultural production. Large tracts of formerly cultivated land remain untended.

The sheep and cattle in eastern and central Malwa are unusually large and, before the Pindaris raids, there was a fine horse bred here. Grass, oats and lucerne are readily procurable.[27]

Sat 3rd February 1821

The Company is selling 1,500 chests (133 lbs each) of 1819 / 20 Malwa opium by auction in Bombay on 24th April.[28] Sale will be in lots of 5 chests each. 1 Rupee to bid, 10% deposit payable within 5 days and the balance within two months. Samples will be available for inspection at the auction.

Calcutta residents (where the Company’s opium is sold) may make offers in writing to Bombay Presidency with 10% of the offer as deposit. If they exceed the auction prices they will succeed.

If one tenderer buys all 1,500 chests, the 5-chest lots will still be offered but only prices exceeding the pro-rata price of the 1,500 chest bid will succeed.

In order to provide equal opportunity, Bombay residents who wish to participate in the next Calcutta auction may send in their purchase proposals to Bombay government by 3rd February.[29]

Sat 17th March 1821

Board of Customs, Salt and Opium Notice, 7th February:

The Malwa opium to be auctioned in Bombay in April is in three qualities. One Picul is equivalent to 3½ Surat Maunds (each of 38 lbs). The government paid 400 Bombay Rupees per Surat Maund for the first quality (1,400 Rupees per picul).

A committee is being formed to assess the reduced value of the second and third qualities and arrive at reasonable values for them. The first quality will be sold first and the inferior qualities afterwards.

An example is provided to explain the government’s pricing proposal. Suppose the 2nd and 3rd qualities are assessed to be worth 350 and 300 Rupees per Maund, then a tender of 2,000 Rupees per picul for 1st quality will be deemed to be a tender of 1,750 Rupees for 2nd quality or 1,500 Rupees for 3rd quality.

Sat 17th March 1821

Revenue Dept, Notice, 14th March – the Malwa opium sale set for 24th April is postponed to 24th May. The quality analyses will be available from Calcutta on 14th May.

Sat 24th March 1821

The Juliana (Webster) has arrived Calcutta having left China on 16th January at which date most of the Indiamen had left for London. All trade at Canton is slow except opium which has risen to $1,750 per chest.

Sat 24th March 1821

Calcutta Journal, 1st March – the Bengal opium auction yesterday lasted 3 hours and 5.4 million Rupees was paid into the Company’s coffers. The first 42 Lots were sold to native buyers at average 2,555 Rupees per chest. The results were:

1,704 chests of Bihar @ average 2,548 Rupees per chest

417 chests of Benares @ average 2,493 Rupees per chest

The last auction in December 1820 produced average prices of 2,435 Rupees for Bihar and 2,463 Rupees for Benares and that was thought unusually high.

In March 1819 average price of Bihar was 1,732 Rupees and Benares 1,672 Rupees.[30]

Sat 7th April 1821

The Bombay Revenue Dept has appointed Thomas Flowers as acting Opium Agent and James Taylor as deputy Opium Agent .

Sat 19th May 1821

Notice, 17th May – Each chest of the 1st and 2nd qualities of Malwa opium for sale by auction in a few days will contain an extra 6lbs 10 ozs of fragments, i.e. totally 140 lbs per chest. A certificate of sale (Malwa is contraband in Bombay) and export licence will be provided for each chest.

Sat 26th May 1821

The Company has held another auction of opium in Calcutta. 50 Lots of the 1st quality sold at average 2,145 Sicca Rupees the chest. Another 50 Lots sold at 2,000 Rupees on average. The Company plans to continue sales until its entire stock of 1,585 chests has been sold. It was completed on Tuesday. The later sales continued to average 2,000 Rupees per chest.

Sat 16th June 1821

T Flowers, the Opium Agent for Bombay, is auctioning off a few bales of each of the following articles:

Wunjaroo gunnies, Deccan gunnies, Camoolees, white Chuckwahs and Dungaree wrappers (the packing materials for Malwa opium).

Sale at 12 noon on 18th June at the opium warehouse.

Sat 23rd June 1821

Ghazipur, N E of Benares, is a centre of the Company’s opium farming.

Sat 8th September 1821

Bombay Castle, Notice 4th September – the illicit trade in opium will be vigilantly suppressed. All smugglers and their opium will be dealt with according to law.

Sat 15th December 1821

The China-ships that left the Pearl River and Macau in early October are arriving at Bombay. A letter from Canton dated 28th September has information:

The opium market has done very well in consequence of a combination of the few large holders of stock.

An unusual feature this year is that most of the Bengal supply is with the Portuguese (due to Baboom’s intervention). They are getting $1,750 a chest. The strength of the combination reduces as the time approaches for the China traders to remit funds to Bengal in time for the next auction. The auctions commence early each year (in December) as soon as the winter monsoon brings the first ships and the proceeds of China-trade back to Calcutta.

Malwa has done comparatively badly. There are a large number of holders who compete amongst themselves (their capital is small) and they all want to sell. It fell to $1,020 at the lowest and has recovered to $1,050 now.

Sat 22nd December 1821

The Batavian government has promulgated a new duty on opium effective 1st January 1822. Bengal opium will pay 350 guilders per chest; other types will pay 200 Guilders. Patna is on offer here at $1,550 and Turkish at $950.

A test shipment of Malwa has arrived but no-one is interested. There is market feed-back that the Malwa quality varies. At Canton it has fallen to $700 a picul.

Sat 26th January 1822

Government Gazette, 3rd January:

At the opium sales, native buyers were able to bid-up the price of the first lot to 3,375 Rupees a picul. Most Westerners were caught unprepared for these exceptional prices. We had expected sales to be made at no more than 3,000 Rupees.

It got worse. As new Lots were brought to sale, the prices rose to 4,405 Rupees and sold very briskly.

The new half-chests, which contain small cakes specifically for the China market, sold at better than proportionate prices. The results were:


Bihar usual cakes

Bihar small cakes

Benares usual cakes


946 chests

199 half chests

202 chests

Average Price

4,131 Rupees

2,549 Rupees

4,407 Rupees

Total sales were worth 3,914,755 Rupees. Compare this with the average price per chest at the four previous auctions:

December 1819

March 1820

December 1820

February 1821

Bihar 1,999 Rupees

Bihar 2,025 Rupees

Bihar 2,455 Rupees

Bihar 2,548 Rupees

Benares 2,012 Rupees

Benares 2,058 Rupees

Benares 2,463 Rupees

Benares 2,493 Rupees

Half-chest prices exceed the full chest price of less than a year ago.[31]

Sat 9th February 1822

Madras Courier, 22nd January:

The Cornwall left Canton on 2nd December and has just arrived at Madras. She reports the Merope and Eugenia, two of the four ships ordered out of the river for selling opium at Whampoa, have now left. The other two – Hooghly and Emily – were delayed departing only because they had to first offload the export cargo they had taken-on, Hooghly for New South Wales and Emily for Europe. They left the river in ballast which will be a considerable commercial set-back for their owners / masters.

The principal Hong merchant was demoted to commoner for his role in the matter as Security Merchant of some of these ships. Hong merchants buy official degrees of rank but the Viceroy of the Two Kwang took Howqua’s button for this offence. He will have to pay 200,000+ Taels to renew his degree.

The upshot is that foreign merchants are fearful they will have difficulty obtaining Security Merchants for their ships on next arrival.

Meanwhile other trade is depressed. The only commodity in demand is opium and prices have held-up well notwithstanding the government’s actions.

The difficulty since the Viceroy’s act is in getting the Drug landed – we were selling over the side at Whampoa but no boats will come alongside anymore. The foreign shipping at Whampoa has taken defensive precautions – armed sentries patrol the decks and boarding nets are taken-up at dusk.

The Cornwall took some Chinese emigrants to Penang on the way back.

Sat 9th February 1822

Penang 14th November – the Dutch have commenced to levy 8% import duty on all goods landed at their possessions. Opium is taxed at $100 per chest.

Sat 9th February 1822

The Sussex (Trill) arrived Penang 29th December from Canton via Singapore. She brought a letter from Canton to a local merchant dated 18th November which reports on the Whampoa opium dispute:

It says the intermediaries who pay our regular bribes to the Whampoa magistrate for distribution to his colleagues, withheld some part of the payments that were routinely expected. The magistrate’s financial dependants sent him back to the intermediaries to demand payment. They in turn abused him physically. His wife then shaved her head and sat before the Viceroy’s yamen demanding justice.

The Viceroy interviewed the Whampoa magistrate and discovered all the details of opium distribution, both at Macau and Whampoa, including a list of 50 of his officials in receipt of our regular payments and the amount that each received – generally $8,000 to $10,000 per annum.

With this detailed information of our smuggling trade formally before the Viceroy, all the intermediaries have run away and we have no-one to get the opium from the store ships to the consumers. We have not sold a single chest since 1st December.

Worse, the ships that imported opium have been peremptorily ordered out of the river within five days. Fortunately the magistrate was not familiar with all the ships bringing opium and only identified the two that stored it at Whampoa for sale – Merope and Eugenia. The Captains of both ships have been told they will be boarded and searched if they do not forthwith depart. If opium is found aboard it will be confiscated and burned, so the Viceroy says. This is the reason for the arming of the ships and placing the sentries – it is intended to resist the Viceroy should he use force.

It is feared that this confrontation, if proceeded in by the Viceroy, will escalate to a complete cessation of foreign trade. Consequently, there was pressure from other foreign merchants on the owners of Merope and Eugenia to remove their ships from the river and devise some new means to distribute their goods.

Sat 16th February 1822

On the opium dispute at Whampoa, How Qua sent a copy of the Imperial Edict to the President of the Select on 17th November. It seems the Emperor may not have been advised in detail how the arrangement of the Whampoa opium market was exposed to his officials.

The Edict says Keih the magistrate of Nam Hoi and Wang the magistrate of Poon Yu (from whence Whampoa is administered) have received an official letter from the provincial Treasurer Ching disclosing he in turn had received an official document from Viceroy Yuen who got it from the Emperor in response to Yuen’s report on opium smuggling at Whampoa (as originally revealed by the assaulted magistrate).

