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No. 72 in the series of Monographs by writers connected with the London 
School of Economics and Political Science 







M. A. (Sydney), M.Sc. (London) ; British Fellow Bryn 
Mawr College, U.S.A., 1922-23. 

With a Preface by 




Printed in Great Britain by Butler & Tanner Ltd., Frome and London 



For help in the making of this book it gives me pleasure 
to thank the University of Sydney for the opportunity 
offered me to come to London ; Professor L. Knowles, my 
Director of Studies at the London School of Economics 
during the past two years ; the Hon. W. Pember Reeves 
and Dr. Malinowski for valuable criticisms and suggestions ; 
the Librarians and their staff of the Foreign Office, the 
Royal Colonial Institute, the London School of Economics 
and the British Museum for their unfaihng courtesy during 
my research work ; the Anti- Slavery Society for giving 
me such information as was at their disposal ; and the 
Editor of Economica for permission to incorporate an article 
published in an early issue of that Journal. 

My special and permanent indebtedness to Professor 
Graham Wallas, the beloved and inspiring teacher, I gladly 
acknowledge in the dedication. 

Persia C. Campbell. 

September 17, 1922. 



Students expose abuses, professors dissect reforms. At 
any rate, these are their tendencies. The young investi- 
gator, blessed with enthusiasm and curiosity, wishes to do 
something definite. The elderly teacher, hard-worked, tired, 
and disillusioned, knows that most reformers exaggerate, 
and that most general statements require qualification. 
He holds a watching brief for accuracy, and feels impelled 
to point out that there is something to be said for the 
status quo. Yet in his heart he envies youth. 

Miss Campbell, happily, is still in the first stage of the 
investigator's career. She has devoted herself to tracking 
out a long and involved story of certain industrial experi- 
ments which became social evils. The subject is depress- 
ing because so much of it is a record of wrong and failure. 
Many of the details are dry and some are loathsome. Of 
the darker and more tragic side of the tale much has been 
hidden or lost and can never be known. Where light is 
thrown upon it, it is usually the very dry light of statutes, 
blue-books, regulations, political speeches, pamphlets, and 
clippings from newspapers. The research student has to 
cut a way through a difficult jungle. The result is redeemed 
from dullness by the political importance of the subject 
and its human interest, by the humanitarian feeling aroused, 
by the passion of a racial controversy and the lurid horror 
of many of the episodes; Miss Campbell's book, though 
an exposure — incidentally a terrible exposure — is not an 
attack. It is a statement of a mass of facts. If they 
mostly tell one way, that is not her doing ; there is no sign 
that they have been selected for that purpose. The argu- 
ments for various forms of the coolie traffic are fairly quoted 
and set out. The overstatements of men denouncing it 

ix b 


are shown up from time to time. In one division of the 
book, indeed, Miss Campbell seems to me rather to under- 
state the case against Chinese immigration. That is when 
^ she is dealing with its practical demerits in Australia and 
^ New Zealand. But in those countries the friends of Chinese 
immigration are now few and unpopular, and to try and 
be a little more than fair to the weaker side in what was 
a fierce controversy is the most respectable defect that a 
writer can have. The chief merit of her book, apart from 
the evident industry displayed, is the resolute persistence 
of the authoress in getting to the bed-rock of fact. Per- 
fervid passages from speeches and articles are only quoted 
sufficiently to show the views held by parties and the feelings 
the coolie question aroused. For the most part she relies 
on blue-books. They are not romantic narratives. But 
there is this advantage in relying on them : when the 
matter dealt with is a great social abuse, blue-books usually 
understate the case for the prosecution. Miss Campbell's 
readers can feel throughout that their feelings are not 
being deliberately, much less unfairly, worked upon. 

The mass of hard facts in her book require subsequent 
thought and digestion. They certainly deserve them. As 
one gradually constructs a picture and history of the Chinese 
coolie labour systems, one wonders at first how these 
sinister experiments, so unattractive at their best, so repul- 
sive at their worst, came to be tried in civilized countries 
in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One of the 
reasons is that they were usually tried in succession to other 
systems either v/orse or not very much better, just as negro 
slavery was begun in the New World as a substitute for 
the Indian labour which the Spaniards were working to death. 
: Even Las Casas thought that the change might be a gain 
to humanity. In the same way Chinese indentured coolies 
were brought into the West Indies to take the places of 
emancipated negro slaves. In Australia, the first Chinese 
workers were imported by squatters who were being deprived 
of the services of assigned convict labourers by the stopping 
of the convict system. In South Africa, Chinese were 
imported because the Kaffir labour recruited for the com- 


pounds of the Rand was for a time in short supply. In 
Malaysia the pft§ition was, of course, different. Asia is the 
^ — Chinaman's home ; he often found his way to the Malay 
country on his own account. His presence there was natural, 
and he could play a useful and legitimate part. Chinese 
labour there, taken by itself, was not a bad thing. What 
marred the picture was the evi^. bred by the credit-ticket 
and indenture systems, and the shameful lack of, or laxity 
in, the supervision and protection of Chinese labour in 
Malaysia itself. From its beginning in, say, 1845, there 
was, until 1877, virtually no Government regulation at all. 
After that it remained faulty right up to the end of the 
indenture system in 191 1. The circumstances of their 
origin, then, explain why humane men and a well-meaning 
bureaucracy like the Colonial Office committed themselves 
to various experiments of arranging for or sanctioning the 
importation of gangs of male Chinese to work under semi- 
servile conditions beneath the British flag. They do not 
explain the persistency with which planters or mine-owners 
clung to bad systems or the apathy with which officials — 
in some places — failed to cope with glaring abuses. Men, 
however, once committed to a system, are slow to open their 
eyes to its weaknesses. The shortcomings of officials may 
often be explained by Dr. Johnson's " Ignorance, sheer 
ignorance. Madam ! " But officials ought not to be ignorant. 
In truth, the Colonial Office does not cut a very impressive 
figure in this book. It was often timid, dilatory, and mis- 
taken. If it did the right thing in the end, that was apt 
to come " after many days." Of course. Downing Street 
is a long way from the Tropics and the Antipodes, and the 
fear of ruining vested interests and British enterprise is 
natural. It is only fair to say, moreover, that certain 
Secretaries, like Lord Stanley and Lord Harcourt, show up 
very well. The outspoken courage, moreover, shown by 
British officials like Sir William Des Vceux, Consul Robert- 
son, and Commissioner Parr, in showing up local abuses, 
should not be forgotten. And if Downing Street was slow 
to move, public opinion was slow also. 
The Chinese indentured labour system, beginning about 



1844, was abolished in the West Indies much sooner than 
h in Malaysia. It never existed in Australia or New Zealand, 
I and now only lingers on in a small Polynesian archipelago. 
The credit-ticket system, sometimes worked quite inde- 
pendently of it, sometimes dovetailed into it, was very 
widespread, and,die4, — it it be dead-;-very hard. At first 
sight a system under which passage-money was advanced 
to labourers in Chinese ports and repaid by them out of 
their earnings in the Colonies seems innocent enough. But 
managed as it was, chiefly by ^Chinese middlemen, crimps, 
and compradores, it became largely a veiled slave-trade. 
Labourers were decoyed into barracoons and virtually sold. 
They were induced to gamble and lose money. They were 
kept in confinement, not only at ports of departure, but at 
ports of arrival. Costs were added to their passage-money. 
They were forced to accept employment at low wages as 
/ the creditors' agents dictated. They were watched and 
/t^ terrorized by the spies of secret societies — in California, 
1 the Five Companies — acting in the creditors' interest. They 
could be beaten, robbed, and even — though rarely — mur- 
dered. Ostensibly free in the Pacific states and British 
white colonies, they w^ere often virtually slaves of their own 
countrymen working through unseen influences of which 
surrounding Whites usually knew nothing. On the tropical 
plantations they, whether indentured or not, were often 
abandoned to the tender mercies of Chinese headmen, who 
bullied, cheated, and maltreated them. The sanitary and 
medical arrangements, sometimes quite good, sometimes 
beggared description. 

Then there were the moral consequences certain to follow 
on the herding together of gangs of male Asiatics, young 
or middle-aged, unaccompanied by women of their own 
race. One medical report in, British Columbia — many 
years old' — stated that practicall5^ all the Chinese in the col- 
ony were affected with a virulent form of syphilis. Another 
report mentioned that out of 144 Chinese women in 
the colony, half were prostitutes and many of the others 
concubines. On the horrible subject of male prostitution 
and outrage I will not touch ; its existence cannot be denied. 


