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[TIMELINE] 1920 - Anti-Japanese Crusade / Congressional Hearings

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  • madchinaman
    The 1920 Anti-Japanese Crusade and Congressional Hearings Doug Blair http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/Japanese_restriction.htm Preface A rising tide of
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 11, 2007
      The 1920 Anti-Japanese Crusade and Congressional Hearings
      Doug Blair


      A rising tide of anti-immigrant and anti-radical politics swept the
      United States following World War I, and Seattle area politicians
      played an important role. It's well-documented that defeat of the
      Seattle General Strike of 1919 helped pave the way for anti-labor
      campaigns across the country. But less well known is the fact that
      national anti-immigrant politics, particularly anti-Japanese politics
      of the post-World War I era, had important roots in the Pacific

      This paper looks at 1920 committee hearings convened by Congressman
      Albert Johnson on the question of whether to bar Japanese immigration
      and citizenship claims. Johnson was the co-author of sweeping 1924
      legislation that effectively closed America's borders to non-white
      immigrants for the next forty years. And his use of hearings in his
      home district to promote a national version of white supremacy
      reveals much about the racial politics of post-WWI Seattle and about
      Seattle's role in national debates over who could and could not be
      considered "American."

      Members of the United States Congress arrived in Elliot
      Bay aboard a steamship on the afternoon of Sunday, July 25, 1920.[1]
      This delegation was part of the House Committee on Immigration and
      Naturalization, which was in the midst of an investigation on issues
      surrounding Japanese peoples on the west coast. Their local
      investigation commenced in the Seattle courtroom of Judge E.E.
      Cushman. They broke for lunch at the Rainier Club, took an impromptu
      tour of Pike Place Market, and retired to Paradise Lodge in the Mount
      Rainier National Park during recess.[2] The committee would stay in
      the area for over a week, hearing hours of testimony related to the
      local situation surrounding the Japanese.

      A Change in Asian Immigration

      Increased industrialization and infrastructure around the turn of the
      century created a great demand for cheap labor in the United States.
      Initially Chinese immigrants provided low cost labor. In 1882, the
      Chinese Exclusion Act stopped the flow of immigrants, and thus the
      major source of labor on the west coast. Japanese were the primary
      immigrant group to fill the demand for labor left behind by the
      Chinese. Initially employed by railroad companies and factories,
      Japanese immigrants quickly started their own businesses and

      The Japanese victory over Russia in 1905 established Japan as a
      geopolitical rival in Pacific. The increased awareness of Japanese
      power by the United States helped both to aid and inhibit the anti-
      Japanese agitation that was developing on the west coast.[3] Local
      organizations mobilized to create anti-Japanese propaganda while
      President Theodore Roosevelt urged caution to prevent insulting the
      Japanese government. The following years brought the first federal
      legislation dealing specifically with Japan as well as the
      controversial "Gentleman's Agreement". During World War I
      immigration restriction was focused primarily on Germans, Bolsheviks,
      Communists, and anarchists. The post-war rise of American
      nationalism increased support for a broader and increasingly racist
      immigration policy. As part of this movement, the House Committee on
      Immigration and Naturalization began to investigate issues
      surrounding Japanese immigrants in the United States. After
      conducting preliminary hearings in Washington D.C. during the summer
      of 1919, the Committee scheduled a more comprehensive investigation
      for California (the state with the largest Japanese population) the
      following year. The main topics of thee hearings were: was
      the "Gentleman's Agreement" being adhered to by Japan?; Could
      Japanese immigrants be assimilated into American society?; and should
      Japanese immigrants be eligible for naturalization?

      Japanese Hearings Come to Washington

      In response to lobbyists and Washington Governor Louis
      Hart, the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization extended
      the scheduled 1920 hearings on the Pacific Coast Japanese question to
      the State of Washington. Local Japanese politics were not foreign to
      the Congressional committee or federal level politicians. They had
      received previous statements from prominent Seattleites such as
      businessman and publisher Miller Freeman, Presbyterian pastor Mark A
      Matthews, and local Japanese missionary U.G. Murphy. The chairman of
      the committee was also Washington State Congressman Albert Johnson, a
      long-time crusader for more restrictive immigration legislation.
      Johnson had a history of racial agitation in Washington State, having
      participated in anti-"Hindu" (South Asian) activities in Grays
      Harbor, and bragged about participating in a 1913 riot that forced
      hundreds of South Asians in Bellingham, Washington to flee the United
      States for Canada.[4] Johnson also encouraged local anti-Japanese
      agitation at a Tacoma American Legion meeting less than one month
      before the 1920 hearings.[5]

      Including Johnson, the committee contained fifteen members. All but
      six remained in California to conduct further investigation during
      the Washington State proceedings.[6] The hearings commenced at 9:30
      AM on July 26, 1920 in the federal courthouse in Seattle. The
      testimony continued in Seattle until July 29, at which point they
      were moved to Tacoma for a single day on August 2, returning to
      Seattle for the final day on August 3. The primary voices included
      were that of the Seattle Ministerial Union, American Legion and
      Veterans Welfare Commission, local immigration officials, farmers,
      and local Japanese. The hearings also included scattered testimony
      from organized labor and female citizens concerned about Japanese
      morality. Also in the transcript of the hearings is a vast quantity
      of statistics on the local Japanese community. Included are
      immigration data, birth rates, and complete listings of all Japanese
      businesses in and around Seattle. After the testimony, the record
      concludes with a summary of the Japanese situations in both Oregon
      and California.

