Harper’s Weekly, October 6, 1888, page 746 (Editorial)

The Chinese government has rejected the new treaty. The treaty provided for the practical exclusion of Chinese laborers. They were not to be permitted to return unless they had here a lawful wife, child, or parent, property of value of $1000, or debt of like amount due and pending settlement. The amendments to the treaty proposed by the Senate were these:

To Article 1: "And the prohibition [of Chinese laborers] shall extend to the return of Chinese laborers who are not now in the United States, whether holding return certificates under existing laws or not."

To Article 2: "And no such Chinese laborer shall be permitted to enter the United States by land or sea without producing to the proper officer of the customs the return certificates herein required."

The correspondence published by the State Department shows that as early as January, 1887, the Chinese Government proposed to prohibit the emigration of Chinese laborers to this country, and to allow the return of those who had been here only in the case of those who had left here family or property, and then only under strict conditions. The Chinese minister, Chang Yen Hoon, in April, 1887, accepted the treaty and the Senate amendments, which he did not find incompatible with it.

Upon the recent rumor of rejection, the complete exclusion act was hurried through the House and passed by the Senate, despite the wise interposition of Mr. Sherman for decent delay to ascertain the facts. The essential amendment is this:

"It shall be unlawful for any Chinese laborer who shall at any time heretofore have been or who may now or hereafter be a resident within the United States, and who shall have departed or shall depart therefrom, and shall not have returned before the passage of this act, to return to the United States."

This provision practically abrogates existing treaty stipulations, and with any other power than China would lead probably to war. For there are now three or four steamers on the way from China with passengers who, when they sailed, were entitled under the treaty to land in this country, and who will be prevented from landing should the President sign the bill. The President will probably recommend such amendments as will allow reasonable warning, and also suitable indemnity for the outrages upon the Chinese at the far West. The passage of the exclusion act by Congress was a violation of existing treaty stipulations, and no self-respecting government could enter into further conventions with a state which showed no respect for treaty stipulations. The wisdom of the exclusion is undeniable, but the friendly disposition of China, and its declared purpose of prohibiting emigration and return except under stringent conditions, which would have checked effectually any serious increase of Chinese, should have prevented us from the hasty and discreditable action of the exclusion bill.
That bill is an offence which we owe to the Presidential election. It is a bid for the vote of the Pacific coast, and it shows the grave misfortune of important legislation upon foreign relations during a Presidential campaign. The Chinese question is but one aspect of the whole subject of immigration. The reasons for regulating it carefully are of many kinds, moral, political, and social. The exclusion treaty and the foreign contract labor bill both aim to prevent the lowering of the standard of living among the masses of the American people, and to check the growth of alien political sentiment and tendency. The United States can remain a refuge for the oppressed only by maintaining the safeguards of liberty, and that can be done only by a wise regulation of immigration. The condition in which the action of Congress leaves our Chinese relations is, however, not final. Those relations now rest upon the Burlingame treaty, which permits our presence in China only at the pleasure of the government, and it remains to be seen to what point the reciprocity of unfriendly action may be carried.
Harper’s Weekly, October 6, 1888, page 746 (Editorial)

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