The Road to Chinese Exclusion: The Denver Riot, 1880 Election, and Rise of the West

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The Road to Chinese Exclusion: The Denver Riot, 1880 Election, and Rise of the West
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The Road to Chinese Exclusion: The Denver Riot, 1880 Election, and Rise of the West
Hou, Xiaojia
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Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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The Road to Chinese Exclusion: The Denver Riot, 1880 Election, and Rise of the West | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/7/2015 3:31:24 PM] Home The Road to Chinese Exclusion: The Denver Riot, 1880 Election, and Rise of the WestThe Road to Chinese Exclusion: The Denver Riot, 1880 Election, and Rise of the WestSubmitted by nwharton on 4-6-2014 08:20 PMAuthor: Liping Zhu Publishing: Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2013. Black-and-white photographs, illustrations, notes, index, bibliography. 6 x 9. $37.50 hardcover. Reviewer: Xiaojia Hou Reviewer Affiliation: University of Colorado Denver In 1867, it took thirty days for a Chinese immigrant to travel from Hong Kong to California by steamship, and the cost ranged from $40 to $50. In contrast, driving a wagon from the East Coast to California took about six months. The frenetic mining rushes in the American West and the construction of the transcontinental railroad lured hundreds of thousands of Chinese to the West. Between 1852 and 1882, at least 340,000 Chinesetwice the population of Oregonentered America. In spite of their salient contribution to the building of the West, Chinese worked too hard for too little; they stayed aloof from local communities; their physical appearance was distinctive; and their culture was considered exotic. Their presence generated economic competition and ethnic tensions in the host communities, generating anti-Chinese rhetoric, anti-Chinese action, and anti-Chinese legislation in California and other western states. The conclusion of this episode for Chinese immigrants in the nineteenth century was the famous Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. For current readers who are accustomed to Americas complex immigration laws, the road to Chinese Exclusion might appear to be conveniently paved, even destined. However, in the post Civil War era, when equal rights for all races was still the goal of some Americans and when free immigration was the acclaimed feature of American tradition, this act stood out. Liping Zhus book, capturing the dilemma, examines the making of the Exclusion Act through the lens of North-South-West sectional politics and tells a fascinating story of how anti-Chinese nativism was manipulated, augmented, and distorted by American politicians, particularly during presidential elections. Zhus study begins by laying out the Chinese question as it was viewed quite differently by different groups in the West, the North, and the South in the 1860s. Chapter 1 portrays the political dilemma of Western working class rejection of Chinese immigration in reality and the Northern elites fidelity to the principle of unrestricted immigration. Chapter 2 sketches Colorados relatively benign policies toward Chinese immigrants and the Chinese way of life in Colorado. While confirming Chinese Coloradans sojourner mentality and their distinct culture, this chapter finds that the Chinese did make adaptations and adjustments to live, act, and play like their American neighbors, which challenges the stereotype. Chapter 3 discusses how Chinese laborers became a central issue in the underappreciated 1880 presidential election (103), setting the stage for the Denver Anti-Chinese Riot, the core of the book, as Chapter 4 describes it in nuanced, heartrending detail. EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanWhile on the Dominguez-Escalante expedition in 1776, Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco drew the first map of Colorado.


The Road to Chinese Exclusion: The Denver Riot, 1880 Election, and Rise of the West | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/7/2015 3:31:24 PM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us The author contends that the Denver riot, occurring only two days before the 1880 presidential election, substantially influenced Americans in their subsequent decisions on the election and on the Chinese question. Chapters 5 and 6 switch back to the politics of the elites and explore how the new Republican administration, against its revered principle of human equality (but not without resistance), reached the point of passing the Chinese Exclusion Act. In the real world, power and the craving for power nearly always trumps principle. The book is meticulously researched and breaks important new ground. It examines the Chinese immigration question in the light of sectionalism; at the same time, it offers a superb window into how sectionalism operated through the case of the Chinese question. It is the first book to explore the Denver Anti-Chinese Riot, from multiple dimensions of ethnicity, class, culture, politics, and diplomacy, and insightfully links the riot to the 1880 election and the coming Chinese Exclusion Act. Some comparative perspectives could further enhance the narrative, however. The Chinese Exclusion Act reflected the shift of Americans general attitude about immigration, and the author might have briefly discussed other instances of anti-immigrant sentiment and explained how the Chinese case was particular. Another avenue of research addressing this topic would be how changes in the American economy facilitated the passing of the bill. Greater reference to recent flourishing research on the experience of earlier Chinese immigrants in other cities (for example, works of Huping Ling) would also enrich our understanding Chinese Americans in their formative years. This book is a must-read for everyone who has an interest in the history of Chinese Americans or the political history of post-Reconstruction years. It bears special relevance to all Americans today as concerns about immigration have taken central stage in recent presidential elections. Knowing, if not learning from, past political maneuvers and a history of injustice certainly wont hurt. Reviewer Info: Xiaojia Hou, assistant professor in history, received her PhD degree from Cornell University in 2008 with a specialization in modern Chinese history, and her undergraduate and masters degrees in history from Peking University. Since 2008, she has taught in the Department of History, University of Colorado Denver.