      Anti-Japanese League

      Why did the hearings come to Seattle? Some speculated that Governor
      Hart's term was nearly up, and the Republican-led committee timed the
      hearings to garner support for his November re-election bid.[7] It
      was Seattle's Anti-Japanese League, however, waged the campaign to
      extend the congressional hearings to Washington.

      The League was primarily comprised of members of the American Legion,
      Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Washington State's Veteran's Welfare
      Commission (VFW). The Anti-Japanese League was founded in1916 by
      former Washington State legislator and director of the local United
      States Naval training facility, Miller Freeman. Freeman was the
      League's president at the time of the congressional hearings. He had
      also been appointed to the head of the Washington State VFW by
      Governor Hart.[8] Freeman had testified before the committee in
      Washington D.C. in 1919 and was asked by Chairman Johnson to solicit
      additional anti-Japanese witnesses. In the 1919 testimony, Freeman
      framed his animosity toward Japanese immigrants in the context of
      competition for control over the Pacific Rim: "To-day, in my opinion,
      the Japanese of our country look upon the Pacific coast really as
      nothing more than a colony of Japan, and the whites as a subject

      Adding to this sense of conflict was the strong military presence at
      the Seattle and Tacoma hearings, which worried the Seattle Union
      Record, the city's labor newspaper.

      Another feature of the inquiry is the presence of a military group in
      the background that keeps in constant touch with Mr. Johnson or Mr.
      Raker of the committee. This group composed of men like Miller
      Freeman, Colonel Inglis, Philip Tindall, does not make a pleasant
      decoration for an inquiry on Oriental affairs-an inquiry that should
      be kept as far from military influence as it is possible to keep it.

      This statement made by Seattle Union Record Editor Harry Ault was
      powerful enough to command the notice of the congressional
      committee. Congressman Raker went so far as to confront Ault about
      his editorial statement, and to deny that there had been any closed-
      door meetings with military representatives.[11]

      Yet despite the military context, Freeman's testimony in support of
      restricting Japanese immigration was based almost entirely upon
      economic rationalizations. After introductory testimony by Governor
      Hart, Freeman was the first to give testimony to the congressional
      committee. First, he claimed, Japanese were taking jobs away from
      World War I veterans returning from Europe. This argument would be
      elaborated upon when Director of the Veteran's Welfare Commission
      Colonel W.M. Inglis testified that Japanese at the Stetson-Post Mill
      Co. received twenty jobs that supposedly should have gone to veterans
      in the spring of 1919. When asked by Chairman Johnson what had
      happened when Japanese laborers were in competition with a group of
      veterans for twenty mill jobs Colonel Inglis responded: "The result
      was the Japanese were employed and the ex-service men were not."[12]

      The other chief concern voiced explicitly by Freeman and others was
      that Japanese immigrants were taking over certain business sectors
      from their Caucasian competitors. Freeman stated: "My investigation
      of the situation existing in the city of Seattle convinced me that
      the increasing accretions of the Japanese were depriving the young
      white men of the opportunities that they are legitimately entitled to
      in this State."[13] Shut out of local unions, Japanese had been
      forced into business, finding considerable successes primarily in
      agriculture and residential hotel ownership. These successes were
      the main source of agitation for the Anti-Japanese League, whose
      prominent members could no longer control the local Japanese

      Seattle Star Promotes Anti-Japanese Agitation

      Both in California and Washington, newspapers and
      newspaper men were prominent in creating anti-Japanese sentiment.
      The publisher of The Sacramento Bee, V.S. McClatchy, was perhaps the
      most outspoken anti-Japanese agitator in California.[14] House
      Committee Chairman Albert Johnson had been in the newspaper business
      for two decades prior to the Washington State hearings, having
      published The Seattle Times, The Tacoma News, and The Grays Harbor

      The Seattle Star was the primary anti-Japanese voice in the Puget
      Sound area. In the weeks preceding the congressional hearings, The
      Seattle Star ran a series of articles that portrayed local Japanese
      in a negative light. One three-part series written by George N.
      Mills and beginning on May 19, 1920 was titled "The Japanese Invasion
      AND `Shinto, the Way of the Gods.'"[16] From the beginning of the
      article, Mills expresses his desire to "…impress more emphatically on
      the mind of the American reader the certain disastrous consequences
      of future Oriental immigration, and why our present policies as
      regards certain Asiatics should be forever abandoned."[17] Mills
      describes the Shinto religion as the basis for life in Japanese
      culture and government, going so far as to say that, "religion and
      government in Japan have been one and the same in the past as well as
      the present."[18] Mills uses this premise to argue that any person
      of Japanese heritage who practices the Shinto religion will be
      ultimately devoted to the government of Japan. This idea was
      certainly on the minds of the congressional committee when they
      questioned Japanese witnesses about their loyally to Japan and
      willingness to perform military service for Japan or the United
      States.[19] Mills continued the anti-Japanese agitation in his third
      installment when he stated that "If our present policies with Japan
      continue indefinitely, it will only be a matter of time when at best
      we will be no better than a subject race."[20]

