Henry Pearson Gratton.

As a Chinaman saw us; passages from his letters to a friend at home online

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treated as old retainers and pensioners of the family.

The whole story of exclusion is a blot upon the American national honor,
and the most mystifying part of it is that intelligent people, the best
people, are not a party to it. The railroads want the Chinese laborer.
The great ranches of the West need him; people want cooks at $15 and $20
a month instead of $30 or $50. In a word, America is suffering for what
she must have some time - cheap labor; yet the low elements force the
issue. Congressmen are dominated by labor organizations on the Pacific
slope, and there are hundreds of Dennis Kearneys to-day where there was
one a few years ago. To make the case more exasperating, the Americans,
in their dire necessity, have imported swarms of low Mexicans to take
the place of the Chinese on the railroads, against whom there seems to
be no Irish hand raised. The Irish and Mexicans are of a piece. I know
from inquiry everywhere that the country at large would welcome
thousands of servants and field-workers in vineyards and orchards which
can not be made to pay if worked by expensive labor.

The Americans try to keep us out, but they also try to convert those who
get in. They have what they call Chinese missions, to which Chinamen go.
To be converted? No. To learn the language? Yes. I am told by an
American friend that here and in China over fifty thousand Chinese have
embraced Christianity. On the Atlantic coast I am assured that eight
hundred Chinamen are Christians, and on the Pacific slope two thousand
have embraced the faith of the Christians. There is a Christian Chinese
evangelist working among our people in the West, Lum Foon, and I have
met the pastor of a Pacific coast church who told me that nearly a third
of his congregation were Chinamen, and he esteemed them highly. But the
most conclusive evidence that the Americans are succeeding in their
proselyting is that in one year a single denomination received as a
donation from Chinamen $6,000. The Americans have a saying, "Money
talks," which is much like one of our own.

On the other hand, a clergyman told me that it was discouraging work to
some, so few Chinamen were "converted" compared to the great mass of
them. The Chinese of California have sent $1,000 to Canton to build a
Christian church, and the Chinese members of the Presbyterian Church of
California sent $3,000 in one year for the same purpose. I am told that
the Chinese Methodists of one church in California give yearly from
$1,000 to $1,800 for the various purposes of the church. The Christians
have captured some brilliant men, such as Sia Sek Ong, who is a
Methodist; Chan Hon Fan, who ought to be in our army from what I hear;
Rev. Tong Keet Hing, the Baptist, a noted Biblical scholar; Rev. Wong,
of the Presbyterians; Rev. Ng Poon Chiv, famous as a Greek and Hebrew
reader; Gee Gam and Rev. Le Tong Hay, Methodists; and there are many
more, suggestive that our people are interested in Christianity,
against the _moral_ teachings of which no one could seriously object.

I dined some time ago with a merchants' club, and was much pleased at
the eulogy I heard on the Chinese. A merchant said, "My firm deals
largely with the Chinese and Japanese. When I make a trade with the
Japanese I tie them up with a written contract, but I have always found
that the word of a Chinese merchant was sufficient." This I found to be
the universal feeling, and yet Americans exclude us at the bidding of
"hoodlums," a term applied to the lowest class of young men on the
Pacific coast. In the East he is a "tough" or "rough" or "rowdy." "Tough
nut" and "hard nut" are also applied to such people, the Americans
having numbers of terms like these, which may be called "nicknames," or
false names. Thus a man who is noted for his dress is a "swell," a
"dude," or a "sport."

The United States Government does not allow the Chinese to vote, yet
tens of thousands of poor Americans, "white trash" in the South,
ignorant negroes, low Irish and Italians who can not speak the tongue,
are welcome and courted by both parties. It is difficult for me to
overlook this insult on the part of America. There is a large settlement
of Chinese in New York, but they are as isolated as if they were in
China. In San Francisco there is the largest settlement, and many fine
merchants live there, and also in Los Angeles.

