After the United States had passed the Fourteenth Amendment on July 9, 1868, declaring that all persons born in the United States are citizens, entitled to equal liberty and protection, then later passed the Naturalization Act of 1870, specifically section 7, declaring all African descendants the right to citizenship, this gringa thought that the U.S. was moving away from creating immigration policies that were motivated by power and greed politics. Unfortunately, the administrations of Presidents Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) and Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) seemed to follow a capitalist economic agenda that profited from racist policies designed to exploit a specific immigrant labor class.
The image the United States portrayed to the world of having the moral high ground as a nation of liberty built on Christian principals was, in reality, a sham to dupe the masses. The passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, along with friendly political conversations between Hayes and a racist national labor party leader, reveal the truth behind the wholesome propaganda America peddled to an unsuspecting China during the time of Reconstruction.
Immigration requirements in effect before the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 were:
- Eligible for citizenship were free, white, male immigrants, both genders of African descendants of U.S. slaves, and both genders of Chinese peoples.
- Specifically excluded from immigration were felons (except for political prisoners), prostitutes of all races, and Chinese men, commonly called “coolies”, who immigrated under a labor contract
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was a series of stipulations to affect the conditions of the Burlingame-Seward Treaty of 1868, signed under President Andrew Johnson’s term. That treaty, establishing favored nation status for China, opened up the borders of the United States in order that the Chinese could freely immigrate. In the course of the fourteen years that elapsed between the Treaty and the Exclusion Act, what happened for public sentiment to become so hostile to the Chinese peoples? To understand, we must go back in time seventeen years prior to 1882.
1865 was the year of Union victory over the South in the Civil War. However, this was no time for celebration. The end of the war simply meant that the nation had to be rebuilt. Half of the nation, the South, had been stripped of the labor force that had created its wealth when slavery was abolished. Property values plummeted and vital railroad arteries were damaged. The administration of President Ulysses S. Grant, elected in 1868, would be responsible for overseeing the rebuilding of a nation.
How, then, would the country be able to afford to rebuild? President Andrew Johnson’s great idea was to turn to China and import cheap labor, hence the Burlingame-Seward Treaty of 1868. When Grant took office the following year, his ideas on how to fund the rebuilding of a nation either failed or were exposed for their corruption. One of his first bright ideas was to sign the Public Credit Act in March 1869. Yes, President Grant, let’s solve the problem of not having enough money by paying for goods and services with imaginary money. The gringa thinks Grant might have been a great general, but he obviously never balanced a checkbook.
Later in the same year, Grant would get himself in trouble again by enabling guys, who were already millionaires, to artificially inflate the gold market so they could make themselves some more money. One million dollars in 1869 would be worth about $17.5 million today. Gee, I guess Grant’s buddies, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, were high maintenance if what they already had was not enough so they felt it was okay to rip off a nation of people who were struggling to recover from the destruction of their country. Does the term “war profiteer” come to mind? Yep, it’s nothing new. So, as Grant went along with the plan and the price of gold rose, he ordered the Treasury to sell a big mess of it which then caused the bubble to burst. Wham, take that hard-working Americans scraping to make a dime.
And if that wasn’t a big enough insult to the whole of America that Grant was supposed to be working for, he then got into bed with Union Pacific Railroad during the 1872 re-election campaign, which he needed lots of money to fund. As President, Grant was the leader of the Republican party, thus, whether directly involved or not, he was still accountable for the actions of the other Republicans in office. Oakes Ames, Republican House member from Massachusetts, distributed amongst fellow Congressmen shares of the construction company Credit Mobilier, a company contracted to build a large portion of the Union Pacific Railroad. Ames stated that the stock was “where it will produce the most good to us.” Among the recipients of these shares was the incumbent Vice President, a Vice Presidential candidate, the current Speaker of the House, and future President James Garfield. All being Republican cronies of Grant’s, I find it hard to believe Grant didn’t know how his campaign was being bankrolled.
Shortly after Grant won Presidential re-election in 1872, the railroad building business roared into a construction frenzy. No big surprise there. Unfortunately, this was the catalyst for one of the worst, and longest, economic depressions the U.S. had ever experienced up to that time. The gringa says, “Muchas gracias, Grant.”
Now, what would be the big plan to get all of these angry Americans off the backs of the political leaders? Hmm, how about fanning the flames of a race and labor war? That might do the trick! Seems to me that was the strategy of the Grant administration, and, later, President Rutherford B. Hayes followed his lead. I think, perhaps, presidential thinking went something like this, “So, after reaching out to another nation and selling them on the propaganda that America is the land of the free, where everyone is equal and enjoys equal protection of their liberty, thus tricking them into immigrating so we could exploit them for cheap labor, now we don’t need them for labor anymore. Instead, to get the heat off our backs, we can use them for a scapegoat and get rid of them for good. I mean, after all, we are actually capitalist racists, aren’t we? We don’t really like their kind anyway, do we? I mean, that was how we were able to exploit them in the first place without bad feelings weighing down our conscience, wasn’t it? We made a huge profit, after all, didn’t we?” Yep, that seems to me to be the very line of logic all of America eventually followed thanks to the leadership of President Ulysses S. Grant. What a model of all things American.
