“The Chinese Question from a Chinese Standpoint,” 1873 | National Humanities Center

America in Class Lessons

“The Chinese Question from a Chinese Standpoint,” 1873

Advisor: Chong, Sylvia

By Wason, Marianne (NHC Assistant Director of Education Programs, Online Resources, 1997–2014)

To confront rising intolerance in the 1870s, Chinese leaders in California appealed to local governments, Congress, and the President for fair treatment. In an 1873 appeal to the San Francisco city council, Chinese merchants offered a solution to the “Chinese question” that used thinly veiled irony to expose the pretense of Californians’ anti-Chinese demands. While the rallying cry of angry white workers was “the Chinese must go,” state leaders knew they should proclaim “the Chinese must stay,” because the state’s economy was dependent on the cheap labor provided by the Chinese immigrants. By using irony to confront the council with this fact, the leaders challenged them to acknowledge its truth and treat the Chinese justly.

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History / Education Studies / American History / Discrimination / Chinese People / Immigration / Resistance Movements / Primary Sources /