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The first recorded Chinese immigration into San Francisco was in 1848, but it began in earnest in 1852 when 18,000 arrived in a town with a then population of fewer than 37,000. In 1870, 90% of the agricutural labor in California was Chinese.With the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad, thousands of Chinese were left unemployed while at the same time white immigration into California was increasing. Anti-Chinese feeling, expressed as boycotts, "queue" ordinances and anti-alien land ownership laws, became common.A treaty arrangement with China had been re-negotiated by The Hayes Administration in 1881. Congress was responsive to complaints from California, where most Chinese immigrants had settled. Under the terms of the initial exclusion bill, Chinese workers were to be prohibited from entering the United States for a period of 20 years and no Chinese could be granted American citizenship.Chester Arthur vetoed the measure, arguing that it violated the terms of the nation’s commercial arrangement with China. Congress was unable to override the veto and flags in San Francisco were flown at half staff.The bill was later amended to prohibiting immigration for a period of 10 years and was signed by the president. (In 1892, this act was extended for an additional 10 years.)This measure was a sharp departure from America’s traditional policy of open immigration (as in the Burlingame Treaty of 1868) and was the first to single out a particular ethnic group for special treatment.Later in 1882, Congress passed an Immigration Act that placed a total ban on the entrance of criminals, paupers and the insane.
Primary Documents in American History
The Chinese Exclusion Act (PDF, 428KB) of 1882 was signed into law on May 6, 1882. Officially titled "An act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese," the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers for ten years. It was extended in 1892 for another ten years by the Geary Act and then made permanent in 1902.
In 1943, at a time when the United States and China were allies during World War II, the ban on Chinese immigration and naturalization was finally repealed.
- The essay "From Gold Rush to Golden State" discusses Chinese immigration to California in the second half of the nineteenth century.
- Arrest in Chinatown, San Francisco, Cal. - This 1897 film shows the arrest of a Chinese man in Chinatown, watched by a crowd of onlookers. The precise date of this film and the arrest charge are uncertain. It is possible that the arrest was connected with the smuggling of illegal immigrants from China.
- Parade of Chinese - This 1898 film was taken in San Francisco at the Golden Jubilee and shows a procession of the Chinese residents.
- San Francisco Chinese funeral - This 1903 film shows most of the ceremonial portion of the funeral procession of Tom Kim Yung (1858-1903), military attache to the Chinese Legation to the United States.
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
- "The Chinese Bill. Probable Adoption by the House of the Senate Amendments," Helena Weekly Herald. (Helena, Mont.), May 4, 1882.
- "The Chinese Bill Made Law," Sacramento Daily Record-Union. (Sacramento, Calif.), May 9, 1882.
- "The Employment of Chinese," Sacramento Daily Record-Union. (Sacramento, Calif.), May 13, 1882.
- "The Law of the Land: Full-Text of the Anti-Chinese Bill," The Daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.), May 14, 1882.
- "The Amended Chinese Bill" The Highland Weekly News. (Hillsborough [Hillsboro], Highland County, Ohio), May 25, 1882.
American Memory Timeline: Chinese Immigration to the United States, 1851-1900.
This presentation discusses Chinese immigration from 1851 to 1900 and links to related primary source documents.
This feature presentation introduces teachers and students to the topic of immigration, including information on the Chinese immigration experience and the Chinese Exclusion Act.
On September 2, 1885, a mob of white coal miners attacked their Chinese co-workers (both groups were employed by the Union Pacific Coal Company) in Rock Springs, Wyoming Territory, over a dispute on who had the right to work in a particularly lucrative area of the mine.
Chew Heong v. United States: Chinese Exclusion and the Federal Courts, Federal Judicial Center
Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion, New-York Historical Society
The Chinese-American Experience: 1857-1892, HarpWeek
Chinese in California, 1850-1925, The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley The Ethnic Studies Library, University of California Berkeley and The California Historical Society.
