Opium 1829 – 1836 – part 2

Vol 2 No 16 – Wed 2nd September 1829

The five chests of opium that were stolen under a faked Delivery Order have been returned but the culprit remains unidentified.

Vol 2 No 16 – Wed 2nd September 1829

Opium sold in large quantities on 26th – 28th September but sales have since stopped.

Vol 2 No 17 – Fri 18th September 1829

It is rumoured that Sir John Malcolm, Governor of Bombay, intends to permit the import of contraband Malwa to Bombay and thus take some profit from the Portuguese exporters at Damaun. They receive it by sea from Karachi[63] After it has been caravanned overland. The contraband supply is expected to be about 4,600 chests this year. Clearly, the British Indian government cannot control the Maratha princes or the supply from their lands.

We think there will be no relaxation of the controls that prevent the native Drug travelling direct to the coast (i.e. down the Nerbudda River) but smuggled Malwa is taken beyond the Company’s lands. We can derive a profit from it by providing it with an entrepot at Bombay. This appears to be Malcolm’s intention.

Bombay is the most convenient port for this purpose. The major opium traffickers would welcome a new system that pre-empts the need for the vexatious reporting presently required. It would additionally boost Bombay shipping which is in the doldrums. A duty of 100 Rupees per chest would equate with the great costs of transport on the overland route to Sind and would produce 400,000 – 500,000 Rupees annually to the Presidency.

Vol 2 No 17 – Fri 18th September 1829

A government coast guard boat that was smuggling 16 chests of opium last week was pursued and caught by another government coast guard boat manned by Customs officers. Government surveillance at Lintin has been close and little sycee silver is able to get through.[64]

Vol 2 No 17 – Fri 18th September 1829

Some opium sales have been made to take advantage of the vessel that will carry the late Hoppo’s remains to Nanking for burial. Such transits are unmolested by Customs officials en route.[65]

Vol 2 No 19 – Sat 17th October 1829

The Peking court has ordered the Viceroy of the Two Kwang to more effectively stop the smuggling of sycee silver out of China and the entry of contraband. The provincial government has accordingly issued a proclamation and ordered the civil and military officers along the coast to be alert.

A few days ago the Manchu General (Cheung Kwoon) published a proclamation against anyone attempting to smuggle opium in the General’s baggage when he is travelling (the servants of officials are inveterate smugglers of opium as their masters are never searched).

The Cheung Kwoon avers there are junior staff who first induce people to smuggle and then give information against them.

Vol 2 No 19 – Sat 17th October 1829

Silver is again very scarce amongst the Chinese merchants. Opium prices are declining and only 1 – 2 chests are sold daily. Some of the reasons assigned to the diminished trade are

  • the capture of some small smuggling boats returning from Lintin,
  • the Company’s ships gathered at Tung Ku[66] and
  • the general lack of funds.

The Viceroy has ordered the Customs boats to be manned with younger, stronger men who row faster and can catch more smugglers. No seizures have been made.

Some Turkish has arrived from Batavia. It is locally so scarce that sales have been made at $700 per picul.

Chinese merchants who had contracted to deliver sycee silver at Lintin have postponed their engagements due to the increased policing.

New dollars are very scarce and are selling at 1% premium.

Vol 2 No 20 – 3rd November 1829

Extract from one of the Peking Gazettes:

Chang Ling, the Chinese General who defeated Chang Ki Hur (Jahangir Khoja) in Turkestan, has taken up his new post as Governor of one of the gates of the imperial capital of Peking.
He has arrested some opium smugglers trying to bring 170 Taels (14 lbs) of opium into the city. The three smugglers, Chan, Loo and Lin, together with their opium and smoking materials, have been handed over to the criminal board which commends the General for his vigilance.

Vol 2 No 20 – 3rd November 1829

Some small opium holders have forced their stock on the market and depressed prices. Damaun Malwa is now $795 and Company Malwa and Patna were both $810 (the latter has since improved).

Considerable deliveries were made from Lintin in October.

Vol 2 No 21 – Wed 18th November 1829

The heightened demand for opium continued into the beginning of this month and several small sales were made. Patna reached $845 and Company Malwa $820 but interest has since reduced and prices have now fallen back.

Coast Guard boats are cruising around Lintin disrupting the trade. Extraordinary vigilance is being exerted elsewhere.[67] Sycee is in short supply.

Vol 2 No 22 – Thurs 3rd December 1829

A junk recently arrived from the coast to buy opium. Some excitement was felt but no other junk came and the market has since relapsed into inactivity. Deliveries have however been considerable except Turkish which is in short supply. Some of the Damaun Malwa deliveries are of very inferior quality.

Vol 3 No 1 – 4th January 1830

Recently the governor received information of a certain notorious opium smuggler who used a particular fast boat, which appearance was described to him.

He ordered the Customs officers to catch the man in six days. They had no wish to succeed and towards the end of the period decked out another boat to resemble the governor’s description and pursued it outside the Bogue and seized it after a sham fight. The governor was satisfied and the Customs were satisfied. Thus matters are glossed over.

Vol 3 No 1 – 4th January 1830

The opium market has fallen and some small-holders have sold out to cut losses. Damaun is $720 for 102 catties. Patna is $825 a chest but few buyers. Deliveries last month of 1,123 chests were mostly forward sales. The stock of Indian is now considerable but little Turkish is available.

Vol 3 No 4 – Mon 15th February 1830

Bengal opium has improved in price. Patna has reached $940 and Benares $920, both for cash, but Malwa sales are slow which keeps its price down. Very little Turkish is on hand.

The India Company has opened its treasury for 30-day Bills on Bengal at the low rate of 202 Sicca Rupees per $100 Spanish.

Vol 3 No 5 – Wed 3rd March 1830

Someone at Peking has told the Emperor that Viceroy Lee is succeeding in preventing the import of opium and export of sycee.[68] An order by express has arrived as follows:

The foreigners’ money called ‘big head’, ‘small head’, ‘dishevelled head’, ‘bat’, ‘double pillars’ and ‘sword & horse’ all pass as currency and is used to buy our sycee silver in Canton, Fukien, Kiangsi, Chekiang and Kiangsu up to the Yellow River. Foreign money is often presented to pay the land tax and for trade.

Foreigners pretend they bring money to trade but they use it to buy our sycee so our silver diminishes and foreign money increases. This may explain why our silver has become so expensive.

The influx of opium and the increased numbers of those who smoke and sell it is causing damage like a great fire. This is worse than the silver problem and is consequent on foreigners bringing opium to Macau, Amoy and elsewhere, anchoring at the river mouths or connecting with government clerks who take bribes to introduce it. Even the coast guard patrols smuggle it in and sell it for the foreigners or take bribes to permit the foreigners to sell it to merchants of all the provinces. Every day the quantity is greater. The police and soldiers make seizures. They keep some and sell the rest.

Opium is worse than foreign money. It must be prohibited before the responsible villains lose all respect for the law.

Previously I proscribed the Cochin China cash. That was a small thing compared with the foreign silver. We are giving our pure silver for the foreigners’ smelly shit.

Now we have received Viceroy Lee’s secret memorial concerning the English request to change the conditions of foreign trade at Canton. He and his colleagues must know all about the abuses. They should know how to stop the foreign money and opium being distributed and overcome the craftiness of the foreigners. I expect Lee and his colleagues to understand my wishes.”

On receipt of the Imperial instruction, Lee forthwith ordered the Provincial Treasurer and Judge to deliberate on the nefarious practices of the foreigners and report how opium and foreign money importation can be stopped and their internal distribution prevented. “Deliberate secretly and report so I may answer the Emperor.”[69]

Vol 3 No 5 – Wed 3rd March 1830

The early arrival of opium from Bengal has surprised the market. The new Patna is nearly as good as the excellent quality last year but many balls are mis-shapen and dented, outer coverings cracked and the resinous contents leaking out. The nett weight per chest is 114 – 115½ catties. The new Benares is 116 – 117½ catties.

This ball damage will cause difficulty in delivery. Patna prices opened at $850 and slipped to $840-845. Old Patna is nominally $920 but no buyers. Malwa has dropped to $760-765 and is selling well lately.

Several junks are expected from the coast and there are numerous time sales to clear

Vol 3 No 7 – Monday 29th March 1830

The opium market is flat. The last of the Turkish was sold out at $755 per picul

Vol 3 No 8 – Thurs 15th April 1830

The last year’s sales of opium (in piculs) in China 1.4.29 – 31.3.30

Chests sold


Macau sales


Stock left





$ 106,518






$ 11,774






$ 271,590






$ 389,822


Vol 3 No 9 – Sat 1st May 1830

British trade in China (1.4.29 – 31.3.30):

Cotton imports Bengal 78,488 piculs, Bombay 266,604, Madras 30,869.

Silver exports

(dollars and sycee)






$ 659,383



$ 143,941


sycee 256,574 Taels

sycee 400,020 Taels

sycee 539,298 Taels

sycee 49,791 Taels

sycee 1,245,683 Taels

Dollars taken back were predominantly defaced coin.

Vol 3 No 9 – Sat 1st May 1830

Turkish opium imported last season totalled only 800 – 900 piculs.

Vol 3 No 10 – Sat 15th May 1830

A group of Miao people have come down the West River to Canton in tiny boats. They bring some vegetable oil to barter for betelnut and opium.

They speak a form of Mandarin but say their language is quite unlike any Chinese dialect – it is unwritten and they have no books. They have no religion either but celebrate New Year following the Chinese style.

The few rich men amongst them have several wives. They neither shave the front of their heads nor grow queues but coil their hair on their heads rather like Chinese women.

They have spent a month to travel here and some Cantonese say they have rebelled against the Empire. Some were brought to meet European ladies and gentlemen in the factories and were given small presents.[70]

Vol 3 No 12 – Thurs 15th June 1830

Prices of the Indian Drug, particularly Malwa, have been declining and almost no sales have been made this last few days. Some small holders have been bartering opium for silk and other Chinese products. This practice hurts the regular (smuggling) trade and injures the Drug importer and dealer.

Malwa was sold yesterday at $650 and it is dragging Patna and Benares down with it. The Chinese will replenish stocks at these low prices and there will again be stagnation in the near future. The importers are holding out for $820-825 for Patna and Benares. Turkish is $850 – 870 (a rare occasion – Turkish costs more than all other types)

Most of the Bengal supply that was sold at the 4th Calcutta auction arrived here on the Isabella Robertson on 11th June. Both the quality and packing vary from usual. This will cause uncertainty and make sales difficult. Previously opium was sold on its appearance and marks. It was as reliable as specie. When these are changed for economy, confidence is weakened.

Sycee has advanced considerably amongst the Canton dealers and will soon affect those exporters who want to buy it for their returns.[71]

Vol 3 No 14 – Sat 17th July 1830

The Nam Hoi magistrate has received a petition for help from the widow Wai Ping, 63 years. She is the mother of three sons. The eldest teaches reading and supports her. The youngest is dead and the other, Ah Keen Soo, is a wastrel.

He does not work but gambles and fornicates all day. He ignores the admonitions of the eldest son and recently took-up opium smoking.

He has stolen everything in the house to finance his social habits and duns his mother daily for more money. When she reproved him, he appeared ready to strike her. She petitions for official assistance.

Vol 3 No 15 – Mon 2nd August 1830

There has been no activity for a fortnight until yesterday when the brokers suddenly bought much Malwa both for cash and on time sales. Prices have revived a little.

Bengal opium has declined slightly and Turkish is $790-800 per picul. A lot of Malwa has been delivered to Lintin his month. Sycee is at 5¾ – 6% premium and difficult to obtain.

The present stagnation in trade has surprised us all. No similar event can be recalled.

Vol 3 No 18 – Mon 6th September 1830

There have been a few trades of Bengal Drug recently, mostly between foreigners. The Chinese have been selling their Malwa holdings, sometimes at a loss. Complaints against the quality of the Damaun supply are heard daily and several orders have been returned to the detriment of the trade.

Some Turkish has arrived (on the American ship Bashaw on 24th August) and pulled the price down to $700 per picul with little demand.

The Merope has returned from the East Coast. She sold a few chests of opium but met a typhoon off Taiwan, lost all her anchors and cables and had to return.

Vol 3 No 20 – Sat 2nd October 1830

Local News:

Only time bargains are being completed. The inferior Malwa in the market has caused small holders to sell and prices remain low. Patna and Benares are doing better but the late importation of Turkish was large and its price has dropped.

Vol 3 No 21 – Sat 16th October 1830

The latest Singapore Commercial Register prints a new circular from Calcutta:

The Board of Customs, Salt and Opium will cease supplying Malwa for sale in Bombay. The opium agent at Malwa has been ordered to cease purchases.

A new system is commenced whereby the Bombay government will issue passes in both Malwa and Bombay to people wishing to bring opium to Bombay.

Sgd H M Parker, 31st July 1830

(The passes are priced to recover the Damaun trade to Bombay)

Vol 3 No 23 – Mon 15th November 1830

Edict of the Emperor:

Viceroy Lee has reported that the foreigners bring foreign money and exchange it for sycee silver which they take away. And they bring opium.

Lee was ordered to consult with his colleagues and identify steps to ban silver export and opium import.

Now he has provided a clear statement on six topics:

He says opium is a poison and deserves more attention than silver.

The Viceroy has established rules and should order his staff to put them into practice. If they fail they will be punished. This is not a chance to merely show literary merit – real action is required.

Vol 3 No 24 – Sat 4th December 1830

Peking Gazette No 97, 25th August 1830. Shau Ching Wui, censor of Kiangnan (which provincial capital is Nanking) requests the Imperial will:

Opium comes from overseas and has been included from time to time amongst our medicines. Then villainous people found another way to use it and it has spread over the whole country. Chinese are now planting the poppy to produce native opium. In Tai Chow, in my native province of Chekiang, the farming has become most widespread. It is also carried on in nearby Ningpo, Shao Hing, Yenchow and Wanchow.

The seed is sown in the 10th month. In the 4th month of following year the capsule has developed and is cut open. Some white juice is extruded and one mow (Chinese acre) can produce 4-5 catties of this white juice. This is then boiled to make a thick syrup.

Others use Osmanthus (Kwai Fa, translated in the text as hollyhock – the bark is the source of cinnamon) and Hibiscus sap for the same purpose. They all produce types of opium.[72]

Large groups of people go from village to village selling this stuff. If this is not dealt with while it is small, it will grow and the government will become afraid to intervene. An acre of poppies produces ten times the wealth of an acre of rice. The people expect no government opposition and go about openly distributing this poison. There is no place in this area that does not have at least a few poppies and men and women, young and old, are all involved in its production or distribution. It has spread over these areas in less than ten years.

I am told opium is also farmed in Fukien, Kwangtung and Yunnan.

You have frequently forbidden imports of foreign opium. Now it is being planted here and, if not opposed, will spread to every province. I ask you to order the Governors of Chekiang and the other provinces to investigate and stop this determinedly. If it can be stopped the people will increase in wealth.

Vol 3 No 24 – Sat 4th December 1830

A prior issue of the same Peking Gazette (No 94 of 19th August 1830) contains the Imperial response to this petition:

The Emperor commands the Viceroys and governors of all provinces to truthfully report if any people in their province grow poppy or sell opium. They are to proscribe poppy-growing, punish offenders and eradicate the evil.

If they merely make a pretence of doing this for show and without real results, they alone will be responsible.

Vol 4 No 1 – 3rd January 1831

The Viceroy’s yamen was the scene of a fire on 1st January at 1am – 2am. A servant was smoking opium and fell asleep leaving the light burning beside his bed. His Excellency at first removed to the house of a military aide next door but has since returned to that part of his yamen that was not damaged.

Vol 4 No 1 – 3rd January 1831

Opium trade is very active. All Indian prices are advancing. Patna and Benares are selling at $960 per chest. Damaun and Company Malwa are $565 and $575. Many time sales of Malwa have been made, only restricted by the scarcity of money amongst the Chinese. Turkish has fallen to $550 per picul.

Vol 4 No 1 – 3rd January 1831

Petition of the Parsee Merchants of Bombay to Governor Sir John Malcolm, dated 11th May 1829

(signed by 44 Parsees comprising all the native wealth of Bombay and sent with the tacit support of the English trading community at Bombay)

We are ship owners (controlling about 25,000 tons of shipping) and cotton exporters. Cotton is the only staple that the Bombay Presidency exports. Each year the India Company takes about a quarter and we ship the rest. Formerly we competed with the Bengal merchants who then sold most of their cotton crop to China. The sales of late have been ‘ringed’ by the small number of Hongs in Canton and always produce losses.

The native Bengal traders ceased exporting cotton to China 3-4 years ago and sold many of their largest ships to us. They have since concentrated on opium.

We Bombay merchants have no other staple to offer in trade but cotton. We cannot emulate the Bengal merchants’ response. Had our losses been moderate we would not complain.[73]

Page 2 of this edition is missing.

Vol 4 No 2 – Mon 17th January 1831

Opium continues slow. Prices are nominal as Chinese buyers have been selling at below cost. Some junks have arrived from the coast which will hopefully push up sales for the month.

Sycee remains scarce and is at a 6% premium. The new dollars recently imported from San Blas are the only new dollars in the market.

Vol 4 No 3 – Wed 2nd February 1831

Patna and Benares have been selling briskly since 20th January and the price has risen to $1,050 cash and $1,055 for 60 days delivery. Malwa is also sought and Company opium is $720 while Damaun is $710 for 60 days delivery.

Demand has since ceased and the Chinese buyers are now selling off part of their purchases at reduced prices.

Vol 4 No 4 – Sat 19th February 1831

The Red Rover (Clifton) arrived Macau on 6th February, 39 days out of Calcutta. This is a speed record. She brings 538 chests of Bengal opium from the Company’s first sale on 20th December. The auction prices in December were high. Patna averaged 1,608 Sicca Rupees and Benares 1,605 Sicca Rupees per chest.

The quantity on offer was 1,849 chests of Patna and 699 Benares. The remainder of the crop will be auctioned as follows:

2nd February

15th March

15th April

2,000 chests


1,500 for a total of 7,548 chests

Vol 4 No 4 – Sat 19th February 1831

The King of Thailand sends annual tribute missions to Peking. We hear the Cantonese officials deputed to escort them to Peking use the opportunity to hide opium and other contraband in the diplomatic baggage as it is never searched. The abuse was exposed this year when a thief robbed the Embassy’s baggage train and was apprehended.

Vol 4 No 4 – Sat 19th February 1831

The weight of the new Bengal opium chest averages 117.3 catties for Patna and 117.1 for Benares. The packaging is well done but the individual balls are a little soft suggesting inadequate drying.

