San Francisco News and Stories: 1800s

The Chinese Immigration

° Chinese in San Francisco ° Chinese Interpreters ° Anti-Coolie Tax  ° Chinese Merchants  ° Buddhist Temple 1856 ° Little Pete ° Opium (China, Europe, North America)

Editors Note: Like others fleeing their homelands seeking a better life and freedom from persecution, thousands of people emigrated from China during the mid-1800s. The hardworking Chinese were horribly mistreated, used and abused at every turn, forced into slavery, hired as indentured servants (as were the Irish), their children sold, women forced into brothels, pigtails cut, unreasonably taxed, and murdered. Yet they persevered and added immeasurably to the strength and growth of California. How ironic that Chinese immigrants were damned, as indicated in articles below, for being industrious. One of the following pieces, perhaps inadvertently, compliments the men of China by noting:

The man who can run for a few minutes in a short race, and make very fast time, is not the equal of him who can run all day. The Chinese are all-day runners, and those who compete with them will need to rise early and sit up late.

May 15, 1852, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

The Chinese Emigration

As this subject has much engaged the public attention of late, a friend of ours (S.E. Woodworth, Esq.) has taken the pains to collect the annexed statistics of arrivals and departures of Chinese emigrants. The gentleman named was for some time acting agent and consul for the Chinese in California, and the figures which he has furnished us may therefore be relied upon as quite correct.

The first Chinese emigrants to California arrived in the brig Eagle, from Hongkong, in the month of February, 1848 -- two men and one woman. But four arrived during the succeeding twelve months. On the 1st of February, 1849, there were but fifty-four Chinamen and one Chinese woman in California. On the 1st of January, 1850, there were in California 789 men and two women. During the early part of that year, about three hundred Chinamen left here for the Chincha Islands, having been engaged here by the "Guano Company."

On the 1st of January, 1851, there were in California, 4018 men and 7 women. On the 1st of January, 1852, there were 7,520, as follows:

Males arrived to January 1st, 1852

China women

Left for Chincha Islands

Died in California, to date

Of men returned to China

Of women returned to China

In California January 1st, 1852
Arrived since January 1st, 1852
In California, May 7, 1852, inclusive

Returned since January 1st, 1852

Died since January 1st, 1852, about



Of this number 7 are women, the remaining 11,780 are men and boys.

It is impossible to keep a perfect record of the deaths of Chinamen in this country, as they are scattered throughout the whole mining region, and very little correspondence is kept up between the different parties.

There are doubtless many Chinamen in California not herein enumerated, whose numbers have never been reported at the Custom House, most of whom, however, consist of cooks, stewards, crews &., of vessels from China, who have deserted while lying in this port. Many, also, have returned to China, or left California for other ports, in like capacities. Such arrivals and departures have been estimated to very nearly balance each other, and as there are no means of ascertaining the numbers with correctness, they form no portion of the foregoing statement.

It will be quite safe to set down the total Chinese population now resident in California at 12,000 and its increase will probably be from 7,000 to 10,000 between this and the 1st January next. Under these circumstances, we do not see any imperative necessity for the hue and cry which is attempted relative to this particular class of foreigners. The French and Spanish American population both exceed the Chinese very largely at the present moment, and no one fears danger or misfortune from their excessive numbers.

July 29, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

The Chinese in California
I speak as a man. ~ St. Paul.

The presence of the Chinese in California is becoming a source of earnest inquiry with every citizen of the State who looks to our future condition with that solicitude becoming the patriot. But I notice with sorrow that the newspapers throughout the State avoid the discussion of the subject and studiously appear to avoid it as if an object was to be gained by a course of "masterly inactivity."

And truly there is an object to be gained by this course a great, a detestable, a damnable object and that object the degradation and reduction of the price of labor. And the press of California sees the work going on, and is silent! There is another object besides this it is commerce. By allowing innumerable hordes of semi-human Asiatics to come to our shores, the trade with Asia will be increased; there will be an increased demand for shipping; the ship owners will make larger dividends; the trade and profits of many large commercial houses will be increased, and the general interests of commerce will be promoted. This is the direct and moving influence that shuts up the mouths of the press and stifles legislation.

It is now reduced to a political axiom that commerce rules the world. Every other interest must yield to that. Agriculture, manufactures, peace, or war, are all of secondary importance; for the active wealth of the world is in the hands of commercial men of enterprise and tact, so that the great measures of national policy are only such as tend to advance their interests. It is of little use, therefore, to war against the Chinese in California. They have the wealth of the country on their side. The press, if it dares not be for them, dares not be against them, and the only force to oppose this inundation of half humans is the outraged and insulted American laborer. He may see himself surrounded by the long-tailed blue skins, and beings from the contact with whom his very soul revolts, and himself put on level with them, yet what can he do? The law hath said that John, after paying his four dollars to the tax-gatherer, is as good a man as Jonathan, who is an educated and influential citizen, and Jonathan is a law-abiding man, and so long as it is upon the statute book it must be observed. Besides, Jonathan is a poor man and works for five dollars a day, and has no time or money to spent to get up unity of action to redress his grievances, while John’s friends are the millionaires of the land, and can easily stifle any signs of disaffection. The press is every ready to depreciate any hostile action towards the Chinese, and though every gulch and ravine is filled with them, so that an American emigrant can hardly find room to pitch his tent, yet will we hear nothing through the columns of the press, but the returns of dust carried out of the State to enrich the residents of other countries.