Chinese Immigration and the Chinese Exclusion Acts, U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian
Immigration to the US, 1789-1930: Chinese Exclusion Act, Harvard University Library
Our Documents, Chinese Exclusion Act (1882), National Archives and Records Administration
Ahmad, Diana L. The Opium Debate and Chinese Exclusion Laws in the Nineteenth-Century American West. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2007. [Catalog Record]
Chan, Sucheng, ed. Entry Denied: Exclusion and the Chinese Community in America, 1882&ndash1943. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991. [Catalog Record]
Gold, Martin. Forbidden Citizens: Chinese Exclusion and the U.S. Congress: A Legislative History. Alexandria, Va.: TheCapital.Net, 2012. [Catalog Record]
Gyory, Andrew. Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998. [Catalog Record]
Lau, Estelle T. Paper Families: Identity, Immigration Administration, and Chinese Exclusion. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006. [Catalog Record]
Lee, Erika. At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. [Catalog Record]
McClain, Charles J. In Search of Equality: The Chinese Struggle Against Discrimination in Nineteenth-Century America. [Catalog Record]
Miller, Stuart Creighton. The Unwelcome Immigrant: The American Image of the Chinese, 1785-1882. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969. [Catalog Record]
Riggs, Fred Warren. Pressures on Congress: A Study of the Repeal of Chinese Exclusion. New York: King's Crown Press, 1950. [Catalog Record] [Full Text]
Salyer, Lucy E. Laws Harsh as Tigers: Chinese Immigrants and the Shaping of Modern Immigration Law. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995. [Catalog Record]
Soennichsen, John Robert. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greenwood, 2011. [Catalog Record]
Vickery, John N. The Chinese Exclusion Laws: A Selective Annotated Bibliography of Federal Public Documents. Chapel Hill, N.C.: [s.n.], 2005. [Full Text]
Wong, K. Scott and Sucheng Chan, eds. Claiming America: Constructing Chinese American Identities During the Exclusion Era. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998. [Catalog Record]
Teitelbaum, Michael. Chinese Immigrants. New York: Facts On File, 2005. [Catalog Record]
Thornton, Jeremy. The Gold Rush: Chinese Immigrants Come to America (1848-1882). New York: PowerKids Press, 2004. [Catalog Record]
Chinese Immigration and the Chinese Exclusion Acts
In the 1850 s, Chinese workers migrated to the United States, first to work in the gold mines, but also to take agricultural jobs, and factory work, especially in the garment industry. Chinese immigrants were particularly instrumental in building railroads in the American west, and as Chinese laborers grew successful in the United States, a number of them became entrepreneurs in their own right. As the numbers of Chinese laborers increased, so did the strength of anti-Chinese sentiment among other workers in the American economy. This finally resulted in legislation that aimed to limit future immigration of Chinese workers to the United States, and threatened to sour diplomatic relations between the United States and China.
American objections to Chinese immigration took many forms, and generally stemmed from economic and cultural tensions, as well as ethnic discrimination. Most Chinese laborers who came to the United States did so in order to send money back to China to support their families there. At the same time, they also had to repay loans to the Chinese merchants who paid their passage to America. These financial pressures left them little choice but to work for whatever wages they could. Non-Chinese laborers often required much higher wages to support their wives and children in the United States, and also generally had a stronger political standing to bargain for higher wages. Therefore many of the non-Chinese workers in the United States came to resent the Chinese laborers, who might squeeze them out of their jobs. Furthermore, as with most immigrant communities, many Chinese settled in their own neighborhoods, and tales spread of Chinatowns as places where large numbers of Chinese men congregated to visit prostitutes, smoke opium, or gamble. Some advocates of anti-Chinese legislation therefore argued that admitting Chinese into the United States lowered the cultural and moral standards of American society. Others used a more overtly racist argument for limiting immigration from East Asia, and expressed concern about the integrity of American racial composition.
To address these rising social tensions, from the 1850s through the 1870s the California state government passed a series of measures aimed at Chinese residents, ranging from requiring special licenses for Chinese businesses or workers to preventing naturalization. Because anti-Chinese discrimination and efforts to stop Chinese immigration violated the 1868 Burlingame-Seward Treaty with China, the federal government was able to negate much of this legislation.
In 1879, advocates of immigration restriction succeeded in introducing and passing legislation in Congress to limit the number of Chinese arriving to fifteen per ship or vessel. Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes vetoed the bill because it violated U.S. treaty agreements with China . Nevertheless, it was still an important victory for advocates of exclusion. Democrats, led by supporters in the West, advocated for all-out exclusion of Chinese immigrants. Although Republicans were largely sympathetic to western concerns, they were committed to a platform of free immigration. In order to placate the western states without offending China, President Hayes sought a revision of the Burlingame-Seward Treaty in which China agreed to limit immigration to the United States.
