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Title: Drug Smuggling and Taking in India and Burma
Author: Anderson, Roy K.
Language: English
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                          SMUGGLING AND TAKING
                           IN INDIA AND BURMA

                       ROY. K. ANDERSON, F.R.S.A.
                _Superintendent, Burma Excise Department_

        “_So deep the power of these ingredients pierced_
        _Even to the inmost seat of mental sight_”—PARADISE LOST


                           CALCUTTA AND SIMLA
                          THACKER, SPINK & CO.

                               PRINTED BY
                          THACKER, SPINK & CO.


At a time when the drug-evil, as it is called, is attracting so much
attention all over the world, it does not seem out of place to tell the
public something about how conditions in regard to it obtain in India and
Burma. As far as I have been able to ascertain there is no literature on
this subject outside “blue books,” and those admirable compilations are
notoriously dry reading. A novel called “_Dope_” by Sax Rohmer professes
to deal with the drug-evil and the traffic in drugs in the West; but
it is a novel; has a hero, a heroine, a forbidding type of detective,
and some degenerates, and a few impossible Chinamen in it, to give
verisimilitude to the title and all that it implies.

I do not profess to write as an authority on the subjects I have taken
up. I realise that there are scores of others more experienced, and
infinitely better able to make a book on these subjects than I am; but
there seems to be little hope of their ever getting the better of their
modesty and appearing in print. I write of what I have seen for myself,
and ventilate opinions I have formed which I expect no one to subscribe
to who differs from them. My readers may rest assured, however, that
what I relate is true. I have not consciously exaggerated, nor have I
suppressed facts. I write on a subject in which I am interested; and,
if the attention that has at different times been given to my verbal
accounts is an indication of something more than the polite toleration
of the raconteur, then there are others also who are interested, and I
need offer no apologies for my attempt to supply a deficiency in the
bookshelves of those who want more information.

A preface often affords the writer an opportunity of performing a
pleasant duty. That which I have to perform is to record my thanks to
Mr. F. W. Dillon, Barrister, and author of “_From an Indian Bar Room_,”
for the trouble he took in reading the manuscript, and his many helpful

                                                          R. K. ANDERSON.

REDFERN, _26th March, 1921_.



             PREFACE                                     iii


          I. Smuggling and Smugglers                       1

         II. Bribery and Corruption                        9

        III. Informers and Information                    14

         IV. Some Anecdotes of Smugglers and Smuggling    20

          V. More Anecdotes                               28

         VI. Observations on Smugglers and Smuggling      33

        VII. Opium                                        35

       VIII. Opium Smoking and Opium Eating               44

         IX. Some Observations on the Opium Habit         51

          X. Morphia                                      57

         XI. Cocaine                                      65

        XII. Hemp Drugs                                   75

   APPENDIX. An Historical Note on Opium in India and
               Burma                                      82


    Group of Opium Smokers      Frontispiece
                                 Facing page
    An Excessive Opium Smoker             40
    Opium Smokers’ Appliances             46
    Preparing to Smoke Opium              48
    Chinaman Smoking Opium                50
    Group of Morphia Injectors            58
    An Indian Morphinist                  62
    A Burman Cocaine Eater                72




Everybody is a smuggler at heart!

Our innate free-trade instincts and love of liberty revolt against what
we look upon as uncalled for interference with our rights when we are
called upon to declare and pay duty on a box of cigars or a bottle of
whisky when we disembark at a Customs port; and we look upon evasions of
these obligations, not as evidences of moral obliquity, but as a very
proper exercise of the exemption which we claim as our right. On the
whole, this point of view is to be sympathized with, and in the case
of such innocuous articles as laces, scent, and feathers, it is to be
excused; the mysteries of the revenue law, and the underlying principles
of taxation, are unfamiliar to most of us. But a greater degree of
culpability must be attached to those who seek to evade the law by the
illicit importation of articles whose unrestricted use produces nothing
but harm; and while the former class of delicts may be classed as mere
revenue offences, the latter must be treated as crimes and severely
punished as such.

It is in the nature of things that articles which have come to be looked
upon as necessaries of life, such as tea, tobacco, wine and spirits,
should be taxed moderately; and indeed, were any attempt made to
render them less easily obtained by raising the taxes on them, unless
this course was vital in the interests of the country, there would be
just reasons for profound popular dissatisfaction and disgust; but in
the matter of noxious intoxicating drugs the case is reversed, and
authoritative opinion inclines to the highest taxation, or even to total
prohibition. Opium is taxed to a point little short of prohibition;
morphia and cocaine are entirely prohibited to the public except for
medical purposes; and hemp drugs are highly taxed in India, and totally
prohibited in Burma. Those who quarrel with this state of things are such
as have become habituated to these drugs, and of this class there is,
unhappily, a large number, so large a number indeed, that their demand
for a regular and sufficient supply constitutes a rich market, a market
which is supplied by the smuggler who reaps abundant profits.

As in the case of other articles of commerce—and smuggling is as much
a branch of commerce as the traffic in rice or jute—the scarcity or
abundance of supply of drugs is what regulates their price in the illicit
market. Normally, opium is sold from Government Opium Shops at from
Rs. 100 to Rs. 123 a seer. Illicitly, it costs from Rs. 200 to Rs. 300
a seer, and when scarce, from Rs. 350 to Rs. 400 a seer. Illicitly,
cocaine and morphia are sold at from five to six times the chemist’s
price. It is true that the smuggler has to pay and maintain a large staff
of assistants, and has to bear other heavy expenses, but the net profit
he eventually gets is a very substantial one.

It is impossible to entirely prevent smuggling: the interested motives of
mankind will always prompt them to attempt it. All that the Government
can do is to compromise with an offence which, whatever the criminal law
on the subject may say, appears to the mind of the smuggler, and of the
drug habitué he supplies, as not at all equalling in turpitude those acts
which are clear breaches of the elementary principles of ethics.

To the generality of people the smuggler is a bold, bad man with a
fierce, heavily-whiskered face, and armed to the teeth with knives,
pistols, and other lethal accoutrements. His surroundings are a rugged
cliff, with a roaring surf at its feet; while a dimly lit cave, stocked
with barrels of spirit and bales of tobacco, completes the mental
picture. In reality the smuggler—the Indian smuggler at any rate—is
nothing of the sort. To all appearances he is a respectable, well-to-do,
easy-going merchant with a flourishing business in piece-goods, rice,
or timber. But he is a thorough-paced smuggler for all that, and
his business is merely a blind to his real occupation which is the
importation and traffic in opium, cocaine, morphia, and hemp-drugs. It
is this business which is the real source of his wealth; it is his mind
that directs and accomplishes great ventures in smuggling.

To be successful as a smuggler, a man needs to have more than ordinary
ability. His powers of organization, and the ability to rapidly
appreciate a situation, must be of the first order, and in addition,
he must be endowed with an unusually large measure of low cunning and
deceit. It is true that the smuggler’s plans sometimes miscarry, but
this is usually owing to treachery on the part of one of his assistants.
The possibility of such treachery exemplifies the need the smuggler has
for a strong personality and ability to judge character, and appraise
men at their true worth; its infrequency testifies to the possession by
smugglers of these qualities in an unusual degree.

It must not be supposed that the smuggler takes a very active part in his
nefarious traffic; it is doubtful whether he ever sees the drugs for the
importation of which he is responsible. His assistants look to all minor
details, he only supplying the necessary money, and directing operations
as a general directs an army in the field. His host of underlings realise
only too well how relentless would be the fate that would overtake them
were they to “give away” their employer, for those who have proved
faithless to their trust have not survived long enough to enjoy the
fruits of their perfidy! The faithful ones know they have nothing to lose
or fear. Fines are paid by their employer, and jail has no terrors for
them, because their families are provided for by the smuggler while they
are away, and they return to their employment and the society of their
companions after release from a course of hard, healthful, muscle-forming

So far I have dealt exclusively with the man who smuggles in a large
and extended way. He might be likened to the big importer of ordinary
business. But, as in ordinary business, there are the retailers: those
who take the goods to the consumer. These men operate up-country, in the
sense that they work in the interior of the country. They may be agents
of the big men, or they may be merely his customers; but except that
their activities are confined, sometimes within the limits of a single
district, they are otherwise similar to the big men who live in the
cities. More often than not these men take an active and personal part in
disseminating drugs, and consequently coming frequently into contact with
the authorities, are more often brought to book for their misdemeanours.
But they do not have much at stake, and rarely risk more than they can
afford to lose if plans go wrong. Of course, there are these men in big
cities also; as a matter of fact there are a host of them in every big
city. To the square mile, there are many more consumers in a city than in
the interior, and as the big smuggler cannot be troubled with retailing
minute quantities of drugs, there is plenty to do for the lesser lights.

Why is it that these importers are never brought to book, is a question
that might reasonably be asked. The answer is simple. It is because they
never by chance handle the goods; they never allow it into their houses.
That a certain man is a smuggler is well known to the authorities. In
fact, the suspect will cheerfully admit it; he will even go as far as
telling them how it was that they failed to seize his last consignment
of contraband, and defy them to seize the next one he expects to import!
But he is perfectly acquainted with the law, and he knows that he cannot
be touched unless the contraband is found in his actual possession,
or, under such circumstances, within his house or its precincts, that
possession of it cannot be ascribed to anyone but himself. The law
prescribes a punishment for any person who, according to general repute,
earns his living, wholly or in part, by opium or morphia trafficking. The
smuggler evades the first part of this provision by keeping a mercantile
business going; and relies upon his personality, and the dread he
inspires in those who might otherwise seek to interfere with him, for
avoiding the second. The instinctive reluctance of respectable people to
make themselves party to judicial proceedings, and a very understandable
fear of extremely unpleasant consequences to themselves, deters them
from coming forward to give evidence against the smuggler, and this is
a great handicap to this very excellent piece of legislation. All that
the executive can hope to do is to seize as much of his contraband as
possible, and so, gradually, deprive him of the means to carry on his

Smugglers have been reduced to impotence in this way, by repeated seizure
of their wares, but their number is not numerous. The weak link in the
chain that can be wound round the smuggler is, indubitably, the corrupt
preventive officer. It is regrettable, but nevertheless true, that a
proportion of the preventive staff is corrupt and amenable to bribes. The
smuggler pays them handsomely to keep their eyes closed, and their mouths
shut, and being poorly paid by Government the temptation to bribery,
which swells their monthly incomes to four or five times what they
legitimately earn, is too great to resist. Besides this, many of the men
recruited are not of the type most suitable. Their ideals of honesty are
nebulous, self-respect to them consists merely in wearing clean clothes.
It is a fact that a certain official once appointed his man-servant to
the subordinate grade of a preventive department. Rumour had it that
this servant was brother to the woman this official was keeping as his
mistress, but that was mere scandal, and probably untrue. At the same
time, one cannot expect much from a staff which can be recruited in
so haphazard a manner. In other walks of life, the need for cautious
recruitment is not so vital, and the need to pay for honesty is not so
great as in departments whose duty it is to safeguard the revenue, and
ensure the moral welfare of the people. It should be made a principle
that for every ten rupees paid for actual work, fifty rupees will be
paid for its honest performance. The need for this is accentuated in
departments in which cupidity, which exists to a greater or less extent
in every man, is excited and tempted to the utmost.



No matter how powerful and reckless of consequences a smuggler may be,
there is, nevertheless, a lurking respect in his bosom for the myrmidons
of the Law. It is to his interest to have the authorities on his side,
and, as he cannot have them on other terms, he must pay them handsomely.
An excise or police officer, especially if he be of the lower ranks, can
make it uncommonly uncomfortable for a smuggler; and it may be taken
for granted that a smuggler is not completely satisfied until he has a
large proportion of the preventive staff in his pay. To some, however,
he will pay nothing because he has nothing to fear from incapables; some
who occasionally come in his way he will tip with the economy of the
uncle who tips his nephew; but to the able ones, the ones that can make
it very warm for him, he will pay handsome monthly salaries, and he will
look upon the outlay as money well invested. It is in this way that the
smuggler keeps his traffic going; it is thus that he makes it possible to
smuggle with profit.

Now, the preventive can only prevent by seizing contraband articles; so
that it stands to reason that its efficiency, and the ability of the
individuals who compose it, must be judged largely by results; by the
number of arrests made, and the quantity of contraband seized. An able
officer who makes no hauls may be not unjustly put down as a bribe-taker,
and a chief who knows that there is lots of contraband to be seized for
the trying, will come down heavily on such a subordinate.

What does the smuggler do when the well-paid watchdog of the Law comes
to him and tells him that he will be obliged to seize some, if not all,
of the smuggler’s next consignment of opium, because the game is, to all
intents and purposes, up? Does he wring his hands and roundly curse his
ill luck? No; he merely smiles and advises the watchdog to stand at the
corner of such-and-such a street, near so-and-so’s shop between certain
hours next morning, and search the man who passes him with a spotted
bandanna round his neck, and a bundle under his right arm. The watchdog
acts on the advice, searches the man with the spotted bandanna, finds two
cakes of opium, and walks the culprit off to the police station. For this
he is commended and paid a reward; the smuggler gets off with the loss
of two cakes of opium instead of the hundred he stood to lose; and the
man with the spotted bandanna who is ultimately sent to prison for six
months, merely fulfils the duty for which he is paid a regular monthly

The foregoing is an example of the methods of smugglers, and of the
cupidity of some of the staff employed by Government to guard its
revenues. But it is only one. It would weary the reader to be told of
the scores of other means employed. The smuggler, knowing that a certain
officer is financially embarrassed, will approach him with the offer of
a loan, and accept a note of hand for the accommodation. That note of
hand releases the smuggler from all further obligation to pay the officer
in question. He is well aware that certain dismissal of the latter must
result if he shows the scrap of paper in the proper quarter. He has the
unfortunate man completely in his hands. But it is obvious that there can
be little to fear from a man who provides such damning evidence against

People might well ask how it is that so much corruption can go on and
yet no one be caught and punished. Now, it is a well-known principle
of evidence that one man’s word is as good as another’s, and in law,
no matter how convincing the truth of a man’s story might be, it
must usually be corroborated before a magistrate will convict. The
giving and receiving of bribes are, by their very nature, secret
transactions—transactions to which there are no independent witnesses,
so that it is very rarely that the charge can be brought home; and it is
usually only those cases in which a confirmed bribe-taker has been lured
into a trap, skilfully laid with the aid of marked notes or coins, which
have a satisfactory conclusion. It must, moreover, be borne in mind that
the giver or offerer of a bribe is just as much liable in law as the
receiver or solicitor of it; so that it is seldom that a complaint to a
magistrate is made.

The two anecdotes I give here will afford the reader food for thought:

X was a responsible officer. He had the control of a district, and was
widely respected. One afternoon, when at office, he had occasion to
leave his room, and on his return to it, found ten one-hundred rupee
notes under a paperweight on his table. He well knew who had placed them
there. He took three of these notes to his superior officer, and with
much apparent indignation, handed them to him, and asked that the sum
be credited to Government. The guileless superior, ever after thought
highly of X’s honesty, and reported on him in flattering terms. X became
a richer man by seven hundred rupees!

Now for the second story:

Y was one night visited by a smuggler who produced a bag containing five
hundred rupees, and offered the money as a bribe. Y stormed at him, and
calling in his men, had the smuggler arrested, and sent up for trial on a
charge of offering a bribe. The money was produced and counted in court.
“How many rupees are there there?” enquired the smuggler. “Five hundred
rupees,” replied the magistrate. “Oh!” said the rascal, “The bag had a
thousand rupees in it when I gave it to the sahib!” And Y was generally
regarded as a taker of bribes for the rest of his official life. So does
fate sometimes serve the virtuous!

I have given the seamy side of things here. There are, however, many
excellent and deserving men in preventive departments—men who would
rather stay poor than sell their honour.



Of all those who threaten the smuggler with arrest and loss, the informer
is the one he fears most, and accordingly regards with bitter hatred as
his greatest foe.

Without information, the hands of the executive are tied; without
informers, they would be wholly ineffective; and except for a chance
seizure now and then, there would be little for them to do. As things
are, the organization of a detective department is so linked up with
informers and information that one finds it difficult to conceive of
its existing with these eliminated. Detectives of the Sherlock Holmes
type exist only in fiction, and although it goes without saying that
powers of observation above the ordinary, and an intimate knowledge of
men are indispensable in a detective, it is equally indispensable that
a detective, as things are, must rely upon information if he wishes
successfully to solve any problem of crime.

In writing about informers, I deal mainly with the professional
blackguards who make a regular living out of giving information. I do not
include those who, to work off a grudge, or who, having seen a crime
committed, lodge information in the proper quarter.—I do not look upon
these as _informers_. The first is a mean-minded person; the second, one
who has a very proper conception of his duty towards society. But the man
I deal with is essentially a blackguard, and a very despicable blackguard
at that. He has only one object in view when he gives information, and
that object is money. He is not burdened with notions of his duty as a
citizen. If there was no money to be made out of giving information,
he would be the last to go a step out of his way to give any; but he
recognizes his value as an important factor in detection, places a price
on it, and is paid generously.

I have often been asked by magistrates whether my informers were
respectable men. I have felt no hesitation in answering the question
emphatically in the negative, and I have no doubt I often set them
wondering. But one has only to give the matter a moment’s consideration
to see how diametrically opposed to all one’s notions of fair-play and
honour must be the nature and calling of an informer. He must for a time
pose as the friend and confidant of his victim, and then turn traitor;
and he must bribe, coerce, and wheedle from their allegiance scores of
subordinates who would otherwise serve their masters with unswerving
loyalty. He is the tempter _in excelsis_; he is unscrupulous in the
extreme; he is utterly bad. But for all this, he is, as I have already
said, a very necessary link in the chain of detection, and we may, like
the pharisee, take comfort in the thought that we are not as other men
are—even as these informers! The “_unco gude_” would find a monotonous
sameness in their existence if there were none to set-off their unco

Nowhere is the need for sharp-witted informers so keenly felt as in
departments whose duty it is to prevent smuggling, and it may be taken
for granted that the greater the blackguard the fellow is, the more
useful he will be, and the more useful an informer is to the executive,
the greater danger he goes in of losing his life (because the smuggler
does not hesitate as to the means he employs in removing obstacles from
his path). The authorities have therefore to consider these things when
they come to pay the informer. The legislature also protects him by
providing that no officer shall be compelled in a law court to disclose
the name of his informer. That advantage is duly taken of this provision
there need be no doubt. The officer who gives up the name of his informer
has little further information to expect, as the informer very naturally
values his life, and will give no information to an indiscreet and
injudicious officer.

That the authorities are often imposed upon by informers is a matter of
course. There are lots of men in this world who would like to pay off
an old score against another, and an easy way to do this is to lodge
an information against him. A search of the premises occupied by the
suspect results, and although nothing may be found, the attention of the
neighbourhood is attracted, and for some time the search is a topic of
conversation, which is by no means pleasant for the man whose house is
searched. The disgrace attending such an occurrence is intensified if the
householder happens to be a man who is respected as upright and honest.
Severe punishment is provided by the law for givers of false information,
but such cases are happily not numerous.

To take action against an informer for giving false information usually
results in deterring genuine informers from giving genuine information;
for there are factors which operate against the success of the genuine
informer. For instance, the object searched for may be removed just
before the search is made, or even during the search, and a blank is
drawn. To prosecute the informer for giving false information in such
circumstances would be manifestly unjust. If he were prosecuted, other
informers would not run the risk of giving information and work would
come to a standstill. Where, then, is the line to run? This is a question
which confronts the executive with ever-increasing perplexity. It seems
to be better to disregard the stray cases of false informing, than to
jeopardise the entire preventive department’s being. A certain officer,
suspecting that a search had been made on false information, issued an
order, _ex cathedra_, that all informations should be verified before
search was made. As the only way in which information can be verified
is by making a search, it is not clear to what extent this order was
conceived in a spirit of bumptiousness, and how much of it in ignorance.

“Planting,” or the fabrication of false evidence, is a favourite and
much practised trick of the informer. By means best known to himself he
introduces something incriminating into the house of a person against
whom he has a spite, and lays an information. A search is made, the
stuff is found, and very often an innocent man is fined or sent to
jail. Against this there seems to be no remedy, except the employment
of well-known, reliable informers, and also a sort of intuition which
develops with experience in officers themselves.

In olden days, when coastguards did not exist, Cornwall was a hot-bed
of smuggling, and the temper of the Cornishmen towards informers can be
gauged by the following story which has much in it that is apropos:—

The Rev. R. S. Hawker, of the parish of Morwenstowe, relates how on one
occasion a predecessor of his presided, as the custom was, at a parish
feast, in cassock and bands, and presented, with his white hair and
venerable countenance, quite an apostolic aspect and mien. On a sudden,
a busy whisper among the farmers at the lower end of the table attracted
his notice, interspersed as it was with sundry nods and glances towards
himself. At last one bolder than the rest addressed him, and said that
they had a great wish to ask his reverence a question, if he would kindly
grant them a reply; it was on a religious subject that they had dispute,
he said. The bland old gentleman assured them of his readiness to yield
them any information in his power, but what was the point in dispute?
“Why, sir, we wish to be informed if there are not sins which God
Almighty will never forgive?” Surprised, and somewhat shocked, he told
them that he trusted there were no transgressions common to themselves,
but if repented of and abjured, they might clearly hope to be forgiven.
But with natural curiosity, he inquired what sorts of iniquities they
contemplated as too vile for pardon. “Why, sir,” replied the spokesman,
“we thought that if a man should find out where run-goods was deposited,
and should inform the Gauger, that such a villain was too bad for mercy!”



As an inducement to seize contraband, Government pays its preventive
staff money-rewards which bear a ratio to the value of the stuff seized,
and the ability displayed in seizing it; and an officer who is active and
conscientious very often can earn in this way from three to four times
the amount of his monthly salary. But the seizing of contraband is by no
means easy, as the smuggler has brought concealment to a fine art, and
there seems to be no end to the ingenuity which may be exercised by him
in getting his consignments through safely to their destination. A few
examples will serve to demonstrate this.

Vigorous search had failed to bring to light the cocaine which was
reported to be on board the S.S. “_Contrebandier_” from Marseilles,
and the search party were about to reluctantly abandon their quest
when attention was directed to a pile of bundles of planks, each
bundle consisting of from four to six half-inch planks, bound together
at each end with iron bands. More from curiosity than with any idea
of discovering cocaine, one of these bundles was pulled apart. The
top plank was found to be intact, and so was the bottom one, but the
intervening planks had had spaces cut through them which were packed with
one-ounce packets of cocaine. A large quantity of the alkaloid, valued
at several thousands of rupees, was found. An illustration to make the
method clear is shown.

[Illustration: Top plank removed.

Bundle of planks.]

Another example: The weekly steamer from India had come into a Burma
port, and the deck-passengers had been lined up on the pier for
inspection by the Customs officers. An excise officer on the pier was
made curious by four natives of India, whose only effects consisted of
earthen pots of water containing small fishes. Knowing that the place to
which these men had come abounded with fish of the best kinds, he was
not convinced when they explained that they had brought these small fry
to stock the local tanks with. A closer scrutiny disclosed the fact
that whereas by percolation the outsides of the pots ought to have been
wet, these were quite dry. Measurements taken with his walking stick
inside a pot and outside it disagreed too greatly to leave any doubt of
the existence of a false bottom, and on breaking a pot, he found that it
not only had a false bottom, but that the inter-space was packed with
segments of opium. The remaining pots, needless to say, were treated in
the same way, and a rich haul was made. An illustration of this method,
also, is given. Considering there was no seam, the workmanship of these
pots was uncommonly clever.

[Illustration: Space packed with opium.


There are doubtless hundreds of other methods as yet undiscovered by
which smugglers get their goods through safely. There is the heavy
wooden bedstead, whose every leg is hollowed out to receive stuff, whose
frame is but a shell to receive morphia phials. It is likely that the
Chinaman who walks in front of you wearing a pith hat has cut-out spaces
under the padded cover, in the pith, which are occupied by segments of
opium; there is the Holy Bible that comes by post, with a square cut
in the pages, containing opium or some other drug. The ways in which
concealment is practised are legion. The wonder is that so many of these
tricks are discovered!

But there are a number of cases in which the methods come to light only
after the coup has been completed. A European, Hobson by name, ostensibly
a coffee planter, whose plantation was on the frontier which separates an
opium-producing country from British India, took to smuggling opium down
to city smugglers, and in time accumulated great wealth. His methods were
simple, but on one occasion a consignment he had sent down in charge of
an assistant of his very nearly fell into the hands of the authorities,
and he became more cautious. On one occasion after this, he ordered a
consignment of fifty one-pound tins of tea from an oilmanstore merchant
in the city, and on its arrival, took delivery. Next day, the same
package was returned by rail to the address of the grocer. On arrival of
the package in the city, a European, purporting to be an assistant of
the grocer firm, called at the railway booking office, and producing the
railway receipt, took delivery of the case; the grocer being duly paid,
never knew that the package had ever been returned to his address. The
explanation is that Mr. Hobson had emptied the tea tins when he got them,
refilled them with opium, and sent them back; but the railway receipt was
sent to his assistant who, on arrival of the package, took delivery of
it, and handed it over to the local smuggler in exchange for hard cash!

How this same Mr. Hobson once played a trick on a prominent detective
will bear relating, even as inadequately as I am able to do it. Hobson
was once travelling down to the city by train, when our sleuth, who
happened to be on tour, entered the same compartment at a small wayside
station. Having already seen Mr. Hobson’s descriptive roll, he had
no difficulty in identifying him as the smuggler whom he had often
dreamt about catching; and having the strongest reason to believe that
H could not possibly know who _he_ was, introduced himself as Mr.
Jackson, travelling for a firm of leather merchants. The two got into
conversation, and our sleuth, being an adept in the art of worming out
details of other people’s affairs, soon got Hobson to open his heart
to him. Facts and figures were eagerly noted whenever Hobson was not
observant of it, and our sleuth was very pleased indeed with himself.
Next morning, however, as he parted from his late companion at the city
railway station, Hobson said, “Good-bye, Mr. ——” addressing him by his
real name, “I am very pleased indeed to have made your acquaintance.
Here,” producing it from his pocket book, “is your latest photograph! Let
me advise you to represent anything but leather another time. You don’t
know a thing about it.” And then, as an afterthought, “Better tear up
those notes you took. I’ve told you nothing that isn’t a damned lie!”

An Indian smuggler once took a rise out of a certain high police
official, whom I shall call Duncan, and thereby made a mortal enemy for
life. F. was the chief smuggler in this city, and his transactions in
illicit drugs ran into lakhs of rupees. It was most desirable that this
prince of smugglers should be brought to book. He was also by way of
being a desperate character; for although it could not be proved, it was
morally certain that more than one of the mysterious murders that had
taken place in recent years had been committed or instigated by him.
One day Duncan got information that F. had a large quantity of drugs,
arms, and ammunition in his house, and that if search were made at once,
F. would, to a certainty, be caught red-handed. This was luck indeed,
and Duncan decided to make the search personally. Collecting a party of
constables, he set out at once, but meeting the Black Maria (prison van)
on its way back to the prison from the Courts, a brilliant idea came
to him, and halting this grim conveyance, he and his party entered it,
giving instructions to the driver to stop opposite F.’s house. Arriving
there, some of the party soon surrounded the house, while Duncan and
the rest of them entered the place. F. was in his “Office,” to all
appearances deeply immersed in piece-goods transactions.

“F.,” said Duncan, “I am going to search your house on information
received. I believe you have contraband drugs, arms, and ammunition
concealed somewhere on these premises, and I mean to find them. If you
wish to search me and my party before we begin, do so at once.”

“I am a humble, law-abiding merchant, Sahib, and have no concern with
drugs and firearms. You are quite at liberty to search anywhere you

The search began. Duncan, although by no means a young man, worked with
the rest. The place was ransacked from cellar to attic, but not a trace
of what was sought was to be found. Duncan, covered from head to foot in
grime and cob-web, at last reluctantly decided to give it up, and slowly
descended the stairs to the lower room, where he was struck speechless
with indignation. There was a table covered with the whitest of linen
cloths, and groaning under an assortment of fruit and sweetmeats, crowned
by a bottle of Pommery and Greno; while F., with a snowy towel over his
arm, and a silver bowl of water in his hands, greeted Duncan with an
invitation to wash and partake of refreshment “as your honour looks tired
and dusty.”

“Damn you! I shall have you yet,” said the infuriated Duncan when he
found his tongue; and strode out of the house with rage and hatred in
his heart!

It was discovered later that F., in a mischievous mood, had himself
forwarded the information on which Duncan acted!



Bloody encounters with smugglers are rare, but they do happen sometimes,
and as it is always on the cards that active opposition may be
encountered when a party sets off to intercept a smuggler on his way to
“market,” the work of an exciseman is not entirely free from danger. Very
often when a smuggler goes on a journey, he travels armed with sword or
spear; sometimes with a musket; sometimes even with a modern revolver
or shot-gun. He is prepared to use these, and unless the intercepting
party gets the “drop” on him, he will put up a good fight. Unfortunately,
the officer, as a rule, though acquainted to some extent with the law
governing the right of private defence of public servants acting in an
official capacity, does not take full advantage of it; he has not been
bred to kill; and it is probable that there is a lurking fear in him
that the magistrate, who will hold the enquiry, will not see quite eye
to eye with him, and that he may, perhaps, be convicted of a rash and
negligent act, or grievous hurt, if he merely wounds his man, or even,
perhaps, of culpable homicide. To some extent he probably is justified in
so thinking. Not long ago, an officer fired off his pistol in a melee
following on a seizure, and wounded one of his assailants in the arm.
A complaint was made, and the unfortunate young officer was convicted
of grievous hurt, and sentenced to three months rigorous imprisonment
and a fine. It is true he was afterwards retried and acquitted, but he
was in no way compensated for the agony of mind he suffered, or for the
degradation he had undergone in being tried as an ordinary criminal. This
is chiefly to show that there is justification for an officer thinking
twice or oftener before he proceeds to take risks. But the general run of
magistrates are broad-minded men; men who combine with a sound knowledge
of law, worldly wisdom, and a knowledge of the special conditions, and it
is extremely rare for a conscientious officer to be “let down.” I shall
now tell a story based on fact.

Information was brought to the inspector of ... that a certain well-known
smuggler was on his way to ... and that he had a large quantity
of illicit opium with him. Report had it that he was armed, and,
accordingly, the inspector, providing himself with a revolver of small
calibre—really nothing more than a toy—and his peon, with a shot-gun
loaded with slugs in both barrels, set off with a small party to a
certain pass in the hills near by, through which the smuggler would have
to pass. In due time the smuggler, with a load on his shoulders, and a
Tower musket in his hand, came along.

“Halt,” called the inspector, jumping from his place of concealment, and
covering the smuggler with his toy revolver.

The only reply was a flash and bang from the smuggler’s musket, and for
a moment, the air was thick with smoke and nasty whining sounds, as
missiles of all kinds flew past the inspector’s head.

“Now I will shoot you,” said the inspector, and he fired a shot over the
smuggler. The smuggler poured some powder down his musket barrel.

“Put down that gun!” ordered the inspector, and he fired another shot
over the smuggler’s head. Now a piece of wadding clanged down under the
smuggler’s ramrod.

“I shall certainly shoot you now,” threatened the inspector, and another
tiny bullet whistled harmlessly past the smuggler. This time a handful of
slugs went rattling down the long barrel.

“Can my master be bewitched?” thought the peon, who had the loaded
shot-gun in his hands. “It must be so; but matters are getting too
serious for further argument,” and levelling the gun at the smuggler he
fired off both barrels at once, almost cutting the fellow in halves.
A large quantity of opium was found in the smuggler’s bundle and the
judicial officer who held the inquiry, a man who had risen from the
bottom of the ladder, and whose experience was wide, while admiring the
inspector’s humanity, considered that he had no right to expose himself
and his party in the way he did. He wanted it to be widely known that
smugglers who went armed with the idea of terrorising the executive did
so at the risk of being shot at sight, and he undertook to see that
officers who did this did not suffer. The peon was handsomely rewarded
and promoted for his presence of mind and opportune action.

Here is another story.

I had received information that a certain smuggler of repute expected
a big consignment of opium, and that it would reach his house sometime
during the night and be concealed there. It was about nine o’clock in the
evening when I set out, clad in an old grey suit, cap, and muffler, for
the smuggler’s house, intending to conceal myself somewhere near, and
watch proceedings. As I entered the quarter where the smuggler lived, I
was accosted by two beat constables who suggested that I was a member
of the crew of one of the tramp steamers then lying in the harbour.
After apparently satisfying them of my identity, I continued on my way,
and was soon ensconced under a large tree, with the smuggler’s house
and compound in full view. I had not been there an hour, when I heard
the sound of approaching footsteps, and looking round, was not a little
annoyed to find the beat constables again on my track. They had spotted
me in the gloom of the tree, and being suspicious, had come to see who
I was. To me it seemed that there was nothing to be gained after this
by continuing the watch, and so, roundly abusing the two inquisitive
myrmidons of the law, I went home. I was later to regret my unkindness
to my two preservers, for that, indeed, they proved to be. Next morning I
was called upon by one of my spies, who handed me a wicked looking dagger
with a blade at least five inches long.

“What might this be?” I asked.

“Sahib,” he replied, “if it had not been for the two policemen that
disturbed your watch last night, that dagger would have taken your life.
While you watched, there was one who watched you with this dagger. When
the two policemen came along, he dropped the weapon and made off.”

No name was given, and it would have done no good to have taken
proceedings against my would-be assailant, even if I had known his
name. Such things are all in the day’s work. But I had the satisfaction
the same day of going down to the smuggler’s house and unearthing
over a maund of his opium. It is true that he got off at the trial on
a technical point, but he lost a great deal of money, actually and
potentially, and I felt I had called quits to the person who was the
instigator of my attempted murder.



Taken all round, I think it must be admitted that the smuggler is a
sportsman, in the sense that he plays a hazardous game at great personal
risk, at the risk of his fortune, and against great odds. It is true
that he takes all the care he can to minimize risks, but he can never
hope entirely to eliminate the element of danger; and if his game be
divested of all its peccancy, and most of its immorality, we discover in
it the essentials of what goes to make horse-racing so popular a “sport”
all over the civilized world. What is it that attracts millions to a
race-course? Money! The desire to get money coupled with the excitement
of the game. Out of every thousand persons who go to a race-meeting,
nine hundred and ninety-nine go to gain money under feverishly exciting
conditions, and _one_ to see the horses run. Spanish bull-fighting
however it may please the Spaniard, can never be otherwise than
disgusting to an Englishman. But however shocked an Englishman might be
at the ruin the smuggler causes to thousands of his fellow-men, he can
never feel for the smuggler the contempt which he feels for the gaudy
and bespangled Toreador. He recognizes that the smuggler is playing a
dangerous game, sustained by the arts of a subtle intellect, and that he
also possesses the qualities which go to make a good fighter.

It may be that the smuggler has little notion of the havoc he spreads.
It may be that he argues thus: “There is a demand for drugs, and people
will be supplied by some means or other. They are willing to pay almost
any price for the drugs they want; they are grown up people and well able
to judge for themselves; why should I not make a fortune by supplying
them with their wants at my own price?” This is a form of reasoning which
contains no fallacy for a man unacquainted with the principles of ethics,
and it is certain that the smuggler has not burdened his mind with such
learning, admirable as it may be.

His offence against the revenue laws provides the smuggler with a
never-ending source of pure delight. Every fresh triumph in this
direction he looks upon as another feather in his already innumerably
be-feathered cap.

But there can be no question about the dreadful misery for which the
smuggler is directly responsible, and in succeeding chapters I shall
endeavour to give as realistic a picture as I can of the awful results of
this damnable traffic in drugs.




It may be taken for granted that most people are in some degree
acquainted with the use of opium, having had it at some time or other
administered to them as a medicine. Dover’s powder, so useful a remedy
for a cold, contains opium; Laudanum is a preparation of it which is
familiar to everybody; and there are scores of other remedies and
proprietary preparations which contain opium to a greater or less extent.
But useful as opium may be, it must be used with discretion, and must not
be allowed to change its character of a faithful servant for that of a
master. It can become an exacting and dominating master, and the habit
once formed is well nigh ineradicable.

For the information of those who have not seen the pure drug, I may
mention that opium is a dark brown, putty-like substance with an
agreeable, sweetish, odour. It is the dried resin obtained by incising
the unripe capsules of a certain variety of poppy, and is prepared in
large, well-equipped factories, from which it is issued in cakes and
balls weighing eighty tolas.[2]

The opium industry is a Government monopoly. The poppy crops are grown
under Government supervision, and the factories where it is prepared
belong to Government and are staffed by Government servants. The prepared
product is sold from Government opium shops from which consumers who are
so privileged can get their requirements at a certain fixed price.[3] But
as is the case with all monopolized commodities, opium may assume a money
value far in excess of its intrinsic worth and be sold for its weight in
silver. In fixing the price of opium, Government is confronted with a
choice between two courses: either to sell opium cheap, and so extinguish
the smuggler; or to prohibit it entirely and thereby convert India into
a happy hunting ground for the avaricious and rapacious fortune hunter.
It takes a middle course, therefore, and sells opium at such a rate that
facilities for obtaining it are reasonable, without, on the one hand,
rendering it cheap and easily obtainable, or, on the other, making it
prohibitive. The policy pursued is one of eventual suppression; the
discouragement of recruits to the opium habit being the means employed
as best adapted to bring about its realization.

The opium habit was an established thing in India centuries before the
British first set foot in the country, and it is surmised that it was
the Arab conquerors, who invaded India in the 11th century who first
introduced it. The cultivation of the poppy, and the preparation of
opium, were live industries in India in the 16th century, as Portuguese
chroniclers tell us, and when the British East India Company took over
the administration of Bengal after Clive’s victory at Plassey in 1757,
all that they found themselves able to do was to adopt a policy of
regulation leading to ultimate suppression. This policy has been followed
ever since.

It is a fundamental weakness of human nature that we desire most that
which it is most difficult to obtain. It is a perpetuation of the
genesiac myth of the forbidden fruit; and no matter how optimistic some
may be that the opium habit will eventually be stamped out, it is to be
feared that this cannot come about until human nature ceases to be what
it always has been. This contention applies with special cogency to the
opium habit whose insistence in our midst is not only owing to the fact
that it satisfies the sensuousness and voluptuousness which forms a part
of every man’s nature, but that it establishes a dominance over its
victims which requires almost super-human power of will to overthrow.
In a letter to his friend and medical attendant Mr. Gilman, Coleridge,
who was for twenty-five years a victim to the opium habit, writes about
the giving up of it as a “trivial task” and as requiring no more than
seven days to accomplish; yet elsewhere he describes it pathetically,
and sometimes with almost frantic pathos, as the scourge, the curse,
the one almighty blight which had desolated his life. De Quincey very
justly calls this a “very shocking contradiction,” and asks, “Is, indeed,
Leviathan _so_ tamed?”

It has been more than once suggested that the dissemination of a healthy
propaganda would be the best means of deterring recruits to the opium
habit, and that reliance upon the efforts of a strong preventive staff
can result only in a diminution of the vice, and not its extinction. On
some, such propaganda might have the desired effect; but with others,
it may have just that effect which we seek to avoid. There is always a
desire to experience new and strange sensations; there are always some
who want an unfailing panacea for pain of body or mind; there are always
some who long for oblivion. All these things are to be got from opium—the
sovereign panacea for pain, grief, “for all human woes”; a weaver of
dreams and ecstasies! And so, with the personal equation always solving
itself, the problem remains to all intents and purposes unsolvable.

Let us see what the effects of opium are. A writer on the subject says,
“A small dose not unfrequently acts as a stimulant: there is a feeling
of vigour, a capability of severe exertion, and an endurance of labour
without fatigue. A large dose often exerts a calming influence with a
dreamy state in which images and ideas pass rapidly before the mind
without fatigue, and often in disorder, and without apparent sequence.
Time seems to be shortened as one state of consciousness quickly succeeds
another, and there is a pleasant feeling of grateful rest. This is
succeeded by sleep which, according to the strength of the dose, and
the idiosyncrasy of the person, may be light and dreamy, or like normal
profound sleep, or deep and heavy, passing into stupor or coma. From
this a person may awaken with a feeling of depression, or langour, or
wretchedness, often associated with sickness, headache, or vomiting.”
I have verified these statements by questioning numerous consumers of
opium, and, in substance, their descriptions tallied exactly with that I
have quoted.

How the opium habit is first contracted is a matter which deserves
investigation, but it would seem that the most fertile cause is its
injudicious administration in its character of an anodyne. De Quincey,
in his “_Confessions of an English Opium-Eater_” tells us that he first
took opium for a severe toothache. The poet Coleridge, who, like De
Quincey, was a confirmed opium-eater, “began in rheumatic pains”; and
if a census of consumers was taken, it would not be surprising to find
that eighty _per cent._ of them were first introduced to this “dread
agent of unimaginable pleasure and pain” by its being given them for a
stomachache, toothache, or some such wrecker of the peace of their mind.
The other twenty _per cent._ are the victims of curiosity. The Burman is
said to get the taste for opium when he is drugged with it while young,
when he is, according to Burmese custom, tattoed from the waist to above
his knees.

Nobody needs to be told that a habit is formed by the frequent repetition
of acts or indulgences, and that some habits are more difficult to break
ourselves of than others. The opium habit falls in this category. It
is formed, of course, in the same way as other habits, but there are
peculiarities connected with it on which those who are ready to condemn
opium-eaters as degenerates might well ponder. The physiological effects
of opium are such, that the wearing off of the effects of a dose are
attended with the keenest mental and physical distress. No one who
has not been an opium-eater can describe these adequately. The need,
therefore, for a corrective of this condition becomes what seems an
urgent necessity, and the only immediate corrective is “a hair from the
dog.” A succession of these “hairs”—and a not very long succession—forms
the habit. Unlike other habits, it is a habit that cannot be cured
without immense strength of will, and a readiness to undergo great
suffering: pains in the body, diarrhœa, and a general upset of the mental
equilibrium. We see, therefore, that the cause of the habit lies here:
_the need for opium to alleviate the pangs caused by opium_.


