Box 09-218 PRINTED ARTICLE BY REV. JOHN TALMAGE
Aug 8 1890
From: Bound Brook, New Jersey, [U.S.A.] THE CHRISTIAN INTELLIGENCER
THE CHINESE QUESTION
BY THE REV. JOHN V.N. TALMAGE, D.D.1,2
In illustration of the injustice of which the nation has been guilty in the legislation, referred to last week, we may present a few instances.
Nearly thirty years ago a number of Chinese emigrated from Amoy to certain British possessions in South and Central America. Among these was a family which I had had the privilege of baptizing and receiving into the Christian Church. It was composed of father and mother, and three small children. The family, except the youngest child, who died early, lived many years in Honduras. After the two sons had grown up, the family returned to Amoy. They brought with them letters from the pastors of the Christian Churches testifying to their good Christian character, and from several of the officials of the place testifying to other good characteristics. Two or three years ago the eldest son wished to return to Honduras. A steamer being about to leave Amoy for New York, he applied for passage. The captain was willing to take him, but feared the United States law against Chinamen. In his behalf I then applied to the United States Consul. The man only wished to stay in New York a few days, till he could get passage to Honduras. The Consul was willing to help him, but feared that he could be of no service, for the man, although a Christian, and with dress and tongue like Europeans and Americans, was still guilty of the offence, at present so unpardonable in American law, of having been born in China of Chinese parentage. The Consul feared he might not be allowed to land in New York. The United States is "the land of the free and the home of the brave!" He was compelled to take steamer for London, and there get passage for Honduras.
On the steamer on which I came last year from China to the United States, there was a respectable and gentlemanly Chinaman, who had lived some years and acquired property in this country. He had visited his native land, and was now endeavoring to get back to his property and home in this country. In order to accomplish this, his plan was to remain on ship-board in the harbor of San Francisco until he could get passage to some South American port, where he could find a nation of more liberal principles, from which he hoped in some way to make his way across to his home in this land. None of the Chinese employees of the steamer were allowed to go on shore at San Francisco. For Japanese employees and for those of all other nationalities, there were no restrictions, but a Chinese laborer must not set his foot on the sacred soil of this land of liberty and equality not even on her Custom House wharf!
Was my language above too strong when I described our Government as stooping very low indeed to please anti-Chinese partisans. Yet we recently have had, I think, only a very narrow escape from something which would have been, if possible, more discreditable. Another anti-Chinese bill was rushed through the House of Representatives with unseemly haste, the design of which, under cover of taking a special census of the Chinese, was to banish as many as possible of the peaceable Chinamen still remaining in the land. But the Christian sentiment of the country, as soon as the nature of the bill became known, began to protest, sending pleas and petitions to our authorities at Washington, and to the Court above that rules over all, and the measure failed in the Senate. May we not hope from this that a reaction against hoodlumism is beginning in the public mind, which will not cease till old American principles are again enthroned at Washington? These Chinese haters should remember that if it had not been for these old American doctrines, the most of themselves would not now be in our land to trouble us with their un-American sentiments.
I might add illustration to illustration of the unworthy treatment meted out to the Chinese in this land of "equal rights," but have confined myself to some of those which may be called national, because our Government seems directly responsible, and it is facts like these that make the arrival of a new Minister from China disagreeable. He "brings our sin to remembrance." When we meet him either our faces are in danger of crimsoning, which is not agreeable to our national pride, or of becoming brazen, which hurts Christian consciences.
But now that the man has come, how shall we meet him? We (I mean all true American Christians) would like to deal with China justly, and in a Christian manner, and we do not like to give up our old American doctrines that there are certain equal rights given by the Creator to men (without distinction of race) to establish and perpetuate which, so many of our ancestors of the previous century, and so many of our friends and relatives of the previous and present generations, freely sacrificed their lives, and which, therefore, lay at the foundation of our Government, and permeate our institutions, and are embodied in our Declaration of Independence, our national Constitution, and most of our laws, and which every true American at the present day holds more sacred than life itself.
