24 APRIL 1920, Page 13



Sia,—With reference to Mr. John H. Harris's letter on this subject, it is a curious fate that, after working for the sup- pression of the trade in opium for forty years, I should have to warn your readers against some one who denounces it. Miss La Motte's book, which has stirred up Mr. Harris, was no doubt written with a high moral purpose, but it is most unfor- tunate that it should be the result of a superficial acquaintance with the subject—if I may be permitted to say it, the work of a " globe-trotter." On her own confession, this lady knew absolutely nothing about the opium curse until she took a trip to the East in 1916. During a year's tour she picked up a knowledge of certain unpleasant facts, and Blue Books and history supplied the rest. But it is more unfortunate still that her insufficient information should have been given to the world at a time when it is an international duty to maintain the friendliest relations with Great Britain.

What is tine use of raking up the discreditable story of our

wrongdoing between, say, 1820 and 1906 ? It is as foolish as it would be for us to blame America to-day for its policy in regard to slavery in the past. It took three generations and a war to convince America that slavery was a grave evil—without a Divine sanction, as half her people believed. And it took three generations to open the eyes of Britain to the iniquity of her

Indo-Chinese opium trade. We e.onf.sised our error when Parliament, by a unanimous vote on May 39th, 190t3, passed a resolution " that the trade in opium between India and China is morally indefensible, and ought to be brought to an end at as early a date as possible." We then encouraged China to clear her fields of poppy, by engaging to send less opium fu,ni India through ten years (the reduction to be pari passu) until the trade should be extinct. This took place on March 31st, 1917. That there was an aftermath of difficulty of many kinds, in the struggle of mongrel aliens who had become British subjects to maintain their foul profits, was only to be expected; but these difficulties and obstructions have for the most part been gradually cleared away.

The fault of Miss La Motte's hook is, on the one side, that

it denounces us for wrongs which have been righted. For instance, the chapter headed " Shanghai " is wholly out of date; and the three British firms which were sending morphia in vast quantities to Japan, for introduction by the Japanese into China, have sent none in that direction for three years. But the offence on the other side is more serious—the omission of matters vital to the subject at the present hour. She is unaware that the Indian Government's auction sales of opium In Calcutta are reduced from 25,000 chests (averaging 130 lb. each) to 3,600 chests, and that when certain agreements with the Straits Settlements, Siam, Borneo, the Dutch Netherlands, and Hong Kong run out the auction sales will cease. Nor is she aware that the Indian Government has sent no opium to China since 1913, and that it is doing its utmost to prevent illicit sales and smuggling, refusing to- sell any to private traders. Nor does she know that India is a signatory to the Covenant of the League of Nations, rbich has a Sub-Committee to deal with the suppression of opium and its derivatives. Worst of all, there is no reference in her book to the Hague International Opium Convention of January, 1912. This is amazing, and would be unpardonable, were it not that apparently she knows nothing about it. Forty-eight nations are, or are to be, signa- tories to the Convention, whose recommendation is that opium shall be produced, exported, or imported only in the quantity needed by the medical faculty of each nation.

That is the crux of the position at the moment. It is for that we are working. Legislation in all the forty-eight States will have to be promoted in order not merely to deal with illicit trading in these drugs but to cut off the supply at its source.

At the same time we have to continue our protest against the misuse of its acreage by the Indian Government, and its lending of money (without interest) to the Indian ryots to grow poppy. Also the contracts with certain Colonies ought to be broken at once in pity to mankind. And we must somehow ban the production of opium in Turkey, Persia, and Arabia. which is as great as in India—another fact which Miss La Motte seems not to know. The world must unite, through the Hague Convention and the League of Nations, to cut off the

supply. What Divine Providence intended to be one of i t.s greatest blessings to the human race has, through folly and greed, become one of its greatest evils.—I am, Sir, Sc., E. J. Mates,

Hon. Secretary, Society for the Suppression of the Opium Trads. Friern Barnet.