California and Racism Directed at Chinese

WJC

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Californians had a couple of complaints that might have led to secession if the federal government had failed to appease them. Washington recognized a potential for Pacific Coast secession no later than the early 1860s as evidenced by the motivations for the Pacific Railroad Acts.*

The state's chief complaint stemmed from racism against Chinese residents by white Californians. That's why California opposed legislation providing racial equality and voting rights for both whites and minorities. For example, California did not ratify the 14th and 15th Amendments until 1959 and 1962 respectively.

Even though Asian residents never totaled more than 10% of the state's population, two-thirds of her lynch victims between 1849 - 1902 were Chinese.** America's biggest lynching happened in Los Angeles in 1873 while Grant was President and nineteen Chinese were victims. One can only shudder to imagine the anti-Chinese terrorism that might have swept the state were Asians abruptly given voting rights, while representing over half the voters as did blacks in the former Confederate states in 1868.***

The federal government appeased California's racism by adopting Acts that led to a decline in the number of Chinese residents, which dropped from 9% of California's population in 1870 to 4% in 1900. First, unlike black immigrants, Chinese were denied citizenship via the 1870 Naturalization Act. Second, the 1875 Page Act sharply restricted the number of Chinese women permitted to enter the country. This prevented Chinese men from having children who would get citizenship and voting as a birthright via the 14th Amendment. At the time, 95% of America's Chinese were male and interracial marriage was rare.

Next came a series of federal Chinese Exclusion Acts designed to reduce the number of Asian residents. The first, in 1882, stopped Chinese immigration for a decade. The 1892 Geary Act extended the exclusion for another decade. In 1904 the exclusion Acts were made permanent.

A second motivation for California secession was the federal adoption of Greenback fiat currency in 1862. During the Civil War California merchants refused to accept Greenbacks at face value. Only specie (gold or silver coins) would be taken at face value. Similarly, California would only accept specie as payment for taxes. The federal government appeased California on this issue as well. Even though California (and Oregon) defied the Legal Tender Act the federal government took no action against their rebellion. After the War the federal government agreed to payoff all war bonds in specie and make all Greenbacks redeemable in specie at face value.

Without federal appeasement, California secession might've been as likely as Southern secession in 1850 absent the Clay compromise of that year.

* William Borneman, Rival Rails, Kindle Loc. 883
** Jean Pfaelzer, Driven Out, 52
*** Merton Coulter, The South During Reconstruction, 133
Thanks for your response.
This is a very good, brief summary of anti-Chinese racism in the Golden State. However, we are still lacking evidence that there was a secession movement and that secession was more than an idle threat, at best used as leverage to gain favored legislation.
 

diane

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Joined
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Location
State of Jefferson
The possibility of secession in California was in Southern California. Alta California's northernmost armed outpost was Yerba Buena in San Francisco Bay. It hadn't been defended since the Spanish left. This was also about the extent of the haciendas - Gen Vallejo pretty much owned the whole north Bay. Beyond his holdings was nothing. Until Sutter found a shiney thing in the dirt at his mill.

The Civil War gave hope to the Californios, who had been dispossessed, that there might be a return of their land to them. Southern California, sometimes called the Colorado Territory, had already been split off and sent to Congress but Lincoln's election stopped confirmation of the separation, as mentioned earlier. If SoCal had separated, it's almost certain it would have seceded to join the Confederacy. Instead of African slavery, they still had the mission system which effectively enslaved thousands of Indians, so this would not be the issue causing separation - the possibility of retrieving what was lost in the Mexican War was.

Although the whole of California remained firmly in the Union, separatists did raise the Los Angeles Rifles, a volunteer unit of Confederates who saw little action but did fight some in Arizona and New Mexico. We also have to consider neighboring states - gold had also been discovered in Colorado and silver in Nevada, which made a lot of pressure on Confederate sympathy in those states. Nevada's state motto is "Battle Born", as they became a state during the war. There was strong Union sentiment in Oregon and Nevada, which had considerable influence in California.
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
Thanks for your response.
This is a very good, brief summary of anti-Chinese racism in the Golden State.

The post also summarizes complaints by California and Oregon against federal fiat currency (Greenbacks):
. . . A second motivation for California secession was the federal adoption of Greenback fiat currency in 1862. During the Civil War California merchants refused to accept Greenbacks at face value. Only specie (gold or silver coins) would be taken at face value. Similarly, California would only accept specie as payment for taxes. The federal government appeased California on this issue as well. Even though California (and Oregon) defied the Legal Tender Act the federal government took no action against their rebellion. After the War the federal government agreed to payoff all war bonds in specie and make all Greenbacks redeemable in specie at face value.

