of the United States
, from Sept. 19, 1881, to March 4, 1885; Republican; born in Fairfield, Vt.
, Oct. 5, 1830; was graduated at Union College in 1848; studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1854; and became a successful practitioner.
He gained much celebrity in a suit which involved the freedom of some slaves, known as the “Lemmon
He procured the admission of colored persons to the street-cars of New York City by gaining a suit against a railway company in 1856. Mr. Arthur
did efficient service during the Civil War
as quartermaster-general of the State of New York
In 1872 he was appointed collector of the port of New York, and was removed in 1878.
In 1880, he was elected Vice-President
, and on the death of President Garfield
, Sept, 19, 1881, he became President
He died in New York City, Nov. 18, 1886.
Veto of Chinese immigration bill.
On April 4, 1882, President Arthur
sent the following veto message to the Senate:
To the Senate,--After a careful consideration of Senate Bill No. 71
, entitled “An act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese
I herewith return it to the Senate, in which it originated, with my objections to its passage.
A nation is justified in repudiating its treaty obligations only when they are in conflict with great paramount interests.
Even then all possible reasonable means for modifying or changing these obligations by mutual agreement should be exhausted before resorting to the supreme right of refusal to comply with them.
These rules have governed the United States
in their past intercourse with other powers.
as one of the family of nations.
I am persuaded that if Congress can feel that this act violates the faith of the nation as pledged to China
, it will concur with me in rejecting this particular mode of regulating Chinese
immigration, and will endeavor to find another which shall meet the expectations of the people of the United States
without coming in conflict with the rights of China
The present treaty relations between that power and the United States
spring from an antagonism which arose between
our paramount domestic interests and our previous relations.
The treaty commonly known as the Burlingame treaty conferred upon Chinese
subjects the right of voluntary emigration to the United States
for the purposes of curiosity or trade, or as permanent residents, and was in all respects reciprocal as to citizens of the United States
It gave to the voluntary emigrant coming to the United States
the right to travel there or reside there, with all the privileges, immunities, or exemptions enjoyed by the citizens or subjects of the most favored nation.
Under the operation of this treaty it was found that the institutions of the United States
and the character of its people and their means of obtaining a livelihood might be seriously affected by the unrestricted introduction of Chinese
Congress attempted to alleviate this condition by legislation, but the act which it passed proved to be in violation of our treaty obligations, and, being returned by the President
with his objections, failed to become a law.
Diplomatic relief was then sought.
A new treaty was concluded with China
Without abrogating the Burlingame treaty, it was agreed to modify it so far that the government of the United States
might regulate, limit, or suspend the coming of Chinese
laborers to the United States
, or their residence therein, but that it should not absolutely prohibit them, and that the limitation or suspension should be reasonable, and should apply only to Chinese
who might go to the United States
as laborers, other classes not being included in the limitations.
This treaty is unilateral, not reciprocal.
It is a concession from China
to the United States
in limitation of the rights which she was enjoying under the Burlingame treaty.
It leaves us by our own act to determine when and how we will enforce those limitations.
fairly have a right to expect that in enforcing them we will take good care not to overstep the grant, and to take more than has been conceded to us.
It is but a year since this new treaty under the operation of the Constitution
, became part of the supreme law of the land; and the present act is the first attempt to exercise the more enlarged powers which it relinquishes to the United States
In its first article, the United States
is empowered to decide whether the coming of Chinese
laborers to the United States
, or their residence therein, affects or threatens to affect our interests, or to endanger good order, either within the whole country or in any part of it. The act recites that “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 thereof.”
But the act itself is much broader than the recital.
It acts upon residence as well as immigration, and its provisions are effective throughout the United States
I think it may fairly be accepted as an expression of the opinion of Congress that the coming of such laborers to the United States
, or their residence here, affects our interests and endangers good order through the country.
On this point I should feel it my duty to accept the views of Congress.
