History of Labour in the United States - Vol. 2

By John R. Commons; David J. Saposs et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
THE ANTI-CHINESE AGITATION IN CALIFORNIA

Class struggle versus race struggle, 252. The depression in California, 253. Socialists and the strike movement, 253. The anti­ Chinese riot, 253. Denis Kearney, 254. The Workingmen's party of California, 255. Its platform, 255. The sand-lot meetings, 253. Arrest of Kearney, 256. Nomination of delegates for the state constitutional convention, 256. Threats of riots and the "gag law," 257. Kearney's acquittal, 258. State convention of the Workingmen's party, 258. First successes in elections, 259. The election to the state constitutional convention, 260. Alliance of the workingmen with the farmers, 260. The anti­ Chinese clause in the constitution, 260. Adoption of the constitution by the people, 261. Workingmen's success in the state election, 261. Success in the San Francisco municipal election, 261. Movement for the enforcement of the anti-Chinese clause in the state constitution, 262. Success in the state legislature but failure in the United States Circuit Court, 262. Second arrest of Kearney, 262. Beginning of the disintegration of the Workingmen's party, 263. Defeat in elections, 263. Relation to the national greenback movement, 263. End of the party, 264. Spread of the anti-Chinese movement among small employers, 264. The question before Congress, 265. Congressional investigating committee, 265. Increase in Chinese immigration during the early eighties, 266. The Representative Assembly of Trade and Labor Unions, 266. The white label, 266. The state labour convention, the League of Deliverance, and the boycott of Chinese-made goods, 267. Chinese Exclusion Act, 267.

IN California,1 as in the eastern industrial States, the railway strikes of 1877 precipitated a political labour movement. California had retained gold as currency throughout the entire period of paper money, and the labour movement at no time had accepted the greenback platform. The political issue after 1877 was racial, not financial, and the weapon was not merely the ballot, but also "direct action" -- violence. The antiChinese agitation in California, culminating as it did in the Exclusion Law of 1882, was doubtless the most important single factor in the history of American labour, for without it the entire country might have been overrun by Mongolian labour, and

____________________
1
This chapter is condensed and largely quoted from the manuscript of Ira B. Cross , University of California, on the History of the Labor Movement in California.

-252-

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