But if we should act in accordance with these old American and Christian ideas, shall we not be compelled to throw open our country to honest laborers from China as well as from other countries? I think so, and I pray God that it may be so. But many of our good, and even intelligent people, fear this result. My fear is just the contrary. I am much more of an optimist than pessimist. I believe that we shall yet come back to our old American doctrines, and even develop them still further in the acknowledgment of the brotherhood of man. But my fear is that our Government will not dare to take a thoroughly upright position on this Chinese question immediately, lest they be not sustained by public sentiment. It will take time to rid the public mind of its anti-Chinese views and feelings. Good people have been made to believe that the most of the Chinese who come to this country are from the lowest classes in China, and therefore are most undesirable and worthless persons--a moral pest in our country. This is a cruel slander invented by men of lower moral character than the Chinese. Let me ask: Are the Chinese with whom you or any of your friends are acquainted, usually of such character?
Doubtless there are such among them, but in proportion much fewer than among the immigrants from Europe. Is not the testimony of our poor houses, our jails, and our criminal courts sufficient on this point? Similar testimony is implied even in your remark (if it be correct) that the Chinese immigration to us "is controlled by Chinese companies who advance money to the immigrant, to be repaid with interest in instalments, and make money out of the operation." Advance money to the lowest and worthless classes, and make money out of the operation! then the lowest classes of the Chinese have financial integrity equal to pretty respectable classes of our own people. Suppose (an impossible supposition) any of our monied men should try the experiment of advancing money to our lowest classes on the understanding of being repaid with interest in instalments, bow much money, think you, would they make out of the operation?
Testimony to the substantial character of the average Chinese Immigrant is found in a paper prepared by the Hawaiian Government concerning the immigration of the Chinese into that nation. I have not been able to see the original paper, nor comments on it, said to be made by Mr. Gowen and published in our Mission Field. It is said that the Chinese population increased in twenty-three years from a little less than two per cent of the whole population of the Islands, to a little more than twenty per cent of the whole population, but that the Chinese laborers rather decreased in numbers, a very great decrease in proportion, proving that the Chinese immigrant in a few years rises from the position of employee to that of employer. Similar testimony to the good character of the average Chinese immigrant is found in that interesting article, "The Chinese of Brooklyn," in your issue of July 30th. If you desire any more similar testimony, you can get it from any Christian who has taken enough interest in the Chinese to labor for their welfare, and become thoroughly acquainted with them. But enough on this point.
I need not answer such charges against the Chinese as that they work for low wages, (I suppose their employers will sometimes dispute this statement), that they live economically, and save money to send back for the support of aged parents, or to bring over friends to this country, or to take back with them when they return to China. Every sensible American knows that all such things are to their credit.
But suppose the Chinese are not in character all that we could wish, why should any American Christian fear to have his Government do the thing that is upright and honorable towards them lest there be some untoward result? Does not God reign among the nations? Some may sneer at this principle, and call it "Sunday-School politics," but no true Christian will sneer at it. Leaving out all moral considerations the pecuniary loss already sustained by American citizens because of our anti-legislation is already very great. The field in China for merchants, engineers and specialists of all kinds was very inviting, and increasingly promising, especially to Americans. But we are fast closing it against us, and unless we change our policy, and treat the Chinese righteously, will soon close it altogether as tight as legislation can do it. Can any one calculate the financial loss of abutting up one-quarter of the world against us?
What I pray and hope for is that we may speedily go back to American and Christian principles, and open our doors wide to all honest laborers from China, as well as from any other country, for this will be for the glory of God, the good of the Chinese, and for the benefit of our own country. These three points are sufficiently comprehensive for my present purpose, and that these three good results will follow the free immigration of Chinese into this country, provided we treat them in a truly Christian and truly American manner, I am ready to maintain against all comers.
If my health shall improve a little I may ask the privilege of your columns for the discussion of one or more of these points.
BOUND BROOK, N.J., August 8th, 1890.
1 John Van Nest Talmage (1819-1893) was a Presbyterian missionary to Amoy (Xiamen) China from 1847 to 1890. His biography, Forty Years in South China: The Life of John Van Nest Talmage, D.D., was written by Rev. John Gerardus Fagg, Missionary at Amoy, China. New York: Anson D.F. Randolph & Co., 1894, intro. by Thomas DeWitt Talmage (his brother, one of the foremost preachers of his day).
"John V.N. Talmage." January 3, 2004. www.geocities.com/vienna/2406/40YIC/Contents.html
2 Rev. Calvin McQuesten considered going to China as a missionary but was discouraged from doing so because of his age and physical and mental health. See W7659, dated 1907.