I Many of the vessels which left Chinese ports between 
I 1845 and 1875 were simply slavers. In 1872 it was officially 
^ denied from Hong-Kong that any undue restriction was 
placed on coolie passengers there. Some months previously, 
the Don Juan had left Macao with 640 coolies on board. 
In mid-ocean she took fire, and the captain and crew aban- 
doned her. Only a few coolies were on deck, and they were 
mostly in chains. The iron gratings on the hatches were 
locked, and the .keys were not to be found. When the 
wretched crowd below burst open the fore-hatch, it was 
too late, and all but fifty perished. 

On another ship from Macao the coolies rose en masse, 
murdering some of the crew. They were recaptured, and 
one of them appeared before the Hong-Kong Court for 
extradition. Mr. Justice Smale refused to extradite him, 
making some scathing remarks in which he character- 
ized the Macao traffic as a slave-trade. The Portuguese 
fGovemment took time to reply. When it did, its reply was 
/ deadly. It pointed out that the coolie trade from Hong- 
I Kong was carried on in a manner in most respects identical 
\witll that of Macao, and, moreover, that English merchants 
shared in the Macao traffic and pocketed much of the money 
made by it. The official reply from Hong-Kong seems 
rather weak. 

It could be claimed that the Hong-Kong traffic was sub- 
ject to Government inspection. What this inspection could 
be like may be judged from the case of one ship which carried 
298 coolies. Of these the inspector reported that he was 
not satisfied that more than eighty-one we-'e voluntary 
passengers. He did not detain the ship, nor did he disem- 
bark the doubtful cases. The ship went on, and of her 
human cargo more than two-fifths died on the way. 
This was in 1856. 

Chinese coolies were imported into Cuba fifty years ago. 
By a Spanish law, meant to be humane, a certain propor- 
tion of females had to be imported for every hundred males. 
To comply with this law, an English ship, the Elphinstone, 
% cleared from Ningpo with a batch of forty-four female 
infants bought as slaves by one Martinez. These were pent 


in a cabin i8| feet long, 9 feet broad, and 5 feet 10 inches j 
high. The condition of these hapless little creatures caused 
an outbreak of fever among the ship's company. The 
Elphinstone was stopped at another port, the surviving 
children taken off and handed to the Chinese authorities. 
Lord Clarendon ordered the master to be criminally prose- 
cuted and the ship, if possible, forfeited. 

Outbreaks by coolies were so common about 1852-3 
that captains and crews often refused to sail, and trade 
was more or less held up. Sir B. Robertson, in one report 
in 1874, spoke of thirty-four sea " tragedies," in about twenty- 
five years — fifteen on British ships — observing that the 
record rivalled the palmiest days of the Middle Passage. 
Decent Chinese opinion in the south of China regarded 
the traffic with bitterest detestation, Amoy was placarded 
with notice threatening death to anyone who dealt with 
the foreign slave-dealers, and in particular specifying two 
English firms. Another placard denounced " barbarians 
who buy men to sell again." Respectable English traders 
protested against the traffic, pointing out that it so inflamed 
the Chinese agaii^t foreigners as to interfere with legitimate 
mercantile business. 

Traffic conditions seemed to have been at their worst 

between 1845 and 1877. But though things improved, 

^^till, as late as 1904, the Attorney-General for Hong-Kong, 

prosecuting in a kidnapping case, indicated that kidnapping 

was rife in Hong-Kong. 

As to other branches of the subject, such as the South 
African coolie experiment, the exclusion policy of Australia 
and New Zealand, and the official inquiries into Chinese 
immigration into California, I leave the book to tell its own 