Information on the likely quantity and quality of Malwa is vague.

Turkish is in little demand.

Vol 4 No 6 – Thurs 17th March 1831

Another fire has engulfed the Viceroy’s yamen on the morning of 12th March, again reportedly due to careless opium smoking. From previous fires, we recall it is Chinese law that an occupant is responsible for the damage he does if his house catches fire through negligence!

His Excellency is more concerned with the inauspicious nature of the events and has set off on a round of the temples to offer propitiatory sacrifices.

He is consoled by a report that a similar event occurred 60 years ago (the length of the Chinese cycle) and is thus inevitable.

Vol 4 No 6 – Thurs 17th March 1831

Opium market is very dull with only a few sales of Malwa by the Chinese holders, no doubt to relieve their heavy engagements from time sales that fall due this month. Prices are very soft and declining.

Vol 4 No 7 – Thurs 24th March 1831

Editor – When the anti-opium laws were being rigorously enforced in 1821 by restraining sales from the opium ships at Whampoa, the only possible way to move opium chests around Macau was when they were disguised as other goods.

It was the necessity of this precaution that prevented the trade from returning to Macau, not some arbitrary and unilateral decision of the involved merchants as the following correspondent alleges.

Some sort of offshore island was required and the Macau traders have benefited as much from Lintin as everyone else. The causes of Macau’s commercial decline are due entirely to the Portuguese themselves. If they wish to recover their lost prosperity, they should become an entrepot like Manila. (the letter which the Editor is commenting on is in the China chapter and not recited here)

Vol 4 No 7 – Thurs 24th March 1831

A junk from Chiu Chow has arrived at Lintin with news of the opium market in the interior. The prices being obtained are very low. The junk master has not himself yet made any purchases here.

Vol 4 No 8 – Sat 2nd April 1831

Hoppo’s Edict to the Hong merchants:

A seaman in the employ of the Hoppo named Wong Koon Fu was shot whilst working aboard Customs junk ‘New No 1’ of Si Ngon county.[74] His patrol boat saw a native junk approach one of the British opium ships at Lintin and moved to intercept it. The junk tried to flee.

Scores of foreigners from three receiving ships then manned three small boats and rowed to the north west of Lintin in pursuit of both the native junk and the coast guard vessel.

They fired on the government patrol boat ‘New No 1’ instantly killing Wong. The crew of ‘New No 1’ nevertheless secured the trading junk and seized its captain for enquiries.

The foreigners are now ordered to identify the murderer and surrender him to justice.”

Vol 4 No 8 – Sat 2nd April 1831

Shipments of new opium have arrived but few sales are being made. We hope the coasting junks will come soon and enliven the trade.

Vol 4 No 9 – 19th April 1831

Opium sales at Canton 1st April 1830 – 31st March 1831 (business done in the Company’s own opium supply is strangely seasonal – on present levels of consumption, sales are about 600 chests per month in April, May and June then fall off to ±400 per month for the rest of the year.


5,085 chests





Total Value


Vol 4 No 10 – Fri 13th May 1831

Opium remains depressed. Malwa has slightly advanced, Bengal supply has retreated.

Chinese time purchases now average 60 days, such is the shortage of funds. The junk that lately visited from the coast took away only a small supply. The uncertain quality of Damaun has unsettled Chinese buyers.

Vol 4 No 11 – Mon 6th June 1831

The Isabella Robertson brings news of higher opium prices in Bengal and local holders have become unwilling to sell. Nevertheless, demand has been slight. The rumoured impending shortage of Malwa has increased prices but few sales have been made. Turkish is very quiet.

Vol 4 No 13 – Mon 4th July 1831

An anti-opium placard was published all around Canton two months ago but was immediately whitewashed out, apparently by the opium dealers. It has however again been published in red characters. It is in the form of a morality story that may appeal to Chinese residents:

I am Lam from Ping Poo village in Shuntak. My parents died early and when I was 8 years old I was adopted by a foreigner and taken to India where I learned to trade for my livelihood.

When I was 16 years old my adopted uncle died and was buried on Black Crow Hill but his grave was robbed and the body removed. I took advice and learned a grave must be guarded for a hundred days or the barbarians will steal the body to make opium.

Later I asked a barbarian about this. He said if I wanted to trade opium he would show me how it is made. He took me to an opium temple amongst the hills. There were many crows whose wings had been cut. They fed on human corpses. In the temple was a large lime pit, a boiler and a furnace. The foreigners threw the bones in the pit and steeped them for 10 days until they turned to powder. They added sugar and poppy flowers and boiled the lot for 7 days. Then it was strained through a white cloth and again heated to a paste. This is Ya Pien or crow paste which is the foreign opium.

When eaten it is fatal but if smoked, it exhilarates the spirit. This is why barbarians do not eat opium – because it is composed of the bodies of their friends and neighbours.

Opium reduces appetite. It affects the eyes and stupefies the heart. It is addictive and breaks up families. After I had been 60 years abroad, I thought of my village and wondered if opium had done its evil work there. I had to return and print this tract.

All addicts should take a copy of this paper, hang it in their bedrooms and recite it. Then Mara (The Buddhist ‘devil,’ the egocentric view) will know he is discovered and flee and they will be able to give-up the habit.

(Editor – The story teller has been amongst Parsees and seen a Tower of Silence)

Vol 4 No 13 – Mon 4th July 1831

Letter to the Editor, extract:

…… of all the foreigners in China, the best treated are those working the opium trade at Lintin. Everyone knows that the boats of these ships are always armed. The Chinese coast guard might fire on H M frigates but never on the armed smugglers of Lintin.”

Vol 4 No 15 – Tues 2nd August 1831

Patna has been very active this last fortnight. Many sales have been concluded at $970 – 990, mainly for 60 and 90 days delivery. Benares has been selling at the same price. The old Patna and Benares is now all in Chinese hands except for that shipment which arrived packed in canvas on which $850-880 cash is offered.[75]

Most of the old Malwa has also gone. The largest speculators are holding its price at $800 but no sales are being made. On the contrary they have created a limited market for Damaun Malwa and Pass opium (i.e. Company Malwa, the Drug shipped through Bombay on the new pass system) at $770-775 per chest.

Vol 4 No 15 – Tues 2nd August 1831

Editor – The following letter from Veritas stigmatises the numerous and respectable class of merchants who traffick in opium.

Is he aware that the head of these traffickers is the Honourable Company which manufactures the Drug; that the Company comes to the opium traders at Lintin for advice on how best to adapt their product to the Chinese taste?

Next page (Page 75) containing Veritas’ letter is missing from the British Library copy but the next edition (below) contains another Letter to the Editor commenting on Veritas’ ideas and reveals the substance of his complaint.

Vol 4 No 16 – Mon 15th August 1831

Letter to the Editor – The fallacious attack of Veritas on the opium trade in your last issue needs reply. Why he should hope for help from England is beyond me. There is no other country in the world where Englishmen yield to such indignity as China. England has not lifted a finger.

The law concerning sedan chairs shows the Chinese view of foreigners. We should recite these indignities continually until the British government offers protection. Only that way can we hope for redress.

I do not advocate war; the mere display of moral force should be enough. Once the Chinese recognise we are in earnest, they will ameliorate our conditions.

At present the Emperor says we can be controlled with ‘tea reins’ and we submit. It has become a principle of Chinese government to degrade foreigners in the eyes of their people.

Let us hear no more of Veritas’ defence of the indefensible. There can be no equal rights while the sacrifice is always on our side. We must force the Chinese to agree equal rights, then reciprocity will become meaningful. Instead of ‘extending compassion’ to us citizens of the first nation in the World, they will treat us as equals. Trade should not be purchased by national disgrace. Veritas’ arguments are not incontrovertible as he says. Everyone should think about this subject carefully. Either the Chinese will treat foreigners properly or we will continue to submit to insult and injustice.

Sgd Fair Play.

Vol 4 No 17 – Fri 2nd September 1831

Opium trade has been depressed by the severe Edict of the Emperor against consumption. Patna and Benares have declined in price and Malwa is unsellable at $770 for Company and $765 for Damaun.

The Select has opened the Company’s treasury for cash in exchange for Bills on the Calcutta at 202 Sicca Rupees per $100 Spanish.

Vol 4 No 18 – Thurs 15th September 1831

Some of the culprits in Captain Lester’s piracy have been caught.[76] Apparently their boat was being pursued by the coast guard and sought sanctuary under the guns of one of the opium ships at Kap Shui Mun (the fast-flowing channel between Ma Wan and Lantau Islands that is currently being used as the smuggling market). Some were recognised and assistance given (i.e. these pirates are also smugglers).

The Chinese coast guard then sought the help of another English ship whose officers understood the matter and sent boats for the apprehension of the culprits.

The fugitives saw what was happening, abandoned the first English receiving ship and rowed for Lantau. Six were caught on the beach including the ringleader and delivered to the Chinese official.

We understand several war junks are now stationed at Kap Shui Mun and a fort is to be built there but our ‘relaxed trade’ will not be interrupted.

Vol 4 No 18 – Thurs 15th September 1831

Negotiations between officials and dealers continue concerning the future shape of the opium trade (in light of the Emperor’s latest proscription of smoking) and are expected to end soon but business remains unsettled.

Some brokers have left Canton for security.

Several junks have arrived at Kap Shui Mun and many sales have been made as well as clearances of time bargains. Damaun and Pass Malwa is $760 per chest. Patna and Benares is selling at $965 with slight interest.

Most dealers are short of money as the Shroffs are unwilling to give advances in present conditions.[77]

Vol 4 No 19 – Sat 1st October 1831

The Peking Gazettes refer to a statement of the governor of Hupeh that opium is not being grown or manufactured in his Province. But he says Hupeh is a great thoroughfare and traders from all over the Empire pass through and introduce opium.

The Emperor says if farmers are found growing opium they are to be pilloried and transported to the army on the frontier. Their land will be confiscated. Customs Houses on the passes are all to report six-monthly on opium while the Hupeh governor is to report annually.

Vol 4 No 19 – Sat 1st October 1831

The opium brokers’ negotiations with the provincial officials continue. In the last week another opium dealer was arrested and many of the brokers remain absent from Canton. A few chests of Patna and Benares have been sold at $960. For Malwa $755 is asked for Pass and $750 for Damaun but no business done.

The quantity of Malwa consumed so far this year is 3,730 chests less than at the same time last year. This has denied the trade some $1,787,760 in sales.

Vol 4 No 20 – Sat 15th October 1831

Opium trade is virtually suspended. A few time sales have been collected but many remain in arrears. Bengal is selling at $955-960 but Pass Malwa is resisted at $740 except sales of 1-2 chests. The stock of Turkish is huge.

The recent Imperial Edict has caused general alarm. All speculation in the Drug has stopped. Money is also unusually scarce.

Vol 4 No 20 – Sat 15th October 1831

Peking Gazettes – opium is mentioned frequently in all recent editions. Twenty dealers in a central province have been arrested and revealed the distribution system. In response to the evidence of one of them, the Emperor says it is not acceptable for a witness to forget the name of his supplier.

Vol 4 No 20 – Sat 15th October 1831

Government enforcement of the opium proscription has been rigorous and many holders are selling at low prices. Pass Malwa was sold as low as $695 and Bengal demand is low although prices are being maintained as a few deliveries have occurred.

The Select has improved the exchange rate on Bills to 204 Sicca Rupees per $100 Spanish in the hope of better attracting the amount of silver it needs for the tea purchases now the smuggling trade has diminished.

Vol 4 No 22 – Tues 15th November 1831

Peking Gazettes – Yuen Yuen the Viceroy of Yunnan and Kweichow reports that barbarian inhabitants of his border-lands grow opium and sell it and his Chinese subjects have learned the technique.

Yuen Yuen says his magistrates go twice yearly to destroy the crops but the Emperor does not seem to believe him. He orders that the border people be stopped and requires the Viceroy to personally check that it is done.

Vol 4 No 22 – Tues 15th November 1831

Opium – some junks have arrived and cleared off a few time bargains in Bengal Drug. Patna has reached $940 but Malwa has been sold at $670 although most holders are trying for $700. The duty on landing opium at Macau has been reduced this season on the orders of Goa from $23 per chest to just over $10. This may help to revive commercial activity there.

Vol 4 No 22 – Tues 15th November 1831

Opium trade is very quiet. The owners of Bengal Drug are maintaining its price but Malwa drops daily. The chief business this fortnight has been the barter of some Malwa for Chinese products.

It is hoped officials will soon relax the severity of their enforcement of the law against opium dealers. The return of the Viceroy may cause greater mitigation.[78]

Turkish is selling at $555 per picul.

Vol 4 No 24 – Mon 19th December 1831

A new anti-opium law has been published in the Peking Gazettes. Any military or civilian person using opium will receive 100 blows and two month’s pillory.

If he does not reveal his supplier’s name he will be punished like a seller – 100 blows and transportation for three years. Any government employee using opium will receive a punishment one degree more severe than the above. Senior provincial officials are to take bonds from all their staff that they will never use opium.[79]

Vol 4 No 24 – Mon 19th December 1831

Opium – Malwa dropped to $650 per chest until the last few days when considerable sales have pushed it up to $670. Patna and Benares are in little demand. The Portuguese brig Cacador has just returned from the China coast having sold only 30 chests.

Vol 4 No 24 – Mon 19th December 1831

A strong rumour is alive in Canton that may explain Viceroy’s Lee’s recent popularity. He got 300,000 Taels from How Qua for arranging to put his son’s name into the government books (as licensee of Yee Wo Hong) but he told the Emperor that he found the money under the ruins of his yamen (which was burned in the recent fire related to opium use by his staff).

He suggested, as the owner of the money is unknown, that he present it to the Emperor, requesting only a sufficient share to rebuild his official residence.

Vol 5 No 1 – Mon 2nd January 1832

Letter to the Editor – These days there is a lot of missionary talk about the immorality of the opium trade. It is surprising to hear British subjects assert this. In 1831 the British government received $40 millions (£10 million) in duty on alcoholic drinks. Britain has a population of 13 millions.

$14 million of opium is supplied annually to China with a population of 130,000,000. The pro rata duty (if it was taxed at 10% as Britain taxes alcohol) would be $1,400,000 (£350,000). Clearly Chinese opium-use is insignificant when compared with British alcohol consumption.

They are both deleterious but the opium smoker is less offensive to third parties than the drinker.

Sgd Anti-Humbug

Vol 5 No 1 – Mon 2nd January 1832

The demand for opium that we noted in our last, soon subsided and prices are again nominal. Turkish is barely sellable at $555.

The brokers say it is the additional coast guard junks patrolling around Lintin that scare off the buyers and cause the reduced sales.

Vol 5 No 3 – Thurs 2nd February 1832

The opium market has revived. Many cash sales of Malwa have been made and many time bargains agreed but the price has not improved. Indeed the brokers have tried to push it down to $660. Patna and Benares are in good demand.

2-3 junks have arrived from the coast but with little cash.

Vol 5 No 4 – Thurs 16th February 1832

The Red Rover and Water Witch arrived on 28th January with 1,500 chests of Patna and Benares from the 1st Calcutta auction. The Patna weighs 123½ – 124 catties and the Benares 115½ – 116 catties per chest.

The ‘touch’ (the percentage of smokable refined opium) is Patna 45% and Benares 50%. The flavour of both is good.

No sales have occurred but a few chests have been taken by the brokers for analysis. Since these arrivals the major holders of Malwa have been firm in demanding $700 per chest but a few sales have been made at $685

Vol 5 No 5 – Thurs 8th March 1832

Peking Gazettes – A Muslim prince has been caught smoking opium with a eunuch in one of the Imperial palaces. He will lose his hereditary rank, be flogged and dismissed.

Vol 5 No 6 – Sat 17th March 1832

Editorial – There is a great difference between the thunderous tone of Chinese laws and their enforcement. A law is honoured in the breach until some new official complains. Then a new fulmination against ‘whatever’ is published and the newcomer has to be compensated. The anti-opium law of last December is a case in point (it might have been caused by the opium fires in the Viceroy’s yamen). We should not have published it. Now people overseas think it is significant. But, for consistency, we publish the latest diatribe below.

Opium is not a new luxury. Foreigners import it but Chinese distribute it and create the market. It has become a commercial staple. It is distributed openly, freely and in daylight under the eyes of those who are ordered to prevent it. It enters Canton and even the Viceroy’s yamen. The following proclamation should be read in this light. People say opium is poisonous or injurious. A correspondent of this paper last year said ‘opium merchants are purveyors of moral degradation and disease’. Can anyone prove this?

Chinese are the ultimate Hedonists. They don’t drink opium like the Persians nor eat it like the Turks, Malays and Indians. They first purify it to a most aromatic state and smoke it in a ceremonious way just as a European selects and savours his Madeira, both obtaining a pleasing exhilaration.

The opium importer simply makes the substance available. He does not make people smoke it or smoke too much of it. The Government of India grows and sells it and the Chinese buy it. The laws of China make it illegal. That is a matter for China – they know how to run their own country. If there was a commercial treaty between England and China that proscribed opium imports to China it would be different.[80] But the fact is the demand to buy it is stronger than the will to prevent it. The Chinese demand is satisfied by European and American traders and the wealth of their countries is increased by the trade.

The Chinese get their opium, the Westerners get their money – win, win.

The vast cost of Chinese tea exports to England and her colonies and to America still exceeds the vast cost of the annual opium import. Two useless luxuries are exchanged and the balance is almost zero.[81]

Some people in England, even in the Commons, are saying that our present solicitation of military assistance is to get Chinese legalisation of the trade. This is untrue. Opium is the only import to China that is fully under foreign control. The Chinese merchants always seek first to buy opium before any other foreign products. Whenever a Chinese merchant has ready cash he buys opium. The opium traders echo the answer of the merchants of France to Colbert ‘laissez nous faire’….. Here is the Edict of the Viceroy:

“Opium is a poison. It has often been proscribed but the barbarians bring opium and linger at Lintin. Apart from the ordinary cargo ships there are special ships at Lintin in which the opium is accumulated. It is sold by stealth. Bandits go down from Canton and junks arrive along the coast from Amoy, Ningpo and Tientsin. They all pretend to visit Lintin for trade but really they go to buy opium. Chinese traitors light furnaces to cook the opium. Traitorous merchants come from other provinces and visit Canton shops, secretly agreeing the price, paying a deposit and buying their supply. This is all illegal. Now the Emperor has been told and he orders that the trade be cut off at its root.

I order the Hong merchants to expostulate with the barbarians of every nation. They may not bring opium to trade nor appoint vessels for opium storage at Lintin. If they disobey, their hatches will be sealed and they will be expelled and forever disallowed to trade. No more opium may come to China. Oppose not.” 9th February 1832

Vol 5 No 6 – Sat 17th March 1832

Viceroy Lee, Foo Yuen Choo and Hoppo Chung have sent a report to the Emperor on ways of diminishing or discontinuing the use of opium.

They allude to legalising it at a duty of 3 candareens per catty as was formerly the case but do not recommend it.[82]

They suggest writing to the Indian and Turkish Governments and the Indian native states to have them stop growing it. They say they cannot write to India as they are not accustomed to doing so, but have written to the Kings of Cochin China, Tong King, Annam and Thailand requesting they not give facilities in their ports to ships carrying opium to China.

Vol 5 No 6 – Sat 17th March 1832

An official from Canton named Keung Tai Yay was going home by boat with a few chests of opium. On Sunday 19th February he arrived at Kiu Kiang, 200 miles north of Canton. The young Tso Tong of that district, Hau Sei Ling, a Szechuan man, had heard of the opium cargo and came to search Keung’s boat.

One official searching another is irregular and Hau had to go in person with a large group of supporters to effect his purpose.

Keung’s boat arrived, was boarded and the opium seized. Keung ordered his men to attack Hau’s men. Hau was cut about the head, fell overboard and drowned. Five of his men also died.

The matter has now been reported to Viceroy Lee.

Vol 5 No 6 – Sat 17th March 1832

Opium trade remains stagnant. Chinese engagements to buy Malwa forward are considerable and they have been reducing these by withdrawing a few chests from time to time at $5-10 below the nominal price.

Some have been asking foreign dealers to make sales for them.[83]

Some sales of the new Patna have occurred but the price will only be fixed when the market formally opens (when the touch and useable amount are confirmed). The scarcity of money is affecting every buyer.

Vol 5 No 6 – Sat 17th March 1832

Opium sales for the year 1st April 1831 – 31st March 1832



Sale Price


Shipped to Straits


4,442 chests




1,518 chests




8,265 chests



80 chests

Vol 5 No 7 – Sat 7th April 1832

Fukien junks come almost daily with cotton and silver. They can often be seen anchored together at Leung Ma Kau near the Bar Fort at Macau. They trade with places to the west, chiefly Kong Mun in Sun Wui and Chik Kam in Lui Chow.

They sell opium at Chik Kum (which they buy at Lintin or Macau with their silver) and buy a return cargo of sugar for Shanghai.[84]

Vol 5 No 7 – Sat 7th April 1832

Opium – The time bargains for Malwa are now mostly cleared but little else is selling. New Patna has declined to $850 and even then buyers are reluctant. Benares is unsaleable.

Vol 5 No 8 – Fri 15th June 1832

Opium – recent accounts from Bombay confirm that this year’s supply of Malwa is 13,000 chests. At the last auction, prices fell to $480 per chest but holders were unwilling to sell at that price.

Patna at Lintin has dropped to $780. No-one wants Benares or Turkish.

Vol 5 No 10 – Wed 18th July 1832

Opium – Malwa has been on sale at $465 and many chests have been sold. Patna is not selling although its price is moderated to $760. Benares is $710 nominal with no enquiries. We hear a lot of Turkish has been sold but the price is unchanged.

Vol 5 No 11 – Thurs 2nd August 1832

A London paper in January this year notes that the opium poppy has been introduced into Egypt and is flourishing there. Egyptian opium is in greater demand than the product from the Levant (Syria) or Asia Minor (Turkey).

Vol 5 No 11 – Thurs 2nd August 1832

Memorial of the Viceroy, Foo Yuen and Hoppo (received at Macau 13th March), responding to an anti-opium Edict of the Emperor:

The Emperor has received information that there are foreign ships bringing opium to Lantau Island. There are warships that convoy the opium ships and there are other ships nearby that store opium. These foreigners consort with traitorous Chinese who open money-changers shops in Canton where they also sell opium. There are many such silversmiths in Luen Hong Street adjacent to the 13 factories.[85]

Traitorous Chinese negotiate with the foreigners, agree a price and pay a deposit and the foreigner ‘writes them a chit (Delivery Order)’. They go to the receiving ships and surrender this chit for delivery of the raw opium. They take the opium balls in boats called fai hai (fast crabs, the Mandarin slang name for the Cantonese Cheung Lung Soon – long dragon boat) which are very fast and armed. They are used at night. When they encounter the coast guard they fire upon the officers who dare not report (for they have been bribed). The smugglers get bolder and bolder. There are now 100 – 200 fast crabs delivering opium from Lintin to the money-changers shops throughout Kwongtung.

“Raw opium is also taken off by ship from Lintin to Amoy, Tientsin and the two departments of Lui Chow and Keung Chow (on Hainan and the opposite mainland).

“Refined (cooked) opium is taken overland through the passes at Tien Kwan Sin, Lan Shih Sin and Tse Tung pass. It is delivered by boat at the ports of Lot Sung in Nam Hoi district, Whampoa in Heung Shan and Sei Nan Sin and Lau Pau Fow in Sam Shui.

“From the money changers’ shops it is taken in portions throughout the Empire. Everywhere traitorous people make connections with venal officials and open small divans for consumption. Wherever people gather together there are divans.

“Several million Taels of sycee are exported each year for this trade. The useful wealth of China is given away for useless foreign mud.

“All the provinces have been repeatedly ordered to prohibit the trade but opium comes from overseas and accumulates at Canton. Although we make strict regulation within our country, if the source is not cut off we cannot succeed.

“I am informed this is true.

“Viceroy Lee and his colleagues are to investigate and verify it or not. They will deliberate on how to stop this trade, how to stop import and sale and how to remove the receiving ships. If you succeed your merit will be very great.

“Respect this.”

I Viceroy Lee have received this. Last autumn I visited Peking and the Emperor personally commanded me to stop the opium trade.

“Opium was originally brought here by foreigners as medicine and was permitted for sale on paying import duty. One catty of opium paid 3 candareens of duty. Then nefarious natives decocted a paste from it that could be smoked. This knowledge spread until it became well known. The Ka Hing Emperor prohibited it and the foreigners were clearly told to bring no more. Then they left Canton and retired to Macau where they continued to deal in it. The former governors Tseang and Yuen repeately memorialised for its strict prohibition.

“Then the foreigners left Macau and went to Lintin where they continued to sell it by stealth. Not only local traitors but men from all the maritime provinces have ships that come to Canton overtly for trade and covertly for opium from Lintin.

“The foreigners are determined but when strictly confronted them they retired from Canton (Whampoa) to Macau and again from Macau to Lintin. Thus they have been pushed further away. Now they are in the middle of the ocean and can escape in any direction as soon as they see our sails approaching. It is impossible to surround them. Neither can we pursue and seize them. The dealers and sellers bribe everyone and thus the more opium that comes the more it is spread. This is the real situation.

“Lantau, where the receiving ships anchor, is on the route of all foreign ships into Canton. Last year I asked to build a new fort there and create an out port to station troops to guard the country but it was not to tackle the opium trade. I thought all the opium ships were at Lintin. Ten years ago they were at Lintin. The former Viceroy Yuen reported them and sent a Linguist to evict them but they were doing nothing and asked for compassion and it seemed inappropriate to send a military force against them. Your majesty already knows this.

“The shops known as ‘furnaces’ really exist (the money-changers’ or silversmiths’ shops which have a real demand for the wood necessary to melt and assay silver as well as melting and assaying opium). Traders from other provinces come to these shops in Canton and ask the price of opium.

The fast crab boats also exist. In 10th year of the To Kwong Emperor, I asked for permission to build government fast crabs to tackle them. They should be distributed widely and used for cruising. For several years, I have repeatedly instructed my coastguard officers to seize fast crabs wherever they see them and get them broken up. Now their use is reduced. The ships that come down the coast and buy at Lintin are not served by fast crabs. The information Your Majesty has received is not completely correct but more or less so.

“We think, now opium has become prevalent, that smokers are stupid and obstinate and no regret need be wasted on them but the loss of silver is a big concern. If opium was legalised as a medicine its value would drop and the foreigners could not ask so much money for it. They could not make large profits and less silver would leave the country. But such a sudden change is like licensing evil. If we place more officers at the passes the smugglers will take another route. If the opium is distributed by sea, pirates would increasingly impersonate Customs officers for their own advantage.

“Here in Canton we have very many bandits on land and pirates at sea. By inconveniencing genuine travellers and merchants on the pretext of searching for opium we might cause hardship. We have tried and punished innumerable opium offenders in the last few years. The quantity of opium we have seized and burnt is huge. Yet we can see no effect from our efforts. Your Majesty is correct – the source must be cut off.

Opium comes from India with which country we have not previously corresponded. If it came from Thailand or Cochin China we could instruct the King appropriately (they are both reliant on China for protection and for receipt of the annual calendar fixing the dates for planting and holidays). After the opium arrives at Lintin it is not only fast crabs that bring it into the country. Junks from Chiu Chow, Lui Chow and Keang Chow carry it away by sea. All these three places are within Kwongtung and might be controlled by severe intimidation. Then there are junks from Amoy, Ningpo and Tientsin. They are from distant provinces and we cannot stop them. If we send warships, the junks will stay away for a while but they return when we cease checking. We can see no way to cut off the opium deliveries entirely.

We propose to issue distinct orders to all the foreigners and command the Hong merchants to teach them not to bring opium. If we catch a foreign ship bringing opium it will not be permitted to sell its goods but will be expelled. We will give strict orders that, besides merchant ships, no other ships may come so the source can be cut off. We will stop all fast crabs on the rivers and prohibit the junks of Chiu Chow, etc., from coming to Lintin. We will write to the governors of Fukien, Chekiang and Chih Li to license all their ships and examine the goods imported and exported. We will ask them never to allow their ships to come to Canton for opium. This will diminish the traffic and a portion of our wealth will be saved. Gradually we can reduce the numbers involved in the trade and bring it to an end.

“The only alternative is to shut the port to foreigners and stop their trade for good. This dynasty has nurtured foreigners. How can we suddenly put a barrier to their trade? Besides in Canton are several hundred thousands of poor people who get their livelihood by trade in foreign goods. If they all lose their jobs there will be evil consequences. We are ashamed we have no other idea.”

Vol 5 No 12 – Thurs 16th August 1832

Editorial – This new law against smoking opium (100 blows, cangue, transportation), if actually put into effect, will kill the opium trade and deprive hundreds of thousands of smokers throughout the country of their pleasure. The punishments themselves might be fatal for many.

It would have been better to take the advice of that late Hong merchant who suggested to the Viceroy that smoking should be made a capital offence.

If Chinese are like Americans they will establish temperance societies to strengthen their resolution to quit.

Supplement – 16th August 1832

Opium – Benares has improved to $775 for some small sales. Malwa is selling for $505 cash. Otherwise the market is slow and unchanged.

Some dealers sustained serious loss in the recent typhoon, both from opium lost in sunken boats and from stoppage of deliveries due to the weather.

The Americans have advanced the price of Turkish due to the small quantity available but no sales have been made.

Supplement – 16th August 1832

Opium – it is now confirmed that the two Tientsin junks that were carrying opium when they were lost in the recent typhoon each had 200 chests aboard. The crew of one has arrived in Canton but the other has not been heard from. Totally 800 – 1,000 chests were lost or damaged due to the storm.

Vol 5 No 14 – Mon 17th September 1832

Piracy is again out of control. There is a new service on their list now – digging up graves to ransom the bones to relatives.

The Bogue fleet of warjunks would be better employed clearing these awful pirates than protecting opium smugglers whom the officers are supposed to suppress.[86]

It is anecdotally reported that the Hoppo is persuaded, if the Emperor would permit opium imports under a small duty, that it would greatly increase the trade at Canton as well as the government revenue.

Vol 5 No 14 – Mon 17th September 1832

Opium – Malwa is so cheap it is ruining the market for Bengal Drug. There have been many cash and time sales and the price has increased to $490. Turkish has increased to $585 per picul but few buyers.

Supplement 3rd October 1832

Opium – The first week of September was quiet but some junks arrived in the second week and over 800 chests were sold.

Some time sales of Malwa have also been made.

Patna and Benares are being pushed on the market at reduced rates.

Stock of Turkish is small and the price has gone to $700. An even higher price is quoted for the few remaining piculs.

Vol 5 No 17 – Sat 3rd November 1832

Opium clearances in October were large – 2,880 chests. The big increase was due to the departure of the annual junk fleet taking kumquat shrubs to the north.[87] Malwa in small lots has risen to $510 – 515 but there is little demand for Patna or Benares

Vol 5 No 18 – Fri 16th November 1832

Trade news:

  • Much speculation has recently occurred in the opium market. Patna rose to $960-980, Benares $960 and Malwa $830-835 for cash. Time sales rose proportionately. All these sales seem speculative and not for the immediate supply of the market. The prices have since retreated
  • All the Turkish is now in Chinese hands but it is a small quantity.

Vol 5 No 20 – Thurs 20th December 1832

Smuggling – Two fast crabs have successfully been built at Lintin on a large raft moored between two ships. A third is under construction. This is because bribes payable to avoid the law against construction of fast crabs have become so high that boat builders in the Pearl River Delta can no longer afford to manufacture them.[88]

They are now built by foreigners at Lintin because Chinese officials have no jurisdiction there. These new boats are of superior construction with laid decks and raised hatch coamings like foreign ships. The larger can carry 60 men and is armed with 2 / 3 small swivels. The crew armaments comprise pikes and knives and plenty of round stones.

The transport of opium at a fixed fee from Lintin to Canton is so well managed that boats are seldom approached by officials. This situation will endure as long as the free traders pay the Customs officials more to not fight than the government pays them to fight.

The skirmishes that occasionally occur are forms of opera. A few stones are thrown and the officials have satisfactorily proved their vigilance. No serious attempt to disrupt the passage of opium has been made for a long time. Indeed the fast crabs now have larger crews and better arms and have become even more formidable.

They pass and repass on the river before the factories in daylight in spite of the express order that all fast crabs are to be destroyed. The Drug is landed in the suburbs of the Provincial capital with complete security. Indeed, some of the supply is taken up to Canton in the coast guard boats that are supposed to stop the trade.

It is these boats that monopolise the smuggling of saltpetre from Lintin. The charge made by the Si Ngon official at Lintin is $1 per chest of opium, which is paid by the smuggler to the European officer on the receiving ship on behalf of the official to whom the receiving ship captain later accounts. The fee to the coast guard boats in the river is unknown.[89]

The Foo Yuen Choo visited the Lintin receiving ships when he first took up his post. We charitably ascribe his visit to a search for evidence against the Viceroy with whom he was then fighting but he has not published his findings. Perhaps his observations underlie his opinion of the Cantonese which is reported elsewhere in this edition – that is a view we cannot fault.

Vol 5 No 20 – Thurs 20th December 1832

Those readers who are familiar with that street in the factories where the outside merchants sell European necessaries will recall an old man who sits there daily, providing a repair service for old or damaged opium pipes. His tools are a hammer and file. He repairs or replaces the metal bowls of the pipes which lie scattered about him (these are made separate from the pipe and, if poorly fitting, may fall out when in use). His is a full-time job. We asked a Chinese friend how this man could so publicly pursue his trade and were told his income is too small to be of interest to the police.[90]

Vol 6 No 1 – Thurs 10th January 1833

The central government is slowly responding to recent voyages up the coast by foreigners. The Emperor says foreign ships are not allowed to anchor or sell goods anywhere except Canton. He says any foreign ships found on the coast must be told the law and escorted back to Canton.

Editor – We used to trade all along the coast but gave up that valuable trade. It should be clear that we are now about to renew it, either with government consent or as contraband. The natives will help us and make money. The Chinese navy is powerless to intervene. All China has to do is chose which type of trade it prefers.

A Canton official has told the Emperor this provincial government is unable to control opium imports and recommends legalising the trade. The officials of all the other maritime provinces will reach the same conclusion.

In this way we will break down the barrier that has prevented China gaining a proper knowledge of the West. The nation that brings this about will receive the gratitude of the entire world.

The Americans are always keen to promote trade. Their consul at Batavia (Shillaber) has sent a mission to Thailand and Cochin China to request changes in the foreign trade systems of those countries. England should not fall behind in this race.

Vol 6 No 1 – Thurs 10th January 1833

The American ship Lotus has arrived at Manila with some Turkish opium and is offering it at $630 per picul.

Vol 6 No 3 – Sat 16th February 1833

The opium clipper Red Rover will sail on 20th February for Calcutta. For freight of treasure contact Thomas Dent & Co at Canton. Passage against the winter monsoon (on the return leg) is now regularly achieved.[91]

Vol 6 No 3 – 4th March 1833

Opium trade:

140 chests of Patna have been sold to Chinese dealers without the price being fixed. A few sales have been made to Europeans at $660-665.

A slight demand for old Patna has emerged at $735 which is on the low side. No interest in Benares, old or new.

A little Malwa has sold at $700-705.

The American ship Boston (Bancroft) has arrived from London 3rd March with some Turkish opium which is selling at $850 per picul.

Other (old) Turkey is selling at $690.

Vol 6 No 5 – Sat 13th April 1833

Opium consumption in China for the year 1st April ‘32 – 31st March ‘33


Sold Lintin

Sold Macau

Lintin stock

Macau stock

Value Lintin

Value Macau


5,588 chests

822 chests

1,832 chests

354 chests


$ 655,956


1,343 chests

537 chests

331 chests

78 chests


$ 415,638


14, 484 chests

918 chests

2,983 chests

0 chests


$ 523,545

Vol 6 No 5 – Sat 13th April 1833

Opium sales receipts for the last six years:







9,535 chests

13,132 chests

14,000 chests

18,760 chests

14,225 chests

23,693 chests







Vol 6 No 5 – Sat 13th April 1833

Previously the opium trade was based at Macau but the Portuguese introduced a tax which drove it away. When it was first imported from the Coromandel coast in 1720 (probably from Madras) the demand grew annually and Goa sought to give Macau the sole supply.[92] The Macanese excluded the English and the French from the trade and sold their supply cheaply to the Chinese thus undermining the market

By 1735 one type cost 70 Taels and another 225 Taels.

Macau’s position was saved by the English East India Company which established opium production in Bengal. About 35 years ago the company limited production of Patna and Benares to 4,000 chests annually. Most of it came to Macau and the future looked bright but 10-12 years ago an attempt was made by the Portuguese to heavily tax the trade and it moved away.

By 1826 the Macau government was in debt to 122,040 Taels.

Vol 6 No 6 – Fri 3rd May 1833

J Taylor, the Company’s opium warehouse keeper at Bombay, has reported the number of passes for this year that have been granted for importation to Bombay in transit to export destinations.

Vol 6 No 8 – Fri 31st May 1833

Bengal opium imports this year to date:

Red Rover

Water Witch




Isabella Robertson

970 chests






Vol 6 No 9 – Mon 17th June 1833

A new officer has taken command of the naval force at Canton and he has ordered the total destruction of all fast crabs. A few nights ago five government boats attacked a fast crab coming up river about ½ mile below the foreign factories. After a running fight for a mile the boat was hemmed in, one crew member was killed and the rest abandoned ship. About 300 men were involved in this action and many were wounded.

Two chests of opium were seized and a book was found listing all the people to whom the contraband cargo was consigned – opium, saltpetre, camlets, etc. This was fortunately repurchased from the officers at the scene.

The arrival of a new officer is often the signal for this sort of thing but the smugglers can pay well for protection and, once he has settled down, it should not happen again.

Vol 6 No 10 – Mon 15th July 1833

Results of the 3rd sale of Bengal opium at Calcutta:

1,417 chests Patna sold at average 1,171 Sicca Rupees;

483 chests of Benares sold at 1,147 Sicca Rupees

4th Sale at Calcutta:

1,500 chests of Patna sold at an average 1,139 Sicca Rupees;

500 chests of Benares sold at 1,101 Sicca Rupees

Vol 6 No 10 – Mon 15th July 1833

Notice in the newspaper and posted outside the India Company’s factory at Canton:

The licence of the opium receiving ship Hercules that was issued by the British government of India is revoked (and any subsequent licences it may hold).”

Sgd H H Lindsay, Secretary to the Select Committee, 11th July, Macau.

(Editor – we hear the Captain of the Hercules was queried concerning a sack of mails he sent ashore to Macau that he had received from the Red Rover. He denied the Company’s authority to question him. The Select has since extended the licence to 4th September to avoid inconvenience but Chinese interest may cause a delay in securing ships)

Vol 8 No 22 – Tues 2nd June 1835

London news – The litigious China free-traders are pursuing the matter of the withdrawal of the licence of the Hercules receiving ship by the Select in July 1833.

At the time its licence was withdrawn the Hercules contained £1,500,000 opium which J M & Co say was placed in jeopardy (an unlicensed ship is an uninsured ship – the Hercules is J M & Co’s receiving ship).

Barrister Weeding for the Hercules asked the Defendant (India Company) why the licence was withdrawn. He said his future course of action depended upon the answer. For a reason unexplained in the London newspaper, the action was then abandoned.

Vol 8 No 26 – Tues 30th June 1835

Editorial – It was the withholding of letters to the Canton community by Red Rover’s captain in 1833 that provoked the Select into both cancelling the licence of the Hercules and requesting the Indian presidencies to address all future letter-bags to the President of the Select here.

Vol 6 No 10 – Mon 15th July 1833

A ferry boat was leaving Canton for Shiu Kwan (100 miles to the north) when a rumour surfaced that she carried opium. The Hoppo sent a boat after her to search but the master refused to stop. He referred the Customs officers to a recent (anti-piracy) order of the Viceroy that boats are only to be searched at one of the Customs Houses.

The Hoppo’s men were implacable and the ferry eventually fired on them whereupon the officers returned to Canton with 4 dead and 12 wounded (4 of whom also died).

The ferryboat captain reported the matter at the next Customs House averring that he was unsure if the other boat was the Hoppo’s or a pirate’s boat. The Viceroy has supported him.

Vol 6 No 10 – Mon 15th July 1833

Letter to the Editor:

I was recently aboard an opium receiving ship at a time when brisk deliveries of Bengal Drug were being made. Many chests of this year’s Patna were opened but all were rejected by the Chinese dealers.

None of the Benares Drug was refused. Benares is now valued at $50 more than Patna, a reversal of the historic pricing.

The reason is the wrappings on Patna this year are so fragile that the least pressure bursts them and the opium resin oozes out. All the Patna chests had lost about 5 catties in weight.

The Bengal opium chest contains two wooden boards in each of which are twenty holes lined with a thin lath in which each opium ball sits. Between each ball on the lower board is a thin strip of wood to support the upper layer. These are too thin in my opinion as the upper layer often collapses. The Patna opium balls are put into these holes without any packing whereas Benares is packed around and under with dried poppy leaves.

This year and last there were no broken Benares balls whereas Patna is so damaged as to make it difficult to sell. We should claim compensation from the Indian government.

Sgd Providus. 14th June 1833

Vol 6 Nos 13 & 14 – Mon 16th September 1833

Peking Gazettes – the floods and drought of recent months have produced famine throughout the Empire. There have been several instances in the last year of Imperial messengers being robbed and killed on their way to Peking. The official dispatches have invariably been left on the messenger’s body but the Emperor is distressed by their delayed receipt.

He castigates Provincial governors for negligence. He particularly mentions the prevalence of opium smoking in the Canton army and the misconduct of the Hunan army en route to Fukien for the late Taiwan insurrection.[93]

Vol 6 Nos 15 & 16 – Thurs 24th October 1833

Opium – the market is completely flat. Some time sales have expired and been renewed. Others have been sold back at a loss of $20-40 per chest and a few dealers have forfeited their smaller deposits (up to $50). Prices continue to decline.

Some recent arrivals of Damaun Malwa contained spurious bulk.

Several parcels of Pass Malwa have been rejected.

A large amount of Turkish has been imported but sales are proceeding picul by picul.

Vol 6 Nos 15 & 16 – Thurs 24th October 1833

There has been an affray at the village on Kiao Island, north of the opium fleet’s anchorage at Kum Sing Mun, off Heung Shan. The hulk Semarang was grounded on the island for repairs but was washed too far up the beach in the recent typhoon and could not be floated off. Foreign seamen were sent to the beach to dismantle her but the people of Kiao, who are a piratical lot, keep stealing things – not just timber, but clothes sent ashore for washing and the like.

On 12th October one of these villagers was caught and taken on board J M & Co’s Hercules receiving ship pending for his collection by the local headman who was the man we really wanted to speak with.

Within a couple of hours a group of villagers came down to the Semarang hulk and kidnapped a tindal. The commander of the Hercules, who was organising the work on the Semarang, went ashore with 40 men to get his man back. As they approached the village, the tindal was released to them and came out but had been beaten.

They took him back to the beach but were continually attacked by large groups of villagers, armed with bludgeons, bamboos and pikes. Some were throwing stones. Several seamen were wounded and a sea-cunny was kidnapped. It was then getting dark so they returned to the ship and the following morning sent in a demand for the release of the sea-cunny.

On 14th or 15th October a force from all the receiving ships was assembled comprising five different nationalities. It set off for the shore but was fired upon and returned to the ships. The matter was referred to the Viceroy whilst negotiations were concurrently opened with the villagers. An official from Heung Shan arrived to meet with the foreigners and negotiations continue.[94]

Vol 6 Nos 15 & 16 – Thurs 24th October 1833

Opium – we have received large shipments of Malwa from India but sold very little of anything. Money is again scarce and the markets of the interior are not buying.

In Bombay the season for imports from Malwa formally ends on 31st May but passes can still be issued after that date. This is not generally known.

This year, passes for 104 chests were issued in June and 236 chests in July. About 1,000 chests are believed to remain in Malwa. Part of July’s 236 chests included 100 brought back from the desert, having been en route by camel to Damaun. There may be some obstacle on the Damaun route to cause the shipper to tolerate this additional expense.

The total number of Malwa chests for which passes have been issued this season is 4,985 at Bombay and 3,351 at Indore. Of these, 6,994 chests have been shipped east; 139 chests are awaiting shipment and 1,203 chests are yet to arrive. We expect all will have been shipped by November.

Vol 6 No 17 – Fri 15th November 1833

Opium – several junks have arrived with substantial funds but no new sales have been made as the dealers are supplying them from their time sales. Turkish is selling steadily but slowly.

Vol 6 No 18 – Thurs 5th December 1833

The To Kwong Emperor has elevated his No 1 concubine Chuen Fei to Empress. She is the sister of the disgraced He Ngan. This has changed the order of precedence amongst the ladies at Court.[95]

Vol 6 No 19 & 20 – Thurs 26th December 1833

Excerpt from Marjoribanks address to the Commons during the debate on Charles Grant’s proposals for future China trade:

….. the increase in trade with China is due to opium. The supply has risen from 4,000 to 20,000 chests annually. Opium smoking is now endemic. The To Kwong Emperor’s eldest son recently died of an opium overdose though in other respects he led a respectable life.

The conduct of European opium traders has provided the Emperor with a bad impression of our character and all efforts to improve the relationship fail for this reason….”

Vol 7 No 2 – Tues 14th January 1834

Trade between the Company’s Bengal Presidency and the Far East:

This trade is almost entirely comprised of the export of opium to China and South East Asia. The value of opium exports to the Company in 1831 / 32 was 10,687,852 Sicca Rupees whereas in 1832 / 33 it was 9,555,815 Sicca Rupees. Whilst the value had reduced by 10%, the quantity increased 10% from 6,815 to 7,508 chests.

Bengal’s entire exports (including re-exports) for 1831 / 32 was 11,207,448 Sicca Rupees and for 1832 / 33 it was 9,762,511 Sicca Rupees. Opium accounted for 95% of the presidency’s exports in 1831 / 32 and last year (1832 / 33) it was nearly 98%.

Bengal imports are a mixture of metals (mainly silver), clothing and foods, some imported from China but actually originating all over the World e.g. Chilean copper.

Vol 7 No 5 – Tues 4th February 1834

The East India Company Charter Bill was discussed in the Commons in July 1833. The monopolies on salt, opium etc., were thought to be inimical with the new direction British trade is taking.

Charles Grant said the main aim of the bill is to separate the commercial and territorial functions of the Company. But to abolish taxes on salt and opium that produce £2,500,000 p a would take time.

Vol 7 No 15 – Tues 15th April 1834

Opium sales in China 1st April 1833 – 31st March 1834



Macau/NE coast

Sale proceeds














21,250 chests


Vol 7 No 25 – Tues 24th June 1834

Recent opium deliveries (consignee’s name in brackets):

Charles Forbes (Dents) 124 chests;

Lowjee Family (Dents) 333 chests;

Sylph (Dents) 762 chests;

Red Rover (Jardines) 824 chests;

Charlotte (Burjorjee Furdonjee) 297 chests;

Ruby (Whiteman) 155 chests.

Vol 7 No 25 – Tues 24th June 1834

Macau duty – Opium is taxed at 10¼% if brought in a Portuguese ship and 15¼% if brought in a foreign ship. All exports are duty-free.

Vol 7 No 27 – Tues 8th July 1834

Local news – The Canton authorities have arrested two rich Chinese involved in the opium trade. Chinese law does not require a search warrant to enter private premises – Chinese people do not consider their residences to be their castles like us. The entire wealth of the two men is confiscated, purportedly for donation to sufferers from the recent flooding.

Vol 7 No 48 – Tues 2nd December 1834

British Relations and Intercourse with China is a pamphlet published in London anonymously by ‘an American Merchant’ at about the time of Napier’s departure from that city for China. An excerpt:

….The enemy is not the Chinese people or even the junior officials, it is a small group of higher officials who maintain Manchu exclusiveness. Many of them have become opium smokers. We are unsure how much information reaches the Emperor or whether he is the author of policy. We can overcome this prejudiced group by disseminating truth – political, social and religious truth. That was how the Huns of northern Europe were civilised….”

Vol 7 No 50 – Tues 16th December 1834

A long and desperate action was fought in the Lyemun channel on 6th December between four government boats disguised as fishing trawlers, but each carrying 50 men and 6 large cannon, and a smuggling junk en route from Lintin back to Chuan Chow. (Lyemun Channel is the eastern entrance to Hong Kong harbour.)

The junk sustained damage with 9 killed and many missing. The battle continued for four hours which attests to the junk master’s skill as he was up against 200 men and 24 large cannon.

260 chests of opium were seized from the junk and were repurchased from the Customs officers. We suspect the ease of buy-back reveals that officials can no longer surrender seized opium to the government in such large quantities as it would excite comment, blame, public degradation of junior officers (and heavy extortion, even if it could be covered-up).

So much for law and justice in Canton.

Vol 7 No 52 – Tues 30th December 1834

We reproduce the Imperial Edict against the extortions of the Hong merchants. It contains important admissions that favour us. The To Kwong Emperor may finally recognise that Napier was ill-treated and that we have just cause to complain about the condition of the foreign trade.[96] The Hong merchants’ debts to us are not new. We doubt the Hongs have collectively ever been out of debt since their establishment. The Emperor however has been lead to assume these debts are the cause of Napier’s visit, from which he adduces our greed. He reproaches neither himself nor his Canton officials and solely blames the Hong merchants.

They might now reflect on their unauthorised stoppage of trade during Napier’s visit and their attempt to prolong it. We will not forget. We must make representations against the Consoo fund and the Hong merchants; we must claim a true tariff of duties and the plain regulations that the Governor is ordered to establish.

Imperial Edict, 3rd November:

Viceroy Loo has reported foreigners selling opium at Lintin. They have connected with Chinese dealers who distribute and wholesale on their behalf. Loo has instructed the warjunks to urge and compel the barbarians to leave and to prevent local boats from approaching their store ships and to seize those Chinese that smuggle.

Two cruisers should be anchored amongst the smuggling fleet to prevent native craft from approaching and interdict any meeting between barbarians and traitors. Any fast boats must immediately be seized. The civil and military officers on the rivers must control all the accesses to the country and patrol all night to make arrests and seizures.

Every opium smuggler must be caught.

The Customs houses must search for contraband more carefully. Anyone catching people evading the revenue will be rewarded. If they are negligent or corrupt they will be punished with their commanding officers.

The local officers must catch the people cooking opium.[97] Let the Hong merchants enquire. If any ship smuggles, it will be expelled; if all the ships smuggle, all will be expelled. Officials are not allowed to show the least indulgence to smugglers.

The barbarians love gain. Their smuggling has continued for years and they will not willingly relinquish it. After we drive them out, they will try to sneak back or redirect their efforts to other provinces. They must be strictly controlled by a cruising squadron outside and an alert guard within. Loo must make his plans to finally eliminate smuggling. Then he has fulfilled the duty of his office.

Vol 8 No 5 – Tues 3rd February 1835

Copy of a letter to the Editor of Chronica de Macau, 19th January 1835 (translated from Portuguese):

I am shocked by the hostility of the English at Canton in the petition to their King. This petition requests the King to insult, attack and injure China. China is the patriarch of monarchies; she does not follow the Machiavellian policies of European states in attacking each other without warning.[98]

The English are blinded by pride and forget the huge Chinese purchases of English manufactures. A small community of foreigners enrich themselves at Canton and many retire each year taking their fortunes back to England. They export a huge amount of Chinese silver each year. They smuggle 15,000 – 20,000 chests of opium into the country each year and occupy Chinese territory at Lintin and along the East Coast to do so.[99] The opium diminishes Chinese ability to till the soil and produce those valuable items which the whole world wants

These English are only concerned for their pride. They hinder God’s word being disseminated in China by tarring us all with the same brush. I sincerely hope William IV will not grant their requests.

Sgd Habakkuk.[100]

Vol 8 No 11 – Tues 17th March 1835

When rogues fall out:

There has been a battle between boats of the Nam Hoi Heen and Heung Shan Heen. The Nam Hoi Heen had agreed to protect smugglers for a fee of $6 per opium chest including the provision of his own boats for transport of goods to his side of the river.

His official coast guard boats are smaller than the ones he has built for smuggling. He was thus queried by the Heung Shan Heen whether he operated boats that were larger than the permitted size. He denied it.

The Heung Shan Heen then seized two of his large smuggling boats and they remain in custody.

Vol 8 No 13 – Tues 31st March 1835

When other rogues fall out:

The Sylph has grounded on the coral reef N E of Bintang Island on 30th January as she left Singapore. The safety of her cargo of 1,176 chests of opium is endangered.

General Average has been declared and agreed for the vessel and cargo. Dadabhoy Rustomjee, the consignee of the opium on the Sylph, has called a meeting at his house with Wm Jardine in the chair.

A letter from the Singapore agents to Dents was read. They had issued a new B/L which was examined. It was issued after the grounding and consigned the entire cargo to Capt Wallace (Master of the Sylph) or in his absence to Thomas Dent & Co and M/s Dadabhoy and Maneckjee Rustomjee.

It was agreed that M/s Dadabhoy and Maneckjee Rustomjee should organise a party of Chinese brokers to visit Lintin, where the cargo has been brought for storage, to examine it.

Mr Inglis (Dent’s representative), Capt Wallace and M/s Dadabhoy and Maneckjee Rustomjee all wished to act on the renewed B/L as it was issued at Singapore for the benefit of all concerned.

The other attendees considered it an illegal and unenforceable B/L. They held that after Wallace landed the cargo at Singapore from the wreck, he should have taken sole charge of it and liaised with the consignees in China to arrange delivery, as the shipping marks had been obliterated by water. Under the new B/L the cargo is to be delivered, not to the original consignees, but to Wallace who had appointed the Dents and Rustomjees as his agents.

Wallace only agreed to deliver to original consignees in return for surrender of the original B/L’s and an undertaking to hold him harmless.

The Rustomjees dissented from this, considering that the renewed B/L made them consignees of the entire cargo while the original Bills only gave them title to that part of it which they in fact owned.

M/s Jardine, Turner and Gibb all protested against the two Rustomjees and warned Wallace that he was involved in an illegal act. Wallace reiterated his intention to proceed under the new Bills and he would auction the opium as soon as possible. The majority of cargo owners noted their Protests to this. Rustomjee explained that his objection to delivering to the original Bill holders was founded on the fact that his consignment was of old opium and thus more valuable than the other consignments, which were of new opium. It was proposed to sort the opium to address this objection but it was not agreed.

Other consignees at Macau were unrepresented throughout.

Vol 8 No 17 – Tues 28th April 1835

On Friday and Saturday 1st and 2nd May a public auction will be held at Lintin for the sale of 100 – 400 chests of the water-damaged opium ex Sylph. A further quantity will be offered for public sale on 15th May.

Bidders will deposit $50 per chest as earnest money, balance to be settled within seven days or forfeit the deposit.

Buyers are allowed 14 days to remove their purchases after which time rent will be payable for storage.

Further particulars from Dent & Co at Canton, Captain Crockett at Lintin or Markwick in Macau.

Vol 8 No 17 – Tues 28th April 1835

At the beginning of this month a tea merchant from Amoy was travelling to the Bohea Hills (Mo Lay Shan) to sell opium. During the journey he severely scolded his servant who, resenting this discipline and knowing the whereabouts of the contraband, reported it to the Customs officers at Nam Heung Chow.

He brought them to the boat for examination and they discovered 100 balls of ‘white skin’ (Malwa). The tea merchant was arrested and the opium seized and he had to pay $1,000 to police to avoid prosecution. The servant ran away.

Vol 8 No 20 – Tues 19th May 1835

Letter to the Editor – The sea current around Lintin is 6 knots. Today two men in a boat transacting an opium purchase were thrown against another bigger boat, injured and frightened.

Lintin is not the place to trans-ship silver and opium. We should remove to Hong Kong or Kum Sing Mun which both have perfect harbours.

Sgd A Sufferer

Editor – this accident occurred last Friday. It is a matter that our insurance offices should attend to as they ultimately carry the risk. Lintin is unsafe at all times and trans-shipping cargo is impossible in heavy weather. As the contraband trade is likely to increase we should select a better anchorage.[101]

Vol 8 No 21 – Tues 26th May 1835

The report of an opium seizure in Lyemun passage that we mentioned in our edition of 16th December 1834 is now recited in the Canton Government Gazette.

The Emperor has been told that Leung Heen Nee had 14,000 catties of opium (c. 140 chests) when he was seized. Four of his men were killed and 26 captured alive.

Tien Poo, the Che Heen of Heung Shan, is promoted to Che Chow. Chang Ke Kwan, who is waiting to be appointed a Heen Shing or Tso Tong is moved to the head of the waiting list. Tsin Yu Tsang, the Heung Shan Heen gets a peacock’s feather.

(NB – Heung Shan officials made this seizure in the area of Nam Hoi / Si Ngon jurisdiction – its a turf war. Note also that the Editor’s insulting guess that the opium was bought-back is wrong)

Vol 8 No 23 – Tues 9th June 1835

4th June – 3 ambassadors from Thailand, who arrived last autumn, returned from the north to Canton this morning and embarked for their ship from the To Lan Pu Tau (the steps in front of the Company’s factory). Each was in a chair carried by four bearers.

They have been awarded one crystal and two blue buttons by the Emperor. Their interpreter received a gold button and was carried in a chair by two bearers. He carried the Imperial proclamation.

Cantonese observers noted that at least two of the tributaries were opium smokers – their servants following the chairs were seen to be carrying smoking paraphernalia.

The Cantonese expressed shock at this contempt for the law; “We never smoke publicly, always in private” they say.

Vol 8 No 23 – Tues 9th June 1835

An opium clipper to be called the Lady Grant has been built at Bombay. It weighs 267 tons is 106 feet long and the hold is 12 feet deep. She is copied from the Baltimore schooner design.

Vol 8 No 24 – Tues 16th June 1835

Notes on Bokhara (excerpt):

Bokhari trade with Persia is small due to religious differences and the lawlessness of the trade route via Mershid between them.

Kerman shawls and Tabriz opium are the main imports to Bokhara and the latter is re-exported to China. Persian opium sells for 5 Tillas per maund at Yarkand and Kashgar.[102]

Vol 8 No 34 – Tues 25th August 1835

Poon, the Kwangchow Foo, has published an Edict for information:

Yau Kiu and Ko Kwan are notorious opium dealers. Their names have been reported to the Emperor.

I now offer $5,000 for the delivery to me of Yau Kiu and $3,000 for Ko Kwan.

If the criminals surrender themselves they will receive indulgence.

Vol 8 No 34 – Tues 25th August 1835

Canton Register Editorial:

The India Company offers the best rates of exchange (208-206 as against 204 locally). The value of the opium monopoly is increased by cheap exchange. The speculator trades to the extent of three times his capital (i.e. he can receive financing to triple his capital).

These are inducements to over-trading.

The Company, instead of trading directly, appoints agents in China and finances them to trade on its behalf. This may be advantageous to the Company and to India for a while but are British manufacturers to be told there is no demand for their goods in China because the Chinese prefer Company silver?[103]

Vol 8 No 36 – Tues 8th September 1835

Observations of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce on the Company Bills business in India and China. This takes a view based on bilateral trade Britain / China:

A sovereign power should not compete with individuals in trade. This principle has been acknowledged in our law. The Company makes advances, secured on Calcutta goods, consigned to Leadenhall Street (the Company head office). The rate of exchange is disproportionate to existing rates in London.

Now they have established a Finance Committee at Canton to effect exchange operations there. They might soon do so in Manila, Batavia and other foreign countries. The China trade is essentially a barter trade but the Company’s cash advances produce an excess of capital in Canton which enhances the prices of goods bought by us to the advantage of the Chinese sellers and to the disadvantage of the British manufacturer.

The Chinese trader has historically bartered his goods for ours. Now he is getting money for his goods he does not have to buy ours, which value is accordingly reduced.

Prior to starting the Bills business in China last August (1834) the exchange rate on London was 4/10d – 5/0d per Spanish dollar and on Bengal was 204 Sicca Rupees per $100. By October the Company was advertising funds at 4/7d per dollar thus making the Bengal exchange rate 208 Sicca Rupees per $100. This caused the value of money in London to advance from 5½% to 7¼% and in Bengal to increase by about 2%. Silk in August was $335 per picul but by October it was $380 per picul (+11%) at a time when the harvest was abundant and the prices should have been falling. Tea is equally affected while selling prices of British manufactures for China have concurrently decreased by 25%.

Some of the Finance Committee in China are the sons of Company directors (e.g. John Harvey Astell and Thomas Charles Smith).

The ready availability of cheap money in China will increase speculation and cause recklessness. We would willingly invest in Bills business in China if the Company withdrew. The interests of India should be made compatible with the interests of England. As so much of the Company revenue must be remitted to England, the correct course would be to open the treasury at Leadenhall Street and close those in India and China. This will enable the company to receive what it needs here without interfering with trade.

When London issues Bills on Bengal they are invariably 60 days Sight Bills. These Bills arrive in India about 4½ months after they are drawn. They are paid in India about 6½ months after they are drawn in London. When Bengal issues Bills (on London) they are paid about 12 months later. This means the turnaround takes about 19 months. Most of the company’s debt is issued at 5% per annum. These bills accordingly cost about 8% plus the expenses of operating the agencies in India and China, say 2%. This halves the value of the Sicca Rupee in London (i.e. the equivalent to a Calcutta rate on London at 12 months of 2/1d per Sicca Rupee becomes in London 1/1½d per Sicca Rupee.)

In December 1833 the Company opened its Calcutta treasury for advances secured on goods consigned to Leadenhall Street at 2/1d per sicca rupee. At that time the London treasury was issuing Bills on Calcutta at 2/- per sicca rupee. The corresponding price here should have been about 1/10½d per sicca rupee but they in fact increased it to 2/1d, about 10% above what it should have been in consideration of their own prices in Calcutta. This naturally deterred investors from paying money into Leadenhall Street.

This can be solved by London issuing Bills on India at the fair rate and by completely closing the Bills business in India and China. When the treasury in China is closed, traders can apply in London for Bills on Bengal and Bombay which will allow them to place funds in China for tea and silk. British imports from China greatly exceed the value of our exports of manufactures and metals. Thus these bills will be highly sought after in China to make remittance to India of the trade balance drawn annually from China to India for cotton and opium. But while the Company funds the China trade at Canton, the exchange rate fluctuates following the company’s own interests and private capital is deterred from competing.

Vol 8 No 38 – Tues 22nd September 1835

Local news – The new criminal judge Wang is continuing his night patrols and discovering more gambling and opium dens. He recently entered a divan at Shu Kea finding one of the Nam Hoi Heen’s messengers in flagrante delicto. Wang immediately had 15 strokes of the bamboo administered. This has caused the police runners to take care when extorting from criminals and the keepers of opium and gambling dens are afraid to open for business.

Vol 8 No 42 – Tues 20th October 1835

On 16th October a report circulated Canton that the youngest son of our late Viceroy Loo left Canton in 7th moon for Shantung (the family’s native province) carrying several hundred balls of opium in his baggage.

It was anecdotally said to be part of the opium seized by the Tei Tuk in 5th and 6th moons.

The nature of young Loo’s secret cargo became known. 100 robbers collected on the river at Sam Shui, on the border with Nam Hoi, to plunder him. They escaped with over 100 balls and some money and clothes, etc.

A report has been made but the opium cannot be mentioned in it. Not one of the thieves has been arrested.

Vol 8 No 43 – Tues 27th October 1835

Local news – On 19th October a runner at the Lin Shing Street Customs House received information that a ferry boat going up to Shiu Kwan was smuggling opium. He stopped the boat off Chow To Tsui, Honam Island and, after a fight, managed to seize 27 balls of opium.

Vol 8 No 44 – Tues 3rd November 1835

British Trade at Canton in Spanish Dollars, 1st April 1834 – 31st March 1835

Imports to China

Broad cloth

Bengal cotton

Bombay cotton

Madras cotton


Long ells


Patna opium

Benares opium

Malwa opium


Total imports















Black tea

Green tea

Nanking raw silk

Canton raw silk

Silk piecegoods



Profits –  dollars

– Sycee

– Gold

75 ship fees W’poa

rice ships & at Lintin


Total exports

















(NB – the reference to fees payable to China on shipping at Lintin is at the rate of $1,500 per ship, same as rice ships, but is not further elucidated. There is a magistrate of Si Ngon county responsible for and based at Lintin who collects fees there.)

Vol 8 No 45 – 10th November 1835

Letter to the Editor, 9th November 1835 – Why have you not mentioned the huge quantity of bad Malwa that we have received from Damaun and Bombay this year.

The Bombay supply is shipped under the signed passes of the Company’s regular inspectors. I estimate that half the total supply is tainted.

Every Malwa consignee has been defrauded this year. I am not speaking of soft or ill-shapen balls, but contaminants mixed in to bulk-up the opium.

The Bombay surveyors have certified thousands of chests of this rubbish.

Sgd A Consignee.

Editor – we know who the author of this letter is. He knows what he is talking about.[104]

Vol 8 No 51 – 22nd December 1835

Wang Tsing Leen, the criminal judge of Kwang Tung, has struck another blow for the law. He was doing his usual patrols in disguise on the night of 18th December when he passed the house of Leung Tai, one of the Nam Hoi Heen’s runners, in Magan Street and heard the sounds of dice being played inside.

He entered, seized four men, had ten blows administered to each and released them. The Nam Hoi Heen was alerted and attended the judge but was dismissed. Before leaving, the Heen directed several of his men to follow the judge and attempt some damage control.

The Judge continued to Kei Yun Lee Street where he found an opium divan. Four soldiers and two local residents were smoking inside and reportedly talking coincidentally about the Judge. He entered and seized them but the soldiers resisted and fought back with their fists, thinking to escape in the confusion. The Nam Hoi Heen’s men outside came in and supported the judge by subduing the occupants. The two locals got 200 blows each on the spot while the four soldiers were sent to the Manchu-General for discipline. He struck them off the roll and returned them (as civilians) to the judge for trial.

Vol 9 No 2 – Tuesday 12th January 1836

On 4th January 1836 the Heung Shan Heen caught another smuggling boat, seized its opium cargo and arrested ten of its crew. They have been sent to Canton for trial.

Vol 9 No 2 – Tuesday 12th January 1836

Notes on the smuggling trade with China, extracted from the evidence of Capt John Mackie to the House of Commons Select Committee, 1830:

(Editor’s note – Mackie was the commander of the Spanish ship San Sebastian in which James Matheson attempted his first smuggling venture on the east coast. The Company grows opium for the Chinese but it relies on the free trade to provide the shipping and commercial system to deliver it. Matheson found the Company’s supercargoes unwilling to protect him. He adopted consular cover for his security.[105] Capt Mackie protected himself by sailing under Spanish colours (Spain’s old trade with Amoy has been abandoned but the Chinese authorisation of Spanish trade at that port was still valid).

On 6th May 1830, the Select Committee examined Mackie on the forced trade in which he had been successfully engaged. A large body of Company directors and shareholders who were MPs through control of proprietary boroughs were represented on the Select Committee, but, in spite of legal trickery and fluff, Mackie knew his subject and gave a clear statement.)

Mackie’s statement:

Foreign trade used to be carried on at three or four ports but is now restricted by the Chinese to Canton except for the Spanish who have a right of trade at Amoy (which they never use). The Spanish gave up their Amoy trade thirty years ago as the Fukien junks go to Manila and get the goods more cheaply from the Chinese community there than the Spanish can provide themselves.

A contraband trade in opium has commenced and is carried on openly without disturbance by the authorities.

I resided in India from 1820 – 1829 and commanded a Spanish ship providing mainly opium and some saltpetre to China. The ship was Spanish but the cargo was wholly English. I visited Amoy and all the ports between there and Canton. I used to lay off Namoa,[106] 300 miles N E of Canton, where the harbour provides as good shelter as Canton. It is 15 miles from the large city of Ta Ho. My trade was not approved by the Chinese government but was carried on openly, the same as at Lintin. I never had any difficulties. The Chinese merchants with whom I dealt did not come from any particular place – some were from Amoy, others from Ta Ho and Namoa, some from the inland towns. I got better prices for both opium and saltpetre at Namoa than I could get at Lintin, at least $100 per chest more for opium and $3 per picul more for saltpetre.

After my first voyage I brought back $80,000 in silver coin and sycee. My second voyage took 8 weeks between leaving and returning to Lintin of which 18 days were sufficient to dispose of my entire cargo. I sold only for silver dollars or sycee as that was the instructions of James Matheson. This second voyage produced $132,000 in coins and sycee. I could have taken return cargoes of sugar, tea, cassia, tortoiseshell, nankeens or whatever else was available. It would not have been difficult.

Most of the goods sent to Canton for trade are sent by sea. There are always many large junks on the coast. I have seen tea junks sailing from Amoy to Canton with over 200 tons of tea aboard each. I used the junks to deliver my letters to Canton and their mail service was reliable. One of the merchants on a junk invited me to visit him at his house in Canton.

I think I could have sold other things apart from opium and saltpetre – things like woollens (long ells, broadcloth, camlets and blankets), a little iron and watches that are in ready demand all along the coast. I never paid duty on my sales or port charges but I heard my opium buyers had to pay the officials $20 per chest. I never received any interference from Chinese government officials. Occasionally I was asked to shift location because a senior officer was coming and I always did so but came back after 1-2 days.

While trading I would go ashore every day, wherever my ship happened to be, and I was never ill-treated. On the contrary I was wined and dined and treated civilly. The furthest I penetrated from the coast was about 7 miles. I felt I could have gone further had there been any purpose in so doing. I have visited Amoy and Kesiak whilst ashore but Ta Ho was further inland. Kesiak is about 150 miles from Canton and is a large town with a fine harbour. It has a huge coasting trade…..

Continued in Vol 9 No 3 ….

….. All the Chinese I met were inclined to buy anything useful. They are not against commerce; nor are they against foreigners – they are very friendly, particularly in the northern provinces. I knew several British ships from Calcutta that were also smuggling opium at the same time. The Merope, Valetta, Eugenia, Jamesina and Dhaule were trading to Taiwan and Ningpo. One of these ships went to Amoy but could do nothing. The Merope also touched there but knew she could not trade in opium (i.e. the Spanish registration was fundamental in making Amoy trade permissible).

I frequently communicated with the ships’ officers, particularly the Merope which was in the same Agency that I was. The commanders had the same ease of trade that I had but I was luckier because I started earlier than they. Some American ships also go along the coast but I believe they mainly operate on British account. The American merchants themselves seem not to engage in the opium trade.

I had a crew of about 40 men. 10-20 were Englishmen and the rest Indians and Filipinos. I employed one Spaniard to represent the flag. The Merope had 10-12 Englishmen aboard. The other ships had Englishmen aboard too, at least 6 seacunnies. The Englishmen on San Sebastian landed frequently to trade with the Chinese. There were never any disputes. I understood the other ships had the same good experience. We all had large crews as we had valuable cargo. The coast was largely undefended. I usually saw soldiers only in the train of officials. There could be up to 500 of them. They wear red calico jackets, a large rattan hat and wooden-soled shoes. They are armed with matchlocks, spears and bows & arrows. I frequently entered the forts. They were generally dilapidated. The cannon were often ‘honeycombed’ and likely dangerous to fire. They could only fire straight out and could not be traversed. I saw about 45 men in each of the forts I visited.

Many Chinese wear British cloth and carry English watches and telescopes. They often have two watches, in case one ‘goes to sleep’. These watches are generally English with a few French makes but the watchmakers in Canton cannot repair French watches so they are less popular. The common people all wear blue cotton clothes – they are manufactured in every village on simple looms. The women spin the cotton by hand. There is no other machinery except simple weaving looms. The Chinese cottons are better than English but much more expensive. I expect, if trade was open, that the cheap English cottons would supplant the Chinese varieties.

After 1825 my ship San Sebastian became a depot (receiving) ship at Lintin. Then in 1828 I spent five months in Macau and Canton. The ships in the coastal opium trade were still the same. Some also became depot ships at Lintin. The last time that I personally know of a ship delivering a cargo on the coast was in 1828.

The depot ships carry on the smuggling trade at Lintin. There is no lawful trade there. The officials visit once or twice a year and before they came we would be warned to shift berths. We did so as a favour to them. Once we were told that it was all clear we would go back. Apart from English and American ships trading on the coast, there was my Spanish ship and sometimes a Portuguese.

I made no strict regulations for my crew. They went ashore whenever they pleased. No disturbance resulted. I understood the other captains had the same experience.

I usually went aboard the Merope when I saw her. She was commanded by Lieutenant Parkyns of the Royal Navy. The country ships generally have Lascar seacunnies but on the opium ships we needed a more efficient crew and always had a few Englishmen.

I did not require a license from the Company for trade to China. My ship owner was the Spanish Consul at Canton and he licensed my trade. Saltpetre is not precisely a prohibited article of trade – it is permitted provided it is sold to government as it is used to make fireworks and gunpowder but the outside men invariably paid a better price so we sold to them.

Amoy has a considerable foreign trade with Singapore and Manila but it is all done in Chinese junks. They are about 500-600 tons each. They take crockery and tea to Singapore and bring back sandalwood and opium. When my ship was a depot ship, I often received crockery, glass, woollens and hardware from Birmingham for storage. These were all smuggled up to Canton for sale. “Another thing that the Chinese buy is leather – opium chests are covered with sheep skin and there was always a strong demand for them.”

