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The Chinese Exclusion Acts

The Chinese Exclusion Acts. Asian Americans and the Law Dr. Steiner. Anson Burlingame. Burlingame Treaty Art. V (1868).

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The Chinese Exclusion Acts

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  1. The Chinese Exclusion Acts Asian Americans and the Law Dr. Steiner

  2. Anson Burlingame

  3. Burlingame Treaty Art. V (1868) • The United States of America and the Emperor of China cordially recognize the inherent and inalienable right of man to change his home and allegiance, and also the mutual advantage of the free migration and emigration of their citizens and subjects, respectively, from the one country to the other, for purposes of curiosity, of trade, or as permanent residents.

  4. Burlingame Treaty Art. VI (1868) • Citizens of the United States visiting or residing in China shall enjoy the same privileges, immunities, or exemptions in respect to travel or residence as may there be enjoyed by the citizens or subjects of the most favored nation. And, reciprocally, Chinese subjects visiting or residing in the United States, shall enjoy the same privileges, immunities, and exemptions in respect to travel or residence, as may there be enjoyed by the citizens or subjects of the most favored nation.

  5. Burlingame Treaty Art. VI (1868) • But nothing herein contained shall be held to confer naturalization upon citizens of the United States in China, nor upon the subjects of China in the United States.

  6. Toward Exclusion • California’s record of discriminatory legislation • Court cases such as Chy Lung v. Freeman (1875) • Page Act of 1875

  7. Chy Lung v. Freeman (1875) • The passage of laws which concern the admission of citizens and subjects of foreign nations to our shores belongs to Congress, and not to the States.

  8. Ho Ah Kow v. Nunan (1879) • We are aware of the general feeling--amounting to positive hostility-- prevailing in California against the Chinese, which would prevent their further immigration hither and expel from the state those already here. . . . We feel the force and importance of these considerations; but the remedy for the apprehended evil is to be sought from the general government, where, except in certain special cases, all power over the subject lies.

  9. Exclusion and the “California Thesis” • Some historians say that California was responsible for exclusion • Frontier society • Racially prejudiced white workers • Economic conditions • Opportunistic politicians • National party politics meant federal government yielded to pressure from California • Hune, Politics of Chinese Exclusion

  10. National Racist Consensus Thesis • While California was the spearhead for the movement for exclusion, there was a national consensus based upon widely held stereotypes of Chinese • National labor organizations played a particularly significant role

  11. National Politicians Thesis • Andrew Gyory, Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act (1998) The single most important force behind the Chinese Exclusion Act was national politicians of both parties who seized, transformed, and manipulated the issue of Chinese immigration in the quest for votes. . . . Politicians—not California, not workers, and not national racist imagery—ultimately supplied the agency for Chinese exclusion.

  12. Naturalization Act of 1870 • On July 4, 1870 Senator Charles Sumner tried to strike the word “white” from the naturalization law.

  13. Charles Sumner (July 4, 1870) • It is “all men” and not a race or color that are placed under the protection of the Declaration [of Independence, which said famously that “all men are created equal”], and such was the voice of our fathers on the fourth day of July, 1776…. Now, Sir, what better thing can you do on this anniversary than to expunge from the statutes that unworthy limitation that dishonors and defiles the original Declaration? … The word “white” wherever it occurs as a limitation of rights, must disappear. Only in this way can you be consistent with the Declaration.

  14. Democratic Party Platform of 1876 • Reform is necessary to correct the omissions of a Republican Congress and the errors of our treaties and our diplomacy, which has . . . exposed our brethren of the Pacific coast to the incursions of a race not sprung from the same great parent stock, and in fact now by law denied citizenship through naturalization as being unaccustomed to the traditions of a progressive civilization, one exercised in liberty under equal laws;

  15. Democratic Party Platform of 1876 • and we denounce the policy which thus discardsthe liberty-loving German and tolerates the revival of the coolie-trade in Mongolian women for immoral purposes, and Mongolian men held to perform servile labor contracts, and demand such modification of the treaty with the Chinese Empire, or such legislation within constitutional limitations, as shall prevent further importation or immigration of the Mongolian race.

  16. Republican Party Platform 1876 • It is the immediate duty of congress fully to investigate the effects of the immigration and importation of Mongolians on the moral and material interests of the country.