In the latter city - - told me that the best of feeling existed between
the Chinese and Americans; and at the American Festival of the Rose the
Chinese joined in the procession. The dragon was brought out, and all
the Chinese merchants appeared; but these gentlemen are never consulted
by the Americans, never allowed to vote or take any interest in the
growth of the city, and - - informed me that none of them had ever been
asked to join a board of trade. It is the same everywhere; the only
advances the Americans make is to try and "convert" us to their various
religious denominations. While the Chinese are not allowed to vote or to
have any part in the affairs of government, they are taxed. "Taxation
without representation" was the cause of the war of the American
Revolution, but that is another matter.

Yet our people have ways of influencing the whites with the "dollar,"
for which some officials will do anything, and, I regret to say, all
Chinamen are not above bribing Americans. I have heard that the Chinese
of San Francisco for years were blackmailed by Americans, and obliged
to raise money to fight bills in the Legislature. In 1892 the Six
Companies raised $200,000 to defeat the "Geary Bill." The Chinese
merchants have some influence. Out of the 110,000 Chinamen in America
hardly ten per cent obeyed the iniquitous law and registered. The
Chinese societies contracted to defend all who refused to register.

Our people have a strong and influential membership in the Sam Yup, Hop
Wo, Yan Wo, Kong Chow, Ning Yeong, and Yeong Wo companies. These
societies practically control everything in America relating to the
Chinese, and they retain American lawyers to fight their battles. I have
met many of the officers of these companies, and China has produced no
more brilliant minds than some, and, _sub rosa_, they have been pitted
against the Americans on more than one occasion and have outwitted them.
Among these men are Yee Ha Chung, Chang Wah Kwan, Chun Ti Chu, Chu Shee
Sum, Lee Cheang Chun, and others. Many of these men have been presidents
of the Six Companies in San Francisco, and rank in intelligence with the
most brilliant American statesmen. I regret to see them in America.

Chun Ti Chu especially, at one time president of the Sam Yuz, should be
in China. I met this brilliant man some years ago in San Francisco.
After dinner he took me to a place and showed me a placard which was a
reward of $300 for his head. He had obtained the enmity of criminal
Chinamen on the Pacific coast, but when I last heard of him he was still
alive. There are many criminals here who do not dare to return to China,
who left their country for their country's good. These are the cause of
much trouble here, and bring discredit upon the better class of our
people. Our people in America are loyal to the Government. It was
interesting to see at one time a proclamation from the Emperor brought
over by Chew Shu Sum and posted in the streets of an American city: "By
order of his Imperial Majesty, the Emperor of China." The President, the
mayor of San Francisco, was not thought of; China was revered, and is
to-day holding her government over the Chinese in every American city
where they have a stronghold. So much for the loyalty of our people.



Thomas J. Geary, the former congressman, is an avowed enemy of the
Chinese and the author of the famous Geary bill, but I condone all he
has said against us for one profound utterance made in a published
address or article, in which he said: "As to the missionaries (in
China), it wouldn't be a national loss if they were required to return
home. If the American missionary would only look about him in the large
cities of the Union he would find enough of misery, enough of suffering,
enough people falling away from the Christian churches, enough of
darkness, enough of vice in all its conditions and all its grades, to
furnish him work for years to come." This is a sentiment Americans may
well think of; but there are "none so blind as those who will not see."
There will always be women and men willing to spend their time in
picturesque China at the expense of foreign missions. China has never
attempted to convert the Americans to her religion, believing she has
all she can do to keep her people within bounds at home.

In my search for information in America I have had some singular
experiences. I have made an examination of the many religions of the
Americans, and they have been remarkably prolific in this respect. While
we are satisfied with Taoism, Buddhism, but mostly with Confucianism, I
have observed the following sects in America: Baptists of two kinds,
Congregationalists, Methodists, Quakers of three kinds, Catholics,
Unitarians, Universalists, Presbyterians, Swedenborgians,
Spiritualists, Christian Scientists (healers), Episcopalians (high and
low), Jews, Seventh-Day Adventists, and many more. Nearly all are
Christians, as we are nearly all Confucians. Unitarians, Universalists,
Jews, and several others believe in the moral teachings of Christ, but
hold that he was not of divine origin. America was first settled to
supply room for religious liberty, which perhaps explains the remarkable
number of religions. They are constantly increasing. Nearly all of these
denominations hold that their own belief is the right one. Much
proselyting is going on among them, with which one would take no
exception if there was no denouncing of one another. Our religion,
founded in the faith of Confucius, seems satisfying to us. Some of us
believe that at least we are not savages.

