Chinese in Early America
by Katherine Inserra
Most people today believe that with the passing of the Fourteenth Amendment meant the immediate granting of citizenship to all persons born on American soil. However, it was not until 1898 that the United States Supreme Court concluded that the amendment awarded citizenship to Chinese children born to Chinese immigrants on American Soil. (Foner 659). Just twelve years previously, the courts had finally forced the city of San Francisco to issue business licenses to Chinese immigrants.
The Chinese had begun immigrating to the United States after the conclusion of the Civil War, sometime during the post-Civil War period of Reconstruction. American expansion into the western region of the assisted in this mass immigration; “Between 1850 and 1870, nearly all Chinese immigrants had been unattached men, brought in by labor contractors to work in western gold fields, railroad construction and factories.” (Foner 657) It was, however, in the 1870’s when entire families began emigrating from China that the tolerance of the American populous began to deteriorate. Chinese Exclusion began full throttle with the introduction of California Congressman Horace Page’s bill for such a movement. While insisting that the measure was meant to prevent Chinese Prostitutes from entering the country and ensure the health of the white American, immigration Authorities used the Page Law to bar the wives and daughters of arriving Chinese male immigrants as well as the wives and daughters of Chinese natives who had already entered into the country. (Foner 657)
After over a decade of such a practice, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Chinese immigrants with United States vs. Wong Kim Ark. (Foner 659) The change in Chinese Exclusion first began with, with Yick Wo v. Hopkins in 1886, when the court order to grant business licenses to Chinese immigrants because it was “intolerable in any country where freedom prevails” to...
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