Amongst unromantically inclined people of the type who form the bulk of
consumers—cultivators, coolies, artisans of all kinds, humble folk whose
creed is “pice and rice”—it would be difficult (and ludicrous) to suppose
that their object in taking opium is to go in their dreams to:

  “Woods that wave o’er Delphi steep
  Isles, that crown the Aegian deep,
  Fields that cool Ilissus’ laves
  Or where meander’s amber waves
  In lingering lab’rinths creep.”

Possibly, they do have pleasant dreams; but the exertion and hard
exercise they must undergo to earn their daily bread is known to
counteract the sedative effects of opium; and as they take small
quantities only, its effect is to stimulate them rather than to make
them dreamy and sensuous; and I contend that, _primâ facie_, it is not
to evoke sensuous imaginings that these people take opium. They take it
because they cannot get away from it, once the pain to ease which it
was given has passed. What strength of will do we expect to find in an
unlettered cooly?

Without any apology I reproduce here some verses which appeared in 1894,
about the time when the Royal Opium Commission came to India:


  They began by mourning over my degraded moral state,
  Then my physical decadence they would anxiously debate.
  Then they raised a pious eye,
  And they heaved a pitying sigh,
  And they shuddered as they pondered on my melancholy fate.

  Now, I never had reflected on the matter thus, at all,
  For my luxuries were few, and my expenditure was small.
  I was happy as the day,
  In my own abandoned way,
  Till they said they must release me from the bonds that held me

  I’d been cheered up at my _Chandoo_[4] shop, for years at least
    two score,
  To perform my daily labour, and was never sick or sore;
  But they said this must not be;
  So they passed a stern decree,
  And they made my _Chandoo_ seller shut his hospitable door.

  Now they’re sending out Commissions with the philanthropic view
  Of inducing us to part with sev’ral crores of revenue;
  For all opium traffic’s sin,
  And, although it brings in tin,
  Our nefarious trade papaverous, they say we must eschew.

  Who’d have thought that my redemption would have cost so many lakhs
  (For they saddle their expenses on my fellow-subjects’ backs).
  What with deficits to square,
  And Commissions everywhere,
  On the “hoarded wealth of India” I shall prove a heavy tax.

  If I’d only cultivated, now, a taste for beer or gin,
  Or had learnt at Pool or Baccarat my neighbour’s coin to win,
  I could roam abroad o’ nights,
  And indulge in these delights,
  And my soul would not be stigmatized as being steeped in sin!

  But as mine’s a heathen weakness for a creature-comfort, far
  Less pernicious than their alcohol, more clean than their cigar,
  They have sent their howlings forth,
  From their platform in the North,
  And ’twixt me and my poor pleasures have imposed a righteous bar!



There are two modes of taking opium. It is either eaten in its crude
form, or it is clarified with water and smoked in a pipe of peculiar

It is generally conceded that opium smoking is less injurious than opium
eating, bulk for bulk, of the amount consumed, and that the intemperate
or immoderate opium smoker is less liable to the toxic effects of opium
than the man who eats it raw. Why this is will be clear when it is
explained that as a result of the process of preparation for smoking it,
which consists in boiling opium with water, filtering several times,
and boiling it down again to a treacly consistency, a considerable
portion of the narcotine, caoutchouc, resin, and other deleterious
elements are removed, and this prolonged boiling and evaporation have
the effect of lessening the amount of alkaloids in the finished product.
The only alkaloids likely to remain in the prepared opium, and capable
of producing marked physiological effects, are morphia, codeia, and
narceia. Morphia in its unmixed state can be sublimed; but codeia and
narceia are said not to give a sublimate. But even if not sublimed in the
process, morphia would, in the opinion of Mr. Hugh M’Callum (Government
Analyst at Hong Kong), be deposited in the bowl of the pipe before the
smoke reached the mouth of the smoker. The bitter taste of morphia is
not noticeable when smoking opium, and it is therefore possible that the
pleasure derived from smoking opium is due to some product formed during
combustion. This supposition is rendered probable by the fact that the
opium most prized by smokers is not that containing the most morphia.

But what constitutes moderation or the reverse? The answer is
idiosyncrasy, or the degree of toleration. This is a factor which is
lost sight of by most of those who declaim against the occasional glass
or pipe. They wish to push temperance to the point of total abstinence,
and condemn the man who takes a peg of whisky without evil results,
with the man who becomes maudlin after taking a single glass of white
wine, for it is only by outward appearances they are able to judge. But
leaving them to rage in their ignorance, we must recognise the fact that
opium is one of those drugs the effects of which depend largely upon
personal idiosyncrasy and toleration. Dr. Chapman, in his _Elements of
Therapeutics_, gives two instances of remarkable cases of toleration of
opium. In one, a wineglassful of laudanum was taken by a patient several
times in the twenty-four hours; and in another, a case of cancer, the
quantity of laudanum was gradually increased to three pints daily, a
considerable quantity of crude opium being also taken in the same period!

The usual dose, as a medicine, is from one to three grains of opium,
but a consumer can take from ten to twenty, while I have met many
able to take from sixty to eighty grains. The degree of tolerance is
increased by usage and habit, and the tendency is to increase the dose
with habituation. With smokers, it is not uncommon to find Chinamen,
the heaviest consumers of opium in the world, who can dispose of three
tolas[5] of opium in the day; but they smoke it, and so can stand far
more of it than if they ate it in the crude state.

The reader who has troubled to come so far with me will not unreasonably
be curious to know how opium is smoked; so, if he will accompany me
farther, I will take him into a den and satisfy his curiosity. It is a
Chinese den. From the street it has nothing to proclaim its character;
it is like any other entrance in the street. Ah! Here comes a smoker.
Observe his deathly pallor, his appearance of emaciation, his dazed
expression. He must be a heavy smoker, soaked in the vice. Let us go in
with him! We enter. For a moment the dimness of the room flanked on three
sides with raised wooden platforms waist-high, and covered with mats,
is accentuated by our sudden entrance from the sunlit street. We become
aware of a peculiar odour in the atmosphere of the room, not unpleasant,
but peculiar. It is like nothing that we have ever sniffed before. It is
the odour of smoked opium. When our eyes, having got used to the light,
or rather darkness, of the room, we look round and see on the platforms,
sleeping forms sprawled round trays containing their smoking utensils.
Let us examine these: First there is the pipe. It is made of a single
joint of bamboo about a foot and a half long, hollow, and closed at one
end, and about an inch in diameter. About a quarter of its length up
from the closed end, there is an earthenware protuberance, not unlike a
door-knob in appearance, firmly fixed into the stem; on its top, and in
the centre, is a small orifice. This is the pipe-bowl.


Next we notice a lamp. This has a base of wood, and consists of a glass
reservoir of oil, with a string wick leading from it through a small
brass cap. Over this is a glass chimney.

Then we see the wire, like an ordinary fine knitting needle; and several
horn phials, each containing prepared opium.


(The opium on the end of the dipper being roasted over the lamp.)]

But here is the new-comer whom we followed in. He has paid the den-keeper
the small fee which makes him the temporary owner of a tray of smoking
utensils, and with these he passes us, and getting on to the platform
between two sleepers, he puts his tray down, and assumes a recumbent
attitude beside it. Lying on his left side, with his head on a hard
lacquered pillow, he draws the tray towards him and takes the pipe in his
left hand. With the other hand he takes the piece of wire, and plunges
one end of it into the horn phial containing treacly prepared opium,
withdrawing it immediately with a drop of the fluid adhering to the
point. This he maintains on the point by rapidly twirling the instrument
between two fingers, and carrying it over the flame of the lamp, he
proceeds to roast the opium. This is a delicate operation, and requires
practice. The needle is dipped into the phial again and again, and the
opium adhering to the end roasted over the flame until an appreciable
quantity of the drug has accumulated on the end of the wire. He rolls
this accumulation, still on the end of the dipper, on the flattened top
of the pipe bowl, until it has acquired the desired shape, and then
thrusts the end into the orifice in the centre of the bowl, and twirling
the wire sharply round, withdraws it, leaving the opium in the orifice.
Now, taking the lower end of the pipe in his right hand, and the mouth
end of the pipe in his left, he applies the open end to his lips and
holding the bowl almost inverted over the top of the lamp begins to take
long inhalations, the smoke escaping through his nostrils. The little
plug of opium in the orifice crackles and burns in the heat of the flame,
and we notice that the smoker now and then scrapes towards the orifice
in the bowl, all the particles of opium which remain unburnt. He finally
clears the orifice by thrusting the wire into it several times, and
disconnects the bowl from the stem. We notice it contains an appreciable
quantity of black, evil-smelling opium residue. This is the “dross,”
carefully preserved by smokers, and later on boiled with raw opium to
which it is believed to add strength. We watch him smoke a few more
pipes, and eventually the pipe falls from his nerveless hands, and he
lies still. What are the dreams which flock through his mind? We do not
know, but Bayard Taylor in his book _India, China and Japan_ tells us of
his personal experience of the effects of opium smoking. It was his first
and last attempt, and his record is interesting. He says:—“To my surprise
I found the taste of the drug as delicious as its smell is disagreeable.
It leaves a sweet, rich, flavour, like the finest liquorice, upon the
palate, and the gentle stimulus it conveys to the blood in the lungs
fills the whole body with a sensation of warmth and strength. The fumes
of the opium are no more irritating to the windpipe or bronchial tubes
than common air, while they seem imbued with a richness of vitality far
beyond our diluted oxygen.

“Beyond the feeling of warmth, vigour, and increased vitality, softened
by a happy consciousness of repose, there was no effect until after
finishing the sixth pipe. My spirits then became joyously excited with
a constant disposition to laugh; brilliant colours floated before my
eyes, but in a confused and cloudy way, sometimes converging into
spots like the eyes in a peacock’s tail, but oftenest melting into and
through each other, like the hues of changeable silk. Had the physical
excitement been greater, they would have taken form and substance, but
after smoking _nine_ pipes I desisted, through fear of subjecting myself
to some unpleasant after-effects. Our Chinese host informed me that he
was obliged to take twenty pipes in order to elevate his mind to the
pitch of perfect happiness. I went home feeling rather giddy, and became
so drowsy, with slight qualms at the stomach, that I went to bed at an
early hour—after a deep and refreshing sleep, I arose at sunrise, feeling
stronger and brighter than I had done for weeks past.”




It is now proper that we should ask the question “Is opium the very
dreadful thing it is made out to be?” My answer is, yes and no. Anything
immoderately indulged in is bad for one. Over-eating, excess in smoking
and drinking, are all bad. There is such a thing as too much of even
a good thing. I am prepared to admit that excess in opium is worse
than most things; but as a choice between opium and drink, I consider
drunkenness to be the greater evil. It may be that it is more common,
and therefore responsible for more distress in the world than opium; but
opium does not, and can never, degrade as drink does, and a man does not
make a beast of himself with opium. It does not make a nuisance of a
man; it does not lead to violence and to murder as drink does. I do not
ask reformers to subscribe to this view. I express it as my own opinion,
founded as it is upon close acquaintance with numerous opium consumers,
and many drunkards.

What is it that reformers have to urge against opium? They will not admit
that opium in moderation does no great harm; they will not agree that the
degree of toleration varies in people. Let us take their contentions
_seriatim_, and see how they will stand against logical and informed

They say: (1) That opium in any degree induces physical degeneration.

I say, I have met men of wretched physique who are opium consumers, and
men of wretched physique who are not opium consumers. Also, I have met
giants in strength who are not opium consumers, and giants in strength
who are confirmed opium consumers. I will also say this, that among the
hard-working class of Indians and Burmans, such as coolies and porters,
the proportion of consumers to non-consumers is about equal, but I have
been able to observe no inferiority in capacity in the consumers, and
very often have found them superior. Those who wish to learn what the
powers of bodily endurance of an opium consumer may be are recommended to
read that very readable book “_An Australian in China_.”

(2) That the consumer is mentally inferior to his non-consuming brother.

This I qualify. It depends on the degree of indulgence, and unless this
is considered, it is not possible to argue. It is a proved fact that
the effect of opium is to quicken the perceptions, and stimulate the
imagination. Too often this is taken to be evanescent; and it is assumed
that the intellect weakens, and that, eventually, it is enfeebled beyond
chance of recovery. But if opium were not taken; in such a case, would
not advancing years bring about a like condition? Charles Lamb, who
drank more than was good for him, and Coleridge, who was an opium-eater,
complained that the effect of their particular “poisons” was to deprive
them of their capacity for singing when they awoke in the morning! Lamb
complained of this when he was forty-five, and Coleridge at the age of
sixty-three. Does anyone imagine they would have been able to “revive the
vivacities of thirty-five” if they had been always temperate men?

There is no doubt that, taken in large quantities, opium induces a
sluggishness, a lethargy, a stupor; but does not an unusually heavy meal
induce a torpor which is incompatible with any sort of intellectual
labour? I hold only with moderation.

(3) That indulgence in opium weakens the character and morals.

This applies with equal force to immoderation in most things. It does
not hold good of opium taken in moderation. To affirm this is a clear
indication of ignorance of the subject. Why, in the name of all that is
extraordinary, should a moderate dose of opium make a man a thief, or
a criminal, or a moral imbecile? Indians and Burmans, whose religion
forbids all manner of intoxicants, condemn their opium-eating brothers
to a sort of social ostracism, and when asked for a reason, say, “It is
against our religious tenets; and it is very bad in every way.” Such
uninformed statements are excusable in the unenlightened, but what of
those who ought to know, and who pride themselves upon their education
and reasoning faculties? They are as clamorous against opium and other
things in a more censurable ignorance of facts. Some who will not clear
their minds of cant, declaim against a glass of wine with all the fervour
and denunciation of fanatics, without rhyme, reason, or apprehension of
what they are talking about. In their more fluent and exuberant way,
when pressed for a reason, they tell us in effect that indulgence in
opium is “Against our religious tenets, and it is very bad in every
way.” It is time reformers recognised that opium is not such a dreadful
thing after all, and confined their attention, and devoted some of their
ample leisure, to winning back those who have gone over the limit of
moderation, instead of anathematizing them.

