The Versatile Chinaman

Newspaper Article

Transcription of Primary Source

The variety of reasons for the exclusion of the Chinese is confusing. First we were told that they must not come here because they are an inferior race. Then the Californians say that this is a mistake; that he who makes light of the Chinaman's capacity is a fool; that they are superior in skill, shrewdness and tenacity, and if they are allowed to immigrate without restriction they will supplant the present inhabitants of the country in all desirable occupations. Then it is alleged that they cheapen labor, and must be excluded in the interest of our working people, who cannot compete with them, and ought not to be compelled to sustain life on the wretched pittance with which a Chinaman is content. If there is any one point on which all opponents of the Chinese were agreed we supposed it was this. But there is a difference of opinion even here. Instead of wishing to drive away the Chinamen in order to keep up the price of labor, the San Francisco Record-Union rejoices in the prospect of their exclusion because it will make labor cheaper. Labor, it seems, commands too high wages now in California, and there is no hope of making it cheaper until they can get rid of the Asiatics. The Record-Union says:

But one result we must expect from the exclusion of the Chinese, and that is the cheapening of labor. The presence of the Asiatic here has kept away the more numerous European competitor, who will now come here. The competition of European labor will now begin here and lower wages here as it has in the east, where there are almost no Chinese at all. If we could get rid of the Asiatic, in fact, we would not only have cheaper labor in the greater competition of Europeans, but we would get material for citizens and people homogeneous with us in race, customs, and interests. This is the gain.

The enemies of Chinese immigration have facts and arguments to suit every taste and the most conflicting interests and prejudices. If you dread the deterioration of our people by admixture with an inferior race, exclude the Chinamen; if you fear the rivalry of a people more expert in the arts and more adroit and far-seeing in business than our own, exclude the Chinamen. Do you want our working people protected from a desperate competition which will reduce their wages to the starvation point, or below it? exclude the Chinamen. Do you think wages are too high, and that labor ought to be cheaper? exclude the Chinamen. The Chinese are an extraordinary people, if their absence will accomplish all the varieties of good that are promised.


Supplant - to take the place or position of another, especially by force or treachery, to replace

Adroit - having or showing skill, resourcefulness, or cleverness in handling situations

Curator Notes

Exact Title: 
The Versatile Chinaman
Worcester Daily Spy
Probable Date: 
March 23, 1882
John Milton Earle
Place of Publication: 
Worcester, Massachusetts
American Antiquarian Society