In 1880, the Hayes Administration appointed U.S. diplomat James B. Angell to negotiate a new treaty with China. The resulting Angell Treaty permitted the United States to restrict, but not completely prohibit, Chinese immigration. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which, per the terms of the Angell Treaty, suspended the immigration of Chinese laborers (skilled or unskilled) for a period of 10 years. The Act also required every Chinese person traveling in or out of the country to carry a certificate identifying his or her status as a laborer, scholar, diplomat, or merchant. The 1882 Act was the first in American history to place broad restrictions on immigration.
For American presidents and Congressmen addressing the question of Chinese exclusion, the challenge was to balance domestic attitudes and politics, which dictated an anti-Chinese policy, while maintaining good diplomatic relations with China, where exclusion would be seen as an affront and a violation of treaty promises. The domestic factors ultimately trumped international concerns. In 1888, Congress took exclusion even further and passed the Scott Act, which made reentry to the United States after a visit to China impossible, even for long-term legal residents. The Chinese Government considered this act a direct insult, but was unable to prevent its passage. In 1892, Congress voted to renew exclusion for ten years in the Geary Act, and in 1902, the prohibition was expanded to cover Hawaii and the Philippines, all over strong objections from the Chinese Government and people. Congress later extended the Exclusion Act indefinitely.
In China, merchants responded to the humiliation of the exclusion acts by organizing an anti-American boycott in 1905. Though the movement was not sanctioned by the Chinese government, it received unofficial support in the early months. President Theodore Roosevelt recognized the boycott as a direct response to unfair American treatment of Chinese immigrants, but with American prestige at stake, he called for the Chinese government to suppress it. After five difficult months, Chinese merchants lost the impetus for the movement, and the boycott ended quietly.
The Chinese Exclusion Acts were not repealed until 1943, and then only in the interests of aiding the morale of a wartime ally during World War II. With relations already complicated by the Opium Wars and the Treaties of Wangxia and Tianjian>, the increasingly harsh restrictions on Chinese immigration, combined with the rising discrimination against Chinese living in the United States in the 1870s-early 1900s, placed additional strain on the diplomatic relationship between the United States and China.
1882 Chinese Exclusion Act
The Federal Chinese Exclusion Act denies entry of Chinese into the US. It is not repealed until 1943.
The gold rush and the building of the transcontinental railroad brought many Chinese to the US. They later settled in cities and initially took low-wage work.
Euro-American labor movements became antagonistic toward Chinese labor in the 1870s. Their lobbying efforts led to the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. The act was renewed in 1892 and reauthorized in 1902 until it was repealed in 1943.
The 1882 act was followed by a “driving out” period comprising a series of violent incidents that forced Chinese out of many communities in the west. During this period smuggling Chinese workers into the US from Canada was common and lucrative.
The lack of racial diversity in Bellingham is not an accident. Colonization, followed by a history of discriminatory practices, policies, and events, have shaped our city. We have to understand our history to create a better future.
Chinese Exclusion Act Background Readings
Provided below are a series of background readings that you can share with students to further enhance their study of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
Each title links to a PDF document that may be downloaded and/or printed for classroom use. Items with asterisks (*) link to external websites.
Chinese Immigrants: An Overview
China was a country torn by conflict in the 1800s. After the Opium Wars with England, China was devastated by poverty and famine. In 1851, reports of gold came from the West, having been discovered at Sutter’s Mill in 1848. Nearly 3,000 Chinese came to the U.S. in the hopes of making their fortune.
Millions of newcomers from throughout Europe sought out new homes in the West in the nineteenth century, especially in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. The railroad was sometimes how they came or why they came.
Exclusion in Washington
The passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act came after a long period of anti-Chinese discrimination. There were more than 200 incidents of ethnic cleansing in the last half of the nineteenth century, many of them occurring before the passage of the Act.
Run Out on the Rails they Built
In 1885, nine-year-old Ruby Chapin was horrified by events around her. Chapin, whose family had moved from New York to Tacoma two years earlier, did not understand why her Chinese neighbors were being forced at gunpoint to leave town, their homes burned and businesses destroyed.