I recommend it, as a carefully compiled collection of 
authentic information, to all students of the Chinese immi- 
gration question, both those in England and those in the 
Colonies. I recommend it to officials and humanitarians 
in England. I very strongly advise colonial politicians 
and journalists to get it and keep it. Most especially do I. 
commend it to my countrymen in Australia and New Zea- 


land, and among them to the leaders of colonial labour. 
Many things are important to colonial labour, but the 
exclusion of Asiatic immigrants is the most important of 
) all. Australian and New Zealand work-people would suffer 
' for example, if they were deprived of industrial arbitration 
laws and of wages boards ; these gone, they might find 
themselves, in bad times, in a similar plight to that in which 
English labour finds itself now. A gradual infiltration of 
Asiatics, however, would by degrees permanently lower 
their status, and, if it went on long enough, might threaten 
their very existence. I have read that there are politicians 
in South Australia who are in favour of the development 
of the northern territory by Asiatic labour " under proper 
regulation." I wish every member of the South Australian 
Parliament would read this book. They could then judge 
for themselves how far the best-meant regulations are able 
to make male Asiatic labour immigration, systematically 
carried on for development purposes, a clean and decent 
thing. People talk loosely of Tropical Australia as gener- 
ally unsuitable to the White Man. But Tropical Australia 
is a very large place where climatic conditions vary greatly. 
I venture to think that — deserts excluded — only a strip of 
it is quite unfitted for development by Whites. The strip 
is very long but quite narrow. Some of it is probably of 
no great attractiveness to any race. It may be said that 
Chinese coolie immigration is dead for the moment. That 
may be so. But every decade brings queer, gusty changes 
in public opinion, fresh impatience, fresh agitations, and 
fresh crops from the fertile soil of ignorance. 



1 During the nineteenth century the millions of Southern' /j 
'^ China were in the grip of economic want. Kamine and_L>-^ 
feud intensified the suffering of a rapidly growing population. 
"^The inevitable result was a large migration outwards despite 
an Imperial edict which, prior to 1859-60, forbade a Chinese 
subject to leave the homeland without a special permit. 
This forced immigration, mainly from the Kwangtung 
province, was quickened and extended by the active recruit- 
ment of coohes, under the " credit-ticket " and " contract " 
systems of labour — the chief difference betw een the two 
being one of initiative. 
] Under ^he credit-ticket system Chinese brokers paid thcjh 
1 expenses of the coohe emigration. Until the debt so incurred r 
by the cooUe was paid off the broker had a lien on his ser- 
vices — a lien that might or might not be sold to a bona fide 
employer of labour. Undei; this system was effected a 
minor part of the Chinese emigration to British Malaysia 
until 1914-16, when it was terminated as a result of the 
abuses to which many of the coolies were subjected during 
the period of their obHgation. By tke credit-ticket system 
also was made possible the large emigration of Southern 
Chinese to U.S.A., Canada and Australasia which com- 
menced during the fifties of last century and continued 
until it was gradually restricted or prohibited by the legis- 
latures of these English-speaking states. These restrictive 
or exclusive policies still obtain, though the circumstances 
of their adoption have been largely forgotten. Ignorance 
breeds racial jealousies and it may be that on the truth of 
the matter depends the future of Pacific accord. In the 



following pages, therefore, an attempt has been made to 
get back to historic facts. 

The principals in the contract system of emigration were 
foreigners. During the nineteenth century the African slave 
system was terminated after having proved not only socially 
unsatisfactory but economically unsound. As a result of 
slave emancipation or in anticipation of it, an attempt was 
made by the exploiters of the sparsely populated " New 
World " to replace the African slave by the Asiatic indentured 
labourer — Indian or Chinese. In China the system was 
established after 1845. Since that date foreigners have at 
different periods gone to China to engage the services of 
Chinese under written contract to work for a number of 
years in lands beyond the seas — the terms of the original 
contract having penal sanctions in the country into which 
the coolies have been introduced. A curious industrial 
status was thus established by law. The coohes have not 
infrequently been subjected to serious wrongs of many of 
which it would seem difficult to rid the period of indenture. 
Chinese contract labour was disallowed in British territory 
after .1516 until the British Government gave permission 
in 1919 to the Government of New Zealand to continue the 
introduction of Chinese coolies into the islands of Western 
Samoa. Other parties interested in the rapid economic 
exploitation of the Pacific Islands and of tropical Australia 
may also turn to China to secure a labour supply — the native 
population of those territories being insufficient for or 
unsuited to the demands of a large forward poHcy. Under 
these circumstances it is well to realize that there is a century 
of history behind this contract system. It is a history not 
without its warning. A man is something more than a 
" living machine." 