      Beyond the Mills piece, The Seattle Star ran smaller anti-
      Japanese pieces on nearly a daily basis leading up to the
      hearings. ""Spy" Film is Killed by Japs"[21], "Say Jap Choked White
      Woman"[22], Charge Jap Stole White Wife's Love"[23], and "One-Third
      of Our Hotels Jap Owned"[24] read some of the headlines between May
      and July of 1920. The Seattle Star was also quick to cover the
      protests by anti-Japanese organizations and their efforts to focus
      federal attention on the local Japanese question. This included
      appeals to labor groups to support anti-Japanese legislation,
      coverage of petitions by veterans groups to Governor Hart, and
      attacks on local ministers for their continued support of the

      Although coverage from other local publications (The Seattle Times,
      The Seattle Union Record, and The Town Crier) was not pro-Japanese,
      the coverage provided was more balanced and less inflammatory. While
      The Seattle Star signaled its position with an inflammatory front
      page headline after the first day of the congressional
      testimony: "EXCLUSION! The Solution That Means Peace,"[25] the
      traditionally radical Seattle Union Record ambiguously reported: "We
      withhold judgment concerning the testimony before the congressional
      committee of inquiry of Oriental affairs, until it is finished in

      Anti-Japanese Politics in City Hall

      In the summer of 1920, the Seattle Star and the Anti-Japanese
      League's exclusionary politics fused in a campaign against Japanese
      hog farmers. The campaign was one of the most overt attempts at
      limiting the livelihoods of Seattle's Japanese during the time of the
      hearings. The Seattle Star reported that Japanese farmers were
      paying too high a price for restaurant swill (the primary source of
      sustenance for local hogs). The fear was that Japanese would price
      white farmers out of the swill market, and thereby drive white hog
      farmers out of business. Supposedly, once a monopoly had been
      established, the Japanese would escalate the price of pork products
      to recover the capital invested in the high-priced swill.[27]

      Seattle City Councilman and Anti-Japanese League member Phillip
      Tindall was at the center of the campaign against Japanese hog
      farmers. Tindall proposed a bill that would change the way in which
      restaurant swill was collected. The Tindall bill called for a city-
      wide restaurant garbage collection contract. As a direct strike at
      the Japanese hog farmers, the Tindall bill specified that the garbage
      collection contract could only be entered by a citizen of the United
      States (a privilege not granted to Japanese immigrant farmers).[28]
      If ratified, the Tindall bill would have virtually eliminated
      Japanese farmers from the hog business.

      As part of the general anti-Japanese agitation, the sanitation and
      general operation of Japanese owned hog farms was also called into
      question. A letter to the editor of the Seattle Star penned by King
      County Health Officer H.T. Sparling complained that "The condition of
      some of these (Japanese owned) ranches is indescribable."
      Nevertheless, Sparling went on to describe rat infested conditions
      and filthy meat being taken to the market for human consumption. In
      closing, Sparling stated, "I am strongly in favor of the ordinance
      introduced by Councilman Tindall and recommended by Dr. Bead, as it
      tends to centralize the industry and will make supervision

      The Tindall bill was passed by the Seattle City Council on June 21,
      1920 by a vote of five to two. The bill was said to break up the
      Japanese "garbage collection monopoly" as well as add $50,000 to the
      city's budget once a new collection contract was reached with a non-
      Japanese bidder.[30] The garbage collection bill was seen as a
      potential trend setter for new bills that could further limit
      Japanese advances in other business realms. The Seattle Star
      editorialized, "We must stop the Japs at every opportunity we get.
      The Tindall bill is one of those opportunities."[31]

      Not all Seattleites agreed that the Tindall bill would be an
      effective or moral means of controlling Japanese commerce. The Town
      Crier gave the "…inside dope on the Tindall garbage bill, a measure
      that was camouflaged as one of sanitation but later came out into the
      open as intended primarily to put Japanese hog ranchers out of
      business."[32] This same piece from The Town Crier implicates local
      hog rancher I.W. Ringer (supposedly the only rancher with the
      capacity to bid on the garbage collection contract) as another
      driving force behind the Tindall bill. Less than a week after its
      initial passage, the Tindall garbage bill was vetoed by Seattle Mayor
      Hugh Caldwell. After supporters failed to bring the matter back to
      the City Council for a potential override, the Tindall bill died on
      August 1, 1920 (the thirty day deadline after the Caldwell veto).[33]

