[TIMELINE] Chinese Exclusion Convention / San Francisco CA / November 22, 1901
- In 1901, a convention in San Francisco spells out the reasons why it
thinks Congress should exclude Chinese immigrants.
Text When Chinese Flocked In.
Soon after the negotiation of the Burlingame treaty in 1868 large
numbers of Chinese coolies were brought to this country under
contract. Their numbers so increased that in 1878 the people of the
State made a practically unanimous demand for the restriction of
Our white population suffered in every department of labor and
trade, having in numerous instances been driven out of employment by
the competition of the Chinese. The progress of the State was
arrested, because so long as the field was occupied by Chinese a new
and desirable immigration was impossible.
After a bitter struggle remedial legislation was passed in 1882, and
was renewed in 1892, and by treaty with China in 1894 Chinese
exclusion became, with the consent of China, apparently the settled
policy of the country. These laws were to run for a period of ten
Your memorialists, in view of the fact that the present so-called
Geary law expires by limitation on May 5 next, and learning that you
have been petitioned against its reenactment, believe that it is
necessary for them to repeat and to reaffirm the reasons which, in
their judgement, require the reenactment and the continued
enforcement of the law.
Effects of the Geary Act.
The effects of Chinese exclusion have been most advantageous to the
State. The 75,000 Chinese residents of California in 1880 have been
reduced, according to the last census, to 45,000; and whereas the
settlement of California by Caucasians had been arrested prior to
the adoption of these laws, a healthy growth of the State in
population has marked the progress of recent years. Every material
interest of the State has advanced, and prosperity has been our
Were the restriction laws relaxed we are convinced that our working
population would be displaced, and the noble structure of our State,
the creation of American ideas and industry, would be imperiled, if
not destroyed. The lapse of time has only confirmed your
memorialists in their conviction, from their knowledge derived from
actually coming in contact with the Chinese, that they are a
nonassimilative race, and by every standard of thought, undesirable
Although they have been frequently employed and treated with decent
consideration ever since the enactment of the exclusion law in 1882,
which was the culmination and satisfaction of California's patriotic
purpose, they have not in any sense altered their racial
characteristics, and have not, socially or otherwise, assimilated
with our people.
Chinese Are Not Assimilative.
To quote the imperial Chinese consul-general of San Francisco: They
work more cheaply than whites; they live more cheaply; they send
their money out of the country to China; most of them have no
intention of remaining in the United States, and they do not adopt
American manners, but live in colonies, and not after the American
Until this year no statute had been passed by the State forbidding
their intermarriage with the whites, and yet during their long
residence but few intermarriages have taken place, and the offspring
has been invariably degenerate.
It is well established that the issue of the Caucasian and the
Mongolian does not possess the virtues of either, but develops the
vices of both. So physical assimilation is out of the question.
It is well known that the vast majority of the Chinese do not bring
their wives with them in their immigration because of their purpose
to return to their native land when a competency is earned.
Their practical status among us has been that of single men
competing at low wages against not only men of our race, but men who
have been brought up by our civilization to family life and civic
duty. They pay little taxes; they support no institutions, neither
school, church, nor theater; they remain steadfastly, after all
these years, a permanently foreign element.
The purpose, no doubt, for enacting the exclusion laws for periods
of ten years is due to the intention of Congress of observing the
progress of these people under American institutions, and now it has
been clearly demonstrated that they can not, for the deep and
ineradicable reasons of race and mental organization, assimilate
with our own people and be molded as are other races into strong and
composite American stock.
Deter Desirable Immigration.
We respectfully represent that their presence excludes a desirable
population, and that there is no necessity whatever for their
The immigration laws of this country now exclude pauper and contract
labor from every land. All Chinese immigration of the coolie class
is both pauper and contract labor. It is not a voluntary
immigration. The Chinese Six Companies of California deal in Chinese
labor as a commodity. Prior to the exclusion they freely imported
coolies, provided for them, farmed out their services, and returned
them, and if they should die, their bones, pursuant to a
superstitious belief, to their native land.
America is the asylum for the oppressed and liberty-loving people of
the world: and the implied condition of their admission to this
country is their allegiance to its Government and devotion to its
institutions. It is hardly necessary to say that the Chinese are not
even bona fide settlers, as the imperial Chinese consul-general
Protection For American Labor.
