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In 1907, immigration to the United States peaked at more than 1,285,000 (mostly European) immigrants. At twenty years old, my grandfather came to New York from Tsarist Russia the next year. Speaking no English, he went to night school for language study. He found work in the garment industry, eventually owning his own business. Escaping religious persecution in the old country, he cherished American freedom. As soon as he was eligible, he became an American citizen. For the remainder of his life, America was not merely his home but his passion.
These opportunities were open to my grandfather because he was a European. Had he been Chinese, he almost surely would have been barred from entering the United States. And if, by a quirk, he had been admitted, he could not have gotten U.S. citizenship.
Immigrants have traditionally encountered social and economic obstacles as they seek to find a place in a new society. But the United States Congress subjected the Chinese to unique legal impediments aimed squarely and solely at them. Between 1879 and 1904, a time when immigration from Europe was wide open, Congress passed nine major Chinese exclusion bills. Two were vetoed, but seven became law. Anti-Chinese provisions were placed in other laws as well, such as those involving the annexation of Hawaii and the Philippines. When Congress finally repealed this immense body of legislation in 1943, fourteen statutes were affected.
The most notorious of these laws was popularly known as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. But the Act was no isolated measure passed by Congress in a weak or misguided moment. Controversial when first proposed, Chinese exclusion rapidly became consensual--and Congress continued to tighten the policy.
These laws not only involved exclusion from immigration; they also outlawed Chinese citizenship, even for those who had arrived legally before the gate was closed in 1882. Once Congress forbade naturalization, the Chinese were exposed to repeated discrimination with no political recourse. Until the 1943 repeal, no Chinese born outside of the United States could become an American citizen.
It appeared simple to single out the Chinese for this treatment. Compared to Europeans, they were different in appearance, clothing, language, diet, religion, and social structure. Insisting that the Chinese could not assimilate into American culture, lawmakers simply would not permit them to do so. While pandering for votes, especially in the Pacific region, Democrats and Republicans alike found the Chinese easy prey.
Not that the political targeting of Chinese immigrants went unchallenged in Congress. Heroes were occasionally found on Capitol Hill. Great Senators such as Charles Sumner, Hannibal Hamlin, and George Hoar stood against exclusion. Representative William Rice was a leading opponent and Representatives Warren Magnuson and Walter Judd led efforts for repeal. But until 1943, opponents of exclusion were outvoted and, with each successive debate, their numbers dwindled.
Using senators' and representatives' own words, this book chronicles the sad and disturbing legislative history of the Chinese exclusion laws, with many passages transcribed from the actual debates. The appalling racism that permeated Congress becomes all too clear. Unfortunately, these vicious remarks were neither isolated nor atypical.
Members of Congress are quoted extensively. Even allowing for differences of expression over decades, the race prejudice in these debates is vivid. It is difficult to imagine that the exclusion bills could have been passed, even back then, if members of Congress had not ostracized the Chinese from the rest of American society.
The first piece of broadly anti-Chinese legislation to pass was the Fifteen Passenger Bill of 1879, described in Chapter Two, which President Rutherford B. Hayes vetoed.
However, the story really begins with the 1870 debate over naturalization rights, set out in Chapter One. But for a Senate filibuster led by Nevada's William Stewart, legislation very likely would have passed to grant legal Chinese immigrants a path to citizenship. As Stewart himself later proclaimed, had the Chinese become voters, there would have been no exclusion policy.
Chapters Three through Ten discuss exclusion debates from 1882 through 1904. Chapter Eleven is about the passage of repeal legislation in 1943.
During this period, China was in a state of continuous upheaval. The Qing Dynasty, which had ruled China from 1644, was disintegrating. When it attempted to stop the import of opium into China by the British East India Company, the Qing suffered a defeat at British hands in the First Opium War (1839-1842) and then retreated in the face of ongoing Western interference.
Domestic unrest in China during this period was also rife. The Manchu Qing Dynasty was weakened by the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864), as well as by the Boxer Rebellion (1900).
