The Asiatic Exclusion League

The Japanese and Korean Exclusion League was organized in California on May 14, 1905. Within a few years it had broadened its anti-Asian agitation to include “Hindus,” people from India, and indeed all “Asiatics.” The League took its initial declaration of purposes from the resolutions that had been adopted by the American Federation of Labor. The Proceedings of the Asiatic Exclusion League reveal the views of exclusionists who were strongly against the mingling of people of different races and religions in America. While these were probably not majority views, they did come to have political effect in legislation to limit immigration.

At its first annual convention as a national organization, held in Seattle on February 4, 1908, the Asiatic Exclusion League stated its purposes:   

PROTEST, Against the continuance of Asiatic Immigration upon the exalted grounds of American patriotism, for the reasons—

FIRST, That these Asiatics come to the United States entirely ignorant of our sentiments of nativity and patriotism, and utterly unfit and incapable of discharging the duties of American citizenship.

SECOND, The introduction of this incongruous and non-assimilable element into our national life will inevitably impair and degrade, if not effectively destroy, our cherished institutions and our American life.

THIRD, These Asiatics are alien to our ideas of patriotism, morality, loyalty and the highest conception of Christian civilization.

FOURTH, Their presence here is a degrading and contaminating influence to the best phases of American life.

FIFTH, With their low standard of living, immoral surroundings and cheap labor, they constitute a formidable and fierce competition against our American system, the pride and glory of our civilization, and unless prohibited by effective legislation, will result in the irreparable deterioration of American labor.

[From Asiatic Exclusion League, Proceedings of the A.E.L. (San Francisco, 17 April 1908), 15. Reprinted, as are the subsequent A.E.L. articles, from the collection of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin Library in Gerald N. Grob, ed., Proceedings of the Asiatic Exclusion League 1907-1913 (New York: Arno Press, 1977).]

California Congressman, Fourth District, James Maguire:

It is said that the Asiatics are as good as we are and, therefore, should be received by us on equal terms. I shall not pause to discuss the question of superiority, but, by way of illustration, I say that the sheep is as good as the horse, and as useful to mankind, yet it would be criminal folly to confine horses and sheep to the same pasture. The sheep would thrive, but the horses would starve, for they cannot feed upon pasture over which sheep are in the habit of running. So it is with Asiatic and American labor; the former will thrive where the latter will perish, and we are interested in the welfare of the latter.

Many philanthropists and religious teachers denounce this movement upon the ground that its purposes are violative of the humanitarian, Christian doctrine of “The Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man,” a doctrine in which I also believe, not, perhaps, in the same absolute sense in which they teach it. But our common Father has created, or produced, in the different races of man such variations and differences that they cannot dwell together in peace or harmony, and that it is better for them to dwell apart. Their separation seems, therefore, to be required by the decree of the Father, and their amalgamation a violation of that decree.

I believe also that “All men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,” but I do not recognize the right of migration as one of those inalienable rights, because its unlimited exercise may, and frequently is, destructive of the equal rights of others.

Must I, in order to comply with this law of equality and fraternity, keep the door of my house standing open for the convenience of such strangers as may desire to use it, nor complain if I find my bed nightly occupied by strangers who happen to reach my house and take possession of the bed before I get there? Certainly not. If not, where shall the line be drawn? We say that our country is the home of our citizens or of those people who now inhabit it, and that we have a right to say who else shall come. Without this right, the rearing of our civilizations and of our free institutions as the rearing of families would be without the right to exclude strangers and intruders from our homes. (Loud and prolonged applause)

[From Asiatic Exclusion League, Proceedings of the A.E.L. (San Francisco, 12 April 1908), 22-3.]