It is a pity that reformers do not pursue their propaganda along
reasonable and obvious lines, because they would have more supporters
and helpers if they did. To publish fulminatory pamphlets against the
opium evil, without having any experience of it at first hand beyond an
occasional hurried visit to an opium den, is worse than futile; and they
cannot hope to convince those who are really in a position, and qualified
to help them in their efforts. This is due to a profound ignorance of
facts, and a lot of people in India are responsible for the dissemination
of a lot of ill-digested nonsense. An enthusiast visits an opium den and
finds half a dozen Chinamen sprawled around, with as many opium pipes.
He does not know that these men have come in from a ten-hour day’s work.
He throws up his hands in pious consternation, and writes home about the
dreadful place he has visited, and of the horrors of intoxication he
witnessed there. The vividness of his description is modified only by the
amount of rhetoric at his command, and no one who has come into contact
with this sort of person will deny that he always has a vast store!

I once met a missionary, and in the course of conversation, we happened
upon the opium evil. He was eloquent, his views on the subject were
decided. In fact he was so decided in his views that I found it
impossible to convince him that what he described as the effects of opium
were really those symptomatic of an overdose of _bhang_. And yet, I have
little doubt that this person must have written home lurid accounts of
the opium evil, and the ruin and havoc it was causing. What reformers
ought to do is to cease memorializing Government to totally prohibit the
traffic, and try to help them more by taking an active part in checking
immoderation. Moderate indulgence in opium is less harmful in every way
than the habit of passing public resolutions and submitting memorials.

By the foregoing, I do not wish it to be surmised that I hold a brief
for the opium habit, or that I consider it a desirable thing. To be
a slave in any degree to anything is bad; the tobacco habit is bad;
the over-eating habit is bad. But opium comes in for too much of the
attention of religious propagandists, and the Government is taxed with
the charge of reaping revenue at the expense of the bodies and souls
of the people. This is a view it is the duty of anyone who knows the
subject intimately to correct. The Royal Commission on Opium in India,
which sat under the chairmanship of Lord Brassey, some thirty years ago,
collected a mass of evidence for and against opium which is unrivalled
in its extent and value. The conclusion come to by a majority of the
Commissioners was that opium in moderation did no great harm; and to
ensure moderation, they recommended a policy of close control. In
deference to popular opinion, and the religious scruples of the bulk of
Indians, they thought it desirable that the opium habit should eventually
be suppressed, and trusted that close control would, by attrition, bring
about this result.



Morphia, which is the active principle of opium, is interesting in its
being the first “alkaloid” to be discovered. Its basic nature was first
noticed by Serturner in 1816.

As a medicine, principally as an anodyne, morphia is to pharmacy what
chloroform is to surgery, and, as a “boon and blessing” to man in that
character, it is second to none. But like all good things in this world,
it has become the object of the grossest abuse at the hand of man; and
its devotees, in an euphonic sense, number hundreds of thousands.

Morphia is a narcotic; that is, it “has the power to produce lethargy or
stupor which may pass into a state of profound coma or unconsciousness,
along with complete paralysis, terminating in death.” The degree of
insensibility depends upon the strength of the dose; one-sixth of a
grain for an adult man, and one-tenth of a grain for an adult woman,
being the largest safe dose given hypodermically. Two or three grains
given by the stomach is dangerous. But, as with opium, the dose varies
with idiosyncrasy, and some can tolerate larger doses than others.
With habituation, some persons can take with impunity an amount of
morphia which would prove fatal to five or six healthy, full-grown
men. To have its full effect as an hypnotic or anodyne—and its power
as the one depends upon its potency as the other—morphia must be given

The possession of morphia by people other than medical men and chemists
is prohibited by law; and the rules governing its sale by chemists are
rigid and exact. They must account for every grain sold, and all entries
in their sales registers must be supported by prescriptions signed by
qualified medical men. Yet morphia injecting is more prevalent in cities
than the public is aware of; and it does not require a very penetrating
mind to discover that the morphia used by its unfortunate victims
comes from illicit sources—from the smuggler. There are, of course,
unscrupulous physicians, dentists, and quacks, who pander to the cravings
of some of their “patients” by administering regular injections; but we
are dealing here with the type of persons who do not call in doctors,
accommodating or otherwise. The ones I write about are catered for by an
organization which, in spite of the greatest efforts, has been found to
be unrepressible.


How do these people get their supplies? Let us go into a morphia den
unofficially, and take a glance at it in all its sordidity. We draw
aside a filthy sheet of cloth which does service as a curtain, and
enter a room about twenty feet square. It is dim almost to darkness;
but at the farther end, opposite the entrance door, we notice a wooden
partition which has a locked door in it, and near it a hole not unlike
the window of a box or ticket office. Through this hole a light is
seen, so we presume that there is someone behind the locked door in the
partitioned-off portion of the room. Looking round us, we see a row of
human figures, clad in the foulest rags, lying along the two sides of
the room, near the walls. Some are apparently asleep; actually, they are
drugged, overcome by the last injection of morphia. Others are about to
make themselves comfortable for a sleep, having just had an injection;
while some, too poor to afford the cost of another dose, are groaning and
whimpering with the combined agonies of some painful disease, and the
wearing off of the effects of the last injection. These accost everybody
that enters the den for the price of “just one little injection.”
They appeal to those who have endured the same pangs with which these
unfortunates are wracked. The appeal is to a real, live sympathy; and if
it can be spared, the required money is handed over.

One of these beings has not appealed in vain to a fellow votary who has
just entered the den in company with two companions, and the four make
their way to the hole in the partition, and in exchange for the coppers
handed in, a skinny hand passes out four little paper packets, each one
containing a dose of morphia powder. Let us peep through the hole, and
look at the owner of the skinny hand before following the four to the
place to which they have retired. It is a Chinaman, characteristically
lean, sitting at a rough table on which is a cigar box filled with paper
packets similar to those we saw being handed to the late purchasers. The
red and green ones contain morphia, the white cocaine (for he caters
for both classes, the injecters of morphia, and eaters of cocaine).
Looking up at the hole, he sees us, and thinking we are either excise
or police officers, he hastily gathers up his wares, and rushing to the
sanitary arrangement in the corner of his cubicle, empties them into
the receptacle, and pulling the chain, flushes away the incriminating
evidences of his occupation. Being assured that they are well on their
way to the sea through the sewer, he turns towards us with a “smile that
is child-like and bland,” and explains that he has “got nothing—all
gone—you can’t do nothing.” We explain that we had no intention of doing
anything, and were merely curious. Recollecting that he had heard no call
from his ever watchful colleague who stands by to give timely warning in
the event of a raiding party coming in sight, he admits that he has been
precipitate; but in no way disconcerted, he sends his colleague off to
some place best known to themselves, for a fresh supply of packets.

We now return to the four men who provided themselves with morphia two or
three minutes ago. We find them sitting in a ring round another fellow
who we learn is the operator. He possesses a hypodermic syringe. Let
us take and examine it. It is not the sort of thing one would expect to
find in a chemist’s show-case or a medical man’s pocket-case. This is a
weird instrument; the barrel a length of glass tubing; the plunger a bit
of knitting needle, whose plunging head consists of tightly wound rag,
and whose other end is topped with a conglomerate of sealing wax and
sewing thimble. Both joints are lumps of sealing wax, through the lower
of which an inch and a half of hollow needle projects. Handing back this
septic instrument to the operator, who, by the way, tells us that he gets
a copper for every injection he gives, he proceeds to empty the contents
of the packets into a small china egg-cup. Adding a modicum of water,
and stirring the mixture until a clear solution is formed, he takes up
some in the syringe, and one of the expectant waiters draws nearer him.
A search is made by the operator for a clear spot on the body of the
man, where a dirty needle has not already penetrated and caused a foul
sore, and after some search such a spot is found, _on the palm of the
hand_, and here the needle is introduced, and the contents of the syringe
discharged, after which the man operated on limps away to his place, and
lying down, is soon asleep. The next draws near, and having received his
share of the dose with the same needle, unsterilized and unwashed, he in
turn limps off; and so with the others.

Let us hope that the fell, loathesome, unnameable disease, from which
one at any rate of the four was too apparently suffering, has not been
introduced into the blood of the others by that death-dealing needle! But
it is a hope that we cannot think is justified; the means of propagation
employed are too certain to admit of any hope!

The foul and fetid atmosphere of the crowded room is almost overpowering,
in spite of the strong tobacco we smoke in our well-lit pipes, but we
will linger a little longer and take a glance at those who are lying
around like so many logs. Look at this one of them. What an object
lesson he is to impetuous youth! Thin to emaciation; his hair fallen off
in tufts; his nose almost eaten away; his body covered with sores and
ulcers. There is nothing to wonder at in this being taking morphia to
ease his pain of mind and body. Since death will not come, let him have
oblivion. It is better so.

Here we find a woman; she is a slattern if ever there was one.
Clean-limbed, in the sense that she has no sores on visible parts of her
body, she is nevertheless almost as certain a disseminator of disease and
misery as the foul needle. She wakes as we watch her, and in a drowsy
way, smiles; probably in a way she means to be fascinating, but we are
not under the effects of the delusive narcotic, so cannot be expected to
know! Suddenly a look of intelligence comes into her eyes, and realising
who we are, she gets up, and stumbles towards the door, and out on to the
street—on her way to _another_ den in all probability!


Here is another. An old, or rather, an old-looking man, shrivelled and
feeble. He is just awaking from his stupor. We ask him to get up, but he
is unable to do more than humbly indicate the reason for his inability
to do so. A glance, as the sheet which covers him is withdrawn from his
body, sends a thrill of horror through us, and we turn away sickened at
the sight; and the man—is he a man?—draws his cloth over his tattered
body, and tries to woo sleep again. This last sight is enough to send us
headlong into the fresh air and sunlight. If these are the results of
morphia, then God have mercy upon its votaries, for they stand sorely in
need of it!

Morphia is imported into the country in large quantities by smugglers,
the drug being brought from the British Isles, Japan, and the Continent
by members of the crews of steamers plying from these countries. As many
as 500 ounces of morphia have been seized in one consignment, and, as
it is generally admitted by those who are in position to know that for
every ounce seized, a pound passes through undetected, it only requires a
simple calculation to arrive at the approximate total quantity which is
hawked about unrestricted.

Morphia, being more portable and concentrated, is more easily concealed
than opium, which is comparatively bulky. Of the aggregate seizures
in any one year, seventy-five per cent. is made up of numerous small
seizures. To seize four or five ounces of the drug in one lot is rather
the exception than the rule; and seizure in larger quantities is a
comparatively rare event.

But it is comforting, in a way, to know that morphia, by the time it
reaches the consumer, is very often freely adulterated, starch being the
adulterant used; and when it is considered that morphia sold illicitly
fetches from five to six times its price when sold licitly, the increase
in its bulk which results after adulteration represents a handsome
additional profit to the vendor. The big smuggler imports the drug; his
lesser brother buys some from him and adulterates it; the den-owner buys
the mixture from the lesser light and he in turn adds a little more
starch to it; and finally “the man in the cubicle” retails the mixture to
the consumer.

There is little to be said in defence of the morphia habit. It is bad,
utterly bad, in itself, while it is a fertile disseminator of disease
when injected as it is. Morphia ruins a man, body and soul. As is the
case with opium, pain is a frequent originator of the habit, but its hold
upon the individual is, if anything, stronger than that exerted by opium,
and fatal consequences ensue with great certainty and rapidity.



In writing about cocaine, we find that interest lies not so much in
itself as in the plant of which it is the alkaloid, the “_erythroxylon

The coca plant is indigenous to Peru, and from the most ancient times,
Peruvian Indians have chewed the leaves as a habit, as Indians in this
country chew the betel leaf and tobacco. “The local consumption of coca
is immense,” says Dr. Hartwig, “as the Peruvian Indian reckons its
habitual use among the prime necessaries of life, and is never seen
without a leathern pouch filled with a provision of the leaves, and
containing besides a small box of powdered, unslaked lime. At least
three times a day he rests from his work to chew his indispensable coca.
Carefully taking a few leaves out of the bag, and removing their midribs,
he first masticates them in the shape of a small ball, which is called an
acullico; then repeatedly inserting a thin piece of moistened wood like a
tooth-pick into the box of unslaked lime, he introduces the powder which
remains attached to it into the acullico until the latter has acquired
the requisite flavour. The saliva, which is abundantly secreted while
chewing the pungent mixture, is mostly swallowed along with the green
juice of the plant.

“When the acullico is exhausted, another is immediately prepared, for one
seldom suffices. The corrosive sharpness of the unslaked lime requires
some caution, and an unskilled coca chewer runs the risk of burning
his lips, as, for instance, the celebrated traveller Tschudi, who, by
the advice of his muleteer, while crossing the high mountain-passes of
the Andes, attempted to make an acullico, and instead of strengthening
himself as he expected, merely added excruciating pain to the fatigues of
the journey.”

The poet Cowley succinctly describes the physical effects of coca in the
following lines:

  “Our Varicocha first this coca sent,
  “Endow’d with leaves of wondrous nourishment,
  “Whose juice succ’d in, and to the stomach tak’n
  “Long hunger and long labour can sustain
  “From which our faint and weary bodies find
  “More succour, more they clear the drooping mind,
  “Than can your _Bacchus_ and your _Ceres_ join’d.
  “Three leaves supply for six days’ march afford
  “The Quitoita with this provision stor’d
  “Can pass the vast and cloudy Andes o’er.”

“It is a remarkable fact,” Dr. Hartwig tells us, “that the Indians,
who regularly use coca, require but little food, and when the dose is
augmented, are able to undergo the greatest fatigues without tasting
almost anything else.” Professor Pöppig ascribes this astonishing
endurance to a momentary excitement which must necessarily be succeeded
by a corresponding collapse, and therefore considers the use of coca
absolutely hurtful. Tschudi, however, is of opinion that its moderate
consumption, far from being injurious, is, on the contrary, extremely
wholesome, and cites the examples of several Indians who, never allowing
a day to pass without chewing their coca, “attained the truly patriarchal
age of one hundred and thirty years.”

The effects of excess in coca chewing are given by Hill in his _Travels
in Peru and Mexico_. “The worst that can be said of the coca is its
effects upon the health of such of the Indians as use it in excess. It
then affects the breath, pales the lips and gums, and leaves a black mark
on either side of the mouth. Moreover, after some time, the nerves of the
consumer become affected, and a general langour is said to give plain
evidence of the sad consequences of excess.”

