Chinese Immigration–What Will Be Its Effect?


Meigs County Telegraph/August 30, 1859

The persistent influx of the Chinese peasantry into the United States is a fact which presses itself upon the attention alike of the political economist and the statesman. Three thousand Celestials are stated to be at this moment on their way to San Francisco. California already has a large Chinese population. Notwithstanding their characteristic vices, the Chinamen, although not popular, are found to be useful members of society. They perform, with alacrity and intelligence, the ruder kinds of labor, are marvelously frugal in their habits, and are consequently enabled to work for very low wages.

Indeed, it is not improbable that the poorer inhabitants of that vast empire, which contains within its limits nearly a moiety of the human race, may be destined to work great changes in the industrial if not in the social and political condition of America. The most obvious immediate effect of Chinese immigration, for instance, is to supplant the negro. The Coolie in California has already made the African impossible. There, as in the West India Islands, the Malay laborer is found to be, in all respects, preferable to his darker cousin.

The voluntary immigration from Canton and Shanghai into our Pacific States bids fair soon to be enormous. Hitherto it has mainly been directed to California, but it will manifestly soon extend also. Nor is there reason to doubt that it will soon reach the Atlantic States as well.

Assuming that these natives of China may one day become as numerous among us as those of Europe, what shall their social and political status be? Are they to be regarded as whites, or people of color? Shall they, equally with emigrants from Ireland and Germany, be admitted to the benefits of our naturalization laws?—These are questions which flit and flicker now along the political horizon. But the march of events with us is rapid, and all signs conspire to prove that we have seen only the beginning of that strife of races and principles by which the institutions of the United States are, ere long, to be proved as by fire.