Saturday, 3 August 2019

Sir Jejeebhoy, his opium export to China and East India Company

Sir. Jejeebhoy, opium trader, Colonial India  en.wikipedia.org
Lots of Indians are quite ignorant about the opium export from India to China during the colonial period  under the East India Co's rule in the late 18th and mid 19th centuries and how Britain exploited the Indian lands and played with the lives of millions of Chinese in the 1800s. Jejeebhoy & Co was a well-known company in India involved in many businesses. But their foray into opium trade got a big rap from many sections. The founder being a conscientious man in the later years distanced himself  from opium trade activities and focused on Charities. 
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 Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy  (15 July 1783 -14 April 1859),the first Baronet of Bombay  was a wealthy man in the 1800s, not withstanding the fact that he came from a poor family and handicapped by the loss of his parents at a young age of 16.  Undeterred he wanted to make his fortune in mercantile trade - Cotton and opium and made his first voyage to China in his teens with encouragement given by his uncle. 

 It was his fourth voyage on a British Trade Ship called  the ''Brunswick'' to China  that became a turning point in his life. Because of  the Napoleonic Wars and hostilities between the British and the French going on in the Indian Ocean, his ship was seized by the French and Jejeebhoy was taken as hostage to the Cape of Good Hope, a ''Neutral territory'', and later was handed over to the Dutch. After the ordeal he  took four long months to reach  Calcutta. Soon he made voyages to China in pursuit of wealth.
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Jejeebhoy's chance encounter with a young  doctor  named  ''William Jardine'' was a blessing in disguise. The young doctor had a plan to start a trading company in Canton (Guangzhou), China  as his contract with the East India Co would soon end. Historian Jesse S. Palsetia ' has written  in his book ''Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy of Bombay'', this chance meeting turned into a friendship “that would change both men’s lives and influence the course of history''.  That trading house founded by Jardine is   presently operating  and has become  a conglomerate with a market capitalisation of more than $40 billion. In the early phases, Jardine’s firm  had become highly profitable  for one good reason. Being a maverick with support from a young man from Bombay, the company took considerable risk - mostly political  and zoomed 
in on one particular commodity that was selling like hot cake and almost 5% to 10% of Chinese population was dependent on it. 
Thanks to the wily officials of the East India company to whom profit mattered most, not human health of an Asian country. Yes,
that commodity was ''opium'' and the main supplier was India.
Opium (poppy tears, Lachryma papaveris) is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy ( Papaver somniferum). About 12 percent of the opium latex is made up of the analgesic alkaloid morphine, which is processed chemically to produce heroin and other synthetic opioid for medicinal use and for illegal drug trade. 

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On 1 July 1832, Jardine, Matheson and Company, a partnership, between William Jardine, James Matheson as senior partners was formed.  The firm was in many operations - smuggling opium into China from Malwa, India, trading spices and sugar with the Philippines, exporting Chinese tea and silk to England. Besides, insuring cargo, renting out dockyard facilities and warehousing, trade financing and  a host of others all related to  business and trade.

As for Jamsetjee he started  his trading firm, Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy & Co, with three other partners, each from a different community. 
There  were Motichund Amichund, a Jain who had close 
ties with  the opium producers in Malwa, Mohammed Ali 
Rogay, a Konkani Muslim, a  ship-owner/ captain and  finally  Rogério de Fariathe a Goan Catholic Rogério de Faria, who had connections with the Portuguese authorities that controlled the port at Daman. Initially, there were some restrictions by the Portuguese. Jardine Matheson then began its transformation from a major commercial agent of the East India Company into the largest British trading hong or firm, in Asia. The illegal opium trade improved the company's performance.
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How did the English get into the opium business? The import of tea from China was so large, the English did not have enough liquid cash - Silver to pay for it and it ended in huge trade deficit. With silver ending up in China, the English Co had to fix the irksome trade balance. The answer was  exporting opium to China to make up the trade  deficit. The British Empire  wanted as much tea from China because it was a famous brew in every household in the British colonies  as  Chinese badly  needed  opium. Opium addiction was so bad, a large chunk of Chinese population would go crazy with out opium. The advantage was the vast opium trade helped the British economy a lot and much of the needed   opium was produced in Bengal and elsewhere in India.That growing opium under compulsion by the English Co impacted  a large section of Indian farmers is a different story.
Opium in China. ndiasfirstwarofindependance1857.blogspot.com

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In 1834, British Parliament ended the monopoly of the British East India Company on trade between Britain and China. Jardine, Matheson and Company took this chance  to fill the void  left by the East India Company. With its first voyage carrying tea, the Jardine clipper ship "Sarah" left for England. Jardine took care of one thirds of export from EIC in the initial stages and their profits were way high. It became the largest opium Agency in Canton. 
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It was 20 years later after Jejeebhoy and Jardine had met, Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy & Company and Jardine Matheson & Company formed a mutually profitable collaboration. Through the 1830s, Jejeebhoy was the largest consignor of opium to Jardine. Thus Jejeebhoy        became very rich. The companies that dealt with opium export from India acting as agents for the East India company had a questionable morality and the inspiring growth of the company, their enterprising skill and vast charities have left a complex legacy bordering on disappointment as well as appreciation. 

