Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Remembering History, The Treaty of Nanking

"The Emperor of China agrees to pay the sum of 6,000,000 of dollars, as the value of the opium which was delivered up at Canton in the month of March, 1839, as a ransom for the lives of Her Britannic Majesty's Superintendent and subjects, who had been imprisoned and threatened with death by the Chinese High Officers
And it is further stipulated, that interest, at the rate of 5 per cent. per annum, shall be paid by the Government of China on any portion of the above sums that are not punctually discharged at the periods fixed."- THE TREATY OF NANKING Nanking, August 29, 1842 Peace Treaty between the Queen of Great Britain and the Emperor of China

The War For Drugs!

The first Opium War between China and Britain came about when the Emperor of China tried to make opium illegal in his land. British traders had recently flooded the country with the stuff addicting an estimated 10% of the population.
Britain wanted Chinese goods, especially tea. The only thing China, being self sufficient, wanted in return was gold and silver. British traders decided China would need drugs, specifically opium, when they had insufficient precious metals to give for tea. (The British Empire especially lacked silver, the coin of China, which relates to the institution of the gold standard by the City of London in the 19th century previously covered in THIS POST.) This nefarious plan worked wonderfully until the Emperor of China made the drug trade illegal. The Queen's solution: War!
China had no chance against the modern army of the British Empire and promptly lost. China had to compensate, at interest, the Queen for the war, and her protected traders for the confiscation of illegal drugs by Imperial Commissioner Li Zexu. There were no international treaties at the time protecting China. They lost Hong Kong in "perpetuity" to Britain and had to suffer the de facto legalization of opium, which was no where mentioned in the treaty except for the financial compensation for the opium, seized mainly from the Sassoon family. (See the excerpt above.)
In 1844 the United States signed a treaty with China banning the opium trade, but it continued unpunished under the auspices of the British. Many of the most respected and powerful American families we know today made their original fortunes illegally trading opium with China.

Quote of the Day:

"After all, our naval power is so strong that we can tell the Emperor what we mean to hold rather than what he would cede. We must demand the admission of opium into interior China as an article of lawful commerce and increase the indemnity payments and British access to several additional Chinese ports."-British Prime Minister Palmerston writing Crown Commissiner Captain Charles Elliot protesting the treaty because it didn't favor the British enough

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