Chinese Immigration into America
Surprisingly, Asian Americans have been in America for over 150 years. They are as diverse as the immigrants from Europe, ranging from China, Japan, Korea, Cambodia, Korea, Philippines, India, Vietnam, and Laos. (Takaki, page 8) When many people think of American Immigrants, Asians are on the last of their lists. In The Uprooted, Harvard historian, Oscar Handlin, prize winning book with the subtitle "the Epic Story of the Great Migrations that Made the American People," completely left out the "uprooted" from the lands across the Pacific Ocean. (Takaki, page 10) This paper will give some information pertaining to the Chinese immigration into America.
China is one of the world's oldest civilizations. It influence have reverberated throughout Asia. It's presence is felt in many of the surrounding cultures. The Chinese people have tried to keep their society pure from outside sources. When foreigners entered their homeland and poisoned the population with drugs, the culture could not stop the imminent alteration of their ways. China was weakened severely and was taken advantage of by many countries.
Chinese came to America for a myriad of reasons. The main reason was because of the myth of the Gam Saan ("Golden Mountain.") Other reasons were due to overpopulation, poverty, hunger, flooding, high taxes, bad economy, collapsing government, and crop failure. (Takaki, page 38) James Marshall discovery of gold in California in 1848 prompted many Chinese to take a sojourn into America to get rich quick. A young man in Canton wrote to his brother in Boston saying, "good many Americans speak of California, Oh! Very rich country! O hear good many Americans and Europeans go there very much. I think I shall go to California next summer." Stories like these built up this dream of the "Golden Mountain." The plan for most Chinese was to make their fortune, and return home to their family. The dream of getting rich quick has been around for ages. Due to this, a trickle of immigrants turned into a deluge.
The whole thing began in 1835. William Hooper, a young man from Boston, visited a sugar mill in Hawaii. He became determined to start the first sugar plantation in Hawaii. Without a large supply of laborers, Hooper hired "Chinamen" to aid in the success of the plantation. From this humble beginning, sugar grew into a large industry that would need a steady supply of laborers. (Takaki, page 22) In 1848, after a war with Mexico, the United States obtained a region known as California. Finding Californina to be a commercial and agricultural center, it became America's gateway to Asia. (Takaki, page 20) With the large fertile lands of California, workers were needed to help reap the profits that would flow in. Aaron H. Palmer, a government official, stated, "No people in all the East are so well adapted for the clearing wild lands and raising every species of agricultural product as the Chinese." (Takaki, page 21)
In 1833, the British Empire abolished the practice of slavery. Plantation owners desperate for field labor made use of coolies. Coolies were basically Chinese that signed labor contracts and were held in virtual slavery. They were ensnared by brokers into this system by debts, clan war prisoners, or kidnapping. (Melendy, page 13) Like the African slave trade, this method flourished over Asia and had high mortality rates due to cramped quarters and malnourishment. It was referred to as the "buying and selling of pigs." (Melendy, page 13) Hawaii made use of this practice in order to fulfill the great demand of the booming sugar industry. In 1962, the United States congress prohibited American citizens in American vessels from engaging in such activities. However, the laws were easily evaded, and not strictly enforced.
American Business man knew they needed a labor force. This gave way to the "unnumbered...
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