Outlawing “Coolies”: Race, Nation, and Empire in the Age of Emancipation

From American Quarterly
  • Moon-Ho Jung

Abstract

A vote for Chinese exclusion would mean a vote against slavery, against “cooly importation,” a U.S. senator from California warned in 1882. “An adverse vote now is to commission under the broad seal of the United States, all the speculators in human labor, all the importers of human muscle, all the traffickers in human flesh, to ply their infamous trade without impediment under the protection of the American flag, and empty the teeming, seething slave pens of China upon the soil of California!” The other senator from California added that those who had been “so clamorous against what was known as African slavery” had a moral obligation to vote for Chinese exclusion, “when we all know that they are used as slaves by those who bring them to this country, that their labor is for the benefit of those who practically own them.” A “coolie,” or “cooly,” it seemed, was a slave, pure and simple. Representative Horace F. Page (California) elaborated on the same point in the other chamber, branding the “Chinese cooly contract system” and polygamy the “twin relic[s] of the barbarism of slavery.” The United States was “the home of the down-trodden and the oppressed,” he declared, but “not the home for millions of cooly slaves and serfs who come here under a contract for a term of years to labor, and who neither enjoy nor practice any of our religious characteristics.”1

Keywords

Slave Trade Governor General Chinese Laborer Monthly Magazine Chattel Slavery 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 3.
    On the figure of the prostitute, see Amy Dru Stanley, From Bondage to Contract: Wage Labor, Marriage, and the Market in the Age of Slave Emancipation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 891–92; Hugh Tinker, A New System of Slavery: The Export of Indian Labour Overseas, 1830–1920 (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), 41–43Google Scholar
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    See, for example: Denise Helly, “Introduction,” The Cuba Commission Report: A Hidden History of the Chinese in Cuba: The Original English-Language Text of 1876 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 5–27Google Scholar
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  16. 42.
    For the full text and a discussion of the law named after Representative Horace F. Page of California, see George Anthony Peffer, If They Don’t Bring Their Women Here: Chinese Female Immigration before Exclusion (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1999), 32–37Google Scholar
  17. Michael Salman, The Embarrassment of Slavery: Controversies over Bondage and Nationalism in the American Colonial Philippines (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Organization of American Historians 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Moon-Ho Jung

There are no affiliations available

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