Criminal Annals, Part 89 – Letter to the Governor (Concluded)

Last week we started the letter from a group of learned Chinese gentlemen to the Governor of California, regarding his derogatory comments about the “Asiatics” and his intent to have the Legislature do something about the “Coolie” problem. This is the last part of that letter.
So far they have pointed out that the Chinese are hard workers who have come her to better their lives, not slaves of others but here on their own, usually go back to China with their riches to help their families, are not troublemakers or drunks and through their business dealings bring wealth to the State in tariffs, employment and profits. Their letter was published in the May 8, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” and, as previously indicated, because it is very lengthy, and in some cases illegible, it has been carefully edited.


“San Francisco, April 29, 1852.

“In this city alone [San Francisco] there are twenty stores kept by Chinamen, who own the lots and erected the building themselves. In these stores a great deal of business is done. All kinds of Chinese goods: rice, silks, sugar, tea, etc. are sold in them, and also a great quality of American goods, especially boots, of which every Chinaman buys one or more pairs immediately on landing. And then there are the American stores dealing in Chinese articles on a large scale and some with the most remarkable success. The emigration of the ‘Coolies,” as your Excellency rather mistakenly calls us, is attended with the opening of all this Chinese trade, which, if it produces the same results here as elsewhere, will yet be the pride and riches of this city and state. One of the subscribers of this letter is now employed as a clerk in an American store because of the service he can render them as a broker in business with his countrymen, he has sometimes sold $10,000 a day in Chinese goods. Chy-Lung, who arrived a few days since, with some $10,000 in Chinese goods, has sold out, and returned for another cargo on the [cargo ship] ‘Challenge.’ Fei-Chaong, who brought in a cargo about a month ago, has sold out, and also returned in the ‘Challenge.’ A great many others send for goods by the Challenge and all the other ships which you speak of as being expected, will bring cargoes of Chinese goods as well as Chinamen. Nor, does this by any means give you a full idea of the trade of the Chinamen. They not only freight your ships, but they have bought many of them and will buy more; as to the freighting of ships, it may be worthy of your attention to know, that such is our preference for your countrymen, that we employ your ships in preference to any others, even when we could get them cheaper. When a ship arrives, everybody sees how actively and profitably your drays, steamboats, wagons, etc., are employed by us. Some of us read in the paper the other day that the government of the United States were going to send ships to Japan to open that country to American trade. That is what we supposed your country wished for with China as well as other countries, but it cannot all be on one side, and it is plain that the more advantages we get from your country, the faster you will get the benefits of our trade. The gold we have been allowed to dig in your mines is what has made the China trade grow up so fast, like everything else in this country.

“What your Excellency has said about passing a law to prevent coolies shipped to California under contracts from laboring in the mines, we do not conceive concerns us, for there are none such here from China, nor do we believe any are coming, except a small number perhaps, who work on shares, as we have before explained, just as people from all other countries sometimes do. We we will not believe it is your intention to pass a law treating us as coolies whether we are or not. You say there is not treaty provision for the manner is which Chinese immigrants shall be treated, and that the Chinese government would have no right to complain of any law excluding us from the country, by taxation or otherwise. This may be true of the government, but it would certainly alienate the present remarkably friendly feeling of the Chinese people, in many ways interfere with the full enjoyment of the commercial privileges guaranteed to the Americans by the treaty of Wang-Hiva.
Note: This treaty, also called the Treaty of Wang-Hsia, was signed on 3 July 1844 and provided for the establishment of five American treaty ports in China. It also granted protection to American sailors shipwrecked on Chinese shores and guaranteed that both civil and criminal law cases involving Americans would be adjudicated in consular courts.

“In what we here say, we have most carefully told your Excellency the truth, but we fear you will not believe us, because you have spoken in you message to us as Asiatics, ‘ignorant of the solemn character of the oath of affirmation in the form prescribed in the Constitution and the Statutes,’ or, ‘indifferent to the solemn obligation to speak the truth which an oath imposes.’ It is truth, nevertheless, and we leave it to time and the proof which our word carry in them to satisfy you of the fact. It has grieved us that you should publish so bad a character of us, as we wish that you could change your opinion and speak well of us to the public. We do not deny that many Chinamen tell lies, and so do many Americans, even in Courts of Justice. But we have our own courts too, and our forms of oaths, which are sacredly respected by our country men as other nations respect theirs. We do not swear upon so many little occasions as you do, and our forms will seem as ridiculous to you as yours do to us when we first see them. You will smile when we tell you that on ordinary occasions an oath is attested by burning a piece of yellow paper, and on the more important oaths by cutting off the head of a cock; yet these are only forms, and cannot be of great importance, we would think. But in the more important matters we are good men; we honor our parents; we take care of our children; we are industrious and peaceable; we trade much; we are trusted for small and large sums; we pay our debts and are honest; and of course must tell the truth. Good men cannot tell ,lies and be ignorant of the difference between right and wrong.

“We do not think much about your politics, but we believe your are mistaken in supposing no Chinaman has ever yet applied to be naturalized or has acquired a domicile in the United States except here. There is a Chinaman now in San Francisco, who is said to be a naturalized citizen, and to have a free white American wife. He wears the American dress, and is considered a man of respectability. And there are, or were lately we are told, Chinamen residing in Boston, New York and New Orleans.

“In concluding this letter, we will only beg your Excellency not to bee too hasty with us, to find us out and know us well, then then we are certain, you will not command your Legislature to make laws driving us out of your country. Let us stay here – the Americans are doing good to us, and we will do good to them.

“Your most humble servants, [signed] HAB WA, Sam Wo & Co., LONG ACHICK, Ton Wo & Co.

“For the Chinamen in California.”



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