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Excerpted from a Letter by Chinese Merchant Norman Asing

To His Excellency Gov. Bigler,

I am not much acquainted with your logic, that by excluding population from this State you enhance its wealth. I have always considered that was wealth; particularly a population of producers, of men who by the labor of their hands or intellect, enrich the warehouses or the granaries of the country with the products of nature and art. You are deeply convinced you say "that to enhance the prosperity and preserve the tranquility of this State, Asiatic immigration must be checked." This, your Excellency, is but one step towards a retrograde movement of the government....

It was one of the principal causes of quarrel between you (when colonies) and England; when the latter pressed laws against emigration, you looked for immigration; it came, and immigration made you what you are your nation what it is. It transferred you at once from childhood to manhood and made you great and respectable throughout the nations of the earth. I am sure your Excellency cannot, if you would, prevent your being called the descendant of an immigrant, for I am sure you do not boast of being a descendant of the red man! But your further logic is more reprehensible. You argue that this is a republic of a particular race that the Constitution of the United States admits of no asylum to any other than the pale face. This proposition is false in the extreme, and you know it. The declaration of your independence, and all the acts of your government, your people, and your history are all against you.

We Are Not a Degraded Race
It is true, you have degraded the Negro because of your holding him in involuntary servitude, and because for the sake of union in some of your states such was tolerated, and amongst this class you would endeavor to place us; and no doubt it would be pleasing to some would-be freemen to mark the brand of servitude upon us. But we would beg to remind you that when your nation was a wilderness, and the nation from which you sprung barbarous, we exercised most of the arts and virtues of civilized life; that we are possessed of a language and a literature, and that men skilled in science and the arts are numerous among us; that the productions of our manufactories, our sail, and workshops, form no small share of the commerce of the world; and that for centuries, colleges, schools, charitable institutions, asylums, and hospitals, have been as common as in your own land. . . .

And we beg to remark, that so far as the history of our race in California goes, it stamps with the test of truth the fact that we are not the degraded race you would make us. We came amongst you as mechanics or traders, and following every honorable business of life. You do not find us pursuing occupations of degrading character, except you consider labor degrading, which I am sure you do not; and if our countrymen save the proceeds of their industry from the tavern and the gambling house to spend it on farms or town lots or on their families, surely you will admit that even these are virtues. You say "you desire to see no change in the generous policy of this government as far as regards Europeans." It is out of your power to say, however, in what way or to whom the doctrines of the Constitution shall apply. You have no more right to propose a measure for checking immigration, than you have the right of sending a message to the Legislature on the subject. As far as regards the color and complexion of our race, we are perfectly aware that our population have been a little more tan than yours.

I have the honor to be your Excellency's very obedient servant.

Norman Asing

Norman Asing, "To His Excellency Gov. Bigler," Daily Alta California (San Francisco: May 5, 1852). http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/
asian_voices/voices_display.cfm?id=13

Creator Norman Asing
Context The California government imposed discriminatory laws on people from China, and many whites advocated banning the Chinese altogether.
Audience The general public of California
Purpose To persuade them to tolerate the Chinese

Historical Significance

Many white Californians demanded a ban on Chinese immigration soon after the gold rush began, as they resented competition from people they regarded as foreign and inferior. Norman Asing, owner of a San Francisco restaurant, wrote this open letter to a newspaper to rebut Governor John Bigler's criticism of the Chinese in California.

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