Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/874

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
854
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

been carefully studied by Mr. Seward from the customs statistics of arrivals and departures, and from the recent census; and it turns out that there are no more than ninety-seven thousand Chinamen in the United States, of whom one half live in California, where they form about one in seventeen of the population, and enjoying such provisional security of life and property as the other sixteen see fit to permit them. During the past few years the number of resident Chinese has somewhat diminished, owing in part to the resident Californian's conviction, which he has not failed to express in practice, that the pagan element in a Christian population should be discouraged. This conviction, if we may trust the evidence of Commissioner John A. Swift (p. 250), would seem to be increasing. "In 1852," says Mr. Swift, "the Chinamen were allowed to turn out and celebrate the Fourth of July. In 1862 they would have been mobbed. In 1872 they would have been burned at the stake." This spirit may be profitably contrasted with that of a memorial written by a Chinaman resident in this country (p. 245): "If the spirit be noble and good, although the man be poor and humble, we honor and love him. But we affirm that the people of your honorable country dislike the Chinese because they see the plain appearance and the patched clothes of our poor, and do not think how many spirits there are among us whom they could respect and love."

2. The results of Chinese labor in California are considerable. In railroad-building, in farming, fruit-culture, and the reclamation of swamp-lands, in mining and manufacturing, and in such special industries as cigar-and shoe making and laundry work, they have been of particular service. Governor Low estimated that four fifths of the grading oh the Central Pacific Railroad was done by Chinese laborers. Mr. Charles Crocker, one of the builders of that road, testified before the Congressional investigating committee: "If I had a big job of work that I wanted to get through quickly, and had a limited time to do it in, I should take Chinese labor to do it with, because of its greater reliability and steadiness, and their aptitude and capacity for hard work. They are equal to the best white men." On this point, however, there is some discrepancy in the evidence, one estimate being that three Chinamen are needed to do the work of two first-rate white laborers. In domestic service the Chinese hold an unquestioned place. No one who has had experience of them will underrate their intelligence and faithfulness. A great want of the American community is that of good house-servants. To what is the lack of supply due? To our liberal institutions, the spirit of which makes domestic service of any kind seem degrading in American eyes, and even after a short term of residence in the eyes of the European immigrant. But, in the case of the Chinese immigrant, who, it is complained, does not "assimilate" with us, this moral condition is not set up. This lack of assimilability may be owing to our inquisitorial treatment of him; but it will be time enough to decide whether he will assimilate, or wishes to assimilate, with us, when we shall have admitted his rights as a human creature. Meanwhile, as Mr. Seward might have pointed out, it is precisely because he does not assimilate that he makes the best house servant that our community has yet seen. He has no thought of becoming an alderman or a mayor, or of being promoted from the kitchen to Congress. He comes to do the day's work for the day's wages; he does it faithfully and contentedly, and there the matter ends. If American politicians have taken pleasure in the rapid assimilation of the Celtic contingent in our immigration, American housekeepers, on the other hand, would welcome a class of servants a little less in haste to assimilate, and a little more disposed to serve. If the American home is in danger of extinction, as some foreign critics have predicted, and our families are to be driven into hotels for the lack of cooks and chambermaids, it will not be because a race of real servants could not be brought from China.

3. The main objection to Chinese immigration, as already intimated, is political, and not social. Political equality, political availability, have been made the test, and unjustly so. Mr. Seward reviews other grounds of objection in detail, and concludes by saying: "I dispute earnestly the statement that they are a servile class; that