      Japanese Americans Testify

      A small yet interesting portion of the hearings took place on the
      second day of testimony when several Japanese immigrants and second
      generation Japanese Americans appeared before the committee. The
      most prominent member of the Seattle Japanese community to testify
      was Mr. D. Matsumi. Matsumi was the general manager of M. Suruya
      Company (dealing with the import and export of general goods), as
      well as the president of the United North American Japanese
      Associations. This organization branched to Montana and Alaska,
      independent from its counterparts in Oregon and California.[35]

      Matsui was able to offer a very detailed census of the local Japanese
      population based on data his Japanese association had collected over
      the previous four years. The private census included complete data
      on Japanese children in the local school system, Japanese churches,
      hotels, and farms. The most complete data in the census record
      pertains to the birth and death rates of Japanese (and Chinese) in
      Washington State. Beyond the state records, there is also similar
      data collected from every major county in the state between 1910 and
      1917, comparing the Japanese birth rate to that of whites in the same
      areas. At the end of this section of the census is a month by month
      record of birth and death rates from 1915 through early 1920. This
      section gives the best regional perspective as it includes,
      Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.[36] Mr. Matsui used this
      information to refute a frequent racist charge made against the
      Japanese: that they were reproducing at an alarming rate. The
      figures provided by the census proved this charge to be blatantly
      false. The committee was primarily concerned with how the census
      data was collected, but paid some attention to the condition of the
      educational system in regards to Japanese children.

      Mr. Matsui chose not to directly refute charges brought against the
      local Japanese community by anti-Japanese witnesses. Instead, he
      portrayed Japanese immigrants as industrious Americans. In a written
      statement, he tried to give a historical perspective of Japanese in
      the region. Responding to accusations of unfair farming practices he
      reported, "According to these facts it seems to me that the Japanese
      farmer is more intensive in dairy farming than the other people
      engaged in the same business. The amount of milk produced per acre
      and the number of cows per acre on the farms operated by the Japanese
      is larger than that produced by others. In other words, there is
      less waste and the farming itself is conducted on a more intensive

      The five remaining Japanese to testify were not first generation, or
      Issei, immigrants. They were second generation, many of them
      American citizens, or Nissei. Reflecting the recent nature of
      Japanese immigration to the Northwest, they were all quite young,
      ranging in age from fourteen to twenty three. Chairman Johnson had
      described this portion of the hearings as an opportunity "to hear the
      leading Japanese representatives."[38] It is significant to note,
      then, that the Japanese community, rather than showcasing its own
      internal leadership, instead encouraged its youth to advocate for
      tolerance, understanding, and equal opportunity for all immigrants
      and their descendents. They offered themselves as living proof that,
      contrary to anti-Japanese arguments, Japanese immigrants and their
      children could assimilate.

      Seventeen year old James Sakamoto, who would later become a
      community leader as editor of the city's first English language paper
      for Japanese Americans, The Japanese-American Courier, was the last
      to testify. His older sister (who at the time was not even a
      resident of Washington State) also testified. All five statements
      from the young Japanese were brief, with questions directed at their
      education status, ability with the Japanese language, and whether the
      witnesses had any desire to return to Japan. The only diversion from
      the standard line of questioning took place during the testimony of
      James Sakamoto, at the time a seventeen year old student at Seattle's
      Franklin High School. Sakamoto (who was born in Japan) was asked
      about his obligation to military service for Japan. He indicated
      that he would find a way to skirt this responsibility. Colorado
      Congressman William Vaile asked him, "…suppose you were required to
      render military service to the United States, what will be your
      position?" To which Sakamoto responded, "I will go in."[39]
      Sakamoto would remain true to this sentiment more than twenty years
      later when defending Japanese-Americans in the wake of the Pearl
      Harbor attack. He stated that Japanese "will remain unswervingly
      loyal to the United States" and also the "first to uncover any

      Seattle Ministerial Union

      One group intent on combating the anti-Japanese agitation was the
      Seattle Ministerial Union. According to the testimony of Seattle
      minister W.R. Sawhill, pastor of First United Presbyterian Church, "…
      there are about 250 protestant ministers in the city. They are all,
      in a way, members of the organization, but I suppose about 100 are
      paying and voting members."[41] Sawhill, along with Dr. Mark A.
      Matthews and missionary U.G. Murphy, were important voices before and
      during the congressional hearings. Both Matthews and Murphy had
      appeared before the Congressional Committee on Immigration and
      Naturalization previously in Washington D.C. and were familiar to
      lawmakers. According to Chairman Albert Johnson, Murphy was singled
      out as an exemplary voice, and asked to provide additional non-
      Japanese witnesses to vouch for the character of the local Japanese
      population.[42] In June of 1919, U.G. Murphy had spoken on behalf of
      the Ministerial Union as part of a series of congressional hearings
      in Washington D.C. Murphy was clear that the Ministerial Union was
      against racially based immigration policies: "…it is the
      discrimination along race lines that causes the tension. Our
      naturalization law is based on the color scheme, the race line, and
      that is the offensive point."[43]