Celestial Empire in California
Miners, Gamblers, Gold Miners, c 1853Chinese Gold Miners in California.

Chinese miners during the 1800s.

Against the press of California I make this charge direct: With the exception of the Alta California and one paper in the mines (the Sonora Herald), no paper in the State has ever ventured to approach the subject at all. No paper will advocate that it is for the interest of the American miner for the Chinese to dig out our gold and leave with it. It is too gross an insult to the understanding of the mining community. They know that the policy of admitting this class of degraded foreigners, is but another name for robbery of our own people, for the incidental benefits resulting to commerce from the levying of toll on the increased shipments of gold dust and merchandise. Hence, nothing is said about the matter. Any feeling of hostility or disaffection towards the rat-eaters is frowned upon, and those who evince it are denominated violators of law, and the stigma is cast upon them that they themselves are not good citizens.

There is nothing more characteristic of the American character than the love of law. When this contempt of it is charged upon them, they are willing to subject themselves to almost any wrong rather than endure it; and so they suffer the abuse to continue, and do not even take the steps necessary to show to the world their opinions on the subject. The mines are therefore filling up with Chinese, and though it is felt to be wrong, there are few to raise a voice against it. And we are told that it is illiberal to preach against them; it is said to be at variance with the American policy; that our land is the refuge of all nations, and that we ought not to discriminate against the Chinese. I admit there is an appearance of illiberality in the policy I advocate, but that there is any actual illiberality I deny. As a nation, we welcome to our shores the oppressed of every land, who come here to be free and take the chance with us. But the Chinese have no such object; they come here to collect gold and return to their idols, their rates, and their tyrannical rulers. Of what use are they here? They increase our immediate trade, and for this they are permitted to come here and appropriate the heritage of our neighbors and brothers. Away with such philanthropy as this. Let us not rob our own house to feed the stranger.

. . . represented that the Chinese who come here come as free men, and that if they are successful they return to their own country enlightened and instructed as missionaries of civilization, or in plain English, they tell their acquaintances to come here and do the same thing. But I say, and I ask the California miner to mark the statement, that the most of them in the mines are not free that they are coolies, brought here by rich Mandarins or merchants to work for little more than a bear subsistence, and the hardship in not permitting them to work in the mines does not affect the laborers themselves so much as their wealthy masters. There is one man in California who has 14,000 coolies at work in our mines 14,000! This man is a large merchant and of such wealth that he can import the most of the goods and provisions which his own slaves consumes. He pays them next to nothing for their labor, and what must be his profits. It is beyond credulity to believe the amount if named. It is enough, however, that he can afford to pay for having all sorts of representations made to the public, and it is enough too, so that he can afford the most powerful appliances to be made to prevent legislative action on the subject. What is impossible for a man with 14,00 laborers in California, with such a pack of knaves as disgraced Benicia last winter? What could he not affect in causing, or preventing legislation by setting apart the profits of a few days only.

Chinatown. San Francisco.

I say then that until the miners awake to the importance of this subject and declare that this practice must be stopped, they are completely at the mercy of the Mandarins and merchants.

I say that no laws have yet been made for the benefit or protection of the American miner. I say that the wealth of the country has been against them and the laws have been so framed as to give capitalists the advantage over laborers. And now previous to a general election will not the people in the mines discuss this matter and send men to the next legislature who will act for them and not for Mandarin Tong Wo, Lord Bloat, or Merchant Bullion. Let the matter be discussed now, and then members will know what they are elected to do. Let there be an expression of sentiment so earnest, so determined that the next Legislature will respect it.

It is asked, what shall be done to keep out the Chinese, without a violation of the treaty with China? I ask, is the present tax of $4 per month in accordance with that treaty? If it is, then a tax of $20 per month would be equally so. But another tax could be imposed more effectual than that. Impose a hospital tax of $50 a head, and not allow a ship to discharge its cargo until bonds for the payment were given. The object is not, or ought not to be, to raise revenue; it is to protect our own people; and the man who questions that this duty is paramount to all others is no American, but a venal hireling who would sell his own people and kindred into bondage.