On one aspect of this subject of Chinese emigration there 
is no available information. The majority of the Chinese 
emigrants have been natives of the Kwangtung Province, 
so that although their numbers are insignificant when 
compared with the total population of China the effects on 
the social institutions of the south of this almost exclusively 
male emigration may have been considerable. Nor should 


its possible political significance be ignored. In a statement 
prepared for the Canadian Commission, 1901, Mr. W. Cum 
Yow declared that " the Chinese Empire Reform Associa- 
tion has branches all over the world where there are China- 
men. They wish to elevate the Chinese and to promote 
the prosperity of the old land. The work is carried on here 
(Canada) largely by public meetings and addresses. This 
movement cannot be carried on yet in China itself but we 
look for great good to China from (it). . . . The Chinese 
have always a very high regard for their homeland and a 
strong fiUal affection." Such activity among the Chinese 
living abroad for a term of years must have had its effect 
on the recent poHtical history of the Kwangtung province 
and, through it, on the present disintegration of the Chinese 


Part I 





The Coolie-traffic in British Malaysia . . . i 

(o) The uncontrolled trafi&c in Chinese Coolies at Singapore 
and Penang. 

{b) Attempts at Government regulation (1877-1914). 

(c) Termination of the traffic (1914-16) as the result of 
an investigation into the nature of the contract system 
of coolie labour. 


Chinese Emigration to Canada, Australia and New 

Zealand ......... 26 


(a) The nature of the emigration explained by reference 
I / to U.S.A. experience 1 850-1 882. 

Cy-j-/^ {b) The Canadian policy of restricted immigration. 

^ j I I. The growth of an anti-Chinese agitation in 

Cr ! I British Columbia. 

"" ' ' 2. An analysis of the evidence given before the 

first Canadian Commission on Chinese Immi- 
gration, 1884. 
3. The period of restricted immigration, 1885. , 

" White Australia." ' 

1. The first Chinese influx to the Gold Fields re- 
stricted by early legislation, 1855-1861. 

2. The influence of Chinese immigration on the 
Australian Federal movement, 1876-1888. 

3. The Exclusion Policy. 

{d) The " Chinese question " in New Zealand. 




Part II 




Foreign Competition for Chinese Labour, 1845-74 • 8d 

(a) The British West Indies compete for labour in the 
Chinese coolie market, 1852-59. 
,' I. The effects of slave emancipation on the 

,• labour supply in the West Indies. 

/ 2. The Chinese " contract-traffic " 1845-52. 

/ 3. West Indian experiments in Chinese importa- 

I tion, 1852-1859. 

I (6) The British Government intervenes to regulate the 

; " Contract-traffic." 

' I. The Chinese Passengers' Act, 1855, and its 

■J' inadequacy. 

2. The Governor of the Kwangtung Province 

obliged to recognize a regulated system. 

3. Regulations imposed on contract-emigration 

to all foreign countries. 

(c) The Chinese Government modifies the terms of the 
Labour-Contract . 

1. The necessity for modification shown by refer- 

ence to labour conditions in British Guiana 
(^ and Cuba. 

2. The Chinese Emigration Convention, 1866. 
{d) The growth of a public opinion against the contract 

system leads to its suspension, 
(e) The Chinese in the British West Indies (British Guiana) . 


The Transvaal Experiment, i 904-1 909 . . . .161 

(a) The " Rand Crisis," 1903. 

(b) Conditions governing the proposed introduction of 

Chinese coolies determined by the opposition of i. 
a section of the Transvaal community ; 2. The 
Liberal and Labour parties in Great Britain ; 3. The 
Chinese Government. 

(c) Chinese contract labour on the Rand, 1904-5 — the 

defects of t he system. 

{d) The nature of the reforms attempted 1905. 

[e) The significance for the Transvaal experiment of the 
British Liberal Victory, 1906. 
. (/) The system of Chinese contract labour denounced as a 
" social disaster," and terminated by the will of the 
British and Transvaal Governments, 1906- 




The Present System in the South Pacific Islands . 217 
(a) Western Samoa . . . . . . .217 

1. The labour situation under the German regime 

and during the military occupation. 

2. Contract-emigration to the mandated territory 

allowed by the British Government and the 
New Zealand Parliament despite considerable 
opposition, 1919-1920. 