      Prior to the Seattle and Tacoma hearings, the Ministerial Union
      penned a letter to the committee requesting an investigation into the
      activities of the Anti-Japanese League and stating their positions on
      the Japanese question. In its letter dated July 24, 1920 (included
      in the testimony of W.R. Sawhill), the Seattle Ministerial Union was
      clearly opposed to any constitutional amendment limiting rights of
      Japanese Americans or immigrants. They also spoke in favor of
      unlimited admission of Japanese students as well as equal treatment
      for immigrants from all countries.[44]

      Because of their history of steering large congregations on political
      questions and local elections, the Seattle Ministerial Union came
      under attack from anti-Japanese witnesses as well as The Seattle
      Star. Dr. Mark A Matthews was a favorite target of the Star, which
      pointed to his relationship with President Woodrow Wilson as reason
      to fear his influence on the local and national levels.[45] Despite
      its origins on the West Coast as a Democratic Party movement,
      immigration restriction was politically a Republican crusade.
      Wilson, a Democrat, had twice vetoed the immigration legislation that
      was eventually passed in 1917.[46]

      Dr. Mark A Matthews

      Dr. Mark A Matthews was one of the most outspoken
      opponents of anti-Japanese agitation before and during the
      Congressional hearings. He was the minister of Seattle's First
      Presbyterian Church which at the time boasted nearly a 10, 000 member
      congregation, making it the largest Presbyterian congregation in the
      United States (more than double the size of the second largest
      church). Because of the prominence of First Presbyterian, Dr.
      Matthews was elected as moderator of the General Assembly of the
      Presbyterian Church, the national governing body of the Presbyterian
      denominations. This national position led to an association with
      United States President Woodrow Wilson. Dr. Matthews visited the
      White House on numerous occasions, and welcomed President Wilson as a
      guest for one of his sermons during a visit to Seattle.

      Matthews had roots in the southern United States and was a proponent
      of the fundamentalist movement within the Presbyterian Church.[47]
      He was very active progressive reformer in the local community,
      crusading against all of the "evils" of the city. In previous years,
      he had petitioned President Wilson regarding post-World War I
      treaties with Germany, labor issues and political appointments of his
      associates. Matthews had a history of swaying his massive
      congregation on political issues and was credited with helping oust
      former Seattle Mayor Hiram Gill in 1911.[48]

      Matthews was staunchly opposed to radical labor groups such as the
      I.W.W., anarchists, and communists. Many of his letters contained
      anti-Semitic sentiments, accusing Jews of supporting radical left-
      wing causes. In one of his more colorful statements, Matthews
      advocated the deportation of thousands of Russian immigrants along
      with other communists and anarchists. "why," he asked, "should we
      allow the gauze dress of American civilization to be destroyed by the
      torch of anarchy in the hands of these infernal enemy aliens?"[49]
      As an opponent of organized labor, Matthews's support of the Seattle
      Japanese community may have been an effort to weaken local unions.
      The Japanese had maintained solidarity with organized labor during
      the 1919 Seattle general strike, but almost all local unions excluded
      Japanese from their membership, and then fiercely competed with non-
      union Japanese businesses.

      During his testimony in front of the congressional committee, Dr.
      Matthews's objections to discrimination against Japanese immigrants
      were based mostly on issues of federal jurisdiction. He felt that
      any issue dealing with immigration was a treaty issue and that
      national legislation would only lead to further diplomatic problems.
      [50] Perhaps as part of his anti-labor politics, Dr. Matthews
      expressed respect for the work ethic and business savvy he identified
      with Japanese immigrants. He suggested that their entrepreneurial
      activities made them model Americans. In response to California
      Congressman John E Raker's question about Japanese taking over
      certain industries, Dr. Matthews responded, "Now, no Jap has ever
      taken over anything in Seattle, or will ever take over anything
      anywhere else in this country… They bought it, and if you object to a
      Japanese citizen or immigrant buying a fruit stand, an American sold
      it to him. Now if it is not right for the Jap to own it, why did the
      infernal, yellow-backed American sell it to him?"[51]

      The Quiet Voice of Organized Labor

      In comparison with the outspoken testimony of ministers,
      legionnaires, farmers, and immigration officials, organized labor was
      relatively quiet during the congressional hearings. Two union
      officials from Tacoma gave brief testimony. One was Thomas A
      Bishoff, secretary of the Tacoma Cooks' and Waiters' Union, and the
      other H.C. Pickering, secretary of the Tacoma Barbers' Union. Both
      were relative outsiders to the general feeling of local organized
      labor and admitted most of their testimony was personal feeling or

      Both Bishoff and Pickering were questioned about Japanese
      participation in their respective industries in the city of Tacoma.
      When asked to speculate about what might happen if Japanese barbers
      were to attempt to open shops in the Tacoma harbor area (where there
      were only white barbers), Pickering responded: "Now down on the
      harbor, down where there are no Japanese barbers, there is a
      prejudice down there."[52] He indicated that there would likely be
      considerable strife if Japanese barbers attempted to locate
      themselves in the harbor area of Tacoma.

