First Opium War
Overview
 
The First Anglo-Chinese War (1839–42), known popularly as the First Opium War or simply the Opium War, was fought between the United Kingdom
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 and the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 of China over their conflicting viewpoints on diplomatic relations, trade, and the administration of justice. Chinese officials wished to stop what was perceived as an outflow of silver and to control the spread of opium
Opium
Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy . Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine...

, and confiscated supplies of opium from British traders.
Encyclopedia
The First Anglo-Chinese War (1839–42), known popularly as the First Opium War or simply the Opium War, was fought between the United Kingdom
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 and the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 of China over their conflicting viewpoints on diplomatic relations, trade, and the administration of justice. Chinese officials wished to stop what was perceived as an outflow of silver and to control the spread of opium
Opium
Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy . Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine...

, and confiscated supplies of opium from British traders. The British government, though not denying China's right to control imports, objected to this seizure and used its newly developed military power to enforce violent redress. In 1842, the Treaty of Nanking
Treaty of Nanking
The Treaty of Nanking was signed on 29 August 1842 to mark the end of the First Opium War between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Qing Dynasty of China...

—the first of what the Chinese later called the unequal treaties
Unequal Treaties
“Unequal treaty” is a term used in specific reference to a number of treaties imposed by Western powers, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, on Qing Dynasty China and late Tokugawa Japan...

—granted an indemnity
Indemnity
An indemnity is a sum paid by A to B by way of compensation for a particular loss suffered by B. The indemnitor may or may not be responsible for the loss suffered by the indemnitee...

 to Britain, the opening of five treaty ports
Treaty ports
The treaty ports was the name given to the port cities in China, Japan, and Korea that were opened to foreign trade by the Unequal Treaties.-Chinese treaty ports:...

, and the cession of Hong Kong Island
Hong Kong Island
Hong Kong Island is an island in the southern part of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It has a population of 1,289,500 and its population density is 16,390/km², as of 2008...

, thereby ending the trade monopoly of the Canton System
Canton System
The Canton System served as a means for China to control trade with the west within its own country. Seen from the European view, it was a complement to the Old China Trade.-History:...

. The failure of the treaty to satisfy British goals of improved trade and diplomatic relations led to the Second Opium War
Second Opium War
The Second Opium War, the Second Anglo-Chinese War, the Second China War, the Arrow War, or the Anglo-French expedition to China, was a war pitting the British Empire and the Second French Empire against the Qing Dynasty of China, lasting from 1856 to 1860...

 (1856–60). The war is now considered in China as the beginning of modern Chinese history.

Background

From the inception of the Canton System
Canton System
The Canton System served as a means for China to control trade with the west within its own country. Seen from the European view, it was a complement to the Old China Trade.-History:...

 by the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 in 1756, trade in goods from China was extremely lucrative for Europeans and Chinese merchants alike. The system granted a monopoly to the British East India Company
British East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

, on one side, and the Thirteen Hongs on the other, and maritime trade was only allowed to take place in Canton (Guangzhou
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

). Foreigners could only live in one of the Thirteen Factories
Thirteen Factories
The Thirteen Factories was an area of Canton , China, where the first foreign trade was allowed in the 18th century since the hai jin ban on maritime activities...

, on Shameen Island
Shamian Island
Shamian Island , formerly known as Shameen Island or Shamin Island, from its Cantonese pronunciation, is a sandbank island in the Liwan District of Guangzhou city, Guangdong province, China...

, and were not allowed to enter, much less live or trade in, any other part of China. The Emperor decreed "China is the center of the world and has everything we could ever need and that all Chinese products were to be bought with Silver." Hence it became impossible for the British to import the same low-value manufactured consumer products to China as they traded in India, and which the average Chinese person could afford to buy.

Tea experienced an ever growing demand, while acceptance of only silver in payment by China for tea resulted in large continuous trade deficits. A trade imbalance came into being that was highly unfavorable to Britain. The Sino-British trade was dominated by high-value luxury items such as tea
Tea
Tea is an aromatic beverage prepared by adding cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant to hot water. The term also refers to the plant itself. After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world...

