Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact


SDHF Newsletter No. 389 The Road to the Greater East Asian War Part 16, Chapter 4 : The Inception of Discord between Japan and the US-2

Nakamura Akira, Dokkyo University Professor Emeritus
(English Translation: Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact)
Part 16, Chapter 4: The Inception of Discord between Japan and the US-2
Problems relating to the exclusion of Japanese immigrants arose at about the time the Russo-Japanese War was fought.
Chinese immigration to the US started during the Gold Rush in 1848. The number of immigrants soon swelled, and discord with American laborers resulted, giving birth to a movement to exclude Chinese. In 1880s, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed and after 1906 Chinese laborers were permanently barred from entering the US and its possessions, and Chinese nationals were denied the right to become American citizens.
Japanese emigration to the US began as far back as 1861. In the 1880s, when the Chinese Exclusion Act went into force, the number of Japanese laborers entering the US, replacing the Chinese, began to burgeon.
Meanwhile, in Hawaii the Agreement Between Japan and Hawaii Concerning Emigration from Japan was concluded in 1884. Subsequently, the number of Japanese immigrants ballooned. By 1900 there were 61,111 Japanese residing in Hawaii (39.7% of the total population). Japanese were the largest foreign group in Hawaii, outnumbering Chinese and native Hawaiians by two to one, and Americans by nine to one.
With the dawning of the 20th century, the number of Japanese immigrants to the continental US suddenly soared. The reason for this increase was the new territorial status of Hawaii, and the subsequent large numbers of Japanese moving to the West Coast of the US. As if corresponding with this increase in numbers, the anti-Japanese movement began to gain momentum.
In October 1906 the San Francisco Board of Education ordered the segregation of Japanese school children. As a result Japanese students who had been enrolled in public schools were forced to attend s segregated school (the Oriental Public School) located in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
The Japanese government responded with a protest that condemned the segregation order, pronouncing it a contemptuous act that categorized the Japanese as an inferior race, and caused grievous insult to their national pride and honor.
For some time President Theodore Roosevelt had been worried about the effect the exclusionist movement might have on Japan-US relations. He was extremely critical of the segregation order. In October 1906, he wrote the following in a letter to his son Kermit: “I am being horribly bothered about the Japanese business. The infernal fools in California, and especially in San Francisco, insult Japanese recklessly and in the event of war it will be the Nation as a whole which will pay the consequences.”
In a message to Congress delivered at the end of 1906, Roosevelt spoke of the progress Japan had made, saying that it “now stands as one of the greatest of civilized nations.” He also referred to the generous gift of $100,000 Japan had sent to the people of San Francisco after the earthquake. He emphasized the friendship that had developed between the two nations, and the economic and cultural cooperation. Roosevelt referred to the segregation order as a “wicked absurdity.” He recommended that legislation be passed enabling Japanese immigrants to become American citizens.
Roosevelt ultimately succeeded in convincing the San Francisco Board of Education to rescind the segregation order. But in its stead appeared a prohibition against Japanese with passports for Canada, Mexico, or Hawaii entering the continental US, and also a treaty limiting the number of Japanese immigrants.
The Gentlemen’s Agreement was an informal pledge exchanged between Foreign Minister Hayashi and US Ambassador O’Brien concerning limitations on the emigration of laborers whereby Japan voluntarily prohibited new laborers from entering the US. Still, the agreement did not succeed in placating anti-Japanese crusaders.
MOTEKI Hiromichi, Chairman
Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact