Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Letter of Advice to Queen Victoria

Letter of Advice to Queen Victoria. In the 19th century, China got serious about drug abuse. Millions of Chinese were addicted to opium. While the drug was illegal, foreign merchants (mostly British) continued to smuggle drugs into China. Lin Zexu was put in charge of Chinese efforts to end the opium trade.

Lin Zexu was not successful. He was able to seize and destroy tons of opium. However, his actions are often considered to have directly lead to China's participation and loss in the First Opium War. Despite a promising start, he failed to end the opium problem.

Before the war, he wrote a letter to Queen Victoria. He was frank in demanding an end to the barbarian's (the British) drug dealing. He wrote, "All those people in China who sell opium or smoke opium should receive the death penalty. We trace the crime of those barbarians who through the years have been selling opium, then the deep harm they have wrought and the great profit they have usurped should fundamentally justify their execution according to law. We take into to consideration, however, the fact that the various barbarians have still known how to repent their crimes and return to their allegiance to us by taking the 20,183 chests of opium from their storeships and petitioning us, through their consular officer [superintendent of trade], Elliot, to receive it. It has been entirely destroyed and this has been faithfully reported to the Throne in several memorials by this commissioner and his colleagues."

It is unknown if the Queen ever read the letter. As mentioned earlier, the resulting war ended Lin Zexu's attempt to put a stop to opium abuse in China. As western nations now themselves are attempting to fight illegal drugs to varying degrees of success, it is interesting to look back and see how a western power created and maintained an illicit drug program in China in the 19th century. Despite the war lose, it is easy to admire Lin Zexu and the bluntess of his letter to Queen Victoria.


The Old Foodie said...

Hello Miland, I liked this story about Queen Victoria - I posted one myself about her in my blog during this month - it was her jubilee in 1897 (as I am sure you know). If your historical curiosity includes an interest in what she ate, I detailed two meals in one day during her jubilee celebrations. They are at

[sorry - just realised I dont know how to make this link .... ]

Jennie W said...

Your link has an extra http in it...I had to delete it then I could see the letter.

M said...

Thanks! I have fixed this.

Unknown said...

China was frail in the Qing Dynasty indeed but Lin Zexu was just a scapegoat for the lost of war. In fact he was one of the few pioneers that recognized how powerful the western world were and tried to wake up his countrymen. Even on the way of exile, he wrote to a friend encouraging him to publish a mapbook introducing world geography and politics of various countris about which all chinese almost knew nothing. Everybody is restrained by his era and envirement. Lin failed but he did is a hero.

BTW: some translation of Lin's letter is cramp and inaccurate especially the red tape and bureaucratic words.

I'm interested in history and have a few posts on my blog, but unfortunatlly they are in chinese

Criação de site said...

Very nice blog.

Congratulations from Brazil