Chinese Exclusion and Discrimination

In the 1800’s there was an influx of Chinese Immigrants in the West Coast of the United States. Many Chinese immigrants came from Southern China in hopes to earn income and escape poverty. Chinese Immigrants left their homeland in anticipation of the American Dream, unexpectedly, let down by America’s social, political, and economic discrimination. While many Chinese intend to return home after earning sufficient income, many intended to remain on America soil. Although the Chinese immigrant held a crucial role in developing the West Coast of America, separated by language, culture, and race; they faced exclusion and discrimination from both the people and the United States government’s policies. Chinese emigrated from China predominately from Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces. (Lu, Liang, Chunyu)

They were influenced by three conditions: political corruption in China, poverty, and striking rich. During the Qing Dynasty, dominated by Manchus, caused the destruction of China’s political, social, and economic suffrage. The Manchus imposed their cultural traditions upon Chinese society and had excessive taxation. (Coolidge) China’s poverty rate increase because of their high population and shortage of food supply. China an agricultural-based country, was unsustainable because of their 430 million population in the 1850s. (Schak) Rich Chinese elites took their surplus and left them with enough produce to refarm for the next labor, poor farming families depended upon their crops for income and their source of food. Chinese immigrants boarded three ways: the first, immigrants who could pay their own way to the United States, the second left as indentured or contract laborers, the third left with a credit ticket. Schak describes a credit ticket as money borrowed from the government. Those who left with a credit ticket were required to pay back after arriving at their destination. As the news of the Gold Rush spread throughout the colonies, many young Chinese men immigrated to the United States hoping to strike rich. The population grew exponentially in 1848, the Gold Rush increased the Chinese immigrant population in the United States.

According to Shepard, in 1850 approximately 2700 Chinese resided in the country. By 1860 Chinese was the prominent foreign ethnic group in California. The Gold Rush at Sutter’s Mill had the highest population of Chinese mining for gold in 1848. About ten years later 1870 the population grew to 65,000 and more than doubled in 1880 to 180,000. (Shepard) The working and living conditions for the Chinese were excruciating. As the population of Chinese increased, American jobs became limited. Several Americans retaliated and protested with businesses for better wages, the Chinese and other immigrants were willing to be employed with low wages. Thus, gave limited opportunity for White Americans to have a chance to earn better pay. Due to the high population of Chinese immigrants working in mining camps, California legislature passed the Foreign Miner’s Tax 1850’s. This required immigrant miners to pay 20 dollars per month for their license. (Kanazawa, p. 784)

According to Pun Chi, a Chinese earns a dollar and a half in gold per day. With California’s high taxation and the low wages, the Foreign Miner’s Tax displayed the uplifting of white supremacy and the oppression of Chinese immigrants. White miners benefitted from this foreign mining tax because this reduced the competition for the work field. The levied tax contributed significantly to the state and local tax revenues. [ Working Conditions in the mines, WHITE took it into their own hands to drive away Chinese] {White believed that Chinese laborers undercut their wages, business leaders in the 1870s. like Charles Crocker, president of the Central Pacific Railroad, argued that the Chinese should be imported to work in the US. } Aaron Augustus Sargent was an influential Anti-Chinese movement leader and spokesperson, who won the election to the House of Representation in 1860.

According to Shepard, Sargent promoted civil rights for everyone, except the Chinese. He insisted on the restriction of civil rights and immigration for the Chinese. He was an active supporter of civil rights for everyone, including African Americans, Native Americans, Whites, Men, and Women. Despite his promotion in equal civil rights, it did not include the Chinese. For the Chinese, he believed that they could not and would refuse to assimilate. Since the Chinese could barely read and speak in English, they could not adapt to the American way. According to Shepard, Sargent expressed that the Chinese was an “influx of these barbarous hordes” and did not belong as citizens of the United States. Shepard explains that Sargent believed the Chinese were money hungry and stole the jobs of Americans. Sargent was devoted to oppressing the Chinese population in the United States and from gaining civil rights.

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