Last time we started a story about a “Tong War” in July of 1854 between two groups of Chinese who lived near Weaverville, Trinity County. The story is taken from the pages of the “Shasta Courier.”
The parties met in all of their accustomed modes of warfare – their banners, shields, lancers and helmets, the same as used in their wars at home. Ten Chinese men died in the short, but violent battle and one white man, who tried to interfere, was shot dead by another observer.
There were many questions about the reason for the battle and three Chinese gentlemen provided an in depth account, in English and Chinese, for the newspaper several weeks later.
Their story so far has indicated that there were four companies of Chinese working there, three of them calling themselves Canton men and the fourth calling itself Hong-Kong men.
The four independent groups joined together to open a gaming house in Weaverville. In June a Hong-Kong man was playing against the bank at a table kept by a Canton man, when a dispute arose as to who was the winner of a small stake (less than a dollar). The Hong-Kong man snatched the money from the table and ran into the street. A squabble ensued and sides were drawn up: the Hong Kong men versus the Canton men. The problem grew larger and larger until finally the battle occurred.
It is also felt by the three Chinese gentlemen, that interference by the Americans seriously affected the outcome of the battle.
We now finish the story presented by the three Chinese gentlemen.
“Shasta Courier, August 5, 1854.
“We are informed by American citizens that the Hong-Kong men have industriously circulated a report that the fight originated in an attempt on the part of the Canton men to collect tax from them, in support, some say, of the Emperor of China and his government, and others, that it is imposed to sustain a peculiar police organization among the Chinese population; and we find this idea very prevalent among the American people here.
“No tax or charge is imposed or claimed by any Chinese, or their government, except as follows: 1st. Each immigrant from China, at the time of his landing in this country, is required to pay into a hospital fund $10, which fund is appropriated to relieve the wants of the newly arrived immigrant, the poor, the sick, and to bury the dead. 2nd. Each company of 100 or 200 men, more or less, as the case may be, employ and pay a man a reasonable salary for taking the supervision of their affairs; but no man pays and such tax to go out of his own company; nor had any attempt ever been made by this company to interfere with another in this respect in this county, or in the state.
“The Yong-Wa [Hong-Kong ] men have also reported that the quarrel is the result of old feuds – that they are of the Revolutionist party at home, and that the Canton men are Imperialists. This statement is as absurd and false as the other,. Both Revolutionists and Imperialists are to be found in each party, and are as often found in the one s the other. No such dividing line can be traced back of the quarrel at the gaming table, nor has it existed since.
“So far are these allegations from the truth, and so much absurdity do they involve, that we should not mention them, did not their constant repetition produce an impression for the minds of the American, which materially increases the difficulty of restoring quiet among those who unfortunately involved themselves in this useless quarrel. Every Chinaman knows that no such tax could be collected; and that if attempted its resistance would be sustained both by themselves and the people of this country. They know the feeling and principles of the American people in this respect whose motto is ‘Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.”
“The inventors of these absurdities put them forth in the hopes of enlisting the sympathies of the American on one side, by an appeal to the high and honorable sentiments for which they are so justly celebrated, and if possible to induce them to become partisans in a matter upon which they must look with contempt and pity when they become aware of its origin.
“Perhaps had they known that the animosity was fanned into flame by a man who had no better calling than that of keeping a brothel – who, being more acquainted with the English language than any other, could be put in circulation such reports as he chose without fear of immediate contradiction, and had they known that he was making money out of his own companions by the excitement, we think very few Americans would have sympathized with him – especially as his company is the only one that has introduced any public women into the country.
“We came from San Francisco immediately afer being informed of the difficulty, in hopes of adjusting it; but as yet we find too many obstacles to contend with, that the task seems difficult. Had the fight been conducted according to the plan agreed upon between the parties, there would have been but little blood shed, and it is probable that all parties would have abided the result, and consider the matter settled; but owing to the impressions made by the reports above referred to, a crowd of persons other than Chinamen sided with the attacking party [Hong-Kong men], and rushed in between the company on which the charge was made, and the the other 2 companies of Canton men, thus leaving about 75 men entirely cut off from their companies, and assailed not only by the Yong-Wa company, but by the interposing crowd who hurled rocks and fired revolvers upon them, notwithstanding it had been previously agreed between the contending parties that no fire arms should be used, thus rendering the contest anything but a fair trial of skill, and leaving the parties further from a reconciliation than at first.
“We find the men of 3 companies anxious to settle the dispute by a fair contest. They urge the necessity of it upon the ground that in their opinion there is danger of continual attacks upon small parties whenever they may be at work unless this course is taken and that more blood will be shed and much more difficulty be encountered by both parties, than would result from a contest.
“They are anxious that each party shall be permitted to select an equal number of men, say 50, 100 or 150, as should be agreed, and let the whole difficulty be settled by a fair contest, without interference from any source, and they will faithfully abide the result.
“Whatever course the affair may take, I trust no American will allow himself to be imposed upon by those unworthy representations, or allow his sympathies or prejudices to be made to subserve the interests of parties who are low enough to resort to such means. A little reflection will prove that as there are men in this state from Hong Kong as intelligent, as wealthy, and of as high standing as from Canton, it is absurd to suppose that companies from one of these places will be permitted to levy taxes upon companies from the other.
“[Signed] HA-SING, GE-TI, AH-CHING”
TO BE CONTINUED