Tuesday, June 11, 2019

American Anti-Chinese Sentiment Dates Back To 1800s

This image shows a caricature of a Chinese worker wearing a queue
an 1899 editorial cartoon titled "The Yellow Terror In All His Glory."
It shows that the anti-Chinese sentiment, which C.C. Goodwin
chronicles, became more virulent as the American Empire
matured. Wikipedia. Public domain.
(Editor's note: This post will expose the discrimination the Chinese faced in the United States in the era of The Comstock Lode. It's a prejudice that was left to linger and that would metastasize into a spiritual malignancy that nefariously infected every strata of American society, including its religious, educational, political and legal institutions, in addition to newspapers. At the end is a comment that shows that maybe not all the gentlemen agreed with the prejudice against the Chinese.)

In this post, we join the gentlemen of The Comstock Club, written by C.C. Cummings, in Virginia City, Nev., discussing what Goodwin said was "the Chinese question {that} came up for consideration. C.C. Goodwin writes:

Strong took up this latter theme and said: "The men of the Eastern States think that we of the West are a cruel, half-barbarous race, because we look with distrust upon the swelling hosts of Mongolians that are swarming like locusts upon this coast.

"They say: 'Our land has ever been open to the oppressed, no matter in what guise they come. The men of the West are the first to stretch bars across the Golden Gate to keep out a people. And this people are peaceable and industrious; all they petition for is to come in and work. Still, there is a cry which swells into passionate invective against them. It must be the cry of barbarism and ignorance. It surely fairly reeks with injustice and cruelty and sets aside a fundamental principle of our Government which dedicates our land to freedom and opens all its gates to honest endeavor.'

"Those people will not stop to think that we came here from among themselves. We were no more ignorant, we were no worse than they when we came away. We have had better wages and better food since our coming than the ordinary men of the East obtain. Almost all of us have dreamed of homes, of wives and children that are men's right to possess, but which are not for us; and though they of the East do not know it, this experience has softened, not hardened our hearts, toward the weak and the oppressed. If they of the East would reflect they would have to conclude that it is not avarice that moves us; that there must be a less ungenerous and deeper reason.

"Our only comfort is, that, by and by, maybe while some of us still live, those men and women who now upbraid us, will, with their souls on their knees, ask pardon for so misjudging us. "We quarantine ships when a contagion is raging among her crew; we frame protective laws to hold the price of labor up to living American rates; New England approves these precautions, but when we ask to have the same rules, in another form, enforced upon our coast, her people and her statesmen, in scorn and wrath, declare that we are monsters.

"{...} There are one hundred thousand {Chinese} people in this State and California. We will suppose that they save only thirty cents each per day. That means, for all, nine hundred thousand dollars per month, or more than ten million dollars per annum that they send away. This is the drain which two States with less than one million inhabitants are annually subjected to. How long would Massachusetts bear a similar drain, before through all her length and breadth, her cities would blaze with riots, all her air grow black with murder? Ireland, with six times as many people, and with the richest of soils, on half that tax, has become so poor that around her is drawn the pity of the world.

"'But,' say the Eastern people, 'you must receive them, Christianize them, and after awhile they will assimilate with you.'

"Waiving the degradation to us, which that implies, they propose an impossibility. They might just as well go down to where the Atlantic beats against the shore, and shout across the waste to the Gulf stream, commanding it to assimilate with the 'common waters' of the sea. Not more mysterious is the law that holds that river of the deep within its liquid banks, than is the instinct which prevents the Chinaman from shaking off his second nature and becoming an American. He looks back through the halo of four thousand years, sees that without change, the nation of his forefathers has existed, and with him all other existing nations except Japan and India and Persia, are parvenues. "For thousands of years, he and his fathers before him, have been waging a hand-to-hand conflict with Want. He has stripped and disciplined himself until he is superior to all hardships except famine, and that he holds at bay longer than any other living creature could.

"A defiant 'Columbia' in an 1871 Thomas Nast cartoon of Harper's Review, shown protecting a defenseless Chinese man from an angry Irish lynch mob that has just burned down an orphanage. The billboard behind is full of inflammatory anti-Chinese broadsheets," according to Wikipedia. "Columbia is the personification of the United States. It was also a historical name used to describe the Americas and the New World. It has given rise to the names of many persons, places, objects, institutions and companies; for example: Columbia University, the District of Columbia (the national capital of the United States), and the ship Columbia Rediviva, which would give its name to the Columbia River." The cartoon illustrates anti-Chinese prejudice, but also shows that fundamental American values of fairness should protect everyone. Wikipedia. Public domain.

"Through this training process from their forms everything has disappeared except a capacity to work; in their brains every attribute has died except the selfish ones; in their hearts nearly all generous emotions have been starved to death. The faces of the men have given up their beards, the women have surrendered their breasts and the ability to blush has faded from their faces.