California and Oregon essentially nullified the 1862 Legal Tender Act much like South Carolina attempted to nullify the 1828 Tariff of Abominations. South Carolina's Nullification was undeniably a secession crisis averted by downward adjustments in the tariff rates counterbalanced by federal threats to militarily enforce the tariffs if nullification was not repealed.

Despite Lincoln's pledge to "faithfully execute the laws" he took no action, military or otherwise, against California and Oregon. He ignored their rebellion, temporarily averting a potential secession crisis by appeasement. President Grant and Congress later adopted the 1869 Public Credit Act and the 1875 Specie Resumption Act partly to further placate opposition to fiat currency in California and Oregon.

They additionally appeased California racism by adopting acts to shrink the number of Chinese residents so that the Asian minority could never have any political power in the state.
, we are still lacking evidence that there was a secession movement and that secession was more than an idle threat, at best used as leverage to gain favored legislation.

Sources documenting that California secession was a genuine concern during the Civil War era are:

William Borneman, Rival Rails, Kindle Loc. 883
Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative, Volume I, 43
Kenneth M. Stampp, And The War Came, 241
 
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California and Oregon essentially nullified the 1862 Legal Tender Act much like South Carolina attempted to nullify the 1828 Tariff of Abominations. South Carolina's Nullification was undeniably a secession crisis averted by downward adjustments in the tariff rates counterbalanced by federal threats to militarily enforce the tariffs if nullification was not repealed.

Despite Lincoln's pledge to "faithfully execute the laws" he took no action, military or otherwise, against California and Oregon. He ignored their rebellion, temporarily averting a potential secession crisis by appeasement. President Grant and Congress later adopted the 1869 Public Credit Act and the 1875 Specie Resumption Act partly to further placate opposition to fiat currency in California and Oregon.

Please point out in the 1862 Legal Tender Act where any state government was required to make payments to the United States Treasury in the new issued Legal Tender notes. Please point out the requirement that U.S. citizens were required to pay with and accept the new issued Legal Tender notes. Please point out the penalties in the 1862 Legal Tender Act for failure to do so.
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
Please point out in the 1862 Legal Tender Act where any state government was required to make payments to the United States Treasury in the new issued Legal Tender notes.

Please point out where I said that they did.
Please point out the requirement that U.S. citizens were required to pay with and accept the new issued Legal Tender notes.
I never said that. I did say: The 1862 Legal Tender Act obliged creditors to accept Greenbacks at face value. Californians and Oregonians refused to do that.
Please point out the penalties in the 1862 Legal Tender Act for failure to do so.
I never said there were. I did say: The 1862 Legal Tender Act obliged creditors to accept Greenbacks at face value. Californians and Oregonians refused to do that. Moreover, the federal government appeased them by letting them ignore the law with impunity.
 
Please point out where I said that they did.
I never said that. I did say: The 1862 Legal Tender Act obliged creditors to accept Greenbacks at face value. Californians and Oregonians refused to do that.
I never said there were. I did say: The 1862 Legal Tender Act obliged creditors to accept Greenbacks at face value. Californians and Oregonians refused to do that. Moreover, the federal government appeased them by letting them ignore the law with impunity.

So then how did the 1862 Legal Tender Act lead California to seriously contemplate seceding over it?
 

uaskme

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Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Location
SE Tennessee
Like their predecessors, Hanson and other Republicans complained bitterly of these, "squaw men," debased whites who, they alleged, kidnapped Native women and lived with them on terms of sexual intimacy. In the context of the war, though, Republicans often wedded squaw men's criminal, racial, and sexual transgressions to a new kind of treachery: secessionism. A large number of southern whites--particularly Missourians--lived in northwestern California and in areas adjacent to the reservations. Secession sentiment ran high among these southern-born settlers, and rumors of pro-confederate plots to seize federal forts and Indian reservations set Republican officials on edge. In their efforts to subdue "squaw men" and Indian kidnappers, Republicans cast the perpetrators as rebels whose outrages against Native people and treason against their own race were also assaults on the Union and the power of the federal government. George Hanson insisted that one notorious abductor of Indian women and children on the Round Valley Reservation was a "malicious, copperhead kidnapper." Another staunch Union man declaimed against the "squaw men" who he net in his travels. Almost all of them were "rank Secessionists" and "poor white trash" from the frontier slave states, Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas." The correlation between interracial intimacy and treason was so high that he had never met any squaw man who was also a Union man. Squaw men were both race traitors-men who abandoned their whiteness by kidnapping and cohabiting with Indian women-and treasonous outlaws whose crimes tore at the fabric of federal authority and union. pp200 Freedom's Frontier by Stacey L. Smith

There were a lot of Southerners in California. When is Secession an Idol Threat or a Reality? Here you can also see where Unionist were using Slavery against Southerners and anyone who wanted Slavery. Slavery began to be a Political Tool for the Republicans to keep them in Power. Unionist Slaveowners were not Republicans.
 

diane

Retired User
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
IIRC, one of those LA Rifles was Lewis Armistead, before it disbanded and went east.