Another writer gives a more depressing picture of the excessive consumer:
“The confirmed coca chewer, or Coquero, is known at once by his uncertain
step, his sallow complexion, his hollow, lack-lustre black-rimmed eyes,
deeply sunk in the head, his trembling lips, his incoherent speech, and
his stolid apathy. His character is irresolute, suspicious, and false; in
the prime of life he has all the appearances of senility, and in later
years sinks into complete idiocy. Avoiding the society of man, he seeks
the dark forest, or some solitary ruin, and there, for days together,
indulges in his pernicious habit. While under the influence of coca, his
excited fancy riots in the strangest visions, now revelling in pictures
of ideal beauty, and then haunted by dreadful apparitions. Secure from
intrusion he crouches in an obscure corner, his eyes immovably fixed
upon one spot; and the almost automatic motion of the hand raising the
coca to the mouth, and its mechanical chewing, are the only signs of
consciousness which he exhibits. Sometimes a deep groan escapes from
his breast, most likely when the dismal solitude around him inspires
his imagination with some terrific vision, which he is as little able
to banish, as voluntarily to dismiss his dreams of ideal felicity. How
the Coquero finally awakens from his trance, Tschudi was never able to
ascertain, though most likely the complete exhaustion of his supply at
length forces him to return to his miserable hut.”

The coca plant has from ancient times been the object of religious
veneration by the Peruvian Indians, and although we have no historical
record to tell us when the use of coca was introduced, or who first
discovered its peculiar properties, we learn that when Pizarro destroyed
Athualpa’s Empire, he found that the Incas employed coca in their
religious ceremonies and sacrifices “either for fumigation, or as an
offering to the gods. The priests chewed coca while performing their
rites, and the favour of the invisible powers was only to be obtained by
a present of these highly valued leaves. No work begun without coca could
come to a happy termination, and divine honours were paid to the shrub

“After a period of more than three centuries, Christianity has not yet
been able to eradicate these deeply-rooted superstitious feelings, and
everywhere the traveller still meets with traces of the ancient belief in
its mysterious powers. To the present day the miners of Cerro de Pasco
throw chewed coca against the hard veins of the ore, and affirm that they
can then be more easily worked—a custom transmitted to them from their
forefathers who were fully persuaded that the Coyas, or subterranean
divinities, rendered the mountains impenetrable, unless previously
propitiated by an offering of coca. Even now the Indians put coca into
the mouths of their dead, to ensure them a welcome on their passage to
another world; and whenever they find one of their ancestral mummies,
they never fail to offer it some of the leaves.”

It is believed that the superstitions regarding coca were looked upon
with great disgust by the Spaniards, and that their efforts to stamp them
out did more to keep alive the enmity borne them by the Indians than
anything else.

The coca plant was first grown in Ceylon in 1870 when it was introduced
from Kew. It was grown there as a result of a suggestion made by Mr.
Joseph Stevenson who pointed out the commercial importance of the plant
in view of the separation of the alkaloid cocaine by Nieman in 1859; but
owing to the liability of the coca leaves to rapid deterioration after
picking in unfavourable climatic conditions, this branch of commerce
has not developed, and as yet no attempt has been made to extract the
alkaloid in India, in commercial quantities at any rate.

But no matter what might be said about coca-chewing, there can be no two
opinions about the dire and destructive effects of cocaine the alkaloid,
and the results of indulgence in this drug are truly deplorable. It may
be owing to something else in the coca leaves which ameliorates the full
effect of the alkaloid; in fact it must be so, because I doubt whether
even a confirmed cocaine consumer could find anything to say in its

The first notice of cocaine consuming appears to be that of Col. J.
Watson, who wrote in the _New York Tribune_ about cocaine-sniffing. He
writes: “I have visited some of the Negro bar-rooms in Atlanta, and
the proprietors told me that the cocaine-habit which had been acquired
by the Negroes, was simply driving them out of business. When the
cocaine-habit fixes itself on a person, the desire for liquor is gone,
the victim finding entire satisfaction in sniffing cocaine. By sniffing
cocaine up the nostrils it reaches the brain quicker, and the effect is
more lasting than if swallowed or administered by hypodermic injection.
Persons addicted to the habit say they have tried the two latter ways,
and that the effects are not the same, nor do they afford the same degree
of satisfaction and pleasure as when sniffed. Unquestionably the drug
rapidly affects the brain, and the result has been that, in the south,
the asylums for the insane are overflowing with the unfortunate victims.
After a person has habitually used the poison for a certain length of
time, he becomes mentally irresponsible. No man can use it long and
retain his normal mental condition. It is a brain-wrecker of the worst

Cocaine is a highly poisonous narcotic, and when rubbed on the skin,
or injected under it, deadens the surrounding parts, and renders them
insensible to pain. It is therefore much used in minor surgery, and in
ophthalmic and dental operations. As such, it replaces chloroform to some
extent. But, unfortunately, its highly stimulating effects, and its power
to allay hunger, have been taken advantage of by many thousands of people
who have made a habit of taking it, and Col. Watson’s description of the
dire results of cocaine-sniffing apply with equal force to those which
supervene on cocaine-injecting and cocaine-eating, vices that have spread
with alarming rapidity all over the civilized world.

The cocaine-habit is an unmixed vice. There is no excuse for it; not even
the excuse that the opium and morphia habits have, _viz._, accident; and
the person who takes to it, does so wilfully and deliberately. Cocaine
has a greater power over its votaries than either opium or morphia; the
after distress is keener; and a slave to it is a slave indeed. And the
harm it does, and the certainty with which it eventually kills, is truly


Extreme poverty is frequently a cause of the habit. The abject wretch
who becomes possessed of a few coppers, realizing that the amount will
be insufficient for a square meal, buys an innocent looking packet of
cocaine, and mixing it with a small quantity of the lime-paste used
by betel-chewers in their quids, smears the mixture on his gums, and
slowly swallows the saliva. Gone are the cravings for food; a feeling of
pleasant warmth suffuses his wasted body; he feels equal to any exertion.
Images are distorted to immense proportions; the stick he holds becomes a
club of huge dimensions, and he takes great pride in his ability to wield
it so easily; an empty jam-tin lying near assumes the proportions of a
five-gallon milk-can; and he takes great pleasure in showing his agility
in jumping high over the threshold of the door! In all, he considers
himself to be a very fine, powerful, prepossessing fellow indeed—until
the effects wear off, and he once more sets off to beg or steal the price
of another dose of this elevating narcotic.

I once knew a European who was addicted to this drug—he injected it—and a
more pitiable object it would be difficult to conceive. He was a dentist
by profession, and the last I heard of him was that he had died by his
own hand, a frequent termination of this habit, which produces in its
last stages, a sort of morbid, gloomy, mania or insanity in its victims.
This individual was the victim of all kinds of hallucinations, and under
the influence of the drug, was a fluent, and often convincing, liar.
He invested himself with numerous medical degrees; he went in terror of
imaginary assailants; and he had a fixed idea that his meagre belongings
were the envy of murderous burglars. So much so, that on more than one
occasion he fired off the revolver he carried by day, and placed under
his pillow by night, at imaginary intruders, to the no small risk of
other occupants of the house he lived in. The tales of personal adventure
he related, the accounts he gave of deadly combats with men twice his
puny size, his stories of his property and wealth at home, were the
wonder of all to whom he told them, and who were unable to discover in
him the characteristic effects of the fell drug cocaine.

We are unfortunately without complete information about cocaine, but we
know enough about it to realize that the habit is spreading with the
rapidity and devastating effects of a conflagration over the world. As
far as India and Burma are concerned, the law is stringent and severe,
and the Dangerous Drugs Bill, which was lately occupying the attention of
the Home Government, goes far on the road to bringing things at home into
line with India and Burma.

The Germans discovered a method by which cocaine can be manufactured
synthetically; and bogey hunters will discover a deep plot to undermine
the physique and morals of Indians when they are told that the synthetic
manufacture of cocaine is, to all intents and purposes, a state-aided
industry. It is classed as an industry, and as such receives the spirit
used in the preparation of the synthetic drug, duty-free. Ninety per
cent. of the cocaine imported into this country before the war came from

It would probably surprise the Darmstadt firm, which purveyed almost all
the cocaine that came to Burma, if they knew that their drachm-phials,
neatly capsuled, and labelled “Cocaine Hydrochloride,” ought really
sometimes to have been labelled “Antefebrin,” for that indeed is what
a great number that were seized by the authorities contained. In
appearance, cocaine and antefebrin are hard to distinguish from one
another; and for a long time the results of analyses led the authorities
to suppose that the manufacturers were defrauding their eastern
constituents; but the discovery of a complete plant consisting of phials,
labels, capsules, and a large quantity of antefebrin, eventually cleared
the name of the doubtless reputable manufacturers, and fastened the guilt
upon local swindling smugglers.



Like the poppy which is cultivated for opium, the hemp plant, _cannabis
sativa_, is grown for _ganja_, _bhang_, and _churrus_, all highly
intoxicating drugs; and for its bast fibre which makes such excellent

The history of the plant is interesting, but no more than a very brief
allusion to it is necessary here. The first mention of hemp occurs in
Chinese literature, about the twenty-eighth century, B.C., when the
hemp-seed is mentioned as one of the five or nine kinds of grain. It
is mentioned merely as a “sacred grass” in the _Athavaveda_ about 1400
B.C. But the narcotic properties of the plant, with which we are chiefly
concerned, do not seem to have been known until the beginning of the
fourteenth century A.D. In a Hindu play written about the sixteenth
century A.D., Siva brings down the _bhang_ plant from the Himalaya, and
gives it to the worshippers of himself. Of more recent evidence, we have
the statement of the Emperor Baber, who tells in his _Memoirs_ (1519
A.D.) of the number of times he had taken _Maajun_. John Lindsay, in his
_Journal of Captivity in Mysore_ (1781), relates how his soldiers were
made to eat _Majum_; and lastly, De Quincey, in his _Confessions of an
English Opium-Eater_, speaks of _Madjoon_, which he inaccurately states
is a Turkish name for opium.

The hemp plant belongs to the diœcious order of plants, of which the Hop
is another member. That is to say, the flowers, male and female, are
borne on separate shrubs. The male hemp plants die early, or are removed
by hand, an operation which requires expert knowledge of the two plants;
but the female is tended and looked after until the flowering tops are
developed. These are then collected and dried, and are called _ganja_.
The leaves, stalks and trash are collected, and this is called _bhang_;
while the resin (which is collected by hand, like opium, or sometimes,
made to adhere to the clothes, or special leather garments, or even the
skins of men who walk up and down among the growing plants and is then
scraped off and worked up into a mass by rolling and pressing) is called
_churrus_. This is really the active principle of the hemp. Its presence
in the flowering tops, leaves and stalks giving _ganja_ and _bhang_
their narcotic properties; and _churrus_ is therefore more potent in its
intoxicating effects than either _ganja_ or _bhang_.

_Ganja_ is a greenish-brown conglomeration of what looks like half-dried,
tightly pressed grass; _bhang_ is somewhat similar in appearance, but
looser in form; and _churrus_, the resin itself, is a greenish-brown,
moist mass. When it has been kept some time, it becomes hard, friable,
and of a brownish-grey colour. When it assumes this condition and
colour, it is inert. All have a characteristic, faintly pungent, odour,
and but slight taste. It is interesting to note that the word _churrus_
means a “bag” or “skin.” It is believed that the name was applied to the
drug from the skins or bags in which it used to be imported in olden
times, from Central Asia.

Indulgence in hemp in India is as common as betel-chewing and tobacco
smoking. It is, in one or other of its forms, either smoked, or eaten.
(The sweetmeat _Majum_, is compounded from _bhang_, honey, sugar, and
spices. Sometimes it is infused in cold water to which butter is added.
The butter in time takes up the active principle of the drug, and is
eaten.) And it is computed that the votaries of hemp, in one or other
of its many forms, number three millions! There is great diversity of
opinion as to whether hemp is gravely harmful to its consumers, or
whether it is merely an undesirable form of indulgence without any evil
permanent effects. The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, which examined the
whole question in detail, was of opinion that it was harmless if indulged
in moderately, but that the gravest results must follow upon intemperance
in its use. As regards its being a fruitful cause of insanity, the
evidence of alienists was taken, and the statistics of all the large
asylums for the insane in India were examined; but “only 7·3 per cent. of
lunatics admitted to asylums were those in which hemp could reasonably
be regarded as having been a factor of importance. Moreover, the form
of insanity produced yields readily to treatment,” and as hemp has not
got the same hold that opium has upon individuals, its discontinuance is
easily effected and immediate restoration of the mental faculties comes

The moderate use of _ganja_ increases the appetite, and produces a
condition of cheerfulness. In excess, hallucinations, and a sort of
delirium is excited, and it is in this aggravated state that a man may
“run amok.” This is the outstanding evil of the drug: to temporarily
madden a man. But, for the fatal consequences which often ensue from
running amok, people are apt to put the whole blame on the drug. May
it not, however, be that a man whose desire it is to become reckless
purposely resorts to the drug to hearten himself? I think it is very
likely. It is often discovered, after a man has run amok, that he has
for some time been broody or sulky, and suffering under some real or
imagined wrong. That he should get desperate, and take in excess what he
well knows to be is an excitant infinitely more powerful than alcohol, in
order to carry through what he has been longing for some time to do, is
not altogether unreasonable.

To digress from the subject immediately under discussion; it is common
in discussing crime and its connection with drink, to hear the view
expressed that drink is the cause of crime _primâ facie_; whereas it
often happens that a person intent on revenge cannot bring himself to
do his neighbour a mischief in cold blood and requires a little “Dutch
courage” to tune himself up to the pitch of not caring for consequences.
Too often the crime committed is the result of impetuosity; impetuosity
exacerbated by drink. We never hear of offences against property being
attributed to drunkenness; and yet, from the moral standpoint, the
deliberate commission of theft or robbery is evidential of greater
obliquity than the passionate striking of one’s enemy with whatever comes
to hand at the moment.

