Since the late 1500â€™s, Westerners were eager to buy Chinese tea, silk, and porcelain. Various European and American trading companies met this need by going to China to buy these products and then selling them back at home. One of the biggest trading companies was the British East India Company (BEIC).
Unfortunately, for the BEIC (and other Western traders as well), there was a limited market for Western goods in China. Thus, it had to exchange silver for the Chinese products. This caused a serious imbalance of trade for the BEIC. To solve this problem, the BEIC decided to sell opium in China in exchange for the tea, silk, and porcelain. The opium was grown and processed by the BEIC in India, carried by BEIC ships to China, where it was smuggled to Chinese dealers, who sold it to users.
Selling and smoking opium was illegal in China, and the BEIC-supplied opium caused huge social and economic problems for China. People in all strata of Chinese society from the elite to common workers took up the habit. The demand for opium in China grew so strong that China now had a trade imbalance problem, as Chinese silver was exchanged for BEIC opium. The Qing government needed to take action.
The Qing government in 1839 dispatched Commissioner Lin Zexu to Canton, where he arrested Chinese dealers and smokers and ordered that the Western traders turn over their opium. After some resistance, BEIC and others turned over 20,000 chests of opium (3 million pounds), which was destroyed. Subsequently, Lin sent the attached letter to Queen Victoria, although it appears that the letter never reached her.
In retaliation for the Qingâ€™s seizure of the opium, the British government sent warships to China, and the Opium War ensued. Victorious, Great Britain and other Western nations, including the United States, imposed on China what have been called “unequal treaties.” One of the provisions of these treaties was that Westerners in China were not subject to Chinese law. The foreign trade in opium continued.
Commissioner Lin’s Letter to Queen Victoria.pdf
What was the penalty for selling opium? Why werenâ€™t the British traders punished?
How did Lin reason with Queen Victoria to stop the British opium trade?
CITE RELEVANT PASSAGES IN THE DOCUMENT TO SUPPORT YOUR ANSWER.