The Dope Trade and the Crown: A Very-British Wealth of Nations

By Cynthia Chung

The following is from my newly published book “The Empire on Which the Black Sun Never Set.”

We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”

–          Henry John Temple, aka Lord Palmerston (Britain’s Prime Minister from 1855-1858, 1859-1865), oversaw Britain’s First Opium War (1839-1842) as Head of Britain’s Foreign Office and the Second Opium War (1856-1860) as Britain’s Prime Minister against China.

The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) was established by London, as an outcome of Britain’s colonial acquirement of Hong Kong and Shanghai after the Second Opium War (1856-1860). Its headquarters had remained in Hong Kong until they were officially moved to London in 1993, just four years before Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 at the end of its 99-year lease to Britain. That is, Hong Kong was the equivalent of a British colony for over 150 years.

In fact, Hong Kong and Shanghai had been in the possession of the British since 1842 after China lost the First Opium War (1839-1842). HSBC was created in 1865 to service the opium trade as a consequence of Britain winning the two Opium Wars against China which were fought over Britain’s desire to enforce the free trade of opium on the Chinese people, after Britain had destroyed India’s textile industry and forced it into a raw opium producer. India in turn would have no means of purchasing its required textiles from Britain, who now had a world monopoly on the textile and cotton trade, except from selling opium to China. India paid for its imported cloth and railway cars to carry the cloth and other British goods with the proceeds of Bengali opium exports to China. Without the final demand of Chinese opium sales, the entire world structure of British trade would have collapsed.

The British Empire had made a move towards a free trade system in the 1840s, modelled off on Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. In this new system of trade it was believed that if there is a demand for a product, a country had no right to intervene in its transaction. Protectionism, which had been practiced by Britain up until that point, had now been deemed unfit by…Britain, and all other countries were naturally to follow along according to the ‘new rules’ chosen for them, excluding Britain of course, who continued to practice protectionism.

Created in 1600 with a Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth I, the East India Company was from its inception indistinguishable from the British Empire itself, rising to account for half of the world’s trade. As is aptly said by Lord Macaulay in his speech to the House of Commons in July 1833, since the beginning, the East India Company had always been involved in both trade and politics, just as its French and Dutch counterparts had been.

In other words, the East India Company was to facilitate the geopolitical chess game that the British Empire wished to see played out. Not only the trade contracts it received but whole colonised territories won by the British Empire were handed over to this company to manage, along with a large sized private military, all under the decree of the Crown. This would be most evidently seen in the freedom it was given to control opium production in British India and to then facilitate its trade within Hong Kong and other colonised parts of Southeast Asia.

In the case of China, the trade of opium was ultimately banned by the Chinese, and severe punishments were to be delivered to those involved in smuggling the product into the country, which included British merchants. The British Empire considered this a direct threat to its ‘security’ and its new enforcement of free trade, thus when China did not back down, the First Opium war was waged. The result was the forced signing of the Nanking Treaty in 1842. This treaty, known as the first of the unequal treatises, ceded the territory of Hong Kong to Britain and allowed British merchants to not only trade at Guangzhou but were now also permitted to trade with five additional “treaty ports” and with whomever they pleased. In addition, Shanghai would also be largely taken over with the formation of the Shanghai International Settlement, which allowed for British settlements as well as the establishment of a British banking center.

Adam Smith wrote in his The Wealth of Nations:

The servants of the company have upon several occasions attempted to establish in their own favour the monopoly of some of the most important branches, not only of the foreign, but of the inland trade of the country…In the course of a century or two, the policy of the English company would in this manner have probably proved as destructive as that of the Dutch…Nothing, however, can be more directly contrary to the real interest of those companies considered as the sovereigns of the countries which they have conquered…It is in [the sovereign’s] interest, therefore, to increase as much as possible that annual produce. But if this is the interest of every sovereign, it is peculiarly so of one whose revenue, like that of the sovereign of Bengal, arises chiefly from a land rent. That rent must necessarily be in proportion to the quantity and value of the produce, and both one and the other must depend upon the extent of the market.