  17. James BlaineSenator, Maine • We have this day to choose…whether our legislation shall be in the interest of the American free laborer or the servile laborer from China…You cannot work a man who must have beef and bread and would prefer beer, alongside a man who can live on rice.  It cannot be done. • On Fifteen Passenger Bill, 1879

  18. Fifteen Passenger Bill (1879) • No master of a vessel would be permitted to bring more than fifteen Chinese passengers into the United States on any one voyage • Upon arrival, ship masters would be required to present sworn list of all Chinese passengers • Violators could be fined $100 for each passenger and six months in prison

  19. Fifteen Passenger Bill (1879) • Passed House on January 28, 1879 • 155 in favor; 72 opposed • Democrats voted 104-16 in favor • Republicans voted 51-56 against • Passed Senate on February 15, 1879 • 39 in favor; 27 opposed; 9 absent • Democrats 25-8 in favor • Republicans voted 14-19 against

  20. Rutherford B. HayesDiary (1879) • I am satisfied the present Chinese labor invasion (it is not any proper sense immigration--women and children do not come) is pernicious and should be discouraged. Our experience in dealing with weaker races--the Negroes and Indians, for example--is not encouraging. We shall oppress the Chinamen, and their presence will make hoodlums or vagabonds of their oppressors.

  21. Rutherford B. HayesDiary • I therefore would consider with favor measures to discourage the Chinese from coming to our shores. But I suspect that this bill is inconsistent with our treaty obligations. . . . If it violates the national faith I must decline to approve it.

  22. Hayes’s Veto Message (March 1, 1879) • Up to this time our uncovenanted hospitality to immigration, our fearless liberality of citizenship, our equal and comprehensive justice to all inhabitants, whether they abjured their foreign nationality or not, our civil freedom, and our religious toleration had made all comers welcome, and under these protections the Chinese in considerable numbers had made their lodgment upon our soil.

  23. Hayes’s Veto Message • I regard the very grave discontents of the people of the Pacific States with the present working of the Chinese immigration, and their still graver apprehensions therefrom in the future, as deserving the most serious attention of the people of the whole country and a solicitous interest on the part of Congress and the Executive. If this were not my own judgment, the passage of this bill by both Houses of Congress would impress upon me the seriousness of the situation, when a majority of the representatives of the people of the whole country had thought fit to justify so serious a measure of relief.

  24. Hayes’s Veto Message • The authority of Congress to terminate a treaty with a foreign power by expressing the will of the nation no longer to adhere to it is as free from controversy under our Constitution as is the further proposition that the power of making new treaties or modifying existing treaties is not lodged by the Constitution in Congress, but in the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, as shown by the concurrence of two-thirds of that body. A denunciation of a treaty by any government is confessedly justifiable only upon some reason both of the highest justice and of the highest necessity.

  25. Hayes’s Veto Message • I am convinced that, whatever urgency might in any quarter or by any interest be supposed to require an instant suppression of further immigration from China, no reasons can require the immediate withdrawal of our treaty protection of the Chinese already in this country, and no circumstances can tolerate an exposure of our citizens in China, merchants or missionaries, to the consequences of so sudden an abrogation of their treaty protection.

  26. Treaty Regulating Immigration from China(Nov. 17, 1880) • Whereas the Government of the United States, because of the constantly increasing immigration of Chinese laborers to the territory of the United States, and the embarrassments consequent upon such immigration, now desires to negotiate a modification of the existing Treaties which shall not be in direct contravention of their spirit:

  27. Treaty Regulating Immigration from China, Art. I (Nov. 17, 1880) • Whenever in the opinion of the Government of the United States, the coming of Chinese laborers to the United States, or their residence therein, affects or threatens to affect the interests of that country, or to endanger the good order of the said country or of any locality within the territory thereof, the Government of China agrees that the Government of the United States may regulate, limit, or suspend such coming or residence, but may not absolutely prohibit it.

  28. Treaty Regulating Immigration from China, Art. I (Nov. 17, 1880) • The limitation or suspension shall be reasonable and shall apply only to Chinese who may go to the United States as laborers, other classes not being included in the limitations.

  29. Treaty Regulating Immigration from China, Art. II (Nov. 17, 1880) • Chinese subjects, whether proceeding to the United States as teachers, students, merchants, or from curiosity, together with their body and household servants, and Chinese laborers who are now in the United States, shall be allowed to go and come of their own free will and accord, and shall be accorded all the rights, privileges, immunities and exemptions which are accorded to the citizens and subjects of the most favored nation.

  30. Treaty Regulating Immigration from China, Art. II (Nov. 17, 1880) • If Chinese laborers, or Chinese of any other class, now either permanently or temporarily residing in the territory of the United States, meet with ill treatment at the hands of any other persons, the Government of the United States will exert all its power to devise measures for their protection and to secure to them the same rights, privileges, immunities and exemptions as may be enjoyed by the citizens or subjects of the most favored nation, and to which they are entitled by treaty . . .

  31. First Exclusion Act of 1882 • Twenty-year exclusion period • Vetoed by President Chester A. Arthur • Convinced of necessity of legislation • But twenty-year term violated treaty

  32. “It would be unreasonable to destroy it, and would reflect upon the honor of the country.”

  33. Harper’sWeekly, April 15, 1882 • , In a temperate and excellent message the President has vetoed the Chinese bill. He states in detail the existing treaty relations between the countries, and the express understanding between the Commissioners upon both sides in the late negotiations. It was stipulated that the free immigration of Chinese should not be prohibited, and that any regulation of their coming should be reasonable. But an exclusion of twenty years is a practical prohibition, and therefore unreasonable. The President adopts this view, and regarding the twenty years clause as a breach of the national faith, he returns the bill.

  34. Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 • 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, . . .

  35. Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 • Be it enacted, 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, . . . 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.

  36. Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 • That the master of any vessel who shall knowingly bring within the United States on such vessel, and land or permit to be landed, any Chinese laborer, from any foreign port or 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.

  37. Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 • 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 . . .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.

  38. Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 • [E]very 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 . . . 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. . .

  39. Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 • 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.

  40. Exclusion Act 1882 • In the opening sentence, Congress announced the purpose of the Exclusion Act. What is its purpose? What “localities” was Congress referring to? • The Act excludes “Chinese laborers”? What is meant by “Chinese”? Does it apply to all ethnic Chinese or is it limited to subjects of the Chinese Empire? • Which Chinese laborers are exempted by the Act? How would such laborers prove their exemption? • Who else could enter the United States from China? How would those persons prove they could enter? • Who is a laborer under the Act under section 15?

  41. Effect of Exclusion Act • In 1882, before the Act went into effect, 39,000 Chinese came to the United States • In 1887, Chinese immigration totaled 10! • While American population doubled between 1880 and 1920, the population of those of Chinese descent declined by one-third. • Chin, Chae Chan Pong and Fong Yue Ting

  42. Act of July 5, 1884, ch. 220, 23 Stat. 115 • Section fifteen of said act is hereby amended so as to read as follows: That the provisions of this act shall apply to all subjects of China and Chinese, whether subjects of China or any other foreign power; and the words Chinese laborers, wherever used in this Act shall be construed to mean both skilled and unskilled laborers and Chinese employed in mining.

  43. Act of July 5, 1884, ch. 220, 23 Stat. 115 • 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 laborers shall seek to re-enter, and said certificates shall be the only evidence permissible to establish his right of re-entry. . .

  44. Chew Heong v. United States,112 U.S. 536 (1884) • The entire argument in support of the judgment below proceeds upon the erroneous assumption that congress intended to exclude all Chinese laborers of every class who were not in the United States at the time of the passage of the act of 1882, including those who, like the plaintiff in error, were here when the last treaty was concluded, but were absent at the date of the passage of that act. . . . [T]he courts uniformly refuse to give to statutes a retrospective operation, whereby rights previously vested are injuriously affected, unless compelled to do so by language so clear and positive as to leave no room to doubt that such was the intention of the legislature.

  45. Lorenzo Sawyer to Matthew P. Deady,Dec. 22, 1884 • [I]t is some consolation, after all the lying, abuse, threatening of impeachment etc. as to our construction of the Chinese restriction act, and the grand glorification of brother Field for coming out here and so easily, promptly and thoroughly sitting down on us and setting us right on that subject to find that we are not so widely out of our senses after all.

  46. Act of Oct. 1, 1888, 25 Stat. 504, ch. 1064 • That from and after the passage of this act, it shall be unlawful for any chinese laborers who shall at any time heretofore have been, or who may now or hereafter be, a resident within the United States and who shall have departed, or shall depart, therefrom, and shall not have returned before the passage of this act, to return to, or remain in, the United States.

  47. Act of Oct. 1, 1888, 25 Stat. 504, ch. 1064 • Sec. 2 That no certificate of identity provided for in the fourth and fifth sections of the act to which this is a supplement shall hereafter be issued; and every certificate heretofore issued in pursuance thereof, is hereby declared void and of no effect, and the chinese laborer claiming admission by virtue thereof shall not be permitted to enter the United States.

  48. Effect of 1888 Amendment • Between 20,000 and 30,000 Chinese who had been living in the United States and had relied upon the statute and obtained a certificate and returned to China, were stranded there.

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