Medical Jurisprudence is crowded with instances in which hemp has been
employed in the commission of crimes. A single instance, which came
within the writer’s personal experience, will however suffice. The Civil
Surgeon of ... had gone out on tour leaving behind his wife and family
of three small boys. The bedroom occupied by Mrs. Blank adjoined that
usually occupied by the doctor, which contained a large, heavy iron
safe in which was Mrs. Blank’s jewellery and a large sum of money. That
night, Mrs. Blank and the children retired to bed at the usual hour;
but upon waking in the morning, she felt unrefreshed and languid. The
children complained of a like feeling. Going into her husband’s room,
Mrs. Blank was shocked to find that the safe had disappeared, one of its
heavy massive handles lay wrenched off upon the floor, and a twisted gun
barrel near by had too apparently been used ineffectually as a lever. An
alarm was raised, and the police called in. Mrs. Blank averred that the
safe was too large and heavy for fewer than six powerful men to carry
down stairs. That she had been drugged there could be no doubt; she had
slept and the children had slept through the night undisturbed, and it
was impossible to conceive how they could otherwise have done so, with
evidences of such noisy activities abundant in the next room. The safe
was never found, and the culprits were never brought to book; but the
discovery of a small patch of cultivated hemp, on some land belonging to
a man servant who was in the Civil Surgeon’s employ at the time of the
burglary, made the case clear, and the servant’s complicity morally, if
not judicially, certain.



Three men, one under the effects of alcohol, one under the effects of
opium, and the last under the effects of hemp, arrived one night at the
closed gates of a city. “Let us break down the gates,” said the alcohol
drinker in a fury of rage, “I can do it with my sword!” “Nay,” said the
opium eater, “We can rest here outside in comfort till the morning, when
the gates will be opened, and we may enter.” “Why all this foolish talk?”
whined the one under the effects of hemp. “Let us creep in through the
key-hole. We can make ourselves small enough!”



It is doubtful whether there is a more valuable drug in the Materia
Medica than opium. Fundamentally, it is the dried juice of the _Papaver
Somniferum_ or white poppy, and although all varieties of poppy are
capable of producing opium, the best comes from the white, and it is this
variety that is systematically cultivated for the world’s supply of opium.

Opium has been the cause of at least one war, namely, the war between
England and China, and a perusal of the accounts of piracy in the eastern
seas during the sixteenth century affords numerous instances of pitched
battles between traders and pirates whose one object seems to have been
to get possession of valuable cargoes of opium.

The cultivation of the poppy, as a garden flower at any rate, was
certainly practised as far back as eight hundred years before Christ.
Homer, who lived between 800 B.C. and 700 B.C.[6] mentions it in his
Iliad.[7] Cornelius Nepos also mentions the poppy in Italy; when Tarquin
indicated to the envoy sent to him by his son Sextus Tarquinius, what he
wanted done to the chief inhabitants of Etruria, by striking down all the
tallest poppies in his garden.[8]

Hippocrates, who lived in the fifth century before Christ, and who is
famous as the founder of Greek medical literature, is the first to
mention poppy juice, and the virtues of the poppy were undoubtedly known
to him; but the physical effects of opium were not definitely mentioned
until the first century before Christ, when Vergil, who lived from 70
B.C. to 19 B.C., writes of the “Poppy pervaded with Lethean sleep,”[9]
and the “Sleep-giving poppy.”[10] It may be mentioned in passing, that in
Greek mythology Lethe is a river that flows through the regions of the
dead, the waters of which, if drunk by anyone, cause oblivion in regard
to their past existence.

In the first century after Christ, opium was known as a medicine.
Opium is mentioned by this name by Pliny[11] and by Dioscorides[12]
both of whom lived in this century and its soporific effect was well
known. The poppy was cultivated for opium on the eastern shores of the
Mediterranean, and as the bulk of the trade between Europe and the Indies
passed through these countries, it is certain that this drug, whose value
was known, must have formed a part of the trade, though not, perhaps, to
such a great extent as to attract attention.

Early in the seventh century after Christ, the religion of Islam was
established in Arabia. By the commandments of this new religion the
use of alcohol was absolutely forbidden, and it is supposed that those
who had been used to alcohol began to use opium and hemp drugs as
substitutes, the fact that these two drugs were not explicitly mentioned
being sufficient sanction, apparently, for their use. It seems certain
that with the spread of Islamism, the use of opium as a stimulant became
more widely diffused. The Arabs were at that time, to all intents and
purposes, masters of the eastern seas. They made long voyages, and
carried on a trade with India and China, and from contemporary literature
it has been definitely established that it was the Arabs that introduced
the poppy, and a knowledge of its properties, into China. It is probable
that opium was used as a stimulant in India also, at this time, but
nothing is definitely known about this, and the history of the production
and use of the drug before the sixteenth century is obscure. There are
many indications, however, that the opium habit came into India in the
eighth century, when the Arabs invaded and conquered Sind; and as the
habit spread with the wanderings of the Arabs, there is much in the
surmise. From this time, up to the end of the eleventh century, the
Mahomedan invaders brought the greater part of India under their rule
or influence, and in Portuguese Chronicles, written in the sixteenth
century, the cultivation of the poppy, the opium habit, the production of
opium, and its export are talked of as established things. Authorities
on India conclude, from the inherent reluctance of the Indian to rapidly
adopt new habits or crops, that the opium habit, and the cultivation of
the poppy for opium, must have taken at least three hundred years or so
to develop over such large areas.

The Portuguese discovered the Cape route to India in 1488, but it was
not till ten years later that they first crossed the Indian Ocean and
appeared on the west coast of India. They visited all important places
on the coasts, and the great Islands of the Malay Archipelago, and
established themselves in many places. They were not welcome, however,
and were treated as intruders by Oriental traders. Many and fierce were
the encounters between the Moors, and Arabs, and the intruders, who were,
in the greater number, buccaneers and pirates rather than merchants.
Numerous references to opium occur in the literature of those times.
Vespucci mentions “opium, aloes, and many other drugs too numerous to
detail” in a list of the cargo carried by Cabral’s fleet from India to
Lisbon in 1501. In 1511 Giovanni da Empoli mentions the capture of
eight Gujarat ships laden with opium and other merchandize; and in a
letter written in 1513 by Albuquerque to the King of Portugal, he says
“I also send you a man of Aden who knows how to work afyam (opium) and
the manner of collecting it. If Your Highness would believe me, I would
order poppies of the Açores to be sown in all the fields of Portugal and
command afyam to be made, which is the best merchandize that obtains in
these places, and by which much money is made; owing to the thrashing
which we gave Aden no afyam has come to India, and where it once was
worth 12 pardoes a faracolla, there is none to be had at 80. Afyam is
nothing else, Senhor, but the milk of the poppy; from Cayro (_sic_)
whence it used to come, none comes now from Aden; therefore, Senhor, I
would have you order them to be sown and cultivated, because a shipload
would be used yearly in India, and the labourers would gain much also,
and the people of India are lost without it, if they do not eat it;
and set this fact in order, for I do not write to Your Highness an
insignificant thing.”

Duarte Barbosa[13] (1516) makes several references to opium:—

    Duy (Diu): “They load at this port of the return voyage cotton
    ... and opium, both that which comes from Aden, and that which
    is made in the kingdom of Cambay, which is not so fine as that
    of Aden.”

    Peigu (Burma): “Many Moorish ships assemble at these ports of
    Peigu, and bring thither much cloth of Cambay and Palecate,
    coloured cottons and silks, which the Indians call patola,
    which are worth a great deal here; they also bring opium,
    copper ... and a few drugs from Cambay.”

    Ava: “The merchants bring here for sale quicksilver, vermilion,
    coral, copper ... opium, scarlet cloth and many other things
    from the kingdom of Cambay.” D’Orta described Cambay opium
    as yellowish, while the Aden variety was black and hard, and
    apparently the better liked kind.[14]

A Dutchman named Linschoten,[15] in an account of his travels and
voyages, in 1596, gives an exaggerated account of the effects of opium.
He says: “Amfion, so called by the Portingales, is by the Arabians, Mores
(Moors) and Indians called affion, in Latin, opio or opium. It cometh out
of Cairo in Egypt, and out of Aden upon the coast of Arabia, which is the
point of the land entering into the Red Sea, sometimes belonging to the
Portingales, but most part out of Cambaia, and from Deccan; that of Cairo
is whitish and is called Mecerii; that of Aden and the places bordering
upon the mouth of the Red Sea is blackish and hard; that which come from
Cambaia and Deccan is softer and reddish. Amfion is made of sleepeballs,
or poppie, and is the gumme which cometh forth of the same, to ye
which end it is cut up and opened. The Indians use much to eat Amfion,
specially the Malabares, and thither it is brought by those of Cambaia
and other places in great abundance. He that useth to eate it must eate
it daylie, otherwise he dieth and consumeth himself. When they begin to
eate it, and are used unto it, they eate at the least twenty or thirty
grains in weight everie day, sometimes more; but if for four or five days
he chanceth to leave it, he dieth without fail. Likewise he that hath
never eaten it, and will venture at the first to eate as much as those
that daylie use it, it will surely kill him, for I certainly believe it
is a kind of poyson. Such as use it goe alwaise as if they were half
asleepe. They eate much of it because they would not feel any great
labour or unquietness when they are at work, but they use it most for
lecherie ... although such as eate much thereof, are in time altogether
unable to company with a woman and whollie dried up, for it drieth and
whollie cooleth man’s nature that use it, as the Indians themselves do
witness. Wherefore it is not much used by the nobilitie, but only for the
cause aforesaid.”

Cæsar Fredericke,[16] a Venetian merchant, who travelled extensively in
the East, writes, about 1581, an account of his voyages and some of his
ventures: “And for because that at my departure from Pegu opium was in
great request, I went then to Cambay, to employ a good round summe of
money in opium, and there I bought sixty parcels of opium which cost me
2,000 and 100 duckets, every ducket at 4 shillings 2 pence....” It is
interesting to note that one Ralph Fitch,[17] who travelled in the East
from 1583 to 1591, visited Burma, or Pegu as it was called by voyagers
then, writes that opium from Cambay and Mecca was in great demand. These
references, and a great many more could be given, go to show that by the
sixteenth Century opium was not only well known, but formed an important
item of maritime trade in the East.

By 1612, the English and Dutch East India Companies had been formed.
The Dutch had established a trading post or factory at Surat, from
which they were afterwards expelled by the English Company, and both
Companies had factories on the Hughli in Bengal. They were not friends,
and often fought, but they combined against the Portuguese and Spaniards
who had appeared on the scene a hundred years before, and who looked
upon all trade from India round the Cape as their monopoly. By the
beginning of the seventeenth century the Portuguese had lost almost all
their possessions in India to the Dutch, and their trade had weakened
and diminished to a point which rendered them almost negligible as
competitors in trade. At this time, several European nations granted
monopolies of trade to the Indies, and the French and the Danes now came
on the scene. It was found impossible, however, to keep out private
individuals who sought to set up trading factories on their own account,
despite monopolies, and swarms of these adventurers came in to trade
in all the valuable articles of merchandize, including opium. They
looked upon force as their only law, and their depredations on the seas
perpetrated against the Indian sailors brought about the speedy decay of
the old native sea-trade.

Although the English Company established a predominance over the Dutch
in general trade, the latter maintained a lead in the trade in opium.
They exported it to Ceylon, Malacca and the Straits, and it has been
ascertained from contemporary chronicles that the Dutch had attempted to
arrange with Indian Princes to monopolize the export trade of opium to
China. In this, however, they failed, for the Portuguese, who had always
had a monopoly of the export of Malwa opium, still held possession of
their ports on the Cambay Gulf, and so were in a favourable situation for
this trade.

In those days, as in these, Europeans did not come out to the East for
the sake of their health. They came out with only one object, and
that was to make money. Times have not changed since then. It was not
unnatural therefore that they should look about for as speedy a means
of amassing a fortune as possible, and found opium. Opium was to be got
cheap in exchange for the merchandize with which trading ships came laden
to the East. It was portable and durable, and as it was in great demand
in the countries east of India it constituted an excellent substitute for
money with which were purchased silks, tea, spices and pepper for which
there was a great demand in Europe. It is probable that this demand for
opium stimulated production and increased the output of opium in India,
specially since the entry of the Europeans into the field of commerce
in Eastern waters killed the native sea-trade which used to bring opium
from Turkey. This increase in the output of opium must not be held to
indicate an increase in consumption, as has been made out by some. On
the contrary, it may be inferred that a decrease was brought about by
the introduction of tobacco in the seventeenth century. When tobacco was
unknown and the use of alcohol prohibited to Mahomedans, and looked upon
as disgraceful by Hindoos, it is likely that the opium habit was more
widely prevalent.

There was little change in the condition of affairs during the greater
part of the eighteenth century, but a gradual increase in the demand from
China about the middle of this century came about from the substitution
of opium smoking for the smoking of tobacco.

The next stage in the history of the subject begins with the occupation
of Bengal by the British East Indies Company in 1758, but it is first
necessary to briefly outline how matters stood prior to it in connection
with the production and sale of opium under Moghul administration.

No restrictions were imposed upon the cultivation of the poppy, and
the agriculturist was as free to cultivate it as any other crop. He
could sell his opium to whom he pleased, though generally he sold it
to the money-lender who advanced him the money with which to begin
cultivation ... a practice which obtains to this day in places to which
the co-operative movement has not as yet spread. The opium produced was
made over to the money-lender at a fixed price, but the rate at which
the money-lender disposed of this opium was regulated only by the demand
by European traders, and high prices were obtained. It is very natural
that the native rulers of the day should have wished to participate to
some extent in the huge profits made by these private traders, and a
system was introduced by which a certain part of the profits on opium
was paid into the State treasuries. This was willingly paid, as the
burden was borne by the cultivator. As soon as the system came into
force, the money-lenders formed a ring, and regulated the price paid by
them for opium to cultivators, and took care to fix it at such a rate
that the State demand did not deplete their own purses too much. As time
went on, the confusion of the Moghul Empire, which began and ended, in
the quarrels of Suraj-ud-Dowlah, did away to some extent with these
rings, but custom and tradition are so strong in India, particularly
when supported by men of substance, that when we occupied Bihar, a ring
of wealthy opium dealers were found to be exercising an unauthorised
monopoly in Patna opium which we were in too insecure a position to break.

