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America's History in the Making

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"Some Reasons for Chinese Exclusion. Meat vs. Rice. American Manhood Against Asiatic Coolieism. Which Shall Survive?"

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"In view of the near expiration of the present law excluding Chinese laborers from coming to the United States and the recognized necessity of either reenacting the present or adopting a similar law, the American Federation of Labor has determined to present its reasons and solicit the cooperation of not only all of its affiliated organizations, but also of all citizens who may consider the preservation of American institutions and the welfare of a majority of our people of sufficient importance to assist in this work.

… We furthermore desire to assure our readers that in maintaining our position we are not inspired by a scintilla of prejudice of any kind, but with the best interests of our country uppermost in our mind simply request fair consideration.

… Beginning with the most menial avocations they gradually invaded our industry they gradually invaded one industry after another until they not merely took the places of our girls as domestics and cooks, the laundry of our poorer white women, but the places of the men and boys, as boot and shoemakers, cigarmakers, bagmakers, miners, farm laborers, brickmakers, tailors, slippermakers, etc. In the ladies' furnishing line they have absolute control, displacing hundreds of our girls, who would otherwise find profitable employment. Whatever business or trade they enter is doomed for the white laborer, as competition is surely impossible. Not that the Chinese would not rather work for high wages than low, but in order to gain control he will work so cheaply as to bar all efforts of his competitor. But not only has the workingman gained this bitter experience, but the manufacturers and merchants have equally been the sufferers. The Chinese laborer will work cheaper for a Chinese employer than he will for a white man, as has been invariably proven, and, as a rule, he boards with his Chinese employer. The Chinese merchant or manufacturer will undersell his white confrere, and if uninterrupted will finally gain possession of the entire field. Such is the history of the race wherever they have come in contact with other peoples. None can understand their silent and irresistible flow, and their millions already populate and command labor and the trade of the islands and nations of the Pacific …

Whereas the experience of the last thirty years in California and on the Pacific coast having proved conclusively that the presence of Chinese and their competition with free white labor is one of the greatest evils with which any country can be afflicted: Therefore be it Resolved, That we use our best efforts to get rid of this monstrous evil (which threatens, unless checked, to extend to other parts of the Union) by the dissemination of information respecting its true character, and by urging upon our Representatives in the United States Congress the absolute necessity of passing laws entirely prohibiting the immigration of Chinese into the United States.

American Federation of Labor, Some Reasons for Chinese Exclusion. Meat vs. Rice. American Manhood Against Asiatic Coolieism. Which Shall Survive? (1901). Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, the University of California-Berkeley.

Creator Samuel Gompers of the American Federation of Labor and Hermann Gudstadt
Context Anti-Asian agitation during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
Audience United States Senate
Purpose To promote a second extension of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

Historical Significance

In 1901, Samuel Gompers, who was the leader of the AFL, and Hermann Gudstadt favored Chinese exclusion, arguing that Chinese immigrants lowered the standard of living for white workers. The pamphlet's aim was to persuade senators to renew the extension of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. With its subsequent extension in 1902, the Chinese Exclusion Act barred all Chinese from American citizenship through naturalization. In order to maintain trade relations with China, the United States did allow entry of travelers, merchants, diplomats, students, and teachers. Restrictions and exclusions on other immigrant groups followed.

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