In the minds of British grand strategists of the 19th century, the “produce” was opium.

To Lord Palmerston the arguments of Adam Smith about the virtues of free trade not only corresponded with Britain’s real interest but were intellectually unanswerable, that is, they were formed on ‘firm logic’ that simply could not be argued with. Showcasing this ‘grip on economic reality,’ Lord Palmerston wrote to Lord Auckland in January 1841 to explain why he was pushing China into war:

The rivalship of European manufactures is fast excluding our productions from the markets of Europe, and we must unremittingly endeavour to find in other parts of the world new vents for our industry…if we succeed in our China expedition, Abyssinia, Arabia, the countries of the Indus and the new markets of China will at no distant period give us a most important extension to the range of our foreign commerce.”[58]

As Palmerston saw it, this was what was to shape British policy to save their slowly sinking empire from financial bankruptcy. It is what empires do best, to suck the life out of others.

Under direct sponsorship now of the Crown, Jardine Matheson and others fostered an epidemic of opium-trafficking into China. By the year of 1830, the number of chests of opium brought into China increased fourfold, to 18,956 chests. In 1836, the figure exceeded 30,000 chests. In financial terms, trade figures made available by the British and Chines governments showed that between 1829 and 1840, a total of 7 million silver dollars entered China, while 56 million silver dollars were sucked out by soaring rise in opium trade.[59] By 1830, opium was the largest commodity in world trade.[60]

In 1840, the Chinese Emperor, confronted with a drug addiction crisis that was destroying the Mandarin class and the nation, tried to restrict the British trading companies. Britain’s answer was war.

Out of the Second Opium War, HSBC was founded in 1865. A British-friendly bank needed to be created to facilitate trade in the region, connecting the Empire’s newly acquired treasures Shanghai and Hong Kong with British India (the major world producer of opium) along with the rest of the British Empire and Europe. This bank was not only meant to facilitate foreign trade within China however it deemed fit, but in addition was created namely to trade in the product of opium. It is important to note that although the founder of HSBC is credited as Thomas Sutherland of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, a Scottish merchant who wanted the bank to operate under “sound Scottish banking principles”, the bank had been created from the start to facilitate trade on behalf of the British Empire.

DOPE Inc. writes: “The Southern cotton and slave trade were run to a significant degree by the same Scottish based families that also ran the opium trade in the Orient. The Sutherland family which was one of the largest cotton and opium traders in the South was first cousin to the Matheson family of Jardine Matheson. The Barings, who founded the Peninsular and Orient Steam Navigation Company that carried dope had been the largest investors in U.S. clipper shipping from the time of the American Revolution. The Rothschild family as well as their later ‘Our Crowd’ New York banking cousins the Lehmans and Lehman Brothers all made their initial entry into the United States through the pre-Civil War cotton and slave trade.”[61]

As Prime Minister Lord Palmerston fanned the flames for a second Opium War, The Times trumpeted their war cry:

England, with France, or England without France if necessary…shall teach a lesson to these perfidious hordes that the name of Europe will hereafter be a passport of fear, if it cannot be of love throughout their land.”[62]

Barings[63] brothers was the premier merchant bank of the opium traffic from 1783 to recent years. Boston families were created out of the British opium trade such as the Cabots,[64] Lodes, Forbes, Cunninghams, Appletons, Bacons, Russells, Coolidges, Parkmans, Shaws, Codmans, Boylstons and Runnewells.[65]

