Chapter 4: The British East India Company
Today, in the world of corporations, it would appear as though there are millions of different corporations, private businesses, foundations, limited liability companies, etc., all with their varying laws and by-laws, and tax related status. However, few people realize that every single one of these “registered” corporations is really a subsidiary of another larger corporation. Just as 7 UP is really owned by Coca Cola, every corporation in this country is a subsidiary directly or indirectly of a much, much, larger corporation. There are reasons why the United States and Great Britain can traffic drugs all over the world without repercussion, while everyone else that attempts to get into the business, gets put away in jail.
Buckminster Fuller designed the Geodesic Dome, and is a very intelligent, well read and studied sociologist. In his book Critical Path, Fuller has this to say about the first flag proposed for America: “In our tracing of the now completely invisible power structures it is important to note that, while the British Empire as a world government lost the American Revolution, the power structure behind it did not lose the war. The most visible of the power structure identities was the East India Company, an entirely private enterprise, whose flag as adopted by Queen Elizabeth in 1600 happened to have 13 red and white horizontal stripes with a blue rectangle in its upper left-hand corner. The blue rectangle bore in red and white, the superimposed crosses of St. Andrew and St. George.”
“When the Boston Tea Party occurred, the colonists dressed as Indians boarded the East India Company’s three ships and threw overboard their entire cargoes of high-tax tea. They also took the flag from the masthead of the largest of the ‘East Indiamen,’ the Dartmouth. George Washington took command of the U.S. Continental Army under an elm tree in Cambridge, Mass. The flag used for that occasion was the East India Company’s flag, which by pure coincidence had the 13 red and white stripes. Though it was only coincidence, most of those present thought the 13 red and white stripes did represent the thirteen American colonies– ergo, was very appropriate– but they complained about the included British flag’s superimposed crosses in the blue rectangle in the top corner. George Washington conferred with Betsy Ross, after which came the thirteen white, five-pointed stars in the blue field with the 13 red and white horizontal stripes. While the British government lost the 1776 war, the East India Company’s owners who constituted the invisible power structure behind the British government not only did not lose but moved right into the new U.S. economy along with the latter’s most powerful landowners.” (1)
Here we continue with Fuller, from Critical Path: “By pure chance I happened to uncover this popularly unknown episode of American history. Commissioned in 1970 by the Indian government to design new airports in Bombay, New Delhi and Madras, I was visiting the grand palace of the British fortress in Madras, where the English first established themselves in India in 1600. There I saw a picture of Queen Elizabeth I and the flag of the East India Company of 1600 A.D., with its 13 red and white horizontal stripes and its super-imposed crosses in the upper corner. What astonished me was that this flag (which seemed to be the American Flag) was apparently being used in 1600 A.D., 175 years before the American Revolution. Displayed on the stairway landing wall together with the portrait of Queen Elizabeth I painted on canvas, the flag was painted on the wall itself, as was the seal of the East India Company. The supreme leaders of the American Revolution were of the southern type. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Both were great landowners with direct royal grants for their lands, in contradistinction to the relatively meager individual landholdings of the individual northern Puritan colonists.” (2)
(1) Critical Path, Buckminster Fuller, p. 78-79
(2) Critical Path, p. 79
The following was taken from the Encyclopedia Britannica:
“East India Company, also called English East India Company, formally (1600–1708) Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies or (1708–1873) United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies, English company formed for the exploitation of trade with East and Southeast Asia and India, incorporated by royal charter on December 31, 1600. Starting as a monopolistic trading body, the company became involved in politics and acted as an agent of British imperialism in India from the early 18th century to the mid-19th century. In addition, the activities of the company in China in the 19th century served as a catalyst for the expansion of British influence there.”
“Beginning in the early 1620s, the East India Company began using slave labour and transporting enslaved people to its facilities in Southeast Asia and India as well as to the island of St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean, west of Angola. Although some of those enslaved by the company came from Indonesia and West Africa, the majority came from East Africa—from Mozambique or especially from Madagascar—and were primarily transported to the company’s holdings in India and Indonesia. Large-scale transportation of slaves by the company was prevalent from the 1730s to the early 1750s and ended in the 1770s.”
