Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act / Edition 1

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The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred practically all
Chinese from American shores for ten years, was the first federal
law that banned a group of immigrants solely on the basis of race
or nationality. By changing America's traditional policy of open
immigration, this landmark legislation set a precedent for future
restrictions against Asian immigrants in the early 1900s and
against Europeans in the 1920s.
Tracing the origins of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Andrew
Gyory presents a bold new interpretation of American politics
during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age. Rather than directly
confront such divisive problems as class conflict, economic
depression, and rising unemployment, he contends, politicians
sought a safe, nonideological solution to the nation's industrial
crisis—and latched onto Chinese exclusion. Ignoring workers'
demands for an end simply to imported contract labor, they
claimed instead that working people would be better off if there
were no Chinese immigrants. By playing the race card, Gyory
argues, national politicians—not California, not organized
labor, and not a general racist atmosphere—provided the motive
force behind the era's most racist legislation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The most detailed account available of Chinese exclusion as a national issue.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History

A fine book, well argued, well documented, and well written.

Pacific Northwest Quarterly

Gyory manages to provide an informative new study by combining extensive research with engaging prose.


One of the most noteworthy contributions in U.S. political history in years.

Leon Fink, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Gyory's work is the first fresh, original interpretation of the origins of Chinese exclusion in quite some time.

Lucy E. Salyer, University of New Hampshire

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807847398
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 11/23/1998
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Gyory holds a Ph.D. in American history from the University of Massachusetts. He lives in Maplewood, New Jersey.

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Table of Contents


Chapter 1. The Very Recklessness of Statesmanship: Explanations for Chinese Exclusion, 1870s-1990s
Chapter 2. To Fetch Men Wholesale: Framing the Chinese Issue Nationally in the 1860s and the First Chinese Scare in 1869
Chapter 3. Yan-ki vs. Yan-kee: Americans React to Chinese Laborers in 1870
Chapter 4. All Sorts of Tricks: Defining Importation, 1871-1875
Chapter 5. To Overcome the Apathy of National Legislators: The Presidential Campaign of 1876
Chapter 6. The Reign of Terror to Come: Uprising and Red Scare, 1877-1878
Chapter 7. An Unduly Inflated Sack of Very Bad Gas: Denis Kearney Comes East, 1878
Chapter 8. Rolling in the Dirt: The Fifteen Passenger Bill of 1879
Chapter 9. An Earthquake of Excitement: California and the Exodus East, 1879-1880
Chapter 10. No Material Difference: The Presidential Campaign of 1880
Chapter 11. The Gate Must Be Closed: The Angell Treaty and the Race to Exclude, 1881-1882
Chapter 12. A Mere Question of Expediency: The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
Appendix: Text of the Chinese Exclusion Act

2.1. Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving Dinner
2.2. The Youngest Introducing the Oldest
3.1. Yan-ki vs. Yan-kee
3.2. William M. Stewart
3.3 The New Pandora's Box
5.1. Philip A. Roach
5.2. Aaron A. Sargent
7.1. The Progress of One of Kearney's Speeches
7.2. Up Hill Work for the California Drayman
7.3. Adolph Strasser
8.1. James G. Blaine
8.2. Will History Repeat Itself?
8.3. Kearney's Senatorial Restaurant
8.4. Hannibal Hamlin
8.5. The Chinese Question Would Be Settled if the Chinee, Chinee, Would Votee! Votee!! Votee!!!
8.6. The Demagogues' Triumph
9.1. California's New Constitution
9.2. Yung Wing
9.3. The Chinese Plague
9.4. Strikes and Their Results
10.1. The "Magnetic" Blaine
10.2. Where Both Platforms Agree
10.3. William M. Evarts
10.4. The Morey Letter
11.1. James B. Angell
11.2. George Frisbie Hoar
11.3. George F. Edmunds
11.4. Senator Edmunds's Greatest Effort
12.1. Joseph R. Hawley
12.2. (Dis-)"Honors Are Easy"

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