Opium Wars Broke the Middle Kingdom

An open letter by Qing authorities to curb the opium trade received no response from the British. Wikimedia

3. The Chinese attempted to stop the opium trade through diplomacy rejected by the British

One of Lin’s first efforts to bring the illegal and damaging (to the Chinese) opium trade to a halt was the composition of a letter addressed the British Monarch, Queen Victoria, in 1839. The letter was an open appeal to the morality of Her Majesty, and appeared in the Times of London, but Victoria did not send a response, and there is no evidence of her commenting on the subject. Lin then proposed to the East India Company to exchange their opium in warehouses for Chinese tea, which the company rejected, having no desire to create a surplus of tea, for which it paid substantial taxes to the British government. The illegal opium trade was untaxed.

The East India Company neither produced nor refined opium in India, Java, and other sources. Instead it facilitated moving the drug to ports it controlled, where officially it was sold to private traders for shipping. Unofficially its ships did carry the cargo, but company bills of lading identified it as other products (often salt), thus creating evidence of their avoiding illegal activity. Several officers of the EIC made fortunes in the drug trade. By the early 19th century the EIC controlled all aspects of the growing of poppies and the refining of opium in India, controlling the prices, and selling the refined product to shippers at auctions during the winter months.