20 Lin - Commissioner Lin Zexu"Letter to Queen Victoria...

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Commissioner Lin Zexu, “Letter to Queen Victoria,” 1839 (originally published in The Chinese Repository , Vol. 8, February 1840, pp. 497-503; downloaded from http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1839lin2.html ) In the eighteenth century the British East India Company began to make enormous profits from shipping Chinese tea to London, but the only import Chinese officials were interested in accepting to pay for the tea was silver. By the 1810s the Company was running into serious balance-of-payments problems, but in the 1820s it discovered that Chinese dealers in Guangzhou were happy to buy opium (grown in British-ruled India), allowing the Company to use the silver they received for the opium to pay for tea for export to Britain. However, opium use was illegal in China, and in 1839 Emperor Daoguang sent the prominent civil servant Lin Zexu to Guangzhou to be his drug czar. As part of his war on drugs, Lin composed this letter to send to Queen Victoria, although in the end it was never sent. 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 4000 1730 1740 1750 1760 1770 1780 1790 1800 1810 1816 1823 1828 1832 date CE pounds opium ('000) British opium imports into Guangzhou, China, 1730-1832 Lin, high imperial commissioner, a president of the Board of War, viceroy of the two Guang provinces, &c. … hereby address[es] this public dispatch to the queen of England for the purpose of giving her clear and distinct information (on the state of affairs) &c. It is only our high and mighty emperor, who alike supports and cherishes those of the Inner Land, and those from beyond the seas-who looks upon all mankind with equal 1
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benevolence—who, if a source of profit exists anywhere, diffuses it over the whole world —who, if the tree of evil takes root anywhere, plucks it up for the benefit of all nations; —who, in a word, hath implanted in his breast that heart (by which beneficent nature herself) governs the heavens and the earth! You, the queen of your honorable nation, sit upon a throne occupied through successive generations by predecessors, all of whom have been styled respectful and obedient. Looking over the public documents accompanying the tribute sent (by your predecessors) on various occasions, we find the following: "All the people of my country, arriving at the Central Land for purposes of trade, have to feel grateful to the great emperor for the most perfect justice, for the kindest treatment," and other words to that effect. Delighted did we feel that the kings of your honorable nation so clearly understood the great principles of propriety, and were so deeply grateful for the heavenly goodness (of our emperor):—therefore, it was that we of the heavenly dynasty nourished and cherished your people from afar, and bestowed upon them redoubled proofs of our urbanity and kindness. It is merely from these circumstances, that your country—deriving immense advantage from its commercial intercourse with us, which has endured now two hundred years—has become the rich and flourishing kingdom that it is said to be!
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