Presentation on theme: "PRELUDE TO THE OPIUM WARS ABBY ROSENSON. How Did the British Become Involved? 1781-1793 – Value of all British goods imported into China amount to one."— Presentation transcript:
How Did the British Become Involved? 1781-1793 – Value of all British goods imported into China amount to one sixth of the value of teas exported to Britain. Late 1700’s – British find opium to be popular among the elites of China. Early decades of the 19 th century, opium more than balances tea, silk, and porcelain exports from China.
What Were the Effects on the Chinese Government and People? Although the trade is banned, the Chinese people became addicted and smuggled the drug into China. This included corrupt officials. Opium trade upset favorable balance with huge exports of silver. Estimated one-fifth of the total circulated amount drained between 1821- 1840. Disputes at the official level between enforcing thorough suppression and tax legislation. The only valid option, given the circumstances and extremely delayed action, was complete prohibition. “But so powerful are the chains which coil round the unhappy wretches who come under its power, that even fear of death failed to deter them from its use, and the noxious habit spread under the continual fostering of the British merchants protected by the British arms, until it had reached enormous proportions in 1839.” -Maurice Gregory, 1892 Pamphlet, Britain’s Crime Against China: A Short History of the Opium Traffic
Final Pleas and Defenses “It has been a confusion of terms to call the opium trade a smuggling trade... It commenced and has subsisted by means of the hearty connivance of the Mandarins, and it could have done neither the one nor the other without their constant countenance.” -Viceroy Captain Elliot in a letter to the Foreign Office “The use of opium is not a curse, but a comfort and benefit to the hard- working Chinese.” -British Firm, Jardine, Matheson & Co, China’s single largest opium importer “I am in dread of the judgment of God upon England for our national iniquity towards China.” -Maurice Gregory, 1892 Pamphlet, Britain’s Crime Against China: A Short History of the Opium Traffic “The richest and most fertile districts of China were in the hands of the most savage brigands.” -The London Times, 1864
“Suppose there were people from another country who carried opium for sale to England and seduced your people into buying and smoking it; certainly you would deeply hate it and be bitterly aroused… Formerly the number of opium smugglers was small; but now the vice has spread far and wide, and the poison penetrated deeper. “ -Lin Zexu, high commissioner of Canton (a main port), in a letter to Queen Victoria, 1839 “Of the goods of China which are exported to outside nations, there is not a single article but what is profitable to man… Has China one single article which can possibly be injurious to outside nations?... Your country takes away the goods of China… and selling them to various other nations, you reap three-fold profits. And were you not to traffic in opium, these three-fold gains would, nevertheless, evidently exist. How then can you bear, by means of an article so injurious to man, and without compunction of conscience, to search after this gain?” -A Chinese Memorial addressed to the British Government, 1839 “The Chinese merchant supplies your country with his goodly tea and silk, conferring thereby a benefit upon her; but the English merchant empoisons China with pestilent opium… The wealth and generosity of England are spoken by all. How is it then, she can hesitate to remove an acknowledged evil?” -A letter from China’s Foreign Office to Parliament, 1869
So Who’s Guilty? The British supported and encouraged China’s massive opium imports, despite their clear understanding of the drug’s catastrophic effects, while the Chinese quickly incorporated opium into all levels of society but failed to realize and monitor its consequences until it was too late. Though both sides played a significant role in the events leading up to the eventual opium wars in 1839-1842 and 1856-1860, the British, given their dominant position and arguably intentional abuse of the Chinese people, were more blameworthy.