previous next
[208]

Chapter 20: Mongol Migration.

Nothing so strange, hardly anything so grave, has happened in our time as this opening of a new Asiatic problem on the field of American politics.

Time out of mind the Chinese people stayed at home, asking for no fraternity of men, but barring their doors in every stranger's face. Not caring for the outer world, they sought to dwell alone, living their own life, enjoying their own produce, observing their own rites. A wall, the greatest work of human toil, divided them from neighbours on the west, while in the east they had no neighbours save the winds and waves. In every Chinese port, at every Chinese town, a barrier rose; a wall, a gate, a tariff, an observance; something that kept the world at bay. A pilgrim now and then slipped through the toils and brought back stories from the land of flowers. Some trader now and then corrupted an [209] official, and exchanged the produce of one country for another. Thus a gate was opened, here and there, to let in opium and to fetch out tea. Yet, taken as a whole, the countries stretching from the Hindu Koosh to the Yellow Sea were closed against the enterprise, sealed against the knowledge of mankind.

A stranger might not enter and a native could not leave the country. China was a land apart, having no relation with the outer world. Even for natives there were classes and societies, which for social purposes were separated from each other like the castes in Bengal. On every door there was a mystery. A trader could not see his mandarin, nor could a mandarin speak to his prince. Women were hidden in zenanas, and a hundred rules and rites divided class from class and man from man. Except a member of the Royal House, no one could look on the “ Son of Heaven.” Locked in his palace, ignorant alike of men and things, surrounded by female slaves, the ruler of one third of the human race passed his days in drinking tea, in smoking opium, and in fonding slaves. In his besotted pride and ignorance, the Tartar prince regarded every one [210] who lived outside his empire, as a dog, unfit to bask in the light of his celestial eyes.

An English broadside smashed the gates of this paradise of tea drinkers and opium-smokers. Through the breach then opened by our guns the natives came pouring forth, and ever since that day, they have continued rushing, like the water from a mountain lake. They pour in threads, in cataracts, in streams; one stream turning into Polynesia, a second stream running to Australia, and a third stream racing towards the Golden Gate. Who can assure us that these streams will ever stop?

By preference these Mongols make for California; first, because the voyage is cheap and easy; second, because the climate suits them; third, because the pay is higher and the market wider than they find elsewhere. From California they go to Oregon by sea, to Nevada, Idaho, and Montana by land. In Utah they have found few markets, the Mormons being as sober and laborious as themselves. Yet even in Salt Lake City they have found a lodgment. They arrive in shoals, and every year those shoals expand in size. At first they entered in twos and threes, then by tens and twenties, in a while by [211] hundreds and thousands. Now they are coming by tens of thousands.

The entry of these Asiatic hordes into America has been so silent, and their presence in the land has proved so useful, that the graver aspects of the case, though seen by men of science, have never yet been faced by politicians. A thinker here and there has asked himself-how this invasion of barbarians will affect the European races in America? But he has shrunk appalled from his own query as the Yellow Spectre rose before his mind.

Five great facts are plainly visible, and the consequences of these five great facts are obvious to every thinker:

1. China is the next neighbour of California on her western face; the ports of Canton, Ning-po, and Shang-hae, being those from which passengers arrive most cheaply at the Golden Gate. A Celtic emigrant in Cork must count on spending a hundred dollars in money ere he lands at Hunter's Point. A Mongol emigrant in Canton can reckon on reaching Hunter's Point at a cost of forty-five dollars; five of which are held by the Fook Ting Tong Society as a reserve for carrying back his bones to Hong [212] Kong after death. An Irish settler has to brave the roughest sea and scale the highest mountain-road on earth, while a Mongolian from Fokien or Kiang-Su is borne from port to port, along a summer zone, in waters smoother than those of the Ladies' Sea. What other proofs are needed that, when Cork and Canton cast out any of their surplus tenants, the starving overflow from Canton must arrive at San Francisco in advance of that from Cork? If China has a mouth unfed, that mouth is likely, if American ports are open, to seek for food within the Golden Gate.

