The Chinese Bill

Newspaper Article

Transcription of Primary Source

The Chinese bill, which passed the United States Senate on Thursday last by an almost two-to-one majority, elicited a very earnest discussion, in which some of the ablest debaters in the Senate took part, and a wide range of argumentation was indulged in. Messrs. Hoar, of Massachusetts; Edmunds and Morrill, of Vermont, and Hawley, of Connecticut, spoke at more or less length against the bill, while Messrs. Miller, of California, and Jones, of Nevada, were its principal champions. Mr. Hawley made the final argument of the opponents of the bill, and among other things said it was not intended in the preamble on which this legislation was based that Chinese came to exercise a bad influence over the whole country, or to injure us, socially or commercially; but the only reason for the bill which was alleged by the measure itself was merely that their coming "endangers the good order of certain localities." What was the obvious assumption? It was that if a Chinaman comes our citizens will insult him, trample upon him, kill him, or so hedge him that he will rush down to the seacoast and beg to be transported home. The implication from the preamble is that his coming here is to make us so fierce that we will rise up in rebellion against our laws and wrong this man, who is not charged with any unlawful or dangerous purpose whatever. We might make wealth or education conditions precedent to the admission of immigrants, but we ought not to base our limitations upon the mere accident of humanity, such as the color of the newcomer, or the place of his birth.

Mr. Jones replied with a good deal of ingenuity to the arguments of Mr. Hoar, and other opposed to the bill. He animadverted upon the evils of the introduction of the Ethiopean race into this country, and predicted similar and possibly greater evils from the introduction of the Mongolian race. There was and could be no union between heterogeneous races, and the experiment of trying to amalgamate them would always prove disastrous. His final conclusion was that the Chinese race is as obnoxious to us and as impossible for us to assimilate with as was the negro race. His race has outlived every other because it is homogeneous, and for that reason alone it has imposed its religion and peculiarities upon its conquerors and still lived. If immigration is not checked now, when it is within manageable limits, it will be too late to check it. What do we find in the condition of the Indian or the African to induce us to admit another race into our midst? It is because the Pacific coast favors our own civilization, not that of another race, that they discourage the coming of these people. They believe in the homogeneity of our race, and that upon this depends the progress of our institutions and everything on which we build our hopes.

There is an evident change of sentiment upon this subject, and many of the opponents of this bill declared that they would have favored it, if its provisions had not been so harsh and stringent, and had not fixed the period of exclusion for so long a time. The vote on the bill was as follows:

For the bill, Messrs. Bayard, Beck, Call, Cameron, of Wisconsin; Cockrell, Coke, Fair, Farley, Garland, George, Gorman, Hale, Harris, Hill, of Colorado; Jackson, Jonas, Jones, of Nevada; Miller, of California; Miller, of New York; Pugh, Ransom, Sawyer, Slater, Teller, Vance, Vest, Voorhees, Walker.

Against the bill, Messrs. Aldrich, Allison, Blair, Brown, Conger, Davis, of Illinois; Dawes, Edmunds, Frye, Hoar, Ingalls, Lapham, McDill, McMillan, Morrill.

The following is as good a summary of the bill as can be made in so short a space: It provides that from and after the expiration of ninety days after the passage of the act, and until the expiration of twenty years after its passage, the coming of Chinese laborers to the United States shall be suspended, and prescribes a penalty of imprisonment not exceeding one year and a fine of not more than $500 against the master of any vessel who brings any Chinese laborer to this country during that period. It further provides that classes of Chinese excepted by the treaty from such prohibition, such as merchants, teachers, students, travelers, and diplomatic agents, and Chinese laborers who were in the United States on the 17th of November, 1880, shall be required, as a condition for their admission, to produce passports from the government of China, personally identifying them and showing that they individually belong to one of the permitted classes, which passports must have been indorsed by a diplomatic representative of the United States in China or by the United States consul at the point of departure. It also provides elaborate machinery for carrying out the purposes of the act, and additional sections prohibit the admission of Chinese to citizenship by a United States or state court, and construe the words "Chinese laborers" to mean both skilled and unskilled laborers and Chinese employed in mining.

Under the impetus of the large majority in favor of the bill in the Senate, it is predicted that it will pass the House with very little debate, and be at once approved by the President.


Ingenuity - skill or cleverness

Animadverted - to make a critical remark or to condemn something

Amalgamate - to combine different things into one body

Impetus - the driving force

Curator Notes

Exact Title: 
The Chinese Bill
Wisconsin State Journal
Probable Date: 
March 14, 1882
Place of Publication: 
Madison, Wisconsin
American Antiquarian Society