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Remarks on Chinese Immigrants in California.
Speech of Representative Thaddeus Stevens
in Congress July 25, 1862

 

    Mr. Chairman, I would never have believed, but for what has just occurred, that any member would come here upon this floor and ask this House to indorse the legislation towards this class of people which has, I think, disgraced the State of California. We invite emigrants to this country without inquirring from what nation they may come. China has been much oppressed of late by the European nations. It has been forced into ruinous and desolating wars because it has resisted the importunity of England, to consent to the importation of poisonous drugs that demoralize its society and destroy its people. A large number of Chinese have of late years migrated to the State of California to seek their fortunes. They had the right to go there; and I hold it to be in violation of every rule of law which should have sway in a civilized country to discriminate against them. In taking out a license as miners they are compelled to pay, I believe, $2.50 each. 

    Mr. Sargent: The law refers to foreign miners. 
 

    Mr. Stevens: Yes, the law may say foreign miners, but the gentleman very well knows that it  foreign miners in the State of California are Chinese, and the discrimination against them working the mines is thirty or forty dollars a year. If there be any principle upon which this legislation can be justified, I do not know where it can be found. I think that this legislation of the State of California, instead of being approved by this House, ought to be condemned, and not carried out by the House as is proposed by the pending amendment. If it is intended to prohibit a particular class of people from coming among us. let them say so at once, and do not let them oppress them by passage of laws in which you compel them to pay ten times as much as anybody else for the same privilege. Such laws are wholly in conflict with the generous spirit of our free institutions. They are a mockery of the boast that this land is the asylum of the oppressed of all climes. If they are disgraceful, then, to California, how much more disgraceful would it be for Congress to indorse them abd to carry them out. This people live mainly upon rice, It is the principal article of their food, and the gentleman from California very frankly avows that this increased tax upon rice is intended to affect them and nobody else. I do not believe the House will give its approval to any such unfair discrimination. 
 

    Now, what I look upon as important in reference to the duty on rice is this: the doubt is whether we ought to lay any tax on imported rice at all. My own judgement is that we ought not, because we have not included it in the tax bill, and it is a violation of the principle upon which we started making up this tariff bill. I should be glad, therefore, to
see the duty on rice stricken out altogether. But the idea of making the duty operate exclusively and oppressively against a particular class of our population is wrong, and ought to have our instant disapproval. The gentleman says that they get drunk. Now, they were never drunkards until England, at the point of the bayonet, compelled them
to use opium. They were the most sober and industrious people upon the earth until they had the misfortune to become acquainted with English civilization. I do not know whether they have become worse since they have settled in California. Probably the gentleman can answer. {laughter}

 

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