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[TIMELINE] Chinese Exclusion Convention / San Francisco CA / November 22, 1901

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  • madchinaman
    In 1901, a convention in San Francisco spells out the reasons why it thinks Congress should exclude Chinese immigrants.
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 12 10:55 PM
      In 1901, a convention in San Francisco spells out the reasons why it
      thinks Congress should exclude Chinese immigrants.

      Year 1902
      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
      as citizens.

      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
      productive capacity.

      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
      nonassimilative races.

      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 statesman—the
      patriots and martyrs of mankind—have 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
      of barbarians.

      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
      Chinese himself.

      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
      Chinese exclusion.

      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).
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