      According to Chairman Johnson, requests for labor representatives
      from the Seattle area went unanswered for unspecified reasons.[53] A
      key feature of the testimony from the labor representatives was a
      sentiment that Japanese were only a limited threat to the laboring
      class. Chairman Johnson expressed this point of view
      explicitly: "Now, we have been confronted with statements in this
      record to the effect that labor in Seattle had ceased to object to
      the admission of the Japanese on the ground that he had ceased to
      become a competitor of labor itself and was a competitor of the small
      business man."[54]

      Japanese immigrants originally came to the Pacific Northwest in the
      late nineteenth century under the recruitment of the Great Northern
      Railway Company. Early immigrants chiefly worked as laborers for the
      railroad or lumber companies.[55] By the time of the Seattle and
      Tacoma immigration hearings, the climate of the Japanese workforce
      had changed drastically. In 1920, a large percentage of the Japanese
      in the Seattle area were engaged in farming or businesses such as
      restaurants, hotels, groceries, laundries, and barber shops. The
      labor movement that had been such a pivotal factor in the nineteenth
      century Chinese exclusion was dealing with a much different situation
      in the Japanese. Though excluded by organized labor, the Japanese
      had formed their own unions, often times abiding by many of the same
      regulations as their mainstream counterparts.[56] This voluntary
      conformity may have been another potential factor in the lack of
      organized labor opposition. The Japanese had demonstrated their
      willingness to be loyal union members. Abiding by the same pay
      scales and shop standards as white unions meant that Japanese labor
      would not under-sell white labor. Although only officially
      recognized in the machinists and timber workers unions, members of
      Japanese unions had also shown their solidarity by refusing to be
      scab workers during the 1916 longshoremen's strike and the 1919
      general strike.[57]

      Harry Ault testifies

      "Who is this E.B. Ault that submitted his liberal, temperate and
      considered views on the Japanese question this week before the
      immigration committee? Can it be possible that he is the editor of
      that exponent of wild-eyed radicalism, The Union Record?"[58]

      –The Town Crier, August 7, 1920.

      Some of the most interesting testimony took place on the
      final day of the congressional hearings in Seattle. Erwin B. (Harry)
      Ault was the final witness to testify. In one of the longer
      statements throughout the proceedings, Ault cautiously spoke for the
      Central Labor Council of Seattle. Ault took a purely economic stance
      on the question of Japanese immigration and naturalization. Although
      he opposed future "Asiatic" immigration, he lobbied for equal rights
      and pay for all Japanese workers already in the United States. He
      expressed that any limitation on the earning power of Japanese
      laborers would only be detrimental to the general living standards of
      the American worker.[59] He presented the marginalization of
      Japanese labor as a tool used by business owners to lower the wage
      scale for workers of all races. Ault was insistent on distancing
      himself and organized labor from any racial element in the Japanese
      question: "I say any prejudice, simply because a man's skin is dark
      or fair-I don't think that is a fair estimate of a man's ability or
      capacity or usefulness to society or his right to life, liberty, and
      the pursuit of happiness."[60]

      Ault was the only pro-Japanese witnesses to not condemn intermarriage
      between whites and Asian peoples. After some pointed questioning by
      a seemingly shocked Congressmen John Raker who asked Ault, "You would
      leave the young people of the United States at liberty, without any
      law, to choose their mates, to intermarry as they see fit?" Ault
      responded, "Absolutely."[61] The Town Crier, which associated union
      advocacy with simple-minded bigotry, commented on Ault's
      testimony: "Perforce, he wonders why Mr. Ault cannot apply some of
      the same common sense, clear thinking and tolerance to the
      consideration of other matters that occupy the attention of The Union


      Congressman Johnson went on to co-author the 1924 law
      that drastically curtailed most immigration to the United States
      considered non-white, including Japanese. Seattle's anti-Japanese
      forces— particularly Miller Freeman,the Anti-Japanese League, The
      Seattle Star, and, increasingly, Teamsters union—continued their
      agitation for another generation helping to set the stage for the
      persecution and internment of Washington's Japanese American
      population during World War II.

      But Washington's hearings on Japanese immigration did not just signal
      a rising tide of anti-immigrant racism. They also helped inspire a
      young James Sakamoto to promote Japanese American citizenship
      claims. The year after the hearings, Sakamoto co-founded the Seattle
      Progressive Citizens League in 1921, a predecessor and model for the
      Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). His leadership and the
      efforts of other Nissei activists were part of a broader movement
      against anti-Japanese and anti-Asian racism that would run counter to
      American exclusionary politics for the rest of the century.

      (c) copyright Doug Blair 2006
      HSTAA 499 Summer and Spring 2005


      [1] The Seattle Times. July 26, 1920. Pg 5.

      [2] Ibid. Pg 1 & 5.

      [3] Higham, John. Send These to Me: Immigrants in Urban America.
      The Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore and London. 1984: Pg

      [4] Mae Ngai. Impossible Subjects: illegal aliens and the making of
      modern America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004. pp. 48,

      [5] The Tacoma Daily Ledger. July 2, 1920. Pg 4.