2. China, California's nearest neighbour, is the poorest and most crowded country in the world. Fokien, Che-kiang, and Kiang-su, are more like beehives and ant-hills than ordinary dwelling-places of human beings. The swarm is altogether out of proportion to the width of Chinese territory and even the fertility of Chinese soil. In mere extent of surface, China is a country of the second rank; a trifle bigger than Mexico, a trifle less than Brazil. She is not half so vast as Canada or the United States. But in the number of her population she exceeds all countries under heaven. That population is incredible. If the inhabitants of Mexico and Brazil, Canada and [213] the United States, were heaped together, they would scarcely equal those of her two Eastern provinces. Add the denizens of Europe to those of America, and the totals will not reach the total of China. Queen Victoria may have a larger empire, but she has fewer subjects than the “ Son of Heaven.” Keang-Su has twice as many persons on a square mile as Belgium, the most thickly peopled corner of Europe. Che-kiang is scarcely less dense than Kiang-Su. The soil is various, and in many provinces rich; but no soil, however fertile, could support such swarms. There must be many mouths unfed. Are they not certain to escape by every open port?

3. The ports of China are not really open and the people free. No fact in Chinese history permits us to believe that this Chinese emigration is a voluntary act, as Irish or Swabian emigration is a voluntary act. Rich and happy people never quit their homes; learned and prosperous people seldom quit their homes. In almost every case, they are the indigent and thriftless members of a family who seek for settlements on a foreign soil. But when the ports are open and the act is free, there is [214] a chance that men of some good qualities may come out. Roughs of all kinds have come to San Francisco; yet the settlers from Europe, as a rule, have not belonged to the criminal class. How stands the great account with China? Has an American statesman any guarantee that the Chinese now coming in from Hong-Kong are not all, or nearly all, rebels, paupers, prostitutes, murderers, and slaves? There is but too much reason for suspicion. All the females, it is known, are slaves; professional harlots in their own country, bought in Canton by slave-dealers, and sent to San Francisco by these slave-owners, with the avowed object of living in this country a life of shame. The males, whether refuse of the prisons or of the streets, belong as a rule to the same order as this refuse of the stews. It is a question, not yet answered, whether China is not pouring out her worst convicts into California, much as England used to pour her worst convicts into Botany Bay?

4. These Mongols come in swarms. Now, the American theory of public right and order is that all authority passes to the swarm. “All men are free and equal.” Every one has the same right, the same [215] vote. Majorities decide. “ The voice of the people is the voice of God.” From the decisions of a majority there is no appeal. In that universal and ideal republic which is the dream of French socialists and Italian patriots, we should all be subject to the swarm. Luckily the new theory of governing by swarms is limited by the yet newer doctrine of grouping in nationalities. If numbers only were to tell, Kiang-Su would exercise more influence on events than either France or Italy. If numbers were to rule, as in a Universal Republic they should rule, the pig-tails of the Five Provinces alone would outweigh the genius of England, Germany, and the United States. Are the European settlers in America prepared to join hands with the Asiatic? Living on the edge of China, gazing over the Pacific Ocean into California, stand a third of the whole human race. In arms these Mongols may be met and crushed, but how are such enormous numbers to be dealt with in a ballot-box?

5. These Asiatics hurt the European settlers, not only in faith and morals, in law and literature, but in the lower regions of animal life. In any district where they have a majority they may carry [216] on schools and colleges on Asiatic rather than American lines. A Mongol has no love of physical science. He suspects a steam-engine, fears a railway-train. In place of botany and chemistry, he teaches his pupils the three thousand ceremonies of politeness. He feels no chivalry towards the fairer sex. He has no care for human life. Where he gains a majority he may restore the use of torture and extend the list of penal crimes. A slave of ritual, he will introduce his book of rites. His magistrates may enforce the wearing of pigtails and the worship of ancestors. Accustomed to slavery, polygamy, and infanticide in their own country, how can Chinese magistrates be hindered from allowing a Yellow brother to buy slaves, to marry several wives, and drown unwelcome babes?

A Californian thinker sees that the Mongol question in America is-Shall European civilization or Asiatic barbarism prevail on the Pacific Slope?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Italian (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: