The United States may as well look the subject of Chinese labor squarely in the face, and make timely provision to absorb and utilize this new accession to our population. Some are bitterly opposed to their coming. This opposition is based upon groundless prejudice. The policy of the Government has hitherto opened the doors of immigration to people of every race and clime. Shall we now close it upon the Mongolian, and if so, why ? We have hitherto spoken of the intelligence, industry, frugality, and order-loving disposition of the Chinese. That our views in this regard are correct, is proved by the testimony of the bitterest opponents to their immigration. Thus the Hon. Eugene Casserly, in his recent speech at San Francisco, says: It is the duty of every class of men to unite to prevent the introduction of the Chinese. If they come in contact only with the common laborers to-day, to-morrow they will be in competition with the mason, the bricklayer, the carpenter, and the machinist, for they are the most frugal, industrious, and ingenious people on the face of the earth. Look at the splendid granite building occupied by Wells. Fargo &Co., the stone of which was cut in China, and was built by Chinamen. Men who can do such work for less than half the price paid white mechanics were an injury to the State, and he would unite with any party that would use energetic means to keep them out of the country. Now it may be the duty of American citizens to drive out and to keep out the Chinese, but, as yet, we have only Mr. Casserly's assertions, and those of others like him to prove it. It would seem that John Chinaman has the principal qualities that have made the bee and the ant famous among insects; and which induced the wise Solomon to select the ant as a fit insbructor for the indolent. If industry, frugality, ingenuity, and thrift are bad qualifications for citizenship, let us clear the workers out of the hive, and cultivate drones. The Indian is the reverse of the Chinaman in these qualities, and it is well known what kind of a citizen he makes. But while we assert that the Chinese character possesses, in an eminent degree the qualities we have ever been taught to regard as the elements of citizenship, we do not see how it is possible, with any show of consistency, to attempt, either by persecution or legislation, to shut our doors against them. One thing is certain, if they do not come here, they must go elsewhere. The tide of population has been so long dammed up within the limits pf the Celestial Empire that it must soon burst its bounds. But let us not condemn the Chinese without good reason. Let us not imitate the conduct of the wolf in the fable, and accuse him of soiling the stream when it flows from us toward him. Let us not make his virtues a plea against him. A land that is constantly importing vice by wholesale must stand in need of a little virtue. Our Atlantic cities are deluged with the very offscourings of humanity. We see in the Mongolian tide setting in upon our Western shores, an addition to our population, which will tend to neutralize the evils which must, unchecked, arise from the dirty stream now pouring in through our Eastern seaports. The New York Sun, in an able article on this subject, in its issue of July 15th, says: The fact is, there is not such a widespread prejudice against the Chinese as Eastern people have been led to believe existed in California. The large majority of the respectable people of both parties consider their presence a blessing. The lower class of foreign laborers oppose their coming, and persecute them whenever opportunity occurs. The Irish are their worst enemies, but Irish capitalists who employ labor are glad to obtain their services. Politicians, or rather the unscrupulous demagogues among politicians, have caused most of the trouble. To secure the support of the most reckless and vicious portions of the population, they have framed unjust laws, and winked at outrages and abuses which are a disgrace to the State. Against all this, John, by his skill, patience, exemplary conduct, industry, and moderate charges for labor, is slowly but steadily working his way. Do we need labor? If yes, then let us select the kind we want, and permit it to enter the country in j ust such proportion as our necessities demand. It is admitted that labor is needed in many parts of the country. Then, are the Chinese best qualified to furnish this labor in proper kind and quality ? The answer to this question must decide the main question, whatever false side issues may be raised in regard to it. Now, all who have had dealings with the Chinese, or who have had them in employ, unanimously concur in the praise of their good qualities as laborers,, and, for the most part, unite in the opinion that they will f urnisli j ust the kind of labor of which we now standmost in need. There can be, it seems to us, only one conclusion in regard to this matter. The Chinaman wants to work for us, and we want him. Then let an end be speedily put to the disgraceful treatment he has hitherto received, a blot upon the history of the " Golden State," which makes humanity blush. Let us welcome him, with all the rest of the oppressed and suffering who now find refuge here, confident that, by the process of assimilation, we can absorb, and render homogeneous the mixed races which are destined to people this continent.
This article was originally published with the title "Chinese Labor in America" in Scientific American 21, 7, 105 (August 1869)