Image – 1. Thomas Handasyd Perkins, smuggler, slave trader, founder of Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Perkins School for the Blind, and Mass General Hospital, 2. Warren Delano II, Grandfather to 32 president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 3. Robert Bennet Forbes, Ancestor to presidential hopeful John Kerry

While British smugglers made up the lion’s share of opium trade into China during the 19th century, the most prolific culprits being William Jardine and James Matheson, American smugglers also played a role in this drug epidemic that led to millions of drug addicts in China. When England attacked China to force it to continue buying the drug when they didn’t want anymore, it resulted in the Opium Wars.

You might be surprised to learn the identities of some of these American smugglers. The most notable was Warren Delano II, who was the grandfather of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, our beloved 32nd President!  Warren Delano II was the head of Russell & Company, the most prominent American company in the China trade at the peak of the opium trade, and he profited tremendously from it.  What would history look like if FDR had not benefitted from his family wealth? It allowed him to run for president and all that wealth originating from opium smuggling.

Another notable American opium smuggler was Thomas Handasyd Perkins, a slave trader in Haiti who became the biggest smuggler of Turkish opium into China.  His conscience must have caught up to him as he went on to found the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Perkins School for the Blind, and he co-founded Massachusetts General Hospital.

Robert Bennett Forbes was another American opium smuggler, and he happens to be an ancestor to one John Forbes Kerry…yes, the same John Kerry who was Secretary of State under President Obama and who ran for president in 2004.  

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