In these years, China was poor, backward, and generally unstable. As Congress implemented Chinese-American treaties, or legislated around them, it did not pay China's wishes much heed. The Dynasty was finally overthrown by the republican revolution movement late in 1911.
Established on January 1, 1912, the Republic of China, led by the Nationalist Party (Guomingdang, also Kuomintang, or KMT) attempted to modernize and unify the country. However, the republic was beset first by conflicts with local warlords and then by a Communist insurgency. While conflict between the Nationalists and Communists raged, Japan occupied Manchuria in 1931, and, in 1937, launched a general Sino-Japanese war that lasted until 1945.
The United States entered the Pacific war in 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. China and America allied to oppose a common Japanese enemy. Repeal of the exclusion laws in 1943 was a war measure, undertaken by President Franklin Roosevelt and Congress to bolster America's Chinese ally.
The exclusion story is unfamiliar to most Americans, especially those not of Asian heritage. Freed from the burdens of these unjust laws, Chinese-Americans have prospered in the United States. A people Congress claimed couldn't assimilate have assimilated so well that it's hard to find the evidence of past discrimination against Chinese in America.
Chinese-Americans have been leaders in business, the professions, sports, and the performing arts. And they've worked in the top ranks of American government. In the executive branch, Elaine Chao broke ground, serving as secretary of labor (2001-2009) for President George W. Bush. Gary Locke was the first Chinese-American to be chief executive of an American state, as the twenty-first Governor of Washington (1997-2005). Locke later served as secretary of commerce and then Ambassador to the People's Republic of China. Senator Hiram Fong (R-HI), a senator from 1959 to 1977, was the pioneering Chinese-American on Capitol Hill. Elected in 2009, Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) is the first Chinese-American woman to serve in either chamber of Congress.
Such success stories notwithstanding, the experience of early Chinese immigrants was uncommonly difficult because of legal discrimination against Chinese. The distress Congress caused for multiple generations of Chinese--those who were directly affected as well as their families--is still real. Shedding light on the past helps to ensure that such miscarriages do not recur.
For a more thorough discussion of the legislative procedures used in Congress, please see the Congressional Deskbook, also published by TheCapitol.Net.
This book's web site, ForbiddenCitizens.com, contains numerous links to additional information about the people, events, timelines, and other publications discussed herein, plus links to political cartoons from the era.
From the Introduction
Summary of Contents
Ch. 1. A Question of Naturalization
Ch. 2. The Fifteen Passenger Bill of 1879
Ch. 3. The Twenty-Year Exclusion Debate in the Senate
Ch. 4. The Twenty-Year Exclusion Debate in the House of Representatives
Ch. 5. The Ten-Year Exclusion Legislation of 1882
Ch. 6. The Amendments of 1884
Ch. 7. The Scott Act of 1888
Ch. 8. The Geary Act of 1892
Ch. 9. The 1902 Extension
Ch. 10. Permanent Law
Ch. 11. Repeal
Back of the Book
Table of Contents
* = online link
About the Author
