Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chinese gold miners in California(1848-1855)

Sutter's Mill
Sing by the late Dan Fogelberg

In the Spring of Forty-seven,
So the story, it is told,
Old John Sutter went to the mill site
Found a piece of shining gold.

Well, he took it to the city
Where the word, like wildfire, spread.
And old John Sutter soon came to wish he'd
Left that stone in the river bed.

For they came like herds of locusts
Every woman, child and man
In their lumbering Conestogas
They left their tracks upon the land.

Some would fail and some would prosper
Some would die and some would kill
Some would thank the Lord for their deliverance
And some would curse John Sutter's Mill.

Well, they came from New York City,
And they came from Alabam'
With their dreams of finding fortunes
In this wild unsettled land.

Well, some fell prey to hostile arrows
As they tried to cross the plains.
And some were lost in the Rocky Mountains
With their hands froze to the reins.


Well, some pushed on to California
And others stopped to take their rest.
And by the Spring of Eighteen-sixty
They had opened up the west.

And then the railroad came behind them
And the land was plowed and tamed,
When Old John Sutter went to meet his maker,
With not one penny to his name.


And some would curse John Sutter's Mill
Some men's thirsts are never filled.

1848 - Discovery of Gold

The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) began on January 24, 1848, when gold was discovered by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill, in Coloma, California. News of the discovery brought some 300,000 people rushing to California from the rest of the United States and abroad. Of the 300,000, approximately 150,000 arrived by sea while the other half of them walked 1,500 miles (2,400 km) overland.

First Chinese immigrants - two men and one women - arrive in San Francisco on the American brig, Eagle in 1848

The first major Chinese immigration wave started around the 1850s. The West Coast of North America was being rapidly colonized during the California Gold Rush, while southern China suffered from severe political and economic instability due to the weakness of the Qing Dynasty government, internal rebellions such as the Taiping Rebellion, and external pressures such as the Opium Wars. As a result, many Chinese emigrated from the poor Taisanese- and Cantonese-speaking area in Guangdong province to the United States in order to work. Chinese immigrants in the 19th century worked as laborers, particularly on the transcontinental railroad, such as the Central Pacific Railroad, and the mining industry, and suffered racial discrimination. While industrial employers were eager to get this new and cheap labor, the ordinary white public was stirred to anger by the presence of this "yellow peril." Political party caucuses, labor unions, and other organizations rallied against the immigration of yet another "inferior race". Newspapers condemned the policies of employers, and even church leaders denounced the entrance of these aliens into what was regarded as a land for whites only.

For most Chinese immigrants of the 1850s San Francisco was only a transit station on the way to the gold fields in the Sierra Nevada. According to estimates, there were in the late 1850s 15,000 Chinese mine workers in the "Gold Mountains" or "Mountains of Gold" (Cantonese: Gam Saan, 金山). Because anarchic conditions prevailed in the gold fields, the robbery by European miners of Chinese mining area permits were barely pursued or prosecuted and the Chinese gold seekers themselves were often victim to violent assaults. In response to this hostile situation these Chinese miners developed a basic approach which differed from the white European gold miners; while the Europeans mostly worked as individuals or in small groups, the Chinese formed large teams, in which not only were they protected against attacks, but on account of their good organization they also often achieved a considerably higher yield. To protect themselves even further against attacks, they preferred to mainly turn to such areas which had been previously judged by other gold seekers as unproductive and had been given up. Because much of the gold fields were exhaustingly gone over up until the beginning of the 20th century, many of the Chinese remained far longer there than the European gold seekers; in 1870, a third of the men in the Californian golden fields were Chinese.

However, their displacement had begun already in 1850 when the white gold miners began to resent the Chinese miners, feeling that they were discovering gold that the white miners deserved. And eventually, protest rose from white miners to eliminate the growing competition. From 1852 to 1870 (ironically when the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was passed), the California legislature enforced a series of taxes.

1852 - Foreign Miner's Tax
In 1852, a special foreign miner's tax aimed at the Chinese was passed by the California legislature that was aimed at foreign miners who were not U.S. citizens. Given that the Chinese were ineligible for citizenship at that time and constituted the largest percentage of the non-white population, the taxes were primarily aimed at them and tax revenue was therefore generated almost exclusively by the Chinese. This tax required a payment of three dollars each month at a time when Chinese miners were making approximately six dollars a month. Tax collectors could legally take and sell the property of those miners who refused or could not pay the tax. Fake tax collectors made money by taking advantage of people who could not speak English well, and some tax collectors, both false and real, stabbed or shot miners who could not or would not pay the tax. During the 1860s, many Chinese were expelled from the mine fields and were forced to find other types of jobs. This Foreign Miner's Tax existed till 1870.