3. The nature of the system of contract-labour as 

at present in operation in Western Samoa. 

{b) Nauru ........ 232 

In Conclusion ........ 234 

Bibliography ........ 236 

Index . . . . . . . . . . 238 





The origin of the southward movement of the Chinese is 
hidden in a legendary past. The ancient mineral develop- 
ment of the Malay Peninsula might have been the result of 
their efforts, -it is written that in the fifteenth century 
some Chinese gave their aid in the founding of the beautiful 
city of Malacca, the famous mediseval mart through which 
the wealth of the spice islands passed to the eager buyers 
of Europe. There was a small population of Chinese on 
the island of Penang when Francis Light added it to the 
Empire, 1786.- Sir S. Raffles met Chinese in Singapore 
when in 1819 he entered upon the task of " constructing 
on the ruins of the dead Singapura a new city which should 
carry to still greater heights the commercial fame which 
had once centred there." During the nineieenth-century 
the industrial expansion of tEe"^ Malay Peninsula— the 
working"^ the tin-mines, the clearing of the jungle, the 
labour of the plantations, the enterprise of the ports was 
mainly dependent on the immigrant population, partly 
Indian but chiefly Chinese — the native Malays not having' 
suited themselves to the requirements of modern economic 

The period in this emigration southward when the credit- 
ticket system was evolved is difficult to determine. But 
certainly the system was in operation in 1823 when Sir S. 
Raffles endeavoured to cope with its abuses. By it the 

C.C.E. 1 R 


movement of Chinese from the southern provinces of 
China to the distributing ports of Singapore and Penang 
was no doubt quickened and extended. But it is important 
to remember that the credit-ticket system occasioned only 
a minor part of the total Chinese emigration to the Malay 
Peninsula, most of which was free.^ 

The evidence obtained by the special committee appointed 
by the Legislative Council of the Straits Settlements, 1876 ; ^ 
by Mr. Pickering, Chinese interpreter, Singapore, February, 
1877 ; 3 by the Commissioners who investigated the subject of 
Chinese labour, S.S. 1890,* supplies the following information 
on the " credit-ticket system of emigration " prior to 1877, 
when the first effective measure of Government control 
somewhat modified certain of its aspects. 

There were Chinese coolie-brokers in Singapore and 
Penang who worked in co-operation witlj ''eating-house " 
keepers in Swatow and Amoy and, to a lesser extent, in 
Hong Kong and Macao. According to one of the witnesses ^ 
who gave evidence 1876, there were some twenty or thirty 
of these houses in Swatow alone. These depot-keepers were 
regularly advised by the Singapore and Penang brokers of 
the state of the labour markets in the Straits ports. Acting 
on this advice, they advanced funds to certain Kheh-Thaus, 
^ or headmen, to recruit emigrants in the different villages of 
the Kwangtung province. The recruiters offered to secure a 
passage for the cooUes to the Straits Settlements on the under- 
standing that the expenses so incurred would be recovered 
from the employers to whom the cooHes would engage their 
services on arrival at their destination. Vivid pictures 
were drawn by the recruiters of the lucrative work await- 
ing Chinese coolies in the Straits Settlements.^ The im- 

1 In 1877 the unpaid passengers formed about 27 per cent, (-f-) of the 
total number of immigrants to Singapore. In 1890 the percentage was 
decreased to 8-4 per cent. (-|-). 

* Proceedings of Legis. Council, S.S. 1876. 

» Ibid., 1877. * Ibid., 1890-91. ^ Mr. Benjamin Holmberg. 

« See statements of five emigrants before Mr. Pickering, 187,7, Straits 
Settlements. " Look how poor you are," Lew Ship Yit complained that 
a recruiter had said to him ; " if you follow me I can take you to Singapore, 
where you will get such good employment that very soon you will pay 
the small amount of passage money required and will save more than 
$50-60 a year " — a fortune for a village labourer. 


