Chinese Immigrants and Gilded Age Politics, 1876–1882
This chapter examines the first policy to restrict Chinese immigration to the United States by tracing its background in broad political transformations during the Gilded Age, including the end of Reconstruction, rapid industrialization, and swings in the business cycle. It provides a close analysis of congressional voting patterns during two Congresses that approved bills to restrict Chinese labor immigrants, the first (passed in 1879) was vetoed by the president, while the second (passed in 1882) became the law of the land. The debate over both policies revealed the polarization of views in Congress and the broader society about the Chinese. The return of the Democrats to power and the Midwestern revolt against big businesses (often identified with the Republicans) combined with racial prejudice to win support for the restriction of Chinese workers.
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