 (from China to Britain) and silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

 (from Britain to China), to the extent that European specie
Currency
In economics, currency refers to a generally accepted medium of exchange. These are usually the coins and banknotes of a particular government, which comprise the physical aspects of a nation's money supply...

 metals became widely used in China. Britain had been on the gold standard
Gold standard
The gold standard is a monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is a fixed mass of gold. There are distinct kinds of gold standard...

 since the 18th century, so it had to purchase silver from continental Europe and Mexico to supply the Chinese appetite for silver. Attempts by the British (Macartney
Macartney Embassy
The Macartney Embassy, also called the Macartney Mission, was a British embassy to China in 1793. The Mission ran from 1792–94 . It is named for the first envoy of Great Britain to China, George Macartney, who led the endeavour...

 in 1792), the Dutch (Van Braam in 1794), Russia (Golovkin in 1805) and the British yet again (Amherst in 1816) to negotiate access to the China market were vetoed by the Emperors, each in turn.

By 1817, the British hit upon counter-trading in a narcotic, Indian opium
Opium
Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy . Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine...

, as a way to both reduce the trade deficit and finally gain profit from the formerly money-losing Indian Colony. The Qing Administration originally tolerated the importation of opium because it created an indirect tax on Chinese subjects, while allowing the British to double tea exports from China to England which profited the monopoly for tea exports of the Qing imperial treasury & its agents. Opium was produced in traditionally cotton-growing regions of India under British East India Company
British East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 monopoly (Bengal
Bengal
Bengal is a historical and geographical region in the northeast region of the Indian Subcontinent at the apex of the Bay of Bengal. Today, it is mainly divided between the sovereign land of People's Republic of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, although some regions of the previous...

) and in the Princely states (Malwa) outside the company's control. Both areas had been hard hit by the introduction of factory produced cotton cloth, which used cotton grown in Egypt. The opium was sold on the condition that it be shipped by British traders to China. Opium as a medicinal ingredient was documented in texts as early as the Tang dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 but its recreational use
Recreational drug use
Recreational drug use is the use of a drug, usually psychoactive, with the intention of creating or enhancing recreational experience. Such use is controversial, however, often being considered to be also drug abuse, and it is often illegal...

 was limited and there were laws in place against its abuse
Drug abuse
Substance abuse, also known as drug abuse, refers to a maladaptive pattern of use of a substance that is not considered dependent. The term "drug abuse" does not exclude dependency, but is otherwise used in a similar manner in nonmedical contexts...

.

It was with the mass quantities introduced by the British motivated by the equalisation of trade that opium became prevalent. British sales of opium in large amounts began in 1781 and between 1821 and 1837 sales increased fivefold. East India Company ships brought their cargoes to islands off the coast, especially Lintin Island, where Chinese traders with fast and well armed small boats took the goods for inland distribution. However, by 1820 the planting of tea in the Indian and African colonies along with accelerated opium consumption reversed the flow of silver, just when the Imperial Treasury needed to finance suppression of rebellions against the Qing. The Qing government attempted to end the opium trade, but its efforts were complicated by local officials (including the Viceroy of Canton), who profited greatly from the bribes and taxes.

A turning point came in 1834. Free trade reformers in England succeeded in ending the monopoly of the British East India Company, leaving trade in the hands of private entrepreneurs. Americans introduced opium from Turkey, which was of lower quality but cheaper. Competition drove down the price of opium and increased sales. In 1839, the Daoguang Emperor
Daoguang Emperor
The Daoguang Emperor was the eighth emperor of the Manchurian Qing dynasty and the sixth Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1820 to 1850.-Early years:...

 appointed Lin Zexu
Lin Zexu
Lín Zéxú ; 30 August 1785 – 22 November 1850) was a Chinese scholar and official during the Qing Dynasty.He is most recognized for his conduct and his constant position on the "high moral ground" in his fight, as a "shepherd" of his people, against the opium trade in Guangzhou...

 as the governor of Canton with the goal of reducing and eliminating the opium trade. On his arrival, Lin Zexu banned the sale of opium, demanded that all opium be surrendered to the Chinese authorities, and required that all foreign traders sign a 'no opium trade' bond the breaking of which was punishable by death. Lin also closed the channel to Canton, effectively holding British traders hostage in Canton. The British Superintendent of Trade in China, Charles Elliot
Charles Elliot
Sir Charles Elliot, KCB , was a British naval officer, diplomat, and colonial administrator. He became the first administrator of Hong Kong in 1841 while serving as both Plenipotentiary and Chief Superintendent of British Trade in China...

