Analysis #2

Above: Another 1920 campaign poster for the re-election of United States Senator James Phelan, representing California. Phelan’s poster includes statistics on Japanese population growth, acreage owned, and the birth-rate of Japanese in agricultural counties throughout the state, including rural Los Angeles County and Sacramento County. People feared that Japanese immigrants in the United States were not only taking land but also bearing children who would be American citizens by birth due to the 14th Amendment.

Yamato Ichihashi was born in Japan but migrated to the United States as a teen in 1894, and was most likely one of the few Japanese in San Francisco as “student-laborer, who worked part-time and attended school part-time.” Living in San Francisco, he witnessed the growth of anti-Japanese sentiment and unlike most other Japanese immigrants at that time period who were laborers, pursued academic aspirations. Yamato Ichihashi was one of the first professors of Japanese ancestry in the United States. Of Yamato, Gordon Chang
(Links to an external site.)
writes, “He may have been Stanford’s first nonwhite professor… He was a man who felt oddly out of place wherever he was. He was neither fully Japanese nor American, an uncomfortable condition he grappled with his entire life. And he faced other identity contradictions — personal, professional, political, moral. In many ways, he can be said to be a ‘postmodern’ figure, one who does not conform to an accepted, defined, national historical pattern. Seen in this way, perhaps he is more akin to the ‘trans-Pacific’ population, whose numbers have grown steadily in this century as the putative Asia-Pacific region has become incrasingly integrated in human, political, and economic terms.”

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Read and analyze the following excerpt written by Yamato Ishihashi in 1913 for this assignment:

…I wish to briefly narrate this history which culminated in the present land law. In 1899 there was held in San Francisco a mass meeting under the auspices of the Building Trade Council and San Francisco Labor Council. The nature of that meeting may be learned from Mr. T. F. Turner who gathered information from these agitators and wrote in the report of the Industrial Commission of 1900 as follows: “They (Chinese) are cheap laborers: deprive the whites of their employment, and also keep out the white immigrants from the State: they are loathsome in their habits and filthy in their dwelling: and vile in their morals.” “They (Japanese) are more servile than the Chinese, but less obedient and far less desirable. They have most of the vices of the Chinese with none of their virtues. They underbid in everything and as a class are tricky, unreliable, and dishonest.” But he offers no facts to support his statement.

In 1905 the Asiatic Exclusion League, then known as the Japanese and Korean Exclusion League, was organized and O. E. Toveitmoe was made its president. He is still with it. Who he is need not be told. He is too famous for that. The League has already caused a great deal of unnecessary unpleasantry. The “School Question” of 1906 was entirely due to their activity. The entire number of Japanese school children attending the public schools then was no more than 92, and these were scattered in twenty different schools…

The smashing of the Japanese restaurants was also encouraged by the same League… Their agitation work has been much aided by certain politicians both in the Congress and in the State Legislature. These have systematized their vilification of the Japanese race. For example, Mr. E. A. Hayes a Representative from this State would tell you: “A close acquaintance shows one that unblushing lying is so universal among the Japanese as to be one of the leading national traits; that commercial honor, even among her commercial classes, is so rare as to be only the exception that proves the reverse rule, and that the vast majority of the Japanese people do not understand the meaning of the word morality, but are given up to practice of licentiousness more generally than any other nation in the world justly making any pretense to civilization…” These words are taken from his speech made before the House on March 13, 1906, under the title of “Japanese Exclusion.” And the authority of his statement is the Asiatic Exclusion League.

I am afraid that the opening sentence has to include Mr. Hayes himself. At its best, it is the case of a pot calling a kettle black… But like some of the California Representatives in the Congress, some of the State legislators have joined their interests with those of professional agitators. It is superfluous to add that these men are guided neither by patriotism nor even by chauvinism, but by money-getting and vote-getting motives. “Japs are Mongolian”, therefore, the mob psychology works well. Japs are politically defenseless, therefore they can be abused to any degree without fear of revenge. There is no better victim than Japs for their selfish motive. Consequently, for the past several years, the State legislature has been flooded with anti-Japanese bills of every description. The anti-Japanese land law to be is nothing new.

But how about the actual situation about the Japanese ownership of land in California? The census for 1911 disclosed the fact that the total amount of farm lands in the State was 27,931,444 acres. Of this amount the Japanese owned no more than 12,736 acres, or less than one two- thousandth part of the entire amount. In 1910 the Japanese numbered 56,000 forming two per cent of the population of the State. This number has actually decreased since as the result of a stringent enforcement of the agreement of 1907. Finally, the Japanese have been residing in California for now nearly fifty years. In view of such facts what danger is there in the insignificant amount of land owned by the Japanese?

Source: Yamato Ichihashi, “The California Alien Land Law.” The American Citizen (June 1913).


Remember, for these assignments you need to demonstrate that you can connect this text with relevant historical information from the textbook and not just searching for information on the Internet. The following questions will guide your writing:

Using the excerpt above, discuss the historical context and concerns around the passage of the alien land laws. Moreover, how does the excerpt provide some perspective on perceived differences between the Japanese and Chinese? How does the excerpt reference other significant issues that informed Japanese American experiences in the early 20th century?

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