A Fatal Delusion

August 6, 1869


The immigration of the Chinese to America is problematic because they will take jobs and opportunities from the "negroes". The blacks are not leaving or diminishing in number, so it is important that we are able to provide them with jobs; Chinese immigration disrupts this.


A Fatal Delusion. It is evident that some of the southern people who advocate the importation of Chinese into this country believe that the negroes will thus not only he deprived of employment but driven out of the country. The Carolina Times says: "He [the Mongol] will supplant the negro in the holds and in places of menial service, and will crowd him out. In the language of the Moor, 'Where should Othello go?" " The white wave of emigration will sweep down from the frozen North and occupy all the temperate belt, while the Mongolian, pouring in through California over the Pacific railroad and through southern ports, will fill the tropical regions and cultivate the rice, sugar, and cotton, to which they have always been accustomed. Thus the deludcd negro will be crushed between the upper and nether mill-stones of a perverted destiny. But for leagues and franchise, Chinese laborers never would have been thought of in these southern States. The negro's own perversity, Yankee intrigue, and scalawag thirst for office, brought this upon his race, and it is doomed beyond the hope of rescue. " This is no picture of the probable future, but a fact of the immediate and inevitable present. Already are these Mongolians on their way, and before another planting season, more than a thousand will be in Mecklenburg county. When it is known that the Chinese are faithful to their contracts, laborious, industrious, and devoid to their employers', all who ernploy labor at all will have them; and then what will become of "Afric's hapless sons"? Those who suppose that either a scarcity of good food or density of population will drive out people who are not able to pay their way are very much mistaken. The Chinese may come, and they may take the negro's place in the cotton States; but they may not drive him out of the country ? He will become a vagabond, a thief, a beggar, a nuisance, a pauper--what you will--but he will not quit the country. The writer of the above admits that the Chinese will not trouble us here in Virginia. He predicts that white men will settle upon our unoccupied lands. But he also prophesies that in the cotton States the negro is "doomed beyond the hope of rescue," that he will be supplanted in the fields and in places of menial service, and crowded out of the country. Let any one who supposes that denscncss of population will expel these negroes look to China itself, and he will see one-third of the inhabitants of the garth living within the bounds of that country, and consuming each man so little that the world wonders that his life is thereby sustained. Look to Ireland, and we see to-day thousands and tens of thousands of her people in such a condition as that it is absolutely impossible that the negroes can ever be reduced to greater straits. A white man may starve in a land of abundance. A negro will not. If the people of the cotton States have anything to eat themselves, they can never drive the negroes away by trying to starve them. Sambo will steel, and fill his belly, and then go to jail, or to the penitentiary, if necessary. He has no reputation to lose. It is no disgrace to him to steal. We doubt whether it would be considered a very grave offence by the negroes for clergymen of their own race to steal all they could lay their hands on. In fact, to talk about starving out negroes in such a region as this productive southern one of ours is to lose sight entirely of the negro character and the habits of the whites. We may degrade the negroes still more than they are, and may convert our beautiful land into the desolate abiding-place of paupers, vagabonds, thieves and outlaws of every sort--we may transform men who are lawful voters, and who cannot be deprived of the right of suffrage, into enemies of good government, of law and order, of the rights of property and per-son--we may, in a word, imitate Samson, and pull down the pillars which support the temple of our domestic institutions, and, like him, perish in the ruins--we may easily enough spite our faces if we are willing to bite off our noses, or ruin our laboring class if we are willing to ruin ourselves at the same time--but we cannot possibly free ourselves of the negroes. They are here, and here they will remain until the whites outnumber them us far as they now outnumber them in the northern States. And the wisest course for us to pursue will be to try to make the negro respect himself. He will then soon learn to respect not only our persons but our rights of property.
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Ali O'Hara




“A Fatal Delusion,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed December 5, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1439.