The Federal Government and the Problem of Chinese Rights in the Era of the Fourteenth Amendment

30 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2009

See all articles by Earl M. Maltz

Earl M. Maltz

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Rutgers Law School

Date Written: September 10, 2009

Abstract

Studies of the federal government’s response to racial discrimination during the immediate post-Civil War era typically dealt almost exclusively with the treatment of free blacks. This focus is in many respects entirely understandable. After all, the debate over black rights was a major factor dividing the Republican and Democratic parties, as well as one of the central themes of the entire Reconstruction process. Thus it should not be surprising that the subject has attracted the attention of most students of race relations, as well as those interested in the period more generally.

Blacks were not, however, the only racial minority in America during the late Nineteenth Century. Chinese immigrants were also present in significant numbers; moreover, while the status of blacks was the primary concern of the drafters of Reconstruction measures, the impact of such measures on the condition of the Chinese was also the subject of considerable discussion.

This article, first published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy in 1994, explores the treatment of Chinese people by Congress and the Supreme Court in order both to elucidate the Republican attitude toward the Chinese and clarify the interaction between status, race, and rights in Republican ideology. The article begins by comparing and contrasting the respective places of black and Chinese people in the political dynamic of the Reconstruction era. The article analyzes congressional debates over the status of Chinese persons in the period between 1869 and 1872. Finally, the article examines the Supreme Court’s response to anti-Chinese legislation in the immediate post-Reconstruction period and concludes that, although the disposition of these cases fell far short of a blanket condemnation of racial discrimination, it was consistent with the ideology of those who controlled the drafting of the Reconstruction amendments.

Suggested Citation

Maltz, Earl Michael, The Federal Government and the Problem of Chinese Rights in the Era of the Fourteenth Amendment (September 10, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1471513 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1471513

Earl Michael Maltz (Contact Author)

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Rutgers Law School ( email )

Newark, NJ
United States

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