Old St. Mary's Church erected in 1853.

1854 - People v. Hall case
The position of the Chinese gold seekers also was complicated by a decision of the California Supreme Court which decided in the case "The People of the State of California v. George W. Hall" ("People v. Hall") in 1854 that the Chinese were not allowed to testify as witnesses before the court in California against white citizens, including those accused of murder. The decision was largely based upon the prevailing opinion that the Chinese were “a race of people whom nature has marked as inferior, and who are incapable of progress or intellectual development beyond a certain point, as their history has shown; differing in language, opinions, color, and physical conformation; between whom and ourselves nature has placed an impassable difference" and as such had no right " to swear away the life of a citizen" or participate" with us in administering the affairs of our Government.”

The ruling effectively made white violence against Chinese Americans unprosecutable, arguably leading to more intense white-on-Chinese race riots, such as the 1877 San Francisco Riot. The Chinese living in California were with this decision left practically in a legal vacuum, because they had now no possibility to assert their rightful legal entitlements or claims – possibly in cases of theft or breaches of agreement – in court. The ruling remained in force until 1873."

1856 Gold Rush was over
The golf rush was over, as gold fields were exhausted. Many European miners had left. Many Chinese gold miners still remained to continue gold mining on the unproductive mines. They remained far longer there than the European gold seekers; and in 1870, a third of the men in the Californian golden fields were Chinese.

"The Chinese School" was created. Chinese children were assigned to this "Chinese only" school. They were not permitted into any other public schools in San Francisco.

California’s Anti-Coolie Tax

1863 -1869 Transcontinental railroad

After the gold rush wound down in the 1860s, the majority of the work force found jobs in the railroad industry. Chinese labor was integral to the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad, which linked the railway network of the Eastern United States with California on the Pacific coast. Construction began in 1863 at the terminal points of Omaha, Nebraska and Sacramento, California, and the two sections were merged and ceremonially completed on May 10, 1869, at the famous "golden spike" event at Promontory Summit, Utah. It created a nationwide mechanized transportation network that revolutionized the population and economy of the American West. This network caused the wagon trains of previous decades to become obsolete, exchanging it for a modern transportation system. The building of the railway required enormous labor in the crossing of plains and high mountains by the Union Pacific Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad, the two privately chartered federally backed enterprises that built the line westward and eastward respectively. Many of the Chinese railway workers were ex-gold miners. Despite the contribution of the Chinese workers in the American transportation history, the discrimination still continued.

Chinese Congregational Church and Chinese United Methodist Church are established

Presbyterian Mission Home for Chinese women, later renamed Donaldina Cameron House is established

Page Law bars Asian prostitutes, felons, and contract laborers

US and China sign treaty giving the US the right to limit but "not absolutely prohibit" Chinese immigration. California's Civil Code passes anti-miscegination law.

First Chinese Baptist Church founded.

1882 -1892 The Discrimination

So hostile was the opposition that in 1882 the United States Congress eventually passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited immigration from China for the next ten years. This law was then extended by the Geary Act in 1892. The Chinese Exclusion Act was the only U.S. law ever to prevent immigration and naturalization on the basis of race. These laws not only prevented new immigration but also brought additional suffering as they prevented the reunion of the families of thousands of Chinese men already living in the U.S. that had left China without their wives and children; anti-miscegenation laws in many states prohibited Chinese men from marrying white women. The Chinese Exclusion Act was only stopped in 1943 by Chapter 344. An Act to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Acts, to establish quotas, and for other purposes(Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act).

By the time most of the gold miners and railway workers had looked for other employment, such as in farming, manufacturing firms, garment industries, and paper mills. However, widespread anti-Chinese discrimination and violence from whites, including riots and murders, drove many into self-employment.

(source: extracted from…)

The Gold Mining days was over......and San Francisco was called Old Golden Mountain by Chinese(Kau Gam Saan, 舊金山/旧金山).....

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