Opium 1836 – 1838 – part 3

Vol 9 No 40 – Tuesday 4th October 1836

Calcutta Courier, 1st August – This (Bengal) government has been asked by Madras if it (the Madras Presidency) may advance loans on shipments of Indian cotton to China. This would complete the global chain of remittances. It would apply to all Indian goods including opium.

The Calcutta government has referred the matter to Leadenhall Street as the Governor-General is unsure if the Bills Agency at Canton is authorised to receive opium consigned to the Agents as security for advances.

Vol 9 No 43 – Tuesday 25th October 1836

John Davis’ book China contains a hitherto unpublished Edict on opium from 1832:

Those who smoke opium need to periodically smoke again. If they do not do so, their limbs become weak and their eyes and noses discharge fluid. They are unfit for any activity. But once they take a few puffs they are restored. Thus opium becomes the basis of life to the smoker.

This makes him willing to suffer the legal punishments rather than reveal the details of his suppliers who remain unknown to officials. Local officers connive at its use and desist from prosecution. The traders who visit Canton often smuggle opium throughout China, hidden amongst their trading goods. The ill-effects of opium are far worse than gambling. Smoking opium should not be lightly punished.

When gamblers are arrested, unless they expose the organisers, they are punished as accessories in the management of gaming-houses and receive 100 blows plus 3 years transportation. If they co-operate they only get 80 blows. If the offender is an official his punishment is increased one degree.

But the opium smoker who does not co-operate is simply pilloried and beaten. I propose all convicted opium smokers who do not co-operate be treated as accomplices of the divan manager. Then they will be deterred and the practise can be eradicated.

Opium comes almost entirely from abroad. Traders introduce the substance through junior officials. Wealthy citizens, merchants and the sons of respected families first used it. Eventually it reached the common people. Opium smokers can now be found everywhere but the highest concentrations of users are in government offices. There are smokers in all the ranks of civil and military officials below Governor-level. Some magistrates issue prohibitions while their colleagues and staff are all smoking it. Whenever an interdiction is recited the traders use it as a pretext for raising prices. The police instead of prosecuting it actually trade in it. Thus all the law is useless. ……”[119]

Vol 9 No 43 – Tuesday 25th October 1836

Statement of British Trade at Canton 1st April 1835 – 31st March 1836 in dollars:


Raw Cotton

Cotton yarn

Cotton garmts


Wool Broadcloth



Opium Patna

Benares Malwa



















Black tea

Green tea


Silk Nanking

Silk Canton

Silk garments








9,936,835 (41,664,133 lbs)

3,475,408 ( 9,534,400 lbs)










NB – disbursements on ships:

93 at Whampoa at $8,500 each 

79 rice ships @ $2,200 each

67 at Lintin at $1,200 each




Trade balance is $32,426,623 – $24,877,799 = $7,549,824.[120]

Sgd Edward Elmslie, Secretary and Treasurer to H M Superintendents.

Vol 9 No 44 – Tuesday 1st November 1836

Editorial – Dent’s Canton Press has published an Edict of the Emperor that it says was copied from one of the Peking Gazettes. It is a response to a counter-proposal to Hsu Nai Tsi’s commendation to legalise opium imports.

The man in Canton who receives the Peking Gazettes for distribution told our Chinese messenger that no such anti-legalisation memorial has appeared up to the 70th number of the Gazette.

Moreover he says there is no censor named Heu Kew Tseen (the supposed author of the response to the counter proposal according to the Canton Press). This alleged anti-legalisation Edict appears to be a hoax.

Vol 9 No 44 – Tuesday 1st November 1836

A smuggling boat was chased by a revenue cruiser a few days ago and, after a sea battle, the smugglers leapt overboard and fled, leaving the officials to seize a cargo of opium. The seized goods have not yet been received in Canton.

Vol 9 No 44 – Tuesday 1st November 1836

Viceroy Tang, Governor Ke and Hoppo Wan issue this order to How Qua and the other Hong merchants:

The Emperor has ordered us on 28th October 1836 to examine into the native traitors who traffic in opium, the smuggling boats which convey it, the Hong merchants who fix the prices, the brokers who buy it wholesale and refine it, the military and police officers who are bribed to connive at it, and to devise a plan for its elimination.

Hsu Nai Tsi’s original report notes that not all the traitors are able to attend the foreign ships to receive the drug wholesale and this part of the trade is handled by brokers who agree the prices. They attend the resident foreigners in the factories:

Jardine and Innes in the Yee Wo (Creek) Hong,

Dent, Framjee and Merwanjee in the Pow Shun Hong,

Dadabhoy in the Fung Tae Hong,

Gordon in the Kwong Yuen (American) Hong,

Whiteman in the Ma Ying (Double Eagle = Imperial) Hong and

Turner in the Liu Sung (lit. Luzon i.e. Spanish) Hong.

Besides these are many more.

The Emperor has repeatedly proscribed opium and requires the foreign ships to be driven off.

When Yuen Yuen was Viceroy of the Two Kwang he enquired about the country ship Keih (Kay, the captain of Hooghly) and four others. He reported clearly and ordered the head Hong merchant to appoint security merchants who, with the Hong merchant, were to keep the foreign ship under surveillance. Both were to give sweet bonds to ensure the ships did not bring opium. The bond was to ensure performance. It was collected by the Hoppo and kept by the Viceroy.

As a result of the requirement for a bond, the foreigners stopped bringing opium to Whampoa[121]and removed to Lintin from whence they continued to distribute opium all over the country. The Hong merchants must know all about it. They must be conniving and sharing the profits otherwise how could the foreigners put the scheme into operation? A strict examination is required.

The Hong merchants will investigate:

1/ if Jardine, Innes, etc., are resident in the stated factories,

2/ what their nationalities are,

3/ how they store up and sell the opium,

4/ when they came to Canton,

5/ when they started opium trading,

6/ how much they store and sell each year and

7/ whether they require sycee in exchange for opium.

They must clarify all these points and send in a detailed report. If the Hong merchants do not fully cooperate they will not be able to bear the consequences of their offence. They had better all think carefully about this.

Editor Slade – we think this Edict is a hoax

Vol 9 No 45 – Tuesday 8th November 1836

We publish below a memorial to the Emperor against legalisation of opium. The argument adopted is that, if it is possible to prevent the export of sycee silver, as proposed by the supporters of legalisation, it should also be possible to prevent the import of opium:

I, Choo Tsun, say injuries are to be excluded and laws are to be enforced. This has preserved peace for 200 years of Ching dynasty administration. In the 1st year of the Ka Hing Emperor (1797) opium was prohibited. The Edict has often been consulted and improved upon and has become part of our penal law. It has become extremely strict. But some officials do not enforce it. This has brought it into contempt and people shamelessly ignore it. If we do not regain the initiative, even execution will be insufficient to deter opium use.

The foreigners sell opium by the chest. They will not sell single balls. In Kwangtung there are wholesalers, called melters, who refine the raw opium. The money comes from the silver shops to the foreign merchants who order delivery from their receiving ships. The boats which import the opium are called ‘rowing dragons’ or ‘fast crabs’. They are well armed and very fast. Their crews are haughty like pirates. How can their conduct be disregarded?

When Loo was Viceroy of the Two Kwang he appointed Tsin Yu Chang and Tien Po as the Che Heen of Heung Shan and together they seized Leung Kin Nei and his opium smuggling boat with 140 piculs of opium. Viceroy Loo also caught and punished the opium brokers Yau Kiu and Ko Kwan. Clearly when the senior officers properly motivate their subordinates they can enforce the law. When the principals are caught and punished, the evil is suppressed. No matter how stupid or stubborn the people are, they will fear the law. Our problem is simply one of enforcement.

Now Hsu Nai Tsi says junior officers use legal principles to profit from non-enforcement of the opium law. When a government makes a law there will always be someone trying to break it. The fact that we sometimes relax enforcement does not mean the law is ineffectual. Prostitution, gambling, robbery and treason are all prohibited yet people still commit these offences to accumulate wealth.

Should we give up these laws too?

The Kwangtung Provincial government says it cannot enforce the anti-opium law and requests its repeal. It suggests domestic cultivation of opium will drive out foreign opium. Someone says we should make opium a dutiable commodity, entrust its management to the Hong merchants and allow them to only barter goods for it as this will prevent the loss of silver.

Opium is sold by the English. When Yuen was Viceroy of the Two Kwang he investigated the storage of opium in Macau and the English opium ships had to leave and have never returned. Now they are at Lintin it would be improper to invite them back.

There will not be enough tea to barter for opium. How can the export of silver be prevented?

If we can really prevent the export of silver why can we not prevent the import of opium? If opium cannot be imported, the silver will not become available for export. We should obey the ancient law and not constantly make changes. To take a duty on opium is disgraceful and cannot be condoned.

It is said that if domestic opium is encouraged, the foreigners will lose their valuable opium trade and source of silver but how do we know if domestic opium will be esteemed over foreign opium? People reject what is nearby in preference for what is far away. It is foreign opium that they are accustomed to and will always prefer. Observe the popular use of foreign dollars in Chekiang and Fukien. Although these coins are impure silver they are preferred to our own pure sycee. We have silver coins in China (the Soo Pan of Soochow, the Keen Pan of Fukien, etc.) but the foreign coins are preferred. We have an abundance of silk and cloth in China, yet foreign woollens and cottons are esteemed as rarities.

The coastal provinces plus Yunnan and Kweichow formerly requested that the cultivation of opium be prohibited. Amongst these provinces I only know Yunnan where I have seen opium growing all over the hills and several thousand chests are manufactured annually. This has not reduced the export of silver. Contrarily, the money of that province has decreased by half. Why? The great numbers of consumers want the best and prefer foreign opium. Hsu Nai Tsi has not examined into this.

He should not compare opium with tobacco. Tobacco grows on waste land[122]whereas opium requires a rich and fertile soil. If we permit domestic production, the best lands will be given over to opium and where will the grain, mulberry and hemp be grown? Are we to surrender our clothing and food for opium? The land of Canton province produces three crops a year. Generally other Chinese land cannot compare.

Opium leads to extravagant expenditure which is inconsequential but it causes moral ruin which is a calamity. The people are the foundation of the Empire. All wealth is produced by their labour. If the people are poor they can be relieved and improved but if they are enervated by excess nothing can be done.

The English use opium to subdue the world. They think to seduce us into the habit to enervate us. If we are not vigilant they will incrementally become unmanageable. In recent years the foreigners have become proud and overbearing. They defy our laws and sneak into the harbours along our coast.

In the 55th year of the Hong Hei Emperor’s reign (1717) he said ‘after a millennia, China is apprehensive of being embarrassed by foreigners’. After pondering the disposition of foreigners, He foresaw what might happen. Now a hundred years later the beginnings of our trouble are clearly visible. Perhaps we cannot cut off their trade and disconnect ourselves from them immediately, but at least we should prepare for the approaching evil. We must guard the sea entrances, increase the restraints on them and cause them to fear our warnings.

In the 23rd year of the Ka Hing Emperor (1819), He told the Viceroy of the Two Kwang at Canton:

our control of foreigners is founded on fixed principles. Those who respect and obey receive favour and benevolence, those who disobey must be intimidated by sternness and majesty.

The English trade at Canton. If they disobey the law, first, carefully issue clear proclamations showing both kindness and firmness.

If they continue to rebel, you must attack them and cause them to fear us. These are our principles for those from afar – reason first, discipline after. All wavering and weakness must be avoided.’

These Imperial instructions are splendid. You, the Emperor, should remember the laws of your race – skill in horsemanship and archery are the foundations of your dynasty. The provinces are often ordered to exercise their troops and the navy so both services are efficient and disciplined. Your most serious thoughts are for stability in the Empire; to awe the surrounding nations with a well-disciplined army.

If opium is not stopped the troops will continue to smoke it. Many are already affected. Exercise and discipline cannot make these people into good soldiers. In all the garrisons these men advance but cannot fight, when they retreat it becomes a rout. In 1830 we had a rebellion of the Yau people in Kwangtung. The official report noted that as a result of opium smoking, few of the army were effective. The muster of men was many but those actually in the field were few. This reveals the effects of opium on the army.

It is recommended that the people may smoke but the army, etc., may not. There is a proverb “a man stops his ears and steals a bell”. All the officials, military officers, scholars and soldiers do not comprise one tenth of the population. Those friends, secretaries, stewards and servants of officials are people who also smoke now. The practise has spread to markets and shops and to the army officers. Soldiers and students have acquired the habit. The only people who do not smoke are the poor common country people. If this recommendation is put into effect, officials will do anything to obtain it, while the people who have so far abstained will be seduced into using it – for if the government permits its use no-one will refrain. When opium use has become universal how can the prohibition on the officials be carried into effect? The officials are not born as officials, they are generally common people who pass the examinations. When officers in the army are dismissed, substitutes must be found from the people. Can they cease smoking opium once they are recruited as officials? And how is the self-indulgent smoking of opium inside one’s own premises to be prevented? Will attendants and servants become spies on their masters? This proposal will give rise to animosity. The father’s commands will be ignored, the elder brother’s watchful care will be unavailing,[123]the lord will lose control of his slave. It is the common practise of men to mutually seduce each other into vice. Why hasten them on the path to self-destruction. If the people are encouraged to trade in and use opium and the officials etc., are forbidden to use it, the whole Empire will wallow in its use. If the ignorant are not awakened from their vices, those of superior mind, intoxicated with opium, will be lost in general depravity.

As there are laws, I trust to them. They are made for the benefit of the people. They contain that which is dreaded and I cannot commend any change. Whilst law exists, the intelligent know what is allowed and what is forbidden. They preserve the many from danger. If the law is rescinded and your Majesty considers opium is not an evil, how can the ignorant people recognise their error when they use it. Thus the laws will become despised, greater excess will be considered normal, dread of the law will be forgotten. The policy that admits opium will bring evil to China and to the minds of men. The laws are profound and changing them cannot be lightly done.

How did this subordinate Hsu Nai Tsi start a discussion allowing the Hong merchants and other vagabonds to give themselves airs and confidently expect that the Emperor will admit opium and that they will be able to abandon themselves to profligacy without fear?

It is my duty to request the Emperor to order all the provincial governors to enjoin on the magistrates the clearest and severest prohibitions against vicious practices so the people may be renovated. If they continue in their old ways, let the law take its course without favour or indulgence. Punish the opium traders so the hearts of men are filled with awe and the foreigners will become changed and civilised.

These are my opinions. A reverential report.“

Vol 9 No 46 – Tuesday 15th November 1836

Viceroy Tang is believed to have issued secret orders to search out the opium brokers and those who refine opium for smoking in the divans. A translation will be available in next issue.

He has also assembled the Hong merchants and linguists, accused them of disobedience, and told them to forbid foreigners to hire Chinese servants.

Heung Shan officials have been ordered to forbid foreign use of sedan chairs in Macau and the services of young girls.

The Heung Shan heen is ordered to prevent foreign ships anchoring at Kum Sing Mun in future.

Vol 9 No 48 – Tuesday 29th November 1836

Memorial of Hsu Kiu to the Emperor:

The greed of the western foreigners has increased the numbers of traitors in China and dried-up our riches. For the 200 years of this dynasty the wealth of the country has been applied to our internal needs. From Sinkiang to Yunnan and Kwangtung there is no place that our traders cannot go, where money and goods cannot circulate.

In the Kien Lung Emperor’s reign the treasury overflowed, the people enjoyed abundance and a tael of sycee was worth 1,000 cash. Now silver is becoming scarce and one tael is worth 1,400 cash.

Hsu Nai Tsi attributes the scarcity to increasing population. When silver is not removed from the country, it remains and does not become scarce nor become more expensive. Silver is scarce because it is exported mostly as a result of our buying opium.

In the first year of the Ka Hing Emperor (1797) the foreigners imported a few hundred chests of opium; now it exceeds 20,000 chests, selling at $500 – 900 per chest. The trade in opium is centred on Canton. Boats from the other provinces go to Lintin and buy opium from the receiving ships. At first opium was bought with the foreigners own dollars (the trade balance being in China’s favour) but now it is exchanged for sycee.

The foreigners used to trade opium at Whampoa but in the 1st year of the To Kwong Emperor (1822), Yeh Hang Shoo petitioned against it and a bond was required of the Hong merchants to ensure it ceased. Then the foreigners moved to Lintin. Each summer they anchor at Kap Shui Mun (Ma Wan island) and return to Lintin after the typhoon season. Then in 13th year of the To Kwong Emperor (1834) the foreigners discovered that Kum Sing Mun (Kiao Island) was a safer anchorage than Kap Shui Mun. They anchored off the villages of Ke Pak and Tang Kea in Heung Shan which afforded opportunities to local residents to make connections with them for trade.[124]

The smugglers subscribe to an arrangement whereby they purport to assign the sale proceeds to various foreign merchants overseas. The Hong merchants act on this information and present petitions soliciting permission for the foreigners to export the dollars. Since the time of the Ka Hing Emperor, piracy has decreased as the ex-pirates are re-employed in the opium trade. This immensely profitable trade has developed because Canton provincial officers never exerted themselves in applying the law and showed excessive indulgence.

The Imperial law is perfect. To open the silver mines and extract the necessary sums is indignantly forbidden. As we cannot increase our silver supplies from other places, we must preserve what we have or in ten years the outflow will have become a torrent.

If the foreign trade is cut off, although much revenue would be lost, a huge amount of silver would be retained and we would overall gain thereby.

Hsu Nai Tsi says: “…. if we cut off the foreign trade it would injure the country and likely not benefit our posterity; if we legalise opium as a barter commodity, the revenue would increase and the sycee would remain in China.”

Does he not know that despite proscription, sycee is already exported and opium imported? A free trade in opium would make the foreigners even more audacious. Their trade will increase and our problem will become more intractable. Can it then still be met by barter only? What about the rice ships which even now generally take away money?[125]When the prohibitions are withdrawn the export of sycee by rice ships will increase.

If the opium trade is not prohibited it will be impossible to prevent all the people using it. As officials and military are appointed from the people, how can we stop them using it as well? Moreover opium is a poison. To allow its spread simply to collect revenue is impolitic. There are existing regulations against import of opium and export of sycee but the magistrates neglect their duty. If the opium prohibition is removed, how can these lax officials prevent silver export? If we cannot exercise vigilance should we give up? To change the law is not as good as enforcing it strictly.

China is closed to foreigners. The native traders cannot go to the receiving ships directly. They employ brokers who make wholesale purchases, Hong merchants who mediate the prices, resident foreigners at Canton who receive the money and write Delivery Orders to the receiving ships and ‘fast crabs’ to bring-in the opium. We have naval forces throughout the Ladrone Islands and pilots who bring-in the foreign ships. We should have no difficulty in searching and seizing. When Chinese junks from the maritime provinces go to the receiving ships at Lintin and Kum Sing Mun it should not be difficult to seize them. When Loo was Viceroy and Tien Poo was Heung Shan heen they made opium seizures. This was rare only because the military officers take bribes to let opium pass.

The laws governing foreigners are few and lax; those governing Chinese are many and strict. We must first govern ourselves before governing others.[126]

The traitorous Chinese who deal in opium, the Hong merchants who mediate the prices, the brokers who make wholesale purchases, the ‘fast crabs’ that import it, the military who receive bribes to let it pass – they should all be subjected to rigorous and secret surveillance, seized and punished severely so we may be free of corruption.

Jardine and Innes dwell in Yee Wo Hong, Dent, Framjee and Merwanjee in Po Shun Hong, Dadabhoy in Fung Tae Hong, Gordon in Kwong Yuen Hong, Whiteman in Imperial Hong, Turner in the Spanish Hong and many others. Since the natives are to be strictly governed, we should seize and examine these foreigners, impress on them the fixed laws and give them a time limit in which to leave with their store ships. We should write to their King and acquaint him with their willing destruction of the lives of our people for profit.

The government cannot bear to execute resident foreigners. If the store ships are removed, the foreigners may be liberated and allowed to continue their legitimate trade. If the store ships return, their trade must be stopped and the involved foreigners put to death. These principles of right and justice must be lucidly explained to them. Although they are not intelligent, yet they can be brought to understand the certain result of their continued disobedience.

It has been said that strict enforcement will cause a war.

I have thought about this. The English themselves do not consume opium. They bring it here to us. They do not bring dollars, they only desire our sycee. Their greed causes us anxiety. The more we know of them the worse they appear. Lately their ships wander all along the coasts. They must have traitorous designs in spying out the land.

If we repeal the proscriptive law our wealth will daily diminish. When the people become poor all sorts of disturbance will arise. How are we to save ourselves?

We should meet this problem resolutely now. Then the foreigners will abandon their disdainful opinion of us and fear to implement their crafty schemes. These are my best thoughts on the matter. I request that orders be issued to ministers to exert themselves and prepare measures.

Postscript to the memorial:

The foreigners in Macau use sedan chairs and employ native bearers. They keep Chinese women. The ships that trade legally with China anchor at Whampoa but the others never enter the port or report their arrival. They sell their smuggled cargo in Kum Sing Mun and elsewhere and put it in ‘fast crabs’ for delivery. More bulky items go to the Macau Customs whereafter the Hong merchants transport them to Canton and sell them. In this way not only are the duties not paid but it is impossible to investigate.

More seriously, in the campo beyond Macau (at Mong Ha village) are many Chinese graves. Early this year the foreigners made a road and levelled many graves. The Tung Che petitioned for a colleague to jointly investigate and reprimand the foreigners but they would not acknowledge their fault. The Tung Che sent men to repair the graves but the foreigners released their black slaves who fought with the police and the people. On receiving the advice of a Linguist,[127]they informed the magistrate that all was well. The foreigners had acted lawlessly but the district magistrate showed forbearance and the matter was quietly closed. This inflated the foreigners’ hearts.

Macau is part of Heung Shan heen with naval stations all around it. The supplies of the enclave are obtained entirely from us. All their compradors are Chinese and licensed by the Heung Shan magistrate. If these foreigners are disobedient it will be simple to control them. I heard that Pang Choo, a former magistrate of Heung Shan heen once became irritated with the pride and profligacy of the foreigners, and withdrew all the compradores and servants. The foreigners at once became submissive. Many respectable inhabitants of the area can vouch for this. If a heen magistrate can thus control them, how much more so could the great officers of the province if they roused themselves.

Also recently the resident foreigners at Canton built a landing place in front of the factories. It took several months but they were not interrupted. Governor Choo Kwei Chen, on his appointment there, ordered it pulled down and the foreigners dared not to say a word.

Again the year before last, Napier brought warships to Whampoa and Viceroy Loo ordered the navy to deal with them. Napier immediately repented and requested a red passport to leave.

Clearly the foreigners are not entirely obdurate and disobedient.

An excessive unrelenting severity will ruin trade. Excessive forbearance will encourage native traitors. If the ancient laws are not explained and enforced, the foreigners will do whatever they like. The foreigners depend on their great wealth to bribe largely. The native traitors are their eyes and ears. The military and police are their friends. We must employ clever officers of settled and decisive character to firstly bring the native traitors under control. Then these sources of information are denied the foreigners.

These are my further views.

Vol 9 No 48 – Tuesday 29th November 1836

Edict of Viceroy Tang, Governor Ke and Hoppo Wan, 23rd November 1836:

Hsu Kiu’s memorial on opium to the Emperor says Jardine and other foreigners have ‘planted’ themselves in the factories and do not leave each year as required by law.

The Hong merchants have now reported that the foreign receiving ships are anchored in the estuary and employ traitorous natives to smuggle by providing goods on which no duty has been paid.

How can so many seizures of opium be made in the provincial city? The Hongs say that seizures outside are many but inside are few. Even so, they agree that seizures are made inside. This reveals there are men in Canton who smooth the way, make agreements and form connections for sale of opium and fix prices.

We wish to preserve the lives of the Hong merchants and their families. If you come forward and confess we may excuse your crimes. Your present reports are confused and contradictory. Unless you Hong merchants have mercy on yourselves and come forward it is impossible for us to restrain the unrelenting force of the law.

