First Opium War (1839 - 1842)
First Opium War, Silver and Treaty of Nanking
There was great demand in Britain for Chinese products such as porcelain and tea, but the Chinese did not want to trade British goods in return. Instead they demanded to be paid in silver. Eventually the Western power, for reasons of their own, became reluctant to continue shipping so much silver into China. This is largely because they preferred to hoard the silver so that they could use it to pay mercenaries in their ongoing wars.
Opium had long been used to stop diarrhea, but in the seventeenth and eighteenth century people in all classes began to use it recreationally. Britain took opium grown in India (which was then effectively under British control) and imported it into China, insisting on being paid for the drug in silver, which could be used to purchase Chinese products. Although importing opium was illegal, corrupted Chinese officials allowed it to take place on a vast scale.
In 1800 the import of opium was forbidden by the imperial government. Despite this restriction, the opium trade continued to flourish. The government in Peking noted that the foreigners seemed intent on dragging down the Chinese through the encouragement of opium addiction. By the late 1830s more than 30,000 chests, each of which held about 150 pounds of the extract, were being brought in annually by the various foreign powers. Millions of Chinese were hooked on opium, causing significant damage to the health and productivity of the nation. Much of the opium the Chinese were smoking had been imported by the British.
In 1839 the Chinese government decided to crack down on the smuggling. It ordered the seizure of large quantities of opium from British merchants in the Chinese port of Canton, which was the only part of the country where Europeans were allowed to trade.
The British government was extremely insulted by Lin’s destruction of the opium, and took it as a sign of hostility. Lin sent a letter to Queen Victoria trying to resolve the matter, letting the British know that if they objected to the death penalty that would be imposed on those involved in the opium trade they could sign a different document that would allow them to trade freely at the mouth of the Bogue, heavily supervised by the Chuenpo Fort. The British refused the offer and sent warships and soldiers.
First Opium War (1839–1842)
A British naval fleet arrived in June 1840, attacking along the Chinese coast. The First Opium War (1839–42), also known as the Opium War officially begun. Because of their inferior military technology, the Chinese were no match for the British and, after a series of military defeats, they agreed to sign humiliating peace terms.
The Treaty of Nanking (1842)
The Treaty of Nanking (or Nanjing) was a peace treaty which ended the First Opium War (1839–42) between the United Kingdom and the Qing dynasty of China on 29 August 1842.
The Signing of the Treaty of Nanking (29 August 1842)
The peace terms stipulated that China pay a large fine to Britain, the Hong were abolished, opening up five more ports to foreign trade (Shanghai, Canton, Ningpo, Fuchow, and Amoy), give the British a 99-year lease on the island of Hong Kong and offer British citizens special legal rights in China.
Please click for Original Text for the Treaty of Nanking
Note: If you cannot find the answer to your question. Please post questions on Forum. We check the forum page almost daily. We would try to answer all questions and expand existing pages.