DOPE Inc. writes: “[This] group’s leading banker became, at the close of the nineteenth century, the House of Morgan – which also took its cut in the Eastern opium traffic. Thomas Nelson Perkins, a descendant of the opium-and-slaves shipping magnate who founded Russell and Company, became the Morgan Bank’s chief Boston agent, through Perkins’s First National Bank of Boston…Morgan’s Far Eastern operations were the officially conducted British opium traffic. Exemplary is the case of Morgan partner Willard Straight, who spent the years 1901-12 in China as assistant to the notorious Sir Robert Hart, chief of the Imperial Chinese Customs Service, and hence the leading British official in charge of conducting opium traffic. Afterwards he became head of Morgan bank’s Far Eastern operations…Morgan’s case deserves special scrutiny from American police and regulatory agencies, for the intimate associations of Morgan Guaranty Trust with the identified leadership of the British dope banks. Jardine Matheson’s current chairman [in 1992] David Newbigging, the most powerful man today in Hong Kong, is a member of Morgan’s international advisory board. The chairman of Morgan et Cie., the bank’s international division, sits on the Council of the Royal Institute of International Affairs [aka Chatham House]. The chairman of Morgan Grenfell, in which Morgan Guaranty Trust has a 40 percent stake, – Lord Catto of Cairncatto, sits on the ‘London Committee’ of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank.”[66]

Just as America’s wars on drugs and terror which ultimately was about dope pushing, Britain’s opium war on China would prove no different. Opium addiction entered the United States during the 19th century as a direct consequence of Britain’s foreign policy. Adding to the opium addiction, British pharmaceutical houses had begun commercial production of morphine in the years leading up to the American Civil War and made large quantities available to both armies. The British firms misrepresented the morphine as a ‘nonaddictive’ painkiller and even had the audacity to push it as a cure for opium addiction.[67]

In 1911, an international conference on the narcotics problem was held at The Hague. The conference participants agreed to regulate the narcotics trade, with the goal in mind of eventual total suppression. The conference was a major step forward; in the early days of the dope trade, neither opium nor morphine were considered illegal drugs, and heroin would not be outlawed as a prescription drug until 1924. But this conference and subsequent efforts to stem the opium plague ran up against Britain’s open diplomatic posture on behalf of its unrestricted profiteering from a commodity known to destroy its consumers.[68]

Britain was able to avoid the Hague’s decision by evading dealing with China directly, and instead sending their opium to their extraterritorial bases, Hong Kong and Shanghai (which Britain considered not part of China but rather their colonial possessions). “Opium dens in the [British] Shanghai International Settlement jumped from 87 licensed dens in 1911 at the time of the Hague convention to 663 dens in 1914! In addition to the trafficking internal to Shanghai, the Triads and related British sponsored organized crime networks within China redoubled smuggling operations – conveniently based out of the warehouses of Shanghai. If anything, British profiteering from the opium trade jumped as the result of the reversion to a totally black-market production-distribution cycle.”[69]

DOPE Inc. continues: “It is obvious by now that an operation of this scope could not exist without the political approval of the British government nor without the gigantic supporting facilities of the world’s offshore credit markets, the world’s gold and diamonds trade, and ‘hands-on’ management of the retail distribution, or organized crime aspects of the operation. The Hongkong and Shanghai Bank’s governing body, the London Committee is the British oligarchy’s delegated group assigned to the Far East drug traffic…More specifically it is an economic warfare operation. Two of its directors J.H. Keswick – of the family that founded Jardine Matheson in 1828 to trade opium – and J.K. Swire – of the Swire family of hereditary opium traders – were senior officials in Britain’s Ministry of Economic Warfare during WWII. Another senior official of that ministry is Sir Mark Turner, the chairman of Rio Tinto Zinc the Hong Shang’s partner in numerous fields, including gold operations.  Turner is now a key figure [in 1992] in the Royal Institute of International Affairs, founded by Lord Alfred Milner, an earlier chairman of Rio Tinto Zinc.”[70]

The Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA) and its leading personnel control not only the Far Eastern drug traffic but every important dirty money operation on the surface of the globe. DOPE Inc. writes “…a concise summary of the RIIA’s purposes appears in its de facto founding document, Cecil Rhodes’s’ 1877 bequest. Rhodes, who founded both the gold and diamond mining empire that still dominates world markets under the aegis of Anglo-American and De Beers, and also founded the dope-trading Standard Bank (the African partner of the Asian-based Chartered Bank, since merged), is the starting point for the present form of the disease. Rhodes left his wealth to the Rhodes Trust, administered by Lord Milner. Milner’s collection of Oxford trainees, called the ‘Milner Kindergarten,’ made up most of the 1916 Lloyd George government, and formed the RIIA at a meeting in Versailles on May 30th, 1919.”[71]

