About Me

After a career of over 40 years as an academic psychologist, I started a new career as a public historian of Chinese American history that led to five Yin & Yang Press books and over 100 book talks about the lives of early Chinese immigrants and their families operating laundries, restaurants, and grocery stores. This blog contains more research of interest to supplement my books.


The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 Banned Entry of, But Did Not Define, Chinese Laborers

Below is the introductory section and closing section of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. It is directed entirely to the exclusion of laborers as opposed to merchants, students, and diplomats but the text mentions only "laborers" which is not clearly defined.  It was not until the Surgeon General's Report on Leprosy 20 years later in 1902 that it is explicitly stated that Chinese laundrymen and restaurant workers are laborers and ineligible for entry after 1882.  In 1915, it was recognized the while some restaurant workers such as waiters, cooks, dishwashers were laborers, some owners of large restaurants could have a merchant status. As far as I could determine, Chinese laundrymen never received merchant status.

The law did not apply to Chinese laborers who had been in the U.S. by Nov. 17, 1880.

Transcript of Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)

An Act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese.

Whereas in the opinion of the Government of the United States the coming of Chinese laborers to this country endangers the good order of certain localities within the territory thereof: Therefore,

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That from and after the expiration of ninety days next after the passage of this act, and until the expiration of ten years next after the passage of this act, the coming of Chinese laborers to the United States be, and the same is hereby, suspended; and during such suspension it shall not be lawful for any Chinese laborer to come, or having so come after the expiration of said ninety days to remain within the United States.

Only in the last section is any attempt made to "define" laborers.

SEC.15. That the words "Chinese laborers", wherever used in this act shall be construed to mean both skilled and unskilled laborers and Chinese employed in mining.

Complete text of Chinese Exclusion Act

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