Jardine and the others have long dwelt in Canton. Is it to attend to their many ships? Do trading vessels arrive each month for them? Do they remain waiting for a price improvement to sell? Does their trade never stop for a day?

We will abjure speculation and merely ask ‘is it right or reasonable that the foreigners never return to their homes?’ The law is clear. If foreign ships cannot sell all their goods or collect all their debts, still they are not permitted to remain. When the time comes, the ships must off-load their remaining cargo to the Hong merchants’ warehouses and leave. The Hongs sell off the goods and account to the foreigners in the next season. The traders must go to Macau, but they are not to remain long there either. Commencing with next season the ships must go and the foreigners as well. If they remain, the foreigners, the Hong merchants and Linguists will all be punished.

The Hongs say the trade of the foreigners must be under their own foreign management. If this is so, of what use is a Hong merchant? Are you there just to obtain monopoly profits for yourselves? The foreigners have been benevolently tolerated and should obey Chinese law if they wish to preserve their trade. Now the Emperor is alert to their activities and has become strict. If foreigners continue to remain in Canton to carry on their smuggling and the Hongs persist in protecting them, our suspicions will increase daily.

We are the officials appointed to this Province to uproot evil and we will not excuse offenders. We have received the renewed Imperial order to guard the interior and exterior of the Empire and the time for indulgence has past. Things must improve and you should calculate the consequences of their not doing so.

The Hong merchants will forward our orders to Jardine, Innes, Dent, Turner, Framjee, Merwanjee, Dadabhoy, Gordon and Whiteman for their obedience.

They will explain their trade.

Thereafter the named foreigners have a fortnight to pack up and leave.

They may stop briefly at Macau before returning to their countries. If they have goods remaining or outstanding accounts, the Hong merchants are to deal with them in the usual way. If they are impervious to our advice and prevaricate or display stupidity, we will carry the law into effect and they will have difficulty returning to their own countries.

Those who reside in Yee Wo Hong (Jardine and Innes), should they oppose examination, will find their factory sealed and the owner (How Qua) seized and tried.

We require a response from the Hong merchants on all this within three days. There may be no delay.”

Vol 9 No 50 – Tuesday 13th December 1836

Imperial instruction to Viceroy Tang, Governor Ke and Hoppo Wan on opium:

Choo Tsan details the dealings of native traders, the mediation of the Hong merchants, wholesale transactions by brokers, carriage and distribution by ‘fast crabs’ and corruption of the military.

Hsu Kiu complains of the foreigners’ involvement.

You Canton officials are to investigate these allegations clearly and tell me the truth. If opium can be managed, you are to make your recommendations.”

Vol 9 No 50 – Tuesday 13th December 1836

Paper by Koo King Shan published by the Canton Government:

Opium is a western drug that cheers the mind and eliminates fatigue. These properties have seduced many into its constant use. It is sold for more than its weight in silver. After people try it, they find they cannot resist using it again and again. They sleep all day and forget to eat. They become unfit for any occupation and expend all their capital on it. It is twice as dangerous as Pei Shuan (a Chinese unguent popular for suicide):

  • Opium lowers the mind and the spirit. At first it is exciting and pleasurable but this does not proceed from reality. It is a passing effect of the drug. It is like lighting a lamp which eventually goes out when the oil is consumed.
  • It ruins business. A merchant using opium forgets his appointments and does not care.
  • Its is physically degenerative. Appetite is suppressed and the flesh melts away.
  • It dissipates capital. The rich smoker ruins his family and loses his estate.

Editor – To enjoy opium the Chinese way, two people lie facing each other, achieve the bliss of opium, and pour out their hearts to each other under its influence. Their pleasure is so great they recommend it to their friends.

Vol 9 No 51 – Tuesday 20th December 1836

Editorial – the harder anti-opium line being considered by the Imperial government and the harsher terms of provincial Edicts that have recently been issued, suggests that even the most pacific of foreigners will soon be forced to adopt our line of policy and agree the necessity of protecting British trade here. Before we decide what to do, we should consider what we can rightfully claim and then determine how to approach H M Ministers and the Imperial and Provincial governments.

The most important question now is the liability of the Hongs to pay the debts of bankrupt members. It seems equitable that the Chinese government should bear responsibility for the system it forces upon us.[128]If it refuses, can it be coerced? The Company’s Select Committee was the last British authority. Will the Chinese government enforce on the free trade the agreements it made with the Select? That would be convenient for China but would we be legally bound by it?

Vol 9 No 51 – Tuesday 20th December 1836

Viceroy, Governor and Hoppo have responded to the reply of the Hongs to the order requiring named foreigners to depart, 13th December 1836:

The Hongs say Framjee says he is only waiting to complete his existing transactions and will leave in January / February 1837.

Whiteman will leave before the end of this year.

Jardine, Dadabhoy, Gordon, Turner, Innes and Dent each say they have many ships arriving and must remain to buy goods for them. They ask to complete their transactions after which they will go to Macau.

On receiving these indications we Hongs again enjoined on the foreigners that they must leave.

Framjee again asks to complete his business before January 1837.

Whiteman wishes to close his accounts and will then leave at the same time.

Gordon says his business will be concluded next March after which he will leave.

Dadabhoy says he is hurrying to complete everything and wants to stay until January when he will go to Macau.

Jardine again says he has many ships at Whampoa and must buy tea and silk for them. The tea has arrived late and he asks to stay until April when he will go to Macau.

Innes says he will conclude his business by year end and go to Macau.

We the Viceroy, etc., know the regulations do not allow foreigners to remain and only our former indulgence has allowed them to do so. They are allowed to quietly trade but not to embarrass the Hong merchants or form connections with natives. The people say the foreigners reside in Canton to form these connections and carry on smuggling.

To counteract this, nine new regulations were made and sent to the Emperor for approval. He now requests investigation. If we continue to be kind to the foreigners and comply with their wants, they will later say our indulgence has become their right.

Nevertheless, we will allow the requests of Whiteman, Framjee, Gordon, Innes and Dadabhoy who all say they will leave very soon.

As for Jardine, Dent and Turner who want to stay until March or April next year this is too much. They must complete their business by February and then go to Macau. This gives them four months to settle everything. If they leave anything undone they will have to complete it from Macau.

We will advise the Emperor of the dates when each foreigner is to leave Canton. No subsequent alteration is possible. The Hongs will tell the foreigners the latest dates for their departure. If they loiter thereafter we will understand it as a hankering to continue their smuggling schemes and opposition to the law. There will be no further indulgence. The law will be executed upon them with strictness and the Hong merchants will also be punished.

Do not say that you have not been warned.”

Vol 10 No 1 – Tuesday 3rd January 1837

Editorial on Canton news:

  • Hsu Nai Tsi has again memorialised the Emperor requesting the legalisation of opium imports.
  • The Government is contemplating serious measures against opium. It is building new fast crabs to be stationed inter alia at the government office on Lintin for enforcement. This will increase squeezes on trade.
  • On opium, we assert the biblical dogma that all the productions of the earth are given to man to use. He must prepare them to the best of his ability.
  • The teamen say the second Spring harvest this year is better quality than the first which was affected by excessive rain before sprouting. They propose to increase prices of all teas by 40% as profits have become small. Purchasers requiring lead or tin linings in their tea chests will have to pay more for those metals.
    The teamen say, since the beginning of 1835, the people who bring opium to the Mo Yi Hills in exchange for tea have arranged to pay $0.50 and 4 mace respectively, to the Customs Houses at Shiu Kwan and Kan Kuan, on each ball of Patna that is allowed to pass. Both Customs Houses have become rich and the opium distributors have lost all fear of government.
    As a result many Cantonese are emboldened to go to Hunan and Hukwong provinces to barter opium for tea. The supply has become more widely distributed and the value of tea has diminished in respect of opium.

Vol 10 No 1 – Tuesday 3rd January 1837

The expulsion of named foreigners from Canton required by the Edict of 23rd December 1836, which was expected to occur early January, has been postponed as the port regulations state that foreigners leave in Spring. This departure law has hitherto been widely ignored.

Vol 10 No 2 – 10th January 1837

Framjee Pestonjee, the eminent and respectable Parsee who has been banished, has left China on the Earl of Balcarras (Hine) for Bombay. He has been a liberal donor to many charities. His considerable wealth, which he manages so well, will no doubt continue to increase. We wish him well.

Vol 10 No 2 – 10th January 1837

On 28th December some smuggling boats with 30+ chests of opium were chased by a revenue cruiser. Shots were exchanged. The first opium boat escaped but another with 7 men was captured. They were delivered to the Nam Hoi heen for interrogation and confessed the opium belonged to the money changer Hung Yik in Luen Hong Street.[129]

On 1st January the heen searched the shop but found no opium. The proprietor had absconded and the heen only arrested the shop assistants and the furnace-man (who is employed to melt and assay silver but may have extended his expertise to the refinement of raw opium).

On 2nd January the heen sealed (Cantonese – fung jor) the shop as well as the adjacent one which dealt in foreign goods.

Hung Yik was a major dealer in opium. The cessation of its refining business is expected to cause smokable extract (retail opium) to advance in price. It is presently retailing in the City at $9.50 per catty.[130]

Vol 10 No 4 – 24th January 1837

John C Whiteman, the second of the banished foreigners to leave China, has boarded the Viscount Melbourne with his family for London.

Vol 10 No 7 – 14th February 1837

Local news:

  • There is a rumour that some action against the fleet at Lintin is impending. It has caused the hurried departure of several American ships from that anchorage.
  • The Hong merchants say the Imperial Commissioners who are coming to investigate opium and silver will not receive the Viceroy or governor but will make their own independent enquiries.

Vol 10 No 8 – 21st February 1837

First opium auction at Calcutta, 4th January – sale results:

Patna (Bihar) 


4,970 chests at average 1,613 Sicca Rupees 

1,991 chests at average 1,459 Sicca Rupees

Vol 10 No 8 – 21st February 1837

The Emperor has ordered the Canton Provincial government to give effect to its recommendations for control of the opium trade and, after two years, the matter will again be considered.

Vol 10 No 8 – 21st February 1837

Walsh’s Constantinople, Vol I on Turkish opium:

The Turks are opium eaters. It was sold in the coffee shops and was once generally enjoyed but repeated firmans were issued banning its use in public and asserting its deleterious effects. These have ended the practice and the coffee / opium shops have fallen into disuse.

The Turks used to be very moral people and devout followers of the Koran. The use of wine was denied them but opium was not expressly forbidden and they naturally indulged themselves as an alternative.

Finally their excesses caused the firmans that resulted in its end.

As opium use declined, people changed to wines and other stimulants. Now opium is consumed only in the growing districts.

Making kef (a Turkish word indicating ‘delightful exhilaration’) occurs during the opium harvest but the people use it as a temporary gratification only and remain healthily unaddicted.

Most Turkish opium is grown around Nicaea (Iznik).[131]I watched the villagers harvesting it. After the petals fall from the flower, they use a curved knife to incise around the capsule. A white sap is exuded which turns brown in sunlight. This is raw opium. Each evening they tend the plants and scrap the sap off. This substance was called opon by the Greeks hence our own name for it.

Turkish opium is often adulterated with other narcotics. For the marketing of the adulterated supply, they boil the poppy heads in water to inspissate the juice and wrap the dried residue in poppy leaves for sale.

For their own use the farmers use the pure sap. It produces an indefinably pleasant mental state which the people call Kef. A Turk takes a drachm of opium, drinks a glass of water, and lies down on the divan. In a few minutes he is transported to Heaven.

It is widely used in the farming areas and seems to have no deleterious effects.”

Vol 10 No 9 – 28th February 1837

Peking Gazettes, 26th January – Viceroy Tang of the Two Kwang submitted his recommendations to the Emperor for ending opium imports and has now received the imperial instruction:

Opium imports cause sycee exports. This is a serious evil. The shortage of silver has effects far beyond the opium trade and influences the entire economy of China. To prevent its export we must know the routes the traitors use to deliver it to the foreigners.”

I, the Emperor, order Tang and Ke (Viceroy and Governor) and their colleagues to search out the routes and repress the connections of Chinese traitors with greedy foreigners.”

Vol 10 No 12 – 21st March 1837

Viceroy Tang says the harbour of Kum Sing Mun (Kiao Island off Heung Shan) is prohibited to foreigners. They may only go there in heavy weather to seek temporary shelter. Recently a great number of ships anchored there. Gangs of traitorous natives have accumulated and all sorts of smuggling goes on. The gentry and elders of the neighbourhood fear the foreigners will come ashore and cause trouble. They have petitioned me for help. Now the ships have left but I fear they will return.

Before Lunar New Year, I commanded the Hong merchants to demand the foreigners’ obedience to Chinese law. Foreigners should understand the heavenly principles and be capable of gratitude. They should acknowledge the Emperor’s benevolence in permitting their trade. But amongst them are some few who neither respect anything nor obey anyone. Some others are ignorant and imagine I issue instructions merely to fill time. These people nurture their foreign ways and do not adapt to Chinese law. It is difficult to wean them from their wrong ideas but there is no-one who cannot be changed by repeated instruction.

I have ordered the naval commander to put his warships under the control of the Heung Shan heen who will police Kum Sing Mun bay and keep the foreigners out.

I have issued three orders on this subject and you should know I mean what I say. I do not propose to enforce my will by violence or entangle the foreigners in the net of the laws. This does not conform with the Imperial will to show kindness to men from afar.

I am thus issuing a further order to the Hong merchants which they must explain to all the foreign traders, requiring them to enjoin it on their ship crews. It is imperative that government be obeyed.

When a foreign ship comes to China it must enter port, pay the entry fees and trade. It may not anchor at Kum Sing Mun.

If they obey the fixed regulations, foreigners will long enjoy a carefree life in China, free of anxiety, wrinkled foreheads and heart-corroding grief.

I hope they will all enjoy peace and happiness. But if they become enslaved to greed, ignore the penalties for lawlessness, and enter Kum Sing Mun, I can only allow the law to take its course. I will not allow the ships to come and go as they please.

Consider carefully now so you will not repent later. 16th March 1837

Vol 10 No 14 – 4th April 1837

Ah Ming Chow (a partner in Wan Chong Hong, a new Hong merchant), who smuggled sycee for us, reportedly died this week in prison. Our Chinese friends say he swallowed opium.

Vol 10 No 14 – 4th April 1837

An edited translation of the Viceroy’s 2nd report on opium:

After a review of his 1st report of 29th December ….

I, with the Governor and Hoppo, have made secret enquiries. How Qua has reported for the Hong merchants as follows:

We only do business with those ships that come to Whampoa. We give our bonds for those ships to confirm that they do not bring opium. We search their holds and the foreigners would not dare to jeopardise our lives by using them for smuggling opium. But in the outer waters the coastal people form traitorous connections with the foreigners and import opium. It is not possible for us to extend our vigilance to those distant places.

Regarding the foreigners who live in Canton all year, Merwanjee has left but Jardine, Dent, Turner, Innes and Whiteman stay here. Framjee and Dadabhoy, and Gordon, the American who came this year, also stay.[132]They all dwell in different factories and have written to us that they do not export sycee nor sell opium. They all write that they do not receive payment in return for providing Delivery Orders for opium. Each says the numbers of his ships and the times of their arrival varies and they accordingly have to stay in Canton all year round to attend to their business.

Whiteman asks to be allowed to return this year. Framjee asks to return in the 1st moon of next year, Gordon in the 3rd moon. All three are willing to give a bond for their departure. Innes and Dadabhoy ask to go to Macau and manage their business from there. Innes asks to go at year-end and Dadabhoy in 1st moon of next year. The other three – Jardine, Dent and Turner – have ships constantly arriving and say it is imperative they remain here. Each writes to say it would be difficult for him to leave by 3rd or 4th moon of next year. They ask to go at that time to Macau and continue their business from there whereafter they will return to Britain.”

This is what the Hong merchants have reported to us.

We have learned that opium is presently widely available and the price of sycee has become extremely high. The opium is brought-in by traitorous Chinese. The Hong merchants say they are not involved and the foreigners do not receive silver for opium delivery orders. These things are hard to believe but we still lack proof of Hong complicity. We cannot act on mere rumour.

Of all the foreigners who come here, only the English have an extensive trade. Lately the English company was dissolved and the English traders all started to act independently. Jardine has the largest volume of trade and winter is the busiest time. To order them all abruptly away now would not be a compassionate act. Former Viceroys have often reported that the foreigners should not be driven out before their goods have been sold. They were allowed to live at Macau briefly to conclude their business. Jardine, Dent and Turner have lived in Canton for many years and should not delay their departure much longer. We have ordered them to Macau by 2nd moon of next year where they must quickly conclude their business and go away. We will permit no delay. If they remain after the stated time, a strict examination will be made of them and, if they are found to have connections with Chinese dealing in opium, they must each receive capital punishment. This will manifest the law and deter other foreigners from importing opium.

I now refer to Hsu Kiu’s memorial to the Emperor in which he says foreigners use sedan chairs in Macau and are carried by Chinese bearers. He says they have connections with Chinese women. I have ordered men to Macau and found the foreigners using sedan chairs. The chair bearers say they are poor and they need the money from this employment. I have also found that the families of foreigners make connections with Chinese women but it is usually for domestic service not fornication. If I detect any sexual connections with foreigners, the women will be severely punished.

Concerning the shipping at Kum Sing Mun I have repeatedly explained the strict prohibitions and ordered it away.

All the foreigners are quintessentially crafty and the Chinese traitors are greedy for money. At present the towns and villages are tranquil but opium is imported and silver exported and we are focusing our entire minds on how both can be stopped.

This is our report.”

Vol 10 No 16 – 18th April 1837

Calcutta Courier – The Bengal Hurkaru reports that the government has extended poppy farming to Meerut Division under similar arragements to those pertaining in Bihar and Benares.

Actually no new land is being made available. The ‘new’ acreage is the late Begum Sumroo’s existing poppy farms. All that opium will continue to be processed in the Abkarry department as before.

Vol 10 No 17 – 25th April 1837

Letter to the Editor concerning American trade at Singapore (extract):

….. We should certainly not deter American trade at Singapore. They are allured to come mainly to re-export Indian opium to China. This is only a slight advantage to American trade and any unfriendliness would put them off. If American trade was closed out of Singapore, the Sultan of Johore would welcome it. Indeed he might sell them a harbour in the same way he sold Singapore to us. Sgd SSS

Vol 10 No 18 – 2nd May 1837

A sub-committee of the General Chamber has recommended a 3-4 week period within which an opium seller is responsible to the buyer for deficient weight due to evaporation, inferior quality or damage:

This system requires the buyer to obtain an Opium Order before inspection. These are negotiable documents that pass as money amongst the brokers and dealers. We interviewed one broker who thought a month would be adequate, but he wished to check the views of his colleagues before confirming his opinion and we have not again heard from him.”

The sub-committee recommends opium sellers insert a clause in their Delivery Orders limiting responsibility temporally in addition to the present clause on risk, expense and responsibility.

Vol 10 No 21 – 23rd May 1837

The 3rd Calcutta auction produced the following average prices:

Bihar 1,406 chests at 1,623 rupees

Benares 980 chests at 1,545 rupees

An investigation of the quality certification provided for opium at Calcutta has commenced. Some certificated opium is being received at Lintin in reportedly inferior condition.

Vol 10 No 22 – 30th May 1837

Edict of Viceroy Tang:

I have received the Hong merchants’ advice that the American Gordon has notified the date of his departure from Canton. All the other foreigners have been informed of the Imperial order for their expulsion but a month has elapsed and Jardine, Dent and Turner have not advised the date they will leave and neither have they gone down to Macau. Now Dent petitions that his affairs are not completed and he wishes to remain. These foreigners have no respect for the law and are deaf to advice.

The time limit set by the Emperor has passed. This delay betrays your (the Hongs’) traitorous connection with the foreigners. You Hong merchants must expedite their departure and not allow them any grounds for misplaced expectations. If they do not leave voluntarily they will be removed.”

Editor Slade has heard, when commenting on this translation, that the British Commissioners for Trade are providing free translations by their official interpreter Morrison Jr to the Canton Press Editor but not to him.

Vol 10 No 25 – 20th June 1837

The Board of Customs, Salt and Opium at Calcutta held an extra sale of 30 chests of Patna and 5 of Benares on 19th May which sold at 1585-1590 and 1425 Rupees respectively. The final sale is delayed from 28th May to 9th June subject to receipt of commercial news from China.

Editor – The unpredictable dates of opium auctions is a result of the Bengal government’s financial temptation to speculators to partake to the detriment of genuine buyers. Many Indians have been allured into bidding by offers of finance. They have driven prices up to the point that opium is unsellable.

Vol 10 No 25 – 20th June 1837

The Hong merchants have complained to the General Chamber that the extensive smuggling done in the ferry boats from Macau to Whampoa / Canton causes them difficulties with the government and will ultimately entail the suspension or modification of this form of communication.

Elliot hopes the Chamber will discountenance any activities that prejudice communications of Canton with Macau and the outer anchorages. The Chamber has circulated members reminding them of the great convenience these boats offer, due to the indulgence of the Chinese, and recommends the convenience of the many not be sacrificed to the greed of a few.

Here is the Hoppo’s Edict, dated 19th June 1837, on the subject:

The Viceroy has received advice from Hoppo Wan that three large ferry boats with two masts and cargo holds and three smaller ferry boats with one mast and cargo holds are anchored overnight in the river opposite the foreign factories.[133]A seventh large passage boat with two masts and holds is anchored off the Sea Pearl (Hoi Chu) Temple (Dutch Folly in English histories).

Tsai Mo (the Linguist Kwan Ho, known to the foreigners as Ah Tom) was asked whose boats they are and whence they come. He said one large boat belongs to Edwards of Imperial Hong, another to Markwick of British Hong, a third to Jardine of Creek Hong, the fourth to Just of French Hong. Two of the small passage boats also belong to Just and the third to Markwick.

It has long been the law that only open boats (without cargo holds) are permitted to be used as ferry boats. This is to deter smuggling. If the large boats do not leave they will be seized. In the Company’s days, its captains were allowed large boats. Now the Company has withdrawn, only small boats are allowed for the conveyance of letters to Whampoa and Macau. They are to stop at each Customs House for search. The former Viceroy Loo obtained the Imperial assent to this law.

Now Edwards and the others have brought these large ferry boats to Canton and unashamedly anchor them in the river. It is illegal yet the Hong merchants and Linguists have said nothing. This smacks of connivance and must be stopped. How can you let these people do as they please at their own convenience? They must obey the law.

I order Howqua, Mowqua, Punkiqua and the others to drive these boats out and investigate if the landlords of the various Hongs have made disgraceful connections with the foreigners. There can be no concealment. If the boats are not expelled the landlords of the involved Hongs will be fettered, etc.”

Vol 10 No 29 – 18th July 1837

The Englishman on opium:

The rumours that the Bengal Government will provide finance to speculators who bid at the opium auctions appear unfounded. The company always took pains to deal with opium at arm’s length to protect its business with China. It officially claims to not know that opium goes to China.

If it loans on opium, secured on Bills of Lading deliverable at Lintin, it can hardly maintain this pretence. The auctions have reduced the opium trade to the level of the salt monopoly.

We would not be surprised to see future sales made directly out of the opium godowns at a fixed price. That would immediately exclude the gamblers and leave the dealers to trade with the consumers. It would end the operations of the Malwa cartel, who by bidding at the Calcutta auctions, connive at raising the Bengal price and thus increase the value of their own crop.

This is a critical year for opium farming. A new system might well spring out of it. A simple tax or export duty could well substitute for the present monopoly.

Vol 10 No 30 – 25th July 1837

East India Prices Current, 13th June:

The delayed opium auction at Calcutta was finally held 12th June 1837. 3,167 chests of Patna and 2,089 Benares were offered in various lots. A larger number of bidders attended than at any former auction.