"Like all animals of fixed colors they change neither in habits nor disposition. In four thousand years they have changed no more than have the wolves that make their lairs in the foothills of the Ural mountains, except that they have learned to economize until they can even live upon half the air which the white man requires to exist in. They have trained their stomachs until they are no longer the stomachs of men; but such as are possessed by beasts of prey; they thrive on food from which the Caucasian turns with loathing, and on this dreadful fare work for sixteen hours out of the twenty-four. "The moral sentiments starved to death in their souls centuries ago. They hold woman as but an article of merchandise and delight to profit by her shame.

"Other foreigners come to America to share the fortunes of Americans. Even the poor Italian, with organ and monkey, dreams while turning his organ's crank, that this year or next, or sometime, he will be able to procure a little home, have a garden of his own, and that his children will grow up — sanctified by citizenship — defenders of our flag.

"But the Chinaman comes with no purpose except for plunder; the sole intention is to get from the land all that is possible, with the design of carrying it or sending it back to native land. The robbery is none the less direct and effective for being carried on with a non-combatant smile instead of by force.

"It is such a race as this that we are asked to welcome and compete with, and when we explain that the food we each require — we, without wife or child to share with — costs more in the market daily than these creatures are willing to work for and board themselves; the question, with a lofty disdain, is asked: 'Are you afraid to compete with a Chinaman?'

Chinese workers on the Transcontinental Railroad.
Wikipedia. Public domain.
"It is an unworthy question, born of ignorance and a false sentimentality; for no mortal can overcome the impossible.

"In the cities these creatures fill the places of domestics and absorb all the simpler trades. The natural results follow. Girls and boys grow up without ever being disciplined to labor. But girls and boys must have food and clothes. If their parents can not clothe and feed them other people must. If poor girls with heads and hands untrained have nothing but youth and beauty to offer for food, when hungry enough they will barter both for bread.

"The vices and diseases which the Chinese have already scattered broadcast over the west, are maturing in a harvest of measureless and indescribable suffering.

"The Chinese add no defense to the State. They have no patriotism except for native land; they are all children of degraded mothers, and as soldiers are worthless.

"Moreover it is not a question of sharing our country with them; it is simply a question of whether we should surrender it to them or not. When the western nations thoroughly understand the Chinese they will realize that with their numbers, their imitative faculties, their capacity to live and to work on food which no white man can eat, with their appalling thrift and absence of moral faculties, they are, to-day, the terror of the earth.

"The nations forced China to open her gates to them. It was one of the saddest mistakes of civilization.

"To ask that their further coming be stopped, is simply making a plea for the future generations of Americans, a prayer for the preservation of our Republic. It springs from man's primal right of self-preservation, and when we are told that we should share our country and its blessings with the Chinese, the first answer is that they possess already one-tenth of the habitable globe; their empire has everything within it to support a nation; they have, besides, the hoarded wealth of a hundred generations, and if these were not enough, there are still left illimitable acres of savage lands. Let them go occupy and subdue them.

"The civilization of China had been as perfect as it now is for two thousand years when our forefathers were still barbarians. While our race has been subduing itself and at the same time learning the lessons which lead up to submission to order and to law; while, moreover, it has been bringing under the ægis of freedom a savage continent, the Mongolian has remained stationary. To assert that we should now turn over this inheritance (of which we are but the trustees for the future), or any part of it, to 'the little brown men,' is to forget that a nation's first duty is like a father's, who, by instinct, watches over his own child with more solicitude than over the child of a stranger, and who, above all things, will not place his child under the influence of anything that will at once contaminate and despoil him.

"Finally, by excluding these people no principle of our Government is set aside, and no vital practice which has grown up under our form of government. Ours is a land of perfect freedom, but we arrest robbers and close our doors to lewd women. While these precautions are right and necessary it is necessary and right to turn back from our shores the sinister hosts of the Orient."

With this the whole Club except Brewster heartily agreed.

Brewster merely said: "Maybe you are right, but your argument ignores the saving grace of Christianity, and maybe conflicts with God's plans."

Then the good-nights were said.

---

That one sentence uttered by Mr. Brewster shows that C.C. Goodwin was aware of the contradiction for Christians to be prejudiced against people from China and yet believe that Christ came to serve all humanity, which He did.

It just goes to show that prevailing public opinion is not always an indicator of what is moral.

Because this is a series about the book titled "The Comstock Club" by C.C. Goodwin, it is not appropriate here to go into the brutal history of repression against Chinese and other Asian immigrants. It is worth noting, however, that this ungodly prejudice resulted in murders, rapes, beatings, loss of jobs, and so much more. It is a shameful epoch in American history and one we should not repeat.


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