      [6] United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and
      Naturalization. Japanese Immigration. Hearings before the Committee
      on immigration and naturalization, House of representatives, Sixty-
      sixth Congress, second session. Washington, Govt. Print. Off., 1921:
      Pg 1056.

      [7] Magden, Ronald E. Furusato: Tacoma-Pierce County Japanese, 1888-
      1988. R-4 Printing Inc. Tacoma, WA. 1998. Pg 61.

      [8] Neiwert, David A. Strawberry Days. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
      New York, New York: Pg 57.

      [9] United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and
      Naturalization. Percentage Plans for Restriction of Immigration,
      House of Representatives, Sixty-sixth Congress, first session.
      Washington. Govt. Print. Off., 1920: Pg 230.

      [10] The Seattle Union Record. July 27, 1920: Editorial Page.

      [11] United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and
      Naturalization. Pg 1436.

      [12] Ibid. Pg 1097.

      [13] Ibid. Pg 1062.

      [14] Gulick, Sidney Lewis. Should Congress Enact Special Laws
      Affecting Japanese? New York, New York. National Committee on
      Japanese Relations. 1922: Pg 85.

      [15] Dictionary of American Biography. Supplement Six. New York,
      New York. Scribner. 1980. Pg 320.

      [16] The Seattle Star. May 19, 1920. Pg

      [17] Ibid.

      [18] Ibid.

      [19] United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and
      Naturalization. Pg 1201.

      [20] The Seattle Star. May 21, 1920. Pg 17.

      [21] The Seattle Star. May 26, 1920. Pg 16.

      [22] The Seattle Star. June 1, 1920. Pg 16.

      [23] The Seattle Star. June 3, 1920. Pg 1.

      [24] The Seattle Star. July 1, 1920. Pg 15.

      [25] The Seattle Star. July 27, 1920. Pg 1.

      [26] The Seattle Union Record. July 27, 1920. Editorial Page.

      [27] The Seattle Star. June 25, 1920. Pg 8.

      [28] Ibid.

      [29] The Seattle Star. May 27, 1920. Pg 7.

      [30] The Seattle Star. June 22, 1920. Pg 2.

      [31] The Seattle Star. June 26, 1920. Pg 6.

      [32] The Town Crier. August 21, 1920. Pg 4-5.

      [33] The Seattle Star. July 27, 1920. Pg 1.

      [34] The Seattle Times, July 27, 1920: Pg 8.

      [36] United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and
      Naturalization, Pg 1187-1189.

      [37] Ibid. Pg 1173.

      [38] Ibid. Pg 1148.

      [39] Ibid. Pg 1201.

      [40] Neiwert, 2005. Pg 119.

      [41] United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and
      Naturalization. Pg 1211.

      [42] Ibid. Pg 1404.

      [43] United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and
      Naturalization. Percentage Plans for Restriction of Immigration,
      House of Representatives, Sixty-sixth Congress, first session.
      Washington. Govt. Print. Off., 1920: Pg 82

      [44] Ibid. Pg 1210-1211.

      [45] The Seattle Star. May 18, 1920. Pg 1.

      [46] Higham. 1980. Pg 52.

      [47] Russell, C. Allyn. Journal of Presbyterian History, Vol 57,
      Number 4 (Winter, 1979). Pg 446-466.

      [48] Berner, Richard C. Seattle 1900-1920, From Boomtown, Urban
      turbulence, to Restoration. Charles Press, 1991. Seattle,
      Washington. Pg 118.

      [49] Matthews, Mark A. Mark A. Matthews Papers, University of
      Washington Special Collections, Box 5. Personal Letter to President
      Woodrow Wilson, November 26, 1919.

      [50] United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and
      Naturalization. Pg 1083.

      [51] Ibid. Pg 1090.

      [52] Ibid. Pg 1390.

      [53] Ibid. Pg 1387.

      [54] United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and
      Naturalization. Pg 1417.

      [55] Berner, 1991. Pg 67.

      [56] Frank, Dana. Race Relations and the Seattle Labor movement,
      1915-1929. Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Number 86 (Winter
      1994/1995). Pg 40.

      [57] Berner, 1991. Pg 69.

      [58] The Town Crier. August 7, 1920. Pg 4.

      [59] United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and
      Naturalization. Pg 1424.

      [60] Ibid. Pg 1421.

      [61] Ibid. Pg 1427.

      [62] The Town Crier. Aug 7, 1920. Pg 4.


      Anti-Japanese Legislation

      Washington State Constitution, 1889

      The prohibition of alien land ownership was included in the original
      1889 version of the Washington State constitution. This was not true
      of the constitutions of other western states with significant alien
      populations. The primary reason for the alien land article was that
      the Washington constitution (unlike states that pre-dated Washington)
      was enacted after the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.

