(In the United States)
General Historical Information prior to 1900

State of California
     The discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill, near Coloma, on January 24,
1848, gave an impetus to immigration from all parts of the globe. The great
body of gold-seekers, "the Argonauts," arrived in 1849, and by the end of
the year the population exceeded 100,000. Nearly all the newcomers were
unmarried men, in haste to get rich. Since the Civil War California has
experienced a magnificent economic
development. The completion of the Union Pacific Railroad furthered the
prosperity of the State. Both from the Eastern States and from across the
Pacific the tide of immigration flowed in steadily.  So considerable,
indeed, did the number of Chinese immigrants become that between 1870 and
1890 the Chinese question dominated State politics and influenced national
legislation. In the mining districts the Chinese occupied claims  which had
been abandoned as exhausted by their original proprietors, or acted as cooks
and menial servants. In the towns they performed various duties. Their
stolid patience and their capacity for long and sustained work made them in
one way ideal laborers for the development of a new country; but their
extreme frugality and their willingness to work for a small wage made them
formidable competitors of white labor.
    This subject first assumed importance in the United States about the
year 1870, although legislation hostile to the Chinese began in California
in 1855. The California Legislature investigated the subject in 1862 and the
United States Congress sent a joint special committee to the Pacific Coast
in 1876, the Voluminous report of which gives the most authentic information
on the subject yet published. (Rep. 44th Cong. 2d Sess. Sen. R. 689, pp.
1281, Wash. 1877).
    Up to 1868 the United States was trying to compel China to admit
Americans into that country for the pursuit of trade and commerce. The first
treaty (1844) with China gave Americans the right of residence in five ports
and gave them the rights of extra-territorial consular jurisdiction. The
Americans, though not participating in the Chinese war of 1858, secured all
of the privileges obtained by other nations, which were stipulated in the
Reed Treaty of 1858. Nothing was said in these treaties about Chinese in
America, who came here under the same conditions as the citizens of other
nations. The Burlingame Treaty of 1868 deprecated involuntary
immigration---aimed at coolie labor---but declared the right of migration to
be an inherent one, and a special resolution of Congress (July 27, 1868)
declared the right of expatriation to be a natural and inherent right of all
people, the obstruction or restriction of which is inconsistent with the
fundamental principles of the republic. This declaration became subsequently
an object of embarrassment in dealing with the Chinese when anti-Chinese
feeling on the Pacific Coast made it necessary for both political parties in
1876 to insert anti-Chinese planks in their platforms. The question of
abrogating the treaty of 1868 was discussed in Congress. A bill to restrict
Chinese immigration passed both Houses of Congress in 1879, but was vetoed
by President Hayes because it violated the Treaty of 1868. A commission was
sent to China in 1880 to negotiate a new treaty to permit the absolute
prohibition of Chinese immigration. The Treaty of 1880 declared that "the
Government of the United States may regulate, limit, or suspend such coming
or residence, but may not absolutely prohibit it." The treaty further stated
that the limitation must be reasonable and apply only to Chinese laborers.
The act of 1882 suspended the immigration of Chinese laborers for ten years
and gave those in the United States or those who should arrive within 90
days after the passage of the act the right to remain, but forbade the
naturalization of Chinese, and the act applied to both skilled and unskilled
laborers. The act was amended in 1888, while a treaty, in which the Chinese
Government undertook to prohibit Chinese laborers from coming to the United
States, and our Government agreed to protect those here from the violence
and outrages to which they were constantly subjected without redress was
still pending. The amendment prohibited the return on certificate of
Chinamen once here who went back to China, declared all such certificates
void, and practically made Chinese exclusion permanent. This act angered the
Chinese Government, which did not ratify the treaty. The act of 1882 expired
in 1892, and the Geary law continuing the exclusion for a further period of
ten years was passed May 5, 1892. President Roosevelt recommended in his
message to Congress, December, 1901, the continuance of this policy, and the
general sentiment both in and out of Congress still favors Chinese exclusion
and will demand further legislation to this end.
    The methods by which Chinese exclusion has been accomplished have not
been above reproach, but public opinion forced radical action on the part of
the Government. It is asserted by those  who advocate Chinese exclusion that
the Chinese come here not in families, but chiefly as male laborers for a
temporary stay, to secure about $1500 in savings and then return to China
with a competency. The difference between the American and Chinese
civilization makes it almost impossible to assimilate them. They work for
low wages and live very cheaply. Whether or not  they would ever come to
this country in sufficient numbers to constitute a menace to the economic
interests of American labor, which the American  workingman supposes, is
    The number of Chinese who came to the United States from 1848 to 1852,
when they began to come as a result of the gold discoveries, is estimated at
10,000. From 1852 to 1854 the excess of arrivals over departures amounted to
31,861.  During the next 15 years the annual departures were about as great
as the annual arrivals;  1868 showed a net gain of 6876, and from that year
down to 1876 the net gain was about 11,000 per annum. The census of 1880
showed 105,465, exclusive of Hawaii;  1890;  107,488; 1900,  89,863.
Consult:  Mayo-Smith, Emigration and Immigration (New York, 1895).

Source:  The New International Encyclopaedia
Publisher:  Dodd, Mead and Company-New York
Copyright:  1902-1905 Total of 21 volumes.

               Transcribed by Miriam Medina