We respectfully represent that American labor should not be exposed
to the destructive competition of aliens who do not, will not, and
can not take up the burdens of American citizenship, whose presence
is an economic blight and a patriotic danger.
It has been urged that the Chinese are unskilled and that they
create wealth in field, mine, and forest, which ultimately redounds
to the benefit of the white skilled workingman.
The Chinese are skilled, and are capable of almost any skilled
employment. They have invaded the cigar, shoe, broom, chemical,
clothing, fruit canning, match making, woolen manufacturing
industries, and have displaced more than 4,000 white men in these
several employments in the city of San Francisco.
As common laborers they have throughout California displaced tens of
thousands of men. But this country is not concerned, even in a
coldly economic sense, with the production of wealth. The United
States has now a greater per capita of working energy than any other
land. If it is stimulated by a nonassimilative and nonconsuming
race, there is grave danger of overproduction and stagnation.
The home market should grow with the population. But the Chinese,
living on the most meager food, having no families to support,
inured to deprivation, and hoarding their wages for use in their
native land, whither they invariably return, can not in any sense be
regarded as consumers.
Their earnings do not circulate nor are they reinvested, contrary to
those economic laws which make for the prosperity of nations. For
their services they may be said to be paid twice, first by their
employer and then by the community.
If we must have protection, is it not far better for us to protect
ourselves against the man than against his trade? Our opponents
maintain that the admission of the Chinese would cause an
enlargement of our national wealth and a great increase of
production; but the distribution of wealth, not its production, is
to-day our most serious public question.
In this age of science and invention the production of wealth can
well be left to take care of itself. It is its equitable
distribution that must now be the concern of the country.
Exclusion An Aid To Industrial Peace.
The increasing recurrence of strikes in modern times must have
convinced everyone that their recent settlement is nothing more than
a truce. It is not a permanent industrial peace. The new
organization of capital and labor that is now necessary to bring
about lasting peace and harmony between those engaged in the
production will require greater sympathy, greater trust and
confidence, and a clearer mutual understanding between the employers
and the employed. Any such new organization will require a closer
union to be formed between them. These requirements can never be
fulfilled between the individuals of races so alien to one another
as ourselves and the Chinese.
The Chinese are only capable of working under the present
unsatisfactory system. All progress, then, to an approved
organization of capital and labor would be arrested. We might have
greater growth, but never greater development.
It was estimated by the Commissioner of Labor that there were
1,000,000 idle men in the United States in 1886. Certainly the
76,000 Chinese in California at that time stood for 76,000 white men
waiting for employment, and the further influx of Chinese in any
considerable numbers would precipitate the same conditions again, if
not, indeed, make it chronic.
If the United States increases in population at the rate of 12 per
cent per decade, it will have nearly 230,000,000 of people in one
hundred years. Our inventive genius and the constant improvements
being made in machinery will greatly increase our per capita
If it be our only aim to increase our wealth so as to hold our own
in the markets of the world, are we not, without the aid of Chinese
coolies, capable of doing it, and at the same time preserve the
character of our population and insure the perpetuity of our
institutions? It is not wealth at any cost that sound public policy
requires, but that the country be developed with equal pace and with
a desirable population, which stands not only for industry, but for
Answer To Opponents of Exclusion.
In their appeal to the cupidity of farmers and orchardists the
opponents of Chinese immigration have stated that the Chinese are
only common laborers, and by this kind of argument they have
attempted to disarm the skilled labor organizations of the country;
but we have shown you that the Chinese are skilled and are capable
of becoming skilled.
As agriculturists they have crowded out the native population and
driven the country boy from the farm to the city, where he meets
their skilled competition in many branches of industry.
But shall husbandry be abandoned to a servile class?
Shall the boys and girls of the fields and of the orchards be
deprived of their legitimate work in the harvest?
Shall not our farmers be compelled to look to their own households
and to their own neighbors for labor?
Shall the easy methods of contract employment be fostered?
We are warned by history that the free population of Rome was driven
by slave labor from the country into the city, where they became a
mob and a rabble, ultimately compassing the downfall of the
republic. The small farms were destroyed, and under an overseer
large farms were cultivated, which led Pliny to remark that "great
estates ruined Italy."
Experience with Slave Labor.
The experience of the South with slave labor warned us against an
unlimited Chinese immigration, considered both as a race question
and as an economic problem. The Chinese, if permitted freely to
enter this country, would create race antagonisms which would
ultimately result in great public disturbance. The Caucasians will
not tolerate the Mongolian. As ultimately all government is based
upon physical force, the white population of this country would not,
without resistance suffer itself to be destroyed.