paverishment of Southern China during the nineteenth 
century pressed heavily on the toihng villagers and there 
was probably little difficulty in collecting small bands of 
•volunteer emigrants. The latter were then taken by the 
Kheh-Thaus to the seaport lodging-houses, where they were 
detained until shipment. 
.^he depot or lodging-house keepers then arranged for the 
passages with the masters of the Chinese jjjnks or with the 
agents of the European vessels chartered for the emigrant 
service. The passages mighty be paid for in advance or 
given on credit until arrival in Singapore or Penang. If 
credit was given, the headman was made responsible to 
the master of the junk or the super-cargo of the chartered 
vessel, for the payment of the money due for his coolie 
band. The rate of passage money paid in advance differed 
from $5- $8, according to the competition. Rates on credit 
ranged from $7- Si 2. The number of credit passages which 
shipping agents were prepared to give probably differed 
with the state of the labour market in Singapore or Penang. 
However, the special Committee of 1876 reported that by 
that year it had become the general practice for emigrants 
from Amoy or Hong Kong to have their passages paid in 
advance ; passages from Hainan might or might not be so 
paid ; from Swatow probably about half the passages of the 
Teo chews (agricultural labourers) were taken on credit. 
Before embarkation each emigrant received a ticket stating 
whether his passage had been paid in advance or was on 
credit and the port of his destination. 1 Under the terms of 
the Chinese Passengers Act, 1855, any British ship carr3ang 
Chinese to the Straits Settlements after that date should 
have been examined with a view to ascertaining if all the 
emigrants were voluntary. By 1876 it seems also to have 
been the practice of the Mandarins to examine the emigrants 
to the same end — perhaps in consequence of the Emigration 

^ E.g. : " Please receive on board one passenger for Singapore. Name 
aged years. Country in the district of . 

Freight paid at Swatow. 

" Emigrants are responsible for their own luggage. Any one going 
on board with this ticket is to be received. 

" Sgd. . 

" Agent." 


Convention, 1866.1 It is probable that even before 1866 
i, the Mandarins were not unaware of the nature of the emigra- 
tion, nor without profit from it — indeed there was a general 
opinion in the Straits Settlement s that they took advantage 
of it to free themselves of the responsibility of diseased 
paupers and. criminals, " thus getting rid of a nuisance and 
improving a system of criminal transportation at the expense 
of other nations." Certainly by 1876 the Chinese officials 
had to be reckoned with by the speculators of the credit- 
ticket system. The latter to save themselves trouble with 
the Mandarins engaged European firms as agents for the 
emigrant vessels, Europeans not being so subject to " squeez- 
ing " as the Chinese. Nevertheless, some $200-8300 were 
demanded on account of each emigrant vessel clearing for 
the Straits Settlements. 2 

Prior to the enforcement of Ord. VI. 1874 S.S., which 
regulated the number of immigrants into the Straits Settle- 
ments in proportion to the size of the vessel on which they 
travelled, there is no doubt that many of the coolie ships 
were perilously overcrowded — especially when these were 
small sailing junks, the mortality on which was very heavy. 
As Mr. Cameron explained in his Malaysia,^ 

" By their deaths, though there may be a loss of profit there 
can be none of capital to the shipper. The men cost nothing 
and the more (he) can cram into his vessel the greater must be 
his profit. It would be a better speculation for the trader, 
whose junk could only carry properly 300 men, to take on board 
600 and lose 250 on the way down, than it would be for him to 
start with his legitimate number and land them all safely, for 
in the first case he would bring 350 men to market and in the 
other only 300." Even after the passing of Ord. 1874, evidence 
was given in 1876 to the effect that vessels after being cleared 
from a Chinese port would lie outside and fill up with more emi- 
grants from junks that came alongside. On arrival in the Straits 
and before entering the harbour, the vessels discharged such 
emigrants as had been taken on in addition to the number that 
might be legally carried. ' If they were only to carry the legal 
numbers the ships would not make any profit.' " * 

1 Sec below. 

* Evidence, 1876, Koh Tiang Po and Teon Gee Hoh. 

^ P. 41, quoted Canadian Sessional Papers, 1885, 4054a, p. cxvii. 