Some American friends once invited me to go to a negro church in
Washington. Upon arriving we were given a seat well down in front. The
pastor was a "visiting evangelist," and in a short time had these
excitable and ignorant people in a frenzy, several being carried out of
the church in a semicataleptic condition. Suddenly the minister began to
pray for the strangers, and especially "for the heathen in our midst,"
for the unsaved from pagan lands, that they might be saved; and I could
not but wonder at the conceit and ignorance that would ask a believer in
the splendid philosophy of Confucius to throw it aside for this African
religion. This idea that a Chinaman is a "pagan" and idolator is found
everywhere in America, and every attempt is made to "save" him.

I very much fear that many of our countrymen go to the American
missions and Sunday-schools merely to learn the language and enjoy the
social life of those who are interested in this special work. I was told
by a well-to-do Chinaman that he knew Chinamen who were both Catholic
and Protestant, and who attended all the Chinese missions without
reference to sect. They were Methodist when at the Methodist mission,
Catholic when at mass, and when they returned to their home slipped back
into Confucianism. Let us hope this is not universal, though I venture
the belief that the witty Americans would see the humor of it.

I was told by a prominent patron of the Woman's Christian Union that she
felt very sorry I did not have the consolation of religion, coming as I
did from a heathen land. Some "heathens" might have been insulted, but I
had come to know the Americans and was aware that she really felt a
kindly interest in me. I replied that we could find some consolation in
the sayings of our religious teachers, as the great guide of our life
is, "What you do not like when done to yourself do not do to others."

"Why," said the lady, "that is Christian doctrine, our 'Golden Rule.'"

"Pardon me," I answered, "this is the golden rule of Confucius, written
four hundred years or so before Christ was born."

"I think you must be mistaken," she continued; "this is a fundamental
pillar of the Christian belief."

"True," I retorted; "but none the less Christians obtained it from

She did not believe me, and we referred the question to Bishop - - , who
sat near us. Much to her confusion he agreed with me, and then quoted
the well-known lines of one of our religious writers who lived twelve
hundred years before Christ: "The great God has conferred on the people
a moral sense, compliance with which would show their nature inevitably
right," and remarked that it was a splendid sentiment.

"Then you believe in a God," said the lady, turning to me.

"I trust so," was my answer.

Now this lady, who believed me to be a "pagan" and unsaved, was a
product of the American school system, yet she had never read a line of
Confucius, having been "brought up" to consider him an infidel writer.

I have seen many of the great Western nations and observed their
religions. My conclusion is that none make so general and united an
attempt to be what they consider "good and moral" as the Americans; but
the Americans scatter their efforts like shot fired from a gun, and the
result is a multiplicity of religious beliefs beyond belief. I do not
forget that America was settled to afford an asylum for religious
belief, where men could work out their salvation in peace. If Americans
would grant us the same privilege and not send missionaries to fight
over us, all would be well. No one can dispute the fact that the
Americans are in earnest; the greater number believe they are right, and
that they possess true zeal all China knows.

The impression the convert in China obtains is that the United States is
a sort of paradise, where Christians live in peace and happiness, loving
one another, doing good to those who ill-treat them, turning the cheek
to those who strike them, etc.; but the Chinaman soon finds after
landing in America that this is often "conspicuous by its absence."
These ideas are preached, and doubtless thousands follow them or attempt
to do so, but that they are common practises of the people is not true.
There is great need of Christian missions in America as well as in
China. I told a clergyman that our people believed the Christian
religion was very good for the Americans, and we had no fault to find
with it, nor had we the temerity to insinuate that our own was superior.

A Roman Catholic young lady whom I met spoke to me about burning our
prayers, our joss-houses, and our dragon, which she had seen carried
about the streets of San Francisco. "Pure symbolism," I answered, and
then told her of the Christian dragon in the Divine Key of the
Revelation of Jesus Christ as Given to John, by a Christian writer,
William Eugene Brown. This dragon had nine heads, while ours has only
one. I believe I had the best of the argument so far as heads went.
This young woman, a graduate of a large college, wore an amulet, which
she believes protects her from accident. She possessed a bottle of water
from a miraculous spring in Canada, which she said would cure any
disease, and she told me that one of the Catholic churches there, Ste.
Anne de Beaupré, had a small piece of the wrist-bone of the mother of
the Virgin, which would heal and had healed thousands. She had a picture
of the church, showing piles of crutches thrown aside by cured and
grateful patients. Can China produce such credulity? I think not.

All nations may be wrong in their religious beliefs, but certainly
"pagan China" is outdone in religious extravaganza by America or any
European state. Our joss-houses and our feasts are nothing to the
splendors of American churches. An American girl laughed at the bearded
figures in a San Francisco joss-house, but looked solemn when I referred
to the saints in a Catholic cathedral in the same city. If I were "fancy
free" I should like to lecture in America on the inconsistencies of the
Caucasian. They really challenge our own. Instead of having one splendid
church and devoting themselves to the real ethics of Christianity, these
Christians have divided irrevocably, and so lost strength and force.
They are in a sense turned against themselves, and their religious
colleges are graduating men to perpetuate the differences. No more
splendid religion than that expounded by Christ could be imagined if
they would join hands and, like the Confucians, devote their attention
not to rites and theological differences but to the daily conduct of

The Americans have a saying, "Take care of the pennies and the dollars
will care for themselves." We believe that in taking care of the morals
of the individual the nation will take care of itself. I took the
liberty of commending this Confucian doctrine to a Methodist brother,
but he had never been allowed to read the books of Confucius. They are
classed with those of Mohammed, Voltaire, and others. So what can one do
with such people, who have the conceit of the ages and the ignorance of
all time? Their great scholars see their idiosyncrasies, and I can not
begin to describe them. One sect believes that no one can be saved
unless immersed in water; others believe in sprinkling. Others, as the
Quakers, denounce all this as mummery. One sect, the Shakers, will have
no marriages. Another believes in having as many wives as they can
support - the Mormons. The Jews and Quakers oblige members to marry in
the society; in the latter instance the society is dying out, and the
former from constant intermarriage has resulted in conspicuous and
marked facial peculiarities. These different sects, instead of loving,
despise one another. Episcopalians look down upon the Methodists, and
the latter denounce the former because the priests sometimes smoke and
drink. The Unitarians are not regarded well by the others, yet nearly
all the other bodies contain Unitarians, who for business and other
reasons do not acknowledge the fact. A certain clergyman would not admit
a Catholic priest to his platform. All combine against the poor Jew.

So strong is the feeling against this people among the best of American
citizens that they are almost completely ostracised, at least socially.
In all the years spent in America I do not recall meeting a Jew at
dinner in Washington, New York, or Newport. They are disliked, and as a
rule associate entirely with themselves, having their own churches,
clubs, etc. Yet they in large degree control the finances of America.
They have almost complete control of the textile-fabric business,
clothing, and many other trades. Why the American Christians dislike the
American Jews is difficult to understand, but the invariable reply to
this question is that their manners are so offensive that Christians
will not associate with them. I doubt if in any of the first circles of
any city you would meet a Jew. In the fashionable circles of New York I
heard that it would be "easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a
needle" than for a Jew to enter these circles. Many hotels will not
receive them. In fact, the ban is on the Jew as completely in America as
in Russia. I was strongly tempted to ask if this was the brotherly love
I heard so much about, but refrained. I heard the following story at a
dinner: A Chinese laundryman received a call from a Jew, who brought
with him his soiled clothing. The Chinaman, glancing at the Jew, refused
to take the package. "But why?" asked the Jew; "here's the money in
advance." "No washee," said the Christian Chinaman; "you killed Melican
man's Joss," meaning that the Jews crucified the Christ.

The more you delve into the religions of the Americans the more
anomalies you find. I asked a New York lady at Newport if she had ever
met Miss - - , a prominent Chinese missionary. She had never heard of
her, and considered most missionaries very ordinary persons. This same
lady, when some one spoke about laxity of morals, replied, "It is not
morals but manners that we need"; and I can assure you that this
high-church lady, a model of propriety, judged her men acquaintances by
that standard. If their manners were correct, she apparently did not
care what moral lapses they committed when out of her presence. Briefly,
I looked in vain for the religion in everyday life preached by the
missionary. Doubtless many possess it, but the meek and humble follower
of the head of the Christian Church, the American who turned his cheek
for another blow, the one who loved his enemies, or the one who was
anxious to do unto others as he would have them do unto him, all these,
whom I expected to see everywhere, were not found, at least in any

In visiting a certain village I dined with several clergymen. One told
me he was the Catholic priest, and invited me to visit his chapel. Not
long after I met another clergyman. I do not recall his denomination,
but his work he told me was undoing that of the Catholic priest. The
latter converted the people to Catholicism, while the former tried to
reclaim them from Catholicism. I heard much about our joss-houses, but
they fade into insignificance when compared with the splendid religious
palaces of the Americans, and particularly those of the Catholics and
Episcopalians. Their religious customs are beyond belief. As an
illustration, their religion teaches them that the dead, if they have
led a good life, go at once to heaven, though the Catholics believe in a
purgatory, a half-way house, out of which the dead can be bought by the
payment of money.

Now the simple Chinaman would naturally believe that the relatives
would be pleased at the death of a friend who was _immediately_
transported to paradise and freed from the worries of life, but not at
all; at the death of a relative the friends are plunged into such grief
that they have been known to hire professional mourners, and instead of
putting on clothes indicative of joy and thanksgiving array themselves
in somber black, the token of woe, and wear it for years. Everything is
black, and the more fashionable the family the deeper the black. The
deepest crape is worn by the women. Writing-paper is inscribed with a
deep band, also visiting cards. Women use jet as jewelry, and white
pearls are replaced by black ones. Even servants are garbed in mourning
for the departed, who, they believe, have gone to the most beautiful
paradise possible to conceive. Contemplating all these inconsistencies
one is amazed, and the amazement is ever increasing as one delves deeper
into the ways of the inconsistent American.

The credulity of the American is nowhere more singularly shown than in
his susceptibility to religion. At a dinner given by the - - of - - in
Washington, conversation turned on religion, and Senator - - , a very
clever man, told me in a burst of confidence, "Our people are easily
led; it merely requires a leader, a bright, audacious man, with plenty
of 'cheek,' to create a following." There are hundreds of examples of
this statement. No matter how idiotic the religion or philosophy may be,
a following can be established among Americans. A man of the name of
Dowie, "ignorant, impertinent, but with a superabundance of cheek" (I
quote an American journal), announced himself as the prophet Elijah, and
obtained a following of thousands, built a large city, and lives upon
the credulity of the public.

Three different "healers" have appeared within a decade in America, each
by inference claiming to be the Christ and imitating his wanderings and
healing methods. All, even the last, grossest, and most impudent
impostor, who advertised himself in the daily press, the picture showing
him posing after one of the well-known pictures of Christ, had many
followers. I hoped to hear that this fellow had been "tarred and
feathered," a happy American remedy for gross things. This fellow, as
the Americans say, "went beyond the limit." I asked the senator how he
accounted for Americans, well educated as they are, taking up these
strange impostors. "Well," he replied, puffing on a big cigar, "between
you and me and the lamp-post it's on account of the kind of schooling
they get. I didn't get much myself - I'm an old-timer; but I accumulated
a lot of 'horse sense,' that has served me so well that I never have my
leg pulled, and I notice that all these 'suckers' are graduates from
something; but don't take this as gospel, as I'm always getting up
minority reports."

The religion of the Americans, as diffuse as it is, is one of the most
remarkable factors you meet in the country. Despite its peculiar phases

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Online LibraryHenry Pearson GrattonAs a Chinaman saw us; passages from his letters to a friend at home → online text (page 11 of 12)