, got the British traders to agree to hand over their opium stock with the promise of eventual compensation for their loss from the British government. (This promise, and the inability of the British government to pay it without causing a political storm, was an important cause for the subsequent British offensive). Overall 20,000 chests (each holding about 55 kg) were handed over and destroyed beginning 3 June 1839. Following the collection and destruction of the opium, Lin Zexu wrote a "memorial" (折奏/摺奏) to Queen Victoria
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....

 in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the trade of opium, as it had "poisoned" thousands of Chinese civilians (the memorial never reached the Queen).

Kowloon incident (July 1839)

After the chest seizure in April the atmosphere grew tense and at the end of June the Chinese coast guard in Kowloon arrested the commodore of the Carnatic, a British clipper. On Sunday, 7 July 1839, a large group of British and American sailors, including crew from the Carnatic, was ashore at Kowloon
Kowloon
Kowloon is an urban area in Hong Kong comprising the Kowloon Peninsula and New Kowloon. It is bordered by the Lei Yue Mun strait in the east, Mei Foo Sun Chuen and Stonecutter's Island in the west, Tate's Cairn and Lion Rock in the north, and Victoria Harbour in the south. It had a population of...

, a provisioning point, and found a supply of samshu, a rice liquor, in the village of Chien-sha-tsui (Tsimshatsui). In the ensuing riot the sailors vandalised a temple and killed a man named Lin Weixi. Because China did not have a jury trial system or evidentiary process (the magistrate was the prosecutor, judge, jury and would-be executioner), the British government and community in China wanted "extraterritoriality
Extraterritoriality
Extraterritoriality is the state of being exempt from the jurisdiction of local law, usually as the result of diplomatic negotiations. Extraterritoriality can also be applied to physical places, such as military bases of foreign countries, or offices of the United Nations...

", which meant that British subjects would only be tried by British judges. When the Qing authorities demanded the men be handed over for trial, the British refused. Six sailors were tried by the British authorities in Canton (Guangzhou
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

), but they were immediately released after they reached England. Charles Elliot's authority was in dispute; the British government later claimed that without authority from the Qing government he had no legal right to try anyone, although according to the British Act of Parliament that gave him authority over British merchants and sailors, 'he was expressly appointed to preside over ' Court of Justice, with Criminal and Admiralty Jurisdiction, for the trial of offences committed by His Majesty's subjects in the said Dominions or on the high seas within one hundred miles of the coast of China'".

The Qing authorities also insisted that British merchants not be allowed to trade unless they signed a bond, under penalty of death, promising not to smuggle opium, agreeing to follow Chinese laws, and acknowledging Qing legal jurisdiction. Refusing to hand over any suspects or agree to the bonds, Charles Elliot ordered the British community to withdraw from Canton and prohibited trade with the Chinese. Some merchants who didn't deal in opium were willing to sign the bond, thereby weakening the British trading position.

War

In late October the Thomas Coutts arrived in China and sailed to Guangdong
Guangdong
Guangdong is a province on the South China Sea coast of the People's Republic of China. The province was previously often written with the alternative English name Kwangtung Province...

. This ship was owned by Quakers who refused to deal in opium, and its captain, Smith, believed Elliot had exceeded his legal authority by banning trade. The captain negotiated with the governor of Canton and hoped that all British ships could unload their goods at Chuenpee, an island near Humen
Humen Town
Humen Town , also known as Taiping, is a town within the borders of Dongguan city, on the eastern side of the Bocca Tigris on the east bank of the Pearl River Delta, in Guangdong province, southern China...

. In order to prevent other British ships from following the Thomas Coutts, Elliot ordered a blockade of the Pearl River
Pearl River (China)
The Pearl River or less commonly, the "Guangdong River" or "Canton River" etc., , is an extensive river system in southern China. The name Pearl River is usually used as a catchment term to refer to the watersheds of the Xi Jiang , the Bei Jiang , and the Dong Jiang...

