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A 19th century China Town restaurant in New York City.
A 19th century Chinatown restaurant in New York City. Photo Credit: The New York Public Library

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The Early Years

"Sir: I am a Chinaman, a republican, and a lover of free institutions"

by Norman Asing

California Governor John Bigler was among those who turned against the Chinese after expressing friendship toward them. In his campaign for re-election in 1852, he urged fellow citizens to "check this tide of Asiatic immigration," claiming that the Chinese were incapable of becoming American. They could not assimilate. Norman Asing, the owner of a restaurant in San Francisco, responded to Bigler in an open letter published in The Daily Alta California on May 15, 1852.

Sir: I am a Chinaman, a republican, and a lover of free institutions; am much attached to the principles of the government of the United States... The effect of your late message has been thus far to prejudice the public mind against my people, to enable those who wait the opportunity to hunt them down, and rob them of the rewards of their toil... You argue that this is a republic of a particular race — that the Constitution of the United States admits of no asylum to any other than the pale face. This proposition is false to the extreme, and you know it. The declaration of your independence, and all the acts of your government, your people, and your history are all against you.

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