The average Patna price was 1,448 Company Rupees (c. $665), Benares was 1,240 Rupees (c. $570). The auction proceeds exceeded 7 million Rupees.

Vol 10 No 33 – 15th August 1837

Calcutta Courier, 28th June – 58 lots of opium sold in the last auction have not been paid for as required under the auction rules. They were re-offered on Monday. The original purchasers of 31 lots took up their contracts. A further 23 lots, formerly sold for 1,435 – 1,470 Company Rupees, were re-auctioned at 1,385 – 1,415 Company Rupees. Many opium traders were in attendance expecting prices to fall lower.

Vol 10 No 33 – 15th August 1837

Viceroy Tang has received a copy of an Edict of the Emperor to the Grand Council of War and forwarded it to the Hoppo. The Emperor says:

Previously sycee was exported along the whole coast of China, deranging the national economy, and we instructed you to stop it. Now it is reported that the English have 10+ storeships in the outer waters. They have been coming since 1821 to Kap Shui Mun (Ma Wan Island) and in 1833 changed to Kum Sing Mun (Kiao Island). They are solely responsible for the import of opium and export of sycee.

The merchants of Canton superficially trade in foreign goods but their main livelihood comes from smuggling. Brokers and Hong merchants buy opium and pay sycee. Runaways and bandits leave the coast in the morning to go to these store ships. They deliver opium up every creek in ‘fast crabs’.

How are these store ships allowed to remain all year round, making traitorous connections with the people, and taking away our sycee? The Council will command the Viceroy, etc., to have the Hong merchants drive away these foreign store ships. Then catch all the brokers and punish them severely so this source of evil is expunged forever.”

Viceroy Tang to the Hong merchants:

The fixed law is clear. No foreign ship is permitted to anchor outside. Tell the English Superintendent to expel his store ships within ten days. If they do not go, you alone will be held responsible. It will be considered a crime to gloss over this. Make haste.”

Vol 10 No 34 – 22nd August 1837

Calcutta Courier 15th July – A further opium auction was rumoured for today as a result of Mr Cohen not taking up the 750 chests that were knocked-down to him at the previous auction.

28 lots earmarked for the French government have also not been taken up. The whole lot of about 900 chests will be offered for resale on 10thSeptember.[134]

Vol 10 No 35 – 29th August 1837

Local news:

The Viceroy has personally sent a former magistrate of Heung Shan to cruise against the opium ‘fast crabs’ and has directed the Nam Hoi and Poon Yu magistrates to deal effectively with opium brokers.

This has made opium very expensive in Canton and even ‘new faces’ in the broking community are afraid to deal in the Drug.

Vol 10 No 36 – 5th September 1837

Edict of Admiral Chin and General To of Fukien Province, 23rd August 1837:

Society is held together by law. If law is not enforced, society disintegrates.

Foreign ships are only permitted at Canton. This has long been the law but the foreigners these days sail everywhere to sell proscribed opium. If we took opium to the English coast and sold it to your people would you permit it?

You abuse the Emperor’s benevolence but he forgives what is past. Now the Viceroy of Chekiang & Fukien has ordered us to drive you away. The Viceroy of the Two Kwang has ordered your Chief to prevent your voyages. You should forego your wickedness and follow virtue.

If you cannot obey our law you should leave. If you obstinately continue to disobey we will launch a thousand warships against you. When the Admiral unites his ships with the General’s soldiers you will be unable to resist. But we issue this timely warning before annihilating you.

If you are wise you will leave our coast.”

Vol 10 No 36 – 5th September 1837

The Manchu General of the Two Kwang is ordered to Peking to defend himself of charges of complicity in the distribution of opium.[135]

Vol 10 No 37 – 12th September 1837

Calcutta Courier, 19th July – The opium merchants at Calcutta propose to apply to the Bengal Government for relief from their purchases this year. Their grounds are the recent indulgence given to Mr Cohen who was allowed to resile from his contracts, costing the government 200 rupees per chest for the 750 chests that Cohen bought.

The speculators have applied for a reduction of agreed sale prices in the first three sales this year of the difference between those sales and the recent June sale at which the enforcement action in China depressed prices.

They say they have tried to perform their engagements faithfully and should not be punished when Cohen simply defaulted on his contracts and got away with it. They want the proposed decrease to apply both to chests already shipped and those still held back in stock. They say the prices they committed to pay in the first three auctions cannot be recovered profitably in China.

It is true that very few of the chests sent to China have been sold. The application will involve 11,000 chests and the government loss of revenue, if it fully agrees to the proposal, will be some 2,200,000 Sicca Rupees.

Vol 10 No 37 – 12th September 1837

Peking Gazettes, 9th July, Imperial Edict:

The export of sycee is injuring the country. I told all the officials of the maritime provinces to stop it. Benevolence has been heaped upon them and they should discharge their duty faithfully but perhaps they are privy to the smuggling? If they do not stop the export very soon they will be disgraced. The civil and military officers must exert themselves. Success will bring Imperial rewards. The Viceroys and Governors must stop these base practices.

Vol 10 No 37 – 12th September 1837

Peking Gazettes, 9th July:

The censor Lew Mung Lan says the soldiers of the maritime provinces are mainly inveterate opium smokers. The Emperor responds:

Soldiers are supposed to be disciplined and brave. In 1833 the Yau people rebelled at Leen Chow and the soldiers could not be mobilised because of enervation by opium. I dismissed their officers. This is a warning. How will it be possible to defend the country and maintain our dignity?

The Viceroys, Governors and Generals must purify their minds and take precautions. The involved soldiers must be identified and cashiered. If the high officials fail they will also be dismissed.”[136]

Vol 10 No 38 – 19th September 1837

Local news:

  • The Hong merchant Lo Fuk Tai of Tung Chang Hong is in trouble. The acting Nam Hoi Heen, while searching for smuggled camlets in the shops along Old and New China Streets, discovered a letter from Lo to a senior naval officer concerning opium smuggling. The acting Heen sent the letter to the Viceroy.
    As a result the Naval officer has been dismissed and Lo Fuk Tai is imprisoned. The other Hongs expect him to lose his licence. The Viceroy is determined to end opium smuggling. Every creek and passage is watched by Customs boats. The ‘fast crabs’ are all hidden away. Retail opium has increased 50% in price.
    Macau is just as bad. The Heung Shan heen has men in the city looking for opium shops and searching for brokers. Every type of person is liable to arrest if he excites the least suspicion. Smokers are obliged to conceal themselves within premises before indulging their habit.
  • The former Nam Hoi heen Lew Kea Ching has returned from his audience with the Emperor and resumed his duties on 11th September.

Vol 10 No 39 – 26th September 1837

Viceroy Tang and Governor Ke instructed the Hongs to enjoin their demand on the English Trade Commissioner that the ships in the outer waters must depart. Hereafter only trade in legal items is permitted. Since then no response has been received via the Hongs. Numerous officials have reported 25 foreign store ships at Mo Tau (the Nine Islands, off Zhuhai), Sha Lei, Ke King (Cabreta Point) and Tum Chai (Taipa). Later 19 store-ships moved from Mo Tau and two from Sha Lei and all anchored off Tsim Sha Tsui (in Hong Kong harbour). They have not gone away, they have just moved.

China tenderly regards foreigners. The benevolence of the Emperor sinks into their flesh and penetrates their bones. Under what distorted view can the foreigners pretend to trade but actually smuggle.

The depraved men in the outer waters believe we are incapable of extending our jurisdiction to them. Every country has its boundaries and you in the outer waters are well within ours. We will not continually tolerate your disobedience of our laws.

The English King has hitherto been obedient. He sent Elliot to supervise His people here. Elliot was told to expel them a month ago and nothing has yet happened. He is either unequal to the task or he connives in the smuggling. How can he face us, let alone his own King?

We again order the Hongs to instruct Elliot to distinguish between happiness and sorrow. He must expel all the ships without any opposition. He should tell his King that smuggling ships are not allowed. The Hong merchants are responsible to educate the foreigners. They should consider the safety of themselves and their families in carrying out their duties. If they continue to delay their crime will be great. 18th September 1837

Editor – Elliot should outline the extent of his powers to the Canton provincial government. If they require our aid to do their job, Elliot should tell them to give us an island, then we will cease troubling them. Elliot cannot order the ships away – the Bengal government is dependent on them for much of its revenue. It is actually Elliot’s duty to protect them.

Whether our China-trade should be secondary to the Bengal revenue is a nice point.

This revenue derives from forcing a part of the Bengal population into cultivating the poppy and manufacturing opium. The value of this crop is run up 500 – 600% by artful jobbing at auctions. To maintain this revenue, the British character is to be forever disgraced in China. The company, whilst it traded here, purported to be uninvolved in opium but in fact it took the profits in Bengal while urging the buyers on to their ruin by selling opium abroad. If we are to hold a proper position in the east, this government monopoly must be abandoned. The people of England should consider whether they wish their national character to continue to be disgraced in sacrifice to the East India Company’s profits.

Vol 10 No 39 – 26th September 1837

Viceroy Tang has received an Edict of the Council of War:

On 28th August Peking received advice of the arrest of the Fukienese She How and others and the Cantonese Wang Ma Chih and others who all conspired with foreigners to distribute opium.

In Fukien waters the Admiral must cruise and seize the smugglers.

In Canton waters it is difficult to prevent them smuggling but each foreign nation has its taipan (chief merchant) who must be urged to restrain his people. Tell these taipans to drive the smugglers away.

The Fukien admiral has interrogated the culprits and obtained details of their accomplices. He will round up all of them and punish them so the impure connection with foreigners is prevented and peace will return to our waters.

I (the Viceroy) require the Hong merchants to order Elliot to identify these foreigners who make traitorous connections with Chinese and expel them. Hereafter the merchant ships are only allowed to conduct lawful trade. Opium may not be imported. Elliot understands the management of affairs. He must give these opium ships his serious attention. If the ships delay their departure, we will deliberate on what should be done. If the opium brokers and smugglers did not abandon themselves to profligacy there would be no difficulty.

I have ordered the army and civil officers, through their informants, to identify and seize the culprits and seven times they have arrested sycee exporters, smugglers, fast boat operators and retailers. Now the inner waterways are clear but outside there still remain some ‘to fung’ (fast wayboats) and others that carry on the smuggling. The opium smuggler Tsing Ching Hin and his Heung Shan fast boat has been seized.

It is the Lintin system that is responsible for the export of sycee, the import of opium and contraband goods and the consequent decrease in Imperial revenue. All the relevant places are in the area controlled by the Heung Shan heen. Although the resort of the store ships cannot be tackled yet our forces are sufficient to interdict their trade within the inner waters. When we catch a criminal we will examine him and learn all he knows.

If officials allow their boats to be used for smuggling or if they accept bribes, they will be punished one degree more heavily than the smuggler. When seizures are made the officials will receive the goods and sycee as reward; the boats and opium will be burned. We have seen how increased vigilance drives the opium storeships from one place to the next.”

Vol 10 No 39 – 26th September 1837

Local news:

Two Heung Shan men who bought 10 catties of opium in Macau and tried to smuggle it into Canton were caught and turned over to the Heung Shan heen for punishment.

Vol 10 No 40 – 3rd October 1837

Viceroy Tang’s secret memorial on opium:

On 3rd August we received the Council of War’s order, reciting an Imperial Edict received 14th July, to expel the opium store ships. The Emperor says:

Sycee is being removed from China causing injury to the government and the peoples’ standard of living. The exporters of sycee depend on the opium store-ships where vagabonds hide themselves and smugglers go all day to buy contraband. Traitorous natives manage the trade. They land the opium and the shopkeepers of Canton, overtly pretending to deal in foreign goods, retail it to the people.

The opium stock is kept in store-ships in the outer waters. The ships have been there since My reign commenced but no-one reported them. They remain all year and facilitate traitorous connections with native smugglers.

The Emperor requires me to order the Hong merchants to instruct the foreigners to remove their store-ships. I am to also seek out the opium brokers and dealers and punish them.

Receiving this, I the Viceroy have investigated. Opium is a foreign product. At first it was admitted on payment of duty. Afterwards it was proscribed but we have not been able to cut off its distribution by foreigners. It is now found everywhere and sycee silver is becoming scarce. Formerly the foreign ships anchored at Lintin to await a pilot. Now they have established store-ships there for opium.

The English country traders and the Americans are the most numerous. They have been driven away many times but keep coming back.

In the last few years they have adopted the habit of shifting the Lintin fleet to Kum Sing Mun during the summer. I myself only came here at the end of 1836 but the Governor has informed me. In October 1837 the ships moved from Kum Sing Mun to Lintin. I proclaimed to the Hong merchants and people of Kum Sing Mun that the shipping was not to be permitted to return. Admiral Kwan is ordered to cruise in the vicinity. The Heung Shan Heen has been ordered to watch the harbour closely. I have also prepared fire ships to float down on the foreign shipping should they come back. In March this year we reported to the Emperor. This summer the ships have not reappeared at Kum Sing Mun but they are still in the vicinity of Canton and we will have to incrementally manage them.”

A secret attachment to the above memorial:

On 6th September we received a despatch from the Council of War saying they had received an Imperial Edict. The Emperor says the Governor of Hunan has identified Hang Yung and Low Kwei as the two places where opium smugglers bring the opium into his province from Canton.

The magistrates at those places have now detected nine cases of opium smuggling. They have arrested 20+ criminals and seized 2,000 Taels (i.e. 167 lbs – more than a chest) of opium. Now I order Tang and Ke (the Viceroy and Governor of Canton) to alert their troops on the Hunan border. Why did they not detect these cases?

The Canton officials reply Shao Chow foo has two heens Lo Chang and Yu Yuen and Leen Chow foo borders Lo Chang and there is a river connection to the west by which all the merchants travel. We have ordered the Shao and Leen foos to cut the communications of the opium smugglers and seize the offenders. We also propose to set up surveillance at the pass over Ta Yu Ling mountain which links with Kiangsi province. The Customs House at Shao Chow foo is on the Keuh River and anyone going north or west must pass it. If the staff of this Customs House were diligent, no smugglers could pass.

In summary we have ordered the warjunks to cruise and ordered the Customs staff to search day and night. Further it is necessary to prevent corruption. Anyone receiving bribes will be dismissed and punished. And when opium is discovered, all the districts through which it must have passed will be investigated and the magistrates of those places are to be cashiered.

These secret arrangements should affect the smugglers in both Hunan and Kiangsi and may induce them to desist. The new head of Shao and Leen foos is Yang Kew Yuen and we have personally instructed him.”

Vol 10 No 41 – 10th October 1837

Editor’s local news:

The threats of the Viceroy and the orders to the naval commander in Fukien to the captains of opium ships, appear to be supported by an unwonted degree of zeal.

The captain of a ship lately arrived from the East Coast says the warjunks are now better equipped with men and guns. Our supply of water, provisions and fresh fruit, which was hitherto abundant, has been cut off.

The Fairy crew were examined with unusual diligence.[137]

Vol 10 No 41 – 10th October 1837

Admiral Chin of Fukien to the foreign opium ships at Namoa, 24th September:

I warn you to depart to Canton in the South to avoid force being used against you. You say your trade with Chinese has become common and you are willing to pay duty on your woollens, etc.

You must obey the law. Who will trade with you when my warjunks surround your ships? The families of Shay and She (two men caught trading with the foreign ships and executed) know the penalty. The naval forces all along the coast are arrayed to control every landing point.

Now the Emperor orders me to take to the seas myself and drive you away. You would do well to obey. I have not been unkind to you. I commenced with instruction but you resisted and raised foolish expectations that the law would be changed for you. So long as you remain here I shall also remain.

My fleets are waiting at Quemoy and Amoy so you may compare the results of obedience and disobedience. You have two ships; your base is distant, your food and water supplies no longer flow. Do not repent too late. Can you be induced to respect our law?

Return to Canton. No more indulgence will be shown you.”

Vol 10 No 42 – 17th October 1837

The results of Cohen & Co’s application for a refund on his opium speculation are shown in the following Notice of the Calcutta government:

Purchasers of opium at the January, February and March 1837 sales will be compensated at 140 Current Rupees per chest if they shipped the goods before 1st August.

Purchasers of opium from those sales shipped to the Straits before 1st May will not be compensated unless they can produce B/L’s showing the goods were on-shipped to China before 1st June.

Purchasers of opium in June who shipped before 1st August will not be compensated.

Opium sold in the January, February, March 1837 sales and shipped after 31st July will be rebated at 300 Current Rupees per chest. Opium sold in June and so shipped will be rebated at 150 Current Rupees per chest.

Vol 10 No 42 – 17th October 1837

Arrivals – Alexander Matheson per Red Rover from Calcutta and D Dyce Sombre per George IV from Bombay, Madras and Calcutta.[138]

Vol 10 No 43 – 24th October 1837

This week the shipping returned to Lintin from Hong Kong.[139]

Vol 10 No 44 – 31st October 1837

Letter to James Matheson, Liverpool, 18th June 1836:

In April 1835 I reported to the Chinese government my rescue from the Belvedere Shoal in February 1822 of 198 Chinese from the Amoy junk Tek Suen. On that former occasion, I was the owner and master of the Indiana, 368 tons, and was taking 175 chests of opium to Borneo for sale which would certainly have produced 100,000+ Rupees profit. At dawn 7th February I saw the sea was covered with bodies for miles around. We finally got 198 people on board, all in a state of exhaustion and injury. We learned they had been in the sea for 36 hours. I diverted to Pontianak (west coast of Borneo) and after three weeks we arrived and discharged the survivors.

This diversion caused me to arrive late in Borneo by which time the opium demand had been satisfied by others and I lost £11,000 on the expected proceeds of the cargo, excluding the costs of maintaining the ship, crew and distressed people. The Dutch King gave me a medal as the rescued Chinese had previously lived at Batavia.

I understand you will use your influence with the Hong merchants to solicit a pecuniary award from the Chinese government to relieve my financial distress. Lord Palmerston instructed the Superintendents two years ago to the same end but unsuccessfully.

Sgd James Pearl, Commander Royal Navy.

Editor – Captain Pearl served on the Neptune at the Battle of Trafalgar. He later volunteered to break the boom in Aix roads and steered the Mediator (a fire ship) which commenced the destruction of the French fleet in that encounter. During the Walcheren expedition he commanded the boats of the advanced squadron and destroyed the enemy flotilla off Batz.

He was recognised by the Indian government for his services in the Burma war when he commanded the transports and later helped storm the capital of Arakan province.

He has been called to receive a knighthood from the Queen on 18th July 1838.

Vol 10 No 44 – 31st October 1837

Letter to the Editor:

A subscription list has been opened at the offices of Jardine Matheson to collect donations for Captain Pearl.

Sgd Captain Christopher Biden, 27th October 1837

Vol 10 No 45 – 7th November 1837

An Edict of the Hoppo dated 25th September and just to hand protests the ‘perverse, rebellious and traitorous’ foreigners Jardine, Dent and Turner who continue to reside in the factories. He orders them to be instantly expelled.

Vol 10 No 45 – 7th November 1837

Letter to the Editor:

MacLean, together with Layton, the tea taster, were travelling from Macau to Canton in a ferry boat when they were stopped by officials in a patrol boat and their ferry searched revealing a cargo of opium. They were escorted back to Macau and Elliot had to provide his undertaking to produce them before they could be released.

Vol 10 No 45 – 7th November 1837

The General Chamber’s annual report – extract:

The Chamber has provided mediation, etc., to settle the following disputes:

Facts: A delivery order for opium was given to a Chinese in the usual course of business. He sold the order to another who actually took delivery from the receiving ship. Some months later, when the sheepskin cover was untied and the chest opened, a deficiency of six balls was discovered.

Opinion: the final buyer gave a clean receipt for delivery. No action is maintainable against the original holder of the order.

Facts: The committee was asked if the foreign issuer of an opium Delivery Order was liable only to the broker he directly sold to or also liable to subsequent purchasers of the order.

Opinion: The issuer is liable to the holder whoever he might be.

Facts: The Chinese holder of an opium Delivery Order sold his title and six weeks later the new holder came to the receiving ship for delivery. Partial delivery per order was given that day and the remainder was provided from another shipment of similar quality. The committee was asked can the holder be compelled to take the similar opium or is he entitled to compensation?

Opinion: The delay precluded the holder from insisting on the contracted supply.

Vol 10 No 47 – 21st November 1837

Letter from the Hong merchants to those banished foreigners who remain in the factories:

The Emperor has ordered you away and we have to report your departure to Him. We have written to you three times on this subject. A month has elapsed and still you are here.

We are now explicitly required by the Viceroy to fix a date for you to go.

Vol 10 No 48 – 28th November 1837

Edict of the Viceroy, 20th November 1837:

The State Council has notified us of the Imperial will that the opium ships be expelled. The Emperor ordered the Hong merchants to give Elliot a month to get rid of them. Now two months have elapsed and they are still there. Elliot says he cannot report our commands to his King.

This is gross contempt.

Now we have received another Imperial Edict noting the fast crabs have been eliminated but the traitorous brokers and the other smuggling ships still remain:

“Officials must identify and arrest the guilty. If they allow this state of affairs to continue much longer I shall hold them personally responsible. All the smuggling ships must be destroyed. Do not be content with a few seizures. Respect this.”

We now recite our orders to the Hong merchants for Elliot. He must control his people and respect our law. He is to report when the ships have left. There can be no further indulgence given him on this matter. If he does not comply very soon, we must stop the foreign trade at Whampoa.

How can Elliot watch the unrestrained illegalities of his depraved people and continue to resist the Emperor? Is he sheltering them? Do we have to expel him as well?

Our society is based on law and I, the Viceroy, will enforce its provisions firmly and without indulgence. If the Hong merchants cannot influence and instruct these foreigners in their behaviour in China and so permit their continued disrespectful illegalities to continue, they also will be punished.

Vol 10 No 49 – 5th December 1837

Excerpt from Viceroy Tang’s reply to a petition of Jardine et al:[140]

….. Many of you foreigners are depraved and ignore our laws to achieve your own ends. Yet as soon as you get into difficulties you apply to our law for help. We have repeatedly asked you to remove your opium fleet and have been repeatedly ignored.

If your Commissioner Elliot does not soon effect its removal, I shall apply to Peking to stop your trade. The resolution of your problems somewhat depends on your own conduct…..

Vol 10 No 49 – 5th December 1837

Letter to the Editor:

The Scottish community has celebrated St Andrew’s Day with a dinner. Elliot gave an amusing speech afterwards. He inter alia said the British government is considering action to remove the restrictions on the opium trade.

Sgd Anonymous

Vol 10 No 50 – 12th December 1837

Dr McCosh has reported on the new territory of Assam. He says opium is widely grown by the natives who in March collect the capsule-juice on strips of cloth which they then dry and store in bundles. For use they tear off about 2 sq ins of cloth and infuse it in water. After drinking this they chew the cloth until all residue of opium flavour is exhausted. Infusions are also made from the poppy head and from the dried and powdered remains of the capsule.

Vol 10 No 50 – 12th December 1837

Dutch China trade for the calendar year 1836:

Imports into China:

Rice 102,392 piculs; rattan 7,481 piculs; sandalwood 2,736 piculs; pepper 2,100 piculs; cotton 699 bales; opium 10 chests.

Exports from China:

Tea 14,000 chests; umbrellas 28,000 pcs; bags 180,000 pcs; floor tiles 14,000 pcs; opium 72 chests;

Vol 10 No 50 – 12th December 1837

A pamphlet Trade with China by G Tradescant Lay has been lent us by the author. He was formerly the naturalist in Captain Beechey’s expedition and now represents the British and Foreign Bible Society in East Asia.

Mr Lay’s concern is to promote the Bonin Islands as our colony for East Asian trade. The islands provide easy access to Japan, Loo Choo (Ryukyo), Taiwan and China.

The problem is that the only product we have that finds a ready market is opium and Lay believes its sale excludes other commodities by diverting all available capital to its purchase.

Vol 10 No 52 – 26th December 1837

The Hongs reported to Viceroy Tang on his order for the expulsion of the opium fleet:

We enjoined your instructions on all the foreign nations. Now the period allowed has elapsed and no foreigner has indicated when the ships will sail. We asked for their reasons and they said the opium ships do not belong to them. When we gave them our orders they forwarded them to the commanders of the opium ships at Kum Sing Mun, Kap Shui Mun and Lintin and they went away.

Later we received the Viceroy’s order for the ships to go by a fixed date and we also forwarded it but the foreigners say they do not know whether the ships actually went.

The Viceroy has treated the foreigners indulgently yet they ignore his orders with frivolous replies that the ships do not belong to them. It is right that they be punished.”

Viceroy Tang replies, 22nd December:

I see the Superintendent (Elliot) still delays. This is contempt for our law. The Emperor has ordered the ships away. I must request Him to end foreign trade so Elliot’s greedy thoughts can be laid aside.

But I do not wish to punish all promiscuously. Not every nation has receiving ships at Lintin.

The Hong merchants are to prepare a list of those foreign nations that come to Canton for trade but which do not employ receiving ships. Then I can craft an appropriately focused response to foreign evasiveness.”

Vol 10 No 52 – 26th December 1837

Letter to the Editor (extract):

It is rumoured that the reintroduction of opium wholesaling at Whampoa is the cause of the Hing Tai creditors being so moderate in their attempts to recover their debts ……..

Sgd No Creditor, 22nd December

Vol 11 No 1 – 2nd January 1838

The Englishman, 12th October:

It is said Bengal production of opium will be increased over the next three years to 25,000 chests per annum so speculators may be assured of a gradually increasing supply.

Vol 11 No 1 – 2nd January 1838

Proposed opium sales by the Company for 1838, as announced Calcutta 18th November 1837:


2nd January

2nd February

20th April

20th May

20th June











Vol 11 No 1 – 2nd January 1838

Letter from the Hong merchants to Wm Jardine:

We hear opium is now being brought to Whampoa for sale and we are required to make a detailed report to government.

The involved ships, as reported to us, are the Edinburgh (Marshall), Lady MacNaughton (Hustwick) and Marquis Camden (Gribble) and they are all under your Agency.

Previously when we secured a foreign ship at Whampoa the captain gave us a written bond that he brought no opium and only after our receipt of it was the ship permitted to trade.

Please provide a bond for each of these ships so we may petition that they be allowed to trade. If no bond is available, we cannot help you.

Sgd 11 Hong merchants[141]

Vol 10 No 3 – 16th January 1838

Assam – this new province of Bengal contains a route to Yunnan through which opium could be introduced to China more quickly and cheaply. The Calcutta Englishman of 14th October 1837 has a report on the subject based on Dr McCosh’s survey of the province:

Chinese traders come across the frontier of upper Assam to trade with Indian and British traders. They are enterprising men. We ourselves do not need to cross their frontier, they can be relied on to distribute our products. The obvious commodity of value that could be redirected across the Yunnan frontier is opium. Once communication is established we could hold an annual trade fair protected by the British flag. It is unnecessary to follow McCosh’s proposal of maintaining an open road into Yunnan for the purpose of occasional reprisals.

Editor – If Bengal wanted to introduce opium direct to Tibet, Yunnan and Tartary this would be the way but it will give the Bengal government the reputation of a purveyor of deleterious luxury. Thus the ‘greatest happiness’ principle will fall before the ‘greatest misery’ principle. This would be a violation of public and private morality and a breach of international law. But if revenue is the only matter of concern to the Bengal government it will probably redirect the opium trade through this channel in the next few years.

Vol 10 No 3 – 16th January 1838

The recent seizure of 3 chests of opium in the river at Canton (Layton’s case) has been successfully covered-up and the Viceroy has not heard of it. Hopefully there will be no adverse consequences.

Vol 10 No 3 – 16th January 1838

Calcutta Courier 14th October – Mackeson has reported on the trade between Ludhiana and the towns on the Sutlej, Gharu and Indus rivers.[142]

He says “the Ludhiana merchants took a small quantity of opium to test their markets but it was insufficiently refined and unsellable”.

Many thousands of pounds of opium are grown in our Hill states and in the protected Sikh provinces and this is send via Jeselmir and Sind to Damaun notwithstanding the existence of our Agency at Bombay to buy it. The overall quantities are not yet large but the merchants of Amritsar have asked what price opium attracts at Bombay and whether they can export it to that city. Nothing is more likely to increase our trade on the Indus than opium.

Editor – when the Indus is opened to navigation, Malwa will have a new rival from the Punjab. This new area of production will make opium speculation even more dangerous.[143]

Vol 10 No 3 – 16th January 1838

One of the Imperial censors posted to Canton made a strong criticism of the local high officials. We published some of the correspondence in our 26th September 1837 edition. Even some local merchants are said to have complained against provincial officials. The Emperor says:

“one of the great evils at Canton is foreign smuggling. The high officials have issued their orders to the English Commissioner but we do not hear if the receiving ships have sailed or not. If the provincial officers compromise on this subject, I shall hold them responsible. Seize all the smuggling vessels and extirpate this trade root and branch. Do not be satisfied with small successes.”

Viceroy Tang et al responded:

We have studied the charts and see our boundary is at the Ladrone Islands beyond which is the boundless ocean. Lintin, Kum Sing Mun and the Nine Islands are within the area of Kwangtung province.

Since 1830 the barbarians, on the pretext of seeking shelter, sail to Kum Sing Mun in March and remain there through the summer. When the north wind returns they move to Lintin.

Last winter we prohibited this. We erected a new battery at the river entrance and stationed a naval squadron there and we kept the barbarian ships out. They had to anchor at Lintin and elsewhere.

As they arrived and departed without notice, their numbers were uncertain, but now we know generally what is going-on and are adopting measures against them.

Last year we ordered the naval cruisers to check their numbers precisely. They found 25 ships that remained at Lintin for a long time. Mostly they were English ships with 1 – 4 each from America, France, Netherlands and the Philippines.

You have commanded us to stop the smuggling. We ordered the Hong merchants to arrange it. They say Elliot could not do it and when they directly ordered the foreign traders to do it, they were told the receiving ships did not belong to them and they had little influence over them. “According to the law, when foreigners become refractory, their trade is stopped. As they decline to send away the receiving ships their trade should be temporarily stopped. But as not every foreign country is engaged in smuggling it is fair to identify the good ones so they are not punished for the offences of others.

We have ordered the Hong merchants to ascertain this and to report distinctly which foreign nations operate receiving ships. If they are dilatory we will stop all the trade so the foreigners will understand that they cannot break our law with impunity while continuing to reap the advantages of legal trade at Whampoa. Then they will recognise which course of action offers the greater profit. We have to go to these lengths because they cannot easily be awakened from their stupidity.

Our investigation reveals all the foreign nations smuggle. Formerly they were annually in a great hurry to load their exports and depart.

As a result of disturbances their trade was stopped in 1809 and 1830 and this procured their pleas that it be re-opened. They should reflect on the history of their trade. If they are not intimidated by a stoppage of trade, they will keep their receiving ships but lose their livelihoods.

We have also ordered the Admiral to expel the receiving ships. These receiving ships need daily supplies of provisions. Worthless native fishermen supply these daily needs in bum-boats. This enables the foreigners to prolong their stay. If supplies were cut off they would have to leave.

We have already seized many opium dealers and smugglers to prevent the export of silver and the import of opium. We have now ordered the bum-boats to be seized as well. Recently the Ta Pang and Heung Shan naval stations captured four bum-boats and 24 vagabonds and sent them to Canton for trial.

Liu Sze, Lin Chun, Ah Lee Ting and Ah Sau have been arrested with sycee and opium and tried. Their sentences await approval from Peking (i.e. capital). Between March – December last year we made 30 seizures and arrested 114 culprits. We seized 8,661 Taels of sycee and 3,848 catties (over 30 chests) of opium. The opium divans have been sealed up and orders for the arrest of their managers issued.

After a whole year of strenuous effort we cannot say that the problem has been solved but we note the price of sycee silver has again become low and a ball of opium from the barbarian ships used to cost $40 but is now offered for $16-18.[144]Since seizures of sycee were made there has been an increase of foreign silver coin in circulation. We will concentrate our future efforts on preventing sycee export and seizing the bum-boats provisioning the receiving ships.

We are however accused of corruption, both the civil and military officers. It is rumoured that we take the seized opium for our own use or for resale; that we ransom the criminals we have arrested; that we search only genuine merchants to solicit bribes.

There are those who say the foreigners will buy only little tea and silk if we restrain their smuggling and the absence of their trade will reduce a part of Kwangtung province to wretchedness.

Others say we reduce the business of the boatmen by arresting vagabonds who may again be stirred into piracy.

These are the rumours that are passed from mouth to mouth in an attempt to prevent our enforcement of the law. Nevertheless, we continue to discharge our duty faithfully.”

Vol 10 No 3 – 16th January 1838

Editorial (excerpt) ….. is (a British Consul) required in China to protect the British opium trade? The matter of correspondence with Chinese officials requires attention. If the Consul requires communication with the An Cha Sze (criminal judge of the province) he will be referred to the Hong merchants as the channel of communication.

The fundamental problem in our relationship is the opium trade – it is a Company monopoly in Bengal and a smuggling trade in China. Public opinion will eventually conquer this poison. Otherwise a professedly Christian government will use this product to cause a fearful state of affairs. Instead of supporting and ornamenting life, we will be degrading and destroying it solely for profit. The opium trade must be free. We think the production of opium would then diminish.[145]

Once opium has been dealt with, the British government can demand fair access to the Chinese market. We can expect our rights to be acknowledged and our grievances redressed. This would manifestly demonstrate the benevolence of the Emperor. We will preserve what we have got and extend it amicably. This is the way to open communication with the Chinese government.

For the last two years the Peking government has debated the opium trade. There are two parties that contend for power in Peking – one reformist, the other reactionary. The memorial of Hsu Nai Tsi for admission of opium on payment of duty was reportedly written at the instigation of the Empress.[146] Before it was published, several changes amongst provincial high officials occurred, including the Viceroy of the Two Kwang. It has been reported that Viceroy Tang is to be recalled and the Empress’ other provincial appointments are also being reversed.

The Emperor should be expected to favour the reactionary party – new ideas are always suspicious to governments. Ultimate government policy towards opium remains uncertain but we have no doubt the Emperor is incapable of preventing its import. The officials here to the very highest level, know about our opium trade. Recent transactions at Whampoa have been obvious but no intention to stop the trade has been detected.

The low salaries of officials seems to mean they are expected to make up the deficiency by an informal system of fines. Thus the illegal smuggling business is made possible by the corruption of the officials and both are fostered by the Bengal and Malwa governments. This suggests the trade will continue at least as long as the exclusive Chinese system continues.

How long will that be?

It is unlikely that the smugglers would change to a legal trade and pay duty on opium as the other proposed condition (of barter) is unacceptable. Even if the change of law occurred, the smuggling would continue as it avoids contact with officials and Hong merchants. Thus China reaps the reward of its exclusive policy. It constantly fails to enforce the anti-smuggling law due to corruption of the enforcers. For us to obtain better trade terms we must deal with the Emperor not his subordinates. Only he can open other ports to trade. If the ‘existing regulations’ are insisted upon, it must be clearly shown that they are futile. To avoid a revolution in the maritime provinces, the Emperor must reform his trade and foreign policies.

Now is the time for change. Any delay will make our task more difficult. We cannot be satisfied with pretentious Edicts and ancient laws that are daily ignored. The repeated defeat of our ambassadors and Superintendents shows we must find a different way of communicating. We cannot continue to be considered as tributary ……

……. The Canton Register argues for British aid to China in expunging the opium trade before it compromises the legitimate trade. The object is more important than preserving a revenue to Bengal. But China adopts a restrictive policy to trade and threatens to cease trade on many minor pretexts. The trade of India with China has been free for decades. Now English trade is likewise, we expect protection from the British government.

It is pointless arguing our case under international law – the concept is not recognised by China. The Romans granted no privileges to their allies until they promised to obey Roman law. This is exactly what the Chinese say – obey our law and you can partake of the advantages.

The first step must be to demand the Emperor acknowledge the English sovereign as his equal. The Portuguese are allowed to trade at both Macau and Canton. The Spanish have a right of trade at Amoy and Canton. Our own extensive trade should be on the same basis as the most favoured nation.[147] Besides trade at Macau and Amoy we should also request re-establishment of the previous Ningpo factory, free navigation of the Yangtse (at least to Nanking) and Yellow Rivers, and trade privileges at the capitals of Shantung and Hunan. Whilst our own concerns are for better access on the coast, the Bengal government should be working to improve access through Tibet and Assam so our territories bordering China can co-operate more closely together. This time we must determine not to fail. The history of our relationship with China reveals that perseverance pays.

This proposed extension of trade must be supported by a political connection. Our ambassador must sit in Peking and freely communicate with all Britons in China. He should have direct access to the State Council and, if necessary, the Emperor. These interests are too serious to be disregarded. We must promote the concept of nationality to the Chinese. At present they are united solely by culture which recognises duties to Confucius and the Emperor.

The Manchu tribe did not have an alphabet 400 years ago. In 1650 there were about 10,000 of them – now there are about 100,000 Manchus. This is the group that vetoes Chinese involvement in the world. All our technical achievements are excluded to perpetuate this dynasty.

We must teach China our new philosophy. We are not advocating the breach of Chinese law just for trade. The laws of China are daily broken by both sides. The independence of China rests on our guarantee of forbearance. The only Chinese virtue that should be preserved is filial respect – this is the root of their society.

Vol 11 No 5 – 30th January 1838

Calcutta Daily Commercial Advertiser, 20th November:

The first opium auction this year will be held on 2nd January 1838 at the Exchange Rooms, Calcutta. 4,600 chests of last year’s Patna and 2,400 chests of Benares will be for sale. Sales will be of 5 chests per lot.

Each buyer will deposit 1,000 Rupees per lot at the time of purchase. The initial deposit may be by means of a Company Promissory Note, payable at sight, for the whole deposit. This may be exchanged before 7th January for cash or public securities of the Company whereupon the Promissory Note given as initial deposit will be returned. Failure to pay the deposit results in resale of the lot at the expense of the original purchaser.

The balance of purchase price is to be paid in one calendar month. If unpaid the deposit will be forfeit and the opium resold. Prospective purchasers are advised there will be subsequent sales on 2nd February (2,300 chests), 20th April (4,000 chests), 20th May (2,000 chests) and 25th June (3,800 chests).

Vol 11 No 7 – 13th February 1838

Editorial – Viceroy Tang has scolded the Governor of Kwangtung for not enforcing the orders against the opium fleet at Lintin. He says ‘opium is now being brought to Whampoa. How can any strict investigation have been done? The more strictly it is forbidden, the closer it comes. This is all due to corruption of the Customs House officials and their cruiser crews. What use are the regulations if they are not enforced?’

The Governor knows we are selling opium at Whampoa but when he asked the Hong merchants they denied it and when he ordered the Sze officers to search the ships they said this might have unpredictable results and demurred.

Vol 11 No 8 – 20th February 1838

The new opium market at Whampoa has characteristics of fraud and violence.

  • Recently a considerable amount of lead was accepted as payment by a foreigner in the belief it was sycee.
  • In another case the silver proceeds of sales were being transported by ship’s boats when the flotilla was attacked by pirates who took the entire shipment. It is supposed the pirates were in collusion with the opium buyers.
  • We also hear that opium has been seized from European boats anchored off the factories at Canton.

Vol 11 No 9 – 27th February 1838

Calcutta news – 7,000 chests of Patna and Benares were sold today at auction with the usual reservation of 150 chests for the French.

Indian speculators were poorly represented.

Nanjee Tacoram,[148] agent for the Bombay Malwa cartel, was present and was, as usual, the largest single buyer:

Sales Patna 


4,535 chests 

2,335 chests

731 Current Rupees average 

690 Current Rupees average

Vol 11 No 9 – 27th February 1838

Viceroy Tang has at last received a report from the Hong merchants dated 15th February on the nationalities, etc., of receiving ships at Lintin. This is his response:

Your report differs from the report of the Tung Che at Macau. Why is neither Denmark[149]nor Luzon (Philippines) mentioned? This affair could involve a stoppage of trade and cannot be casually done. Check again.”

The Hong merchants reply:

The foreigners told us there are English, American, Dutch and Portuguese receiving ships at Lintin. Their information is not as reliable as the pilots whom the Tung Che relies on. Our further check revealed the receiving ships are from England, America, Denmark and Luzon.”

Viceroy Tang replies, 19th February:

These four nations must be examined. There should be no more delay. They should be driven off. I have alerted all the army units to assemble and attack Lintin to drive away the ships.

As a preliminary, we will seize the compradors’ boats to cut off their supplies. The army must act rigorously to avoid suspicion of connivance. You Hong merchants are also suspected. The receiving ships will be ordered away or I will stop the trade of those four countries.”

Vol 11 No 9 – 27th February 1838

Viceroy Tang’s Edict to the Hong merchants on ferry boats:

The foreigners use decked boats to come to Canton. They are anchored in the river opposite the factories. This has long been forbidden. The Hong merchants have confirmed that none of the landlords of the factories are involved in the ownership of ferry boats.

Now it transpires that the disgraceful foreigners are bringing opium to Canton in their own ferry boats. It is just like the old ‘fast crabs’.

It is clear that you despicable Hong merchants have been shielding the foreigners. Enjoin on the foreigners that it is strictly forbidden to use decked ferry boats.

If they disobey they must be seized and punished.”

Vol 11 No 10 – 6th March 1838

The Calcutta opium merchants are concerned at the way stocks of opium in China are accumulating due to stricter enforcement of the law. The slowdown in sales has occurred whilst production in India has been increasing. The combined effect has caused prices to fall at Canton. The real intentions of the Chinese government are unclear and every one is advised to exercise caution.

Vol 11 No 12 – 20th March 1838

Beginnings of the free-trade cartel – The committee of the General Chamber has published the following recommended commission rates for commercial services provided by members at Canton:

Sales of opium, cotton, bird’s nests and jewellery 

Sale of all other goods

On returns (if goods)

On returns (if treasure or Bills)

On purchases of raw silk

On purchases of manufactured silk & all other goods

Inspections of tea

Sale or purchase of bullion

Negotiating Bills (when not drawer or endorser)

Negotiating Bills (when drawer or endorser)

Guaranteeing sales and remittance of proceeds

For procuring freight

Collecting house rent

Arranging trans-shipment of cargo

Acting as Executors of estates

3% sale price 














5% of the Estate

And a long list of other services at percentage fees.[150]

Vol 11 No 13 – 27th March 1838

Many criminals have been arrested this month. Many seizures of opium have occurred, both in the river and the estuary.

On 24th February two magistrates brought a heap of seized opium to the factory landing place in front of our offices and residences and burned it.

Vol 11 No 14 – 3rd April 1838

Local news:

On 28th March one of our ferry boats was pursued by a revenue cruiser but escaped by throwing 400 catties of opium overboard, causing the officials to stop to recover the valuable property.

Vol 11 No 14 – 3rd April 1838

Peking Gazettes:

Staff of the Shan Hai Kuan Customs House, between Peking and Mukden, seized some Chinese men smuggling opium.

The Emperor says this area is the Ching dynasty’s homeland and opium must be rigorously excluded from it. The smugglers revealed they bought the opium in Fung Tin foo. They will be strictly punished and the officers rewarded.

Vol 11 No 15 – 10th April 1838

The 2nd opium auction of this year at Calcutta has finished. Attendance was even less than at the January sale and bidders were few.

1,500 chests of Patna and 800 Benares were offered. There was also offered 6 chests of last year’s Benares plus 80 Patna and 50 Benares, being the unused portion of the French allocation from the January sale.

Prices averaged 700 – 725 Current Rupees for Patna and 610-615 Current Rupees for Benares.

Vol 11 No 15 – 10th April 1838

Edict of the Hoppo Wan to the Hong merchants, 2nd April:

It is established law that the foreign ships at Whampoa are permitted to use open boats to transmit letters to / from Canton. The boats may have no masts or sails and must stop at the Customs Houses en route for search.

Decked and masted boats are forbidden as they encourage smuggling.

Many Edicts have been issued but the foreigners show no respect for our law and the Hong merchants permit it.

Large decked and masted ferry boats still sail up the river and anchor off the factories and at Whampoa. This promotes opposition to law and facilitates smuggling. Opium has already been seized from the foreign ferries.

Captain Baker’s ship has long been anchored at Whampoa under the pretence of being a hospital ship (it arrived in October 1836) – how do we know it is not used to deliver smuggled goods to the ferry boats for distribution? When the ship arrived a Tsai Kwan was sent who remains on-station off the boat. His wages and provisions are paid by the ship and the expense is now over 50 Taels – obviously something is going on.[151]For two years a useless expenditure has been incurred that will excite the suspicions of the Board of Revenue when they inevitably learn of it.

The same pattern that exists at Lintin is being duplicated at Whampoa.

The Hong merchants display contempt for the law. They must drive away Baker’s ship and the large ferry boats and preserve tranquillity. The foreigners trust to their own craftiness – they must not be allowed to do as they please or the Senior Hong merchant will regret it.

Vol 11 No 16 – 17th April 1838

Peking Gazettes of 25th February contain an Imperial Edict:

The Cantonese Kwok Sze Ping is to be immediately strangled. He connected with foreigners, smuggled across the sea frontier and opened a shop to sell opium where he allowed patrons to attend and smoke. He has been employed in this way for 5 years.

The former Viceroys and Governors did not prevent it but Viceroy Tang has caught Kwok. His merit will be rewarded.

Whenever people are caught buying or selling opium or operating divans they are to be punished as a warning to others. Respect this.”

Vol 11 No 16 – 17th April 1838

Kwok Sze Ping was executed at Macau on 7th April by Imperial order. He was an opium smuggler and operator of a popular divan in the city.

His legal position is shown in the penal code:

dealing in opium will be punished under the law dealing with smuggling of gunpowder, potassium nitrate (saltpetre), sodium nitrate (nitre), sulphur or weapons.

Offenders will wear the cangue for a month and be banished to a near frontier as slave to the soldiers.

Those who open divans are punished for depravity and seducing the people. They will be strangled after their term of imprisonment.

If officials, soldiers or eunuchs smoke opium they will be beaten and cangued.

Editor – In 1820-21 the great opium dealer at Macau was Shu Yip Hong. When he was caught he was merely banished as a slave of the army but we hear his wealth purchased comfort in that distant province and he is now conducting a flourishing trade there. Chinese law surely is a net, as they themselves say.

Vol 11 No 17 – 24th April 1838

A Pass System was instituted at Bombay, to bring the opium production of Malwa within the Company’s tax-base and thus take a profit off the Maratha / Parsee / Portuguese supply to China:

Passes issued at Bombay 

Passes issued at Malwa

Imported to Bombay

Exported from Bombay

645 chests to 23rd January 1838 

4,446 chests to 23rd January 1838

4,205 chests 8th November 37 – 30th January 1838

236 chests 8th November 1837 – 30th January 1838

Sgd J Taylor, Opium Agent at Bombay, 31stJanuary 1838[152]

Vol 11 No 17 – 24th April 1838

The Chinese Repository of June 1837 has an article on US Consular Establishments in Eastern Asia:

America is new to China; she has no mistakes to correct. She is comparatively free of involvement in opium trade[153]and will soon be entirely so once the US Consuls in China are empowered.

The Canton Press of 21st April has an article copied from the New York Journal of Commerce discussing how US Consuls in China can ameliorate difficulties with the Chinese.

It notes that Judge Oakley of the Superior Court at New York declared, in the case of Oliver G Gordon v Edwin W Benjamin, “if the American government is free of alliances with other nations, free of ecclesiastical establishments and clear of any connection with the opium trade, it can counter the Chinese arguments against relationships with foreign countries.”

Editor – the above initiatives are largely the work of a leading local American who occasionally writes to us under the nom-de-plume of CCC. He should be congratulated for attempting to prod the American executive into remodelling its consular service in east Asia. The new American face in China is to be unspotted by connection with its commercial past or its missionaries.

Britannia cannot be so easily freed of suspicion. CCC thinks the British government should withdraw its protection from Britons engaged in opium trade. He acknowledges the reliance of India on opium income but feels Britain is merely using this as an excuse for delaying its clear national duty.

The Canton Register thinks no government should be required to denounce its own citizens to the Chinese. China neither acknowledges the existence of our governments nor extends its law to us. It is for China to take the first step.

CCC wishes to free America from the stigma of opium trafficking. Britain just stumbled on the drug in the course of exploiting India; Americans have to go our of their way to get it. American opium trade in the year to July 1837 was $275,621 (451 chests) imported under American flag vessels and $1,939,704 in Indian opium brought in English ships for American account.[154] If CCC had been here pre-Lintin, he would have seen the American flag waving over a receiving ship at Whampoa.

The Americans get more involved in trade than we do. For example in 1817 the US ship Wabash was delivering contraband at the Nine Islands when it was attacked and several of its crew killed. The murderers were later executed and their heads exposed at the entrance to the inner harbour of Macau.

In the development of free trade in England, Charles Grant promised to bring the opium monopoly in Bengal before parliament. If the monopoly is abandoned, we cannot stop the people growing poppies themselves for a law to prevent the people from distributing it would require a damaging interference in private enterprise.

Anyway, if Bengal supply diminishes, it will be replaced by Malwa. If both Bengal and Malwa opium is unavailable does CCC think that the Drug will cease to be sold? Why, the enterprising peoples of the United States might very well grow it themselves. Could Congress or the Executive or any State legislature prevent it? It is a right of free agency of citizens beyond the control of any Constitutional government.

Besides America is sunk in an endless debate on the slave trade and decades will pass before it turns to opium. The fact is that opium, foreign trade and corruption exist in the world and this trade will continue so long as they do.

Vol 11 No 17 – 24th April 1838

Viceroy’s Edict to the Hong merchants on ferry boats, 22nd April 1838:

In 1806 Viceroy Lee had already reported regulations for ferry boats to the Emperor.

In 1814 Viceroy Tseung promulgated the following instructions. He ordered the Customs Houses to issue and examine the papers of Macau ferry boats and search them. If smuggling was discovered it was to be stopped. When boats left Canton they required a Customs pass. If they went to Whampoa they delivered the pass there; if they went to the foreign warships outside the river, they delivered their passes at the Bogue forts. On return they collected a pass at the Bogue and delivered it at Whampoa or Canton depending on their stated destination. If the boat left from Whampoa downriver it got its pass there and delivered it at the Bogue or Canton. Each Customs House, on issuing a pass, communicated the boat’s destination to the cruisers and forts. Monthly returns of passes issued were to be reported to the Hoppo.

Viceroy Loo received the Imperial instruction that the Company’s schooner (Louisa) was not to fly a flag.

When I became Viceroy I examined to see if any decked or masted ferry boats came to Canton and anchored in the river thus breaking the law.

The Hong merchants have repeatedly been ordered to drive the boats away but recently they have returned just like before. They smuggle goods, sell opium and defraud the revenue. This is due to negligent enforcement.

The Hong merchants and enforcement officers should be punished. But before I do that, I direct you all once more to uphold the law. The Hoppo will cause his officers to issue passes only to small open boats and report any smuggling. Large decked and masted boats are to be expelled.”

Vol 11 No 18 – 1st May 1838

Local news – the shipping at Lintin removed to Hong Kong on 25th April

Vol 11 No 18 – 1st May 1838

Letter to the Editor from a merchant CGR –

There are now 20 ships selling opium outside the river and on the East Coast and 30 armed boats smuggling the drug in the river. There is some authority to expect the US government to take a moral stance on the subject of its nationals being involved in opium smuggling.

  • The US Treaty with France of 1778 provides that where a citizen of one country commits crime in the other, he shall be amenable to judicial process in the host country.
  • The US treaty with Sweden of 1823 requires the citizens of each country to submit to the laws of the other.
  • The convention with Britain of 1815 provides that the merchants and consuls of each country are subject to the law of the two countries.
  • The treaties with Russia, Prussia, Austria, Spain, Denmark, etc., all contain similar provisions and several have lists of contraband that is offensive to both countries.
  • The treaty with Morocco of 1786 provides that disputes between US nationals will be settled by the US Consul. In cases of injury or murder of a Moroccan by an American or vice versa the matter will be settled under the law of the country, the Consul assisting at the proceedings.
  • The conventions with Tripoli and Tunis are similar.
  • The treaty with Algiers (whilst under French occupation) gave the Dey personal responsibility to decide disputes between his citizens and Americans.
  • The treaty with the Ottoman Porte of 1830 provides that American criminals will be dealt with by their Consul following the usage observed towards other ‘Franks’.

These extracts reveal a consistent American policy in respect of its nationals overseas.

  • The US Treaty with Thailand contains no agreement for a resident Consul but lists opium as contraband and requires Americans not to trade in it there.

In sum, the U S Government unreservedly submits its citizens to the foreign country’s judiciary in all cases it is confident of justice. The Thai treaty suggests America is reasonably confident of obtaining justice there. If a similar treaty was concluded with China, the majority of American traders at Canton would become criminals subject to Chinese law.

The American government believes the Chinese have always pursued a benevolent course. They call on the representative of each foreign nation to restrain his own countrymen. They prefer to prevent trouble than allow it to arise and punish afterwards. There seems to be no reason to provide protection to Americans at Canton.

The US administration has already considered the opium trade and concluded, in respect of Thailand, that it is wrong. For consistency it must take the same position in China. Americans in China should consider their diplomatic code and eschew trade in opium. Sgd CGR

Vol 11 No 23 – 5th June 1838

The Englishman, Calcutta, 28th April – Sales at the 3rd auction on 23rd April were knocked down at low prices due to strict law enforcement in China. 2,480 chests of Patna sold at average 682 Current Rupees while 1,500 chests of Benares averaged 535 Current Rupees per chest. Purchasers were chiefly buying for Bombay and China. Local speculators bought very little.

Vol 11 No 24 – 12th June 1838

Editorial on opium in the Englishman, Calcutta, 3rd May:

The well-known opium clippers Water Witch and Cowasjee Family have sailed from Calcutta for China with 1,190 and 1,469 chests respectively.

Speculators are encouraged by the recent low auction prices in spite of the unsatisfactory state of the China market.

Another clipper is building for deployment on the East Coast of China. If the Chinese tolerate a continuation of the coastal trade then large profits will derive from the present depressed auction prices. If they continue to oppose it, it simply means that much of the opium will remain in storage at Lintin.

This year’s Malwa shipments are just commencing and it is now equal in quality to Company opium.

We will soon know if production has out-stripped demand. It would be unprecedented for any part of the Company’s product to be withdrawn from auction for want of bidders but it is now conceivable.

It is difficult to assess the demand for Malwa as, unless it is sold in Bombay, it is shipped from elsewhere by the original owners and no consolidated statistics are available.

The Company has acknowledged the existence of the Canton opium market but has not yet broken Chinese law itself. Perhaps the time will come when the Company itself feels obliged to trade in both opium and money in China.

Vol 11 No 24 – 12th June 1838

Friend of India 19th April, Editorial on Opium:

The prospects of opium trade are the gloomiest ever. Chinese opposition seems permanent. We are convinced their opposition is not simply to raise the quantum of bribes. The Kwangtung Provincial Government is enforcing the determination of Peking to eradicate the trade. Police actions have broken-up the smugglers’ delivery method (the fast crabs) and dispersed the opium brokers.

The northern part of the China coast is watched continuously and our access there is precarious. We fear the price per chest could fall to 500 Current Rupees which will seriously diminish Indian revenue.

Effective Chinese law enforcement has now obliged us to introduce the Drug to China by force of arms. One armed vessel at Canton has already had partial success. We hear others are fitting-out at Calcutta which will be manned by Europeans. They will be able to resist the Chinese Coast Guard. We are therefore in the extraordinary position of preparing to start hostilities to land forbidden opium under our guns. There is no commercial precedent for this.

The opium trade is an aberration. On the one hand we see Britain, an enlightened Christian democracy, bent on increasing opium production in India expressly to drug the Chinese; whilst on the other, increasing Chinese effectiveness in excluding its importation.

Chinese preventive measures have forced the price down by 30 – 50%.

Opium saps the foundation of all social, political and manly virtue in its users yet we now use ships bristling with cannon to enter the river under the British flag, resist the local police and land our contraband at whatever sacrifice in human life it may entail. Whether we consider the effects of opium, the agents who import it (at whose head is the Company’s Government of India), or the violent means the agents are now using to force the trade, there is no historical analogy to draw on.

What is remarkable is that the smugglers who, by means of violence, promote this most destructive trade since the abolition of slave trading, deny they are barbarians!

Our use of armed vessels compromises the respect that the Chinese government can expect of its people. This development is therefore likely to provoke a breach.

Commissioner Elliot will say it has nothing to do with him. The Chinese will never believe him. They will note the British government gets the lion’s share of the proceeds from opium trade and will conclude the matter is between the two countries.

If they are unable to stop the armed opium trade, they will inevitably stop tea exports and embargo all British commerce; indeed they have already threatened this. This will provoke the widespread adoption of armed ships to conduct trade on our side. We will thus be forced to a breach by our unbridled greed which has pushed opium sales from 4,000 chests to 40,000 chests annually.[155]

A stoppage of British trade will decide the matter. If reduced opium revenue in India causes reduced tea imports to England and the consequent loss of British revenue, the Company will be ordered to cease opium production.

Editor – we will not discuss the morality of opium trading. Readers will recall the discussion on legalisation at Peking in 1836. It was supposed by the foreign community that the recommendation to legalise opium import and use originated with the Empress. The provincial government here supported it. Since discussion ended, the internal correspondence of the Chinese government on this subject has been muted.

When the decision to oppose opium was reached, the enforcement officers here became more vigilant; deliveries from the receiving ships were disrupted and we reverted to the former system of bringing opium up to Whampoa for distribution. The existence of the opium trade depends on bribery of the revenue and other officers by the smugglers. The carriage is done in both ships and boats but we were unaware boats are armed beyond a few muskets for self-protection. There is no need for it. Sales and deliveries are done openly day and night. The boats anchor together, sometimes three to a tier, and deliver all along the river bank opposite to Canton and even to some government boats. The new opium distribution system has been operating for months and every day that passes makes it more settled. It is only smuggling in the sense that no duty is paid and officials are paid-off to not intervene.

The Chinese government will not stop trade to prevent opium imports – too many of their people are dependent on foreign trade. They will not wish to lose the respect of their people. No rebellion will occur. On the contrary, if they stop the foreign trade there will be insurrection in both Fukien and Canton provinces.

The only incomprehensible thing to us is why the Chinese do not use force to obtain obedience to their regulations. They do not go beyond publishing Edicts. Does the Chinese government lack the power or is it afraid of the people? It may be like the whisky distilleries in Ireland – known to exist, but beyond British government ability to prevent.

The Indian press is full of stories about the impending visit to China of a British Admiral. They speculate that Chinese officials will ask him to stop the trade by preventing British flag ships from carrying it. We think it is useless to predict Chinese actions by considering the responses that might be expected between European countries under international law. We have no treaty with China and no way of applying international law to our dealings. Indeed it is unknown to the Chinese administration.

If the Chinese ask the Admiral to stop the trade, he should say it is a matter beyond his power to deal with. Reciprocal smuggling occurs along the French and English coasts but is never a matter for formal complaint between the countries. Each country protects its own coast and smugglers accept the personal and pecuniary risk. At least, before the Admiral accepts any such duty to police the seas he should consider Chinese sincerity – do they really want to stop opium?

Vol 11 No 24 – 12th June 1838

A small 40 ton schooner is coming from Singapore to China for the East Coast smuggling trade. She is named the Devil.

Vol 11 No 26 – 26th June 1838

Editor – Lieutenant Nicholas Polson of the Bengal Native Infantry has written an appalling book ‘Rough Notes on a Visit to China, etc’. On the basis of a couple of month’s stay here he has the temerity to offer an opinion.

He says China is interesting to a stranger but the resident foreigners know nothing about it. He says one has to go to Europe for information. At Macau he made defiling liaisons and appears to think we all do the same. He talks about Chinese ‘rights’ to oppose opium. He says it would be respectful for us to obey the law.

Well, Rome forced its civilisation on Northern Europe and opium is doing the same for us in China. The trade relies on addiction of consumers and corruption of government. The causes of change may not always be defensible.

The fact is that opium trade cannot be severed from the rest of it, but suppose that it was discontinued. China would be confirmed in her exclusive policies and Western religion, philosophy and technology would be excluded. We have only to look at the endless history of unchanging China to guess how long that state of affairs would endure.

Opening China means selling opium. Of course, the Company monopoly in opium should be ended. We must extend our knowledge to China so she may learn how to deal with opium.

We refute Polson’s invention of Chinese rights.

Vol 11 No 28 – 10th July 1838

Dr O’Shaughnessy’s Manual of Chemistry:

When analysing the opium and ‘pasewa’[156]from the 1834 crop, I first dissolved it in alcohol and filtered the solution. I was surprised to see it turn a deep green and the filter was stained blue at the edges. The insoluble black residue was treated with sulphuric acid and turned blue. This solution was turned green by alkalis and bleached by chlorine, nitrates and nitric acid.

By these and a multitude of other tests I discovered that the opium contained indigo. I repeated the experiments on many other samples from the 1834 crop, all with the same result. The contamination represented about ¼% by bulk and was limited to opium from Sarun, Tirhut and Shahabad districts of Bihar. Benares was uncontaminated.

Tests of the 1835 crop showed the same minute contamination. The farmers of those districts use indigo plants to manure their poppy fields and I assume this was the source. There is routinely 3¾% of earthy matter in opium and this indigo contamination is much less. It does not effect value.

Vol 11 No 28 – 10th July 1838

The Editor of the Chinese Repository is offering £100 for the best essay on the commercial, political and moral aspects of the opium trade. All manuscripts should be submitted by March 1839 to the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in London.

Vol V (December 36) of the Chinese Repository contains useful information on opium.

Editor – we suppose the winner will have to take a decided view of the matter. Men like money more than morality. Every view expressed will solely be individual idiosyncrasy – what does ‘best essay’ mean?

Vol 11 No 29 – 17th July 1838

Another Edict against opium has been issued by the Emperor. We hope to recite it in the next edition. It is probably just another fulmination. Words cannot produce more than a temporary interruption.

Chinese officials issue orders without enforcing them because they do not sincerely want to end the trade. The best way to minimise opium trade would be to open all the ports to free trade and give the people more to do.

Vol 11 No 29 – 17th July 1838

Peking Gazettes:

Hwang Tseo Tsze (Cantonese – Wong Jerk Jee), President of the Sacrificial Court, has memorialised that if no-one consumed opium there would be no demand. The provinces should strictly warn against opium and allow users a year to abandon the habit. Thereafter punishment should be rigorous.

Vol 11 No 30 – 24th July 1838

Canton Press of 21st July recites a letter to Alderman W T Copeland, MP for Stoke on Trent, representing the East India and China Trade Association, from the Foreign Office, dated 13th December 1837:

Lord Palmerston has answered the various questions you raise in the attached memorandum:


The Chinese government recently expelled several Britons. Do you have official information of this?


What measures will you adopt in consequence?

Are any warships ordered to China?


Elliot reported five Britons – Jardine, Dent, Innes, Turner and Whiteman, and three Parsees – Framjee, Meerwanjee and Dadabhoy, were banished to stop the opium trade.

Elliot says the order will unlikely be enforced and, if an attempt is made, he will oppose it. He expects no serious dispute on the subject.

So far as we know, this Edict remains unenforced.

The East India station has been ordered to send one or more ships frequently to China. The Admiral will himself visit in early course. These visits are for the protection of British interests and for the assistance of Elliot in supervising British sailors.

Editor – Elliot is unable to oppose anything. All he can do is protest and strike his flag.

Vol 11 No 30 – 24th July 1838

Results of the Calcutta opium sale 28th May:



1,375 chests 

600 chests

average 703 Sicca Rupees 

average 552 Sicca Rupees[157]

Vol 11 No 30 – 24th July 1838

Opium – we have got a rough copy of the Imperial Edict against opium but it is not the definitive one. It only becomes law when it is published and the government is thought to be awaiting the new Viceroy’s arrival here before doing that. We will await receipt of the formal copy before publishing. Part of the Edict refers to opium use in Jehol (Rehe, Cantonese Yeet Hor – the Imperial homeland from which Chinese are excluded).

Vol 11 No 30 – 24th July 1838

Chung Tseang, Viceroy of Chekiang and Fukien, has reported on traitorous natives:

A Fukienese called She Hau sailed to Canton and bought opium. He stored it in small sheds at the seaside and offered it to the local people.

Admiral Chin must attend carefully to the coastal shipping. His base is close to the main smuggling area. He must continually cruise, seize opium ships and render instant justice.

Vol 11 No 30 – 24th July 1838

Privy Councillor Keying reports opium smoking has become popular in Jehol Province. The Emperor says every province is polluted with opium. He forbids it. Now in Jehol seven men have been arrested and 230 Taels of raw and refined opium together with 16 pipes and other paraphernalia have been seized.

Jehol is the Manchu dynastic homeland. It is the place of military exercises. If troops smoke opium they will become careless and lazy in their military duty. It must be stopped and no indulgence may be offered to offenders.

Vol 11 No 30 – 24th July 1838

The well-known opium broker Ko Kwan was arrested on 13th July.[158]

Vol 11 No 30 – 24th July 1838

Letter to the Editor:

I was sickened to see a recent opium Delivery Order drawn on a receiving ship at Lintin:

Please deliver to the bearer ….. chests of ‘merchandise de Malwa.”

There are only two possible views – either opium is bringing misery to millions of our fellow men or it is an irresistibly lucrative trade that we must have. A good man would abstain from it entirely; a greedy man should not be ashamed to say he sells opium for the profit it brings.

To say ‘no, I do not sell opium, I sell merchandise de Malwa is cant.

Do slave traders sell merchandise des noirs? Sgd Anti-humbug

Editor – This is to mislead the Customs officials and make their detection of smuggled opium less certain. If we say it is not opium, how can they refute it? The smugglers use many cunning devices to avoid detection but this one is too simple. Its use must be motivated by our fear.

Vol 11 No 31 – 31st July 1838

Chinese officials are proposing the following penalties for smoking opium:

First offence 

Second offence

Third offence

Branding on the face with the characters ‘smoke rebel’ 

100 blows and 3 years banishment


The new Viceroy will confirm the penalties soon.

Vol 11 No 31 – 31st July 1838

Chang, the Poon Yu heen, has examined all his staff. He recorded their ages and appearances and warned everyone to abandon their opium pipes within a year. Of the thirty clerks on the Heen’s staff only two said they did not smoke. They have been detained within his house for a few days to gauge their honesty.[159]

Vol 11 No 31 – 31st July 1838

Memorial to the Emperor:

The people require severe punishment to be manageable. Officials must perform their public duty even if it arouses hatred. The prevalent opinion that opium smokers are too numerous to be confronted is overly indulgent. If they have a year to abandon the habit, many will comply and others will be deterred from taking up the habit. The magistrates should examine all taxpayers under their jurisdiction. Take a bond from every five families to not smoke. This will suffice for rural communities.

In the cities, where people come and go, the neighbourhood associations must be used. Shopkeepers must be particularly impressed not to allow their premises to be used for smoking.

If any civil or military officials smoke after the year’s grace they must be more severely punished than is customary. The sons and grandsons of civil and military officers may be excluded from the public examinations. Magistrates who eradicate opium use in their areas will be rewarded; Magistrates who fail to do so will be punished. Bonds are not required of every soldier but some joint bonding should be fixed on them.

Let this order be published everywhere so the people may know that the Emperor cares for their wealth and welfare. Opium smokers must purify their hearts and abandon their habit. Then opium will cease coming and silver will cease disappearing and the Empire will be peaceful for ten thousand years.

Vol 11 No 32 – 7th August 1838

Local news – the new Viceroy Iliang arrived 2nd August. He immediately examined all his staff to identify any opium smokers. None admitted. He warned them against the habit and hinted at frequent but irregular future examinations.

An Imperial Edict of 7th June has concurrently arrived:

A citizen has memorialised that not all Chinese need opium but all foreigners need tea. He says China should revert to selling tea for silver and never barter it for opium. Opium imports and silver exports increase annually. Now silver is at a premium to copper cash. Local taxes are paid in copper (because of silver’s increased value) and the usual collections on grain and salt (which are supposed to be remitted in silver) are deranged.

When a government loses its ability to tax it loses its ability to govern. If silver is not attracted back into the economy we will have no money left. How can a country with so many useful exports have an adverse trade balance with the foreigners? Is it because there are many Chinese smugglers who export tea and silk at low prices? Tea- and silk-producing provinces must regulate their production by documentation so none is lost to smugglers.

I require the old Viceroy Tang in Canton to consult with the new Viceroy Yee (Iliang) and Hoppo Yu and devise a plan firstly for the recovery of our silver and national strength and secondly to obtain the obedience of foreigners to our law. They are to disregard the opinions of their subordinates, particularly those who resist change.

Vol 11, No 33 – 14th August 1838

The Englishman, Calcutta 29th June:

The auction of opium here yesterday produced prices 50% higher than the last sale. The reasons are two-fold – first the Kwangtung Provincial Judge Wang has been posted to Peking which is thought here to afford a renewed opportunity for smuggling and secondly a major Malwa speculator sold stock in expectation of new supply but was disappointed and was consequently forced into the Calcutta market for Bengal supply. Such is the stuff of free trade.

2,249 chests of Patna sold at average 989 Current Rupees;

1,458 chests of Benares sold for 913 Current Rupees at average.

Total proceeds to Bengal government were over 3.5 million Current Rupees.

Vol 11, No 33 – 14th August 1838

Editorial – Crushing the opium trade is on Peking’s agenda. This is apparent from the recent government actions against Maitland’s fleet.[160] Hwang Tseo Tsze’s memorial last year proposed a barter system for opium. This year’s memorialists want tea and silk sales for silver only and a licensing system for tea and silk production.

The intention to execute people indulging in a private habit will fail. We previously (12th June edition) quoted a brief history of tobacco to illustrate the point. The common sense of humanity revolts at government meddling in private life.

The only predictable thing in the memorials that will likely occur is the start of domestic production of opium to compete with our imported supply. Hwang notes the quality of local opium may be lower but commends that Indians, familiar with the process in Bengal, be employed to develop local production. He says getting Indian help for Chinese opium farming is as easy as our getting Chinese tea-farmers to emigrate to Assam and help to re-invigorate tea production there.

Everyone interested in opium should draw up a history of its use here containing every Edict. This might convince the Emperor that the exclusive system of trade is the sole cause of opium import. The only solution is to open all ports to trade and stimulate the commercial energies of the Chinese people. This will correct the habit.

Since writing this we have heard that another memorialist has told the Emperor that as smoking is so common and is now to be a capital offence, the numbers of executions will be enormous. He says this is disproportionate to the awards for robbery, piracy and murder. He says if Hwang’s advice is to be followed the penal law must be changed.

Vol 11 No 34 – 21st August 1838

In many recent editions there have been advertisements for ships for sale or charter. This week there are four:

  • Russell & Co have the British clipper Falcon, 372 tons at Hongkong for sale;
  • Markwick & Smith are offering the Portuguese schooner Genoveva, 180 tons;
  • James Innes is offering the Spanish brig Narcisa, 180 tons (with 3 months stores) for charter;
  • Bell & Co are selling the Dutch schooner Catharina Cornelia, 120 tons.

NB – The Falcon is a fast yacht suitable for an opium clipper. The other three ships are appropriate only for work on the East and West Coasts where their slight draft allows them into the rivers and inlets. These advertisements evidence uncertainty in the future of the opium trade.

Vol 11 No 34 – 21st August 1838

Letter to the Editor:

No matter how we consider ourselves here – as men, as Christians, as residents, as merchants – our hopes are continually frustrated by the opium trade.

Our company (Olyphant & Co) has abstained from the trade for many years. We will continue to do so and it seems that some others of the community are prepared to do likewise. The steadily increasing pressure, applied by the Chinese government against opium, is falling on the whole trade. We are all inevitably involved. We must consider whether opium is really worth this trouble.

  • Years ago we could choose to trade at Lintin or Whampoa. Then the opium trade focused its business at Lintin and it became a suspect place. Chinese Customs boats police the anchorage and communications with outside are sometimes cut off.
  • So we go up to Whampoa for trade but the opium ships have come up there too to avoid Chinese control at Lintin.
  • Previously we anchored at Whampoa and immediately got a licence to discharge. Now we are delayed by the checks required to ascertain that we are not part of the opium trade. This costs us at least $500 per ship in demurrage.
  • We used to have a frequent and convenient trade with Macau but the ferry boats became opium boats and that form of communication was banned. Now passing the Bogue and landing at Macau have become both unsafe and difficult.

It is apparent that the Chinese government has many means of tackling opium and they all more or less prejudice the other branches of trade. This opium business might cost any one of us our liberty, our capital or our life. We are in collision with the Emperor and no one can predict what will happen.

Without considering public policy or Christian morality, it is clearly desirable that the breach with China be ended. Discussion is needed. Those already involved in opium smuggling may be biased but people who are uninvolved are reliable.

It is not appropriate for one firm to impose its wishes on the rest – we suggest a meeting of the whole community be held early in November so all views can be made known.

Sgd Olyphant & Co.

Vol 11 No 35 – 28th August 1838

Editorial in the Bombay Gazette of 1st June:

The opium clipper Lady Grant sailed from this port a few days ago with a full cargo.

Prior to sailing, her owners applied in writing to a well-known firm for insurance on the hull and cargo. The firm refused to comply with their application without giving any reason. This is unprecedented.

The two grounds for refusal that are ordinarily recognised are unseaworthiness of the ship or incompetency of her master.

The history of the Lady Grant is well known and there can be no question about her seaworthiness. We all recall the high praise she received on being launched. In her three year’s life she has been repeatedly tested. Her last passage to Canton up the China Seas in November 1837 resulted in no damage to her cargo at a time when other ships were diverting to other ports and sustaining heavy cargo damage. The opinion of the surveyor after that voyage is indicative of her quality. Also J M & Co shipped back 1.2 million Current Rupees on her during that last voyage. They think she is safe.

J M & Co are the Canton agents for the same insurance office which Bombay agent has refused cover to Lady Grant on this occasion. The vessel is captained by Capt Jeffrey. He is a competent mariner with 28 years experience in his profession, the last 12 years trading to China. He became master of Lady Grant soon after her launching and has captained her on every voyage she has made to China. In April 1837 J M & Co, as agents of the Canton Insurance Office, presented Jeffrey with a piece of silver plate valued at £100 in recognition of his services against Malay pirates in the Straits in February 1836.

Insurance offices are mutual organisations. The powers of the many members are delegated to a few managers. If there are no proper grounds for refusing insurance, the insurers lose business, the shipowners are at risk of loss and the master is stigmatised.

We are mentioning this because it is rumoured there have been several examples of insurers withholding cover for reasons unconnected with the risk.

Vol 11 No 35 – 28th August 1838

Asiatic Journal, April 1838 – Our relationship with China is causing uneasiness. The Chinese are stopping the smuggling trade both at Lintin and up the east coast. The force of the Viceroy’s Edicts against opium is palpable. He is surprised that Capt Elliot, who claims to supervise British nationals in China, permits it to continue.

Admiral Chin of Fukien has published an Edict asking British captains of opium ships off his coast:

” … if we took a prohibited commodity to your country and continued year after year to force it on your people, would you bear it patiently or not?”

The Canton papers now say the Chinese are enforcing their law with vigour and warjunks are better appointed in equipment and men.

It should be remembered that there is a party of British traders who wish to bring this issue to a head. The Chinese government has refused to correspond further with Elliot and, rather than send and receive letters via the Hongs, he has retired to Macau.

Vol 11 No 35 – 28th August 1838

Editorial – It is too late to wonder whether opium trade is good or bad. It has become too big for British merchants in India and China to forego.

There are some good foreigners who want it stopped but they are powerless until the Chinese government itself shows it is sincere in its wish to stop the business. No doubt the Drug has a prejudicial effect on its users. It would be good to find a substitute commodity for trade but every country has its lovers of debauchery. When we see the effects of gin and whisky on civilised people we should not deny the Chinese their only luxury.

Humanity is not as perfect as the philanthropists believe. If opium imports stopped, it would be replaced by some other intoxicant that would be worse. Even if we all agreed that opium is bad, we could not stop the Chinese getting their daily smoke. If the opium smugglers ceased smuggling, others would take their place.

Vol 11 No 36 – 4th September 1838

Letter to the Editor from Olyphant & Co:

We oppose opium trade because it is against our religion; it is against the wishes of the people at home; it is against the interests of the Chinese people, and it is against Chinese law.

We are not starting a new movement. We wrote to you because we want to complete the preliminaries for drafting a Memorial on the subject.

The Canton Press says we are the only company to oppose the trade. That is why we wrote – to invite other people to join us.

Our proposal is to put the entire history of the trade to the Emperor. We know one local firm which has written to its constituents to decline further shipments of opium.[161]There are other firms, particularly the younger traders, that are also opposed to opium.

Your position has changed Mr Editor. Two weeks ago you thought a Memorial to the Emperor could only be beneficial; now you say the Chinese must first evidence sincerity by taking effective actions against smuggling. We all agree that the Chinese will be unable to incorporate the use of opium in their system in the same way that we have incorporated the use of alcohol in ours. They will not be able to rise above the temptation. This should have led you to the realisation that our co-operation is crucial to Chinese success.

Your main argument for continuing the trade is that if we do not bring opium, others will.

We are all men of good conscience. Our philosophy does not permit us this trade. If we are not involved we can lighten our load. We are all at least partially dependant on Agency business for absent Principals. To the extent of those commissions we receive, we know it is just to those Principals that we draw a line between legal trade and opium trade.

Opium is bringing losses to our other businesses. Western involvement in opium puts a stain on our national character. The Chinese consider us despicable. How can our governments achieve amicable trade with China like this?

On the one hand we require the Chinese to treat us as criminals, on the other we insist the insults we receive permit our use of violence. Thus the effects of smuggling recoil on the smugglers. Opium smuggling enhances corruption and destroys our reputations.

Can the foreign residents now say to the Chinese government:

We have not previously considered the matter. You say opium is causing injury to your country. We now recognise that opium trade is inconsistent with our own values. We will renounce it.”

This is precisely what the Chinese want to hear from us – foreigners acting from a moral base rather than the accumulation of wealth by any means; foreigners demonstrating their worthiness of confidence and esteem. The Chinese would be impressed by an act of principle that overcame our own greed.

The man who became addicted through quack medications or youthful folly may turn to that foundation of western strength, the Bible. When we consider the extent of the evil we are causing and the nobility of our atonement; when we reflect that there is no historical precedent for such a small number of men causing such an extensive injury, then the idea that others will take our place becomes hardly decisive.

An act of renunciation like this would lose us no friends except opium smugglers. Whatever happens to the Drug subsequently should not concern us. We ourselves will be able to stand up straight and look the world in the eye. Then the Chinese will see us as we really are, unalloyed by prejudice.

This is what we are proposing. If your readers agree, we will draft a Memorial for their consideration.

Vol 11 No 38 – 18th September 1838

The Indian papers are alleging Russian intrigue around the northern frontier has caused an alliance between the Persians, Afghans and Nepalese against British India.

Editor – Burma is thought likely to join. This will extend the British Indian army and treasury and ends hopes that the opium monopoly can be abandoned.

The British and Bengal governments should together advise the Chinese Emperor on opium. Failure to get his agreement will provoke an adverse reaction. It must be done right at first instance. This is not something that individual traders can do.

If Olyphant & Co of Canton is the only firm to sign the proposed anti-opium pledge in November, and we hear of no other China traders holding the same views, it will make all the other China traders appear incorrigible.

There was a British trader many years ago who abandoned his bright pecuniary prospects because he would not join a company operating an opium agency in Canton. He left here and returned to England, but such people are rare.[162]

Worse, fear for the future prospects of opium speculation is likely to increase today’s importation in anticipation of none tomorrow. This ‘pledge’ idea may do more harm than good.

Whilst the Viceroy of the Two Kwang does not encourage the trade, he does little to put it down. We think he will not believe individual foreigners who say they will willingly forego involvement in the business. It should be done by governments. If the British government would take the lead it should first enquire of those involved in the trade. The connivance of Chinese officials will make it difficult to stop. If Britain offers to abandon opium in return for China opening additional ports to our trade, the Emperor will likely refuse. He is more concerned with maintaining his Manchu dynasty than caring for his Chinese subjects.

Vol 11 No 39 – 25th September 1838

A Che heen named Wei Chang was sent to Whampoa village on 17th September with 150 men to seize opium. He raided at night and seized 14 chests from one house. When he approached the next house, the inmates demanded to see his warrant. When this was not instantly produced, a group of ruffians asserted he was a robber and opposed him with violence,. The magistrate was wounded, his boatman was killed and many of his soldiers injured. 12 of the 14 seized chests were recovered by the villagers.

Some reinforcements were sent to assist Magistrate Wei and all the rebellious villagers brought to Canton for enquiries. After investigation, the Governor criticised the Che heen for conducting his raid at night.

We have found the Hong merchants and linguists are reluctant to talk to us about this matter. The Whampoa villagers monopolise the services provided to the foreign shipping at Whampoa and satisfy the numerous officials in their area with regular payments.[163]The arrangement has hitherto been satisfactory and no trouble has occurred. They do not expect to be disturbed at night and the Governor agrees.

Editor – on reconsidering Olyphant’s proposed opium pledge we are now convinced, in the light of the Black Joke (see below) and the Whampoa disturbances (above), that it will cause an increase of opium imports. If the merchants who now control the import were to retire, the trade would fall into under-capitalised hands and the risks of bad management would increase. Olyphant’s original complaint was that the opium trade restricted American choice of outside anchorage. In fact the trade removed from Whampoa to Lintin when the opium ships were driven out of the river. All outside anchorages are illegal. If a captain delays requesting for a river pilot, his presence outside is immediately reported to Canton. It has been the establishment of an opium depot at Lintin that has obtained Chinese acknowledgement of our right to anchor outside. We have previous provincial edicts in which the Viceroy has said Lintin is the proper outside anchorage not Kum Sing Mun.[164]

We were unaware of Olyphant’s claim that the recent removal of opium sales to Whampoa has affected demurrage. A year ago when opium was first being imported into the river, it was done secretly at night. Whenever a schooner appeared off the factories it was ordered away. But over the last 7-8 months the import of opium to the river has increased exponentially. Sales are made during daylight. The boats anchor where they please. They travel uninterruptedly and continually between Canton and Whampoa. How can Olyphant say communications with Macau are impeded because the ferry boats have become opium boats? Opium trade is increasing, not through tacit connivance of the government, but through more or less active encouragement.

Olyphant should not focus on the illegality or the periodic prohibitory Edicts – he should understand that government failure to act decisively contains the inference of its support. It is absurd to seize, bind, torture and kill to suppress a mere luxury. The Government’s anti-opium Edicts should be seen in the same light as a ship-master’s Protest against heavy weather.

Olyphant says our opinions are divisive. We are the voice of the public. We do not advocate opium trade. We inform people of what is happening here and allow matters to be discussed in our columns. We will now await the proposed meeting of the commercial community in November. We expect many opium traders will decline to take the pledge. We will report their reasons. That will be the time to take a view on the subject.

Vol 11 No 39 – 25th September 1838

On 17th September the schooner Black Joke was entering the Bogue with 30 chests of opium when it was stopped and boarded by two government coast guard boats. A large number of foreign merchants were on board to protect the cargo.

The senior Chinese official was brave. When coming alongside and passing under the mouth of a loaded swivel, he dared the foreigners to fire.

The Customs officers sought to go below but were physically prevented in a fight on deck.

We suspect the interest of the Preventive Officers was stirred by the large number of foreigners on the ship. These days the government is mainly concerned to prevent Admiral Maitland and his men from getting up to Canton. It might have appeared to them that the Black Joke was attempting to bring Maitland’s men in.[165]

Vol 11 No 40 – 2nd October 1838

Pau Chee Lin has memorialised the Emperor on opium.

He commends severe punishment of smokers after a six-month amnesty. He says it has long been prohibited but the military and the people disobey.

The habit has spread from the maritime provinces to affect the homeland of the Imperial family and the interior provinces of Shansi, Shensi and Kansu.

Both sexes smoke and the country people are neglecting their fields.

In Peking he has met several men carrying opium pipes and paraphernalia at night.

Foreigners bring opium to Canton and Macau.

It costs 30 – 40 million Taels a year to buy. Formerly the foreign ships brought both goods and silver for trade. Now they just bring opium. They use the dollar proceeds of their sales to buy sycee.

Previously the dollar coin was worth 7 mace of sycee, now it is worth 8 mace.

The troops and coast guard cruisers that are supposed to stop the trade all promote it and receive bribes from the dealers.

In this situation silver will continue to flow out and prices of every basic commodity in China will increase (in copper cash). When a dealer is arrested he pays a poor man to personate him and accept the blows and banishment that the law prescribes.

Punishments must be made more severe to be effective but the smokers must be given a warning so they can prepare. After that, if they continue to smoke, they will be amenable to the heavier punishments. Then demand will reduce, imports will decrease and less silver will be exported. The severest punishment should be reserved for those officials who are supposed to interdict the trade but fail to do so.

Editor Slade – If China takes strong action against its people it knows what to expect from the response of the Whampoa villagers last week.

The government never confronts the foreign importers. If it destroyed the opium ships and boats and punished foreigners under its own laws on its own territory we would be defeated.

Clearly opium is a powerful weapon with which to influence the Emperor.

The trade is huge, the commercial connections we have made innumerable.

It will not be voluntarily abandoned by us except under a solemn assurance it will never fall into other hands.

It is shameful to blame just the navy and Customs officers for opium – all the officials from the Emperor down are implicated. How is it that when the people of Leen Chow rebelled in 1830 the Viceroy was held strictly responsible for the causes and suppression of their rebellion but with opium, which he really can control, he is not?

The lord of 30 million Cantonese (i.e. the Viceroy – Kwangtung Province’s population is much greater than the United Kingdom) should be a match for a few obstreperous foreigners.

Vol 11 No 40 – 2nd October 1838

Last month the Viceroy and Governor met to discuss opium. The Governor said it has been available for many years and should not be stopped suddenly.

The Viceroy disagreed and soon after arrested a hundred people on suspicion of involvement. The Governor is a drinker – he enjoys wine and archery – he always submits to the new Viceroy’s opinions.

Vol 11 No 41 – 9th October 1838

Outrage in Taipa roads:

Mr Layton, the tea taster previously arrested on a ferry with opium, and Dr Peter Parker the surgeon, left Macau in a fast boat for Canton but were intercepted by the coast guard. Official boats are indistinguishable from pirates’ boats.

The foreigners tried to escape but the government boat got alongside and a wild soldier got on board and wounded some of the crew with his sword. Dr Parker had to rap the soldier’s knuckles several times before he would drop the weapon. He then confiscated the sword.

The foreigners showed their pass but were still ordered to stop at the Bogue forts. This is actually the law but has never been the custom – normally the boat continues post haste to Canton to discharge its passengers and visits the fort on its return.

On this occasion, the two foreigners insisted on going direct to Canton first. On arrival Parker reported the case at the Customs House and surrendered the sword as evidence.

The Hoppo’s man continually asked Parker why he had not obeyed the law.

Vol 11 No 41 – 9th October 1838

The Editor of Canton Register, John Slade, has sent a letter to Lord Palmerston, 6th October 1838:

The Superintendent of British Trade at Canton is resident at Macau. He is responsible for all British trade, including opium. He is accordingly ex officio a daily breaker of Chinese law. His despatches to you were recently published in the Canton Press. The whole community here fears you will have been misled and I will now put you straight.

In 1834 Napier laid down the principle that a British official would never communicate with the Chinese government through the Hong merchants. Napier’s successor Davis felt that Napier’s death rendered the Commission void. It could not sit at Canton as required. He forewent the £6,000 salary as his public duties were incapable of performance. He left China in January 1835. Davis concurred with Napier that the commission could not act through the Hong merchants. Sir George Robinson continued this policy and never appeared in Canton.

Then Elliot was promoted and the principle was abandoned. He applied through the Hongs for a passport to come to Canton. We all regretted this although Elliot was subsequently addressed as Ling Sze rather than Taipan (as the President of the Select used to be called). Then on 29th November 1837 Elliot addressed us and we learned that he had no positive order to address himself through the Hongs and had merely exercised his own judgement.

Elliot has told you (in a letter dated 2nd June 1837) of an increasing disposition on the part of China to conciliate the English government. This is nonsense. The Emperor recognises no equal in the World. He alone holds universal power. If there really was an intention to conciliate Britain it would be reflected in the settlement of Hing Tai’s debts and King Qua’s debts. The Chinese government would have accepted its duty to settle with us. The evidence against Elliot’s assertion is clear:

  • The Viceroy refused to correspond with Elliot directly.
  • The provincial government has been helpless to obtain settlement of the debts.
  • The British Navy, in the shape of Admiral Maitland, has been grossly insulted. Far from meeting or conciliating him, the government has acted defensively as against an enemy, denying that officer communication and cutting him off from provisions.
  • The Secretary and Chinese Secretary of the Commission were expelled from the city gate on 5th August when they sought to deliver a letter to the Viceroy.
  • The ferry boat Bombay was fired on by the Bogue forts and stopped. When the linguist came on board he said his only object was to prevent Admiral Maitland and his officers from entering the river. He was not concerned to search for opium.
  • The Viceroy’s and Hoppo’s edicts as printed in this paper show no evidence of a wish to conciliate us, indeed we do not recall receiving a conciliatory Edict from them. On the contrary, every Edict contains insulting epithets and insinuations. Are the Imperial orders banishing several traders from China deemed conciliatory?

Every effort of your Lordship’s government has failed utterly and disgracefully. Your management of the Commission has lowered us in the opinion of the Chinese and the rest of the international community here. Your economising on the cost of the Commission has struck at the Chinese secretary and the surgeons who are precisely the people whose work raises our reputation with the Chinese, yet you retain two superintendents whose entire experience has been overseas or in Macau.

The results obtained by the Commission at the city gate bear no comparison with the results the merchants have themselves obtained at the same venue on 29th July and 29th September this year. Ask yourself ‘what use are they?’ The Commission denigrates us by its presence. The parsimonious Chinese ridicule its expense. I estimate you have spent £100,000 – £200,000 on the Commission so far.

I suggest you appoint one of our leading merchants as Consul in Canton as the local government here will only communicate through the Hongs. Give him a deputy, a chaplain, two surgeons and interpreters – that is enough. The establishment of regular Consular dinners would do much to impress the Chinese and recover our reputation.

We pay you nearly £5 millions a year (the tea and silk revenue). If you want to preserve that income you should shift your attention from here to Peking. I attach copies of my newspaper containing details of proceedings at the city gate mentioned above. Sgd John L Slade

Vol 11 No 42 – 16th October 1838

Edict of the acting Nam Hoi heen:

Opium is a prohibited substance. Several brokers who have opened opium divans have been arrested and punished. Others who refine opium for smoking have also been caught.

Now I find there is a third class of criminal involved. He pretends to be a policeman and harasses the ordinary people and merchants by entering their houses, supposedly to search for opium but actually to steal money and goods. These people even carry opium and pipes with them and plant them on the innocent in expectation of gain.

This is detestable and warrants death.

The government requires everyone searching for opium to hold a warrant for the purpose. If the army must comply with this requirement (the police runners are actually soldiers), how can these vagabonds harass the people without warrants?

To combat this third class of vagabonds, the Viceroy has ordered that whenever the abode of an opium broker is discovered, the officer must first petition a senior official to dispatch troops to make the seizure. If the officer fails to report and makes the seizure himself he commits an offence.

I now inform the common people that should people come to your houses to search for opium, and they have no warrant, you are to seize and bind them and hand them over to me.

Vol 11 No 43 – 23rd October 1838

For Sale, 15thOctober – the armed Spanish schooner Patriota, 180 tons, 2½ years old, coppered hull, two suits of sails, three chains and anchors, rigging all of Russian hemp.

Contact James P Sturgis at Macau or Russell Sturgis & Co, Canton.[166]

Vol 11 No 43 – 23rd October 1838

The New York Journal of Commerce of 19th May has published an extract from a letter sent by an American merchant at Canton to Salem, dated 4th January 1838:

The Viceroy said two months ago that he would stop trade if the opium fleet at Lintin did not remove. He has just issued another warning and How Qua assures me it is not a bluff.

In utter contempt of Chinese law, the foreign community has complied with the order by bringing the opium trade to Whampoa. The barque Isobel brought up an entire cargo of opium overstowed with just enough rice to give her the superficial appearance of a lawful trader, thus making a pilot available, and incidentally obtaining the pecuniary advantage of a rice ship. The ship has remained at Whampoa and no Hong merchant will secure her as everyone knows she carries opium.

While the opium smuggling was confined to ferry boats we did not mind because the quantities imported were small and none of the principal traders were directly involved.

Now the cargo values are great and if the Chinese try to enforce the law there will be a confrontation and bloodshed. Then where will we all be? The Chinese are reluctant to use force even against the most audacious acts of smuggling – they simply stop trade.

They do not capture vessels – they prevent access and egress to / from the river. The fears of the English that this will happen are evinced by the frenzied loading and departure of their ships without properly checking the export cargo.”

Vol 11 No 43 – 23rd October 1838

Leung Chang Kiu, Foo Yuen of Kwang Si, has memorialised the Emperor concerning Hwang Tseo Tsze’s proposals for stopping the import of opium to prevent silver being exported:

Hwang wants heavier punishments of smokers after one year of grace. Communal bonds (pao chia) will secure the performance of the people.[167]Officials and soldiers are to be shamed into abandoning the habit and will be punished more strictly for continuing to smoke after the year’s grace.

When opium was first imported, it was proscribed because of its adverse effect on the morals and health of the people. Now it is causing silver to drain away and the silver / copper exchange rate is deranged. The existing law seems adequate but silver still flows away. The problem is enforcement. Heavier punishments will make no difference if the law is not enforced.

It is not appropriate to execute people for smoking opium. We execute violent robbers and people who kill. It would be better to tackle the opium dealers and store-keepers. The present law allows banishment of opium dealers as slaves to the army. It allows strangulation of keepers of divans after their prison sentence has been completed. The real cause of the problem is the opium brokers in Canton who first introduce opium to China – they are really despicable.

The foreigners do not come into China, they sell in the outer waters to Chinese brokers. The foreigners go to Lintin, Lantau and the Ladrones. They do not know their way around and require local guides.

The ten richest Canton opium brokers are worth over $1 millions, the middling 40 – 50 brokers are worth several hundred thousand dollars. For years they have been closely allied with the foreign importers and cement their bargains verbally whereupon an opium chit (Delivery Order) is issued. All these men deserve instant death; there is no need to wait for their imprisonment to end.

To become an opium broker, several families have to unite to pool their capital. Some few of them must be in fear of the law and will oblige the more daring amongst them to take care.

The time to observe a foreign opium ship is when it first arrives. That is when the brokers attend en masse to check the quality and price of the new cargo. That is when we can catch all of them.

For each broker we prevent dealing, a reduction in demand accrues to the foreigner. In this way we can make the trade less profitable and induce the foreigners into other businesses. To employ spies will be expensive as the trade makes so much money. It might be better to open our own fake shops to allure dealers into approaching us – then we can catch them red-handed.

The broker Yeung Shu was caught in Canton in 1824 and Poon Ah Tai in 1829. They were both banished as slaves to the army because we had no precise law concerning opium divans. It is this former indulgence that makes today’s brokers so brave. They use ‘fast crabs’ and carry arms. They always have money aboard for bribery.

When seizures of opium or sycee are made, no-one knows if they are fully reported. Some officials have benefited from seizures, been promoted for their ‘diligence’ and then used their heightened authority to sell licences to the opium brokers in their district.

There should be quicker and larger material rewards for magistrates who arrest brokers. They should be recognised at Court too. If the magistrates are properly motivated the problem can be solved.

The opium ships now stay at Whampoa. The brokers are mainly from Kwangchow foo, the smugglers are from Heung Shan, Tung Kwoon and Sun Wui. At present they all meet in Macau or Whampoa. The inland opium marts are in the foo‘s of Shiu Kwan and Chiu Chow.

The Admiral is based at the Bogue – how can opium pass him? It is not just neglect, the naval officers protect the trade. Some even permit opium to be carried in their own government boats. The Admiral must control his men.

The foreigners also deliver opium along the coast. We should insist the officials in the maritime provinces forbid all foreign trade, then the ships will return to Canton. If they cannot stop sales being made, they should act against their local brokers.

If the poppy is farmed in China it is the same as importing it. Our good arable land will increasingly be turned over to the production of a useless Drug.

But executing people for smoking, extending punishments to sons and grandsons of smokers, is unnecessarily severe. It is said opium smoking in Cochin China has been made a capital offence. This is a foreign response and unreasonable. It is absolutely appropriate to execute opium brokers but not smokers. By killing brokers and seizing their estates, the problem can be controlled. Once a few brokers have died, the problem will diminish. We will thus break the chain of people assisting in the import.

The foreigners will be unable to sell because they will be unable to find people to make deliveries over the last mile. The loss of silver will slow and its value stabilise. The only matter for our continuing concern is the willingness of the enforcers to do their jobs.

Here in Kwang Si we have little opium smoking and no poppy farming – I do not know why. A diligent watch needs be kept on the Customs Houses of Chaou Chow and Chiu Chow. These are my views.

The Emperor’s comment on Leung’s opinion:

Hwang Tseo Tsze has also said that many officials are negligent. Perhaps they are corrupt? The Viceroys and Governors must obtain the obedience of the people. Search out everyone involved in opium trading. You all have three months after which the new severe penalties will apply. Respect this.

Vol 11 No 44 – 30th October 1838

Asiatic Journal articles in May and June 1838 issues (consolidated):

Our trade in China is approaching a crisis. Government is insisting on the expulsion of opium traders for illegality and the British Commissioner is threatened as well.

The government wants the receiving ships removed.

To get its way it has forbidden our access to Canton and is being dilatory in settling claims on Hongs. To attain its objects it seems willing to exclude foreign trade entirely.

This is precisely what we predicted would happen after the Company left.

Vol 11 No 44 – 30th October 1838

Notes from the Reverend Medhurst’s voyage on the American brig Huron:

Our vessel was fixed for Ningpo and ports to the north. The owners offered me passage for my missionary work but I was doubtful about the cargo which included opium. This was not for medicinal use but solely for pleasure. Opium smokers are morally culpable for damaging their own lives. Those who help them feed their habit are also culpable. Worst, the Chinese will associate everyone on the ship including myself with the opium trade.

I considered the length of voyage and the opportunity to connect with Chinese. The ship commander was experienced on the China coast and had many contacts. This was the only ship available. I had many bibles ready for distribution that were in gratuitous storage on the receiving ships at Lintin. If I could not distribute them I had nowhere else to store them and the kindness of the receiving ship captains might evaporate. In that event I would have to send the books back to Singapore or Malacca. My associates want me to spread the Gospel in China and I cannot do that in Canton.

On the other hand every Chinese knows that the foreign ships that come to the east coast are primarily concerned to sell opium. The opium ships must evade the Chinese Customs and invariably anchor far from the coast. The Chinese buyers come off in boats at night to make their purchases. If the deal is interrupted by the authorities everyone runs away. The opium ship captain might spend weeks off shore without sending a boat. The weather is often unsuitable for putting a boat out; or the coast is too rocky to take the chance. On the few occasions a boat is dispatched ashore, the people are necessarily cautious in their dealings with us.

Finally, my value to the shipowner is knowledge of Chinese language – the cost of the missionary’s berth is the provision of interpreting services. He has to interface between seller and buyer and thus appear inextricably involved in the trade. He is also helping to spread opium even more widely. Every instance of missionaries assisting opium importers strengthens the importer and diminishes the arguments missionaries can use against the trade.

However, it cannot be long before the opium trade goes the same way as the slave trade. Those missionaries who assist by interpreting can hardly protest against the business. On these considerations I recognised it was generally undesirable for missionaries to ship on an opium boat.

Almost the entire foreign community at Canton is involved in opium trade. They say if they abandon it, others will quickly take their place. This is the excuse of most of them. It is untenable – whether others take up the business or not, the existing operators are causing misery for profit. They know they are destroying lives but they say that once started in the business it is difficult to withdraw. They also say just a few year’s trade produces enough profit to satisfy most who then vacate their positions and allow others to partake. They should remember to ‘do unto others as they would be done by’. Every day we ask the Lord to ‘not lead us into temptation’. If the merchants became more scrupulous about the sources of their wealth, the trade would diminish. We hope it will soon be recognised that this trade is disreputable.

The Company derives an immense profit from opium auctions. Very little opium is consumed in India, most of it is exported. This enormity is due to the Company directors in London and their government at Calcutta. We know what they are doing and we should publish it day after day – importing opium is preventing our proselytising for Christ.

Almost the first thing a prospective convert asks is “why do you missionaries bring opium here illegally; my brother has been poisoned, or my son is ruined, or my wife and young children beg in the streets? You say you care for me but actually you care for profit. Stop the opium imports and I will listen to your preaching”

The fact is that the opium trader is as addicted to his profit as the smoker is to his Drug. The Company can stop producing opium and it can exert influence on the native states to do likewise. If Indian supply stopped, Turkey could not replace it. If we cannot get the Company to see its duty, we should protest to the British government.

We have a British government representative sanctioned by the Viceroy to stay at Canton and regulate the conduct of Englishmen here. The Viceroy has asked him to stop the trade and he has said it is beyond his power to do so although, if some advantage was on offer, he might be encouraged to co-operate. England has much to ask of China but some reciprocity will be expected.

The Chinese will never believe we cannot stop the trade – opium grows in British India and finances our government there. We obviously sell opium as a matter of choice. This must change if we want to improve our position here. Stopping the bulk of the trade would not be difficult. The Company controls half the production and has influence with the Rajahs of the native states that produce the rest.

A small naval force on the China coast will prevent sales there. We maintain a much larger naval force on the West African coast to extinguish the slave trade there. We compensated slave owners in British colonies with £20 millions. Slavery is no worse that drug trafficking.

The Chinese spend millions of Pounds Sterling each year on opium, about as much as we spend on tea. It is money they might otherwise use to buy British manufactures. The destabilisation of China’s monetary system caused by opium has already received attention in Peking.

One suggestion is the legalisation of opium imports on payment of duty – this would enable the government to learn the quantities, prices and personalities involved and facilitate control. The Emperor has rejected this plan. He prefers a vigorous proscription.

Punishments are already severe yet imports are increasing at a rate of some 4,000 chests per year. If the Chinese cannot solve the problem, neither can the Company or British government.

The correct approach is to mobilise public opinion in England – only in that way can the reformed parliament be persuaded to act.

Vol 11 No 45 – 6th November 1838

2nd Annual Report of the General Chamber (excerpt):

We have met with the Hong merchants and received two letters from them about the opium trade at Whampoa and Canton. They asked us to stop the trade but we declined to do so.

Vol 11 No 49 – 4th December 1838

Letter from the Hongs to the foreign merchants, 27th November 1838:

Large decked passage boats are prohibited from entering the river. Small passage boats must get passports and comply with the terms shown in them. We have told you this repeatedly but the big schooners still come. They bring opium and other contraband up to the factories and if they are discovered we, as landlords, will be implicated.

We had thought you were honourable merchants. If you smuggle and get caught we cannot help you. We must report you to the Viceroy, stop your trade and apply for your expulsion. Your house compradors and servants know you are smuggling – they are liable to arrest and punishment too.

We are imperatively ordered to stop your smuggling. You just get us into trouble. We have to consider our own safety.

Sgd 11 Hong merchants.

Vol 11 No 49 – 4th December 1838

Letter from the Hongs to the General Chamber, 27th November 1838:

Foreigners bring opium to Canton for profit. They are shameless people. As they are dishonourable, we will no longer suffer on their account. The next time smuggling is discovered we will certainly report it to government. This will likely result in a stoppage of trade and the banishment of the responsible foreigner. Your house compradors and servants know what is going on – how can you imagine it is a secret?

If you continue to smuggle we will petition government for the punishment of your servants. We will publish your names in the streets around the factories so that everyone knows who you are and can protect themselves from you. We have tried to be reasonable with you but you are unco-operative. We have precise instructions to stop the smuggling and we will not accept punishment for your misdeeds. We must consider our own safety.

Please have this letter published in your newspapers so all foreigners understand the situation. If trade can be conducted honourably we can have mutual benefit. Please confirm you will comply.

Vol 11 No 50 – 11th December 1838

Editorial – When crooks fall out:

The Viceroy is prosecuting Talbot and his ship Thomas Perkins but he is in error. The officials at the Customs House next to Creek Factory have been receiving our goods and passing them on to importers without telling the Hoppo who would expect those officers to tax them.

It is an old truism that most smuggling occurs near the Customs House.

Now that the Emperor is concerned about smuggling, and has obliged the Canton provincial government to take action against opium dealers and brokers, the officers of the Creek Customs House have had second thoughts about the assistance they have historically provided to us and have decided to change sides.

The officer-in-charge has reported the entire stock of contraband in his warehouse and given information to government on the foreign personalities using his former service. Originally, he approached us with his offer to smuggle, we took him at his word and paid him but now he has betrayed us.

Based on the Creek Customs House information, the Viceroy has threatened to remove James Innes from China. He says he will order How Qua to pull the roof off Innes’ house to encourage him to leave (How Qua owns the Creek Factory and is Innes’ landlord). This is excessive and illegal. We pay our rent timely and cannot be removed from the factories – they are our homes.[168]

Besides in 1814 the old Select Committee of the Company reached an agreement with the Canton government whereby the foreign factories were made inviolable. Since then only once, in 1831, did the then Hoppo enter the British factory with soldiers in contravention of the agreement.

It is also true that Viceroy Tang’s son was caught smuggling opium last year but strings were pulled and the case dropped on a payment to the arresting officers. This is well known amongst the Chinese community. The reason the Viceroy has become so active is not the Imperial order to stop the opium trade, but revelations the Kwong Heep made in Peking that the Viceroy’s son was involved in the ownership of four opium smuggling boats, each of which was chartered to smugglers for 5,000 Taels a year. The Kwong Heep, who knew all about it, has reportedly been stripped of his assets in Peking.

We should not be accountable for smuggling. It has been openly carried out in the river for some 18 months and everyone is aware of the fleet of boats at Whampoa but no action has been taken by government to remove it. This lengthy inactivity has encouraged the foreign community. Many foreigners conclude that the Canton government does not mind us smuggling.

Now this wretch at the Creek Customs House has caused the Viceroy to initiate all sorts of action. He has faulted Talbot of M/s Gordon and Talbot, a firm that does not deal in opium, for the mere smuggling of other dutiable items.

In his reply to the Parsees of 27th September 1834, the then Viceroy Loo said words to the effect ‘if any foreigner causes trouble he will be expelled, if they all cause trouble they will all be expelled’ – this suggests that every individual will be responsible for his own acts. Now the new Viceroy is using this smuggling at the Creek as an excuse to implicate us all in the offences of Talbot. It is inconsistent.

The stoppage of trade is irrelevant as the tea men will soon arrive and require the provincial government to let them sell their goods.

Vol 11 No 50 – 11th December 1838

Letters from the Hongs to the General Chamber, 5th December 1838:

The large decked ferry boats persist in coming to Canton against the law. They bring opium to Canton which is off-loaded into the foreign factories. As your security merchants and your landlords, we are doubly involved in your crime.

Why can you not trade honestly?

Now on 17th day of 10th moon, James Innes has brought a shipment of opium to Canton and it has been seized at the Thirteen Factories by government. His security merchant and landlord are both sentenced to wear the cangue, although his landlord has obtained a remission. Our reputations with government have been compromised.

This bold contempt for our law has produced widespread indignation and a placard is circulating in the City identifying Innes with the detestable trade in opium. A copy is attached for publication in your newspaper (see below).

The Viceroy has ordered Innes to be banished. He must leave before 8th December on which day, if he is still here, we are ordered to pull down his house. You also commit an offence if any of you shelter or feed him. Should Innes remain beyond the stipulated date, our sentence to wear the cangue will commence. We note you object to the destruction of his house and we undertake not to do it, but you should reciprocally recognise the jeopardy we are in. We hope you will encourage Innes to go away and thus save us from punishment and permit the reopening of trade.

Before trade can be reopened, we will require your express agreement to comply with the law regarding ferry boats. The large boats may not come; the small open boats must get a pass and stop as required en route. Please let us have a paper signed by each of your members agreeing this point so we can reopen trade. If any of you again tries to smuggle opium to the Canton factories, we will report the facts to the government so they can enforce the law on you. Whatever action is taken, it will at the least involve banishment. If you are unable to provide the required guarantee we will not trade with you or rent our houses to you.

Sgd the Hong merchants.

The Placard, posted on all the factory walls, states:

The rules regarding ferry boats have been repeatedly stated to the foreigners but large decked boats continue to arrive one after the other. We know they are involved in smuggling, as contraband has been seized at the factories and we Hong merchants have been implicated.

James Innes, in defiance of and contempt for Chinese law, has been caught bringing opium to the factories in a ferry boat. We will no longer trade with him and will remove him from our property. This is a warning to any reasonable men amongst you.

Chamber’s response:

Innes is not a member. We have no control over him. In any event this Chamber has solely commercial authority. We are sorry to hear of your difficulties on our account, particularly the punishment of Poon Hoi Qua in respect of smuggling from the Thomas Perkins which is indubitably a false accusation.

We cannot pledge that ferry boats will cease coming to Canton. These boats belong to various persons over whom we likewise have no authority. They are supposed to be used to carry only passengers and mail between Macau, Whampoa and Canton.

We will be happy to help in any plan that prevents boats being used illegally. Sgd H H Lindsay, Chairman

Vol 11 No 50 – 11th December 1838

On the morning of 12th December, the executioner arrived in the square in front of the foreign factories and set up his equipment almost directly beneath the American flag (which was hurriedly pulled down) that flies from the US Consulate in the Swedish Factory. He was escorted by a body of soldiers under a Captain. They erected several tents, etc. They were making preparations to execute an opium divan keeper.

The Viceroy unilaterally fixed on the square as the appropriate place for this execution as the crime involves opium which is imported by the foreigners.

It has never happened before.

The usual execution ground is east of the factories near the river. This event will predictably tend to cause the Cantonese to link us with the opium trade. Accordingly, a group of foreigners attended at the scene intent on disrupting the proceedings. Some foreigners demanded the officials move the execution elsewhere. At the same time other foreigners packed the executioner’s accoutrements and carried everything away to the beach opposite Ming Qua’s Hong and Old China Street. Having done so, to prevent the execution being moved back to the square if they retired, they demanded all the executioner’s tools-of-trade be embarked on a boat and removed.

Eventually the officials reluctantly complied but a huge crowd had gathered and many stones were thrown at the foreign contingent. It seems some foreigners then became violent and attempted to forcibly disperse the crowd with sticks. Had they simply returned to their factories once the executioner’s tools had been removed, none of the subsequent rioting would have occurred. Mowqua then appeared from Old China Street and waved the remaining Europeans away. Most complied whereupon the crowd showered their retreating backs with more stones. Those who had intended to stay and contest possession of the square now felt it prudent to also retire. About forty found refuge in the entrance to Imperial Hong where they continued to be stoned until the door could be closed.

The mob was led by a group of youngsters and the palisades and walls at the front of the Swedish, Lung Shun (old English), Fung Tai and Imperial Hongs were seriously damaged. Bricks and rails were removed and used to attack the doors, windows and verandahs. The panels of the door to Lung Shun Hong (where Elliot resides) were stoved-in and the door broken down, using a top fence rail as a battering ram. Some furniture near the windows in the upper floors was damaged by stones. Some of the crowd climbed up to 1st and 2nd floor verandahs.

This induced an old foreigner to ask the Nam Hoi heen for protection. The mob immediately left on the arrival of his troops. The crowd was estimated to contain 7,000 – 8,000 people. We asked the soldiers to remain all night for our protection and the officer agreed.

We learned the prisoner intended for execution is Ho Yiu Kong who started an opium divan near Fukien Hong seven years ago. He was said to have sold his business after the government learned of it but he had already been marked. He was reportedly denounced in three separate complaints. He was removed from the square in front of our factories and strangled at the landing stage at the end of Chow Yin Street, next to Sao Qua’s Hong.

Elliot was at Whampoa at the time but returned to the factories with 120 armed sailors in the ships’ boats.

We have learned some lessons:

  • The Captain’s willingness to move the place of execution suggests we have more influence with the Chinese than we realised. We should strongly protest this abuse of the square and insist it does not recur.
  • Foreigners must always present a united face to the Chinese. We should form a militia amongst ourselves, armed with hunting whips, so we can in future drive crowds away in the same way we were driven away today.
  • We should request the square be enclosed for our sole use.

Vol 11 No 51 – 18th December 1838

A detachment of Chinese troops has entered Macau and arrested three large opium dealers. Similar actions have been reported throughout the Province. Numerous seizures of opium have been made in the last few days.

Vol 11 No 51 – 18th December 1838

Elliot’s published address to the foreign community at Canton:

The cause of both the recent threat against James Innes and the attempted execution in the square is our use of small boats to smuggle on the river.

It caused a riot in the square and a direct threat against our persons and property. It has caused an interruption of the legal trade.

I require the owners of small boats to cease smuggling within the next three days. If they do not, I will liaise with the Viceroy and recommend actions to bring this abuse to an end.

I need your support and co-operation. I am the only national representative at Canton whose duties are solely public.”[169]

Vol 11 No 51 – 18th December 1838

Elliot’s proclamation to the owners of all British small craft, 18th December:

“If your boat has ever been involved in opium smuggling you should take it out of the river in three days and not again allow it to return.

“I warn all Britons who smuggle opium in the river that should any Chinese be killed as a result of your defending your illegal trade, you will be liable on conviction under English law (the proposed criminal court – see the China chapter) to capital punishment as if the offence had occurred in England.

“The British government will provide no protection to British small boat owners who are caught smuggling by the Chinese.

“You are all reminded that resisting Chinese officers in the performance of their duties of search and seizure will render you liable to the Chinese government for the consequences, the same as it would if you were in England.”

Vol 11 No 51 – 18th December 1838

Viceroy Tang’s Edict to the Hong merchants for the foreigners, dated 16th December 1838:

Lindsay, for the General Chamber, complains my unannounced execution of Ho Yiu Kong in front of the factories. The foreigners say the land between the factories and the river (the square) is rented to them with their factories. They establish this by pointing to the buildings east and west of the foreign factories which have enclosed the land down to the river. The Dutch and English factories have enclosed land in front of them but the other Hongs do not so as to create an open space for exercise.

They say that before the fire of 1822 the entire square was fenced off. They then deduce that my holding an execution in the Square is in breach of their tenancy agreements.

They say a crowd was attracted by the imminent execution and disputes arose. They called for the police but none arrived for two hours during which time the crowd rioted and destroyed much valuable property. Had the rioters gained access to any factory they say they would have used guns to repel them and the matter would have become serious.

They request me to confirm that I will not act like this again.

It is true that Canton has a special ground for executions. However Ho Yiu Kong (also known as Ho Lan Kin) kept a shop selling opium and he had a divan where people were welcome to buy and smoke the drug. He was arrested, tried and sentenced to death. When Imperial approval of the sentence arrived, it was carried out.

I chose to execute Ho in front of the factories as his death results from his employment in the opium trade which you foreigners monopolise. I intended to give you grounds to pause and reflect in the hope that, even at this late stage, you might become amenable to law and concerned for your continuing (legal) commerce. Although you are depraved and prefer the evil to the good, yet you are still part of the human family and are capable of reform.

Instead of reform you send a protest against my actions.

The land under and around the factories belongs in perpetuity to the Emperor. You are allowed to live there temporarily for your trade. Where I chose to execute criminals is of no concern to you. You say the land is for your exercise. Do you mean that we Chinese are not allowed to go there? Your presumptuous and absurd complaint is execrable.

The Hong merchants will explain my commands to the foreigners. I am intent on suppressing smuggling. The likelihood of future executions in the square is high. Crowds will gather but officials will be on hand to maintain order. The foreigners need not concern themselves with executions, they should direct their minds to the instruction of those of their community who smuggle, encouraging them to restrain their greed for the welfare of the entire foreign community.

If foreigners again try to prevent the law taking its course, How Qua will identify them to me for expulsion.

Instruct Lindsay and the others accordingly.”[170]

Vol 11 No 51 – 18th December 1838

Letters of the Hongs to the General Chamber, 16th December:

In consequence of Innes’ opium smuggling, some of us, your landlords, were condemned to wear the cangue. Your actions have lost us our reputations. To prevent our further injury by you we now require every tenant in our factories to bond himself not to engage in smuggling nor bring contraband into the factories. We will certainly report any non-compliance to government and the involved foreigner will be banished.

The export of sycee is illegal and offenders face serious consequences. If you have ‘foreign face’ money that you wish to export you must report the details to government and obtain permission. Do not nail your treasure boxes until we have inspected them, whereafter the security merchant will apply his seal to them. The boxes may not be taken back into your factories (where you might substitute others) but must be instantly loaded on the boat and carried to the ship at Whampoa.

Vol 11 No 51 – 18th December 1838

Letter to the Editor:

Two years ago it appeared the Chinese government would legalise opium. Even when opposition formed we still expected legalisation in the end.[171]These hopes have been crushed by the events of the last year. Several months ago it became clear that the Chinese have determined to prevent opium imports and silver exports. The prevention of smuggling will cause many foreign companies to become insolvent.

Recognising this, we told the Co-Hong our views as long ago as May 1838. Our concerns at the damage that opium can do to our trade caused us to write two letters to you in September. You will recall we wished to invite the foreign community to individually pledge itself not to smuggle opium.

Representatives of the foreign community repudiated our initiative and the Co-Hong declined to receive our own pledge as other foreign traders disapproved of it.

We then let the matter rest hoping that our earlier appeals to the American people might effect an improvement. The foreign community has chosen to continue smuggling and the Chinese government has determined to stop it.

Our minority view may be justified by future events but we commend all foreigners to note Chinese determination and be prepared.

We just want to say that it is in all our interests that the opium trade be separated from the rest of our business here so that those of us who chose not to sell opium are readily distinguishable from those who do.

Some residents express the hope that Innes’ expulsion will cause other major smugglers to cease importing opium on the river. We recall it was the energy of the Chinese authorities that disrupted communications with Lintin and forced the smugglers to again enter the river. That was the beginning of extensive smuggling in ferry boats. If we resurrect the old Lintin system, the Viceroy will again stop it. With a large store of opium at Lintin, a large demand for it at Canton and the Chinese connection between the two disrupted by law enforcement, it will not take many days for foreigners to again involve themselves in direct smuggling of opium.