Vol 9 No 3 – 19th January 1836

Letter to the Editor – Fraud by the Bombay merchants and negligence of the inspectors have conspired to make this season’s Malwa very inferior.

I attach six certificates covering part of a shipment I have just taken delivery of at Lintin. The rest of the shipment was mostly as bad. All the chests were classified as ‘first sort’.

Sgd Delta

Editor – the certificates have been examined by Canton Register and are all for ‘first sort’ and all dated 5th February 1835. The numbers are 79 and 183 – 187[107]

Vol 9 No 4 – 26th January 1836

Peking Gazettes:

  • A censor has reported concerning the enforcement of law against foreigners. He requests the Viceroy at Canton be directed to have the naval commander discipline the Tai Yu Shan (Lantau Island) squadron responsible for Lintin. Fast crabs communicate easily with the opium furnaces (for refining raw opium) ashore. This should not be permitted.
    The Emperor, on reading this, directs the Viceroy, Governor and Manchu General to ensure the troops are strictly disciplined.
  • Secondly, the Customs Houses of Kiangsi use the pretence of searching for opium to disturb genuine merchants and extort from them.
    The Viceroy and Foo Yuen will investigate. If the honest merchants are troubled, severe measures should follow. Respect this.

Vol 9 No 5 – Tues 2nd February 1836

Last Wednesday a large government cruiser tied up at the jetty at the end of Hog Lane and discharged over 100 camlets, 4 chests of opium and some other foreign goods which they had seized from a smuggler at Ting Mun.

Vol 9 No 7 – 16th February 1836

Bengal opium:

The first auction of the year on 4th January sold 4,500 chests of Patna at average 1,255 Sicca Rupees and 2,000 chests of Benares at average 1,222 Sicca Rupees.

Production for the season 1835 / 36 is fixed at 9,900 chests Patna and 5,400 chest Benares = 15,300 chests. Last year’s harvest was 12,977 chests. Future auction sales this year will be on 18th February, 30th March and 19 April.

The Bengal Hurkuru of 6th January says “The report that the Indian Government intends to provide advances for opium purchases will encourage speculation and drive up prices unrelated to consumption in the China market. There is nothing in the information from China to warrant the prices obtained on 4th January. Actual quotations from China would not cover the prime cost here and the market is supposedly falling. Capital is certainly abundant and Indian speculation has not diminished. There is a commercial infatuation with opium which is inexplicable.

Editor – the unprecedented rise in the price of Chinese exports from Canton and now Indian opium in Calcutta both reflect the activities of the Leadenhall Street gang (the financial operatives of the East India Company).

Commerce is being made unwholesome by their avaricious conduct. Lord Wm Bentinck, late head of the Bengal Government, was published in The Englishman on 7th January saying the Company “endeavours to maintain order … promote happiness … improve the condition of the people and uphold its own honour and character”

If that was really the case, the company must soon seriously consider abandoning its monopolies on salt and opium. The new generation will not tolerate a continuation of the government of their fathers’ time.

Vol 9 No 7 – 16th February 1836

Extract of editorial:

…… the Canton Press in its latest issue says even if we had Chinese agreement to a commercial treaty, the smuggling trade will continue because it is based on opium and that commodity will remain illegal.

We (the Canton Register Editor John Slade) say in respect of opium, the government of Great Britain encourages us to evade Chinese law. It is disgraceful to both the national character and to the government. It is indefensible but it may be excused. A good man observes the law; a law-breaker cannot be a good man. If Britain wants to stop her merchants systematically breaking the law of China she should adopt a line of conduct that preserves her from disgrace.,,,,,

Vol 9 No 7 – 16th February 1836

Last Friday the new Viceroy Tang Ting Ching arrived in Canton. He has come direct from Anhwei without visiting his family. This haste is reportedly to ensure he partakes in the New Year presents (tomorrow is Lunar New Year Day).

The day after his arrival he called in the two Heen magistrates and told them gambling will in future be strictly forbidden.[108]

Vol 9 No 7 – 16th February 1836

In 1685 the Hong Hei Emperor permitted foreigners to trade at all His ports. In 1717 He limited foreign trade to Canton. In 1757 trade was again limited to Canton. This flexibility therefore makes it conceivable that the To Kwong Emperor might at some future time reopen Chinese ports to foreign trade. This is something Britain already does. Chinese junks from Fukien and Chekiang trade freely at Singapore, Malacca and Penang and are welcome in India, England and any British colonies, should they chose to come.[109]

China cannot ask England to prevent opium smuggling. Its tantamount to placing China under British protection. China must herself prevent the opium trade. England does not seek to interfere in the internal administration of China. She seeks free trade at all the ports and wants her nationals accorded the usual decencies.

The Government of India thinks it becoming to produce opium at a profit for sale in China where it is proscribed. It relies on the free traders here to smuggle it across the border. When the opium monopoly is ended and its cultivation neither encouraged nor forbidden, it is unlikely that private speculators could produce the quantities that the Company produces. The foreign trade of China would then become somewhat more respectable and the principled Chinese argument for insulting and denigrating us would be diminished. There is a real British interest in China trade and we should place it on the strong foundations of national power and good faith.

Vol 9 No 9 – Tuesday 1st March 1836

Poppy cultivation and opium preparation are managed by government agents in the two districts of Bihar and Benares. Cultivation is managed by contract and cultivators are thus tempted by advances of money to allocate fields to its growth. Anyone can grow it but everyone must sell to the government at fixed prices. The value to the farmer is tiny compared with the prices at auction. This deprives the farmer of much of his chance for spectacular profit but also removes all possibility of loss.

Vol 9 No 9 – Tuesday 1st March 1836

Bengal Herald Editorial, 3rd January:

The opium trade has historically been financed by advances from private capitalists. It combines immense profit with security. Apart from trading profit, the investing capitalist receives interest on the advances and profits from differences in exchange rates.

The India Company is now considering to participate in this business and provide its own capital for investment in opium to China. This will hurt the private capitalists but what effect might it have on the rest of us?

Government will doubtless profit from the proposal. It has to make large remittances to London to pay dividends and pensions, buy stores and pay for the upkeep of its home establishment.

Opium advances will make that easier.

Bills issued in India for opium investments will be paid in China on sale of the Drug and provide funds for Bills issued in China on tea purchased for England by the free trade. These will be paid-off by the free trade in London on sale of the tea. It looks like a safe and easy way of remitting money to England without breaking the proscription on Company trading. The India government already derives an immense profit from opium at auction. This proposed extension of government involvement will increase that. It is estimated the government will receive an additional 800,000 – 1,000,000 Rupees annually from the funding operation.

It is also likely to introduce many new speculators into the opium market, create more competition, stimulate the trade and increase its profitability (to the Company, by increasing the price of opium at auction). Right now the payment of dividends in London is draining the Company’s resources in India. Entry into the opium trade will avoid or at least delay the implementation of new Indian taxes.

In free countries where the people tax themselves through their representatives, the imposition is not so galling but Indians have no share in their government and pay tax without knowing where it goes. Taxes in India are accordingly more obnoxious than in a democracy. If they can be minimised it would be a joyful benefit.

A second advantage will derive from the stimulus to opium production that cheaper capital will provide. It will increase employment in the poppy farming districts and throughout the marketing and distribution of the Drug. Thus the people of China will be made to pay the people of India by saving them from new taxes and providing them with greater employment opportunities.

These are important considerations.

But there are also disadvantages. The Drug, exported legally from India, is smuggled into China. This makes it morally indefensible even for private speculators. In England we consider smuggling criminal and punish it severely for government revenue is the mainspring of government power; in China we encourage and participate in smuggling to the extent of opium’s now flourishing demand.

Hitherto, the Indian government has been only indirectly involved. It sells opium in Calcutta and asks no questions about its disposal. If it now begins to finance the trade, its position becomes more prominent. The Company will be clearly linked to Lintin by its Bills and can no longer aver that it did not clearly know how the Drug was disposed of.

Does the immoral act of a government do harm to a country? The relationship of a government to its people is like a father and his family. The family look on the father as a model and imitate him. If the Bengal government trafficks in opium the people will not become more upstanding and moral as a result. Contrarily the government has spent money on education, one of which aims is to increase morality. Precept when not supported by example has no effect. The offer of finance for opium speculations will, we think, tend to diminish goodness and enhance evil.[110]

Before the administration of Marquis Wellesley, the Indian civil service was underpaid and endless abuses occurred. Wellesley increased the pay of British civil servants but left the pay of Indians untouched. Effectively he pushed the abuses a step further away, leaving the Indians to emulate the venality of their former superiors.

But the Indian people live largely in ignorance of the outside world and care only for village matters. In the main, they will be insulated from contamination by the evil example we speak of – “where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise.”

It is that tiny minority of educated Indians who will be injured by this proposed bad example. These are the people who will form the flower of the country in future years, whose morality will be mirrored by their followers.

Should we worry?

There are thousands of examples in the annals of the Company of compromise between principle and expediency. But what is an extra million Rupees a year compared with popular morality?

These are the issues that the government must consider.

Vol 9 No 10 – 8th March 1836

Canton Register Editorial on the ‘splendid’ Bengal Herald Editorial published last week:

The Bengal Herald has ably identified the advantages and disadvantages of the India Company’s involvement in opium financing. The fact is that the proposal is wrong in principle – commercially, politically and morally.

The Company need only request cash in London in return for Bills on India to obtain the full amount necessary for its dividends, etc.

The British government should force the Company to do so and supervise the rate of exchange they give to ensure they do not artificially reduce the demand. Why abandon all principle to make the exchange rate favourable to the Company? The mere rumour that government was considering financing opium has pushed prices up.

Here in China the Company’s advances paid on our tea and silk purchases for export has greatly increased the prices of those commodities. It is the British consumer who pays to swell the coffers of Leadenhall Street. The Company’s Agent in China makes a profit but his constituents lose money. They are invited to speculate at greater risk.

How is the system to work?

The Company’s agent in China will become a major holder and seller of opium. The money he receives from sales of opium and Bills will be advanced for purchases of tea. The free trader will be forced to compete. The Company is a sovereign monopoly – it should not compete with private individuals.

Vol 9 No 10 – 8th March 1836

Editorial – The Canton Press defends the Company’s Bills agency in China and its advances on goods bought here. It also says that advancing money in Calcutta to buy opium which will be repaid in China is not trade. It says the Company, as financier, will only run the risk of the ocean voyage, the market in China and the financial integrity of the people it lends to. Of course! That is precisely trade.

Vol 9 No 11 – Tues 15th March 1836

Parliamentary Report on East India Trade, 1833:

The Company gets £2 millions in annual revenue from its opium monopoly. It regulates the area of land used for opium cultivation by fixing the amount paid to the ryot (farmer) for his production.

In 1824 when the company sought to increase production it increased payment to the ryot but it was fearful the zemindar (the traditional intermediary in the Mughal land system) would increase rent proportionately for farming that land. It then legislated to proscribe higher rents.

Because of the great difference between what the Company pays the farmer and what the opium is worth in the open market, there was and is a vibrant smuggling trade which the Indian government, through its Bengal Presidency, is unable to control.[111]

It also cannot regulate production in the native states and it has responded to this latter threat by admitting native opium into British India on payment of duty.

Vol 9 No 11 – Tues 15th March 1836

Calcutta Courier – Now the China trade is more free we should have opium auctions spread over the entire year. The big opium speculators prefer fewer auctions so they can more easily predict the market. Their enhanced profit is the government’s loss.

Vol 9 No 11 – Tues 15th March 1836

New Portuguese Regulations for Macau Customs, promulgated 27th February 1836, inter alia:

  • All imports including opium (but excluding other Asian produce) will be landed on deposit of 1½% of invoice value, excluding godown storage fee (2¢ per cu ft per month) and coolie hire (2¢ per picul or 3¢ per package). Goods will be inspected.
  • Macau ships may load opium in Bombay and Calcutta either for deposit in Macau or transhipment outside Macau
  • Opium in foreign ships will be accepted on payment of deposit.
  • All opium landed pays $5 per chest. If consumed in Macau it also pays the local duty less the $5 per chest.
  • Opium re-exported to receiving ships must leave in the same chests it arrived, subject always to Customs House approval.
  • No other charges will apply

These regulations are provisional for one year in the first instance.

Vol 9 No 13 – Tues 29th March 1836

In an article about the appearance of Peking, a recent newspaper notes the house in which Lord Macartney and his embassy stayed had been built by a former Canton Hoppo who was said to have spent the equivalent of £100,000 on the structure.

The same paper notes the To Kwong Emperor is 50+ years old and suggests he is in a weakened physical state from opium addiction.

Vol 9 No 16 – Tuesday 19th April 1836

Letter to the Editor of the Singapore Free Press describing the Company’s administration of its opium monopoly:

The opium monopoly of the Indian government produces a large revenue. Private cultivation is prohibited beyond half a beegah (a Bengal beegah is one third of an acre) but the law is seldom enforced because of the expense of raising a crop. All sale of opium in India except to the Company is illegal. Apart from the Portuguese / Parsee trade on the West coast, all other opium business is done by the Company.

The cultivation of opium is more or less compulsory on the Bengal ryot. Cash advances are made by government through its local officials and they pay the ryot. If a ryot declines the advance and tries to withdraw from opium farming, the officials have been known to throw the money into his hut; if he tries to run away the officials chase him, insert the money in his dhoti and push him back into his house. Once his agreement is thus obtained he must perform his contract.

In Patna they enclose the poppy field in a stout fence. The ryot ploughs the field repeatedly until it is reduced to a fine tilth and all weeds and grasses are removed. He then digs a well about ten feet deep at the highest point in the field to expose the ground water. He builds a bamboo support above this well and uses a leather bucket to draw water. The field is then divided by numerous small dykes along the top of which this water is introduced to irrigate every part of the field.

This is necessary because opium cultivation is done in the dry season – the seed is sown in November and harvested in February and March. The ryot and his family tend the crop with twice daily waterings and constant removal of weeds. The seeds sprout and the stems reach about 2½ – 3 feet in height; then the bud forms. The flowers are mainly white streaked with purple.

As soon as the capsule has fully formed under the flower it is incised using the half shell of a freshwater mussel that is ubiquitous in the region. This is women’s work and the ryot’s wife and children do it. The raw poppy sap exudes from the cut and is scooped up with the same half shell. The capsule is cut daily until it changes colour from green to white when it is said to be exhausted and no more raw opium can be extracted. The ryot then delivers his harvest to the official collecting station and receives 3½ Rupees for each seer (2 lbs). An acre of good land will yield 10 seers of raw opium so the ryot can earn 35 Rupees gross for five months work. Sgd G

Vol 9 No 28 – Tuesday 12th July 1836

Hsu Nai Tsi (Cantonese Hui Lai Jai) of the Tai Chang Court reports that the increased severity of prohibitions against opium appear to have only spread the habit wider:

I urgently request the Emperor to consider a change of policy. Secret orders should be issued for a true examination into the matter. Opium was originally an item in our materia medica – it stops diarrhoea.

Lee She Chin in the Ming dynasty called it Hoo Foo Yung in his Pun Chao Kang Muh (general account of plants – the name hoo foo yung is a transliteration of the Arabic name) but if it is eaten repeatedly it becomes sheung yan (addictive) and the user must continue to eat it. He forgets time. It weakens the breath and dries the body. The face becomes white, the teeth black. Users recognise the effects but none can stop eating it. Thus the prohibitions must be the severest to stop the practice.

I have examined and found there are three types of opium – Company opium is dark and called ‘black mud’. It comes from Bengal. ‘White skin’ opium comes from Bombay and ‘red skin’ comes from Madras.[112] All these places are colonies of England.

In the Kien Lung Emperor’s time opium was classified as a medicinal plant and admitted to China on payment of duty of 3 taels per picul plus further charges totalling 2 taels 4 mace and 5 candareens per picul. Later it was prohibited. In the 1st year of the Ka Hing Emperor opium-users were flogged and cangued. Today they are banished for years or imprisoned pending for the Imperial will or strangled, yet their numbers continue to increase.

In the Kien Lung Emperor’s time, opium was brought into port and bartered for tea and other goods. Since the strict prohibitions commenced, no-one dares openly barter it and it is all bought for silver secretly.

In the Ka Hing Emperor’s time several hundred chests arrived annually. Now over 20,000 chests are imported annually. Each chest contains 100 catties. The ‘black mud’ is best at $800 per chest; ‘white skin’ is $600 and ‘red skin’ about $400. The import now costs $20 millions a year.

Formerly the foreigners brought silver to trade; now they take silver away.

We have enjoyed peace, satisfaction, abundance and wealth for two centuries due to Ching Imperial moderation and economy. Thus gold and silver became cheap and a tael of fine silver was worth 1,000 copper cash. But for several years lately the rate has changed to 1,200 or 1,300 cash per tael.

The Imperial tax on salt is collected in copper cash but the receipts must be remitted to Peking in silver at the fixed rate of 1,000 cash per tael. The salt merchants have to make good the deficiency caused by the rising value of silver.[113] Now managing the salt duties throughout the Empire has become difficult. How can the wealth of the celestial Empire so easily flow into the bottomless pockets of the barbarians? But, if we cut-off the barbarians from trade, we must be willing to lose the money they pay in duty.

Foreigners have been coming to China to trade for a millennia and this is the first time they have swung the balance of trade in their favour. It is only the English who bring opium yet we cannot exclude them. Still less can we exclude all the other nations. We have a huge population along the coast which depends on trade. How else can we support them? The foreigners could occupy nearby islands and our seamen will meet with them in the outer waters and continue the trade. How can we prevent it?

Recently foreign ships have cruised up the entire China coast, selling opium everywhere although they were soon driven off. Even if we close Canton to them, they already have these connections elsewhere. Many senior provincial officials are lax and their subordinates are corrupt. They permit crime for profit and if the laws are made more severe it only puts their prices up.

In the 1st year of the To Kwong Emperor (1821), the Canton Viceroy Yuen Yuen dealt severely with an opium dealer named Yeh Hang Shoo and the trade stopped.[114] This was the reason the foreign opium smugglers moved to Lintin. They keep 7-8 receiving ships there to store and sell opium.

The opium brokers live in Canton. They are called Yau Kow (Mandarin for furnace mouths). They go to the foreign factories, strike deals, weigh out the silver payment and get a Delivery Order to take to the receiving ships for the goods.

There are rowing boats called fast crabs with guns, spears and swords which carry the opium from the receiving ships into the maze of waterways around Canton. The fast crabs have 50+ oars and are much faster than the boats of the coast guard, which officers in any event are mostly bought-off. If fast crabs are occasionally intercepted by government cruisers, they resist and woundings and death have occurred.

The former Viceroy Loo Kwan ordered the naval commander Tsing Yuh Chang and the Heung Shan Che Heen Tin Poo to seize Leung Kin Nee’s boat and 14,000+ catties of opium was seized after a protracted fight. Some of the Yau Kow like Yau Kiu and Ko Kwan were also caught and punished and their property confiscated.

We have really tried to stop this menace but we have failed. The peoples’ dread of the law is less than their thirst for gain. In Canton they even have bandits who impersonate officials and stop boats to commit robberies. I was formerly the judge of the criminal court of Canton and dealt with many of these opium cases and with an even greater number of related bribery cases. It is impossible to say how many innocent people have been implicated.

All these spreading evils have arisen since the punishments became stricter. I have seen that opium smokers are generally an idle useless lot although those smokers of 60+ years of age do not appear to shorten their lives. The birth-rate in Canton continues to be prodigious and there need be no anxiety that the population might reduce. It is mainly a problem of the national wealth draining away.[115]

I recommend we do not change our existing revenue system but simply legalise the import of opium as a medicine. We will permit the Hongs to barter goods for it but not pay silver. The amount we receive from the foreigners in opium duty will be less than the amount they currently pay in bribes. That will please them.

Both foreign silver coins and sycee should be prohibited exports. If anyone disobeys, we will seize him, confiscate his opium and distribute his assets amongst his captors.

We can urge addicted officials, soldiers and students to give up the habit. If they fail, they should be discharged from the public service. Those who continue to connive must be punished. The common people who merely buy and use opium should not be troubled. If anyone doubts the effectiveness of rescinding the prohibition, he should consider the case of wine, which improper use has similar effects, or with the medicines Foo Tsze and Wu Tow which diminish the life force (Both medicines come from the same plant, the first being attached to the second. Foo Tsze is poisonous but extensively used in traditional Chinese medicine). None of these three things have ever been prohibited.

So long as the addicted officials, the soldiers and the scholars are not disgraced then the country is not disgraced. If we do not take action now I fear we will wait until the country is impoverished before we realise our loss and try to make it good.

Formerly I was the Salt Commissioner in Canton for ten years and never wrote a single report about opium. I am ashamed of that.

I make this report now because the problem worsens as the punishments increase. No-one talks of it but I understand the matter well. I beg the Emperor to secretly direct the Canton Viceroy and Hoppo to examine into what I have said. If they find it is true they should devise a changed system and propose it to the Emperor.”

The above memorial was received by Viceroy Tang of Canton, 2nd July

Editor – We expect the natural consequences of this legalisation initiative, if adopted, will be the local cultivation of the poppy.

Vol 9 No 28 – Tuesday 12th July 1836

Peking Gazettes – The Canton Viceroy Tang Ting Ching and other local officials have memorialised the Emperor about financing an improvement in defences against foreigners. They propose a loan on which they can utilise part of the interest for the works. Tang says the cannon in the Bogue forts are tested annually causing extra expenses for powder and shot. He also has to give presents to encourage the soldiery.

This all costs 6,700 taels a year.

The Emperor permits him to appropriate the estates of the absconded criminals Yau Kiu and Ko Kwan (the two opium brokers mentioned above) which have been valued at over 50,000 taels. He is commended to place this sum with the pawnbrokers which should earn at least 10% a year. To make up the balance he is allowed to reduce manning of the preventive service.

The Viceroy is reminded to scrupulously check that provincial expenses are indeed expended to set the proper example to his staff.

Vol 9 No 29 – Tuesday 19th July 1836

Two Kin Chae (Imperial Commissioners) have been in Canton researching Hsu Nai Tsi’s suggestion that opium importation be legalised. They returned to Peking on 15th July without discussing their findings with the provincial government.

The Hong merchants have held a meeting in the Consoo House to discuss opium recently. We have a copy of their minutes and publish hereafter that part of it that relates to silver and opium.

The Hongs were required to consider the legalisation of opium trade and whether it could be made a barter trade. They were told that the bond that secures the compliance of the Hong merchants to government instruction will be strictly enforced. They were appraised of the proposal to make a detailed record of receipt of opium, broaching of chests, disposal of contents and provide monthly returns to the provincial government and Hoppo in order to evidence the revenue collected. On these instructions the Hongs responded as follows:

Formerly the foreigners brought few goods and much silver to buy tea and silk and it was customary to allow them to re-export the silver they did not spend. Now, either because Chinese exports are more expensive or because foreign imports are not wanted, the extent of legal trade has decreased and unused foreign funds have increased.

In these past few years the Hong merchants have become impoverished. They have no money to either support the local government or pay the duties on trade. It is difficult for them even to buy Chinese goods sufficient to meet the foreign demand.

One third of each ship’s silver import is permitted to be re-exported but the balance is left in their treasuries or lent amongst themselves. This is the present state of foreign commerce. The foreigners sometimes bring rice but this only sells for $2-3 per picul. The rice ship’s export cargo cannot be purchased for such little money and they accordingly borrow silver from the other foreigners to finance their export purchases.

Turning to the proposed legalisation of opium trade, we have canvassed the foreigners if they are agreeable to exchanging the value of opium imports for Chinese exports and not export any silver, and those we have interviewed say they agree.

But they also say that the identity of the merchants trading to Canton change with each season and that the goods bought for the different foreign destinations are not all the same. For these reasons they cannot promise that all will agree to barter opium entirely for our goods. In such circumstances they might employ the surplus silver in their treasuries here for loan to others who have greater need.

Thus they foresee that there should be no difference between the opium importer who exchanges all his cargo for Chinese produce and the one who does not but lends his surplus funds to others to do so. But in case they are unable to lend all their surplus funds, they wish to maintain the permission for the re-export of one third. On considering this, the foreigners believe that if every ship is restricted to barter it will be difficult to manage their funds as effectively as at present. They therefore request that the present system be continued and opium simply added to the tariff as another commodity.

We Hong merchants consider that exporting silver, although not susceptible to duty, can still be supervised and its extent known. In this way we can conceive of ways to regulate the amount exported. We hope this is sufficient information for Your Excellency’s decision.[116]

Formerly the foreign merchants were allowed to select their own security merchant. All their goods were made available for inspection and the payment of duty could not substantially be avoided even though the cargo of each ship might be shared for sale amongst several Hongs. Each Hong had to pay the duty it collected to the Hoppo and no fraud on the revenue was possible. If opium is added to woollens and cottons it could be treated in the same way.

Chinese goods arriving by road at Canton for export are checked by the Hoppo at the eastern and western Customs Houses. Goods arriving by boat are all brought to the Fuk Chow Hong (the warehouse of the merchants of Fuk Chow) for checking. This system is perfect. It seems unnecessary to receive opium in chests and distribute it in small lots and make detailed reports for the Viceroy and Hoppo.

Last year we helped frame regulations to control foreign trade. It was ordered that all Chinese coasting junks carrying foreign goods must have their manifests (listing the complete cargo) stamped by the Hoppo at Canton. These orders were circulated to all the maritime provinces. Further the river mouths were to be strictly guarded. If any ship arrived with cargo not stamped with the Hoppo’s chop, it was to be deemed contraband and dealt with accordingly at law – the ship and goods were to be confiscated. This order is well conceived and will eliminate smuggling except that arranged at Lintin which must be dealt with by the cruisers.

Editor – This unexpected proposed change in Chinese policy has ramifications for other aspects of Anglo-Chinese trade particularly the prosperity of India and England.[117]

Vol 9 No 31 – Tuesday 2nd August 1836

Editorial – Chinese deliberations on revision of their long-held opium policy are very important documents because they evince a readiness by some statesmen to respond to change from ‘olo custom’ when circumstances make it necessary.

We think we might also infer a recognition in the Chinese cabinet of the importance of foreign trade to the Chinese economy.

Nevertheless, we think the likelihood of the proposals being adopted is little.

The Emperor, who is an addict himself, must have smiled at his memorialist’s idea of restraining the civil and military officers, the students and soldiers, from smoking opium.

Who will be a Chinese official if he cannot get his ‘ocean smoke’?

Vol 9 No 32 – Tuesday 9th August 1836

Report of the provincial Judge and Treasurer of Kwang Tung to the Viceroy on opium:

The Emperor has been told that, the stricter the laws against opium become, the more opium arrives. It is sold secretly for silver and over ten million taels is spent each year. It is suggested a barter trade in opium be permitted and the Emperor has forwarded the papers to the Hoppo and to the Viceroy and Governor who in turn ordered us to report on the suggestion.

We consider that the established regulations are good and appropriate. We exclude evil in expectation of benefit. If the evil is not excluded then harm is done. But change must be considered. Opium has been imported to China for many years. In the reigns of the Kien Lung and Yung Ching Emperors it appeared in the Hoppo’s list as a medicine and there was no restriction on selling or eating it.

In 1799 the Ka Hing Emperor’s cousin Keih, who had been Viceroy of the Two Kwang, regretted that we exchanged our valuable produce and silver for the foreigner’s ‘black mud’ and he apprehended that its use would spread and cause our people to waste time and neglect their employment. He requested opium trafficking be proscribed and offenders be banished or strangled.

It was from this report that the proscriptions against trading in and using opium sprang and the laws have successively increased in severity. Since proscription, an opium store in Macau was closed and the property of the dealers who monopolised its distribution (the oft-mentioned Yau Kiu and Ko Kwan) was confiscated.

But the people love gain more than they fear the law. The prohibition has merely stimulated the popular imagination in schemes of evasion. Opium is stored by foreigners in receiving ships in the outer waters and by dealers in the inner land. Strict orders have been given to the naval commanders to drive them off. But these smugglers secretly build ‘fast crabs’ to carry it about. The junior officers accept bribes to not examine ships whilst other functionaries, on the pretence of searching for opium, cheat and plunder the honest merchants and extort from them under false accusations.

The opium smugglers are devious and it has proved impossible to prevent opium’s secret circulation. The foreigners are crafty and, although they know the prohibition and dare not openly deal in it, they have established stores in the midst of the vast ocean from which they sell. In the last year their numbers greatly increased (due to determination of the Company’s China trade monopoly) and they sailed along the coasts seeking traitorous natives to entice into the business. Their behaviour is detestable.

Formerly opium was grown in China and the resin was mixed with foreign opium and sold in competition but the increased severity of the penalties has stopped the poor farmers from growing it. Now there is only foreign opium and the foreigners are the people who make the profit. Imports of opium increase with the numbers of users and the country gets poorer. This waste is caused by the import of foreign opium and the interdiction against local farming.

Opium is found in all the markets and watering places. It is a common natural product and should be cheap but because of the prohibition and the dealers’ monopoly there is profiteering and the price is enhanced. The foreign smugglers are dissipated and only care for profit. The wealth of our country is squandered and the people willing indulge in the poison unaware of its deleterious effects. We cannot prevent its import or its clandestine sale and thus the wealth of China flows out.

We have carefully perused the original information which is correct and vividly describes the vice. Hsu Nai Tsi recommends rescinding the prohibition and levying a duty as formerly. He justifies this by the circumstances of the day. We think it proper for us to request the Viceroy and Governor to entreat the Emperor to heed Hsu’s advice.

If the foreigners bring opium, let them enter it at the Customs House as was done in the Kien Lung Emperor’s reign and levy a duty of 3 taels per picul plus 2 taels, 4 mace, 5 candareens etc., beyond which charges the clerks are strictly forbidden to extract a penny more. Let it be delivered to the Hong merchants along with the foreign woollens and cottons and bartered for our goods and let there be no more secret trading of it for silver. This level of duty is less than the bribes paid by the foreigners and they will slowly desist from smuggling. Then extortion will cease and contention amongst the people will diminish. The prisons will not be constantly full.

The Hong merchants say the foreigners bring silver coins for trade and these are necessary for flexibility. They recommend the foreigners be permitted to re-export up to 30% of their foreign coins after trading but none of our sycee.

Furthermore all officials, all military officers and all students preparing for the civil service (i.e. everyone in or prospectively in government service) shall be forbidden to use opium, failing which they will be instantly dismissed. To avoid shame and repentance they will break themselves of the habit and avoid being separated from the respectable part of the community.

Only the common people may use opium and it is expedient for them to farm and prepare opium without interference. The foreigners will be satisfied by the reduced fees and bribes of legal imports and will become obedient. The swindling junior officers and the unemployed traitorous natives will lose their income and honest men will not become entangled. In time the meritorious work of changing the popular will by good example will end this vicious habit.

Regarding foreign silver, Hwang Tseo Tsze (Cantonese Wong Jeuk Jee) formerly requested its export be forbidden and this subject is also to be examined. The former Sze officers (Judge and Treasurer) and the Grain Superintendent sought commercial advice from the Hong merchants who said, when trading with foreigners, the price of imports did not always match the price of exports and balances accrued which made it impossible to routinely prevent the export of silver dollars. Further the quantity of goods that foreign ships brought varied. And besides the barter trade there were expenses for daily necessities. The foreigners’ wishes and convenience was always considered. If our imports were great and our exports small, some dollars were unavoidably re-exported. These coins were all originally brought here by the foreigners for their trade and daily transactions. If we forbid their export, we will reduce their import and impede trade. This is what the Hong merchants stated.

Now since opium is to be admitted for barter and the bartered goods are not of equal value, it is proper that the balance should be made up in foreign silver dollars, but no export of our sycee can be allowed. If the Hong merchants secretly supply sycee to the foreigners, they must be examined and punished, their opium burned and their remaining sycee confiscated to the public treasury.

A proclamation must be issued directing the Hong merchants to wholeheartedly obey the fixed laws and not in any way permit the foreigners to smuggle out sycee. A strict watch must be kept at all the river mouths for traitorous Chinese carrying sycee out of the country. If any are caught let them be seized, prosecuted and punished. Thus the loss of sycee will stop and the security of the country enhanced.

For the foreign merchants, they need only pay the Imperial duties. Their other expenditure on bribes, unofficial fees and shipping at Lintin will be lessened. We suppose they will gradually comply and the traitorous Chinese swindlers will become destitute, unable, under the pretext of searching for opium, to plunder and extort from the people.

By only permitting the barter of opium with little involvement of silver (and none of sycee) our wealth will no longer leak away and we can focus on the elimination of opium use. This new permissive law affects only the people; civil and military officials and students are not included. Thus the respectability of the government will be maintained. The resources of the country and the livelihood of the people will be advanced. Whether the proposal goes ahead is not proper for us to opine upon. We just send up our report for the Viceroy’s consideration.

Finally when duties are paid at the Customs House, regulations are required to describe the manner in which the Hong merchants barter goods for opium. This detail awaits the further deliberations of the merchants which have been requested.

Vol 9 No 32 – Tuesday 9th August 1836

Letter to Jardine and the other foreign merchants from the Hongs:

The Viceroy has instructed us to say that, as opium appears in the Hoppo’s list of dutiable commodities as a medicine, he has requested the Emperor to rescind the prohibition on its import and instruct us on the appropriate level of duty.

When opium is allowed, the ships may only bring it in exchange for goods. They will not be allowed to export sycee. Once opium is legalised, he requires the receiving ships in the outer waters to depart and three months is allowed for compliance. If they fail to leave in that period they will be expelled. These are the Viceroy’s instructions that we relay to you for your thorough understanding and respectful obedience.

Sgd 13 Hongs, 6th August 1836

Vol 9 No 36 – Tuesday 6th September 1836

A new pamphlet “British Intercourse with Eastern Asia” has been published by ‘A Resident in China’. He is a benevolent and religious man and might be a missionary. The author is a late resident of China.

We approve one sentence:

“(foreign) Residents in China may take what liberties they please without asking, and if no notice is taken, all is well. But to ask, in the present state of relations, is to invite refusal.”

He unfortunately reviews the history of Europe and all its bloody quarrels before suggesting we should not fight to gain wealth. He has the Emperor saying:

‘until the westerners learn to live in peace, we Chinese will be content with what we already know of you. Don’t try to arouse unbounded desire for riches and foreign products in us. We are satisfied with our own system.’

He asks the free traders to abandon opium imports. That would be the end of auctions at Calcutta and farming on the Ganges. Then what of Malwa and Turkey and Egypt and whoever else will try to fill the vacuum. Opium is a natural product. The bible says ‘and the Earth He has given to the children of men.’ Smoking opium is just one of our inventions. How can any worldly power forbid it?

He says the late petitioners of the King in their memorial were subconsciously seeking for revenge as much as reparations. He also says the right of residence to foreigners has never been conceded by the Chinese.

Editor – The fact is, if we were not making money here, we would not stay.

Resident’s conclusion is startling. He says after the opium, arms and ammunition smuggling has been abandoned, and should the missionaries’ attempt to convert the country fail, then he calls for a holy war.

We really want to do away with the necessity of war. We only want the British government to assert its national right and power without going all the way to war. We claim a prescriptive right to trade with China, developed over many decades, during which time English people have become inured to drinking tea. The British government has a right to interfere to protect the tea trade if the continuation of tea supplies becomes uncertain. This is the justification for British interference and the stationing of a squadron on China’s coast.

Vol 9 No 36 – Tuesday 6th September 1836

It is rumoured in Canton that Yuen Yuen, who was Viceroy here in 1821, is opposed to the legalisation of opium. He is now an examiner of new graduates at the Hanlin Academy. He has memorialised the Emperor on the subject.

Vol 9 No 38 – Tuesday 20th September 1836

Editorial – The Viceroy’s response to the Imperial request for opinion on legalising opium is shown below. He has enquired from all his senior officials and Hong merchants and received their views in writing. His reply is dated 7th September.

His insistence that opium will only be bartered for Chinese goods has made us foreigners smile. We think we can soon demonstrate that this is absurd.

The proposal to grow opium themselves is of greater concern. Chinese opium lacks the fragrance of our supply and makes the user thirsty. It will diminish the revenue of India and may not be balanced by our commencing tea farming in Assam.

Nevertheless, the local officials have been brave to put their views on record, particularly in a country where the views of the Emperor and his Lui Ko (inner cabinet) are variable.

Here is the Memorial:

We, Viceroy Tang, Governor Ke and Hoppo Wan, have considered allowing opium to enter port and be bartered for goods. We have fixed nine necessary regulations for this vile practice. Your Majesty is concerned for the welfare of the people. The duty of government is to exclude evil but, when prohibition fails and evils increase, a radical change is required.

