A Legal History of Chinese-Americans


  1. Foreign Miners' License Tax of 1852. California statute that required foreigners who were not citizens of the United States to take out a license for $3 a month [A Legal History of Asian American (LHA), 1790-1990, by Hyung-chan Kim: 47]. The Foreign Miners' License Tax of 1853 raised the tax to $4 a month and added $2 a month each succeeding year after October 1855 [LHA at 48]. The Foreign Miners' License Tax was held unconstitutional in 1870 but while the law was enforced, Chinese miners paid some $4.8 million, a sum that constituted one-half of the state of California's total income from all sources between 1850 and 1870 [LHA: 48] (ES).

  2. An Act to Discourage the Immigration to This State of Persons Who Cannot Become Citizens, April 28, 1855 [LHA at 49]. This California statute was held unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court in 1857.(ES)

  3. An Act to Prevent the Further Immigration of Chinese or Mongolians to This State, passed by the California state legislature in 1858 [LHA at 49].(ES)

  4. An Act to Protect Free White Labor Against Competition with Chinese Coolie Labor, passed by the California state legislature in 1862 [LHA at 49].(ES)

  5. The California Police Tax, passed by the California state legislature in 1862 [LHA at 49]. Imposed a head tax on every Chinese 18 years of age or older; required a $2.50 monthly payment if the Chinese was not engaged in the production of rice, sugar, tea, or coffee, or if the Chinese had not paid the California Foreign Miners' License Tax. The California Police Tax was challenged by plaintiff Lin Sing in Lin Sing v. Washburn, 20 Cal. 535 (1862). The California Supreme Court held in favor of plaintiff Lin Sing [LHA at 49].(ES)

  6. The Second Constitutional Convention, 1878-79, amendments ratified March 3, 1879 [LHA at 56]. The new state constitution barred Chinese from purchasing or inheriting land in California due to their status as aliens ineligible for citizenship. Section One of the constitution authorized the state legislature to prescribe "all necessary regulations for the protection of the State, and the counties, cities and towns thereof, from the burdens and evils arising from the presence of aliens." [LHA at 65, citing Tung, Chinese in America, p. 57]. Section Two, Article XIX of the California constitution prohibited extant corporations and future corporations from employing any Chinese or Mongolians. Section Three prohibited state, county, municipal, or other public agencies from employing Chinese except in punishment for crime.(ES)

  7. An Act Relating to Fishing in the Waters of This State, enacted April 23, 1880. This Act prohibited all aliens incapable of becoming "electors of the state" from "fishing, or taking any fish, lobsters, shrimp, or shellfish of any kind for the purpose of selling or giving to another person to sell" [LHA at 56, citing L.S.B. Sawyer, Reports of Cases Decided in the Circuit and District Courts of the United States for the Ninth Circuit, Vol. III (San Francisco: A.L. Bancroft and Company, 1877), pp. 451-58].(ES)

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