The Superintendent (Elliot) has reportedly proposed the licensing of 5-6 large ferry boats between Whampoa and Canton for passengers and mails. He will not protect any other passage boats. He offers to guarantee that the licensed boats will not smuggle.

It seems the present state of play is this – the Viceroy is responsible (ultimately with his life) to the Emperor to enforce the laws and he is ordered to stop opium smuggling. He has successfully prevented Chinese dealers from visiting Lintin. He has just expelled Innes, a major opium smuggler. He has obtained a guarantee from one foreign ship to not import opium.[172]

Suppose the foreign community foregoes opium smuggling for a few months to let things calm down and then resumes. As soon as the import is renewed, the dealers return, the shops are replenished, the government will know and a fresh attempt to crush the trade will commence.

The Viceroy will again be obliged to imprison and execute hundreds of his countrymen. Will he overlook the foreign community? Will he not recall their former willingness to give bonds against their involvement? Will he forget he can banish us? Will not the whistle-blowing of any one of the countless minions employed in the distribution of opium bring on a stoppage of trade generally, exactly as had just occurred. Is the expulsion of innocent foreigners like Talbot, for being Agent to the Thomas Perkins, unlikely to recur?

We should take a longer view of our situation. Our position here is unique. We are surrounded by millions who do not share our cultural and social beliefs; we are entrusted with the business of our Principals overseas. In this situation we undoubtedly should be friendly, benevolent and honourable in all our dealings. Instead we have allowed opium importers to bring us into disrespect and make us an object of disgust amongst most of the Chinese community. We can make no claim of virtue or friendship, yet we rely when imperilled on the government we affect to despise – it was through government protection that we escaped the wrath of the mob in the Square. The government has at last found the way to control and end opium smuggling. If it had not, the demoralised populace might have rebelled.

Our position has fallen even further and our reputations can hardly get any worse. We want to let your readers know that in our opinion we cannot continue to enjoy the benefits of China trade until we clearly separate ourselves from opium. The opium traders evade their responsibilities but cling to their profits. They must depart to their ships and do whatever they wish but without affecting us.

Sgd Olyphant & Co

Vol 11 No 52 – 25th December 1838

Letters of the General Chamber to the Hongs, 19th and 20th December:

  • We protest the attempt to execute a man in front of the factories. It has lessened our respect for your system. It has never happened before in 150 years of trade. It is an insult to us. Do not do it again.
  • We have various novelties to suggest for the renewed licensing of ferry boats.

Sgd H H Lindsay,

Vol 11 No 52 – 25th December 1838

Viceroy Tang was supposed to be transferred about now but he has been told to remain here for another three years – the Emperor is satisfied with his progress against opium.

Hsu Nai Tsi who recommended opium import as a dutiable commodity, has lost his button and been dismissed from the public service.

Vol 11 No 52 – 25th December 1838

Edict of Viceroy Tang to the people of the Two Kwang:

Hwang Tseo Tsze memorialised the Emperor that all opium smokers should be executed. The Emperor has circulated his recommendation and the responses are all favourable. We are now finalising the new law.

When the yellow rescript arrives it will be put into force. There can be no future profit in opening opium shops. Those who do will lose their wealth as well as their lives.

I feel pity for you. You are taking the wealth of China and giving it to the foreigners and in return you risk the loss of your lives and property. Do not be fooled by the foreigners into continuing this trade. Do not use your money to buy death.

Awake to your danger.


Please refer to the China chapter for articles on opium after the end of 1838.The following few articles relate to drug use in India and Europe.


Vol 13 No 11 – 17th March 1840

India Journal of Medical and Physical Science, January 1840 edition:

As an orally-administered intoxicant, hemp is known by a variety of names in the East – sidhee, subjee, bhang, etc. The method of preparation of a quantity suitable for an habitué is as follows:

About 3 tola (540 grains Troy weight) of the dried leaf is washed in cold water, rubbed into a powder, mixed with black pepper, cucumber and melon seeds, sugar and half a pint each of milk and water. This is the preferred recipe of the Muslims.

The Hindus, particularly the Rajputs, have another recipe. They wash and grind the leaf and mix 3 tola with black pepper to which a quart of water is added. It is drunk at one sitting.

Intoxication in either case ensues in half an hour. Usually the user becomes cheerful and is likely to sing and dance. His appetite is stimulated and he also seeks for sexual pleasure. Quarrelsome people find their natural emotional state is exacerbated. The intoxication lasts about three hours after which the user becomes drowsy and falls asleep. There are no side effects other than occasional giddiness and bloodshot eyes the following day.

Ganja is the hemp used for smoking. 180 grains can be bought for a rupee and is enough for three people. It is rubbed in the palm of the hand with a little water. Some tobacco is placed in the pipe then some prepared ganja then more tobacco. This is a communal activity and the hookah snake is passed around for each person to draw on. Intoxication is almost instant. One draught is enough for the novice; 4-5 draughts for the habitué. The effect is readily distinguished from eaten hemp – laziness and an agreeable reverie ensues but the user can well perform his routine tasks.

Majoon is a hemp confection made with sugar, butter, flour and milk. The proprietor of a hemp den in Calcutta named Amir has repeatedly shown me how to make majoon. The ghee is melted by the fire … illegible … the flour and hemp are added and well mixed. This paste is removed from the fire and squeezed through a cloth whilst still warm. The dross is thrown away and the smooth residual green cream solidifies into a buttery mass. This is washed in soft water until most of the green colour has been removed and only a very pale tint to the ointment remains. The water is thrown away for the green colouring contains a disagreeable substance causing constriction of the throat when ingested. The cook then takes 2 lbs of sugar and dissolves it in a little water. He continually adds milk, carefully removing milk scum from the surface, while he cooks the mixture until it turns into a clear sticky syrup. 4 ozs of powdered milk is then added together with the buttered hemp. Stir briskly for a few minutes; add a few drops of attar of roses, and pour the mixture onto a cold marble slab where, once flattened, it will separate naturally into small lozenge-shaped pieces. One such lot is sold in the Calcutta streets for 4 rupees. A novice user requires one drachm, an experienced user, three. The taste is sweet and the odour very pleasing.

Amir says there are 7-8 majoon manufacturers in Calcutta. He himself sometimes adds stramonium seeds. He says all the Indians and the Portuguese, particularly their womenfolk, are users. It produces an ineffable happiness, a sensation of flying and a voracious appetite for both food and sex. He thinks it has no long term deleterious effects contrary to the Persian and Arabic doctors who say constant hemp use leads to madness and impotence. Most carnivorous animals find its smell attractive and readily eat it, soon exhibiting ludicrous symptoms of drunkenness but apparently experiencing no bad consequences.

Editor – the Chinese use hemp as a succedantum to opium.

Vol 13 No 20 – 19th May 1840

Letter to the Editor of The Commercial Advertiser – your report on Dr O’Shaughnessy’s treatise on hemp in the India Journal of Medical and Physical Science, January 1840, failed to make note of another drug churrus that the doctor reports upon.

In the hemp growing areas of Nepal and central India men walk through the crop in mid-summer causing the soft resin on the plant to stick to their clothes. They scrape it off and knead it into balls which sell at 5 or 6 rupees the seer. A waxy type of churrus called momea is obtained by hand in Nepal and sells for double the price. In Persia they take up the plants and press them on coarse cloth to obtain churrus. They then scratch it off and dissolve it in a little warm water. It is said the churrus of Herat is the best and strongest.

It is illegal to bring hemp into Calcutta and smugglers are heavily penalised. Nevertheless, in January and February each year a few peddlars come from Nepal bringing large amounts of churrus. They bribe the police to get in. The churrus is in small balls or sticks of ¼ – ½ lb each. They sell only to known customers at 2 – 3 rupees per seer. By November stock is running out and prices can get as high as 40 rupees per seer. It is used like ganja and intoxication ensues within a few minutes of smoking.

Editor – the Company inflicts heavy penalties on anyone caught smuggling this opium substitute into Calcutta. Is there an anomaly here?

Vol 13 No 22 – 2nd June 1840

Dublin University Magazine article – Besides those many drinks that convert sugar to alcohol by fermentation, there is a class of inebriating narcotic stimulants of which opium is the best known. Its use in Asia is universal from Turkey to China.

There is no connection between opium use and Muslim religious beliefs. The fact that the Prophet forbad alcohol to his followers is little regarded in Islam.

The use of opium is simply preferred by those who chose to become inebriated alone rather than in company. Whether opium or alcohol is more injurious is irrelevant. Moderate alcohol intake is widespread and does not incite to crime or injure health.

Opium is different. A small dose soon becomes inadequate; augmentation produces addiction and then drug use becomes imperative. Very few people are able, like the Reverend Wilberforce, to manage a limited lifelong habit.

Dr Jones in his ‘Mysteries of Opium Unveiled’ says he knew several people in England who took 2, 3, 4 or even 6 drachms a day and he heard of one who ate 2 ounces daily.

Opium has many substitutes. Various preparations of hemp are common in opium-growing countries – it’s a sort of poor man’s opium, like beer instead of wine in England. The most common hemp product is bhang which is exclusively used in India and is more violent and stupefying than opium and less permanent.

Two other substitutes are South American coca and a Russian mushroom.

The Peruvians pick coca leaves 3-4 times a year. They dry them and pack them in small baskets. They chew the dried leaves as we chew tobacco and find it so invigorating they often eat nothing for 4-5 days although they may be constantly working throughout that time. While they have a supply of coca they feel neither hungry, thirsty or tired and can work for almost a week without rest. Coca also has gratifying mental effects. It produces fascinating scenes to the imagination. Many willingly forsake their usual evening avocations to retire to the fields and revel in the delights of its magical properties. They lie under trees and indulge themselves in reverie until daybreak.

When a Peruvian sets out on a journey, as the indigenous postmen are required to do, he will carry a small leather pouch for his dried coca and a calabash to contain lime or fire-ash to temper the coca. He can then travel extraordinary distances without food. It was this fast postal service that enabled the Peruvians to respond quickly to the Spanish invasion.

The Russian mushroom grows in Siberia and is eaten without preparation. Two small mushrooms form a moderate dose. The effects are rather more like alcohol drunkenness than opium reveries. It causes a flushed face, some giddiness, deep-seated gaiety and endless talking. It effects spatial perceptions – a small gap in one’s path may appear as a vast chasm requiring a run and a jump to cross. If you are fond of music you will likely sing endlessly.

Vol 14 No 2 – 12th January 1841

The London Times – The agricultural labourers of the fens of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire have, for many years, been in the habit of taking an opium pill before going to work. It makes them work more efficiently and they find the labour more tolerable.

They work on marshy land and the habit may have originated as a prophylactic against fever.

Friend of China , 1st April 1842 edition:

The 1839 English revenue from spirits was £8 million. Excluding moonshine that’s a gallon for every man, woman and child and costs each at least 15/- per year.

At about the same date, the revenue of Russia was 600 million Roubles of which a quarter came from duties on wines and spirits.

The Australian newspaper The Colonist says that the value of spirits consumed in New South Wales exceeds £2 per head while the consumption of opium by the Chinese community there does not exceed 3d per head.

The Australians are spending 200 times more on booze than the Chinese spend on their recreational drug of choice.

Editor – Indulging in the use of opium is, with the Chinese, far less subversive of individual duties and social rights than the immoderate use of ardent spirits.

Friend of China 14.7.42 edition

Letter from Thailand:

Opium has long been illegal here but is brought in junks from China and in English and Arab ships from Singapore and Bombay. The users are mainly Chinese but some Thais smoke it.

By 1839, consumption had became such that the King ordered imprisonment and confiscation of property for those who persevered in its use. The habit was taking money out of the country and not returning anything to the King’s coffers. To some who were addicted he permitted a reduced daily quantity while they incrementally discontinued the habit.

As a result of His initiative some 500 chests were surrendered, thousands of Chinese were imprisoned and others were extorted by the petty officers. Because of the corruption, some innocents have been imprisoned and many guilty remain free. Seizures of the Drug continue and the prison population gets bigger and bigger. From time to time the prisoners are pressed into the army and sent off to fight in the war with Cochin China over ownership of Cambodia. This makes room for new prisoners to be taken in.

As a result of the King’s initiatives opium use appears to have decreased but drinking wine has become worse. Seven years ago a drunkard was a rare sight and was treated with disgust. Now it is a daily sight with people of rank and monks amongst the inebriated. We find the vice of drinking is being spread from those who have connection with foreigners – ship’s pilots, interpreters etc. – to the rest of the mercantile community.

The extent of drinking can be gauged from the revenue that the King receives from the alcohol tax farmer. Last year it was 18 piculs of silver (over 1 ton) and the farmer only controls the market in Bangkok and its immediate vicinity. The farmer is a Chinese who arrived here penniless aged 20 years. First he rowed a small boat around the klongs selling pork by the catty. Besides the official duty that he must surrender to the King, he also has to give a catty of silver to each royal prince and smaller gifts to other nobles.

Toddy is sold at 30¢ per gallon so the volume of the market has become huge to provide such a handsome revenue. It is not surprising that some people suspect the suppression of opium was done for commercial reasons. Opium, being contraband, yielded no income to the King’s treasury.

Friend of China , 2.3.43 edition

The Philadelphia Enquirer cites a drug-store owner who says there are many opium eaters and laudanum drinkers in the city. Many are abandoned women; some were introduced to the drug as treatment for disease. Some of them can tolerate up to 4 ounces of laudanum a day, enough to kill four unhabituated adults. Women sometimes come into his drug store trembling all over, order the drug, snatch the laudanum out of his hands and drink it down right there. They pawn their clothes and sell their furniture to buy supply.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. This captures a fundamental administrative objection to opium – the government and army officers enjoy positions of authority in the community and are always able to obtain supply without much fear of detection and punishment. The deleterious effects of excessive smoking are thus concentrated there. The present legalisation proposals exempt the civil service and army for whom opium continues to be proscribed. Laws that apply to only a part of the populace are always bad laws.
  2. Elmslie’s account has £4+ millions of bullion and specie as an export producing a trade imbalance of $12 millions for the year and not as stated.
  3. Or the execution of one of the foreigners’ customers at Whampoa and a request of the official Yeh Hang Shoo for interdiction of the trade – see above.
  4. It grows easily and may be cultivated on hillsides unsuitable for agriculture.
  5. The eldest son has authority similar to a Western father.
  6. Kiao Island is now joined with the mainland and can easily be visited from Zhuhai. The original village is preserved and at time of visit (2005) was being prepared for tourism.
  7. Rice ships are important for smuggling. The grain is trans-shipped at Lintin to provide a few layers of bagged rice over the smuggled goods, thus qualifying the ship for the exemption from Port Entry fees.
  8. A statement of fundamental individual responsibility in Chinese society complying with the knowledge of the ancient sages of China and incidentally of India.
  9. One of the foreign trade Linguists is the Squire of Mong Ha
  10. This was the argument successfully used by the Madras loans sharks in employing HMS Seahorse (Panton) to obtain a partial recovery for them in 1779. On the other hand, the Company licences every type of commercial activity in India but expressly repudiates any consequent liability itself.
  11. The street on the western side of the foreign factories, between Thirteen Factories Street and the river.
  12. The quoted retail price is very much on the low-side, likely due to the government crack-down. It equates with $475 per chest, including all costs of local distribution and processing.
  13. Near the Sea of Marmara.
  14. The Canton Register reports vary from How Qua’s. The newspaper says Framjee and Whiteman have both left, see above.
  15. This is the opium trade in the river that is necessitated by stringent policing in the Estuary. Many foreigners now bring their opium to the factories and deliver direct to the refiners in Thirteen Factories and Luen Hong Streets and nearby. This development brings on the confrontation between foreigners and Customs officers that leads directly to Commissioner Lin’s appointment.
  16. Arising out of the general settlement of Europe after the Napoleonic War, the French government receives 150 chests of Bengal opium annually for medical use.
  17. Possibly the foreign bases on Namoa, which are within yards of a fort under his control, and / or the use of his war-junks to transport the Drug.
  18. The effect of opium imports on government control exercises the minds of many local rulers. The Spanish Viceroy at Manila bans the import as does Thailand, Vietnam and the rulers of several individual islands in the Indonesian chain.
  19. A smuggling brig that was captured by mutinous Filipino crew on the east coast and sailed to Luzon where they scuttled the ship and took the smuggling proceeds. The surviving (non-mutinous) crew were abandoned on the China coast and later repatriated to Canton. See the China chapter.
  20. Mr Dyce Sombre is heir to the Begum Sumroo and a substantial opium farmer in Meerut. He is an MP.
  21. Recall the smugglers have been denied the use of Kum Sing Mun this summer by effective Chinese enforcement action.
  22. The free traders are petitioning for government help in recovering their debts from Hing Tai Hong who has absconded. He is the Hong merchant particularly favoured by Wm Jardine – See the China chapter for details.
    The Viceroy’s reply earned a protest of injustice from the free traders who averred he linked the removal of the smuggling fleet from Lintin with the recovery of debts from Hing Tai. Both are mentioned in the one Edict.
  23. Viceroy Tang’s enforcement activities have stopped Chinese intermediaries visiting the receiving ships and the major smugglers are now bringing opium up to Whampoa in their ships from whence they believe they can get it to the buyers. The removal of the market to Whampoa causes all the small traders (those empowered by the Company’s financing) to do likewise, using the foreign-owned ferry boats for carriage.
  24. Mackeson was based at the North West Frontier settling the border tribes. He later distinguished himself in supporting Sale at Jallalabad during the 1st Afghan War whereafter he became Commissioner at Peshawar.
  25. Particularly dangerous for the Sikhs and the Emirs of Sind whose sovereignty is to be assumed by the Company.
  26. Each ball weighs 2½ catties. This retail price equates with c. $680 per chest i.e. unprofitable at recent auction prices.
  27. Its the usual imperial problem. The British are in India for economic advantage. The provision of good government is secondary. This policy infection in India has also influenced the administration of the home country.
  28. An apparent reference to Chuen Fei, the newly elevated concubine mentioned above – see the China chapter.
  29. Most Favoured Nation is a foundation concept of imperialism. No country may chose its trade partners. All strong countries must be given access on the best terms.
  30. The McMullen collection of Bills of Lading in the University of Hong Kong has his name as Nanjie Tacoran, agent of Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy for a shipment of Bengal opium to Magniac & Co.
  31. Denmark was little involved in China-trade except through Bills business on Copenhagen. Capt Burd of the Danish ship Syden brought rice to the trans-shipment trade at Lintin which may explain the matter but the country’s involvement in opium business is more probably due to its appointment of James Matheson as honorary Consul to China.
    The Philippine Islands were a Spanish colony and Spanish cover was used for the east coast smuggling trade to Amoy. It appears that the pilots may have observed and reported these ships as receiving ships.
  32. It has been well said elsewhere in this work that ‘every free trader is a monopolist at heart.’ We have just read of the Bombay Malwa cartel’s agents in Calcutta who bid up the prices at Bengal opium auctions to improve the price of their own product. It is a regrettable feature of trade in the British system that competition was not encouraged except at the grass roots – the shop-keepers, tinkers and tailors.
  33. It will be recalled that the Hoppo and Viceroy each send an officer to station himself port and starboard off every foreign ship to observe activities. This officer is a Tsai Kwan. The hospital ship is moored amongst the opium fleet at Whampoa reportedly to provide medical services to ships’ crews.
  34. This pass system is a stop-gap measure. The passes can only be sold for the approximate saving in overland transportation costs that export via Bombay represents in comparison to export via the Indus and Damaun. In the longer term the Indus will be brought under British control by occupying the Province of Sind at its mouth. In European law, which is considered International Law by the Europeans, the country controlling both banks of a river at its mouth controls the river.
  35. The opium trade is commonly said to have ‘begun’ in 1784, subsequent to both American independence and Warren Hastings revenue-raising measures in the Ganges states. There are records of British shipments from Madras in early- to mid-18th century but the business did not develop. The regular correspondent to Canton Register ‘CCC’ says opium has long been imported on New England account, American vessels (Wabash, Lintin & Rose) store it at Lintin, the American flag covers it on the coast and one New Englander is on the Viceroy’s list of smugglers to be expelled. That particular American is the Plaintiff in the New York action mentioned in this article. The British were quite successful in excluding New England firms from direct trade in Indian opium but this caused the Americans to exploit alternative supplies and develop exports from Turkey, Egypt and the Caucasus.
  36. Based on Lintin statistics. Delivered 1836-37 Patna 370 chests, Benares 266 chests, Malwa 1,406 chests. In store at 30th June 1837 Patna 68 chests, Malwa 561 chests. Total value $1,939,704
  37. Morison in the Supplement to his text ‘The Maritime History of Massachusetts’ publishes a useful letter from C P Philbrick describing the armaments of the Antelope, a clipper that was used on the Bombay / Canton run a few years later. He equates the Chinese anti-opium law with the 18th amendment of the US Constitution (Prohibition) in so far as the profits available overcame the fear of punishment if caught.
  38. The Hindi name of the substance that carries the flavour Chinese prefer. It manifests during the oxidation of the poppy sap and is said, with unknown reliability, to be carried by volatile aliphatic acids.
  39. The Company’s revenue from opium sales has now reduced to a quarter of the heights reached in 1820s and early 1830s. The Company’s government of India, being a commercial concern, cannot exercise prudence. It must distribute its profits annually. This will be fundamentally significant to British policy towards the China-trade.
  40. A reward for his capture was published two years ago.
  41. This is an aspect of Elliot’s express plea to the Viceroy for more time to end opium trade. The Emperor has consequently allowed 18 months for Chinese addicts to quit, supposing that the British and Indian governments will by then have completed their reforms, hence the Magistrate can allow a year to his staff. See the China chapter for better details.
  42. See the China chapter for reports of renewed visits of the Royal Navy to Canton.
  43. The great Boston firm of Russell & Co. Hence the advertised sale of the small ships in Russell’s ownership in the China chapters.
  44. Wm Jardine mentions him in his evidence to the 1832 Select Committee but his name is regrettably unavailable..
  45. There are bars and restaurants ashore serving western food for foreigners – a steak house is particularly famous amongst the ships’ officers – as well as the great range of services provided to the ships for watering, provisioning and cargo-handling. The only apparent reason that foreign crews have to go to Canton is for shopping.
  46. I am aware of one, issued at the time of Baynes’ rebellion, in respect of foreign women residing in the factories.
  47. See the China chapter for details of the visit of Admiral Maitland’s squadron to Canton. Concerning the Black Joke schooner, it was attacked ten months later in the estuary by a special unit of the Preventive Service presumably in belated response to this outrage. Details of that matter are also in the China chapter.
  48. Spanish registry makes this ship ideal for Amoy where it has in fact hitherto been deployed. Spanish trade Manila – Amoy is approved in Peking. The ship’s size is appropriate for coasting; spare sails and chains permit maintenance at sea, and it is armed to deter warjunks.
  49. Pao Chia (Cantonese Bo Gar) is a distinctive feature of Chinese administration whereby the immediate support group of the individual, commonly the family or the village, assumes collective responsibility for the reform of one of its members.
  50. The true thrust of the complaint against Innes develops in the next article. Editor Slade has conflated detection of Innes’ smuggling with the Creek Customs House decision to end assistance to smuggling.
  51. This last paragraph merely confirms that the Dutch and American Consuls, indeed all of them, are honorary appointments of merchants.
  52. This Edict is in answer to Lindsay’s Protest that is published in the next (25th December) edition. There is a considerable amount of reversals in the order documents are published in Canton Register at this time.
  53. Misleading – the big British importers were united in their opposition to legalisation because of the detrimental effect it would have on profits.
  54. See the China chapter for details of ship masters providing bonds to government that they do not smuggle.

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