FDR's family fortune came from selling opium to the Chinese.
Journalist Westbrook Pegler once wrote that FDR’s “buccaneer” grandfather’s opium fortune had allowed Roosevelt and his family to enjoy “to the utmost … luxury and riches derived from the degradation and wretchedness of the Chinese people.”
FDR’s grandfather Warren Delano first sailed for China at age 24 and, after a decade dealing drugs on the Pearl River, returned with a fortune that made him a highly eligible bachelor among New York’s elite. In letters home, Delano admitted that opium had an “unhappy effect” on the cadaverous, zombielike addicts he encountered, but said of its sale that “as a merchant I insist it has been … fair, honorable and legitimate,” likening it to the importation of wine and spirits to America.
As Chinese authorities continued to clamp down on the trade, sparking the first of two Opium Wars between 1839–1842, Delano settled along New York’s Hudson River, where he invested his earnings in real estate and railroads and started a family.