I’m posting here selected quotes from “Opium War Drug Kingpins” on globalsecurity.org. I highly recommend reading the whole post. I knew of the rumrunner roots of many American oligarch families, and I knew in various ways about how the opium trade supported the British Empire, but this dense listing of historical snippets and geneology adds to that in interesting ways.
If you followed me around for a couple of days at my work, you would get a glimpse of the quandaries and differences of opinion doctors have over the proper medical uses of opium and its derivatives. It is a powerful, two-edged sword of a drug, and it is still propping up the arms trade and Empire.
The drug dealers who brought opium to China got fabulously rich - most were British, while a handful, like Warren Delano (FDR’s grandfather), were Americans.
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fortune was inherited from his maternal grandfather Warren Delano. In 1830 he was a senior partner of Russell & Company. It was their merchant fleet which carried Sassoon’s opium to China and returned with tea.
John Kerry’s maternal grandfather, James Grant Forbes, was born in Shanghai, China, where the Forbes family of China and Boston accumulated a fortune in the opium and China trade.
Robert Clive (“Clive of India”), the son of a Shropshire squire who became the heroic founder of Britain’s Indian Empire, when he defeated the Nawab of Bengal at the Battle of Plassey in June 1757. Clive became the governor Bengal under the banner of the East India Company. From there he was able to launch successful military campaigns against the French and stop the expansion of the Dutch. He was able to strengthen a vast opium empire in India, as the monopoly of opium cultivation in India passed into the hands of the East India Company through the victory of Clive at Plassey. Clive’s main weakness was was that despite his humble background, he came home with a fortune larger than anyone else’s. Clive was accused of acquiring personal wealth of 234,000 [pounds sterling] to the dishonor and detriment of the state. Clive died an opium addict and a possible suicide from an overdose of laudanum at the age of only 49.