Rhodes’s 1877 will was:

To establish a trust, to and for the establishment and promotion and development of a secret society, the true aim and object whereof shall be the extension of British rule throughout the world, the perfecting of a system of emigration from the Untied Kingdom and the colonization by British subjects of all islands wherein the means of livelihood are attainable by energy, labor, and enterprise, and especially the occupation by British settlers of the entire continent of Africa, the Holy Land, the valley of the Euphrates, the islands of Cyprus and Candia, the whole of South America, the islands of the Pacific not heretofore possessed by Great Britain, the whole of the Malay Archipelago, the seaboard of China and Japan, the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of the British Empire, the consolidation of the whole Empire, the inauguration of a system of colonial representation in the Imperial Parliament which may tend to weld together the disjointed members of the Empire, and finally, the foundation of so great a power as to hereafter render wars impossible and promote the best interests of humanity.”[72]

The secret society concept was passed on by Milner, Rhodes’s successor as high commissioner in South Arica, through Milner’s trainees Lionel Curtis (of the Roundtable group) and Lord Robert Cecil [originator of the League of Nations]. Curtis and Cecil both participated in the May 1919 meeting at Versailles that founded the RIIA.

The Royal Institute of International Affairs is the secret society Cecil Rhodes had called for.

‘Hell is a city much like London’

Hell is a city much like London

– Percy Bysshe Shelley

Although Wall Street has contributed greatly to this sad situation, this banking hub of America is best understood as the spawn of the City of London.

The City of London is over 800 years old, it is arguably older than England herself, and for over 400 years it has been the financial center of the world.

During the medieval period the City of London, otherwise known as the Square Mile or simply the City, was divided into 25 ancient wards headed each by an alderman. This continues today. In addition, there existed the ominously titled City of London Corporation, or simply the Corporation, which is the municipal governing body of the City. This also still continues today.

Though the Corporation’s origins cannot be specifically dated, since there was never a ‘surviving’ charter found establishing its ‘legal’ basis, it has kept its functions to this day based on the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta is a charter of rights agreed to by King John in 1215, which states that “the City of London shall have/enjoy its ancient liberties”. In other words, the legal function of the Corporation has never been questioned, reviewed, re-evaluated EVER but rather it has been left to legally function as in accordance with their “ancient liberties”, which is a very grey description of function. In other words, they are free to do as they deem fit.

And it gets worse. The Corporation is not actually under the jurisdiction of the British government. That is, the British government presently does not have the authority to undermine how the Corporation of the City chooses to govern the largest financial center in the world. The City has a separate voting system that allows for, well, corporations to vote on how their separate ‘government’ should run. It also has its own private police force and system of private courts.

The Corporation is not just limited to functioning within the City. The City Remembrancer, which sounds more like a warped version of the ghost of Christmas past, has the role of acting as a channel of communication between the Corporation and the Sovereign (the Queen/King of Britain), the Royal Household and Parliament. The Remembrancer thus acts as a ‘reminder’, some would even say ‘enforcer’, of the will of the Corporation. This position has been held by Paul Double since 2003, it is not clear who bestows this non-elected position.

Mr. Double has the right to act as an official lobbyist in the House of Commons, and sits to the right of the Speaker’s chair, with the purpose of scrutinising and influencing any legislation he deems affects the interests of the Corporation. He also appears to have the right to review any piece of legislation as it is being drafted and can even comment on it affecting its final outcome. He is the only non-elected person allowed into the House of Commons.

According to the Memorandum from the City of London Corporation,[73] the reason why the City has a separate voting system is because:

“The City is the only area in the country in which the number of workers significantly outnumbers the residents and therefore, to be truly representative of its population, offers a vote to City organisations so they can have their say on the way the City is run.”

However, the workers have absolutely no say. The City’s organisations they work for have a certain size vote based on the number of workers they employ, but they do not consult these workers, and many of them are not even aware that such elections take place.