Viceroy Yuen says the Hong merchants have identified three ships at Whampoa with opium on board:

Opium is made by foreigners and brought to China to poison the people. The Emperor has repeatedly prohibited the importation of opium and I and the Hoppo likewise – it is not just two or three times. Now I have found the foreigners continue to bring opium:

I have personally ordered the Hong merchants to investigate and report. They say the country ships Parkyns, Hogg and Coupland[32]all contain opium. In the 20th year of the previous reign, the Ka Hing Emperor ordered that ‘if one ship brings opium it will be expelled and not permitted to return; if all the ships bring opium, they will be all expelled and not permitted to return.’ This was notified to the Hong merchants for the instruction of the foreigners.

It is reasonable to reject the cargoes of these ships and expel them but, of these ships, some have landed cargoes and others have loaded cargoes and it would be proper to distinguish their offences. Of the three ships that have landed cotton, putchuck and tin, the Security Merchant will discover their cost in the country of origin and confiscate one half of its value. The goods will remain warehoused here until three months after the ship’s departure when they will be released to the President of the Select (honoured with the title Taipan or chief merchant) to be taken away. It is not permitted to reload them on the original ship. The goods which have not been landed are rejected. The opium will be removed from the ships by How Qua and burned. The ships that brought the opium are expelled and must leave within five days.

Coupland says the Chinese goods loaded into the Emily belong to a Dutch merchant. There may be collusion. Those goods may not be freighted in Emily. The Nam Hoi magistrate will order the Security Merchant for Emily to unload the ship and warehouse those goods until three months after Coupland departs. They may then be loaded to some other ship for export.

The smuggling of ordinary goods entails confiscation. How can the masters of these ships suppose that bringing a prohibited substance to China can not entail punishment? This is to regulate the greed of the foreigners. China sells useful products to foreigners whilst they secretly smuggle opium to harm us. This is not in accordance with the Celestial principle.

On this occasion, the three ships are merely disallowed their trade for this season. The Hong merchants are ordered to manage this business without delay.

In future, if a Hong merchant secures a ship containing opium he should be punished and his licence cancelled. As they have themselves revealed this plot, I allow them clemency.[33]All foreign ships entering the river in future will be secured by the four leading Hong merchants – Howqua, Mowqua, Punkiqua and Chunqua – who will assume personal responsibility for the foreigners. They are each substantial merchants who, out of regard for themselves and their families, should feel awe and dread. This order is copied to the Governor and Hoppo.”

Dated – 1st year 10th month 23rd day of the To Kwong Emperor.

Canton Register Vol 12 No 19 – 7th May 1839

Letter from an American trader in Canton to his Calcutta agents, dated 10th December 1821:

The Chinese have expelled all opium ships from the port. Only the Eugenia (consigned to James Matheson) remains at Whampoa and she should leave soon. All these opium ships are expected to resume their business once outside the river.

The Hong merchants securing foreign ships were initially very strict. Five American vessels had to give bonds they brought no opium before they could trade but since then four more have arrived and been secured in the usual way.

Half the import cargoes of the four opium ships Merope, Hooghly, Emily and Eugenia were to have been confiscated but the requirement has been withdrawn. It seems likely that no rigorous measures will be taken. This expulsion of the opium ships from Whampoa is no different to what occurs every year, it just happened earlier this year.

Letter from the Hongs to Wilcocks, American honorary consul, 12th November 1821:

The Viceroy has issued many orders against opium. It has long been prohibited. You have repeatedly been warned that disobedience will provoke a severe prosecution of the trade. Now an Edict has been published concerning the foreign ships that bring opium. If we do not act against them we will be punished. If they come into port they will not be allowed to trade.

We do not know if your ships at Whampoa carry opium. Please tell us if they have as we must report them to government. It is illegal and they must sell none but leave immediately. We cannot be involved in it.

Sgd How Qua, Mow Qua, Chun Qua, Con Se Qua and Yen Qua.

How Qua to Wilcocks, 17th November 1821, forwarding the Viceroy’s Edict:

The Hong merchants have reported three ships at Whampoa carry opium. This foreign mud poisons China.[34] Many proscriptions have been issued but still the foreigners smuggle it in. Now the English Captains Hogg (Eugenia) and Parkyns (Merope) and the American Coupland (Emily) have brought it in their ships.

In 1816 the Ka Hing Emperor ordered that any opium ship should be expelled with its entire cargo and its future trade proscribed. If all the ships bring opium they must be all expelled. These ships should be expelled and their trade stopped.

But, unlike new arrivals, they have partly discharged or partly loaded. Accordingly, the Hong merchants will value their cargoes and pay half price (in goods, not money) and the other half will be paid to government as a fine.

These three foreigners may not take the exports they have bought but the Select Committee after three months may load these onto other ships for the foreigners’ account. Any opium in their ships will be taken out and burned. The ships are to be expelled within five days.

Coupland says the cargo he has bought belongs to a Dutch principal. This sounds like a conspiracy. The cargo will be discharged and sent on another ship. If ordinary goods are smuggled they are liable to seizure, how can Coupland et al bring opium and expect preferential treatment. These three ships are forever debarred from trade at Canton.[35]

Hong merchants who secure ships containing opium should be heavily punished but as they have themselves discovered these crimes they may be forgiven on this occasion. Hereafter all foreign ships will be secured by the four leading Hongs – How Qua, Mow Qua, Chun Qua and Pun Ke Qua. These are opulent men who, out of regard for their families and property, may be trusted.

How Qua to Wilcocks, 17th November 1821 forwarding another Viceregal Edict:

The Hong merchants report Robinson (Hooghly) has brought opium but they do not say if he has discharged or loaded any cargo. They should clarify this first.

Viceroy Yuen to the Hongs:

Con Se Qua reported Parkyns (Merope) brought opium and cotton. The ship has been expelled and has employed a pilot to leave. She has four cannon and 12 muskets. The crew of forty must leave with the ship. A Port Clearance Certificate has been issued her and the government boats will escort her out. The Hong merchants will maintain lists of the merchants and ships smuggling opium so they may never again be permitted entry.

Hongs to the Company’s Select Committee, 8th December 1821 forwarding the Viceroy’s Edict:

Please advise your national authorities that the British ships Eugenia, Merope and Hooghly are smuggling ships and are forbidden to trade to China. Please tell them no ship may bring opium here in future.

The Viceroy’s Edict:

Four ships brought opium and were fined half the value of their cargo. Now several foreign merchants have begged for remission of these smuggling penalties.

What the foreigners value is money. They commit crime for profit. The appropriate punishment for commercial crime is heavy fines so they do not profit by it. By punishing one or two, I send a message to hundreds. These four ships brought 200,000 Taels of goods. Their smuggling will cost them 100,000 Taels.

Now these foreigners say they have partners who are innocent of offence and they say they never heard before that smuggling would be met with confiscation. In humble imitation of the Emperor’s clemency, and in consideration of it being a first offence, I now remit the fines.

But the Emperor has already ordered that ships bringing opium must have their entire cargo rejected. These four ships have long been in port and sold part of their cargo. The Imperial order cannot precisely be obeyed. Accordingly the Hong merchants will calculate and agree the cargo costs with the foreigners and credit half the amount to their accounts for purchase of goods, except tea. The other half will be confiscated. They may not take the purchased goods away but after three months they may be sent after them in another ship. This meets the Emperor’s requirements and confers clemency on first time offenders. The Hong merchants will obey this and maintain their precautions against smuggling.

Now Coupland’s ship carried half a ton of tin and all the other cargo was opium. This is detestable. Rightly did Heaven require the life of Francisco Terranova.[36] This ship should be punished more severely but as the other three ships have had their fines remitted, I shall extend clemency to Coupland as well.

We supply tea for millions of your people but you feel no gratitude and smuggle opium instead. You know it is unreasonable and in your hearts you should feel ashamed.

Sat 16th February 1822

The Hong merchants later added the English ship Hooghly (Robinson) to the list of opium ships.

On 8th December the Hong merchants wrote to the President of the Select indicating Merope, Eugenia and Hooghly were all banned from China-trade. They asked the President to report the ban to his superiors.

Con Se Qua was Security Merchant for Merope (Parkyns). He reported Parkyns had employed a pilot preparatory to taking the ship out of the river. The Hoppo then issued a Port Clearance certificate for Merope.

Pak Qua was Security Merchant for Emily. He reported similarly with the same result.

The foreigners then petitioned the Hong merchants for remission of the fines. They in turn commended relief to the Viceroy.

He said the foreigners come here for profit. The appropriate means of obtaining their respect for the law is fining which reduces the profit they seek for. This award is not simply punishment of the involved cargo owners but a warning to other foreigners who might be tempted to emulate them.

However the foreign merchants plead that confiscation threatens them with bankruptcy. They say the three ships brought goods worth 200,000 Taels and the loss of half is insupportable. The ship masters say they are not owners of their cargoes but partners in a joint venture. Their own capital is small. And they note no previous confiscation of goods has occurred. They were unprepared.

The Viceroy notes that China is governed by justice and mercy. As this is a first offence the order of confiscation will be remitted.

But we have an Edict of the late Emperor requiring that if any ship brings opium, its whole cargo should be rejected. These foreigners have sold part of their cargo and this Imperial order cannot be performed in their cases. Neither can I order payment be made to them for the cargo they have already sold as it breaches the spirit of the Emperor’s order. I conclude the whole of their cargoes must be rejected and the Hong merchants are ordered to calculate the costs and profits of the foreigners and permit them to buy goods with that part representing their costs. They may not buy tea or rhubarb root. They may not load the goods they buy but must send another ship after three months to take the purchases away. The profits on those landed goods that have been sold are alone confiscated to government. This equates the result, whether the goods are sold or unsold, and gives effect to the Emperor’s order.

There will not again be any clemency shown. The ships of all the foreign nations are on notice their illegal goods will in future be confiscated.

As for Emily (Coupland) from Baltimore, she carried only 10 piculs of tin but paid Port Entry fees of 1,400 Taels. Clearly she entered port solely to sell opium. Detestable. But as the others have received clemency, it shall be extended to Coupland as well.

The conduct of the foreigners is unreasonable. They should reflect on their actions, repent their conduct and reform themselves. Then they will always be welcome to share in the bounty of China.

The Hong merchants are ordered to instruct the foreigners and inculcate responsible behaviour in them.

Sat 16th February 1822

Since the events described above the Bogue Customs House has been reporting the arrival of foreign ships to Canton. An express message is sent from the river mouth to Canton requiring the Hong merchants to repair to Whampoa to meet and inspect the ship for opium.

The Viceroy instructs “If they certify the ship opium-free, they and the master or consignee give bonds to the Canton Governor, and may commence trade. If Hong merchants really detest the opium trade, they will be pleased at this support from government, and do their duty well. If they do not, we will know what they feel in their hearts.”

Sat 9th March 1822

Clarification – Regulation 16 of 1817 of the Bombay Presidency provides for a duty on all non-Company opium imported to Bombay. This duty is not applicable to opium bought in Bombay at the Company’s sales for export.

Sat 16th March 1822

Bombay Revenue Dept, 12th March – 1,600 piculs of 1820 / 21 Malwa opium will be auctioned on 24th May. Each chest contains 140 lbs and each Lot will comprise five chests. Successful bidders to pay 10% of the price within 5 days and the balance within 2 months.

Prospective buyers may inspect the Company’s documents – quality reports, packing lists with weights, warranties offered – at the Opium Agent’s Office.

Sat 23rd March 1822

The opium auction at Calcutta on 1st March revealed continuing strong commercial interest. The average price remained above 4,000 Rupees per chest.


Bihar, large cakes

Bihar, small cakes










Average Price


2,325 (half-chests)


Sat 27th April 1822

Private letters from Canton dated 22nd February say the stoppage of trade has been ended and the Select and the Canton government are again in harmony.[37]

John Bull in the East of 6th April, reports the Macauley arrived Penang from China in mid-March. Her Captain says the Select has returned to Canton, the Company’s shipping returned to Whampoa on 25th February and is being loaded. They should depart for England by mid-April.

The magistrates of Poon Yu and Tung Kwoon, M/s Kwang and Chung, have published an Edict on 22nd February to the Hong merchants in accordance with the instructions of the high provincial officials and in response to the English Taipan Urmston’s letter to the Hong merchants.

Urmston reported that the British warship had taken the murderers away and he has no means of delivering them to justice (HMS Topaze arrived Madras 6th April from Trincomalee). Urmston agrees to send all the details of the affrays home so the responsible crewmen can be punished. He entreats that trade may re-opened. In consideration of all the facts, the high officials agree to indulge Urmston. He and his colleagues may return and trade their produce. They should be grateful.

Company opium is selling at $2,040 – 2,050 and Malwa is $1,340. The high prices are due to distribution of the Company’s product now being necessarily through the Portuguese cartel at Macau.

Two of the Company’s Indiamen (General Harris and Marquis of Camden) were unable to obtain tea cargoes so late in the season and sailed in ballast. This is a serious penalty which the Company has to pay as a result of the Lintin affair. It is a commercial reverse to the Company and a severe embarrassment to Urmston.[38]

Sat 18th May 1822

The Heroine has returned to Bombay from China and Penang bringing Charles Palmer, William Boyd and L Magniac of the Company’s civil service and the latter’s family. They completed the China / Penang leg on General Harris (George Welstead), the Indiaman that could not get a tea cargo.

They confirm relations with the Canton government are restored but the dispute with the Macau authorities (over control of opium distribution) continues. Opium is selling at $2,050 the chest.

Sat 18th May 1822

Henry Wright is the Purser of Castle Huntly (Henry A Drummond) for the 1821 / 22 season. The ship is one of the Indiamen on the Bombay and China route.[39]

Sat 25th May 1822

The Malwa opium sale yesterday attracted great interest in Bombay but only four Lots of 5 chests each were sold at 2,006 Rupees per chest.[40]

Sat 22nd June 1822

The failure to sell Indian cotton in the China market and the disruption of opium distribution in the Canton river, has deranged part of the Company’s usual source of funds for tea and the Company’s Canton Treasury was opened for sale of 1- and 2-year Bills on London at 4/8d and 5/- per silver dollar respectively.

Holders of cotton are unable to remit until their stock has been sold off and there is consequently reduced demand for Bills on Calcutta.

A total of $600,000 was collected on London Bills. This will create difficulties for the Company’s Treasury in London which is seldom asked to meet such large commitments.

It is potentially doubly embarrassing as the tea supply this year was markedly reduced (with lower quality and lower prices owing to adverse weather in the harvest season) and the Company was unable to complete its intended purchases. The Indiamen General Harris and Marquis of Camden were unable to load a cargo this year and sailed to Penang in ballast.

Sat 29th June 1822

The Charles Forbes (Thomas Bryden) has arrived from China and reports Patna opium on 15th April was selling at $2,500 per chest; Company Malwa at $1,500 and Damaun (smuggled) Malwa at $1,200 per picul.

Sat 20th July 1822

The restraint on our smuggling by the Viceroy of the Two Kwang is continuing, according to recent arrivals from China. No opium is entering the river.

Sat 7th September 1822

Notice – Recital of the prohibition in India on the illicit trade in opium. Regulation No 1 of 1818 and No 2 of 1820 will be strictly enforced, it says.

Sat 19th October 1822

Calcutta Journal, 20th September – The Editor’s correspondent at Bangkok has sent a few letters dated between April – June 1822 concerning the state of trade at that port and the prospects of Crawfurd’s mission to the Thai government.[41]


“About 250 chests of opium are smuggled-in annually from Penang and Singapore and sell readily to the Thai Customs Officers who monopolise internal distribution.”

Sat 21st December 1822

Notice, 20th December – the Company will sell 1,500 chests of 1821 / 22 Malwa opium on 3rd March 1823 in Bombay. Each chest contains an allowance and the actual nett weight of raw opium is 140 lbs.

A deposit of 10% in money or government securities is required within five days of each successful bid; the balance of purchase price within two months of sale.

Opium to be removed from the government warehouse within two months of purchase. Warranties and chemist’s certificates may be viewed after 1st March at the Opium Agent’s Office.

Sat 21st December 1822

The Charlotte (Stevenson) arrived Bombay 18th December from China, which she left on 18th September. Patna opium was handsomely, if nominally, priced at $2,400 a chest and Turkish at $1,300 the picul. There are large stocks on hand and prices were expected to decline.

Sat 25th January 1823

The first auction of the 1822 / 23 opium occurred at Calcutta on 31st December.

1,900 chests were offered. The Patna averaged, 3,283 and the Benares 3,257 Rupees per chest, a drop of some 25% from the previous sale’s extraordinary prices. Nevertheless, the news from China, which is the main opium consumption market, suggested an even greater drop was appropriate.

Buyers say about one quarter of the 1,900 chests will be shipped straight away whilst the rest was bought by native speculators who anticipate a revival of the China market and will store their purchases here temporarily.

The second sale will customarily be in February and these speculators must sell before then or monopolise that auction as well.

Sat 15th February 1823

The Company’s agency for the purchase of Malwa opium is based at Indore, Holkar’s capital city. The farms supplying the agency are in the lands taken from Holkar in Lord Moira’s recent Pindari War.[42]

Sat 15th March 1823

The Eugenia (Hogg) is leaving Calcutta with 454 chests of Patna opium for China.[43] The average price at the recent sale was 3,300 Rupees per chest, indicating the cargo is worth about 1,500,000 Rupees (say £150,000 in revalued Rupees).

If they sell at an average $2,500 per chest they will produce $1,135,000 (say £283,750). This is the 2nd similar voyage of the Eugenia. She was formerly an opium store ship at Whampoa.

Sat 22nd March 1823

The Company’s latest opium sale at Calcutta took four days to complete with prices gradually edging-up but overall the proceeds were less than last year’s record levels. 1,500 chests were sold at an average 1,764 Rupees each.

Sat 22nd March 1823

The Ranger (Clark) left China on 30th January and has just arrived Calcutta. She reports Bengal opium is $2,350 nominal whilst Bombay Malwa is selling briskly at $1,380 and Turkey is doing a little business at $1,150.[44]

Sat 19th April 1823

India Gazette 31st March – There have been widespread hail storms along the Ganges in Oudh and Tirhoot and the indigo and poppy crops have been damaged. The harvest will be reduced which will likely cause an increase in price. The Company has greatly extended the area for poppy farming this year which will alleviate much of the anticipated shortage for that commodity.

It can also call on the supply from Malwa in the newly ceded districts. Opium from Malwa is already being shipped to Calcutta, however it is considered an inferior product to the Bengal supply.[45]

Sat 12th July 1823

Opium prices in Singapore in mid-May 1823 were Patna $1,850 and Malwa $1,055. This is sufficiently below Macau / Lintin asking prices to be worth re-exporting but Singapore is full of Chinese who engross the coastal trade.

Sat 15th November 1823

The Milford has arrived at Calcutta from China which she left on 7th August. Opium has fallen considerably and a few chests of Malwa sold at $1,160. About 5,700 chests are in storage.

Sat 6th December 1823

Bengal Hurkaru, 14th November:

The Hoppo Ta has proclaimed at Canton in June 1823 against foreign opium ships:

Early this month Capt Grant (Mandarin – Kei Lau) anchored his ship at the eastern side of Lintin. A pilot was sent to his assistance but was rejected and no explanation of Grant’s actions was given. A guardship was posted nearby to observe. Another English ship of Capt Gover was also seen to be anchored there. The ships neither enter port for trade nor sail away.

The Hong merchants will tell the Taipan of the English (President of the Select Committee) to order these ships away.[46]

Sat 6th December 1823

Bengal Hurkaru, 14th November – Viceroy Yuen has advised the Hong merchants he has learned that Capt Parkyns ship (Merope), which was expelled from the river for opium smuggling last year, sailed to Macau (Taipa) roads and has remained there since last July.

The Viceroy also complains Capt Howard’s ship which arrived last December with a reported cargo of rattans and other Asian goods. He was ordered to come into the river and trade but declined to do so and remains in Taipa roads.

Parkyns and Howard sail their ships back and forth between Lintin and Macau. They neither enter the river to join the formal trade nor sail away. They are clearly smugglers and have collected the opium of all the other ships in order to provide a monopoly service for maximum profit. The Hong merchants appear well aware of the purpose of these ships yet neither complain nor oppose. The Viceroy wonders if they connive.

We already have the Emperor’s command to maintain a strict watch for opium all along the coast and to seize it wherever we find it. There may be no neglect by the civil or military officers.

The country ships of India come here under the licence of the Taipan. The Hong merchants will instruct the Taipan to send these two ships away. There may be no pretexts for continued loitering.[47]


From this point, the newspaper articles are from the Canton Register newspaper, edited briefly by the American China-trader A S Keating and then by the Londoner John L Slade.


Vol 1 No 1 – 8th November 1827

The capture of a smuggling boat with 21 chests for Canton a few days ago has dampened the eagerness of the local opium dealers.

Vol 1 No 1 – 8th November 1827






October 1827 Deliveries





Stock at 1.11.27





Selling $

1,180 – 1,220

1,150 – 1,180

1,380 – 1,420*

750 – 800

* Company Malwa & Smuggled per chest (1 picul)

Vol 1 No 2 – 23rd November 1827

Opium prices – Patna $1,230, Benares $1,210, Malwa (Company & smuggled) $1,420 – 1,430, Turkey $800-810

Delivered at Lintin 1st – 11th November Patna 58 chests, Benares 7, Malwa 79

Vol 1 No 3 – 30th November 1827

Delivered at Lintin 1st – 24th November Patna 95, Benares 19, Malwa 165

Opium prices – Patna $1,220, Benares $1,200, Malwa (Company & smuggled) $1,400, Turkey $800-810

Vol 1 No 3 – 30th November 1827

A recent government seizure of opium is to be burnt at the gate of the Governor’s yamen on 8th and 9th days of this moon. One of his staff tried to substitute other goods for the opium. The Governor was persuaded to send him to the Nam Hoi Yuen (magistrate) and the employee killed himself by overdose. The Governor was concerned that the Manchu General would report the death to Peking and called upon him in which meeting both officers agreed the deceased was the author of his own misfortune.

Vol 1, No 4 – 14th December 1827

Opium sales (wholesale) in China, April to November 1827 (8 months):

Month             Drug               Chests            Sub-Total       Total $

April Patna/Ben 710 575,100
Malwa 320 310,400 885,500
May Pat/Ben 850 726,800
Malwa 260 247,000 973,800
June Pat/Ben 750 677,800
Malwa 480 489,600 1,167,400
July Pat/Ben 330 310,500
Malwa 600 612,000 922,500
August Pat/Ben 440 439,600
Malwa 460 547,400 987,000
September Pat/Ben 380 447,000
Malwa 210 281,400 728,400
October Pat/Ben 490 578,500
Malwa 470 658,000 1,236,500
November Pat/Ben 240 192,120
Malwa 280 344,400 536,520

Vol 1, No 4 – 14th December 1827

Opium report in chests:

Delivered at Lintin 1st – 10th December

Stock remaining at 11th December

Opium prices

Patna 47, Benares 18, Malwa 81

Patna 1343, Benares 173, Malwa 1446.

Patna $1,220, Benares $1,200, Malwa (Co & Smuggled) $1,400, Turkey $800-810.

Vol 1 No 5 – 15th January 1828

The introduction of forward sales in opium business in China:

There has been a big increase in the quantity of opium consumed in the past nine months and in the value obtained per chest.

The good quality of the Patna this year (compared to the very inferior supply last year) is part of the reason. Nevertheless we expect the boom will be followed by a bust as in previous cycles.

Chinese speculators have pushed prices up.

The improved price is partly due to a new marketing strategy.

We now take a small deposit on opium sold for future delivery whilst retaining the Drug itself in the receiving ship until the balance is paid-off.

These forward sales are under-pinning prices. Eventually the market will turn. Malwa is a safer investment as there is little stock but high prices have previously reduced consumption and traders should take care.


1.4.27 – 31.12.27 Pat/Ben 4,410 chests $4,211,420[48]
Malwa 3,490 $4,055,800
1.4.26 – 31.12.26 Pat/Ben 2,115 $2,236,440
Malwa 4,507 $4,300,720

Prices Current, Opium – Patna $1,180, Benares $1,200 Malwa $1,380-1,400 Turkey $760-770

Vol 1 No 6 – 4th February 1828

Our comments on opium in the last issue were timely. Transactions are very limited and the slow trade is due to want of money and some interruptions in the local distribution

Vol 1 No 7 – Monday 11 February 1828

A S Keating, the first (American) Editor of the Canton Register paper, has resigned. He publicly requested articles about India for publication but we don’t agree. We think this paper should be about China. Our paper is small and we publish infrequently – we can only report China news. Everyone has different ideas and we don’t want to encourage a schism in our community of English and American traders.

The opium trade, which occupies considerable space in the commercial department, is still, as a moral question, one on which different persons form different opinions. The late Marquis of Hastings (Moira) when, as Governor General of India, was contemplating an increase in opium manufacture for the sake of revenue (if we remember rightly), hesitated whether, morally considered, it was desirable or not.

The Chinese Government thinks opium pernicious to the people and prohibits its importation. The question of commerce in things easily abused to the hurt of mankind must be left to every man’s conscience. The Canton Register will offer no opinion.”

Vol 1 No 10 – 8th March 1828

London Prices Current – Turkish opium 9/- to 9/6d per lb (equating with c. $250 per picul)

Vol 1 No 10 – 8th March 1828

On 25th February evening a smuggling boat delivering opium to Canton and Fatshan from Lintin was chased through the river estuary by a coast guard boat. One smuggler was killed and two others injured by shot.

The smuggling boat eventually entered the waterways of the delta and escaped but the occupants were alarmed and all deliveries from the Lintin store-ships stopped temporarily.

Vol 1 No 11 – Saturday 15th March 1828

The Bombay Merchant and the Ann have brought 180 chests of Patna and Benares. With the expected arrival of the Louise, opium prices here have fallen and people are only buying for their daily needs. There are rumours about the size and quality of the coming opium harvest and confirmation is expected shortly before the Company’s auctions begin.

Small sales of Malwa are being made daily but prices remain stuck at $1,350 – 1,360 the chest. The Letitia (ex Damaun) is on its way and another vessel is rumoured to have left Damaun following Letitia but the rumour remains unconfirmed.

We were so lucky last year with good sales that the speculators in Calcutta and Bombay may push auction prices too high this year. The only thing that will preserve a stable market here is a controlled import. If people are buying at high prices they will be disappointed.

The Good Success arrived soon after the Hannah. Neither of their cargoes have been sold. Nor has any of the supply that was delivered by Bengal ships.

Vol 1 No 11 – Saturday 15th March 1828

We are pleased to report that the Company has agreed to pay compensation to purchasers of opium at the 1825 / 26 sales. They will pay Company Rupees 500 per chest sold at 1st and 2nd auctions and 400 Rupees at the subsequent sales that year.

All the supply was of low quality but the compensation is more than we expected. Without this sort of initiative to exalt the mercantile character all would be suspicion and illiberality.[49]

Vol 1 No 12 – Sat 22nd March 1828

Provincial Edict of Viceroy Lee of the Two Kwang:[50]

China prohibits the buying of opium for smoking. This is to increase respect for the law and preserve the lives of the people. People take food and drink to induce harmony and obtain strength but opium has a foul taste and destroys life. Men know this but still consume it. The man who sells opium is the most worthless vagabond.

Previously people respected the law and there was no want of severity in the laws or their enforcement. Canton is a place where good and bad people come from all over the Empire. Many idle their time and try opium until a habit is formed. The habit is called sheung yan (Cantonese for addiction) and once it develops the man requires opium daily.

Thereafter he quickly loses weight and strength.

Opium is contraband. It is sold secretly which necessarily increases its price. After smoking it, the user experiences an urge to eat, particularly luxurious and savoury food, and to play with girls. He has the confidence to gamble successfully.[51] Few smokers in Canton are rich enough for these pastimes and thus in a few years the wealth and health of the opium smoker are both dissipated. Then they join gangs for housebreaking, robbery and picking pockets. There is no crime they will not commit to get the means for the next smoke.

I publish this Edict to strictly prohibit the habit. Those under my jurisdiction – military & civil officers and members of the public – should feel remorse and mend their ways. Those who have lost everything must involve themselves in trade. But do not set up opium shops or you will be seized and detained. Whenever information is given to me I will punish the offenders two-fold. No leniency will be given.

Feel awe, pay attention and do not oppose. A special Edict.

Vol 1 No 14 – 6th April 1828

The Editor of the Penang newspaper complains our commenting openly on the contraband opium trade. His alarm is misplaced.

Although the trade is morally interdicted, as is apparent from repeated Edicts, it is connived at.

Opium has become very well known generally and is an esteemed luxury. No act of state is able to prevent indulgence in it. Difficulty in getting supplies simply increases demand. It is a surprise that his Canton correspondent could have erred so egregiously in his advice.

Vol 1 No 14 – 6th April 1828

The new season’s opium from Merope is still being assessed by local dealers. They will check the purity and the weight, both of which vary.

(N B – Europeans and Parsees sell by the chest, very infrequently, the ball. The chests supposedly have fixed weights of 133 lbs of opium (the familiar Chinese weight of a Picul) but evaporation reduces the weight of old stock. The India Company is supposed to store raw opium for a year before sending it for auction at Calcutta so weights are more predictable. Fresh opium is said to cause a headache and have other unpleasant effects. These fractions evaporate off over time leaving the mature product suitable for recreational use. Farmers are said to boil a few capsules at harvest time to provide an infusion that had charming effects. It seems to have been this weight-loss characteristic that prevented opium being used much beyond its growing area. Checking the weight of new stock is a defence against occasional fraud by shippers. Opium purity is a sad matter and is mentioned in a footnote later in this chapter.)

