As a son of Maine, I am one of those who believe that prohibition can prohibit, and will do so effectively, if you will give it a fair chance, but I doubt whether restriction restricts, and have expressed that doubt in these columns more than once already. But we have been favored with fresh lessons on this subject, in its application to Chinese immigration. Chinese women are held in our San Francisco market, at prices ranging from nothing up to about $2,000. The soul, being that of a woman, has no value at any time, but the body, till worn out, is held at a fair percentage of its weight in gold.
Such being the demand, a supply became assured. No artificial barriers could exclude them. There would soon come to be some “Open Sesame” which no bolts could resist. As a matter of fact these women have been landed in numbers so great, and with an effrontery so flagrant, that even the Chinese Consulate now takes the matter up and puts to shame the appointed executors of American law. As to persons of the male sex, they come by various routes: some with certificates sent out to Hong Kong by our own officials to be sold there and viseed by themselves on this side the sea; some come with strange stories of previous residence—stories confirmed by their vivid recollection of deep snow on Clay Street, and of Chinese conductors on our street-cars: some come smuggled from British Columbia, across Puget Sound, and others cross the invisible line between Canadian soil and that of our own free land with none to say them nay. Meanwhile some of our recent officials who have grown rich with strange rapidity, or have spent money with lavish generosity, are under arrest, and sensational developments are the daily promise of “live newspapers” in San Francisco.
What shall be done? Some of these papers (however incredulous they may be about prohibition prohibiting) are disposed to try it upon Chinese immigration. Nothing else, they tell us, can deliver us from a perpetual invasion by these Asiatic hordes. But, so far as I have seen, no ringing or enthusiastic response has greeted this suggestion. So long as it lives only in newspaper paragraphs, and no serious danger appears of its being put into effect, few men will have courage, or zeal and forwardness enough to contend with it, but let it be taken up in earnest, and pressed to actual enactment, and it would soon go the fit and ignoble way that the boycott has travelled. There are multitudes who do not object to cursing the Chinaman, but who don’t mean to lose the double eagles which Chinese labor, and that alone, enables them to put to credit on their bank account.
It seems to me, however, well worth questioning whether a law that after six years of trial has been found to be fruitful in little except perjuries and briberies,—a law which cannot be shown to have benefited a single American laborer, but has had some effect to compel house-holders to pay larger wages to Chinese domestics, and to enable Chinese fruit-pickers to make better terms with our fruit-growers:—it seems to me a question whether a statute of that sort might not be suffered to expire through its own limitations, without any damage to the Commonwealth.