Few people are aware of the number of Chinese in this country. To form anything like a correct idea, a person must travel through the mines in the out-of-the-way places. For miles he will frequently see three Chinamen to one American; and if he would travel through from Shasta to Mariposa, I greatly mistake if, throughout the mineral region, he did not see more slack than tight breeches. Will any man insult the American miner by saying that this state of things is as it should be? No, it is wrong; and unless action legislative action, is soon taken to prevent it, it will become too grievous to be borne. It will not be borne, and any one may see that the indignation of an outraged people will sooner or later cast out every one who defends the practice. Hence the press is silent, for, like the Jews who tempted Christ, "they fear the people."

And now, I ask, in view of the fact that the country is so fast filing up with the Celestials, is it the part of wisdom, is it the part of patriotism to allow its increase till it becomes so great that our own people must repel it by force and in defiance of law? Is it not better to check the evil while we have the power? Talk not of the hardship of the Chinese. There need be no hardship. Let those who are now here have a reasonable time to get away, and stop, by all means, the further importation of the commodity. The most of those here intend to leave the country in a year or two. Many of the most miserable sort, and only the most miserable, will not ever get away, but the most will leave, and if we stop the importation, then the nuisance will be gradually abated, and no hardship to any one.

The views advanced in this letter will meet with no response from the merchant, the large land owners, and, I fear, the editor. Yet they are the views of a great many American miners. They are the class that suffer from the presence of the Chinese; with them is the remedy. Will they apply it? I speak as a man.

APRIL 19th, 1854 from The Annals of the City of San Francisco

Chinatown. Edwin Deakin. 1886.

Chinatown. Edwin Deakin.

The Lord Warriston arrived from China with 780 Chinese passengers, 200 of whom were females. About this time, there was a very large immigration of Chinese, and it was understood that many thousand more of these people were only waiting for ships to embark in from the ports of their country for San Francisco. The State and city press discussed at much length the propriety of excluding the race altogether from California, or at all events of only admitting it to labor under certain specified restrictions, particularly reserving the gold mines to the white population. It was admitted on all sides, that the Chinese were naturally an inferior race, both mentally and corporeally, while their personal habits and manner of living were peculiarly repulsive to Americans. It would be out of place in a work of this nature to discuss the general Chinese question, which promises to give much debatable ground for philosophers, statesmen, politicians, and mere laborers in California, for many years to come.

April 26, 1866, California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences

The Chinese Question.

The able report of the Hon. Wilson Flint, upon this subject, is a document of great value, and gives evidence of much labor and research in its preparation. It is published in full in the Herald of the 18th. We make extracts touching the most important feature of this document, we mean the value of the services of the Chinese as cultivators of our vast tule and swamp lands. We have often alluded to them in this connection, and shall ever believe that they are to be a most valuable means of restoring vast portions of our waste lands to the highest degree of fertility. We annex the following extract from the report, and shall give more at some future day:

Ross Alley. Chinatown. Edwin Deakin.

Ross Alley. Chinatown.

"In short wherever intercourse is expedient between any two parts of China, no natural impediments are too gigantic, no labor or expense too great, to overcome them. I appeal to the reflecting men of California not to drive out of our borders this mighty labor power. Is it not better, with modern skill in engineering to put tools into these fifty thousand pairs of willing hands, and in place of trickling ditches, have torrents rushing along to make the miners glad, and people rich.

The Mormons of Utah have sent emissaries to China to encourage these people to emigrate to their New Jerusalem, and the gold fields of the eastern slope of the mountains dividing California from that Territory arc already attracting attention, and should this State adopt a system of persecution, the spectacle might be presented of these barbarians taking up their line of march over our snowy sierras, to share the hospitality of a people but too ready to receive them. Utah, with her new and strange doctrines, presents an ugly barrier between California and the United States.

Viewing the employment of the Chinese in the mines as of temporary expediency, the undersigned would further suggest, that the State is proprietor of millions of acres of alluvial lands, partially overflowed during the spring floods, and which can be cheaply reclaimed. These lands are uusurpassingly fertile, being the washings of the mountains through many ages, and for the culture of sugar, cotton and rice, have no equal in the world. Sugar, requiring for its most perfect maturity a warm, moist, rich soil, would find, in our reclaimed tule lands, an atmosphere peculiarly adapted to its luxuriance, and the early period at which it would commence to grow in the spring, together with the total absence of rain during the time of its secretions of saccharine matter, will obviate the danger which attends its culture in rainy countries, where whole crops are often ruined by incorporating water, in long storms, succeeded by sultry weather, causing fermentation to take place, not only whilst standing in the Held, but when undergoing process of manufacture. Experience demonstrates, in all sugar growing countries, that the seasons which are dry during the latter part of the maturity of the crop, are those in which the most productive one is harvested, not only of quantity, but also of a superior quality. Instead of being an importer, our State should raise a home supply of sugar and molasses, and become, in time, a large exporter. The value of sugars consumed by California, and the trade dependent upon her for supplies, amounts to many millions of dollars yearly. The growing of cotton has been already experimented upon by one of our eminent citizens, with the most gratifying success; and it has been found that the absence of rains, (which, in the Atlantic States, often produces mildew,) and the worm, lenders this climate peculiarly favorable for the growth of this article, now become one of the first necessaries of the commercial world. From the first opening of the bolls in June, through upwards of five months of picking season, uninterrupted by rain, it will be seen that we can defy competition in the production of this great staple; for, while, from the peculiarity of our soil, the plant never would suffer by drought, the uninterrupting fair weather 'will afford opportunities for picking, drying and bailing, not possessed by any other cotton growing country. Add to this the fact that navigable streams meander through every portion of these lands, thus presenting facilities for cheap and expeditious shipment.

