In response to pressure from California, the United States Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers and President Chester A. Arthur signed it into law today in 1882. Now WE know em

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Beginning with the first significant immigration of Chinese to America during the California Gold Rush, followed by the subsequent large labor demands of the First Transcontinental Railroad; growing animosity from many Americans toward the Chinese in general led to the racial slur “coolie.”

Chinese immigrant railroad workers building the transcontinental railroad in snow

Chinese immigrant railroad workers building the transcontinental railroad in snow

By 1858, the California Legislature passed a law that made it illegal for any person “of the Chinese or Mongolian races” to enter the state; however, this law was struck down by an unpublished opinion of the State Supreme Court in 1862.

Then in 1868, the United States and China agreed to the Burlingame-Seward Treaty which established friendly relations between the two countries, as well as the United States granting China most favored nation status.

Then when the American post Civil War economy continued to decline in the 1870s, anti-Chinese animosity became politicized by labor leader Denis Kearney and his Workingman’s Party as well as by California Governor John Bigler, both of whom blamed the Chinese for depressed wage levels.

Congress then passed restrictive federal immigration law with its “Page Act of 1875” which prohibited immigration of any Asian laborer or prostitute because they were considered ‘undesirable.”

In 1879, California adopted a new Constitution, which explicitly authorized the state government to determine which individuals were allowed to reside in the state, and banned the Chinese from employment by corporations and state, county or municipal governments.

Then in 1880, the U.S. Congress made revisions to the Burlingame Treaty of 1868 that attempted to deal with Chinese immigration.

Chinese Exclusion Act

Pressure on politicians continued until the United States Congress took further action against the Asian working group with the passage of The Chinese Exclusion Act which prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers.

The 21st President of the United States, Chester A. Arthur, signed the Act into law on May 6, 1882.

Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the United States of America

Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the United States of America

The Chinese Exclusion Act became the most significant restriction of free immigration to America due to “endangered good order” in certain localities.

The first page of the Chinese Exclusion Act

The first page of the Chinese Exclusion Act

After the Act was passed by Congress, California went even further by passing carious laws that were later held to be unconstitutional.

The Act was initially intended to last for 10 years, but was renewed in 1892 and then made permanent in 1902.

It was finally repealed by the Magnuson Act on December 17, 1943.

Now WE know em

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