Patna is now up to $1,050 – 1,070. Malwa is stuck at $1,250.

With the last month’s deliveries we have a consumption for the last year of 5,114 chests of Patna / Benares and 4,221 chests of Malwa producing gross sales of $10,382,141. Turkey sales are estimated at 1,600 chests which is a big increase.

Lintin clearances March 1828

Stock on hand 1st April

Patna 249, Benares 79, Malwa 335.

Patna 983, Benares 191, Malwa 783 = 1,957

Vol 1 No 15 – Sat 12th April 1828

Editorial on Opium:

Most of our readers know that opium import is strictly forbidden by the laws of China. This prohibition is for moral reasons. Nevertheless, China is the country where most Indian opium plus a large quantity from Turkey is consumed. We routinely indicate the extent of the opium trade in this paper.

The grand emporium of the trade was formerly at Macau. It then moved to Whampoa until in 1821 the Hong merchants complained so vociferously that it was removed to Lintin where several ships are stationed to receive supplies from the importing vessels and distribute it to Chinese brokers who come alongside to take-off the Drug.

Transactions commence with local brokers who speak some English and are conversant with the principles of foreign trade. Their sole remuneration is a commission of $2 per chest paid by the superior agent who acts as opium merchant. The names of these brokers are designated by the foreigners as Hunchback, Lamefoot and Cockeye, etc., calling them by their distinguishing bodily mark. (These are the sharp-end of the ‘traitorous Chinese’ repeatedly referred to in Edicts. It’s these ‘superior agents’ who enter the factories to negotiate with the foreign opium importer)

Purchasing goes on all day. The Salt merchants’ junks and other junks generally arrive in small fleets from ports up the coast particularly Chuan Chow, Nanking, Sungkiang etc. On completion of their formal shopping at Canton they stop at Lintin and take on opium. The entire crew is involved and thus secrecy is preserved. The junks come at stated times. The buyers pay the foreign agent in the Canton factories before receiving the opium. Indeed, we require he pay a deposit of $100 per chest merely to start bargaining for purchase. Once a price and quantity is agreed, he receives a delivery order addressed to the commander of the agent’s receiving ship. The buyer then sails down stream in his boat to the receiving ship. If the purchase is for local smuggling, the opium balls are taken out of the chests and put into bags. The coast guard and other officials are extensively bribed and generally blind to the smuggling but occasionally for political and other reasons they have to display vigilance and this can result in a seizure.[52]

Each year Kwangtung’s tribute to the Emperor of rice straw (for bedding), fans, kumquat shrubs and other Provincial ‘treasures’ is sent by boat while the summer monsoon blows. Some of the exotic products of foreign countries are also sent at this time. The tribute fleet sails under the Imperial flag and is thus exempt from Customs search. This allows several hundred chests to be sent to the north in complete security. The officer in charge of these fleets naturally charges a high freight for this perfect service.

Landing the drug on the coast and transporting it into the interior is difficult. In some cases opium extract is prepared and put in small containers for portability but more commonly it remains in a ball concealed in the loose clothing of the carrier. In this way it is carried throughout the Empire and even into the Imperial palaces themselves. Once smoked, the ashes are preserved as opium dross and reprocessed for sale at a lower price. Smoking divans are numerous in Kwangtung. They are found in every city, town and village and the pleasure of a pipe is sought by all sorts of people. This smoking is a specifically Chinese vice as the Turks, who are the other great users, normally eat opium. Turkish opium sold in China last year totalled 1,600 piculs and is being mixed with Patna and Malwa for economy. (The consumption of Turkish has substantially increased recently).

Its demoralising effects as evidenced by the opium and gambling houses of Singapore and elsewhere, is unknown in China.

(NB – the morphine content of Turkish opium is higher than Patna or Malwa and is said to overwhelm the user if smoked. It was historically used as medicine or baked in cakes and biscuits.)

Vol 1 No 15 – Sat 12th April 1828

Consumption of chests of opium in China 1st April 1821 – 31st March 1828 (7 years)

























Value in Dollars








Vol 1 No 15 – Sat 12th April 1828

The new crop of Patna has been analysed to contain a pure content of 47 – 49%. This together with the weight of the chests means this year’s crop is as good as last year’s. The Chinese are already saying that the odds suggest the next year will not again produce such a fine supply. Chests of new opium have been sold to brokers at $1,030 for trial.

Prices Current – Malwa is $1,250, old Patna $1,000-1010, Benares $985-990, Turkey $730-735 per picul.

A few sales have been done up to 11th April – Patna 71 chests, Benares 56 and Malwa 139.

Vol 1 No 15 – Sat 12th April 1828

Canton trade is done partly in chopped silver dollars, weighed by the tael. The Company equates 1,000 Spanish dollars with 718 Taels but all the commercial houses and Hong merchants use 717 Taels and dealings with outside men (operating shops in the streets crossing the factories) are done at 715 Taels. Patna and Benares opium is always exchanged at 718 Taels. This is the only pre-eminence it enjoys over the Bombay supply.

Vol 1 No 15 – Sat 12th April 1828

Editorial – Opium is a poison that has flowed through China for many years. Though often prohibited, the officials take bribes to permit its use. In Macau there are 80 opium divans. They are more numerous than rice shops. Every divan pays a monthly bribe to the Chinese officials responsible for Macau. The divan keeper also has to ‘welcome’ every newly appointed officer in Macau. For example, the new Tso Tong Fung has just requested a $9 welcome from each shop.

Vol 1 No 15 – Sat 12th April 1828

Sales of opium have not kept pace with deliveries. Many chests recently cleared were in fact former purchases that had been deposited on loan as security for advances and only just now cleared for sale and consumption.

Vol 1 No 15 – Sat 12th April 1828

Opium sales at Lintin last month:

Patna 317, Benares 104, Malwa 291,

Stock remaining :

Patna 1,483, Benares 357, Malwa 471

Moderate demand all week, prices same as last week.

Vol 1 No 19 Sat 10th May 1828

Letter to the Editor:

The Editor of the Singapore Chronicle has taken the opium consumption figures from your paper and suggested in an article that he himself originated them. I believe the opium trade can only be properly reported by people close to it.

You say increased consumption cannot be expected if prices increase. This is only true of the ordinary items of commerce.

Opium is a commodity of taste and habit, where every act of indulgence renews desire. With such commodities, price is no longer the prime consideration.

In Europe the price of wine never affected the consumption of it. Unlike wine, opium circulates among both high and low classes in China. Chinese people are averse to wines but love the pipe. Opium smoking in China is not a new habit. The old habit of consuming Arab opium continues. Sales of Turkish have kept pace with the increase in demand for Indian partly because it is suitable for adulterating the Indian supply. This has caused it to be slightly overpriced.

The popularity of Malwa and its rapid ascendancy over Patna and Benares is due to firstly its recent consistency of quality, secondly the greater proportion of smokable extract that can be obtained from each ball and thirdly its taste which is more suitable for locals, in the same way we prefer one wine or one tobacco over another although the effect is the same. The decline in Malwa sales this last year was due in my opinion to the very low prices that Patna and Benares were obtaining at auction. While the large stock of Bengal opium remains it must continue at low price.

The Editor of the Singapore Chronicle has correctly concluded that Chinese opium speculators have burnt their fingers recently.

In my opinion the trade will only become regular and fluent when purchases are made solely for consumption. The Chinese speculators leave their opium in the receiving ship, using it as security for a loan, until they have sold it. Effectively they are buying it for a deposit that is only a small part of its value. Until they sell it, it remains as part of the stock.

It is only those speculators from far away (the coastal trade) that remove some of it but not much is involved.

Opium speculators are mainly concentrated here in Canton.

Vol 1 No 19 Sat 10th May 1828

The 2nd opium auction occurred at Calcutta on 16th January 1828 and average proceeds were Company Rupees 1,815 for Patna and 1,650 Rupees for Benares. The 1st Bombay sale produced average prices of Company Rupees 1,971 for Malwa

Vol 1 No 19 Sat 10th May 1828

Trade report – Customs Officials have been interfering with one of our chief opium houses and dealers have been reluctant to buy. There has been little demand for Malwa. New Patna sells at $990, Benares at $960. Last year’s supply is selling at $970 and $955.

A small quantity of 100 piculs of Turkey arrived on the Howqua but was less than expected and prices have firmed to $750.

Vol 1 No 21 – Sat 24th May 1828

Opium sales were very dull this week. Lintin clearances and average prices:

Patna 304 chests (old $1,020 new $990), Benares 71 (old $1,000, new $940), Company Malwa part of 126 ($1,130), Damaun Malwa part of 126 ($1,145), Turkey no clearances ($775 per picul nominal)

Vol 1 No 22 – Sat 31st May 1828

Opium report – Prices have declined all week, particularly for Malwa, our most popular Drug. This cannot be entirely due to new stock arriving or expected from Calcutta and Bombay. We think it is due to barter.

There is a developing trade of bartering opium for Chinese goods or using it for the payment of accounts like another form of money. This is being done by some of the Chinese speculators who hold stock on account. It has brought many Chinese into the market who can buy opium at almost any price, depending on how strongly the holder wishes to end his risk. It is disrupting the market.

Prices Current – Patna new $970 old $1,010, Benares new $930 old $990, Company and Damaun Malwa new $1,030-1,035 old add $15 – 20. Turkey stock is entirely in the hands of Russell & Co who have worked the price up to $850 and still find ready buyers.

Vol 1 No 23 – Sat 7th June 1828

The strong rumour in Bombay right now is that the Malwa opium harvest expected to ship from Damaun this year will be enormous. Many stock holders have accordingly been selling, dealers are alarmed and prices are declining. Malwa is now $910 per chest and falling. Several Chinese junks are at Bombay (probably from Penang and Singapore but conceivably from Fukien or Chekiang) making purchases of Company Malwa.

The 3rd Bombay auction produced an average 1,668 Rupees per chest with 1,000 chests of Malwa being sold.