The first article further confers the power upon this government to regulate, limit, or suspend, but not actually to prohibit, the coming of such laborers to or their residence in the United States
The negotiators of the treaty have recorded with unusual fulness their understanding of the sense and meaning with which these words were used.
As to the class of persons to be affected by the treaty, the Americans
inserted in their draft a provision that the words “Chinese
laborers” signify all immigration other than that for “teaching, trade, travel, study, and curiosity.”
objected to this that it operated to include artisans in the class of laborers whose immigration might be forbidden.
replied that they could not consent that artisans shall be excluded from the class of Chinese
laborers, for it is this very competition of skilled labor in the cities, where the Chinese labor immigration concentrates, which has caused the embarrassment and popular discontent.
In the subsequent negotiations this definition dropped out, and does not appear in the treaty.
of the treaty confers the rights, privileges, immunities, and exemptions which are accorded to citizens and subjects of the most favored
nation upon Chinese
subjects proceeding to the United States
as teachers, students, merchants, or from curiosity.
The American Commissioners report that the Chinese government claimed that in this article they did, by exclusion, provide that nobody should be entitled to claim the benefit of the general provisions of the Burlingame treaty but those who might go to the United States
in those capacities or for those purposes.
I accept this as the definition of the word “laborers” as used in the treaty.
As to the power of legislating respecting this class of persons the new treaty provides that we “may not absolutely prohibit” their coming or their residence.
commissioners gave notice in the outset that they would never agree to a prohibition of voluntary emigration.
Notwithstanding this, the United States
commissioners submitted a draft in which it was provided that the United States
might “regulate, limit, suspend, or prohibit” it. The Chinese
refused to accept this.
replied that they were willing to consult the wishes of the Chinese government in preserving the principle of free intercourse between the people of the two countries as established by existing treaties, provided that the right of the United States government to use its discretion in guarding against any possible evils of immigration of Chinese
laborers is distinctly recognized.
Therefore. if such concession removes all difficulty on the part of the Chinese commissioners (but only in that case), the United States
commissioners will agree to remove the word “prohibit” from their article and to use the words “regulate, limit, or suspend.”
reply to this can only be inferred from the fact that in the place of an agreement, as proposed by our commissioners, that we night prohibit the coming or residence of Chinese
laborers, there was inserted in the treaty an agreement that we might not do it.
The remaining words, “regulate, limit, and suspend,” first appear in the American
When it was submitted to the Chinese they said: “We infer that of the phrases regulate, limit, suspend, or prohibit, the first is a general expression referring to the others. . . . We are entirely ready to negotiate with your Excellencies to the end that a limitation either in point of time or numbers may be fixed upon the emigration of Chinese
laborers to the United States
At a subsequent interview they said that “by limitations in number they meant, for example, that the United States
, having, as they supposed, a record of the number of immigrants in each year, as well as the total number of Chinese
now there, that no more should be allowed to go in any one year in future than either the greatest number which had gone in any year in the past, or that the total number should never be allowed to exceed the number now there.
As to limitation of time, they meant, for example, that Chinese
should be allowed to go in alternate years, or every third year, or for example, that they should not be allowed to go for two, three, or five years.”
At a subsequent conference the Americans
said: “The Chinese
commissioners have in their project explicitly recognized the right of the United States
to use some discretion, and have proposed a limitation as to time and number.
This is the right to regulate, limit, or suspend.”
In one of the conferences the Chinese asked the Americans
whether they could give them any idea of the laws which would be passed to carry the powers into execution.
answered that this could hardly be done; that the United States government might never deem it necessary to exercise this power.
It would depend upon circumstances.
immigration concentrated in cities, where it threatened public order, or if it confined itself to localities where it was an injury to the interests of the American
people, the government of the United States
would undoubtedly take steps to prevent such accumulations of Chinese
If, on the contrary, there was no large immigration, or if there were sections of the country where such immigration was clearly beneficial, then the legislation of the United States
under this power would be adapted to such circumstances.
