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Chapter 19: our Yellow brother.

Our first glimpse of this Yellow brother is in the market-place of Baltimore, the noisiest and dirtiest spot in the United States, excepting China Town in San Francisco, which is not regarded by Sanitary Boards as being in the United States. Our brother is two-fold: perhaps man and wife; perhaps only twins. Whether he is male and female who can say? The two parts of him are of one height, and wear the same round hat and blue frock. Each part of our Asiatic brother has the same smooth face, round chin, dark eyebrows, matted hair, snub nose, and placid look. Amid the din and squalor of that mart of fish and flesh, of fruit and greenstuffs, he moves about, himself unmoved, neither bold like a Yankee, nor restive like an Apache, nor awkward like a Negro, but severely stolid and observant, asking no questions with his tongue, yet taking in every sort of [199] knowledge through his eyes. Chewing his betel-nut, he stares at stall and pen, at rack and shelf, at fish and flesh, at fruit and herb, without a brightening smile or puzzling frown; yet when he turns away, he wears the visage and expression of a man who could build that stall and pen, set up that rack and shelf, dress that fish and flesh, and sell that fruit and greenstuff.

At night we meet him in a sham-auction room, watching, with intentest unconcern, the cheap-jack put up his lots of rags, cotton, paper shoes, zinc razors, glass jewels, and shoddy skins for sale. He never makes a bid; but when the cheap-jack passes off his spurious wares, mostly on poor old Negresses, a smile of approval lights his face. Our Yellow brother is evidently at school.

A little later in the night we find him at a shooting-gallery; not firing away his cents, like the Yankees and Negroes, but looking on, and noticing the scores. If any difference can be traced in his impassive eyes, he seems less at home in the shooting-gallery than in the cheap market-place and sham auction-room. The bells ring too often. Hitting bull's-eyes appears to pain as well as puzzle him. [200] After watching eight or nine fellows crash their money on the iron disks, he gives his betel-nut a turn, squirts out his red saliva, and steps into the street, paying no more heed to the yelp of Negro sneers behind him than an Arab pays to the bark of his street dogs.

In Chicago, at the moment of starting for California, we make the acquaintance of Paul Cornell, chief partner in the great watch factory of that city. Cornell's watches are known in America as Breguet's watches are known in Europe. From the senior partner, who is going to San Francisco with a view to business, we learn that Ralston's busy brain has conceived the idea of opening a great watch factory in San Francisco, and doing the watch trade on a scale not yet attempted in Geneva or Neufchatel. The main feature of Ralston's scheme is the employment of Yellow labour in the place of White.

“Yellow labour,” says Cornell, “is cheap and good; the men are docile and intelligent; they never drink, and they are easily kept in order.”

“Have they any skill in making clocks and watches? ” [201]

“No, not yet; they have the trade to learn; but they are quick and patient. In six or eight months a poor fellow picked up in Jackson Street will be able to make a watch.”

A company has been formed in San Francisco, with Cornell as president, Ralston as treasurer, and Cox as secretary. Cornell is a patron of religious enterprises. Ralston is a patriot, so stiff in local feeling that he will not have a sofa in his parlour, a picture in his lobby, that is not of native origin. Cox is a shining light among street preachers, who devotes his Sunday energies to labour in the slums and alleys of San Francisco. Part of a factory on Fourth Street, now occupied by a carriage company, not far from the Chinese quarter, has been hired and fitted up. Tools and machinery have been sent from Cincinnati and New York. The whole affair looks well.

“ The climate of San Francisco,” Cornell explains to me, “is suitable for the watch trade. In Chicago we have many things to overcome. Summer is very hot, winter very cold. Work-people need warm clothes, good rooms, and costly food. The heat and cold affect our tools and implements. [202] Fuel is scarce and dear. In California there is neither heat to strain nor frost to chill our wheels and levers. We can work the whole year round, and if our business needs it we can run our machinery night and day.”

With Piety at the prow and Patriotism at the helm, what have the new Watch Company to fear?

“ The laws of God to fear!” snaps a voice at my side, the voice of a physician, who has lived for many years in San Francisco, and has watched the coming of our Yellow brethren from Hong Kong with pained and speculative eyes.