“After the mid-18th century the cotton-goods trade declined, while tea became an important import from China. Beginning in the early 19th century, the company financed the tea trade with illegal opium exports to China. Chinese opposition to that trade precipitated the first Opium War (1839–42), which resulted in a Chinese defeat and the expansion of British trading privileges; a second conflict, often called the Arrow War (1856–60), brought increased trading rights for Europeans. … it ceased to exist as a legal entity in 1873.” (3)
The early history of the East India Company and its existence of the reign of the Stuarts is covered in an article titled, The East Indian Monopoly:
“The East India Company was founded in 1600 through a charter granted by Queen Elizabeth.
… It is important to note that the legal foundation for the East Indian monopoly was weak. The original charter from Queen Elizabeth allowed any privileges to be voided by the Monarch with two years notice and with little justification (Scott 1912, p. 92). Therefore, it is not surprising that the Company’s first directors tended to be closely connected to the monarch, and were part of the governing coalition.
… At the start of the King James I reign in 1603 the Company’s monopoly appeared secure. But it quickly became apparent that the Stuart monarchs would not honor the terms of the charter. King James I, and later King Charles I, regularly authorized ‘interloper’ traders to enter the East Indian market. This section details these events and argues that the Stuart’s actions were linked with their need for revenues and to reallocate rents to an evolving coalition of supporters.
… The 1620s marked the beginning of a prolonged period in which the monarchy tried to extract revenues from the East India Company.”
From here the author describes a period of years in which the East India Company made loans to King Charles and parliament of England. Charles II renewed the charter in 1662. These loans helped finance the Second Anglo Dutch War (1665-67) and Third Anglo Dutch War (1672-74). Competing companies were petitioning the crown for rights alongside the East India Company’s exclusive trading rights. These were often granted if the amount of money offered was felt to be worthwhile to the crown.
Continuing from The East Indian Monopoly:
… The Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 is thought to be a watershed moment in the evolution of Britain’s institutions because it gave parliament greater political authority and increased the security of property rights (North and Weingast 1989). While there may be some truth to this view, in the case of the East India Company, the Glorious Revolution looks similar to earlier regime changes in which interlopers were emboldened by a weakening in the Company’s political connections. What was different is that interlopers came to be allied with a powerful political party, the Whigs. Also, in the short-term, the Glorious Revolution greatly increased the King’s need for loans because it led to an expensive war with France.” (4)
(4) The East Indian Monopoly and the Transition from Limited Access in England, 1600-1813 – Dan Bogart – Associate Professor Department of Economics UC Irvine – http://www.socsci.uci.edu/~dbogart/eicnber_oct42016.pdf
Freemasonry and the BEIC
We learn about the early connection of Freemasonry to the British East India Company from a book titled The Constitution Book of 1723 on English Freemasonry printed in 1888 cited by Simon Deschamps:
“From the very origins of its creation, freemasonry turned its attention to the ‘wider world’ as shown by the contents of its Constitutions (Anderson 63). This may explain why it was so closely associated to the British Empire. In India, masonic lodges spawned in the wake of the trading agreements and territorial expansion carried out by the East India Company. Thirteen years only separate the creation of the Grand Lodge of England, the first masonic governing body, from the constitution of the first lodge on the Indian subcontinent. In 1729, Captain Ralph Farrwinter, an officer of the East India Company, was appointed Provincial Grand Master for East India in Bengal, and warranted the first Indian lodge East India Arms, No. 72, based in Fort William, Calcutta (Firminger 6). From there, and as the British secured their position across the Indian subcontinent, freemasonry spread to the presidencies of Madras and Bombay where Provincial Grand Lodges were formed in 1752 and 1758, respectively. (5)
This next extract comes from a publication titled Merchant and Masonic Networks in Eighteenth-Century Colonial India by Simon Deschamps:
“The three main Indian centres of Masonic activity were now in play. Many lodges came into being and the majority of the members were merchants, soldiers, and sometimes administrators of the East India Company, including several governors. Some lodges were entirely composed of merchants. Lodge Perfect Unanimity No. 150, for instance, met in Madras and brought together British merchants hailing from England, Mauritius, the United States, France, Denmark, and China (United Grand Lodge of England, HC 18/A/36).
“In the eighteenth century, British India was first and foremost a commercial enterprise run by a joint-stock company. The English East India Company was founded at the end of the sixteenth century and incorporated by Royal Charter on 31 December 1600. It was given a monopoly over all trade and traffic with the East Indies. Its initial objective was to compete with the Dutch merchants who had obtained an almost unchallenged monopoly of trade with the Spice Islands – they had raised the price of pepper from 3 to 8 shillings per pound (Mehra 222). As it was conferred the sole right of trade with the East Indies, the East India Company grew in size and developed new markets in Europe for indigo, saltpetre, tea, and Indian fabrics. It also gained new official monopolies such as salt, which represented 11.4 % of total Company revenues, and opium, which came to account for 15.8 % of its total gross revenues and gave rise to a global circuit of exchange between Britain, China, and India (Ghosh & Kennedy 23).