Glancing from her sierras, beneath which lie buried stores of gold, out rivaling fabled Ophir, the eye may yet look down upon the bosom of broad valleys, reflecting, amid the din of busy husbandry, a whiteness, vicing in its purity with the peaks of her eternal snow-clad mountains. No country in the world presents so successful a field for rice culture, and our State should long since have raised not only her own supply, but largely for export. Objections will be urged against the employment of large numbers of Chinese in these pursuits, and the stereotyped cry of "monopoly," which is always in the mouths of demagogues, has already been sounded. Reflections shows that the only successful monopolist under our institutions is he who possesses talent, worth, genius, enterprise, fortitude and industry. And shall the drones of society cast their lethargic chains over the limbs of the restless, and force upon them a midday siesta? Even now, while "commerce is king," the loom, the anvil, and the sturdy locomotive are, by the instantaneous language of the electric spark, answering to each other all over the world, telling us of the mighty things labor is doing.

Whilst viewing it as against the true policy of the State to drive out any species of labor, the undersigned would farther suggest that, in his opinion, a heavy commutation tax would not afford the remedy desired, the present law upon the subject of immigration being vague and indefinite. Older States, with the experience of three quarters of a century, have found this subject one presenting the greatest difficulties to special legislation, and the tax there imposed has been paid, rather as a charity than a constitutional enforcement."

November 17, 1855, Los Angeles Star, Los Angeles, California

Return of Chinese.

With the commencement of the present month, says the Oriental, the tax upon foreigners, (which means simply Chinese miners, for the collectors, it is said, do not attempt to inflict it upon any other people.) is increased one-half, making now six dollars a month. As the Chinese are driven into the poorest, or exhausted diggings, and many are making but a dollar or so per day, (and from that must support themselves,) while many others are invalids, from severe work, and disease engendered on shipboard, they feel the burden to be intolerable. Last week, the St. Germaim carried away one hundred and forty of this oppressed people; this week the Sea Serpent, a fine large clipper, takes some four hundred.

Angel Island. Gateway to Gold Mountain.We have witnessed, among some of these, scenes of real distress. The prevailing tone of feeling among the Chinese at the present time is that of despondency. Many have met with commercial misfortunes. There is a prevalent bitterness among the mercantile class, which, as Christians, we must witness with regret. The tide has now began to set back from California. A few years will show our politicians their mistake.

China’s Menace to the World

Handwritten by Thos. Magee for the Knights of Labor, in Washington, D.C., 1878


MEN FROM CHINA come here to do LAUNDRY WORK. The Chinese Empire contains 600,000,000 (six hundred millions) inhabitants.

The supply of these men is inexhaustible.

Every one doing this work takes BREAD from the mouths of OUR WOMEN.

So many have come of late, that to keep at work, they are obliged to cut prices.

And now, we appeal to the public, asking them will they be partners to a deal which is only one of their many onward marches in CRUSHING OUT THE INDUSTRIES OF OUR COUNTRY from our people by grasping them themselves. Will you oblige the AMERICAN LAUNDRIES to CUT THE WAGES OF THEIR PEOPLE by giving your patronage to the CHINAMEN?

Chinese Immigrants arriving in San Francisco given an unfriendly welcome by hoodlums

Chinese Immigrants.

We invite you to give a thorough investigation of the STEAM LAUNDRY BUSINESS of the country; in doing so you will find that not only does it GIVE EMPLOYMENT TO A VAST NUMBER OF WOMEN, but a great field of labor is opened to a great number of mechanics of all kinds whose wages are poured back into the trade of the country.

If this undesirable element "THE CHINESE EMIGRANTS" are not stopped coming here, we have no alternative but that we will have California and the Pacific Slope's experience, and the end will be that our industries will be absorbed UNLESS we live down to their animal life.

We say in conclusion that the CHINAMAN is a labor consumer of our country without the adequate returns of prosperity to our land as is given by the labor of our people to our glorious country. Our motto should be:

Pioneer Laundry Workers Assembly, K. of L. Washington, D.C.