At first opium was permitted as a medicine. Then in 1799 Keih King, a cousin of the Ka Hing Emperor then serving as Viceroy of the Two Kwong, asked for its proscription. At that time it was a cheap thing that was bought and sold in the markets. Since then the penalties have incrementally increased but the natives covet profit more than they fear death. They became more cunning and opium use increased. Foreigners store it in the outer waters, natives carry it in fast boats to the inner land where it is hidden until use, and blackguards in government service extort money to let it pass. The effect of prohibition has been to increase the price of opium, and silver flows like water out of China.

Hereafter when the foreigners bring opium it will enter at the Customs House at a duty of 5 taels or a little more per picul as was paid in the Kien Lung Emperor’s time. These low duties leave no room for bribery. The Hong merchants will receive it and exchange only goods for it. No, or very little, silver will be involved. If these regulations are obeyed, the loss of silver will diminish, the smugglers will lose their profits, travelling merchants will be preserved from unnecessary searches and demands, the people saved from committing crimes to pay for opium and the prisons emptied of addicts. Those who fail to regulate themselves will die of over-indulgence but the officials, military and scholars will not be permitted its use. Those officials who smoke will have to reform or be dismissed.

We advocate repeal of the prohibitions against opium.

Regarding the drain of silver sycee, this is the most important affair. If the regulations are incomplete the loss of silver will increase. We unitedly commend the attached nine regulations and request the Imperial will.

1. When bartering opium for goods the whole amount must be bartered. Our intention in legalising opium is to prevent the loss of silver from clandestine dealing in the Drug. The security merchant for the ship and the Hong merchant for the cargo must ascertain the correct price of the opium so the amount of our goods can be determined. Our goods are increasingly demanded by foreigners and an abundance is available. If however our goods are deficient, then the surplus opium will be jointly tallied into the Hong merchant’s warehouse and a report made to the Hoppo. When the opium is sold the Hong merchant and buyer will account to the Hoppo. There will be no more ‘clearing balances’ which has formerly allowed the foreigners to take away silver. It is especially incumbent on the senior Hong merchant to ensure all comply. When a ship departs both its security merchant and the senior Hong merchant will give a bond that no sycee is on board. If anyone uses money to buy opium, they will receive the severest punishment and their opium will be confiscated. If the senior or security merchant connive they will receive the same punishment.

2. The Admiral’s cruisers will patrol and examine the coastal waterways. They are not allowed to go out to sea or make pretexts for causing disturbance. When opium is permitted, the native traders, who yearn for profits, may try to secretly combine with foreigners and sycee will leak out. Thus the cruisers and the Customs staff must be diligent and if silver is found, the offenders will be punished and the officers will get all the silver as reward. If sycee is carried out, there is a place from whence it comes and that place is the vicinity of the foreign factories and thence by narrow channels to the foreign shipping.[118] This is where the officers must focus their diligence.

3. 30% of the foreign dollars brought by a ship for trade may be re-exported per the old regulations. Hitherto the foreigners have brought many silver coins for their trade. If they sell many of their goods or buy few of our goods, their dollars will accumulate, but we cannot forbid them to take back 30%. In 1818 the Hoppo Ah noted that foreigners were taking much silver away and limited the quantity to 30% of what was brought. Any surplus over 30% had to be lent to the other foreigners for their own trade and payment of duties. This has been the law until now. Now the foreigners will openly be bringing opium it will continue to be the law but we will fix a maximum amount at $50,000 per ship. When the ship enters port and reports for examination, the security merchant is responsible to ascertain the exact amount of dollars on board so the value of 30% is a liquidated amount. Both the senior and security merchants must be strict in examining.

4. Opium will be subject to the same regulations as other goods. We do not need special rules to confine it, as a monopoly will gradually be formed. All the foreign traders have their schemes for cornering markets and creating shortages but what one man rejects another receives. As their dispositions are not harmonious we cannot guide them by one rule. We will continue to allow the foreigners to select their own security and Hong merchant. And when opium is brought it will not be kept in one warehouse solely for that purpose. This will just provide a focus for thieves.

5. The duties will remain unchanged. Although opium comes in three types, the duty will be the same for all. The duty is 3 taels per picul plus the other customary charges. No additional charges can be levied as the duty must be low to prevent smuggling. All petty extortions and fees will be strictly forbidden. We fear when this new system is introduced the junior officials, to recover the costs of obtaining their jobs, will seek to continue extorting as before. If these additions are permitted to increase, the scheme is endangered and foreigners will not be treated with kindness and may be driven elsewhere on the coast. We must accordingly publish the duties payable and specifically say that no extra fees are allowed.

6. It is unnecessary to fix the price of opium. Prices of goods go up and down depending on supply and demand. But our people value highly priced goods and despise cheap things. This unrestricted system will reduce the price of opium and it will become easy to obtain and inexpensive. Those who formerly thought it precious will find its value daily diminishing but if the price is fixed it will impede the traffic. The price must be left to the market.

7. When coasting ships carry opium they must first get the packages stamped by the Canton Hoppo. Previously we have not discriminated about provincial traders and one law directed all involved in foreign trade. But opium will only be landed at Canton and internal traffic in unstamped goods will be forbidden. Despatches are sent to all provinces with directions to closely guard the river mouths. If foreign opium is found without the Hoppo’s seal it is smuggled opium. The owners and operators will be punished and the ship and goods confiscated. We also require coasting vessels buying opium from Hong merchants to report what goods have been bartered for it at the time they have the opium chests stamped. The Hoppo will send reports to each province indicating who has bought what. By regulating the trade and observing the coasts, we can deter both smuggling of opium and clandestine trading with foreigners at sea for silver.

8. Concerning domestic cultivation, the licensing arrangements for interested farmers should be liberal. Opium is contradictorily ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ – its softness produces desire; its hardness induces sickness. We have various reports on the method of production. The recent production in China was achieved by nothing more than the mature poppy plant being boiled in water (emulating the Turkish farmers at harvest time in the growing areas). This soup is a pure and less injurious way of ingestion than smoking foreign opium. As we cannot prevent the foreigners importing opium, we find our own way to control it. The domestic cultivation should be tolerated and not strictly regulated. If we find the people turning too much land over to poppy we can restrict its husbandry to hilltops and barren places unfit for tillage. Our arable lands are a most valuable national asset.

9. Concerning the ban on officials, scholars and the military using opium, it is our opinion those people are a wandering, lazy, wavering group. Some users have attained old age so it seems not injurious to life. The fecundity of our race is such that no decrease in population will result from this new policy. When laws are severe the dedicated criminal becomes more clever in evasion. We will not be too strict in prohibitions. We should try to excite a sense of shame in the opium-user and by degrees wean him to reform. Our intent is to awaken self-control and gradually improve the government service. Any one secretly buying or smoking opium will be dismissed. This will warn the others. All officials should be well aware that this is a matter that affects their character and respectability.

Vol 9 No 40 – Tuesday 4th October 1836

It is rumoured amongst the Hong merchants that Viceroy Tang sent a private note to his friends in Peking asking them to confirm whether the Emperor really means to legalise opium. He prepared his approving report but set it aside until he heard from his friends that the Emperor was indeed in earnest. He then finalised his report and forwarded it on 6th September.

A response is expected in the first half of November.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. It thus appears at Damaun to be an import from the Emirs of Sind. Their province was placed under the Company’s protection in 1820 pursuant on a treaty done at Bombay. The country was annexed to British India a few years later.
  2. This, and the earlier report requiring country trade ships to take an export cargo, relate to the rise of Lintin as an emporium for smuggled goods and its effects on the Canton economy. The increased Chinese policing at Lintin induces a strong response from the India Company’s Select and brings on a confrontation.
  3. Reminiscent of Rothschild’s use of coffins to deliver silver to the Duke of Wellington’s army in Spain during the Peninsular War.
  4. See the China chapter. The Company is attempting one of its occasional protests against terms of trade and has withdrawn to Lung Kwu Chau, then called Tung Kwu. The underlying matter in dispute is the smuggling trade.
  5. The nature of the Viceroy’s instructions from the Emperor are becoming apparent.
  6. It has been the success of Viceroy Lee’s measures against smuggling that has caused the response of Plowden’s Select and instigated Baynes’ rebellion. Viceroys Lee and later Teng are the two officials who display both the willingness and ability to contend successfully with the smugglers.
  7. A reader may be surprised that these internal administrative documents of the Chinese Empire can instantly find their way to foreigners and appear in ‘the smugglers’ newspaper,’ as the Canton Register was known. There is some indication in the paper that copies of memorials to and from the Provincial Government are readily available from the transcription office in Canton. It seems to have been also the case that Catholic priests at Peking, or their allies, were sending papers to Macau.
  8. The reference to foreign females at Canton is an aspect of Baynes’ rebellion – his wife was one of them – see the China chapter. The Miao people riot more or less constantly through 1820s and 1830s.
  9. The sale of opium for silk is a departure from normal trade. It may represent a sensible way of alleviating the silver shortage due to its export by smugglers. The reference to the high cost of Turkish is also anomalous and possibly relates to the Editor’s earlier comment about the domestic harvest being mixed with Turkish, or to its use in baking. The new packing is not further elucidated but likely refers to the Calcutta shipments of previous year that were received with balls cracked and leaking.
  10. This was surprising information to me until I recalled Dr Shulgin’s interesting chemical books PIHKAL and TIHKAL in which he notes that spices are common sources of psychedelic molecules.
  11. Governor Malcolm’s initiative on opium, mentioned earlier, will soon give the Bombay Parsees good business. Their trade in first shipping, then cotton and now opium will fund several famous business empires.
  12. Si Ngon County extends from the town of Wai Chow to the outer islands, including Hong Kong and Lintin.
  13. Normally the Company’s wooden chests are covered with sheepskin which is popular with buyers. This canvas packing appears to be another experiment by the Company to improve its China business.
  14. See the China chapter for better particulars in an article dated 4th July 1831.
  15. This refer to a financing role for the silversmith shops, many of which are located in Thirteen Factories Street. They are said also to provide cover for the cooking of raw opium as they require furnaces and charcoal to assay silver. When Innes’s staff were caught with opium in the factories it was contained in treasure boxes.
  16. He has been putting down a riot on Hainan Island – see the China chapter.
  17. A note to the 17th March 1832 edition says this information was published in Canton Register before the Canton Viceroy himself received the law from Peking i.e. the paper’s informant is in Peking not Canton. This source is not identified but the assertion rather indicates the extent to which smugglers have compromised the Chinese administration of the day.
  18. A few weeks ago, the Canton Register Editor asserted that there was such a treaty resulting from the Select’s 1814 and 1829 negotiations with the Provincial Government.
  19. “We sold ‘em morphine, they sold us caffeine” – from ‘Flowers in the Blood’ by Latimer & Goldberg. Actually there is a great difference in price. Chinese tea costs the Company about £½ million a year; opium imports cost China about £3 millions a year.
  20. A reference to the earlier introduction of opium by the Arab trade 900 years before when opium was listed in the materia medica of China as a dutiable commodity.
  21. The extension of Matheson’s coast-system to the river delta. In future it is heavily-armed small European and American brigs, schooners and sloops that supply the Drug to remote beaches, assuming all risks until delivery.
  22. Perhaps the sugar / cotton barter at Shanghai provides cover for the silver / opium exchange at Lintin / Chik Kam.
  23. A money changers shop requires a furnace to melt and assay silver. Businesses with legitimate reasons for using furnaces provide cover for storing wood and charcoal. Money changers also store silver and are commonly involved in refining opium. For ease of access to Thirteen Factories Street, six of the foreign factories, when rebuilt after the great fire of 1822, opened back-doors directly into the street thus by-passing the guards. These were the Dutch, Creek, British, Old English, Parsee and Powshun Hongs. Luen Hong Street is west of the factories.
    The Tung Chung Fort on Lantau’s west coast was restored in 1832 and garrisoned from Tai Pang. It overlooks the sea route up the estuary to Lintin. The other Lantau fort on the southern tip of the island at Fan Lau was apparently not restored at this time as articles in late 1830s reveal the smugglers overnighted in Fan Lau Bay during their voyages from Macau to Hong Kong.
  24. This is a constant theme – when smuggling is controlled, piracy gets out of hand and vice versa. It seems incontrovertible that the smugglers conducting Western trade are the pirates and vice versa.
  25. Kumquat shrubs are a ‘Provincial Treasure’ of the Two Kwang, sent all over the country and displayed at Lunar New Year when they are heavy with ripe fruit.
  26. The licensing of fast crabs that the free traders paid the Hoppo to permit during the Company’s summer absence from Canton, has lapsed due to public notoriety.
  27. The Editor has overlooked that bribes paid to officials by the foreigners in the regular smuggling trade were claimed to be $400,000 – 500,000 a year in 1822.
  28. Metal pipe bowls were later replaced in the divans by unglazed earthenware bowls fitted into the bamboo stems. Only the hole in the centre of the bowl had a small piece of sheet metal on it where the candle flame burned the opium.
  29. This surprised me – the Red Rover had formerly appeared in Jardine’s agency.
  30. The original Indian supply to China was from the Deccan via Goa and Madras.
  31. This enervation of the soldiery is sufficient reason for any country to ban opium smoking but strangely few Europeans or Americans admitted to smoking or eating the Drug.
  32. Kiao Island has since been connected with Heung (Chung) Shan and the village can be easily accessed. It has a main street of granite blocks, an indicator of wealth, and has been well preserved. Interestingly, an invasion in the boats of the country trade is recorded in perpetuity at the village, etched in stone. It says 15 armed boats of American and English smugglers attacked at Ma Kai Bay. The recorded date of the event is 2nd day of 7th month 1836 which, in respect of the month and year, is incorrect for this event and must refer to another unpublished incident.
  33. Chuen Fei’s elevation is supposed by the foreigners to presage the rise of the pro-opium lobby in Peking.
  34. I do not know how the Editor reached this conclusion about Napier but there is a useful chapter on his visit earlier in the text.
  35. The sweet and pleasant smell of opium being cooked or smoked is unique and unforgettable. It pervades the neighbourhood to a great distance – it cannot be unknown.
  36. An apparent reference to several pre-emptive British attacks in the Napoleonic Wars (on Denmark and Spain; later on the Turks at Navarino and the more recent attack on Portugal for commercial reasons)
  37. First public reference to the foreign residencies and store-rooms established on Namoa Island and perhaps elsewhere on the coast.
  38. The Editor has more to say on this subject than the letter writer himself but it is not reproduced here – a recital of his free trade views.
  39. The insurance companies are mostly represented by the smugglers. Only J M & Co and Dents have each established mutual companies to spread the risks.
  40. Tabriz is west of the southern end of the Caspian Sea.
  41. An unmentioned attraction to Bills business in Canton so far as the foreign merchants are concerned, is the large discounts, up to 30% of face value, that Chinese merchants are willing to accept to convert them to cash. This had formerly been an important perk of the Select Committee members.
    This article relates to the Company’s provision of trade finance to China-traders after its trading monopoly was determined. London merchant bankers have advised the Company to finance China-trade as the alternative to its former tea purchases. Both operations grow its investment and fund the Home Charges. It has the effect of a/ retaining a large share of Chinese exports under Company control as a term of the loan, b/ making the costs of Chinese exports higher by providing liquidity to the Canton market and c/ diminishing the role of the big smugglers in the China market by increasing the purchasing power of the small traders. Effectively, the Company is stimulating speculation.
  42. The subject of purity of Indian opium is a sad one. In Bengal, the ryot delivers dried sap to the Company but this somehow transmutes into less than 50% of the Bengal opium ball, both Patna and Benares, the rest being fibrous vegetable matter. This adulteration requires the opium ball after arrival in China to be heated to separate the smokable treacly extract from the vegetable dross. It appears that Malwa producers may have adopted the same tactic.
  43. Danish and / or Prussian representation was used by the Magniac / Jardine group. In return for maintaining funds in the country, the honorary Consul was enabled to sell Bills, register ships, their sale and purchase, their changes of name, etc., and, most importantly prior to 1834, avoid the Company’s licensing of merchants in China.
  44. Nam Ao, an island off the coast at the border of Kwongtung and Fukien Provinces.
  45. Delta is a regular writer to the newspaper. He is Lancelot Dent.
  46. Editor Slade’s insulting guess is wrong. Viceroy Tang brings opium smuggling fully under Chinese control by the end of 1838 and provokes the smugglers to greater excesses.
  47. British trade with China was restricted to London, primarily to protect the revenue from tea, although it was stated to be reciprocal for Chinese trade being limited to Canton. Trade was opened, unilaterally, only after 1834.
  48. As a general statement of equity, a government claims the obedience of its people because, without it, it cannot do its duty, for which alone it exists, of protecting them from each other’s injustice. When the government itself acts inappropriately it forfeits the right to govern. We may recall the social contract in China, adopted in the Han, “the King rules with justice, the people obey; the King rules unjustly, the people rebel.”
  49. A plausible explanation for the 50% adulteration of Patna and Benares supply, which is now influencing Malwa quality as well – adulterate to make up the shortfall due to shrinkage of available quantity.
  50. There was a supply of Malwa from Madras in 18th century but this reference appears to refer to the Turkish opium brought by the Americans which has a lighter colour.
  51. The former exchange rate of 1,000 cash = 1 tael of silver has fallen to 1,200 : 1 and more. The price of salt to the people in copper cash is increased 20-30% for the Excise duty. All production in the market place is exchanged for copper. The effects of opium import / silver export on the domestic economy are nation-wide.
  52. 1821 was the end of the Whampoa market and the beginning of Lintin. Whampoa did not resume its importance as a smuggling base until the First Opium War. Yeh Hang Shoo is reported in a later article to have been the official who requested for the removal of the Whampoa market. He is not an opium dealer.
  53. This rather settles the matter so far as Hsu Nai Tsi is concerned. It is not the commonly deleterious health effects of opium smoking but the loss of silver that is his concern.
  54. These paragraphs indicate the Co-Hong’s support for, if not complicity in, smuggling.
  55. A reference to the proposed barter trade. It is not conceivable that over $10 millions a year of new exports can be found to make a barter trade workable. If all goods are bartered there will be no balance of trade to take away in bullion to supplement Indian revenue. Legalisation will simply make opium cheaper to the disadvantage of the Company and the country traders. Recreational Drugs must be illegal to be really profitable. This is a subject that was well understood in London. George III’s colony of Virginia supplied the tobacco that was a British monopoly in Europe.
  56. Almost entirely from the foreign factories and the silversmiths in Thirteen Factories Street.

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