“The first Masonic lodge actually came into existence in 1730 and came to be known as Lodge East India Arms No. 72 (Firminger 1). The early creation of this lodge, the name it was given, together with the fact it adopted as its banner the coat of arms of the Company, perfectly illustrates and heralds the symbiotic relationship Freemasonry was to develop with the East India Company and the trading professions in India. It also reveals the extent to which economic and cultural forms of globalization went hand in hand.”
(5) Anderson, James. The Constitution Book of 1723. The Wilson M. S. Constitution. London: Kenning’s Masonic Archeological Library, 1888; From Britain to India: Freemasonry as a Connective Force of Empire – Simon Deschamps, https://journals.openedition.org/erea/5853
Freemasonry and the First British Intelligence Services
In this next section, Descamps describes the beginning of the first worldwide Masonic intelligence gathering and distribution service which led to the creation of the MI5 and MI6;
“The Masonic networks also channeled information from India to the mother country. On their return home, Masons often literally became news dispatchers as they were personally entrusted with the official correspondence of the local lodges. Despite the obvious distance-related hardships, the correspondence network was paramount in knitting together the local and metropolitan Masonic forces at work. As expressed by Natasha Glaisyer in her insightful study of networking in the British Empire, “it is letters that perhaps provide the best (and most tangible) evidence of the interconnectedness of Empire” (253). The Masonic correspondence network is a case in point. Although the metropolitan Grand Lodges initially imposed regular correspondence for administrative and legal purposes, the letters sent by the local lodges were not dedicated to Masonic affairs only. They also conveyed information regarding political and economic affairs.” (6)
BEIC and the African, Indian and Chinese Slave Trade
Despite their reputation, the BEIC was not the only British company trafficking in slaves:
“The East India Company’s slave trade remained very small compared to the volume of both the British Atlantic slave trade and to other nations’ Indian Ocean slave trades. Richard Allen estimates that from 1622 to 1772, the East India Company traded between 2,773 and 3,304 African slaves. By comparison, the Royal African Company and British interlopers traded more than 1.9 million African slaves during the same period.” (7)
It wasn’t just blacks from Africa being trafficked either. Indians were a major part of the slave trade which the BEIC was involved in:
“East India Company (EIC) archives established when the East India Company first engaged in the slave trade. “The East India Company launched its first massive slave slaving expedition in 1684 when Robert Knox, the captain of Tonquin Merchant, received instructions to purchase 250 slaves at Madagascar and deliver them to St. Helena” (Allen, 2015). Why is this relevant? There are several implications – first is evidence of the British East Indian Company participation in trading slaves. Second, records from St Helena, an island in South Carolina is proof the company transported slaves to the Americas. Although Africans were the primary exports to this region, further research by Allen indicates European vessels took slaves from India and Africa to the Caribbean and elsewhere in the Americas (Allen, 2009). (8)
The Chinese were not immune to the exploits of the BEIC either. According to “Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry,” on China, from Vol. I, the author says: “to establish a beachhead on Chinese soil, English Freemasonry chartered its first Masonic lodge in the port city of Canton in 1767 (Amity Lodge #407).” (9)
From an article titled, Asian Indentured Labor in the 19th and Early 20th Century Colonial Plantation World by Richard B. Allen – March 2017: “New insights into the origins of Asian indentured labor migration further illustrate the need to transcend the constraints imposed by this chronological apartheid. As noted earlier, Europeans first made use of Asian contractual agricultural labor in 1806 when British authorities arranged the recruitment and transportation of 200 Chinese immigrants to Trinidad. Shortly thereafter, the British East India Company likewise began to make use of Chinese laborers on St. Helena, while the same era witnessed several ultimately abortive attempts to introduce Chinese laborers into Ceylon.