One of the most striking and most useful characteristics of the Chinese is their remarkable ability as farmers. In the United States, if a farmer were to give his son two or three acres of land, and to tell him that he expected him to raise vegetables on this acreage to grow rich, the son would be fully justified in indulging in incredulous laughter. Suppose that, in addition to making his own living, and to paying and feeding a laborer out of the produce of the land, the son were called upon to pay $25 or $30 a month rent per acre, would not every one say, "This is impossible"? But it is not to a Chinaman at least. A year ago I sold for a friend in San Francisco about 2 1/4 acres of land in a western suburb. A Chinaman was occupying it. For this speck of ground he regularly paid $75 a month, and he lived on it with an assistant. He used it for growing vegetables, which he disposed of to Chinamen. When I sold the lot, the Chinaman had been upon the lot three years, and his lease had two years to run. The buyer desired to fill the lot in and to sell it for building plots, but the Chinaman would not leave. Despite the high rent, he was making money, and he was dispossessed only by an action at law to suppress his business as a nuisance. The Rev. Mr. Vrooman, now Chinese interpreter in the California courts, who was for twenty-five years a missionary at Canton, and was subsequently among the Chinese in Melbourne, informed me that he knew of two Chinese in the latter place who made a living for themselves and for a horse from a quarter of an acre of land. In addition to supporting themselves and the horse, they each sent $50 yearly to their relatives at home.

In China, the owner of land who should not cultivate it would be deprived of it. Fertilizers undreamed of in Europe are used there, and the nostrils of a European or an American are assailed with all sorts of odors at every turn in city and country. All ordure is penuriously hoarded and used. Every stalk of rice is planted as seed, and replanted in water by human hands, and to add one handful to a crop would not be thought unworthy of effort.

Rain water is everywhere stored in ponds or in water holes for irrigation, and in all cases fish are grown in these reservoirs. Human hands do all the work; human backs bear most of the land burdens; human animals are the beasts that drag most of the loads, where they cannot be transported on canal or river. Horses, cows, and sheep are crowded out; they would cost more than they would produce. Why should a horse or an ass be called to bear a burden when there are poor human beasts to be had, in number sufficient to build the pyramids or to drag mountains from their bases, if the poorest of wages to recompense such a task were forthcoming? There are practically no plant weeds to be seen in the most thickly populated parts of China. There is no room for them, and they are completely extirpated in a land where agriculture is so minute that the roots of plants are examined to expel or to kill any insect or grub that would dare to dispute a living with the hungry lord of creation. Seeds are steeped in liquid manure to force them to rapid and luxuriant growth. Fertilizers are applied directly to the roots of plants, and not placed on the surface of the land, as with us, for in the latter process is evaporation and waste.

Man is the only weed tolerated in China, and he teems everywhere. A population of eight hundred to the square mile is not uncommon in the best agricultural districts there. In that country, if anywhere, missionaries should devote their best energies to urging the practice of the Malthusian doctrine. But to make converts to any method of cutting down the population would be even more difficult than to Christianize the Chinese; for the one great religious tenet of a Chinaman, in which he is as much in earnest as he is in working, is the worship of his ancestors. He, in his turn, wants his manes worshiped, and, as that cannot be done without children, he prays constantly for sons, daughters being household shadows and household sorrows. Population is checked to some small extent by the murder of female infants. Famine is a constant relief. The overflow of the Yellow River, by drowning and starving, once in about every decade, hundreds of thousands or sometimes one or two millions of people, would be a relief but for the fact that at the same time it destroys immense amounts of property. The Taiping rebellion was a great relief. In China, if anywhere, Wordsworth's assertion that "slaughter is God's daughter," is true The statement has lately been widely published, that farming lands in such States as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois, have failed in value from 20 to 50 per cent. within ten or fifteen years. Ex-Senator L. D. Whiting, of Illinois in an address before a farmers' association at Peoria, estimated the shrinkage in the value of farming lands in Illinois during the past ten years at the enormous figure of $200,000,000. The Chinese remedy for such a state of affairs would be reduction-immense reduction-of the acreage allowed to each farmer. The Chinaman would not call the American system of raising wheat and corn, on tracts of 160 acres and upward, land culture at all. The constant reduction of the crops each year, from want of rotation and of fertilizing, goes far to support the Chinaman's view of this question.

The Chinese, and then Japanese, also, it may be added, are as far ahead of the agriculturists of the United States, in what they can get out of a given area of land, as we are ahead of them in manufacturing and transportation development. We have quite as much to learn of them on the one hand, as they have to learn of us on the other. Let me also add here, that if a proposition in serious business shape should come from any of the States last named to the representatives of the Chinese companies in California, to take long leases of from 50,000 to 200,000 acres of land, the Chinese to cultivate the la d, paying all taxes and from five to ten dollars per acre annual rent, I feel reasonably sure that it would be accepted; provided, the Chinese were allowed to come and go freely. Chinese now rent at least 50,000 acres of fruit and bottom lands within a radius of 100 miles of San Francisco, for which they pay from four to ten times what a white lessee could afford to give for the same. Land in their hands is farmed in earnest, and with them its richness increases rather than decreases.


But for the civilized powers, China would at once seize the Sandwich and Philippine Islands by conquest. She is rapidly capturing them in an industrial way. The Chinese are a power as agriculturists, shopkeepers, and financiers, before which the soft and easy-going natives of those islands must give way. Extinction was the doom of the natives of the Sandwich Islands in any event, but their erasure was slow, indeed compared with the rate at which the Chinese are now displacing them. The Ladrone and Philippine Islands are still owned by Spain. The Chinese have a strong foothold upon the latter, and will finally master the Ladrones, also. As a Conqueror, China has played a paltry part in history; but as an industrial supplanter and trade-absorber, no nation of the earth can equal her. If picked white workman labor twelve hours a day, the Chinese laborer and mechanic, will, if necessary, learn from them, and overtake them by working twenty hours, and that on incomparably poorer food, housing, and clothing.

Fresh air and sunshine the Chinaman can come nearer to doing wholly without than any other human being. Both seem to be superfluities to him. Chinese passengers on a junk or boat, jam themselves in crowds into little holes of deck houses, and here they remain all day in the worst of air and in the most cramped positions. I have seen a Chinaman, while waiting at a railway station, lift himself upon an empty headless, sharp-edged barrel, sit down upon the edge, and, with his feet as a brace across the barrel, fall asleep. To ride across the continent in a freight car, with no opportunity to lie down save on bare boards, would be exceedingly trying to an American; but it would not inconvenience a Chinaman in the least. The Chinaman's ability to bear hunger, and exposure to low temperature in thin clothing, has been frequently noted and described by travelers. He can endure long fasting, the account being subsequently more than balanced by an over-feeding which one would think only an Eskimo or an anaconda could withstand. A Captain Blethen, who died in San Francisco recently, lived in China for twenty-two years previous to 1880. He kept a large ship-chandlery store at Shanghai, and owned a dry dock there, but sold his business because he was being forced out by Chinese competition. Said he to me:

The trouble with you here in California is that you do not appreciate the staying powers of the Chinese. When a Chinese laborer comes here, he may, with his best efforts, save only a few dollars the first year; but, let him save little or much, he does and will save, and he will work in and out of season. Here is a letter I received by the last steamer from China. It is from the Chinese house that bought me out. It contains an order for some American goods in the ship-chandler line. This letter manages the firm's business. I gave the man who filled a similar position for me $3,000 a year. This young Chinaman gets but $10 a month, his rice, and a place to sleep in. The hands in the store gets no wages, only rice and a bunk. How could I live against such competition? I had either to remain in business there, and thereby loose all I had made, or to sell out at a good price rice and leave. White men employed and taught the Chinese, and the Chinese drove them out. We could no more compete with them than we could overcome death and fate.

This is the one unvarying story everywhere. Let white men, in competition with Chinese, mark down wages and profits as they may, extend the hours of labor or reduce the food standard as they may, the Chinese, without seeming effort or privation, can at once get below them and work them out. The Chinese have been largely employed in the fruit-packing business in San Francisco. That has been one of the largest, most useful, and most profitable of our industries. They have heretofore figured in it only as employees, but last year they began to operate extensively on their own account, and at a time of greater depression than ever before known in the business. There was such an over-supply of fruit that any one giving a large order could almost dictate the price. At such a crisis the Chinese entered the business, and they are now advancing rapidly in it. And they will continue to advance, for Chinese employers practice the cooperative system, and thus get much better work out of Chinese laborers than Americans possibly can. For the money they advance, Chinese employers charge two per cent a month, and they command, also, high salaries for their services. After these fixed charges have been provided for, then co-op era ti on comes in. Chinese masters have the mental keenness to know that a cooperative laborer is a laborer with heart in his work, and that the heart is the very best spur to diligent hands.

The Chinese have recently secured a foothold in Lower California, 60 miles below the California State line, on a grant 125 miles square. No use was made of this land till some speculators at San Diego, while floating everything on paper there, transferred it to a joint-stock company. The shares had only a nominal value until a very sharp Chinaman appeared. He and his Chinese associates demanded and received a more than half of the shares, in order that the control should be in Chinese hands. All of the shares will finally be owned by them. The Chinese guarantee to build a canal 75 miles long the water of which is to be used for placer gold-washing and for irrigation. But much more important than that is a twenty years' concession, already granted by a Franciscan, of the sole rite to fish in the waters of the Gulf of California. He has turned this rite over to the Chinese. When the Chinese thus purchase territories, or get long leases of them, they pay but a trifle of money down. Payment of the great bulk of the purchase price is deferred until the amount can be taken out of the country, through profits from agriculture, mining, and fishing, made by the laborers, who will be imported from China. One of the parties interested in the scheme has gone to China to import 8,000 Chinese into that part of Mexico.