Yes, the LA Mounted Rifles got stuck and he continued to Virginia. There's quite a few stars came from California! Another group, the San Bernadino Mounted Rifles were Union and held pro-Confederate San Bernadino for the Union. There was big ruckus in Sonoma as well between pro-Union and pro-Confederate militias...but they ended up settling it over a few beers!
 

ForeverFree

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Location
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The post also summarizes complaints by California and Oregon against federal fiat currency (Greenbacks):


California and Oregon essentially nullified the 1862 Legal Tender Act much like South Carolina attempted to nullify the 1828 Tariff of Abominations. South Carolina's Nullification was undeniably a secession crisis averted by downward adjustments in the tariff rates counterbalanced by federal threats to militarily enforce the tariffs if nullification was not repealed.

Despite Lincoln's pledge to "faithfully execute the laws" he took no action, military or otherwise, against California and Oregon. He ignored their rebellion, temporarily averting a potential secession crisis by appeasement. President Grant and Congress later adopted the 1869 Public Credit Act and the 1875 Specie Resumption Act partly to further placate opposition to fiat currency in California and Oregon.

They additionally appeased California racism by adopting acts to shrink the number of Chinese residents so that the Asian minority could never have any political power in the state.


Sources documenting that California secession was a genuine concern during the Civil War era are:

William Borneman, Rival Rails, Kindle Loc. 883
Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative, Volume I, 43
Kenneth M. Stampp, And The War Came, 241

I was not aware that currency issues were so divisive that they led to the possibility of secession.

- Alan
 

WJC

Major General
Judge Adv. Genl.
Thread Medic
Answered the Call for Reinforcements
Joined
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Sources documenting that California secession was a genuine concern during the Civil War era are:

William Borneman, Rival Rails, Kindle Loc. 883
Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative, Volume I, 43
Kenneth M. Stampp, And The War Came, 241
Thanks for your response providing sources for your assertions.
However, you seem to have 'shifted the goalposts': originally, you asserted Californians threatened to secede over Chinese immigration; now you suggest that it was over the 1862 Legal Tender Act.
Please clarify.
 

diane

Retired User
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
Like their predecessors, Hanson and other Republicans complained bitterly of these, "squaw men," debased whites who, they alleged, kidnapped Native women and lived with them on terms of sexual intimacy. In the context of the war, though, Republicans often wedded squaw men's criminal, racial, and sexual transgressions to a new kind of treachery: secessionism. A large number of southern whites--particularly Missourians--lived in northwestern California and in areas adjacent to the reservations. Secession sentiment ran high among these southern-born settlers, and rumors of pro-confederate plots to seize federal forts and Indian reservations set Republican officials on edge. In their efforts to subdue "squaw men" and Indian kidnappers, Republicans cast the perpetrators as rebels whose outrages against Native people and treason against their own race were also assaults on the Union and the power of the federal government. George Hanson insisted that one notorious abductor of Indian women and children on the Round Valley Reservation was a "malicious, copperhead kidnapper." Another staunch Union man declaimed against the "squaw men" who he net in his travels. Almost all of them were "rank Secessionists" and "poor white trash" from the frontier slave states, Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas." The correlation between interracial intimacy and treason was so high that he had never met any squaw man who was also a Union man. Squaw men were both race traitors-men who abandoned their whiteness by kidnapping and cohabiting with Indian women-and treasonous outlaws whose crimes tore at the fabric of federal authority and union. pp200 Freedom's Frontier by Stacey L. Smith

There were a lot of Southerners in California. When is Secession an Idol Threat or a Reality? Here you can also see where Unionist were using Slavery against Southerners and anyone who wanted Slavery. Slavery began to be a Political Tool for the Republicans to keep them in Power. Unionist Slaveowners were not Republicans.

That's quite a jumble there! The first wave of immigrants and migrants to California was the Gold Rush, which - strange to say - was primarily New Yorkers, Mexicans and South Americans. The Texans, Missourians and other western/southern groups were Dust Bowl refugees who came in the 20th century - the 'Okies and Arkies'. The Joads! Another 20th century wave was from the Dakotas and upper midwest, Nebraska - the corn famine of the 20s just before the Depression.

Well, the best way to move a lot of people off what you want is to kill them - the California holocaust was just that and needs a lot more space than here. Squaw hunters were mainly miners who had no problems killing Native men and grabbing the women. Check out John Sutter's harem sometime. But...that's not about Chinese.

One thing that protected the Chinese from disaster besides their usefulness and their cheap labor - it was cheaper to hire a Chinese than to buy a slave and maintain him - were the tongs and associations. These groups helped hold the Chinese immigrants together, helped organize their trip and acclimation to America, and acclimate Americans to them - they were the ones who created American Chinese food! A study of the Chinese associations is really enlightening.
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
Thanks for your response providing sources for your assertions.
However, you seem to have 'shifted the goalposts': originally, you asserted Californians threatened to secede over Chinese immigration; now you suggest that it was over the 1862 Legal Tender Act.
Please clarify.

No, I did not "move the goalposts." As documented below I originally suggested in post number 8 that "Californians had a couple of complaints that might have led to secession." Perhaps you inadvertently overlooked the second one.
Californians had a couple of complaints that might have led to secession if the federal government had failed to appease them. Washington recognized a potential for Pacific Coast secession no later than the early 1860s as evidenced by the motivations for the Pacific Railroad Acts.*

The state's chief complaint stemmed from racism against Chinese residents by white Californians. That's why California opposed legislation providing racial equality and voting rights for both whites and minorities. For example, California did not ratify the 14th and 15th Amendments until 1959 and 1962 respectively.

Even though Asian residents never totaled more than 10% of the state's population, two-thirds of her lynch victims between 1849 - 1902 were Chinese.** America's biggest lynching happened in Los Angeles in 1873 while Grant was President and nineteen Chinese were victims. One can only shudder to imagine the anti-Chinese terrorism that might have swept the state were Asians abruptly given voting rights, while representing over half the voters as did blacks in the former Confederate states in 1868.***

The federal government appeased California's racism by adopting Acts that led to a decline in the number of Chinese residents, which dropped from 9% of California's population in 1870 to 4% in 1900. First, unlike black immigrants, Chinese were denied citizenship via the 1870 Naturalization Act. Second, the 1875 Page Act sharply restricted the number of Chinese women permitted to enter the country. This prevented Chinese men from having children who would get citizenship and voting as a birthright via the 14th Amendment. At the time, 95% of America's Chinese were male and interracial marriage was rare.

Next came a series of federal Chinese Exclusion Acts designed to reduce the number of Asian residents. The first, in 1882, stopped Chinese immigration for a decade. The 1892 Geary Act extended the exclusion for another decade. In 1904 the exclusion Acts were made permanent.

A second motivation for California secession was the federal adoption of Greenback fiat currency in 1862. During the Civil War California merchants refused to accept Greenbacks at face value. Only specie (gold or silver coins) would be taken at face value. Similarly, California would only accept specie as payment for taxes. The federal government appeased California on this issue as well. Even though California (and Oregon) defied the Legal Tender Act the federal government took no action against their rebellion. After the War the federal government agreed to payoff all war bonds in specie and make all Greenbacks redeemable in specie at face value.

Without federal appeasement, California secession might've been as likely as Southern secession in 1850 absent the Clay compromise of that year.

* William Borneman, Rival Rails, Kindle Loc. 883
** Jean Pfaelzer, Driven Out, 52
*** Merton Coulter, The South During Reconstruction, 133
 

AshleyMel

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 26, 2016
I am always amazed at the layers of history I keep discovering about California!
Thank you again @diane
I fret over missing so much history that was right under my nose (too young to care) from back home in Georgia and SC but then, here I am not even realizing the richness that the west coast has to offer! I was speaking with the UDC division president last week and she confirmed this for me as well when we were talking about gravesites! There are events somewhere just about every other month and round tables. No lack of love for all things CW here in the state!
 

WJC

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Judge Adv. Genl.
Thread Medic
Answered the Call for Reinforcements
Joined
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No, I did not "move the goalposts." As documented below I originally suggested in post number 8 that "Californians had a couple of complaints that might have led to secession." Perhaps you inadvertently overlooked the second one.
Thanks for your response.
No, I did not "inadvertently overlook" the entirety of your assertion. However, in the OP your assertion was "Judging from their conduct against Chinese residents in the second half of the nineteenth century, California may well have seceded if the federal government had not passed laws that forced a decline in number of Chinese living in America."
The topic is California anti-Chinese racism and, it certainly appears that you are 'moving the goalposts'- expanding the scope. Are you, then, downplaying the role of racism in the alleged secession movement?
 

uaskme

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Location
SE Tennessee
That's quite a jumble there! The first wave of immigrants and migrants to California was the Gold Rush, which - strange to say - was primarily New Yorkers, Mexicans and South Americans. The Texans, Missourians and other western/southern groups were Dust Bowl refugees who came in the 20th century - the 'Okies and Arkies'. The Joads! Another 20th century wave was from the Dakotas and upper midwest, Nebraska - the corn famine of the 20s just before the Depression.

