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7.1: Japanese Segregation

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By 1906, Chinese people had been immigrating to San Francisco for decades, but Japanese immigrants were few and had arrived only recently. In 1906 the San Francisco Board of Education ordered Japanese students to attend Chinese schools. President Theodore Roosevelt opposed this decision and attempted to have the decision reversed. It was unusual for the president to intervene in such a local issue.

Public Speech – Theodore Roosevelt

Source: Public speech by Roosevelt, December 1905.

The California Legislature would have had an entire right to protest as emphatically as possible against the admission of Japanese laborers, for their very frugality, abstemiousness and clannishness make them formidable to our laboring class, and you may not know that they have begun to offer a serious problem in Hawaii--all the more serious because they keep an entirely distinct alien mass. Moreover, I understand that the Japanese themselves do not permit any foreigners to own land in Japan, and where they draw one kind of sharp line against us they have no right whatever to object to our drawing another kind of line against them.... I would not have objected at all to the California Legislature passing a resolution, courteous and proper in its terms, which would really have achieved the object they were after.

Questions:

  1. Sourcing: What kind of document is this?
  2. Sourcing: What do you think the intended audience was?
  3. Do you trust what Roosevelt says in this document?

Letter to Friend – Theodore Roosevelt

Source: Letter from Roosevelt to a friend on May 6, 1905, in which he criticizes the California Legislature’s recent move to restrict immigration from Japan.

The California Legislature would have had an entire right to protest as emphatically as possible against the admission of Japanese laborers, for their very frugality, abstemiousness and clannishness make them formidable to our laboring class, and you may not know that they have begun to offer a serious problem in Hawaii--all the more serious because they keep an entirely distinct alien mass. Moreover, I understand that the Japanese themselves do not permit any foreigners to own land in Japan, and where they draw one kind of sharp line against us they have no right whatever to object to our drawing another kind of line against them.... I would not have objected at all to the California Legislature passing a resolution, courteous and proper in its terms, which would really have achieved the object they were after.

Questions:

  1. Sourcing: What kind of document is this?
  2. Sourcing: What do you think the intended audience was?
  3. Do you trust what Roosevelt says in this document?

Message to Congress – Theodore Roosevelt

Source: Roosevelt’s annual message to Congress, December 4, 1906.

But here and there a most unworthy feeling has manifested itself toward the Japanese——the feeling that has been shown in shutting them out from the common schools in San Francisco, and in mutterings against them in one or two other places, because of their efficiency as workers. To shut them out from the public schools is a wicked absurdity....

The mob of a single city may at any time perform acts of lawless violence against some class of foreigners which would plunge us into war. That city by itself would be powerless to make defense against the foreign power thus assaulted, and if independent of this Government it would never venture to perform or permit the performance of the acts complained of. The entire power and the whole duty to protect the offending city or the offending community lies in the hands of the United States Government. It is unthinkable that we should continue a policy under which a given locality may be allowed to commit a crime against a friendly nation...”

Questions:

  1. Sourcing: What kind of document is this?
  2. Sourcing: What do you think the intended audience was?
  3. Do you trust what Roosevelt says in this document?

Roosevelt Letter to Secretary Metcalf

Source: Letter from Roosevelt to the Secretary of Commerce and Labor, Victor Metcalf, who went to San Francisco to investigate the Japanese segregation crisis, November 27, 1906.

The White House

Washington, Nov 27, 1906

My Dear Secretary Metcalf:

....I had a talk with the Japanese Ambassador before I left for Panama; read him what I was to say in my annual message, which evidently pleased him very much; and then told him that in my judgment the only way to prevent constant friction between the United States and Japan was to keep the movement of the citizens of each country into the other restricted as far as possible to students, travelers, business men and the like; that inasmuch as no American laboring men were trying to get into Japan, what was necessary was to prevent all immigration of Japanese laboring men—that is, of the coolie class—into the United States....He assented cordially to this view and said that he had always been against permitting Japanese coolies to go to America or to Hawaii. Of course, the great difficulty in getting the Japanese to take this view is the irritation caused by the San Francisco action. I hope that my message will smooth over their feelings....

Sincerely yours,

THEODORE ROOSEVELT

Questions:

  1. Sourcing: What kind of document is this?
  2. Sourcing: What do you think the intended audience was?
  3. Do you trust what Roosevelt says in this document?

Do Not Embarrass the Administration - Political Cartoon

Source: This cartoon was published in Harper’s Weekly, a New York-based magazine, in November 1906. It shows Secretary of Commerce and Labor Metcalf speaking to a young schoolboy, who represents San Francisco. (Figurebelow).

Questions:

  1. Sourcing: What kind of document is this?
  2. Sourcing: What do you think the intended audience was?
  3. How does this source information influence your interpretation of the document?

Section Question:

  1. Based on the documents provided, why did President Roosevelt intervene in Japanese segregation? Support your answer with specific evidence from the documents.

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