Neither Cuban and South American planters and mine-owners, nor manufacturers in San Francisco, will any longer grow wealthy by the importation of coolies; long headed Chinese merchants and contractors will usurp their places, and will make the money themselves. For twenty years after the introduction of coolies, California manufacturers grew rich by employing Chinese labor. Now the tables are turned. Chinese employ Chinese, and are beating white employers on every hand in the manufacture of cigars, boots, shoes, slippers, men's clothing, and men's and women's underwear. It may be set down as a rule, almost without exception, that no one can make anything out of the Chinaman except during his apprenticeship. He serves only to learn, that he may finally become master, in which position he will supplant his teachers, no matter how strongly they may be backed by capital and experience.

By his industry, suavity and apparent child-like innocence, seconded by unequaled patience and the keenest business ability, the Chinaman is always the winner. Let white men set over him whatever guards they may, he can surpass them in threading the by-ways of tortuousness. Dr. S. Wells Williams, in his standard work on China, "The Middle Kingdom," makes these remarks on the untruthfulness of the Chinese:

There is nothing which tries one so much, when living among them, as their disregard of truth; or renders him so indifferent to what calamities may befall so mendacious a race. An abiding impression of suspicion rests upon the mind toward everybody here, which chills the warmest wishes for their welfare. Their better traits diminish in the distance, and the patience is exhausted when in daily proximity and friction with this ancestor of sins.

China is not yet a large manufacturer, but the signs in that direction are so promising that Prince Kung was lately reported to have said that fifty years hence China would manufacture for the world. The prejudice of the Chinese against machinery is fast being overcome. The fact is, China is (two missing words) goes to stay away permanently from his native country. He sends or carries back to China all of his savings. The Chinese are therefore, a fearful drain, in a monetary sense, upon any country to which they emigrate. The chief profits made from the Chinese sojourners here and elsewhere are due to the fact that, as the Chinaman never comes to stay, he does not buy land. Being a very filthy and undesirable tenant, he is always charged far more rent than a white man would have to pay for the same land or premises. He could avoid this by purchasing; but he will not do so, even when he is rich. White owners of the Chinese quarter in San Francisco receive from 9 to 12 per cent., net, from their property. Owners with white tenants receive only from 5 to 7 per cent. While the Chinese lessee pays from 9 to 12 per cent., net, to his landlord, he receives from 18 to 24 per cent., net, himself, by sub-letting. This he accomplishes by the most fearful over-crowding. In one four story building, on a lot 34 1/2 by 137 1/2 feet in size, more than 200 Chinese are housed.

I lately asked a rich Chinese merchant how his countrymen manage to distance white men so far in land culture. "Oh," said he, "white man too lazy. Chinaman work all day and all night too, when moon is shining." And this is true. If the Chinese here or wherever else their labor is profitable, had the continuous daylight of arctic summer, they would every day work at least twenty hours. Lights never seem to go out in Chinese laundries by night. Probably no man on the face of the earth gives so little time to sleep as the Chinaman.

It has been well said that, compared to the Chinese code of laws, the Persian Zendavesta and the Hindoo Purana are but ravings. Says a writer in the "Edinburgh review.":

To turn from the latter to the former, is like passing from darkness to light; from the driveling of dotage to the exercise of an improved understanding. We scarcely know a European code that is so freed from intricacy, bigotry, and fiction.

No European cabinet minister would dare to talk to his sovereign with the freedom indulged in by the Chinese Emperor's advisers, when the good of the people and common sense require them to ignore his pretensions to be the "Son of Heaven." Chinatown, San Francisco. A more remarkable and most creditable fact is that there is only one order of hereditary nobility in China -- the descendants of Confucius. He lived 500 years before Christ; and yet to this day, through all the changes and chances of time and of dynasties, the descendants of Confucius remain the only hereditary noblemen and national pensioners in the empire. Even the imperial blood becomes dilated, degraded, and absorbed into the body politic after the seventh generation; but the descendants of Confucians remain separate, through all the mutations of time and of government. It is as if Greece were able to point to the living descendants in the direct line of Socrates, Plato, Pericles, or Phidias, still setting them up as the only permanent aristocracy, and still supporting them at the expense of the State.

China may be forgiven much for thus making immortal the memory of her great philosopher. When Europe stormed at the gates of the Chinese Empire and demanded their opening, China, physically weak, could not successfully resist; but she fought with the weapons of deceit, and achieved so me remarkable successes by the able exercise of diplomatic lying. These did not save her, it is true, but they lightened her fall. China's progress will be even more remarkable in internal manufacturing development than in industrial and mercantile triumphs over people in other countries. The United States minister to China has recently reported as follows to the State Department at Washington

I have the honor to enclose an imperial decree, commenting on the late proposal of the viceroy of Canton to develop the iron industry in Tokuang. In order to foster this important industry, he has abolished inland duties on iron and the prohibition against its export. He proposes to investigate by commission the subject of abolishing the heavy duty now levied on furnaces. Such a plan put into force for three years could not involve a large diminution of the revenue, but would greatly benefit the iron-producers by doing away with illegal fees. He proposes, also, to create a joint-stock company to work the foundries with foreign machinery. It would seem that the mind of this distinguished man, Chang Chi Yung, had undergone a change. He now, while still materially seeking to retain for his own people the benefits of industrial enterprise, favors the extensive use of foreign methods in building railroads and in establishing electric lights and foundries. I do not doubt that the next process in his mental development will lead him to the only correct conclusion; that is to say, that foreign talent, honesty , and will power are indispensable to the successful introduction of improvements.