Canton deliveries in May were 472 chests of Patna, 156 Benares and 341 Malwa.

Stock at 1.6.01 was 2,692 Patna, 398 Benares, 1,932 Malwa.

Prices Current – Patna old $1,005 new 930, Benares old $990 new 900, Malwa Co $920 Damaun $930, Turkey $850.

Vol 1 No 24 – Sat 14th June 1828

Opium – Prices have fallen to $840 Malwa and $905-910 Patna. Malwa price is kept low by expected arrivals of new stock. Patna is not expected to fall further as last year’s crop is almost entirely gone. Turkey continues at $850 per picul as previously reported.

New dollars attract a 1% premium. Sycee FOB is 5-6% premium

Vol 1 No 25 – Sat 21st June 1828

The Nam Hoi Yuen has issued a formal proscription on opium on behalf of the provincial treasurer. It seems to originate from Peking. He quotes the treasurer’s previous order requiring local officers to order opium dealers and smokers to desist and surrender their cooking and smoking utensils for destruction. If they resist, the police may call in the army to seize offenders.

The treasurer recites the usual complaints – the opium is brought from overseas by foreigners and is smuggled into China; bandits deal in it and open shops to sell it; smokers for temporary gratification develop lasting diseases, if deprived of it, mucous fluid flows from the nose and eyes to meet the dribble from the addict’s mouth; the moisture of his body is dried up, the head sinks between the shoulders and the smoker assumes the appearance of a rotten tree stump.

Some vagabonds, men and women, use opium to excite their sexual appetites and seduce the common people. It is detrimental to individuals and families and noxious to the hearts of men and to public morals. It is worst in Canton because that is where the foreigners are.

The penalties are:

Dealers in opium will be exposed in the cangue for a month and then banished for life to the army on the frontier.[53]Accomplices get 100 blows and transportation for 3 years. Opium shop keepers who entice youth will be imprisoned and then strangled. Boat masters, police men and neighbours failing to report offences will get 100 blows and be transported for 3 years. Officials who smoke will be dismissed, get 100 blows and be exposed in the cangue for two months. Soldiers and ordinary people will get 100 blows and exposed in the cangue for one month. Palace eunuchs will be cangued for 2 months and sent to Turkestan as slaves of the soldiers. Civil and military officers and the Canton Hoppo who neglect to detect opium offences will be delivered to a Court of Enquiry and punished accordingly.

Vol 1 No 25 – Sat 21st June 1828

Opium prices continue to decline due to the belief that new supplies will soon flood the market. Brokers are offering to contract for Malwa at 3 or 4 months delivery but at very low prices and few owners are tempted.

Vol 1 No 29 – Sat 19th July 1828

A junk crewed by 12 men with a cargo of 41 chests of opium from Lintin was approaching Chuan Chow harbour in Fukien Province when it was captured by the coast guard. The opium was confiscated. The crew are liable to corporal punishment and severe fines. The native brokers and opium speculators are very concerned.

Vol 1 No 29 – Sat 26th July 1828

Sycee silver FOB Lintin is at 6 – 6½% premium.[54]

Opium trade has been active and in the last few days over 2,000 chests of mainly Damaun and Company Malwa have been contracted for at 2, 3 and 4 months delivery. Patna is also selling on time bargains.

Cash sales are considerable as well. Malwa is now $950, Patna $990 – 1,000 and Benares $30 less. Turkey has improved along with the Indian drug and is selling at $800 per picul. Opium prices fluctuate and cannot readily be foretold.

Vol 1 No 30 – Sat 2nd August 1828

Opium report – Speculation appears to have diminished this week and few sales occurred. The main transactions have been done by Chinese importers who have sold Malwa at $940 and Damaun at $915.

Deliveries to buyers last month totalled Patna 529, Benares 120, Malwa 1,014, totally 1,663 chests.

Stock remaining is Patna 2,085, Benares 332 and Malwa 3,872, totally 6,289 chests.

Prices Current – Patna old $1,020 new $990, Benares $930, Company Malwa $950 Damaun Malwa $930, all per chest. Turkey $800 per picul.

Vol 1 No 30 – Sat 9th August 1828

An opium boat containing a huge amount of refined opium (30 chests equivalent – about 2,000 Kgs) for domestic sale was captured a few nights ago. This was a rare act of vigilance by the Customs.

Opium trade at Lintin is quiet and few sales are being made. Prices per chest are Patna $1,070, Benares $1,045, Malwa $1,050 and Damaun $1,020. Turkey, supply of which is chiefly in the hands of Chinese dealers, is quoted at $850 per picul. Macau trade has been similarly inactive.

Vol 1 No 32 – Sat 16th August 1828

Opium trade news:

We receive daily reports of the seizure of opium smuggling boats. We attribute these seizures to a desire by junior patrol officers to make money (by selling most of the cargo) rather than a serious official attempt to reduce supply or suppress the trade.

Opium has dropped in price after the recent increases. Speculators are clearing their stocks rather than buying anew. Monthly deliveries to 12th August are 228 chests of Patna, 29 Benares and 285 Malwa.

Prices Current – Patna new $1,065 old $1,090, Benares $1,040, Company Malwa $1,030, Damaun $1,010. Turkey is $850 per picul

Vol 1 No 34 – Sat 6th September 1828

Sycee silver FOB Lintin is 5 – 5½% premium. Gold leaf has been in demand and has risen to $25.25.[55]

Chests of opium sold in August – Patna 1,830, Benares 385, Malwa 3,834. Several junks arrived at Lintin in early September and are daily taking supplies away. 50 piculs of Turkish opium was recently sold at $770 – 800. All the Turkish is now in Chinese hands.

Vol 1 No 35 – Sat 20th September 1828

On 13th September, the Merope returned to Lintin after a 4 month voyage selling opium up the east coast as far north as Ningpo. She succeeded in converting most of her cargo into silver.

Her commander Captain Parkyns reports that at Chuan Chow in Fukien, near Amoy, he learned that the murderers of the crew of the Navigateur had been identified and arrested. They will be brought to Macau for punishment. They had burned and sunk their junk to avoid detection.[56]

Vol 1 No 35 – Sat 20th September 1828

Opium – Those Chinese buyers who contracted in July and August for forward delivery and consequently advanced the prices have now caused a drop. Retailers are fully stocked and no sales have been made for weeks. Deliveries however are brisk.

We hear from Bombay that there has been rioting in Malwa. Opium agents at Pali, south of Jodhpur, the collection centre for the entire export crop, with which town the Damaun traders do all their business, say two brothers who are Rajahs of adjoining lands are in dispute and have each raised a levy on his people to finance a war. It is feared the harvest will be reduced and Damaun traders talk of 600 – 800 chests as the entire production next year. Some chests are in transit to Damaun but are detained by seasonal rains. Communications with Pali are disrupted by the fighting and no reliable news has come out for weeks.

The drug is harvested around Malwa and collected at Pali from whence it is sent overland via Hyderabad to Karachi and shipped to Damaun. The Maratha Rajah occupying the lands between Malwa and Pali is oppressing the passing merchants with onerous taxes or completely plundering their goods.

There is another route, called the upper route, that bypasses this Rajah but it is longer, more difficult and inconvenient. (These circuitous long-distance routes across the desert may be factual or represent another fabulous story of the trade. It seems to have later become well known that the Malwa supply came down the Nerbudda River passed the India Company’s customs posts.)

Vol 1 No 35 – Sat 20th September 1828

Opium report – Some of the forward sales have been cleared and others extended but little cash business has been done. A great many futures contracts expire this month and in October and these deliveries will effect prices.

Some 100 chests of Turkey were delivered to the French ship Chunqua at $750 – 790 per picul and only the 200 chests imported by the Augusta remain.

Vol 1 No 35 – Sat 20th September 1828

We recently mentioned that the Damaun opium supply may be disturbed this year by insurrection in the growing districts. Readers may be interested in better details of Pali from whence the supply comes.

It is a large market town in Marwar on the edge of the desert and several days south west of Jodhpur (26N, 73E) which itself is the capital of one of the Rajput states that is allied with the Company since 1818.

Englishmen have seldom visited Pali but one traveller recently reported the ready availability of English cottons and all sorts of other goods at reasonable prices. From Ujjain in Malwa the distance to Jodhpur is 200 miles. From Jodhpur to the Indus is another 200 miles across the Thar desert. This 400 miles is travelled by camel caravans that assemble at Pali. From the Indus is a 150 mile river trip down to the seaport of Karachi from whence the opium is shipped to Damaun (this route avoids the Company’s tax stations although one should perhaps recall a popular saying of the times – ‘most smuggling occurs at the Customs House’ – and the indication in Earl Grey’s diary that, in 1832, the smuggling route was down the Nerbudda River direct to Damaun)

Vol 1 No 38 – Mon 3rd November 1828

Opium report – 2-3 junks arrived at Lintin this week requiring about 150 chests of Patna, otherwise everything is quiet. Turkey has maintained $750 but the Indian supply has fallen in price.

Monthly sales (October)

At Lintin – Patna 403 chests, Benares 52 chests, Malwa 775 chests

On the east coast (at a 6-7% premium) – Patna 98, Benares 72, Malwa 30.[57]

Vol 1 No 39 – Sat 15th November 1828

Regional trade news – The Sulu traders are expected to arrive at Manila soon with tortoise shell and mother of pearl. Cebu is to be opened for trade and opium will be sold there by the Spanish colonial government.

It seems Spain is at last extending its influence from Manila to the neighbouring islands. The area has great potential for agriculture and commerce.

Don Pascual Enrile has arrived at Manila to assume the government of the province. The Manila government has been greatly changed by the removal of all the American-born officials.

Vol 2 No 1 – 3rd January 1829

Opium – prices declined until the arrival of some Chuen Chow junks but are expected to continue trending down.

Vol 2 No 3 – Monday 2nd February 1829

A sudden and substantial rise in opium prices has shocked the market and has since been attributed to the impending departure of the Imperial tribute boats for Peking (tribute boats may not be searched). The fleet will leave this month.[58]

Vol 2 No 4 – Thurs 19th February 1829

The latest Registro Mercantil of Manila publishes a notification from the King of Spain, Ferdinand VII, authorising opium cultivation in the Philippine Islands.