This is how matters stood. But for some time before, the general
confusion of the Moghul Empire, and its weakened authority, brought about
a state of turmoil and disorder which obliged European merchants to raise
troops, and convert their factories into garrisoned fortresses. Clive’s
victory over Suraj-ud-Dowlah at Plassey in 1757, however, brought things
to a head, and established the British Company as military masters in
Bengal. Suraj-ud-Dowlah was dethroned, and Mir Jaffer was set up in his
place, the administration being confided to him under the general control
of the Company. But this form of dual government resulted only in the
oppression of the people, and general maladministration. The servants of
the Company had always been allowed the privilege of private trade, and
in this state of affairs they had unique opportunities for trading with
the greatest advantage to themselves. Opium was, of course, exploited to
the full, and when, what was known as the Patna Council, a number of the
Company’s servants, whose business it was to look after the Company’s
interests in Patna, discovered the existence of the opium ring, they were
not long in appropriating its functions, and the very solid financial
advantages it possessed. It is, perhaps, as well to explain that all this
was done for the benefit of the several members of the Patna Council,
and not on behalf of their employer. But the Council found that to avoid
trouble it was necessary to admit the Dutch and French Company’s servants
who were naturally anxious to share in this unauthorized trade, and they
very wisely admitted them, but to a minor share only.

In 1773, Warren Hastings was made the first Governor-General, and one
of the first reforms he undertook was the suppression of private trade
among the Company’s servants, and of all irregular and unauthorised
monopolies. When the Patna opium monopoly came to be examined, it was
found to involve important considerations, and, after a full discussion
in Council, it was decided not to set it free, but to make it a source of
revenue to the State. It is to be expected that there were many against
this, and various arguments were offered against the measure, but these
were met satisfactorily; the Moghul monopolies had existed for years,
and there was nothing novel in the creation of one properly regulated.
Besides, the cultivators would be better treated, and would be less at
the mercy of private traders and interlopers. The argument that if left
free, more opium would be produced, was answered by Warren Hastings
holding that increase was undesirable in the case of a pernicious luxury.
Strangely enough, a strong line of opposition was taken by Francis, who
was against all monopolies on general principles, and by the Board of
Directors of the British East India Company, on the score of its being a
form of oppression. They suggested leaving the trade free, subject to a
Customs duty. His non-compliance with these instructions was one of the
articles of Warren Hastings’ impeachment later: “That this monopoly was
a despotic interference with the liberty of the ryot, and that he should
have complied with the Directors’ suggestion.”

The working of this new monopoly did not differ in essentials from the
old form. The opium was collected from the cultivators by a contractor,
but instead of its being handed over to the Patna Council, it was taken
to Calcutta, where the bulk of it was sold by auction to the highest
bidder. The balance was divided between the Dutch, French, and the
commercial side of the British East Indies Companies at average auction

The revised conditions under which this new State monopoly worked ensured
the best opium coming into the Company’s hands. It also did away with
“middle-men,” and all the profits which would have gone to cultivators
if they had been allowed free trade. It is not unnatural, therefore,
that some one should conceive the idea of securing the profits made
by the sea-traders as well. In 1775, the revenue officers of Patna
estimated that if the Dutch and French were kept out of the trade, 33,000
chests of Bengal and Bihar opium would be available for export, and
suggested that the Company should export this to China, where it could
be sold at an immense profit. The letter was considered in Council,
but the suggestion was dropped by common consent without discussion.
Warren Hastings, however, suggested an alternative of direct official
agency, to the exclusion of the contractor, but this motion was lost by
a majority, and the matter was closed. But in 1781 a state of affairs
arose in which the Company found itself sadly short of money. We were
at war with the French, Dutch, and Spaniards, at sea, and with Hyder
Ali and the Maharattas on land. In consequence our ports were closed
to foreign trade, the seas were not safe for ships flying the British
flag, and all available merchant ships were employed in carrying grain
and other supplies to Madras. Opium was unsaleable at Calcutta. It was
under such conditions that it was decided to export opium to China,
and, accordingly, the ‘_Nonsuch_’ with 2,000 chests, was sent to the
supercargoes at Canton, and the ‘_Betsey_’ with 1,450 chests to the
Straits of Malacca. A loan of 10 lakhs of rupees was raised on the cargo
of the ‘_Betsey_,’ to be repaid by bills of exchange on the Company from
the Canton supercargoes. Another loan of 10 lakhs was raised from the
public on the cargo of the ‘_Nonsuch_’ on similar terms. The ‘_Betsey_,’
after disposing of part of her cargo to advantage, was captured by the
French and Dutch. The cargo of the ‘_Nonsuch_’ was disposed of at a
loss after much difficulty on account of the prohibition of the import
of opium by the Chinese, and on account of the “immense quantities” of
opium brought to Macao by Portuguese ships before the arrival of the
‘_Nonsuch_.’ The loss on this venture was 69,973 dollars.

The Board of Directors, on hearing of this venture, which was undoubtedly
an exception to the course of policy pursued by the East India Company
in regard to the trade, while holding that there was no objection to the
sale of opium in the Straits of Malacca, condemned the action of its
representatives in exporting opium to China, where the import of opium
was prohibited, as being beneath the dignity of the Company.

No more opium was exported to China, and the working of the monopoly
remained unchanged until it was reformed, and the system of direct
official agency was introduced by Lord Cornwallis. This system has
remained in force up to the present.

_Malwa Opium._—The first factory established by the British East Indies
Company on the West Coast of India was at Surat in 1613. The Portuguese
and Dutch had already established themselves here, and all of them
participated in the opium trade to some extent. The Dutch were eventually
expelled by the British who, as the Moghul power diminished, and the
Maharattas became the rulers, assumed a commanding political position.
But owing to their having a minor share in the territories along the
coast, the major portion belonging to native princes and the Portuguese,
although they could participate in the trade in Malwa opium, they were
unable to assume a monopoly.

By the end of the eighteenth century, the State monopoly in Bengal had
been firmly established, and good prices were being got for export opium.
It was with a certain amount of apprehension therefore that they looked
upon the trade in Malwa opium from the West Coast, and in 1803, this
apprehension developing into something stronger, an order was issued
prohibiting the export of Malwa opium from the Bombay ports. In 1805,
the Bombay Government was asked to prohibit the cultivation of the poppy
within the territories, some of which were newly acquired; but this
order was demurred to, and the Directors concurred, holding that the
cultivation was for opium for local consumption only, and not for export,
and therefore unobjectionable.

At this time smuggling was rife. There were many routes, some very
circuitous, by which the opium could be got to the sea-coast without
trespassing upon the territories of the Company, but after 1818, when
the third Maharatta war resulted in our getting possession of the whole
of the Bombay sea-coast except Sind, how to get to the sea was a problem
which confronted smugglers with increased complexity. But even so, the
authorities were always faced with the danger of smuggled opium competing
with Bengal opium and lowering its price. Treaties were therefore entered
into with some of the States which had most reason to be grateful to us,
by which they undertook to prohibit the export of the opium produced in
their possessions, to check the cultivation of the poppy, and to sell
what opium was produced to the agents of the Company at a certain fixed
price. The arrangement did not differ materially from the system adopted
in Bengal. But there were other States, such as Scindia and Jeypore,
which refused to enter into alliances on these terms, and a time came
when those who had signed treaties began to look upon the conditions they
had agreed to as repressive. Merchants, who had been dispossessed of
their profits by this system, were greatly in its disfavour, and there
was no doubt about the disapproval of these measures by cultivators who
were deprived of all the advantages of a competitive trade. In 1829 it
was therefore decided to abandon this system in lieu of another, which
required that a certain transit duty be paid on all opium passing through
British territory to Bombay for export to China. This transit or pass
duty was fixed at Rs. 175 a chest, but it varied, rising as it did in
1892 to Rs. 600 a chest. This system still exists in regard to Malwa

All the details of legislation and regulation which concern this subject
certainly come within the scope of this note, but their sketchy
treatment is made necessary by considerations of space. A relation of
the Chinese aspect would fill a volume, and no attempt is made here to
describe it. But I feel that this note would not be complete without some
reference to Burma.

That the use of opium was known in Burma long before British rule was
introduced is evident from the records of Fitch and of Cæsar Fredricke,
who visited Burma in the latter half of the sixteenth century. From the
records of the Dutch East India Company also, Burma, it is seen, was
looked upon as a good market for opium. It is very probable, therefore,
that the luxury use of opium was practised by the Burmese people. The
Buddhist religion prohibits the use of all intoxicants, and the edicts,
issued by the State from time to time against their use, and later on,
against opium in particular, appear to have been inspired by the Buddhist
hierarchy. But it does not appear that the import of opium into Burma
was prohibited by any measure of State prior to its annexation by the
British. In the enquiry of 1891, Mr. Norton, Commissioner of Irrawaddy,
wrote that, before the annexation of Pegu in 1852, although capital
punishment was prescribed for Burmans found with opium, yet opium was
plentiful and easy to get at a cheaper rate than when he was writing.
Several respectable Burmese gentlemen who were consulted during 1878
admitted that opium was freely used always.

Arakan and Tenasserim were annexed in 1826 after the first Burmese
war and were attached to the Bengal Presidency for the purposes of
administration under the Deputy Governor of Bengal, and it was not until
1862 that they, along with Pegu, were formed into the province of British
Burma under the Chief Commissioner, Sir Arthur Phayre.

In 1826, the retail sale of opium in Bengal was conducted under the
farming system. By this system certain tracts were farmed out to selected
persons either by tender or by auction. These farmers were obliged to
purchase Excise opium from the Government opium factories at a fixed
price, which included the cost price and duty. This system was extended
to Arakan and Tenasserim. As time went on, this system of opium farms
was found to be bad and was replaced by the issue of free licenses
to respectable persons. As Arakan was in a favourable position for
smuggling, this system of free licenses was introduced there also, but
Tenasserim, which did not afford the same facilities for smuggling, was
allowed to retain the old system. That the system was unsatisfactory,
chiefly on account of its tendency to cheapen opium, is apparent from a
statement made by an old inhabitant of Akyab to Colonel Strover during
the inquiry of 1891 that he had seen Government opium hawked about for
sale in the streets during the early days of British rule. In 1864 Sir
Arthur Phayre strongly condemned this new system, and in 1865 he drew
up a set of rules which were brought into effect in 1866. The spirit
of these rules is observed up to the present day in regard to the limit
placed upon the quantity of opium which may be purchased by a licensee
during a year for sale at his shop.

How things stood in Upper Burma at this time can be inferred from a
report made to the Government of India by Sir Charles Crosthwaite under
date 20th March, 1888. “On our taking over the country, stringent rules
were enacted and somewhat rigorously enforced against the sale of
opium. Many Chinese were flogged and otherwise punished for engaging in
a traffic which, although it may have been nominally prohibited, was
allowed to go on under the Burmese Government.” From the statement of
an official of the Burmese Government it would appear that the Burmese
Government never openly recognized the opium traffic in Upper Burma;
those persons only were punished who sold opium to Burmans. The Burmese
Government admitted the existence of the traffic by levying customs dues
on all opium imported into Upper Burma. In 1872, the British Political
Agent reported that large quantities of Shan and Yünnan opium were being
imported into Upper Burma and also smuggled. A Mr. Adams, of the American
Baptist Mission, who was at Mandalay from 1874 to 1879, states that
the _pôngyis_ took great pains to suppress the consumption of opium by
Burmans, with the hearty support of King Mindon, who was a great zealot
in religion, much under the influence of the priesthood, and active in
supporting every endeavour to enforce the law of prohibition. But this
law was personal to the Burmans, and not a territorial law. Other races
were under no restrictions in the matter of opium or liquor, and when
our troops took Mandalay in 1885, enormous stores of opium were found
secreted in the houses of Chinese merchants who said that they sold it
regularly to Burmans. It is true that under King Thebaw’s rule most of
King Mindon’s edicts became dead letters, and even _pôngyis_ became
addicted to opium.

The opium question attracted much interest, both locally and in England.
The Anti-Opium Society took it up and much correspondence took place,
which resulted in the total prohibition of opium to Burmans in Upper
Burma and the rigid restriction of issues to them in Lower Burma. The
reason for this is concisely put by Sir A. Mackenzie, Chief Commissioner
of Burma, in a Minute: “I do not believe that opium in India or China
does any great harm to the majority of those who use it, _i.e._, to
moderate smokers and eaters. But here, in Burma, we are brought face to
face with the fact that the religion of the people specifically denounces
the use of the drug; that their native kings treated its use as a heinous
offence; that these ideas are so deeply rooted in the minds of the
people that every consumer feels himself to be, and is, regarded by his
neighbours as a sinner and a criminal; that the people are by temperament
pleasure-loving and idle and easily led away by vicious indulgences;
that they have little self-restraint and are always prone to rush into
extremes. When a Burman takes to drink or opium he wants to get drunk or
drugged as fast as he can, or as often as he can. All this seems to me to
point to the necessity of special treatment.”


[1] For a full account of the history of opium, see the Appendix at the
end of the book.

[2] One tola is equivalent to 180 grains. Eighty tolas equal one _seer_.

[3] Government does not vend opium directly to the people. A selected
“licensee” undertakes this under the supervision of a Government officer,
usually an Excise Inspector.

[4] _Chandoo_, the Indian name for prepared or clarified opium used in
smoking. The Burmese name for it is _Beinsi_.

[5] Three tolas is 540 grains, or 1½ oz.

[6] Mahaffy, “History of Classical Greek Literature,” 1-81.


    “Down sank his head, as in a garden sinks
    A ripened poppy charg’d with vernal rains;
    So sank his head beneath his helmet’s weight.”

Iliad. (Lord Derby’s translation, VIII.)

[8] “Huic, nuntio, quia, credo, dubiæ fidei videbatur, nihil voce
responsum est, Rex, velut deliberabundus, in hortum ædium transit,
sequente nuntio filii: ibi inambulans tacitus, sum apapaverum capita
dicitur baculo decussisse.” Livy i., 54.

[9] “Lethæo perfusa papavera somno.” Georg.: i, 78.

[10] “Soporiferumque papaver.” Aeneid: iv, 486.

[11] “Natural History.”

[12] “Materia Medica.”

[13] “The Coasts of East Africa and Malabar,” by Duarte Barbosa.
Translated from the Spanish and edited for the Haklvyt Society by the
Hon’ble H. E. J. Stanley in 1866.

[14] Paper by Dr da Cunha in the transactions of the Medical and Physical
Society of Bombay, 1882.

[15] “Discourse of voyages unto ye Easte and West Indies.”

[16] “Haklvyt’s voyages,” Volume IX, Asia, Part II.

[17] “Haklvyt’s voyages,” Volume X, Asia, Part III.

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