Their philanthropy has brought them out of the stained world  of narcotics and showed them in limelight. They knew very well that they were involved in illegal activities and the product opium they were exporting to China had created millions of drug addicts, facing slow death. In the early 19th century, drug addiction peaked in China and between 10 to 12 millions were addicts. Thanks to the efforts made by the ESI who had their eyes glued on the dough coming from China and filling up their coffers The victim was China and its large population of gullible people. Being smart as they were, the English company to avoid accusations of trafficking in contraband,  auctioned the product in Calcutta rather than selling it in Canton. The Trading agents, middle agents and others  peddled the product upriver and took it to every corner of mainland China and created burnouts. 
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The first anti-opium edict, enacting severe penalties on the sale of opium and the opening of opium-smoking divans was not taken seriously. The importation continued unabated, and by 1790 it amounted to over 4,000 chests annually. The prohibition of opium use in 1796 failed  and in 1800 the importation of foreign opium was again declared illegal. Opium was now contraband, but these deterrents did not make a dent and now illegal importation  slowly moved up the ladder - ''rose to 5,000 chests in 1820; 16,000 chests in 1830; 20,000 chests in 1838, and 70,000 chests in 1858."
The Chinese' repeatedly appeal fell on the deaf ears of the EIC officials. Having no other recourse soon  
China took serious action as the addition menace went up beyond control. They raided the warehouses and burned the chests of opium stacked up there. The Canton Trading company and smugglers were taken aback.  

In the wake of the Chinese action, while William Jardine  urged  England for British reprisals,  Jamsetjee wrote letters urging the British to force China to compensate the traders’ losses. It is to be noted  merchants in Bombay and Calcutta took enormous risk as  they had to pay had currency for the drug and their partners in Canton would pay in  the form of bills of exchange after selling the drug to the smugglers. It is a long process to redeem it.

Favoring free trade in 1839, the British launched an assault on China and in 1842 emerged victorious. They made a humiliating deal with China, giving up on  Canton and taking control over Hongkong, a new landing port for opium. The underlying truth is  Hongkong became  the second city after Bombay to be built substantially with profits from the drug trade. The was waged by Britain at the instigation of drug lords who helped carry on a massive drug smuggling operation in China.  It is a fact that none of the merchants had  any sympathy for the Chinese when the First Opium War broke out  and were more concerned about their damaged products and how to get compensation from the Chinese. 

In 1858, the year Victoria was crowned Empress of India, the East India Company that became a drug trader, made 15,317,337 pounds sterling, or 48% of its Indian income, from land revenues  and it shows how India was squandered by the British during their long stay in India. In the same year, its opium sales peaked at 6,864,209 pounds sterling, which means opium provided a little over 21% of the total income of the Indian government that year. Just imagine how this vast income had put the British economy on top at the depredation of India and its people, not to speak of turning millions of Chinese into Zombies
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At the beginning of the 20th century, only  5% of China’s population was addicted to opium.and the  Chinese farmers had begun growing poppies. The British, to get additional income, had created massive tea plantations in Assam and Bengal, ending the triangular trade between China, Britain and India. The history of the opium monopoly, of drug smuggling and war, may be forgotten foot prints in  Britain and India. You can not suppress the facts that people like Jejeebhoy, David Sassoon and others  made a huge bundle in this illegal trade. “China trade” is the euphemism used by people like  Jejeebhoy  and  there was no reference to  opium in biographies on the early Indian traders.  History does not mention about the violent take over of Hongkong by the British. When  Hong Kong was transferred to China in 1997, the British press did not mention its past violent history. 
Treaty of Tientsin.June1859 after China lost the war ndiasfirstwarofindependance1857.blogspot.com
Jejeebhoy who was daring and adventurous in the early stages, having become rich and gained popularity, respect and a status in the society, his pangs of conscience worked overtime and  he tried to distance himself from opium trade. In his burgeoning business career as a public figure, he realized that more at stake was his   reputation owing to his connection with opium trade.
philanthropist Jejeebhoy, opium trader complex legacy, colonial India thehindu.com

As he grew older, his spiritual mind had gained an upper hand and propelled him to indulge in philanthropy he had enough wealth to do it.  A self-made man, having first hand knowledge of poverty and its impact on people,  Jejeebhoy developed great sympathy for his poorer countrymen. Personally good and humane,  he created lots of trusts and charities. He also undertook lots of public works  projects to improve Bombay and its suburbs. 
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https://parsikhabar.net/history/how-indian-opium-traders-from-bombay-helped-the-british-raj-wreck-chinas-economy/18529/
https://indiasfirstwarofindependance1857.blogspot.com/2012/10/british-opium-and-drug-trade-1840-to.html

https://navrangindia.blogspot.com/2018/04/oldest-opium-factory-at-ghazipur-india.html




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