There is currently a prohibition on the import and use of opium to Manila and all the proposed production will be for export.

Farmers are to be licensed annually and only fields near Manila will be used where guards can readily be deployed during the harvest. The precautions are similar to the arrangements for the Philippine tobacco monopoly.

Renewal of licence will depend on the farmer’s performance. The first licences are offered to existing producers of sugar, indigo, cotton, etc. After production, the raw opium is to be crated and placed in the Customs House under three locks. The keyholders are the Intendant of Manila, the Collector of Customs and the opium farmer/owner. Duty will be 25% of the opium price (valued on the Prices Current published at Canton).

Editor – This Spanish initiative, if successful, will annihilate the Indian product. The Philippine soil and climate are suitable. The Government plan appears broadly workable. Whether they yet have enough experienced people to produce a big crop is uncertain. In India young boys and girls incise the capsules and are expert. British industry and ingenuity must be employed to preserve our trade.

There are historical parallels to this Spanish initiative. The silk worm was smuggled to the Near East and thence to Piedmont and France where it has long been cultured and forms an important part of the national product. Recently the worm has been exported from France for cultivation elsewhere.

Another example is tutenague which was previously sourced solely from China and its export severely restricted but is now mined to excess in Silesia and India.

Tea is the major natural product with which the Chinese have maintained their monopoly. Attempts to introduce the plant into other countries have so far failed but will eventually succeed.

Cochineal seems to be a monopoly of Central America as production in the East produces little colouring effect.

Vol 2 No 4 – Thurs 19th February 1829

Opium was imported to China long ago as a dutiable commodity (for medical use). It was only when people started using it for luxury and dissipation that it was proscribed.

Vol 2 No 4 – Thurs 19th February 1829

Opium sales have picked up since Lunar New Year. Both cash and 30 days business is better but some caution is still displayed. Several Chuan Chow and other junks are expected. Much Turkish has been sold at $650 per picul.

Vol 2 No 5 – Mon 2nd March 1829

A young local man, who was trying to stop smoking opium, dissolved some in alcohol intending to drink it when the urge to smoke came upon him. His non-addicted brother returned home and, seeing the spirit bottle, drank some, sank into a coma and died.

Vol 2 No 6 – Mon 16th March 1829

The new opium crop is expected to start arriving soon and sales of existing stock are very slow. Some junks are expected from the coast but Patna and Benares are at reduced price and only Malwa is firm.

The Company plans to auction 7,709 chests of Patna / Benares this year, that is about 2,000 chests at each of the four auctions (December 28, January / February, March and April 29). Each auction will offer 1,408 chests of Patna and 509 of Benares on average.

Bombay sales of Company Malwa will be restricted to 4,000 chests this year.

Turkey sold during the last year (1828) totalled about 1,600 piculs

Vol 2 No 7 – Sat 4th April 1829

The opium market is very slow. Chinese have large holdings of the Bengal drug but Europeans have a monopoly on Malwa.

Opium sales for the year April 28, 1828 – March 29, 1829 (in numbers of chests, below) showed an increase of 3,657 chests over the previous year. The habit has become more widespread in China and officials have concurrently been less diligent in its suppression:




Stock at Lintin

Stock at Macau










7,040 }

131 }



Sale Value $


Vol 2 No 8 – Sat 18th April 1829

The arrival of the Louisa from Calcutta with Patna opium has enlivened a dull market. Brokers have been buying without waiting for the customary check on quality and weight.

The smokable extract has been assessed since at 50% and the ball weight is 114 catties as opposed to last year’s 116 catties.[59]

The only Malwa selling has been delivery of time sales.

Some small sales of Turkish have occurred.

Vol 2 No 9 – Sat 2nd May 1829

The Dona Carmelita arrived recently from Calcutta with some Patna opium and has reversed the decline in prices by reporting the high rates obtained in the first Calcutta auction.

These duplicate the high prices at Bombay for Malwa. The Bombay auctions are fixed for February, March, April and May. At the first sale 1,000 chests were offered and produced an average 1,566 Company Rupees.

There is a small opium stock at Lintin that is being increased as ships arrive with the new harvest.

Vol 2 No 10 – Mon 18th May 1829

A few days ago a smuggling boat with 10 chests of opium was captured by Customs officers en route to the Fau San dealers and only released on payment of $4,500. Incidents like this have become rare of late indicating how little effort the provincial government is making against the trade.

Vol 2 No 11 – Tues 2nd June 1829

Opium sales:

















Stock at Linton Patna/Benares 3,106 chests, Malwa 1,105

Vol 2 No 12 – Thurs 18th June 1829

Local news – Long Foot, one of the opium brokers who negotiates with the foreign merchants in the receiving ships, who last year stabbed a boatman and had to pay handsomely to cover-up the affair, is again in trouble.

Some plays are being staged in Macau in honour of Tien Hau and Long Foot set up a gambling table outside one theatre to serve the passing trade.[60]He had no fear of the police and had some ‘heavies’ for protection.

A passing policeman asked for a bribe and Long Foot was so incensed at the inequity of this additional demand that he stabbed him. The policeman has now gone to the Military Commander at Casa Branca and reported he was injured trying to arrest illegal gamblers. Long Foot has disappeared.

Vol 2 No 12 – Thurs 18th June 1829

Trade – Flooding has prevented the distribution of opium and sales have been reduced. $200,000 in new South American silver coins has arrived and is selling at a premium of 1½%. Sycee is unavailable at Lintin even at 7% premium.

Vol 2 No 14 – Thurs 16th July 1829

At the end of the 4th moon a smuggling boat carrying 30 chests of opium was intercepted by war junks near Lan Keet[61]and fired on. The fire fight continued for an hour and several smugglers were killed and injured. They eventually ‘escaped’ with half their cargo.

Vol 2 No 14 – Thurs 16th July 1829

Page 73 of this edition of the Canton Register (dealing with fraud in the opium trade) is missing from my copy. The article continues on Page 74 from whence it is apparent someone has faked a Delivery Order (evidencing payment has been received by the foreign importer in the Canton factories and directing the master of a receiving ship in the estuary to deliver opium to the holder of the Order).

Five chests were delivered. The fraud was discovered later.

The Chinese brokers and dealers must know who is responsible but they are not talking.

The foreigners responded by stopping opium sales for several days. The brokers implicated one of Lancelot Dent’s servants in the theft. Then one broker, on being promised a reward of $500, implicated another broker. Then the foreigners’ agreement to stop selling broke down and trade resumed.

Hope remains that the five chests will be returned. The foreign smuggler has no protection from this government; only his lawful trade with Hong merchants is protected.[62]