Chapter 1. A Question of Naturalization 1.0 Overview 1.10 The Senate Debate: Background 1.11 House Committee of the Whole 1.12 Senate Committee of the Whole 1.20 Senate Debate, July 2, 1870: "A requirement disgraceful to this country" 1.21 Chinese Forbidden from Holding Mining Claims 1.22 Presiding over the Senate/House 1.30 Senate Debate, July 4, 1870: "They do not value the privileges of citizenship" 1.31 Senator Sumner and Race Discrimination 1.32 The First Chinese Student to Graduate from An American University, Yung Ming 1.33 Original Oregon Constitution barred Chinese owning Real Estate and Mining Claims Chapter 2. The Fifteen Passenger Bill of 1879 2.0 Overview 2.10 House Debate, January 28, 1879: "The most debased people" 2.11 Denis Kearney and the Sandlot Orators 2.12 Early China-U.S. Diplomacy 2.13 The Page Act 2.14 Absenteeism and Pairs in House and Senate Votes 2.20 Senate Proceedings on the Fifteen Passenger Bill 2.21 Senate Debate, February 12, 1879: "Their sordid, selfish, immoral, non-amalgamating habits" 2.22 Senate Debate, February 13, 1879: "An indigestible element" 2.23 Senate Debate, February 14, 1879: "Wholly unfit to become citizens" 2.24 Confucian Traditions and Family Relationships 2.25 Chinese Oath Swearing 2.26 Senate Debate, February 15, 1879: "The brightest act of my life" 2.27 James G. Blaine and the Argument for Exclusion 2.28 The 19th Century Senate Versus the Modern Senate 2.29 * Chinese Population in the United States, 1860 - 1940 * 2.30 The Next Step: The House Concurs in the Senate Amendments 2.40 A Presidential Veto: Rutherford Hayes: "Strangers and sojourners" 2.50 The House Attempts a Veto Override Chapter 3. The Twenty-Year Exclusion (S. 71) Debate in the Senate 3.0 Overview 3.10 Proceedings in the Senate 3.11 Substitute Amendment to a Bill 3.20 Senate Debate, February 28, 1882: "A confession of American imbecility" 3.21 The Politics of the 1880 Democratic Party and Republican Party Platforms 3.30 Senate Debate, March 1, 1882: "To shame, to weakness, and to peril" 3.31 China-U.S. Diplomacy II 3.32 The Know-Nothing Movement 3.40 Senate Debate, March 2, 1882: "Swarm upon us like locusts" 3.41 Chinese and the Transcontinental Railway 3.50 Senate Debate, March 3, 1882: "Dregs of the countless hordes of China" 3.60 Senate Debate, March 6, 1882: "Will not assimilate" 3.70 Senate Debate, March 7, 1882: "An irrepressible conflict between them" 3.80 Senate Debate, March 8, 1882: "A storm of condemnation" 3.90 Senate Debate, March 9, 1882: "Fifty million sovereigns can be despotic" Chapter 4. The Twenty-Year Exclusion (S. 71) Debate in the House of Representatives 4.0 Overview 4.10 House Debate, March 14, 1882: "Plant a cancer in your own country" 4.20 House Debate, March 15, 1882: "No more regard for his oath" 4.30 House Debate, March 16, 1882: "The repulsive specter of Asiatic squalor" 4.40 House Debate, March 18, 1882: "This exhaustless stream of yellow plague" 4.50 House Debate, March 21, 1882: "The assimilation of oil and water" 4.60 House Debate, March 22, 1882: "Who would have them for voters?" 4.61 Role of the Bill Manager in the House of Representatives 4.70 House Debate, March 23, 1882: "The most hideous immoralities" 4.80 A Presidential Veto: Chester Arthur: "A breach of our national faith" 4.90 Senate Veto Override Debate, April 5, 1882: "Will not disgrace our statute books" 4.91 The Role of Precedent in Congress Chapter 5. The Ten-Year Exclusion Legislation of 1882 5.0 Overview 5.10 House Debate, April 17, 1882: "A pack of hounds to hunt down any race" 5.20 Senate Debate, April 25, 1882: "A subject of deep respect and repentance" 5.21 James A. Garfield and Race 5.30 Senate Debate, April 26, 1882: "Beyond the realm of political agitation" 5.40 Senate Debate, April 27, 1882: "They are parasites" 5.41 Lue Gim Gong, "The Citrus Wizard" 5.50 Senate Debate, April 28, 1882: "A most degraded corruption" 5.60 House Session of May 