For example, there might be a demand for Chinese
labor in the South
and a surplus of such labor in California
, and Congress might legislate in accordance with these facts.
In general, the legislation would be in view of and depend upon circumstances of the situation at the moment
such legislation became necessary.
commissioners said this explanation was satisfactory; but they had not intended to ask for a draft of any special act, but for some general idea of how the power would be exercised.
What had just been said gave them the explanation which they wanted.
With this entire accord as to the meaning of the words they were about to employ, and the object of the legislation which might be had in consequence, the parties signed the treaty, in Article I. of which “the government of China
agrees that the government of the United States
may regulate, limit, or suspend such coming or residence, but may not absolutely prohibit it. The limitation or suspension shall be reasonable, and shall apply only to Chinese
who may go to the United States
as laborers, other classes not being included in the limitations.
Legislation taken in regard to Chinese
laborers will be of such a character only as is necessary to enforce the regulation, limitation, or suspension of immigration.”
The first section of the act provides that “from and after the expiration of sixty days next after the passage of this act, and until the expiration of twenty years next after the passage of this act, the coming of Chinese
laborers 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 sixty days, to remain within the United States
The examination which I have made of the treaty and of the declarations which its negotiators have left on record of the meaning of its language leaves no doubt in my mind that neither contracting party in concluding the treaty of 1880 contemplated the passage of an act prohibiting immigration for twenty years, which is nearly a generation, or thought that such a period would be a reasonable suspension or limitation, or intended to change the provisions of the Burlingame treaty to that extent.
I regard this provision of the act as a breach of our national faith, and being unable to bring myself in harmony with the views of Congress on this vital point, the honor of the country constrains me to return the act with this objection to its passage.
Deeply convinced of the necessity of some legislation on this subject, and concurring fully with Congress in many of the objects which are sought to be accomplished, I avail myself of the opportunity to point out some other features of the present act which, in my opinion, can be modified to advantage.
The classes of Chinese
who still enjoy the protection of the Burlingame treaty are entitled to the privileges, immunities, and exemptions accorded to citizens and subjects of the most favored nation.
We have treaties with many powers which permit their citizens and subjects to reside within the United States
and carry on business under the same laws and regulations which are enforced against citizens of the United States
I think it may be doubted whether provisions requiring personal registration and the taking out of passports which are not imposed upon natives can be required of Chinese
Without expressing an opinion on that point, I may invite the attention of Congress to the fact that the system of personal registration and passports is undemocratic and hostile to the spirit of our institutions.
I doubt the wisdom of putting an entering wedge of this kind into our laws.
A nation like the United States
, jealous of the liberties of its citizens, may well hesitate before it incorporates into its polity a system which is fast disappearing in Europe
before the progress of liberal institutions.
A wide experience has shown how futile such precautions are, and how easily passports may be borrowed, exchanged, or even forged by persons interested to do so.
If it is, nevertheless, thought that a passport is the most convenient way for identifying the Chinese entitled to the protection of the Burlingame treaty, it may still be doubted whether they ought to be required to register.
It is certainly our duty, under the Burlingame treaty, to make their stay in the United States
, in the operation of general laws upon them, as nearly like that of our own citizens as we can consistently with our right to shut out the laborers.
No good purpose is served in requiring them to register.
My attention has been called by the Chinese minister to the fact that the bill as it stands makes no provision for the transit across the United States
subjects now residing in foreign countries.
I think that this point may well claim the attention of Congress in legislating on this subject.
I have said that good faith requires us to suspend the immigration of Chinese
laborers for a less period than twenty years. I now add that good policy points in the same direction.
Our intercourse with China
is of recent date.
Our first treaty with that power is not yet forty years old. It is only since we acquired California
and established a great seat of commerce on the Pacific
that we may be said to have broken down the barriers which fenced in that ancient monarchy.
treaty naturally followed.