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Ships operated by British residents of India under licence of the Company – its called the country trade. They also sail to Burma, Malaya, Thailand, Sumatra, Borneo, Celebes, Moluccas and some of the Pacific Islands.
  2. The approximate exchange rates are 8 Rupees or 4 Spanish Dollars to the Pound Sterling. Bolipur is now called Bolpur. The town is sited in West Bengal about 100 miles north of Calcutta.
  3. This refers to the Revolutionary War which Britain has extended to the Netherlands – see the Europe chapter.
  4. See the Asia chapter for better details of the Dutch sell-off in anticipation of British occupation of Dutch Asian colonies in the Revolutionary War. The same event will occur in the Napoleonic War.
  5. The China-trade expression ‘old head’ dollars refers to Spanish dollars with the likeness of King Carlos IV. They are preferred for their reliable silver content, regularly at or over 97%.
  6. The opium price is absurdly high and not indicative of the usual rates.
  7. The Dutch East India Company
  8. This appears to have been a necessary precursor for the rise of international trade in Malwa opium via Bombay.
  9. Gold dust was commonly offered in payment at Pontianak and nearby ports.
  10. See the South America chapter for Popham’s invasion on behalf of the King and brief details of the Company’s trade in artisans and opium to Trinidad. See also the chapter dedicated to Popham himself.
  11. This is an unusually large-value consignment for one ship and evidences either a lack of shipping available to Portuguese merchants or, more probably, the existence of a cartel.
  12. The Dutch are still permitted to send a ship to Japan each year.
  13. The Star Pagoda contained just under 3½ grammes of gold. The amount written in the text is 5 Pagodas 33 fanams and 60 cash and the formula is 80 cash = 1 fanam; 42 fanam = 1 Pagoda. It appears the Madras army has formerly bought Malwa opium for its doctors – its the local and original supply.
  14. The Company buys silver from the smugglers in return for Bills on Calcutta and uses the metal for its tea purchases but the value of smuggled goods, always sold for silver, has increased and reversed the trade balance.
  15. See the North America chapter for details of American political responses to the commercial form of warfare that England is pursuing in its war with France.
  16. Malwa was the source of the original opium supply by Europeans to China via Madras in early 18th century. This is the first mention in Bombay Courier of opium from Malwa, much of which province falls within the domains of the Maratha chief Holkar, whose capital is Indore. There is another great centre of Malwa opium distribution at Sindhia’s capital of Ujjain. The income from Malwa opium to the Marathas and their Portuguese and Parsee intermediaries becomes substantial in the next few decades.
  17. The Bugis people originated in the S W peninsula of the Celebes but these traders were from the Riau archipelago south of Singapore. Bugis first controlled the tin markets in what is now Malaysia but this was stripped from them by the Dutch and they removed to Linggi, maintaining only some slight influence in Selangor. They traded throughout the S E Asian islands and small communities could be found at every port. They are Muslims.
  18. This was a claim for the loss of the hull but Radha Mohan Bonarjee appears to be a Hindu – Bengali Brahmin – name – whereas opium exports had seemed to me to be more commonly a British, Jewish or Parsee business.
  19. Part of Judge Arriaga’s deal to secure the opium market to Macau (also referred to in the China chapter) may have been an offer of alternative employment to the pirates – carrying foreign goods into China. Throughout this period the terms fisherman, smuggler and pirate are largely synonymous
  20. The British response to the Macau Judge’s attempt to engross opium distribution has been the opening of sales at Whampoa. They are using a single ship, the snow Amethyst (Chimenant), to store and wholesale all the Bengal opium.
  21. The Javanese smoke opium like the Dutch – mixed with tobacco – which is said to be prophylactic against malaria and gastric discomfort quite apart from the euphoria. The blend is sprinkled on the glowing charcoals of the hookah and the smoke drawn through water to cool it.
  22. See the China chapter for details of the confrontation – the Canton officials are taming the pride of the foreigners who say they will protest to the Emperor, i.e. the usual sort of spat.
  23. Ili is the frontier post at Kuldja (I Ning) that protects the northern route from Samarkand and the west.
  24. The beginning of the ‘receiving ship’ procedure. This action against opium is due to the old pirate Cheung Po Chai, who was amnestied by the Viceroy of the Two Kwang and appointed to the Coast Guard service at Fukien. He reported the structure of the opium distribution network to the Governor of that Province. The Fukien Governor in turn passed the information on to the Two Kwang. As it is an inter-provincial matter, it cannot be glossed over. This enforcement action at Macau more or less terminates that enclave’s control of opium distribution that had so diligently been established by Judge Arriaga.
  25. Spanish shareholders in South American silver mines receive their dividends in silver which arrive annually at Manila on this ship.
  26. The Turkish opium has a higher (10%) morphine content and is found unsuitable for smoking. It is used as medicine, for baking and for blending with the milder Indian supply. The Indian cotton supply differs. Bombay supply is suitable for heavy denim-like cloth whilst the Bengal supply is longer staple and suitable for muslins.
  27. It was after the devastation of Wellesley’s Deccan War and Moira’s ‘Pindari’ War that Malwa became more prominent as an opium exporting area. It allowed the Marathas to take advantage of the high sale price created by the Company’s monopoly of that commodity in Bengal. Opium from the native states was the original opium supplied to China from Madras before Warren Hastings bought the right to grow it on the lower Ganges. Apart from Malwa, opium was also grown from earliest times in the Punjab and Oudh.
  28. I should mention that the peculiar chest weight of 133 lbs opium equates with the familiar Chinese weight of a picul.
  29. There was opium production at Malwa since ancient times according to Owen “British Opium Policy in China and India” (the starting point for any student of opium trade) and the surplus for export generally came down the Nerbudda and through Surat where it was known as Cambay opium until the 19th Century. European trade in Malwa was in the hands of the Portuguese and thus it was particularly linked with that country’s colonies. In the Far East it was first traded at Macau. The English Company’s opium policy was always to command the China market so Malwa was a particular threat. Both the great Maratha chiefs Sindhia at Ujjain and Holkar at Indore took an income off its production, those two towns being the main opium markets in the Deccan but, being the product of subsistence farming, the price was never more than a fraction of the Company’s auction price and it was thus capable of becoming a formidable competitor if some capitalist could buy up a supply and store it long enough for the unpleasant aromatic fractions to evaporate off.
    The trade in Malwa is particularly associated with the Parsee community at Surat and Bombay and there should be no doubt that, had this competitive product been unavailable, the trade to China of Ganges opium as a monopoly product would have remained within predictable bounds. As it was, the Company’s attempts to prevent export of Malwa supply, firstly by treaty and control, then by purchase of production (as this advertisement reveals is the current policy), eventually became a policy of increasing Ganges supply to deny Malwa its market. It was thus in 1820s and thereafter that opium production increased exponentially. It was concurrently assisted by the collapse of the European markets for other Indian staples – indigo, pepper, spices and cotton – thus focusing speculation in India on the one commodity. It is an interesting example of the oppressed overcoming their oppressors.
    This Malwa auction at Bombay was the means whereby Wm Jardine commenced his China-trading career, using the Remington Agency for finance.
  30. The increasing sale prices clearly reflect the increasing amount of money going into opium speculations in the absence of other commodities to invest in.
  31. These half-chests are a response to our Chinese distributors who find it easier to smuggle small balls around the country. It should tend to make Company opium preferable to Malwa.
  32. Chinese Edicts identify the ship by the Master’s name. These are the British ships Merope and Eugenia and the American ship Emily.
  33. It appears the Emperor has been told the Hong merchants discovered the smuggling, not the Poon Yu magistrate. This partial disclosure to the Emperor rather exposes Viceroy Yuan who shows greater courage than the foreigners on this occasion. The immense fund they have accumulated for bribery reveals the extent of their concern to maintain the trade and their recognition that smuggling is ultimately under Chinese control.
  34. The character for ‘smoke’ is made from three characters – fire, west and mud.
  35. They change names and continue trading. One of the useful benefits of an honorary consulship is the ability to make entries in the national register of ships.
  36. See the China chapter. Terranova was a crewman on an opium ship who was surrendered and executed for killing a boat-woman.
  37. This relates to HMS Topaze bombarding the Lintin settlement killing some villagers and the Viceroy’s consequent stoppage of trade.
  38. Resulting from this financial loss, the Company procured an Admiralty Order to the East Indies fleet to stay away from China.
  39. Wright also becomes a country trader at Canton and ultimately a partner in Jardine Matheson.
  40. The newspaper containing the report of the subsequent and successful auction in July is absent from the British Library copy of Bombay Courier.
  41. Crawfurd’s diplomatic mission to Bangkok in the Spring of 1822 was unsuccessful. The Company’s government of Penang purchased rice from Kedah which state was considered a Thai enemy.
  42. Governor-General Moira (Hastings) provides a detailed public explanation of his attack on the so-called Pindaris, who are Maratha cavalry. It may be found in the Asia Chapter.
  43. Apparently the perpetual banishment was not enforced or was insufficient to persuade the owners to change name. Its the same with Matheson’s other ship Merope. That trader is about to extend opium smuggling by taking his goods along the east and west coasts for sale, thus capturing the business formerly served by the coastal junk trade.
  44. this includes the Remington / Jardine shipment on Glorioso which ship has just returned to Bombay 21st March – see the Asia chapter for some brief additional details
  45. The increased acreage under poppy in the Company’s domains is to counteract the effect Malwa is having on the Company’s market in China. Whilst the Malwa quality is still low, the Company has a brief opportunity to maintain its control of the China market itself.
  46. This is the solution adopted by the foreigners to rectify the distribution difficulty due to the prohibition on river entry for opium sales and the high prices at Macau – they have anchored old ships at Lintin to store goods and conduct the trade. The masts are taken out and the deck roofed over to provide additional space. Alexander Grant is the Master of the Magniac / Jardine receiving ship at this time.
    Lintin has a small fresh-water supply. The villagers supply provisions to the ships’ crews. What had formerly been a small fishing village becomes a community of 5,000 people, greatly more than the island can itself sustain. The Canton Provincial Government posts a junior official of Sun On County to Lintin for liaison. It may be assumed the previous arrangement (revealed by the Whampoa magistrate) concerning distribution of bribes is being continued.
  47. An overlooked point. The country ships from India are licensed by the Company to trade east and are insured by British Indian insurance companies.
  48. Note the doubling of Company opium supply and sales to preserve market share vis-a-vis Malwa.
  49. See the Asia chapter for the complaint of Cohen & Co, acting for London principals, that produced this rebate.
  50. The provinces of west and east Kwong – Kwong Si and Kwong Tung – are united under the control of a Viceroy although each has its own Governor. The Viceroy was initially based at Siu Hing on the West River but is now at Canton (Guangzhou), which is the largest town in the two provinces.
  51. This fascinating sentence refers to an alluring property of opium ingestion. During intoxification, the user supposes he has insight into other men’s minds.
  52. The half-chest with small balls of opium was introduced by the Company in 1822 at the request of the smugglers. At the same time the Company sought to reduce the morphine content as commended by the trade but this seems to have been interpreted by the staff at Patna as a licence to adulterate. Whilst the farmer is obliged to delver pure sap, about half of each ball delivered to China contains fibre thus appearing to reduce the 6% morphine content to 3%. The retailer has to arrange cooking (done in the silversmith’s premises lining Thirteen Factories Street using copper utensils to preserve flavour) to separate the dross from the sap.
  53. The cangue is a piece of wood fitted around the neck and sufficiently large to prevent one feeding oneself – it inculcates a recognition of the importance of society.
  54. Both the Company and the country-trade load sycee at Lintin to conceal its illegal export. It is delivered to the foreigners there by their Chinese intermediaries and by smuggling brigs returning from the east and west coasts.
  55. This brief and enigmatic sentence has puzzled me. The $25 price of gold presumably refers to a Tael. That gives a ratio of value silver to gold of 25 : 1 whereas all western economic papers of this time have the ratio at 14 : 1 or 15 : 1. Britain put all the seignorage on its silver coin issue so gold coins would trade at their innate value and more gold would be attracted into the economy. It seems likely that gold was preferred by British traders in settlement of the China trade balance but, as its local price increased with their demand as indicated here, silver was used, the currency of the country, and thus the economic effect on China was enhanced.
  56. See the China chapter for details of the Navigateur incident. The Merope was previously banned from China trade but James Matheson has continued to trade her, now on the East Coast, where he is selling direct into the northern provinces.
  57. This is Matheson’s coastal business. The sale premium equates with the freight of the junks which formerly engrossed this trade.
  58. Cave – the provincial tribute goes north at the end of the summer monsoon. The winter monsoon in the opposite direction starts in December / January. The attribution of cause may be mistaken.
  59. The content of each chest has increased significantly. Formerly the Company shipped 100 catties (a picul, 133 lbs) per chest. The 15% increase in nett weight per chest is a response to Portuguese / Parsee competition in Malwa.
  60. Gambling stalls outside markets and theatres were still a feature of Hong Kong life until the late 1960’s. Usually Yu Har Hai or Fantan were offered.
  61. At that time Lankeet, which is situated west of the Tiger’s Mouth, was still an island.
  62. This leads to a new procedure whereby an officer of the receiving ship crew comes to Canton and escorts the buyer from the merchant’s factory to Lintin to take delivery.

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