3, 1882: The House Concurs in the Senate Amendments 5.70 Enrollment and Presidential Approval: Chester Arthur Chapter 6. The Amendments of 1884 6.0 Overview 6.10 House Debate, May 3, 1884 (H.R. 1798): "This is a white man's government" 6.20 Senate Debate, July 3, 1884: "Will repent in sackcloth and ashes" Chapter 7. The Scott Act of 1888 7.0 Overview 7.10 Senate Debate, January 12, 1888: "Polluted with the curse of human slavery" 7.11 Litigation As a Means of Resistance to the Chinese Exclusion Act 7.20 Senate Debate, March 1, 1888: "The world was created wrong" 7.21 President Cleveland Responds 7.30 Senate Consents to the Bayard-Zhang Treaty 7.31 Senate Considers Legislation to Implement the Bayard-Zhang Treaty (S. 3304) 7.40 House Proceedings on the Implementation Bill (S. 3304): "The hideous Mongolian incubus" 7.41 Senate Concurs in the House Amendment, and China's Reaction: "A response of outrage" 7.50 The Scott Act (H.R. 11336) 7.51 House Debate, September 3, 1888: "The truth is a merchantable commodity" 7.52 Senate Debate, September 3, 1888: "Deport every single one of them" 7.53 Senate Debate, September 4, 1888: "An inferior race" 7.54 Senate Debate, September 5, 1888: "Homogeneity in races" 7.55 Senate Debate, September 6, 1888: "A cruelty and an outrage" 7.56 Senate Debate, September 7, 1888: "Stop this ulcer" 7.57 Senate Debate, September 10, 1888: "China is our great friend" 7.58 Senate Debate, September 11, 1888: "The evil will go on increasing" 7.59 Senate Debate, September 13, 1888: "That seething, roaring, blood-curdling curse" 7.60 Senate Debate, September 14, 1888: No quorum means stalemate 7.61 Senate Debate, September 17, 1888: Passage 7.62 House Debate, September 20, 1888: "A demagogical way to make some capital" 7.70 President Cleveland signs the Scott Act, October 1, 1888 7.80 A Political Note Chapter 8. The Geary Act of 1892 8.0 Overview 8.10 House Debate, April 4, 1892: "An absolute abrogation" 8.20 Senate Debate, April 13, 1892: Time was of the essence 8.21 Senate Debate, April 21, 1892: "Goes far beyond any bill" 8.22 Senate Debate, April 22, 1892: "A harsh proceeding" 8.23 Senate Debate, April 23, 1892: "A very shrewd people" 8.24 Senate Debate, April 25, 1892: "Intense feeling of antagonism" 8.30 Bicameral Agreement: Conference Report: "One credible white witness" 8.31 Senate Debate, May 3, 1892: "He does not stand like an ordinary person" 8.32 House Debate, May 4, 1892: "The old slavery days returned" 8.40 Chinese Registration under the Geary Act 8.41 Chinese Food in America 8.42 Mexico, Canada, and the Chinese Chapter 9. The 1902 Extension 9.0 Overview 9.10 Senate Debate, April 4, 1902: "One of the great policies of our country" 9.11 Senate Debate, April 5, 1902: "Amplest assurance of American friendship" 9.12 Boxer Rebellion (1900) 9.13 Senate Debate, April 7, 1902: "Obnoxious social conditions" 9.14 Senate Debate, April 8, 1902: "They came like locusts" 9.15 The Panic of 1873 9.16 The Qing Dynasty Under Siege 9.17 Politics and Immigration Enforcement--The Bureau of Immigration 9.18 Senate Debate, April 9, 1902: "Narrow, bigoted, intolerant, and indefensible" 9.19 Senate Debate, April 10, 1902: "The Chinese must be kept out" 9.20 Senate Debate, April 12, 1902: "Mere question of legislative detail" 9.21 Senate Debate, April 14, 1902: Parsing words 9.22 Imperialism and the Open Door Policy 9.23 Senate Debate, April 15, 1902: "Ruthlessly disregards treaty rights" 9.24 Senate Debate, April 16, 1902: "If I stand alone" 9.30 House Debate, April 4, 1902: "Largely a Pacific question" 9.31 House Debate, April 5, 1902: "To arouse this sleeping five-toed dragon" 9.32 House Debate, April 7, 1902: "Clearly unconstitutional" 9.40 Resolving Differences Between the Senate and the House: Senate Debate, April 17, 1902 9.41 Resolving Differences Between the Senate and the House: Further Proceedings on H.R. 13031, as amended Chapter 10. Permanent Law, 1904 10.0 Overview 10.10 Senate Debate, April 8, 1904: S. 5344: Separating laws and treaties 10.20 Senate Debate, April 22, 1904: H.R. 15054: "There would have been great trouble" 10.21 Reaction from China to the 1904 Legislation 10.22 In the Year of Permanent Exclusion: The Detention of Soong Ailing Chapter 11. Repeal 11.0 Overview 11.10 The Last Emperor, China, Japan and WWII 11.20 H.R. 3070 and The House Committee Report, October 11, 1943 11.21 The Structure of the National Origins Quota System 11.22 The War Brides Act of 1945 11.30 H.R. 3070 and House Debate, October 20, 1943: "Important in the cause of winning the war" 11.31 Madame Chiang Kai-shek speaks to the Senate and to the House, February 18, 1943 11.32 Extraterritoriality and Other Concessions 11.33 The Europe-first Strategy 11.34 Citizens Committee to Repeal Chinese Exclusion 11.40 H.R. 3070 and House Debate, October 21, 1943: "Face is not just oriental" 11.41 Motion to Recommit in the House 11.50 H.R. 3070 to the Senate 11.51 Senate Committee Consideration 11.52 Senate Debate, November 26, 1943: "The white man feared the onrush of the yellow man" 11.60 Bill Enrollment and Presidential Signature Epilogue Epilogue (2-page PDF) * (112th Congress: S.Res. 201; H. Res. 683) Appendices 1 Review and Discussion Questions 2 Burlingame Treaty (1868) 3 Naturalization Act of 1870 (16 Stat. 254) 4 * Fifteen Passenger bill (1879) and Veto Message of President Rutherford Hayes of the Fifteen Passenger bill, March 1, 1879, 1879 Congressional Record-House 2275-2277 (11-page PDF) * 5 Angell Treaty (ratified 1881) 6 Veto Message of President Chester A. Arthur of Senate bill No. 71, April 4, 1882 7 Chinese Exclusion Act, S. 71 "An act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese." (Sess. I, Chap. 126; 22 Stat. 58. 47th Congress; Approved May 6, 1882.) 8 Gresham-Yang Treaty (1894) 9 * The 1902 Extension: "An act to prohibit the coming into and to regulate the residence within the United States, its Territories, and all territory under its jurisdiction, and the District of Columbia, of Chinese and persons of Chinese descent" (Sess. I Chap. 641; 32 Stat. 176; 57th Congress; April 29, 1902) * 10 * Permanent Law, 1904 (Sess. 2 Chap. 1630, Section 5, 58 Stat. 428, April 27, 1904) * 11 * Magnuson Act (Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act of 1943), H.R. 3070, "An act to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Acts, to establish quotas, and for other purposes." ((78th Congress, Sess. I, Chap. 344; H.R. 3070; Pub. L. 78-199; 57 Stat. 600. December 17, 1943) (2-page PDF) * 12 * Chinese Immigration Laws Timeline * 13 * Bibliography * 14 * Additional Resources: Related Publications, People, Internet Resources, Timelines, and Political Cartoons - TCNFCA.com * Index Acknowledgments About the Author
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Rave Reviews"Our nation has the greatest ideals, standing as that 'city upon a hill' for the world over to look toward with hope. Yet we have not always been as welcoming as we have proclaimed. Forbidden Citizens by Martin Gold tells the story of the exclusion of a specific group, the Chinese people, for racial reasons that were expressed in the most shocking terms. It is thorough, thoughtful, and highly relevant today. This work presents the best scholarship in the most accessible manner."
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