In 1868 when the treaty was signed allowing for open immigration of all Chinese, Reconstruction was in full swing but, soon after, the country was beginning to feel the sting of Grant’s cronyism that drove his economic policy. The California Gold Rush was winding down and the Chinese were finding work in the construction of the railroad. Despite the fact that only about .002 percent of the American population was Chinese, they were still blamed for dropping wage rates and all the problems with the American economy. Sounds familiar to the cries heard round the country today about how the undocumented workers are “stealing” all the jobs. There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to political disinformation campaigns.
I mean, I see plenty of “for hire” signs and want ads. I’m pretty confident there are enough jobs to go around. If you are having trouble getting a job, rather than poke your finger at an undocumented worker, go take a good hard look in the mirror. If an undocumented worker can travel to another country, not speak the language, and have no legal identification yet still manage to find a job, then why the heck can’t an American citizen, with all the privileges and advantages that goes with such a position, find a darn job? Methinks the problem is NOT with the undocumented worker. But, I digress, back to the Chinese labor problem of the 1880’s.
So, now it’s been established that the country, after the economic distress of the Reconstruction period, is slowly starting to enjoy a little progress. With the construction of the railroad and what that will mean to moving goods across the country, hopes are high for the economy to grow. The racist opportunists in Washington were now primed to get rid of the Chinese so the real Americans could keep the expected future wealth amongst themselves. So, by the time 1878 rolled around and President Grant had been replaced by President Hayes (big difference), how do we know Hayes felt this way? Well, he had a meeting with firebrand, labor leader, Dennis Kearney, who was well known for his passionate racism against the Chinese. This meeting, as well as many of Dennis Kearney’s stirring speeches, became a recorded, historical document. Back then, political correctness was not around so U.S. politicians opined freely and openly about racism, as indicated by the following excerpts from Kearney’s book “Speeches of Dennis Kearney, Labor Champion”:
- From Kearney’s speech to Boston Workingmen’s party August 5, 1878: “The workingmen of California are becoming overpressed. The capitalistic thief and land pirate of California, instead of employing the poor white man of that beautiful and golden State, send across to Asia, the oldest despotism on earth, and there contracting with a band of leprous Chinese pirates, brought them to California, and now uses them as a knife to cut the throats of honest laboring men in that State. A Chinaman will live on rice and rats… They will sleep one hundred in a room that one white man wants for his wife and family… and every man for the past fifteen years… that was elected upon the workingmen’s platform… was chosen upon an anti-Chinese plank.”
- From Kearney’s speech to Boston Workingmen’s party August 5, 1878: “by the earth and all its inhabitants, and by hell beneath us, the Chinese must go”
- From Kearney’s speech to Boston Workingmen’s party August 8, 1878: “Let me caution working men not to employ Chinese laundry men. They are filthy; they spit on clothes, and if they have any disease it is transmitted to men and women through such washed clothing when the body perspires. Do you want leprosy here?”
- From Kearney’s speech to Boston Workingmen’s party August 8, 1878: “We will do it with our bullets if our ballots fail. We will drive these moon-eyed lepers back by steamship and by sail”
- From Kearney’s speech to Lynn, Massachusetts, Workingmen’s party August 12, 1878: “They are going to import 1,500 pig-tailed lepers into Chicago”
- From Kearney’s speech to Lynn, Massachusetts, Workingmen’s party August 12, 1878: “All we ask of you is to help us to rid that beautiful golden State of these lepers”
- August 28, 1878, discussion between President Rutherford B. Hayes and Dennis Kearney: “Kearney – ‘Well, Mr. Hayes, how do you account for the depression in business?’ Hayes then with a great many graceful gestures, and with much earnestness, discussed the subject, speaking about the war, the extravagance of flush times, and the reaction. ‘I think’, he [Hayes] continued, ‘it is at its lowest ebb. I think the tide will soon turn, even without a war. Every fifteen or twenty years, as regular as the ebb of the tide, there is a depression in business that is hard to account for…’ Hayes nodded, and answered, ‘Yes, Mr. Kearney, and without agreeing with you in a great many propositions you advance, I wish to say this: That your going about the country and speaking in the manner you do you are doing good work, noble service. You are concentrating the minds of the people on these evils, and the people are bound to rectify the great wrongs perpetrated by the system growing out of the war.’”