A concession for a railroad, to run from Peking to Chin Kiang, on the Yang-tse-Kiang, 600 miles south of Peking, has also been granted. The development of the mineral and manufacturing resources of China to anything like the degree which both have attained in such a State as Pennsylvania would relieve the soil from the burden of having to sustain fully one-half, and probably two-thirds, of the total population of that fearfully over-populated empire. No internal development, however, will fully relieve the continuous pressure of over-population; and, therefore, outside of China, beyond all questions, the Chinese must find room for themselves. China is no longer shut; China is open, and China's only grievance may be that the world, in its turn, may build an anti-Chinese legal wall against the entrance of her innumerable industrial armies.

The world does not know much about China yet; it will soon, however, make more of her acquaintance. She has been hidden in the night of exclusion, oriental sleep, and mental stagnation; she is emerging into the daylight of progress, and toward an activity such as the modern world has never seen. China has been ignorantly despised, but China is worthy of all respect. She is quickly throwing off the clogs of her progress, and is rapidly coming up with the open world in the race of life, with advantages in her favor that cannot well be surpassed. The man who can run for a few minutes in a short race, and make very fast time, is not the equal of him who can run all day. The Chinese are all-day runners, and those who compete with them will need to rise early and sit up late. China has untiring industrial ability, unsurpassed staying powers, and a degree of patience which no other nation can pretend to equal. Friend and enemy of China should know these facts. Few do know them.

-- Thomas Magee.

Daily Alta California, March 4, 1891, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

The Traffic in Human Flesh Still Carried On.
Highbinders Industriously Seek to Annoy and Insult the Ladies Who Befriend the Girls.

A case has just come to light which makes it plain that the Chinese slave-owners are as resolute as ever in their resolve to carry on their infamous work in this city. The Presbyterian Mission at 933 Sacramento street is presided over by the Woman's Occidental Board of Missions of the Presbyterian Church on the Pacific Coast.

Of this Board Mrs. P. D. Browne of Oakland is President; Mrs. J. Q. Adams, Mrs. E. V. Kobbins and Mrs. George Harstow, Vice-Presidents, and the following named are Directors: Mrs. P. D. Browne, Oakland; Mrs. J. Q. Adams, San Francisco; Mrs. E. V. Robbins, Mrs. George Barstow, Mrs. J. K. Dickey, Mrs. C. S. Wright. Mrs. J. E. Condict, Mrs. J. G. Chown, all of San Francisco. Mrs. A. L. Lindsley and Mrs. H. B. Smith, of Oakland, and Mrs. E. Y. Garrette of Alameda.

The home is in charge of Miss Culbertson, who has for years combated the Highbinders. The latter have over and over again sought to use the courts as a tool to force out of the sanctuary of the Mission young Chinese girls who have taken refuge there from the unspeakable horrors of their servitude.

The last device of the Highbinders has been to accuse Miss Culbertson of making money out of her little wards by exacting a fee from the groom when they are married. It is well understood that every Chinese girl in San Francisco has a marketable value of from $1000 to $2000, and the wretches who make these girls their chattels have not scrupled to charge that Miss Culbertson has permitted them to be resold into infamy, under the guise of marriage, for a financial consideration. The home on Sacramento street, over which Mrs. Culbertson presides, has been in existence for fifteen years, and during this time it has rescued, sheltered and protected two hundred and sixty-one girls, whose value in the local slave market is not less than $500,000. In the very latest addition to the home, Woon Tsim, an eleven-year-old girl, the Mission has found a charge whom the Highbinders will not secure until the case has been fought to the last extremity.

Meanwhile Miss Culbertson and the ladies connected with the Mission are being repeatedly forced to remain on the witness-stand and listen to offensive questions by the Highbinders' paid attorneys, with the obvious purpose of driving them from their work. At a meeting of the Occidental Board on Monday. Mrs. Browne, the President, said they had the assurance of protection from the Chinese Consul, and that they were determined to see the matter through, and to see if these unhappy girls cannot be protected by the Courts of California.


The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.






DALevy @

Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

Please inform us if you link from your site. Please do NOT link from your site unless your site specifically relates to immigration in the 1800s, family history, maritime history, international seaports, and/or California history.