If you feel like you have just walked through Alice’s Looking Glass, you’re not alone, but what appears to be an absurd level of madness is what has been running the largest financial center in the world since the 1600s, under the machinations of the British Empire.

Therefore, the question is, if the City of London has kept its “ancient liberties” and has upheld its global financial power, is the British Empire truly gone?

Offshore Banking: Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand?

Contrary to popular naïve belief, the empire on which the sun never sets (some say “because God wouldn’t trust them in the dark”) never went away.

After WWII, colonisation was meant to be done away with, and many thought, so too with the British Empire. Countries were reclaiming their sovereignty, governments were being set up by the people, the system of looting and pillaging had come to an end.

It is a nice story but could not be further from the truth.

In the 1950s, to ‘adapt’ to the changing global financial climate, the City of London set up what are called ‘secrecy jurisdictions’. These were to operate within the last remnants of Britain’s small territories/colonies. Of Britain’s 14 oversea territories, 7 are bona fide tax havens or ‘secrecy jurisdictions’. A separate international financial market was also created to facilitate the flow of this offshore money, the Eurodollar market. Since this market has its banks outside of the UK and U.S., they are not under the jurisdiction of either country.

By 1997, nearly 90% of all international loans were made through this market.

What is often misunderstood is that the City of London’s offshore finances are not contained in a system of banking secrecy but rather of trusts. The difference being that a trust ultimately plays with the concept of ownership. The idea is that you hand over your assets to a trustee and at that point, legally those assets are no longer yours anymore and you are not responsible for accounting for them. Your connection to said assets is completely hidden.

In addition, within Britain’s offshore jurisdictions, there is no qualification required for who can become a trustee: anyone can set up a trust and anyone can become a trustee. There is also no registry of trusts in these territories. Thus, the only ones who know about this arrangement are the trustee and the settler.

John Christensen, an investigative economist, estimates that this capital that legally belongs to nobody could amount to as high as $50 trillion within these British territories. Not only is this not being taxed, but a significant portion of it has been stolen from sectors of the real economy.

So how does this affect ‘formerly’ colonised countries?

There lies the rub for most developing nations. According to John Christensen, the combined external debts of Sub-Saharan African countries was $177 billion in 2008. However, the wealth that these countries’ elites moved offshore, between 1970-2008, is estimated at $944 billion, 5X their foreign debt! This is not only dirty money, this is also STOLEN money from the resources and productivity of these economies. Thus, as Christensen states, “Far from being a net debtor to the world, Sub-Saharan Africa is a net creditor” to offshore finance.

Put in this context, the so-called ‘backwardness’ of Africa is not due to its incapability to produce, but rather that it has been experiencing uninterrupted looting since these regions were first colonised.

These African countries then need to borrow money, which is happily given to them at high interest-rates and accrues a level of debt that could never be repaid. These countries are thus looted twice over, leaving no money left to invest in their future, let alone to put food on the table.

Offshore havens are what make this sort of activity ‘legal’ and rampant.

And it doesn’t stop there. Worldwide, it is estimated that developing countries lose $1 trillion every year in capital flight and tax evasion. Most of this wealth goes back into the UK and U.S. through these offshore havens and allows their currencies to stay strong whilst developing nations’ currencies are kept weak. However, developing nations are not the only ones to have suffered from this system of looting. The very economies of the UK and U.S. have also been gutted. In the 1960s and onward, the UK and U.S., to compensate for the increase in money flow out of their countries decided that it was a good idea to open their domestic markets to the trillions of dollars passing through its offshore havens.

However, such banks are not interested in putting their money into industry and manufacturing, they put their money into real estate speculation, financial speculation and foreign currency trade. And thus, the financialization of British and American economies resulted, and the real jobs coming from the real economy decreased or disappeared.

Although many economists try to claim differently, the desperation has boiled over and movements like the yellow vests are reflections of the true consequences of these economic policies.

We have reached a point now where every Western first world country is struggling with a much higher unemployment rate and a lower standard of living than 40 years ago. Along with increased poverty has followed increased drug use, increased suicide and increased crime.

A ‘Stable’ Economy based on Freedom or Slavery?