Well, the best way to move a lot of people off what you want is to kill them - the California holocaust was just that and needs a lot more space than here. Squaw hunters were mainly miners who had no problems killing Native men and grabbing the women. Check out John Sutter's harem sometime. But...that's not about Chinese.

One thing that protected the Chinese from disaster besides their usefulness and their cheap labor - it was cheaper to hire a Chinese than to buy a slave and maintain him - were the tongs and associations. These groups helped hold the Chinese immigrants together, helped organize their trip and acclimation to America, and acclimate Americans to them - they were the ones who created American Chinese food! A study of the Chinese associations is really enlightening.

California had it all. Equal Opportunity Racism. Not unlike the rest of the USA. Just a little latter because of its latter settlement. White men doing what White men did during this time period.
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
Thanks for your response.
No, I did not "inadvertently overlook" the entirety of your assertion. However, in the OP your assertion was "Judging from their conduct against Chinese residents in the second half of the nineteenth century, California may well have seceded if the federal government had not passed laws that forced a decline in number of Chinese living in America."
The topic is California anti-Chinese racism and, it certainly appears that you are 'moving the goalposts'- expanding the scope. Are you, then, downplaying the role of racism in the alleged secession movement?

If you think that I am intentionally trying to obfuscate something, we have nothing further to write to one another in this thread.
 

diane

Retired User
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
California had it all. Equal Opportunity Racism. Not unlike the rest of the USA. Just a little latter because of its latter settlement. White men doing what White men did during this time period.

California had equal opportunity greed! For a very long time Louisiana, New Orleans in particular, was the most racially and ethnically diverse place in the Union - until the Gold Rush. Everybody from everywhere and every race flooded to California - other Indians, Mexicans, Cubans, Chileans, Filipinos, Hawaiians, Greeks, Turks - you name 'em! I don't think there was any group on the face of the earth that wasn't represented in California. The white men had the political power - take the Pathfinder and the brief Republic of California. They had to do hand over hand on the baseball bat, though, with the Mexicans! A lot of power there, too, even after the Mexican War.
 

WJC

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Judge Adv. Genl.
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Answered the Call for Reinforcements
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If you think that I am intentionally trying to obfuscate something, we have nothing further to write to one another in this thread.
Thanks for your response.
My only objective is to determine whether there is documented evidence that supports your original assertion, "Judging from their conduct against Chinese residents in the second half of the nineteenth century, California may well have seceded if the federal government had not passed laws that forced a decline in number of Chinese living in America."
Thus far you have not done so. If you cannot provide that evidence, I will agree that there is nothing more for us to discuss here.
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
Thanks for your response.
My only objective is to determine whether there is documented evidence that supports your original assertion, "Judging from their conduct against Chinese residents in the second half of the nineteenth century, California may well have seceded if the federal government had not passed laws that forced a decline in number of Chinese living in America."
Thus far you have not done so. If you cannot provide that evidence, I will agree that there is nothing more for us to discuss here.

California’s determination to exercise its white supremacy is documented by the fact that two-thirds of the state’s lynching victims in the second half of the nineteenth century were Asians even though the race represented less than 10% of the state’s population. To such white terrorism may be added California’s “Chinese Codes,” which were analogous to the Black Codes in the South, and the fact that the state declined to ratify the 14th and 15th Amendments for nearly a century.

Unless you deny that federal polices such as failure to provide a carve-out for Chinese (as was done for Blacks) within the 1870 Naturalization Act and restrictions of the 1875 Page Act, 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, 1888 Scott Act, 1892 Geary Act and the final exclusion Act of 1904, I’ve provided abundant evidence that the federal government was prepared to go to great lengths to appease California’s racism in order to avoid consequences which might have included the state’s secession.

Finally, your assertion that secession was not anything “more than an idle threat” does not square with the fact that the appeasement forced the controlling Republican Party to disclose its hypocrisy regarding racial equality. Essentially the concessions revealed that the GOP was only interested in citizenship and voting rights for the solitary racial minority—Blacks—who were reliably Republican-loyal.
 
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