If we were to return to the antebellum ideas of the South, now
happily discarded, the Chinese would satisfy every requirement of a
slave or servile class. They work well, they are docile, and they
would not be concerned about their political condition; but such
suggestions are repulsive to American civilization.
America has dignified work and made it honorable. Manhood gives
title to rights, and the Government being ruled by majorities, is
largely controlled by the very class which servile labor would
supersede, namely, the free and independent workingmen of America.
The political power invested in men by this Government shows the
absolute necessity of keeping up the standard of population and not
permitting it to deteriorate by contact with inferior and
Our Civilization Is Involved.
But this is not alone a race, labor and political question, It is
one which involves our civilization and interests the people of the
world. The benefactors, scholars, soldiers, and statesmanthe
patriots and martyrs of mankindhave builded our modern fabric
firmly upon the foundation of religion, law, science, and art. It
has been rescued from barbarism and protected against the incursions
Civilization in Europe has been frequently attacked and imperiled by
the barbaric hordes of Asia. If the little band of Greeks at
Marathon had not beaten back ten times their number of Asiatic
invaders, it is impossible to estimate the loss to civilization that
would have ensued.
When we contemplate what modern civilization owes to the two
centuries of Athenian life, from which we first learned our lessons
of civil and intellectual freedom, we can see how necessary it was
to keep the Asiatic from breaking into Europe. Attila and his
Asiatic hordes threatened central Europe when the Gauls made their
successful stand against them. The wave of Asiatic barbarism rolled
back and civilization was again saved.
The repulse of the Turks, who are of the Mongolian race, before
Vienna finally made our civilization strong enough to take care of
itself, and the danger of extinction by a military invasion from
Asia passed away.
But a peaceful invasion is more dangerous than a war-like attack. We
can meet and defend ourselves against an open foe, but an insidious
foe under our generous laws would be in possession of the citadel
before we were aware.
The free immigration of Chinese would be for all purposes an
invasion by Asiatic barbarians, against whom civilization in Europe
has been frequently defended, fortunately for us. It is our
inheritance to keep it pure and uncontaminated, as it is our purpose
and destiny to broaden and enlarge it. We are trustees for mankind.
Welfare of Chinese Not Overlooked.
In an age when the brotherhood of man has become more fully
recognized we are not prepared to overlook the welfare of the
We need have nothing on our national conscience, because the Chinese
has a great industrial destiny in his own country. Few realize that
China is yet a sparsely populated country. Let their merchants,
travelers, and students, then, come here, as before, to carry back
to China the benefits of our improvements and experiments.
Let American ideas of progress and enterprise be planted on Chinese
Our commerce with China since 1880 has increased more than 50 per
cent. Our consular service reports that "the United States is second
only to Great Britain in goods sold to the Chinese." The United
States buys more goods from China than does any other nation, and
her total trade with China, exports and imports, equals that of
Great Britain, not including the colonies, and is far ahead of that
of any other country.
Commerce is not sentimental and has not been affected by our policy
of exclusion. The Chinese Government, knowing the necessity of the
situation, being familiar with the fact that almost every country
has imposed restrictions upon the immigration of Chinese coolies,
does not regard our attitude as an unfriendly act.
Indeed, our legislation has been confirmed to treaty. Nor are the
Chinese unappreciative of the friendship of the United States
recently displayed in saving, possibly, the Empire itself from
dismemberment. So, therefore, America is at no disadvantage in its
commercial dealings with China on account of the domestic policy of
Nation's Safety Needs Exclusion.
Therefore every consideration of public duty, the nation's safety
and the people's rights, the preservation of our civilization, and
the perpetuity of our institutions, impel your memorialists to ask
for the reenactment of the exclusion laws, which have for twenty
years protected us against the gravest dangers, and which were they
relaxed would imperil every interest which the American people hold
sacred for themselves and their posterity.
The above memorial was adopted by the Chinese exclusion convention
at San Francisco, Cal., November 22, 1901.
Source American Federation of Labor, Some Reasons for Chinese
Exclusion. Meat vs. Rice. American Manhood against Asiatic
Coolieism .Which Shall Survive? Senate Doc. No. 137, 57th Congress,
1st Session (Washington D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1902).