. Fighting began on 3 November 1839, when a second British ship, the Royal Saxon, attempted to sail to Guangdong. Then the British Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 ships HMS Volage and HMS Hyacinth
HMS Hyacinth (1829)
|HMS Hyacinth was an 18-gun Royal Navy sixth-rate sloop. She was launched in 1829 and surveyed the north-eastern coast of Australia under Francis Price Blackwood during the mid 1830s. She took part in the First Opium War, destroying, with HMS Volage, 29 Chinese junks...

 fired a warning shot at the Royal Saxon. The official Qing navy's report claimed that the navy attempted to protect the British merchant vessel and also reported a great victory for that day. In reality, they were out-classed by the Royal Naval vessels and many Chinese ships were sunk. Elliot reported that they were protecting their 29 ships in Chuenpee between the Qing batteries. Elliot knew that the Chinese would reject any contacts with British and there would be an attack with fire boats. Elliot ordered all ships to leave Chuenpee and head for Tung Lo Wan, 20 miles (32.2 km) from Macau
Macau
Macau , also spelled Macao , is, along with Hong Kong, one of the two special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China...

, but the merchants liked to harbour in Hong Kong. In 1840, Elliot asked the Portuguese governor in Macau to let British ships load and unload their goods at Macau and they would pay rents and any duties. The governor refused for fear that the Qing Government would discontinue to supply food and other necessities to Macau. On 14 January 1840, the Qing Emperor asked all foreigners in China to halt material assistance to the British in China. In retaliation, the British Government and British East India Company
British East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 decided that they would attack Guangdong
Battle of Canton
The Second Battle of Canton was fought between British and Chinese forces in Canton, China, in May 1841 during the First Opium War.-Background:...

. The military cost would be paid by the British Government.
Lord Palmerston, the British Foreign Secretary, initiated the Opium War in order to obtain full compensation for the destroyed opium. The war was denounced in Parliament as unjust and iniquitous by young William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone FRS FSS was a British Liberal statesman. In a career lasting over sixty years, he served as Prime Minister four separate times , more than any other person. Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister, 84 years old when he resigned for the last time...

, who criticised Lord Palmerston's willingness to protect an infamous contraband traffic. Outrage was expressed by the public and the press in the United States and United Kingdom as it was recognised that British interests may well have been simply supporting the opium trade.
In June 1840, an expeditionary force of 15 barracks ships, 4 steam-powered gunboats and 25 smaller boats with 4000 marines reached Guangdong from Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

. The marines were headed by James Bremer
James Bremer
Sir James John Gordon Bremer, KCB, KCH , was a British Royal Navy officer. He served in the Napoleonic Wars, First Anglo-Burmese War, and First Anglo-Chinese War. In China, he served twice as commander-in-chief of British forces.Born in Portsea, England, Bremer joined the Royal Navy in 1794...

. Bremer demanded the Qing Government compensate the British for losses suffered from interrupted trade. Following the orders of Lord Palmerston, a British expedition blockaded the Mouth of Pearl River
Bocca Tigris
The Bocca Tigris, Bogue, or Humen is a narrow strait in the Pearl River Delta, Guangdong, People's Republic of China, where the Pearl River discharges into the South China Sea. The strait is formed by the islands of Chuenpee and Anunghoy on the eastern side and Tycocktow on the western side...

 and moved north to take Chusan
Zhoushan
Zhoushan or Zhoushan Archipelago New Area; formerly transliterated as Chusan, is a prefecture-level city in northeastern Zhejiang province of Eastern China. The only prefecture-level city of the People's Republic of China consisting solely of islands, it lies across the mouth of the Hangzhou Bay,...

. Led by Commodore J.J. Gordon Bremer in , they captured the empty city after an exchange of gunfire with shore batteries that caused only minor casualties.

The next year, 1841, the British captured the Bogue forts which guarded the mouth of the Pearl River — the waterway between Hong Kong and Canton, while at the far west in Tibet
Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

 the start of the Sino-Sikh war
Sino-Sikh War
The Sino-Sikh War or Sino-Dogra War was fought from May of 1841 to August of 1842 between the Qing Empire and the forces of the Sikh governor of Jammu, Gulab Singh, after he invaded western Tibet. The Dogra army was routed and the Qing counterattacked but were defeated in Ladakh...

 added another front to the strained Qing military. By January 1841, British forces commanded the high ground around Canton and defeated the Chinese at Ningbo
Ningbo
Ningbo is a seaport city of northeastern Zhejiang province, Eastern China. Holding sub-provincial administrative status, the municipality has a population of 7,605,700 inhabitants at the 2010 census whom 3,089,180 in the built up area made of 6 urban districts. It lies south of the Hangzhou Bay,...

 and at the military post of Dinghai.

By the middle of 1842, the British had defeated the Chinese at the mouth of their other great riverine trade route, the Yangtze
Yangtze River
The Yangtze, Yangzi or Cháng Jiāng is the longest river in Asia, and the third-longest in the world. It flows for from the glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai eastward across southwest, central and eastern China before emptying into the East China Sea at Shanghai. It is also one of the...

, and were occupying Shanghai. The war finally ended in August 1842, with the signing of China's first Unequal Treaty
Unequal Treaties
“Unequal treaty” is a term used in specific reference to a number of treaties imposed by Western powers, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, on Qing Dynasty China and late Tokugawa Japan...

, the Treaty of Nanking
Treaty of Nanking
The Treaty of Nanking was signed on 29 August 1842 to mark the end of the First Opium War between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Qing Dynasty of China...

.

Legacy

The ease with which the British forces had defeated the numerically superior Chinese armies seriously affected the Qing Dynasty's prestige. The success of the First Opium War allowed the British to resume the opium trade in China. It also paved the way for opening of the lucrative Chinese market to other commerce and the opening of Chinese society to missionary endeavors.

Among the most notable figures in the events leading up to military action in the Opium War was the man that Daoguang Emperor
Daoguang Emperor
The Daoguang Emperor was the eighth emperor of the Manchurian Qing dynasty and the sixth Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1820 to 1850.-Early years:...

 assigned to suppress the opium trade; Lin Zexu
Lin Zexu
Lín Zéxú ; 30 August 1785 – 22 November 1850) was a Chinese scholar and official during the Qing Dynasty.He is most recognized for his conduct and his constant position on the "high moral ground" in his fight, as a "shepherd" of his people, against the opium trade in Guangzhou...

, known for his superlative service under the Qing Dynasty as "Lin the Clear Sky". Although he had some initial success, with the arrest of 1,700 opium dealers and the destruction of 2.6 million pounds of opium, he was made a scapegoat for the actions leading to British retaliation, and was blamed for ultimately failing to stem the tide of opium import and use in China. Nevertheless, Lin Zexu is popularly viewed as a hero of 19th century China, and his likeness has been immortalised at various locations around the world.

The First Opium War was the beginning of a long period of weakening of the state and civil revolt in China, and long-term depopulation. In 1842, China's population was over 400 million, of whom at least 2 million were opium users. By 1881 the country's population was less than 370 million, of which as many as a third made regular use of opium.

See also

  • Second Opium War
    Second Opium War
    The Second Opium War, the Second Anglo-Chinese War, the Second China War, the Arrow War, or the Anglo-French expedition to China, was a war pitting the British Empire and the Second French Empire against the Qing Dynasty of China, lasting from 1856 to 1860...

  • Anglo-Chinese relations
    Anglo-Chinese relations
    British–Chinese relations , also known as Sino-British relations and Anglo-Chinese relations, refers to the interstate relations between China and the United Kingdom. Although on opposing sides of the Cold War, both countries were allies during World War II, and are members of the UN...

  • Sino-Sikh war
    Sino-Sikh War
    The Sino-Sikh War or Sino-Dogra War was fought from May of 1841 to August of 1842 between the Qing Empire and the forces of the Sikh governor of Jammu, Gulab Singh, after he invaded western Tibet. The Dogra army was routed and the Qing counterattacked but were defeated in Ladakh...

     (1841-1842)
  • William Jardine (surgeon)
    William Jardine (surgeon)
    William Jardine was a Scottish physician and merchant. He co-founded the Hong Kong conglomerate Jardine, Matheson and Company. From 1841 to 1843, he was Member of Parliament for Ashburton as a Whig....

  • William John Napier, 9th Lord Napier
  • Forbes family
    Forbes family
    The Forbes family is a wealthy extended American family originating in Boston. The family's fortune originates from trading between North America and China in the 19th century plus other investments in the same period. The name descends from Scottish immigrants, and can be traced back to Sir John...

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