Article reprinted from Organized Labor, February 20, 1909

It is the old question between the Orient and the Occident—the conflict for supremacy, the struggle for self preservation, the fight for existence…[T]he Japanese are only the scouts—the vanguard of the vast Asiatic army. There are Koreans, Chinese, Manchurians, Manchus, Mongolians, Malays, and Hindoos numbering over ONE BILLION. Allow them to secure a foothold in the United States, and they will, within a few generations, sweep like an avalanche of death from the Himalayas around the globe. The Japanese, with all his politeness and pretenses, is only a corrupted Chinaman. He is a Malay Mongolized mongrel.

The Asiatic race and the Caucasian race never could and never can exist in the same territory. Their morals, their philosophy, their religion, their education, their standard of living are reversed, and as far apart as the two poles. They can never blend, harmonize, commingle or live together in peace. The welfare of both races will be best served and their happiness effectively advanced if they confine their operations and efforts to that portion of the earth given them as a home by God.

[From Asiatic Exclusion League, Proceedings of the A.E.L. (San Francisco, 12 January 1907), 11.]

Statement of Mr. Theodore Bell

In its racial aspects Asiatic immigration differs radically from European immigration. In respect to the admissions of Caucasians it is a question of regulation. In respect to Orientals it must be one of exclusion.

The blood of America and Europe can meet, harmonize and flow in the same veins, and produce an integrity of a high physical, mental and moral nature; but an eternal law of nature has decreed that the white cannot assimilate the blood of another color without corrupting the very springs of civilization. This means, then, that the Asiatic would be compelled to live with us, but not one of us. It is a truism that two distinct races, differing in religion, language, habits of thought, standards of living, history, evolution, patriotism, cannot dwell together unless one of them is content to remain inferior to the other and surrender all claims to equality. Does any believe that a proud, aspiring, progressive, ingenious and sensitive race, striking its roots deep down into our soil through the ownership of land, will not demand an equality of rights, politically and otherwise; and would it not be the part of wisdom for the National Government to see to it that the first fatal foothold is never obtained upon our shores?

[From Asiatic Exclusion League, Proceedings of the A.E.L. (San Francisco, 20 March 1910), 9-10.]

Article in the July, 1911 issue of Comfort, published in Augusta, Maine, introduced into the proceedings:

A new race conflict threatens America, infinitely worse that the one we are now struggling with. The Yellow Peril from Asia is the impending danger. Can we afford to permit another vexatious race conflict to get a firm hold on this country? Isn’t the race question which we already have about as severe a strain of this kind as the nation can stagger under?

…Don’t be deceived by any delusive hope that the yellow race can possible become amalgamated with the white race in this country through intermarriage. The very thought is preposterous and revolting in view of their physical, mental and moral differences, and especially because of the prevailing oriental treatment of woman as man’s inferior…Nor in any true sense will they ever become Americanized. For profit or convenience a few do, and in the course of time more of them may adopt our style of dress, and even cut off their pigtails and outwardly affect other of our manners, but the essential characteristics which distinguish their mode of life, their ideals, religion, morals and aspirations individually and as a race they adhere to most tenaciously. Their case would be much more hopeful if they came mere savages, for then, like the negroes, they would adopt our civilization and our religion, and aspire to work out their destiny in harmony with ours.

But their ways are not as our ways and their gods are not as our God, and never will be. They bring with them a degraded civilization and debased religion of their own ages older, and to their minds,  far superior to ours. We look to the future with hope for improvement and strive to uplift our people; they look to the past, believing that perfection was attained by their ancestors centuries before our civilization began and before Jesus brought us the divine message from the Father. They profane this Christian land by erecting here among us their pagan shrines, set up their idols and practice their shocking heathen religious ceremonies…

We have this day to choose whether we will have for the Pacific coast the civilization of Christ or the civilization of Confucius, said Senator James G. Blaine of Maine in his memorable speech in favor of Chinese exclusion before the U.S. Senate in 1879. But since that day so many Asiatics have come and spread over the country that the yellow peril is not merely a local but a great national danger. Shall we check it in time, now, or wait until it is too strong for us?

Comfort’s Editor

[From Asiatic Exclusion League, Proceedings of the A.E.L. (San Francisco, 16 July 1911), 134-37.]