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) report in 2017,[74] the UK has by far the highest rate of drug overdose in all of Europe at 31% followed by Germany at 15%. That is, the UK consists of 1/3 drug overdoses that occur in all of Europe.

The average family income in the UK is presently around £28, 400. The poverty rate within the UK is ~20%. The average family income of what was once the epicentre of world industrialisation, Detroit, has an average family income of $26, 249. The poverty rate of Detroit is ~34.5%. What is the solution?

Reverse Margaret Thatcher’s 1986 Big Bang deregulation of the banking system that destroyed the separation of commercial banking, investment banking, trusts and insurance for starters. A similar restoration of Glass-Steagall[75] in the USA should follow suit, not only to break up the ‘Too Big to Fail’ banking system but to restore the authority of nation states over private finance once more. If these emergency measures were done before the markets collapse, and they will collapse, then the industrial-infrastructure revival throughout trans-Atlantic nations can still occur.

Let us hearken to the words of Clement Attlee, UK Prime Minister from 1945-1951:

Over and over again we have seen that there is another power than that which has its seat at Westminster. The City of London, a convenient term for a collection of financial interests, is able to assert itself against the government of the country. Those who control money can pursue a policy at home and abroad contrary to that which is being decided by the people.

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Cynthia Chung is the President of the Rising Tide Foundation and a writer at Strategic Culture Foundation, consider supporting her work by making a donation and subscribing to her substack page.

Through A Glass Darkly

On matters of geopolitics, counterintelligence, revisionist history and cultural warfare.

By Cynthia Chung


[58] Beeching, Jack. (1975) The Chinese Opium Wars. A Harvest Book, New York, London, pg. 95.

[59] Ibid, pg. 43.

[60] Ibid.

[61] U.S. Labor Party Investigating Team. (1992) Dope, Inc.: Britain’s Opium War against the U.S. Executive Intelligence Review, pg. 19.

[62] Beeching, Jack. (1975) The Chinese Opium Wars. A Harvest Book, New York, London, pg. 272.

[63] Recall from Chapter 10, Evelyn Baring (aka Lord Cromer), was the symbol of British imperialism in Egypt . Abduh would found along with the help of London’s Egyptian proconsul Evelyn Baring, the Salafiyya movement.  Evelyn Baring was the scion of the enormously powerful banking clan, Barings Bank, under the city of London.

[64] This is the same Cabot family from which Henry Cabot-Lodge comes from, who was US Ambassador to Vietnam as part of the ‘great heroin coup’.

[65] Howard Brett. (1976) Boston, a social history. Hawthorn Books.

[66] U.S. Labor Party Investigating Team. (1992) Dope, Inc.: Britain’s Opium War against the U.S. Executive Intelligence Review, pg. 41.

[67] Ibid, pg. 38.

[68] U.S. Labor Party Investigating Team. (1992) Dope, Inc.: Britain’s Opium War against the U.S. Executive Intelligence Review.

[69] Ibid, pg. 20.

[70] Ibid, pg. 140.

[71] Ibid, pg. 142.

[72] Flint, John. (1974) Cecil Rhodes. Boston: Little Brown and Co.

[73] Memorandum from the City of London, pg. 9. Retrieved October 2022.

[74] European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2017). EMCDDA highlights growing threats posed by new and established substances

[75] Glass-Steagall was enacted in the first year of Roosevelt’s presidency and destroyed by Clinton in 1999 who deemed it “no longer appropriate” in a post-Volcker-Greenspan financial world of derivatives and bubbles. The Glass–Steagall legislation describes four provisions of the United States Banking Act of 1933 separating commercial and investment banking. The article 1933 Banking Act describes the entire law, including the legislative history of the provisions covered herein. The separation of commercial and investment banking prevented securities firms and investment banks from taking deposits, and commercial Federal Reserve member banks from: dealing in non-governmental securities for customers, investing in non-investment grade securities for themselves, underwriting or distributing non-governmental securities, affiliating (or sharing employees) with companies involved in such activities. For more on Glass-Steagall see Appendix III.


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