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Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act (Contention; 7) Paperback – November 23, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0807847398 ISBN-10: 0807847399

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Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act (Contention; 7) + At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943
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Product Details

  • Series: Contention; 7
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (November 23, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807847399
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807847398
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,536,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Gyory's work is the first fresh, original interpretation of the origins of Chinese exclusion in quite some time. Lucy E. Salyer, University of New Hampshire

Book Description

"The most detailed account available of Chinese exclusion as a national issue."--Journal of Interdisciplinary History

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on December 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
Andrew Gyory's "Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act" attempts to answer a central question about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, specifically why the United States government passed this bill. According to the author, current historians who have examined the issue fail to offer a comprehensive explanation for this event. Gyory claims that the act did not arise from nationwide racism or at the behest of national labor leaders even though these elements formed an important aspect in its passage. Instead, he offers an alternative thesis: the Chinese Exclusion Act came into existence largely because national politicians sought votes from western states. Moreover, office seekers falsely claimed that anti-Chinese legislation had tacit support from workers across the nation and further argued that the laboring classes would greatly benefit from such a bill. Gyory finds that far from supporting an exclusion of Asian workers, most workingmen east of the Rocky Mountains had few concerns with Chinese immigration.
The first few chapters define an issue that repeatedly appears throughout the book: labor in the West supported Chinese exclusion while workers in the East did not. The distinction between the two camps hinged on the issue of importation versus exclusion. Starting in 1869 and reappearing throughout the 1870s, eastern capitalists threatened to import Chinese to break strikes. The fear that these Asian laborers would work longer hours for a lower wage presented a serious threat to emerging efforts at unionization. Most attempts to bring in Asian workers never materialized, despite the hysteria regarding an 1870 incident in North Adams, Massachusetts where a factory owner did bring in Chinese labor to break a strike.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ken Buffum on September 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
In this well researched monograph, Andrew Gyory seeks to answer one question: Why did the United States pass the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882? In the past, historians have clung to two arguments to explain the passage of this act; the California and national-racism theses. The former suggests that workers and politicians in California supplied the driving force behind the Exclusion Act while the latter supports the view that a national xenophobia and prejudice towards the Chinese led to the act's passage. Gyory downplays the role that these two factors had in securing the exclusionist legislation. Instead, he argues that politicians played the race card to improve their political standing in hopes of getting elected to office. Gyory asserts, "The single most important force behind the Chinese Exclusion Act was national politicians of both parties who seized, transformed, and manipulated the issue of Chinese immigration in the quest for votes." Throughout the monograph Gyory seeks to illustrate how politicians took up the issue of Chinese immigration in an attempt to reach their political aspirations.

In order to prove his point, Gyory attempts to disprove the long held thesis that workers nationwide supported Chinese exclusion. He stressed that opposition to Chinese immigration east of the Rockies was largely nonexistent. According to his argument, eastern workers were simply opposed to the Chinese coming to the nation under contract. Hence, white workers had no desire to support immigration legislation based upon race. In fact, Gyory believes, "Most workers evinced little interest in Chinese exclusion." Contrary to prior historiography, he suggests that Chinese exclusion gained acceptance because politicians claimed it would benefit the workingman.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amy on November 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is the hot new book on the Chinese Exclusion Act. Dare I spoil the plot? Previous literature on the act falls under (1) the California thesis (proposed first by Coolidge in 1909), and (2) the national racist thesis (which includes famous labor theorists like David Roediger and Gwendolyn Mink). Gyory suggests the California thesis is correct, but it needs to be pitched differently: the Republican party becomes a mere electoral apparatus (after abolitionism) and uses the Chinese question to win over the west, rather than chosing a more controversial issue. The reason why I like this book: This was the heyday of courts and parties--he's right and easy to read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
America had become the typical chosen destination of immigrants for its image of a land of plenty, a non-stratified society, and its democracy. This ideal of allowing immigrants to take advantage of these opportunities regardless of their ethnicity ended with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The rationalization for this law was first hypothesized by Mary Coolidge on the basis of California racist atmosphere and political pull in Washington. Later it was suggested by Stuart Miller that it was workers that encouraged Chinese exclusion. Gyory suggests neither one of these theses are correct, but the catalyst for the prohibition of Chinese immigration was national politicians who seized and manipulated the issue in an effort to gain votes, while arguing that workers had long demanded Chinese exclusion and would benefit from it. Gyory's main intention was to exonerate the workingman as being the contingency that caused the Chinese exclusion. This is stated by including union newspapers and labor proceedings stating their opposition to imported contract labor, but not exclusion. The emergence of a nation-wide railroad strike bared the clear social divisions of the Gilded Age. Demanding `bread or blood,' railroad workers instigated speculation of a possible social revolution and the first red scare of a communist putsch. Upon the perceived anti-Chinese rhetoric and Dennis Kearney's urging Chinese exclusion, politicians were prompted to pick a non-ideological issue to appease these workers' demands. This study does demonstrate a new perspective on the instruments that enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act, but fails to give evidence why the masses accepted the politician's racist platforms.
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