      Exceptions - The ownership of lands by aliens, other than those who
      in good faith have declared their intention to become citizens of the
      United States, is prohibited in this state, except where acquired by
      inheritance, under mortgage or in good faith in the ordinary course
      of justice in the collection of debts; and all conveyances of lands
      hereafter made to any alien directly or in trust for such alien shall
      be void: Provided, That the provisions of this Section shall not
      apply to lands containing valuable deposits of minerals, metals,
      iron, coal, or fire-clay, and the necessary land for mills and
      machinery to be used in the development thereof and the manufacture
      of the products therefrom. Every corporation, the majority of the
      capital stock of which is owned by aliens, shall be considered on
      alien for the purposes of this prohibition."[1]

      Immigration Act of Feb 20, 1907

      This federal legislation created new categories of immigrants that
      would be denied entry to the United States. Most relevant to the
      Japanese was the exclusion of people designated as contract
      laborers. The act also allowed President Theodore Roosevelt to deny
      entry to United States from Canada, Mexico, and Hawaii (an
      opportunity taken by Roosevelt on March 14, 1907).[2] Until the 1907
      act, many Japanese laborers were coming to the United States via
      these countries.

      Gentlemen's Agreement, 1908

      Theodore Roosevelt's presidential order of March 14, 1907 had stemmed
      the flow of Japanese immigration from Canada, Mexico, and Hawaii.
      The Gentlemen's Agreement was an unofficial and undocumented treaty
      that confronted direct immigration. Japan was to issue passports
      only to those who had previously been admitted to the United States.
      The Gentlemen's Agreement did allow for Japanese men living in the
      United States to send for their wives and children in Japan.[3]

      Immigration Act of Feb 5, 1917

      To further restrict Japanese and general Asian immigration, the 1917
      act contained two key elements. One was the addition of a literacy
      test which stated that any person over sixteen years of age had to be
      literate in some language in order to enter the United States. The
      other was a major shift to a Caucasian only immigration policy. The
      1917 act created a "barred zone" in Southeast Asia.[4] "The barred
      zone roughly included parts of China, all of India, Burma, Siam, the
      Malay States, the Asian part of Russia, part of Arabia, part of
      Afghanistan, most of the Polynesian Islands and the East Indian

      Washington State House Bill Number 79: January 27, 1921

      During the seventeenth regular session, the Washington State House of
      Representatives added to the constitutional alien land restrictions.
      The new legislation extended the alien land laws beyond ownership to
      limit leasing and renting. The bill also made it a crime for anyone
      to sell land to an alien, hold land in trust or fail to report alien
      land use violations to the State Attorney General or local prosecutor.

      Immigration Act of May 19, 1921

      The 1921 Immigration Act was the first to include any quantitative
      restrictions on immigration. The Asian "barred zone" was upheld, but
      all other immigration was limited to three percent of the foreign-
      born population of any given group in the United States at the time
      of the 1910 census.[7]

      Washington State House Bill Number 70: January 26, 1923

      The principal way Japanese and other resident aliens circumvented
      land laws was to have a minor child with birth-right citizenship hold
      that land deed. The 1923 House Bill ended this practice by declaring
      land owned by a minor child to be held in trust for an alien (illegal
      under the 1921 Bill).[8] This heavily restrictive alien land law
      stayed in effect until its repeal in 1965.[9]

      Immigration Act of May 26, 1924

      Continuing the trend of restriction, the 1924 Immigration Act used a
      stricter quota system to further reduce the number of admitted
      immigrants. While the three percent quota stayed the same, the
      figures were calculated from the 1890 census. As a result, the total
      quota number for all immigrants was cut by more than half to
      approximately 165,000 people.[10] A key section of the 1924 Act
      denied immigration to persons ineligible for naturalization. Because
      Japanese immigrants were not among those who could become citizens
      virtually all Asiatic immigration had been ended.[11]


      [1] Washington (State). 1889. Constitution. W.H. Hughes Co.
      Seattle, Wa. Pg. 12.

      [2] Chuman, Frank F. 1976. "The Bamboo People: The Law and Japanese-
      Americans". Publishers Inc., Del Mar, California. Pg 30-32

      [3] Ibid. Pg 33-36

      [4] Hutchinson, E.P. 1981. "Legislative History of American
      Immigration Policy, 1798-1965". University of Pennsylvania Press,
      Philadelphia, PA. Pg 166-167

      [5] Auerbach, Frank L. 1961. "Immigration Laws of the United
      States, 2nd Ed." Bobbs-Merrill, Inc. Indianapolis, IN and Ney York,
      NY. Pg 8

      [6] Washington (State). Legislature. House of Representatives.
      1921. House Bill Number 79. Olympia, Wa.

      [7] Hutchinson, E.P. 1981. Pg 180

      [8] Washington (State). Legislature. House of Representatives.
      1923. House Bill Number 70. Olympia, Wa.

      [9] Washington (State). Washington Courts; Washington State
      Constitution. Viewed November 10, 2005.

      [10] Auerbach, Frank L. 1961. Pg 10

      [11] Ibid. Pg 11
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