Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion by Andrew Gyory

By Andrew Gyory

The chinese language Exclusion Act of 1882 barred approximately all chinese language from US beaches for ten years. Gyory lines the origins of the Act, contending that instead of confronting divisive difficulties akin to type clash, politicians sought a secure, non-ideological method to the nation's commercial difficulty.

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He then noted various shortcomings of the Chinese: "their system of prejudices," their "want of religion," their slowness to assimilate. These were serious problems, Hamlin acknowledged, and if the Chinese threatened to cause "imminent peril" and "overrun our country," he would certainly consider restrictive legislation. 29 While Hamlin defended open immigration, he paradoxically also defended Chinese immigration restriction. During his speech, in fact, he trumpeted his own role in furthering the anti-Chinese agenda.

Sargent, the California Republican who had led the battle cry in 1876, belonged the honor of introducing the bill and delivering the keynote address. From his opening sentence, he downplayed the pathbreaking nature of closing the gates of the United States. " That, of course, was the entire point. The legislation was directed at one peoplethe Chinesea people, he said, that all othersthe English, the Dutch, the Frenchdespised. Â . " Like Page and Willis, he claimed to speak for the working classes.

No matter that numerous workers and labor leaders had renounced Kearney and his anti-Chinese message. To people trying to gauge public opinion, the spontaneous agitation of the "rabble" carried more weight than all the scattered voices from the working-class community that rose up in protest. The divergence between public opinion and perceptions of public opinion would have tragic consequences in the years to come. 51 After years of only sporadic interest, politicians began viewing Chinese  32 33 < previous page < previous page page_134 page_135 next page > next page > Page 135 immigration in a new light.

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