“I have a strong aversion to this enterprise,” he says to me in the privacy of his state-room. “I am a born American, and I want to keep America for the Americans. Few persons see so much of our Asiatics as myself, and I can tell you, as a man of science and of moral order, that I should be sorry to see the population of China Town increase. What are the Cornell Company about? They say, they are going to set up a new industry in San Francisco. But for whom? Not for Americans, but for Asiatics. They are going to teach Chinese labourers how to do the White man's work and steal the White [203] man's market. Why? Because the Asiatic, living on rice and tea, will labour for seventy-five cents. a day, while an American, living on roast beef and beer, asks five dollars a day! Should they succeed, as Cornell thinks, the watch factories in Chicago will be closed, two hundred skilful artizans will be thrown on the world, Illinois will be robbed of an artistic industry, and five or six thousand Mongols will come over from Hong Kong, of whom five or six hundred will find lucrative employment on our shores!”

As we ascend the mountains of Wyoming, we begin to meet our Yellow brother on the track; here skipping nimbly as a waiter, there drudging heavily as a hedger and ditcher; but in every place silent, docile, quick, and hardy. Sam shrinks from these mountain blasts and winter snows. Good wages tempt him to come up; but when the icy winds enter his soul, he prefers the squash and sugar-cane of South Carolina to the elk and antelope of Wyoming. Hi Lee can live in any climate and any country; in Bitter Creek, as well as in San Jose and Los Angeles; caring, it would seem, for neither heat nor cold, neither drought nor rain, [204] neither good food nor bad, neither kindness nor unkindness, so that he can earn money and save money. At Evanston, an eating station on the heights above Salt Lake, we have a troop of Chinese waiters, dressed in short white smocks like girls, having smooth round faces like girls, and soft and nimble ways like girls.

After passing Salt Lake we find these Asiatics increase in number. In and out, among the valleys at Cape Horn, Toano, Indian Creek, and Halleck, they are settling down in hut and ranch. We find them in Copper Canon and along the Palisades; we hear of them in the White Pine Country, in Mountain District, at Tuscarora, Cornu-opeia, and Eureka. They go anywhere, do anything. One of the race comes up to me at Elko with a bit of paper in his hand, on which is written “Lee Wang, antelope ranch, White Pine country.” Lee Wang cannot speak a word of English, yet he is going up alone into the mining districts of Nevada, to serve an unknown master, who may treat him as a dog. Chinese can live where other men, even Utes and Shohones, die. It is enough for them to scrape abandoned mines and glean exhausted fields. A [205] grain of silver pays them for the toil; a stalk of maize rewards them for the search. They eat dead game, which Indians will not touch. As waiters, woodmen, navvies, miners, laundresses, they drive off every labourer, whether male or female, whether White or Black.

At Elko all the races on this continent meet; Red men, Black men, White men, Yellow men; not many Red, and fewer Black; yet some of each. The Whites are mostly male, tile Chinese male and female.

Elko is the capital of Elko County, and a thousand souls are said to huddle in and out among the railway blocks. A State University is rising in the neighbourhood, based on the two great principles-first, that “ tuition is to be free,” and second, “ that no one is to be excluded from the class-room on account of sex, race, or colour.” This emancipated city in the mountains is spread in canvas and reared in plank, but five or six whisky-shops and faro-banks are being raised of brick. Yon dainty little sheds, with muslin blinds, are tenanted by Chinese girls, and I have reason to believe that all these Chinese girls are slaves. A centre of many [206] roads, as well as a railway depot, Elko has a future history. Will that history be made and told by the offspring of Mongolian slaves?

At Sacramento a street scene shows us how the White children of California are being trained to regard their Yellow brother.

“There's John!” shouts a boy to his playmate; “let's pelt him.”

The two urchins stop their play to shy pebbles at a Mongol labourer toiling at his task, giving his fair day's labour for his unfair day's wage. No one appears to think these urchins wrong in pelting that unoffending man.

“It's only John!” fires up the first lad, as I catch his arm and shake the pebbles from his fist. “It's only John! Don't you see it's only John?”

This habit of looking on a Yellow face as scum and filth, has grown up with these lads from their cradles, just as the habit of looking on a Black face used to grow up with Georgian and Virginian lads. Born in the Golden State, these boys have seen, since they could see at all, their Yellow neighbours treated like dogs-pushed, shouldered, cuffed, and kicked by every White. At home they see their Chinese [207] servant treated as a slave; at church they hear him branded as a pagan. Never since their birth have they known a Chinee resent an insult and return a blow. Where, then, is the risk of pelting such a weak and helpless butt?

The boy's father seems to take this view of the affair. Banter and argument are equally thrown away on him. John is a druge, a waif and stray, without a public right. The child, he rather thinks, pays John a compliment by trying to crack his skull.

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