Under the spirit which inspired it, many thousand Chinese
laborers came to the United States
No one can say that the country has not profited by their work.
They were largely instrumental in constructing the railroads which connect the Atlantic
with the Pacific
The States of the Pacific
slope are full of evidences of their industry.
Enterprises profitable alike to the capitalist and the laborer of Caucasian origin would have been dormant but for them.
A time has now come when it is supposed they are not needed, and when it is thought by Congress, and by those most acquainted with the subject, that it is best to try to get along without them.
There may, however, be other sections of the country where this species of labor may be advantageously employed without interfering with the laborers of our own race.
In making the proposed experiment it may be the part of wisdom, as well as of good faith, to fix the length of the experimental period with reference to this fact.
Experience has shown that the trade of the East
is the key to national wealth and influence.
The opening of China
to the commerce of the whole world has benefited no section of it more than the States of our own Pacific slope.
The State of California
and its great maritime ports especially have reaped enormous advantages from this source.
Blessed with an exceptional climate, enjoying an unrivalled harbor, with the riches of a great agricultural and mining State in its rear, and the wealth of the whole Union pouring into it over its lines of railroad, San Francisco
has before it an incalculable future if our friendly and amicable relations with Asia
It needs no argument to show that the policy which we now propose to adopt must have a direct tendency to repel Oriental
nations from us, and to drive their trade and commerce into more friendly hands.
It may be that the great and paramount interest of protecting our labor from Asiatic competition may justify us in a permanent adoption of this policy; but it is wiser in the first place to make a shorter experiment with a view hereafter of maintaining permanently only such features as time and experience may commend.
I transmit herewith copies of the papers relating to the recent treaty with China
which accompanied the confidential message of President Hayes
to the Senate of Jan. 10, 1881, and also a copy of the memorandum respecting the act herewith returned, which was handed to the Secretary of State
by the Chinese minister in Washington
Chester A. Arthur
. Executive mansion, Washington
, April 4, 1882
1. The time fixed in the bill, namely, twenty years, is unreasonable.
The language of Article I. that “laborers” shall not be absolutely prohibited from coming to the United States
and that the “suspension shall be reasonable,” as well as the negotiations, indicate that a brief period was intended.
The total prohibition of the immigration of Chinese
laborers into the United States
for twenty years would, in my opinion, be unreasonable, and a violation of the meaning and intent of the treaty.
2. The inclusion of “skilled labor” in the bill is an addition to the words and intent of the treaty.
It will operate with harshness upon a class of Chinese
merchants entitled to admission to the United States
under the terms of the treaty.
The shoe merchants and cigar merchants of China
manufacture the goods they sell
at their places of business, and to shut out the “skilled labor” they need would practically shut them out as well, since it would prevent them from carrying on their business in this country.
The laundryman, who keeps his shop and has a small capital with which to prosecute his trade, cannot in any sense be included in the class of “laborers,” and the merchant tailor comes in the same category.
3. The clauses of the bill relating to registration and passports are a vexatious discrimination against Chinese
residents and immigrants, when Article II.
provides explicitly that they shall be entitled to all the privileges conceded to the subjects of the most favored nation.
The execution of these provisions of the bill will cause irritation, and in case of the loss of the passport or certificate of registration, Chinese
residents entitled to remain may be forcibly expelled from the country.
4. If the bill becomes a law it will leave the impression in China
that its government strangely misunderstood the character of the treaty, or that the Congress
has violated some of its provisions, and this will tend to prejudice the intelligent classes against the United States government and people, whom they now greatly admire and respect.
5. There is no provision in the bill for the transit across the United States
subjects now residing in foreign countries.
Large numbers of Chinese
live in Cuba
, and other countries, who cannot return home without crossing the territory of the United States
or touching at San Francisco
To deny this privilege, it seems to me, is in violation of international law and the comity of nations.
and if the bill becomes a law it will in this respect result in great hardship to many thousands of innocent Chinese
in foreign countries.