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (primary source located at the National Archives)*
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was one of the first pieces of legislation passed by the United States government to legally discriminate against the Chinese people. While it banned emigration for 10 years, its powers would be extended by the Geary Act of 1892.
Lum May statement (primary source)
An 1886 eyewitness account from a Chinese resident about the expulsion in Tacoma. Lum May recounts the traumatic events and their impact on his family.
Letter from James Wickersham (primary source)
The anti-Chinese paranoia that swept Puget Sound is clear in the writing of a Tacoma city official who participated in the expulsion. James Wickersham, who later became a delegate for the Alaskan Territory, echoed white fears. In this 1916 letter, he expressed his worries about “being confronted by millions of industrious hard-working” Chinese, who would outdo their white neighbors and “gain possession of the Pacific coast of America.”
The Tacoma Method (primary source)
The means by which Tacoma residents expelled their Chinese population was given a name–the “Tacoma Method.” This article is the reputed source for that name.
Deputization of Olympia Citizens to stop anti-Chinese riots (primary source, courtesy of Washington Secretary of State)*
This is the paper which Sheriff William Billings used in 1886 to swear in prominent Olympia citizens to stop anti-Chinese riots in which a mob attempted to run the Chinese people out of town. Prompt and determined action prevented the mob from accomplishing this.
The Chinese Exclusion Act: a Brief Overview (courtesy of Lehigh University)*
By 1870, the Chinese were 8.6 % of the total population of California and constituted 25% of the labor force. Chinese immigrants arrived on U.S. shores between the start of the California gold rush in 1849 and 1882, until the U.S. Congress enacted federal law in 1882 designed to prevent Chinese immigrants from entering or remaining in the United States.
Reflections on Exclusion: We Punish Boat People (courtesy of the Chinese Historical Society of America)*
Exclusion is an ugly thing. It attacks a person’s sense of worth, of self, of identity. It deflates. Repeal of these laws started with the Chinese Repeal in 1943, then with changes in 1946 and 1952. But the psychic exclusion of Asians commenced long before and endured long after the life of any federal laws.
History of Chinese Immigration
Chinese immigration in America originally started with Gold mining in California or the famous "Calfornia Gold Rush" in 1848-1855. At the start, Americans received Chinese but due to the worst political scenario, machine politics and the difficult economic situation changed the situation. As the gold became harder to find, the animosity and differences increased.
So first they decided to get rid of Chinese men by changing the laws and using state legislators and other miners.
Chinese men provided cheap labor to the American industries. They helped in building the transcontinental railroad. They worked in different roles, working for more time and having low wages. But this thing created disturbance in the circle of American labors as they blamed the Chinese men for the low wages and fewer employment opportunities.
Then there was a significant change in behavior and laws against Chinese. A series of laws were passed again immigrants especially Chinese on racial basis banning them from entering the California state in 1879.
This series of laws ultimately ended up in the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, completely restricting Chinese from entering America.
Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 - History
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 remains one of the great stains in this Nation’s history. Individuals of Chinese descent who lived in America helped build this country, both literally when speaking of the Transcontinental Railroad, and figuratively when looking at their contributions to helping grow this Nation’s economy as integral members of the agricultural, mining, manufacturing, construction, fishing, and canning industries. And yet, from the middle of the 19th century through the early 20th century, Chinese immigrants were ostracized and met with violent assaults based on their race.
Photo courtesy of the Museum of Chinese in America.
Moreover, Chinese immigrants faced a litany of discriminatory actions by the U.S. government that culminated in the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The Act prohibited skilled and unskilled Chinese laborers from entering the United States for 10 years, was the first Federal law that excluded a single group of people on the basis of race, and required certain Chinese laborers already legally present in the United States who later wished to reenter the United States to obtain “certificates of return”, an unprecedented requirement that applied only to Chinese residents. The Act also explicitly prohibited all State and Federal courts from naturalizing Chinese persons.
If that was not enough, the Act also underscored the belief that Chinese people were unfit to be naturalized and, in the House Committee Report accompanying that Act, stated that the Chinese came to the United States “without the intention to make it their permanent residence” and “that they retain their distinctive peculiarities and characteristics, refusing to assimilate themselves to our institutions, and remaining a separate and distinct class, intrenched [sic] behind immovable prejudices that their ignorance or disregard of sanitary laws, as evidenced in their habits of life, breeds disease, pestilence, and death that their claim of superiority as to religion and civilization, destroys all hope of their improvement from contact with our institutions”.
In 1943, at the urging of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and over 60 years after the enactment of the first discriminatory laws aimed at Chinese immigrants, Congress repealed previously enacted anti-Chinese legislation and permitted Chinese immigrants to become United States citizens. It was not until the Immigration Act of 1965, however, which changed the decades old immigration quota system to one that favored family reunification that the doors for immigration from Asia, Africa and Latin America were truly opened.
In 2012, under the leadership of Congresswoman Judy Chu, the House of Representative passed a resolution expressing regret for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 - History
Forty-Seventh Congress. Session I. 1882
Chapter 126.-An act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese.
Whereas, in the opinion of the Government of the United States the coming of Chinese laborers to this country endangers the good order of certain localities within the territory thereof: Therefore,
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That from and after the expiration of ninety days next after the passage of this act, and until the expiration of ten years next after the passage of this act, the coming of Chinese laborers to the United States be, and the same is hereby, suspended and during such suspension it shall not be lawful for any Chinese laborer to come, or, having so come after the expiration of said ninety days, to remain within the United States.
SEC. 2. That the master of any vessel who shall knowingly bring within the United States on such vessel, and land or permit to be landed, and Chinese laborer, from any foreign port of place, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars for each and every such Chinese laborer so brought, and may be also imprisoned for a term not exceeding one year.
SEC. 3. That the two foregoing sections shall not apply to Chinese laborers who were in the United States on the seventeenth day of November, eighteen hundred and eighty, or who shall have come into the same before the expiration of ninety days next after the passage of this act, and who shall produce to such master before going on board such vessel, and shall produce to the collector of the port in the United States at which such vessel shall arrive, the evidence hereinafter in this act required of his being one of the laborers in this section mentioned nor shall the two foregoing sections apply to the case of any master whose vessel, being bound to a port not within the United States by reason of being in distress or in stress of weather, or touching at any port of the United States on its voyage to any foreign port of place: Provided, That all Chinese laborers brought on such vessel shall depart with the vessel on leaving port.
SEC. 4. That for the purpose of properly identifying Chinese laborers who were in the United States on the seventeenth day of November, eighteen hundred and eighty, or who shall have come into the same before the expiration of ninety days next after the passage of this act, and in order to furnish them with the proper evidence of their right to go from and come to the United States of their free will and accord, as provided by the treaty between the United States and China dated November seventeenth, eighteen hundred and eighty, the collector of customs of the district from which any such Chinese laborer shall depart from the United States shall, in person or by deputy, go on board each vessel having on board any such Chinese laborer and cleared or about to sail from his district for a foreign port, and on such vessel make a list of all such Chinese laborers, which shall be entered in registry-books to be kept for that purpose, in which shall be stated the name, age, occupation, last place of residence, physical marks or peculiarities, and all facts necessary for the identification of each of such Chinese laborers, which books shall be safely kept in the custom-house and every such Chinese laborer so departing from the United States shall be entitled to, and shall receive, free of any charge or cost upon application therefore, from the collector or his deputy, at the time such list is taken, a certificate, signed by the collector or his deputy and attested by his seal of office, in such form as the Secretary of the Treasury shall prescribe, which certificate shall contain a statement of the name, age, occupation, last place of residence, personal description, and fact of identification of the Chinese laborer to whom the certificate is issued, corresponding with the said list and registry in all particulars. In case any Chinese laborer after having received such certificate shall leave such vessel before her departure he shall deliver his certificate to the master of the vessel, and if such Chinese laborer shall fail to return to such vessel before her departure from port the certificate shall be delivered by the master to the collector of customs for cancellation. The certificate herein provided for shall entitle the Chinese laborer to whom the same is issued to return to and re-enter the United States upon producing and delivering the same to the collector of customs of the district at which such Chinese laborer shall seek to re-enter and upon delivery of such certificate by such Chinese laborer to the collector of customs at the time of re-entry in the United States, said collector shall cause the same to be filed in the custom house and duly canceled.
SEC. 5. That any Chinese laborer mentioned in section four of this act being in the United States, and desiring to depart from the United States by land, shall have the right to demand and receive, free of charge or cost, a certificate of identification similar to that provided for in section four of this act to be issued to such Chinese laborers as may desire to leave the United States by water and it is hereby made the duty of the collector of customs of the district next adjoining the foreign country to which said Chinese laborer desires to go to issue such certificate, free of charge or cost, upon application by such Chinese laborer, and to enter the same upon registry-books to be kept by him for the purpose, as provided for in section four of this act.
SEC. 6. That in order to the faithful execution of articles one and two of the treaty in this act before mentioned, every Chinese person other than a laborer who may be entitled by said treaty and this act to come within the United States, and who shall be about to come to the United States, shall be identified as so entitled by the Chinese Government in each case, such identity to be evidenced by a certificate issued under the authority of said government, which certificate shall be in the English language or (if not in the English language) accompanied by a translation into English, stating such right to come, and which certificate shall state the name, title, or official rank, if any, the age, height, and all physical peculiarities, former and present occupation or profession, and place of residence in China of the person to whom the certificate is issued and that such person is entitled conformably to the treaty in this act mentioned to come within the United States. Such certificate shall be prima-facie evidence of the fact set forth therein, and shall be produced to the collector of customs, or his deputy, of the port in the district in the United States at which the person named therein shall arrive.
SEC. 7. That any person who shall knowingly and falsely alter or substitute any name for the name written in such certificate or forge any such certificate, or knowingly utter any forged or fraudulent certificate, or falsely personate any person named in any such certificate, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be fined in a sum not exceeding one thousand dollars, an imprisoned in a penitentiary for a term of not more than five years.
SEC. 8. That the master of any vessel arriving in the United States from any foreign port or place shall, at the same time he delivers a manifest of the cargo, and if there be no cargo, then at the time of making a report of the entry of vessel pursuant to the law, in addition to the other matter required to be reported, and before landing, or permitting to land, any Chinese passengers, deliver and report to the collector of customs of the district in which such vessels shall have arrived a separate list of all Chinese passengers taken on board his vessel at any foreign port or place, and all such passengers on board the vessel at that time. Such list shall show the names of such passengers (and if accredited officers of the Chinese Government traveling on the business of that government, or their servants, with a note of such facts), and the name and other particulars, as shown by their respective certificates and such list shall be sworn to by the master in the manner required by law in relation to the manifest of the cargo. Any willful refusal or neglect of any such master to comply with the provisions of this section shall incur the same penalties and forfeiture as are provided for a refusal or neglect to report and deliver a manifest of cargo.
SEC. 9. That before any Chinese passengers are landed from any such vessel, the collector, or his deputy, shall proceed to examine such passengers, comparing the certificates with the list and with the passengers and no passenger shall be allowed to land in the United States from such vessel in violation of law.
SEC. 10. That every vessel whose master shall knowingly violate any of the provisions of this act shall be deemed forfeited to the United States, and shall be liable to seizure and condemnation on any district of the United States into which such vessel may enter or in which she may be found.
SEC. 11. That any person who shall knowingly bring into or cause to be brought into the United States by land, or who shall knowingly aid or abet the same, or aid or abet the landing in the United States from any vessel of any Chinese person not lawfully entitled to enter the United States, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall, on conviction thereof, be fined in a sum not exceeding one thousand dollars, and imprisoned for a term not exceeding one year.
SEC. 12. That no Chinese person shall be permitted to enter the United States by land without producing to the proper officer of customs the certificate in this act required of Chinese persons seeking to land from a vessel. And any Chinese person found unlawfully within the United States shall be caused to be removed therefrom to the country from whence he came, by direction of the United States, after being brought before some justice, judge, or commissioner of a court of the United States and found to be one not lawfully entitled to be or remain in the United States.
SEC. 13. That this act shall not apply to diplomatic and other officers of the Chinese Government traveling upon the business of that government, whose credentials shall be taken as equivalent to the certificate in this act mentioned, and shall exempt them and their body and household servants from the provisions of this act as to other Chinese persons.
SEC. 14. That hereafter no State court or court of the United States shall admit Chinese to citizenship and all laws in conflict with this act are hereby repealed.
SEC. 15. That the words "Chinese laborers", whenever used in this act, shall be construed to mean both skilled and unskilled laborers and Chinese employed in mining.
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was signed into law on May 6, 1882. Officially titled "An act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese," the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers for ten years. It was extended in 1892 for another ten years by the Geary Act and then made permanent in 1902. In 1943, at a time when the United States and China were allies during World War II, the ban on Chinese immigration and naturalization was finally repealed.
A R T L▼R K
‘A Matter of Taste’ by Thomas Nast, 15 March, 1879
On the 15th of March 1879, Thomas Nast’s cartoon, A Matter of Taste, was published. In the cartoon, criticising the support of the Chinese Exclusion Act , Senator James G. Blaine, an active backer of the Act, is shown dining in ‘Kearney’s Senatorial Restaurant’ – a reference to Denis Kearney, the leader of a violent anti-Chinese movement in California. In the foreground of the picture, John Confucius – Nast’s variant of a stock caricature of a Chinese labourer commonly referred to as John Chinaman, poses a question, “How can Christians stomach such diet?”. The simplicity of the cartoon is striking, yet its message powerful. But such was the style of Thomas Nast, well known for his political cartoons and political convictions. He opposed slavery, racial segregation, and deplored the violence of the Ku Klux Klan. He was also among the few editorial artists who stood against the exclusion of the Chinese from America.
The first significant Chinese immigration to America fell between 1848 and 1855 during the California Gold Rush . Successively, such big construction projects as, for example, the First Transcontinental Railroad, attracted even more work force from across the Pacific. Initially, the Chinese were tolerated in the relatively new American nation, formed of immigrants itself. However, once gold became harder to find and the railroad was completed, the Chinese were forced to move into cities and merge with the White part of the population. And that is when the frictions and animosities began. “The Panic of 1873 provided evidence that mild hostility toward a foreign people could escalate into outright violence when an economy soured and people were in fear of losing their jobs. This violence only increased as orators like Denis (Dennis) Kearney and politician John Bigler aroused the emotions of unemployed White Americans who needed a villain toward whom they could direct their hostilities.” ( John Seonnichsen, The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 ).
Kearey, an Irish immigrant, began a fiery campaign against the Chinese. His radical speeches, each of which ended with a simple yet very clear statement, “The Chinese Must Go!”, not only attracted crowds, but spurred them to take action. In his 1878 speech, he said: “To add to our misery and despair, a bloated aristocracy has sent to China – the greatest and oldest despotism in the world – for a cheap working slave. It rakes the slums of Asia to find the meanest slave on earth – the Chinese coolie – and imports him here to meet the free American in the labor market, and still further widen the breach between the rich and poor, sill further to degrade white labor. These cheap slaves fill every place. Their dress is scant and cheap. Their food is rice from China. They lodge twenty in a room, ten by ten. They are whipped curs, abject in docility, mean, contemptible and obedient in all things. They have no wives, children or dependents.” (Seonnichsen).
Another spokesperson for those in favour of the discrimination of the Chinese was Senator James G. Blaine. “Ought we to exclude them?” was his question on the 14 th of February 1879, to which he replied: “The question lies in my mind thus: either the Anglo-Saxon race will possess the Pacific slope or the Mongolians will possess it.” ( Andrew Gyory, Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act ). From these few words, Blaine appeared to be not only arrogant but also ignorant his speeches were filled with strong racial prejudice. “In a widely reprinted letter to the New York Tribune…, he elaborated his position, calling Chinese immigration “vicious,” “odious,” “abominable,” “dangerous,” and “revolting… If as a nation we have the right to keep out infectious diseases, if we have the right to exclude the criminal classes from coming to us, we surely have the right to exclude that immigration which reeks with impurity and which cannot come to us without plenteously sowing the seeds of moral and physical disease, destitution, and death,” Leaving no doubt as to where he stood, the Maine Republican concluded, “I am opposed to the Chinese coming here I am opposed to making them citizens I am opposed to making them voters.”
In effect of these and similar actions, the Chinese Exclusion Act was introduced in 1882, proscribing, for the first time in American history, entry of an ethnic working group on the territory of the United States. The Act was repealed by the Magnuson Act in 1943, when China had become an ally of the United States against Japan in World War II. Ironically, the war based on major racial prejudice opened American borders to the Chinese immigrants.