This British interest in Chinese labor was not new. As early as 1695, the East India Company’s directors instructed officials at their factory at Bencoolen on Sumatra’s west coast to encourage Chinese merchants, craftsmen, and laborers to settle there, sentiments that they repeated during the 18th century.” (10)
(7) We want Able Blacks: The British East India Company’s African Slave Trade by Ela Hefler, http://vanderbilthistoricalreview.com/want-able-blacks-british-east-india-companys-african-slave-trade/
(8) Documenting the British East India Company and their Involvement in the East Indian Slave Trade By Bonnie Pinkston British Studies Research Paper July 2017, https://aquila.usm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1153&context=slisconnecting
(9) Mackey’s Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, on “China”
(10) Asian Indentured Labor in the 19th and Early 20th Century Colonial Plantation World by Richard B. Allen – March 2017, https://oxfordre.com/asianhistory/abstract/10.1093/acrefore/9780190277727.001.0001/acrefore-9780190277727-e-33
At the time of the revolutionary war, the BEIC had an exclusive trading monopoly on trade with China. But the American Revolution changed that and made it possible for American merchants to trade with China and this helped spawn the rise of the American opium entrepreneurs. These included the likes of John Jacob Astor, a prominent Freemason. The next extract is from History.com
“Opium was technically banned in China, but merchants like Astor found a way around the ban. Large ships containing gigantic hauls of opium met small vessels outside of legitimate ports and swiftly unloaded their illicit cargo. Bribery was common and officials who had taken bribes looked the other way instead of enforcing anti-opium laws.
“Astor knew that British ships usually smuggled in premium opium from India, but he wanted to get a foothold in the opium trade. For his first salvo, he purchased 10 tons of Turkish opium in 1816. The quality wasn’t as high as Indian opium, but it was still in demand: dealers cut Indian opium with their Turkish supply. Astor shipped the opium to China in exchange for goods that he resold in the United States.
“It isn’t clear how much opium Astor sold during his years as a drug smuggler, and the business was just a lucrative sideline to his even more profitable fur trade. But Astor is thought to have sold hundreds of thousands of pounds of opium between 1816 and 1825, when he stepped away from the China trade for good. According to historian John Kuo Wei Tchen, Astor even brought opium to New York, openly selling it and even advertising it in New York newspapers. Astor wasn’t the only American to make his fortune in part through opium smuggling: Warren Delano, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s father, made millions engaging in what he called a “fair, honorable and legitimate” trade.
“Opium smoking and injection of opium derivatives like morphine created hardcore drug users in England and the United States, but the main toll of opium use in the West was felt among casual users who started using opium under doctor’s orders. Opium use was socially acceptable and medically approved in some forms, and could be found in patent medicines prescribed for everything from pain to depression.”
“This led to widespread addiction and became, in effect, America’s first opioid epidemic. In 1859, Harper’s Magazine wrote of “glassy eyes in Fifth Avenue drawing-rooms and opera-stalls” and “permanently stupefied” babies—all people who took or were given opium in prescription or over-the-counter form. It would take until the late 19th century for American doctors to curb their prescriptions of opium derivatives to patients.” (11)
John Jacob Astor is mentioned on the Masonic website Masonry Today:
“Astor was a member of Holland Lodge No. 8 in New York City. In 1788, he would serve as Worshipful Master of the lodge. He would later become the Grand Treasurer for the Grand Lodge of New York.” (12)
From an article titled, The Opium War’s Secret History by Karl E. Meyer, from the NY Times June 28, 1997, we learn that Warren Delano, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s grandfather, began his work in the opium trade as a member of Russell and Co., a Skull and Bones based enterprise:
“Along with the slave trade, the traffic in opium was the dirty underside of an evolving global trading economy. In America as in Europe, pretty much everything was deemed fair in the pursuit of profits. Such was the outlook at Russell & Company, a Boston concern whose clipper ships made it the leader in the lucrative American trade in Chinese tea and silk.
“In 1823 a 24-year-old Yankee, Warren Delano, sailed to Canton, where he did so well that within seven years he was a senior partner in Russell & Company. Delano’s problem, as with all traders, European and American, was that China had much to sell but declined to buy. The Manchu emperors believed that the Middle Kingdom already possessed everything worth having, and hence needed no barbarian manufactures.
(11) America’s First Multimillionaire Got Rich Smuggling Opium – John Jacob Astor fed a growing international addiction—and helped fuel a 19th-century opioid crisis. – Aug 22, 2018 – Erin Blakemore, https://www.history.com/news/john-jacob-astor-opium-fortune-millionaire
Pages 22, 23, 24, Not Included in Free Edition – To Order the FULL Version in either Softcover or E-Book, Please Visit the Store.