China's population had soared from about 150 million people in 1700 to 400 million in 1850. By 1850 there were an estimated 4,000 Chinese people in the country, and ten years later there were nearly 35,000. The judge calculated, “Each white man costs us in board and wages $2 1/2 each 8 hours, but Chinamen cost us $1.19 each 8 hours, and they drill nearly as fast.” Chinese railroad labor was a quantity measuring time in relation to price, and the price was lower than that of white labor. [31] E. B. Crocker to Collis Huntington, July 2, 1867, Huntington Papers. Amidst colonialist race war, with the high cost of labor during the Gold Rush, the California legislature passed one of its first laws, the 1850 Act for the Government and Protection of Indians, legalizing debt peonage to force Indigenous children and adults into compulsory labor for large-scale agricultural interests, under the guise of indenture. To the Gold Mountain: The Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad. Known in San Francisco as the Six Companies, district associations functioned as mutual-aid societies where new and indigent arrivals could find shelter and basic amenities, following organizational models among Chinese communities in Southeast Asia. The winter of 1866–67 featured some of the most severe weather on record. The earliest immigrants arrived in San Francisco and quickly headed for the goldfields. [26] The next day, Judge Crocker wrote with more honesty: “The truth is, they are getting smart.” However, he doubted the workers’ intelligence: “Who has stirred up the strike we don’t know, but it was evidently planned and concerted.” The strike was a bid for direct accountability between individual workers and the Central Pacific, directed against the railroad directors and construction supervisors. Life for the huge peasant class (people who worked the soil for a living as renters, small landowners, or laborers) in China had always been difficult, but at this time it became particularly grim and many people had no food to feed their families. In December 1866, the Sacramento Daily Union reported that six Chinese miners working a placer on Bear River had defended themselves from four white men, killing two of their attackers, and causing the other two to flee for their lives. U.S. authorities had inherited labor structures from Spanish colonial California. They are not men who get drunk and pickup rows, but can be relied upon for steady work.[22]. ." Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. For Stanford, Chinese people were not, themselves, part of the social body of continental imperialism. [8] Biographical Sketch of Edwin Bryant Crocker (manuscript). Irish Workers. They are also honoring the hundreds and thousands of Chinese workers who actually completed the job. 4 (2015): 1096. The conditions did include a small raise, but no relief from the long workdays. Just west of Sacramento the foothills of the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains began their ascent. Chinese merchant capital in California could not shake off constraints on its reproduction and valorization. After the transcontinental railroad was done, Chinese workers took up factory, handicraft, and retail work in cities. ." Perl, Lila. The workweek was exhausting, consisting of six twelve-hour days. [15] E. B. Crocker to Collis Huntington, January 10, 1867, Huntington Papers. We aim to create a lively conversation about the vital social, cultural, and political issues of our times, in California and the world beyond. [2], Two months later, in April 1862, the California state legislature passed an Anti-Coolie Act, instituting a monthly tax on Chinese people working gold mines and owning businesses, a new cost for being identified as Chinese in California. Chinese spiritual beliefs were strong and profoundly influenced the young men who arrived in the United States. [6] Rev. People became sick and the smell was often unbearable. The colonization of California, accomplished by constant, ongoing, and overwhelming violation of Indigenous life, proceeded through relationships with Asia’s “numberless millions,” threatening, in Stanford’s perspective, to undermine the stability of the colonial order. New York: Benchmark Books, 2002. "Transcontinental Railroad." 16 Oct. 2020 . Chinese workers were an essential part of building the Central Pacific Railroad (CPRR), the western section of the first transcontinental railroad across the United States. Chinese and Irish Workers in the Construction of the Transcontinental Railroad Saturday, March 25, 1:00pm-3:00pm Location: United Irish Cultural Center, St. Francis Room, 2700 45th Avenue, San Francisco Free event. Ninety-five percent of this population was male. These traits made Chinese immigrants desirable to employers, but they also made them seem threatening to other workers who feared the Chinese might take their jobs. Rebel groups arose around the country, and in the Taiping Rebellion (1851–64), a violent conflict between the peasants and the Chinese rulers, an estimated twenty million to thirty million people were killed. By the summer of 1868, 4,000 workers, two thirds of which were Chinese, had built the transcontinental railroad over the Sierras and into the interior plains. Anti-Asian feelings increased in the 1870s. There were fifteen summit tunnels, totaling about 6,213 feet, when the project was finished. . The Chinese immigrants had a difficult time fitting into American society. Photograph by Alfred A. Hart, between 1865-1869. Long tunnels ran from their camps to the work sites. Five days later, the judge notified Huntington of plans to raise the Chinese workers’ wages almost 13 percent, from $31 to $35 per month. The Central Pacific kept accounts by gang, disbursing wages to a headman, who then divided the wages. These are not the hallmarks of free labor. Only about one in ten of the men that were hired stayed on the job longer than a week. [27], Racial importation was a means to control the price of labor. These companies became very powerful, and some forced the new arrivals in the United States into gang labor to pay their debt. On July 2, Judge Crocker relayed details of how the associates broke the strike: Their agent stopped supplying them with goods and provisions and they really began to suffer. "Chinese Transcontinental Railroad Workers Nevertheless, mobs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities in the West attacked Chinese communities, often killing or severely beating the residents. For the third, they had to rely on others. In turn, the West would have remained difficult to settle and might not have become as developed and populated as it is today. [10] Proceedings of the California State Convention of Colored Citizens, 1865, 92; Central Pacific Railroad Company, Report of the President, 1866, p. 33; Alexander Saxton, “The Army of Canton in the High Sierra,” in Chinese on the American Frontier, ed. In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Many opened small businesses such as laundries, restaurants, and grocery stores. It was to be expendable, interchangeable, replaceable. One firm, Sisson, Wallace & Co., eventually “furnished pretty much all of the Chinamen that we worked.”[9] Clark Crocker, brother of Charles and E.D., was the “& Co.” in question. En route to San Francisco, ships stopped in Manila, Guam, and Honolulu. In his 1851 inaugural speech as the first U.S. civil governor of California, Peter Burnett had called for a “war of extermination” against Indigenous peoples in California. Where in the federal anti-coolie law, the U.S. government asserted territorial prerogatives to control borders, in the California law, the state distinguished Chinese people as a significant source of state revenue. It was also a war to decide who would colonize California, and on what terms, echoing Stanford’s gubernatorial address. The two chief sources used were Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869 written by Stephen Ambrose and Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad by David Haward Bain. 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