During the recent debate over California's Proposition Chinese exclusion act 1882 yahoo dating, neither side spoke of Denis Kearney, a Californian whose name was once a byword for immigration controversy. Should readers wonder just who Denis Kearney was, they are not alone. There is still no biography of this 19th-century Irish immigrant to the Golden State.
Even for those specialists in American immigration history who have touched on his career, Kearney remains more a symbol than a man. In the late s, however, Denis Kearney and what his ideologically minded foes called "Kearneyism" dominated headlines in California, and made news across the nation. At the head of his Workingmen's Party, Kearney forged California's white laborers into a feared political force for eco-nomic and political reform, including exclusion of Chinese "coolie" labor.
Within five years of the inception of Kearney's brief public career Congress passed, and President Chester Arthur signed into law, the first measure to restrict Chinese immigra-tion into America.
As the man who epitomized opposition to the Chinese presence, Kearney has been diabolized, both by his contemporaries and subsequent writers, as have few other figures in American history.
For James Bryce, the influential British historian and diplomat, Kearney was " Harvard's Samuel Eliot "Chinese exclusion act 1882 yahoo dating" writes that Kearney organized riots against the Chinese, while Yen Ching-Hwang, in his Coolies and Mandarins, first accuses Kearney and his Workingmen's Party of "[the] most barbaric behavior of burning Chinese buildings and killing the Chinese," then cites a string of incidents, all of which took place before Kearney was active and the Workingmen's Party existed.
Frank Roney, a rival of Kearney's for leadership of the Workingmen's Party, claimed not only that Kearney was a mere opportunist, but that his impas-sioned speeches were ghostwritten by a newspaper-man. Gertrude Atherton, a San Francisco society lady who once met Kearney, derided him as an empty blusterer who was " Even those sympathetic to Chinese exclusion have often been less than favorable to Kearney.
Miller, claim the importance of the role of Kearney's party in securing Chinese exclusion has been much exaggerated. Veiled in century-old obscurity, strait-jacketed in academic and political animus, who was Denis Kearney?
What, if anything, did Kearney accomplish, and what significance does he hold for today's immigration reformer? To answer these questions, it is necessary first to look at the Chinese who were streaming to America, the Americans who welcomed them, and those Americans, native and immigrant, who raised the cry for Chinese exclusion.
The Chinese Chinese exclusion act 1882 yahoo dating came to America, beginning inlittle mirrored the China dear to American and European sentimentalists of the day. They numbered few Confucian philosophers, converts to Christianity, or delicate porcelain beauties: Despite vigorous denials by their importers, these "Chinamen" were seen by most California whites, with some justice, as "coolies.
Within a couple of years, there were over twenty thousand Chinese in California, a number which quadrupled in two decades. Their presence quickly grated on the rough-and-ready white immigrants who had swarmed to the state from the East Coast and Europe.
Soon there were outrages in the mining camps and tumults in the towns, as the Forty-Niners found unfree labor competition, from black slaves or the Chinese, intolerable. Aside from the economic threat the Chinese posed to white laborers, the Forty-Niners com-plained of the vices and failings of the Chinese community such as endemic gambling, opium smoking, dirt and disease, and brothels which stocked Chinese prostitutes, often underage girls sold and held in virtual slavery.
These vices, in their general forms, were not unknown to the miners, but their specific manifestations stirred genuine disgust. In the quarter century between andwhite Californians made many political attempts, on the local, state, and national level, to stem the influx of Chinese. All of them failed in the face of opposi-tion from entrenched business interests - espe-cially the railroads, banks, and steam-ship lines - and reinforced by a vociferous strain of "liberalism" led by ex-abolitionists and egalitarians, church-men, and "reformers" of various stripes.
Then as now, the pro-immigration forces were well situated to influ-ence public opinion from prestigious pulpits, editor-ships and professorial chairs. The high-minded posturing of advocates of unlimited coolie immigra-tion frequently veiled a considerable animus against the "bigoted" foes of immigration, often immigrants themselves: Then, too, there was the opposition of the courts which relied on the common law, generally tolerant of immigration, and the Constitution, which protected the Chinese despite their ineligibility to be naturalized - a situation which few supporters of the Chinese immigration, except for such radical egalitarians as Massachusetts Senator Charles Sum-ner, wished to change.
The ratification of the Burlingame Treaty inwhich conferred most-favored-nation status on Chinese immigrants, marked the high point of their legal status in nineteenth-century America. In the next year tens of thousands of them were moved into the Sierra to dig, drill and blast a path eastward for the Central Pacific. Meanwhile, interested entrepreneurs east of the Mississippi were looking into the possibilities that a cheap and reliable labor force afforded.
Attempts were underway to use Chinese to replace the freed slaves of the American South; more ominously, in Chinese workers were brought in to break strikes in North Adams, Massachusetts and Belleville, New Jersey. Around that time Irishman Denis Kearney immigrated to California. Born on February 1, in Oakmount, Cork at the depth of the "Great Hunger," young Denis had gone to sea at eleven, rising to the rank of first officer on American-flag steamers. Settling in San Francisco inhe married an Irishwoman, Mary Ann Leary, started a family, bought a draying business, and became a citizen and taxpayer.
In a nation-wide economic slump brought renewed interest in the Chinese, little of it benign. Thanks to incidents like those in Belleville and North Adams, the Chinese ques-tion became a national issue, and in President Grant called for restricting Chinese immigration.
The twin blows of drought and depression struck California inwiping out the savings of countless employees and small business-men, and sending rents on farms owned by the big railroad companies soaring. For laboring men, wage cuts and layoffs now joined the competition of the Chinese as grounds for anxiety - or outrage. In Julyworkers in the East struck several railroads, including the Penn Central.
These strikes resulted in an economic violence unprecedented in America, nowhere worse than in Pittsburgh, where on July 21 pro-management militia mowed "Chinese exclusion act 1882 yahoo dating" dozens of strikers with Gatling gun fire, after which infuriated workers sacked and burned railroad property. Two days later, a sympathy rally in San Francisco erupted in violence as a mob stormed Chinese exclusion act 1882 yahoo dating docks of the steamship lines Chinese exclusion act 1882 yahoo dating transported the Chinese, then rampaged through Chinatown.
Several of the rioters were shot dead on the docks, and order was quickly restored by William T. Coleman's Committee of Safety, 7, men strong, and a contingent of U.
Trapped in the vise of monopoly capital and coolie labor, outgunned by the forces of law and order, and betrayed by professedly anti-Chinese politicians who never seemed to deliver, California's hard-pressed white workers appeared defeated. At this moment of crisis Denis Kearney stepped out to take the lead. Using the workers' clubs of the San Francisco Bay area as a base, within two months Kearney and several lieutenants had organized and proclaimed the Workingmen's Party of California early October, Kearney was named the party's president, chief promoter, and director of The Open Letter, the party organ.
Despite his youth and political inexperience, Kearney was already well known to San Francisco working men through his frequent lectures at a local Chinese exclusion act 1882 yahoo dating lyceum; earlier inhe had been deputized to present the grievances of the Draymen and Teamsters' Union to California's Senator Sargent. Though lacking a formal education, Kearney had read Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer and had a broad knowledge of history and current events.
At first a clumsy speaker, he had turned himself into some-thing of a local Demosthenes at the People's Meeting for Discussion where he had come to know Henry George, the brilliant reformer and author of Progress and Poverty, who would later stand for election on the WPC ticket. The program proclaimed by the Workingmen's Party of California appeared intolerably socialistic to the capitalists and conservatives of the Gilded Age, but its planks were well in line with those of subse-quent populistmovements: As a Work-ingmen's Party resolution thundered: The strategy behind the WPC was no less impor-tant than its program.
Kearney and his aides knew full well that appeals for insurrection, no less than actual riotousness and bloodshed, would result in the move-ment's suppression by the superior power of the government and the monopolists. Yet mere anti-Chinese oratorical pyrotechnics wouldn't be enough to fire the enthusiasm of potential voters: By all the evidence, Kearney decided on a daring course.
In his Open Letter, and before the crowds, Kearney would call for no violence, would warn against violence - but would then roar that without reform, of the Chinese prob-lem above all, violence was inevitable. The electioneering and speechifying under-taken by Kearney and the WPC in the fall of make today's carefully staged "events," "opportuni-ties," and "sound bites" seem "Chinese exclusion act 1882 yahoo dating." With a vigor notable even in light of electoral practice in his era, Kearney whipped up a whirlwind of mass meetings, torchlight parades, and propaganda salvoes which scorched California's economic and political estab-lishment, above all for their importation of the Chinese.
Kearney's speeches were the mainstay of the WPC's campaigning. They abounded in the rabid anti-Chinese invective of the day "leprous, rat-eating Chinese slaves" is one phrase citedand each speech by Denis Kearney ended with his Catonian "signature" line, "The Chinese must go! Soon enough, the law, as interpreted and en--forced in San Francisco and California, was leveled at Kearney and his Workingmen.
In early November, a few days after a WPC demonstration just outside the ornate Nob Hill mansion Chinese exclusion act 1882 yahoo dating George Crocker, Kearney and several of his lieutenants were arrested on charges of incitement to riot. After Kearney spent three weeks in jail, the charges were dropped.