Hayes was more than willing to let the Chinese be the scapegoat for the failure of the American economy to thrive. If he had been more interested in dealing with the truth in an effort to correct the real reasons for the depressed national economy, the need to deflect the anger of the masses toward the Chinese might not have been necessary.
The treaty with China had enabled American industry to profit during Reconstruction by effectively enslaving the Chinese with extremely low wages. These fiscal politics resulted in labor class competition between the Chinese and the homegrown U.S. labor class, a class with a standard of living that could not be maintained if they accepted lower pay on par with what the Chinese were making. Rather than American labor recognize the right for any person, Chinese included, to determine what they will or will not find acceptable as a wage, they chose racist demonization of the Chinese. Although the Chinese were made out to be the villains, it was American politics of greed and power that were actually to blame for America’s economic woes.
What has the gringa learned from all this? It’s all propaganda that America is equal opportunity. This is a bill of goods sold to the average working person who is too busy grubbing away at their regular jobs, paying the bills and tending to their family to bother with effecting change of the real America, a nation designed and orchestrated by wealthy elites who continue to capitalize off the backs of the working class. And if they get exposed and the labor class brings down the heat on them, they in turn sow the seed of conflict in order to create class wars so that the population starts blaming each other rather than staying focused on the truth.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I enjoy my working class life. I’m just tired of die-hard Patriots getting apoplectic and calling people nasty names like “unpatriotic” when someone speaks the truth about how America really operates and how it was really designed. I’m not advocating class warfare, I’m just saying the labor class has been purposely created and carefully groomed and maintained for the purpose of enriching those who created it and their successors. The truth is the truth whether it’s a pleasant truth or a harsh truth. Stating a harsh truth is not criticizing, it’s simply pointing out what’s true. I, for one, do not go around setting myself up to be lied to. I’ll be the first to tell you to shut up if I think I’m being fed a line of horse crap. So, the propaganda that the founding fathers of America were these high-minded, religious freedom fighters who were wanting to build a new nation where everyone could be equal and free is a bunch of nonsense. I say, “Shut up! No they were not!”
In my opinion they were a bunch of rebellious British subjects who had wealth that they wanted to protect and keep private rather than let the King claim it as crown property. The only way to do that would be for them to flee the kingdom with their wealth and travel to a place out of the King’s reach. The best chance they had to leave the country with all of their wealth in their possession, would be to go with the King’s blessing. I think their cunning plan was to convince the King that they were volunteers who wanted to settle the colonies of the New World. And, so, they ran off, far off, far enough that their king could not effectively monitor what they were actually up to. Then, upon arrival, they cried foul due to religious oppression and began the propaganda campaign to brainwash the masses into cooperating with their desire to create a capitalist nation.
Why do American historians try to convince us of untruths simply because they sound more noble? Is there anything so terribly wrong with the Puritans running off in order to keep their hard earned money to themselves? I don’t see the need to lie about the Puritans’ motives.
A careful study of Britain’s religious climate at that time tells a different story than the one our historians credit to the Puritans. The reality is that the first colonial arrivals at Plymouth in 1620 were ruled over by King James I who was a devout Protestant. He desired to blend the faiths of Anglicanism, Catholicism and Presbyterianism in order to create a sense of national unity. The Puritans real issue of religious intolerance was not that England was intolerant, but, that they, the Puritans, were intolerant of anything resembling Catholicism. The religious intolerance argument then falls flat with the gringa. So, if they didn’t come here to escape religious intolerance, it had to be the money. Nothing else makes sense.
Judging by the subsequent actions throughout the years of colonization in the New World, it would seem that the true motivator for the Puritans was that they wanted to keep their personal wealth. The Puritans were not victims. They ran off to the new world, seeded their wealth in the fledgling economies of new colonies, then nurtured these economies until they were strong enough to finance a war in order to completely break the yoke of the crown. And, they designed the laws of the colonies, and eventually the country, to benefit the wealthy in order that they maintain their wealth and power by the fruits of the labor class. And political power was also vested in the same people who controlled the wealth. That is the truth about America. It’s always been about the money, and it always will be.
And it was all about the money, with a side order of racism, in 1882 with the Chinese Exclusion Act.
www.ourdocuments.gov, Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, (transcript)
http://racism.org, Burlingame-Seward Treaty of 1868 (transcript)
www.american-historama.org, “Credit Mobilier Scandal”, by Linda Alchin
www.history.com, “Chinese Exclusion Act”, “The Reader’s Companion to American History”, by Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors
archive.org, “Speeches of Dennis Kearney, Labor Champion (1878)”, by Dennis Kearney
http://www.oxfordreference.com/, “James I & VI – Religious Policy”
Photo credit: http://cndls.georgetown.edu