4 Mr. Taw Seng Poh, No. 4, 1876. 


On arrival in port the Chinese who had paid their own 
passage, or were indebted for it only to relatives or friends, 
were free to go ashore at once. The " unpaid pas3engers " 
or " Sinkhehs " were detained on the vessels until their 
services were engaged. To the latter end, the headmen 
went ashore to look for employers who wanted labour. 
In Singapore such employers were generally to be found 
among the Chinese business men of the port or the Chinese 
gambler, pepper and tapioca planters of the Straits Settle- 
ments Colony. The Sinkhehs taken to Penang were fre- 
quently engaged for the tin-mines of Perak and Selangor. 
The coolie broker__and_ ihe employer settled the price of 
transfefririg from the former to the latter the Sinkheh's 
financial obligations. If there was keen competition for 
labour, large profits would be made by those who engaged 
both in the recruitment and the sale of the coolie's services. 
Though it was estimated that in 1876 the total cost of 
introduction, including the expenses of recruitment and 
lodging in China and the passage money, approximated to 
some_ J13- ^14^ -the price ^received for_engaging the coolie's 
services would often be $20-824. This sum was paid by 
the employer on the understanding that it would be worked 
out either during a period of six months by the Sinkheh, 
who would receive only food and clothing, or during a 
period of one year, when from nominal Vv^ages paid the price 
demanded by the broker would be deducted. The Sinkheh 
was thus under the obligation of repaying not only the 
legitimate costs of his introduction but the large com- 
petitive profits gained by the brokers and their agents. 
Employers might or might not inspect the Sinkheh prior 
to settling the price. There is no evidence that the latter 
had any say in the manner in which his services were 
engaged. As soon as the matter had been arranged he 
was released from the emigrant vessel ^ and handed over 

^ The coolies were kept under restraint in the vessels after arrival in 
port lest they made their escape. July 26, 1876, '.two Commissioners 
visited a large immigrant vessel which had arrived with 1,000 immigrants 
on the previous day. 180 immigrants on credit passages were still on 
board, and were making a disturbance on account of the excessive heat 
down below. They were not allowed on deck for fear of escape while 
the vessel was discharging its cargo. 


to his future master or his master's agent. The interest 
of the broker or headman in the affair was then at an end. 
The transaction was known as the " pig business." As the 
Special Committee reported, 1876, it savoured of a buying 
and selHng operation. But they were nevertheless of the 
opinion that the emigration system involved no serious 
abuse if the Sinkhehs were disposed of quickly for service 
within the colony. 

It was different when the demand was slack. If the 
Sinkhehs had not all been disposed of when the charter of 
the vessel expired, the headmen might arrange for them 
to be carried on to another port. Some of the Penang 
brokers seem to have worked in collusion with those at 
Singapore and when better prices obtained in the former 
port the Sinkhehs were shipped there direct even though 
Singapore had been their agreed destination. " It is believed 
that the supercargo and the Kheh-Thaus are not very parti- 
cular at landing the Immigrants at the port for which they 
had embarked." ^ If this course was not adopted the 
Kheh-Thaus would pay the supercargo for any passages on 
credit and take their bands to a lodging-house ashore or to 
a junk in the harbour. In Penang all Sinkhehs not quickly 
disposed of were taken to one depot controlled by Mr. Tan 
Tek, " the most powerful man in the place." There was 
always the danger that the Sinkhehs would escape from the 
lodging-houses, in which case the Kheh-Thaus or the brokers 
would lose on the venture. 2 To avoid such a possibility, 
restrictions were placed on the liberty of the new immigrants 
to such an extent as to constitute a serious abuse. For 
instance, in two lodging-houses visited by the Colonial 
Secretary and Chief of PoHce, Straits Settlements, June 8, 
1876, the windows were barred to prevent exit and the 
doors guarded by a number of Samsengs — fighting men of 
the Chinese Secret Societies. Fifty Sinkhehs had been 
■^ locked up in these two houses for a week. Major Dunlop, 
a police inspector, said of a lodging-house he had occasion 

1 S.S. special Committee, 1876. See, e.g., p. ccxliii., instance of seventy- 
immigrants with tickets for Singapore carried on to Penang. 

2 Ibid., Evidence, Lum Kah Kway. Apparently heavy losses had been 
incurred in this way. 


to visit that it was " not fit to keep pigs in." Mr. Pickering 
reported of the same house-chop, February, 1877, " Many 
men might be confined here without notice." ^ But abuses 
were attached not only to the method of detention. The 
depot keepers were unscrupulous and made large profits 
by encouraging the Sinkhehs to gamble and by selling goods 
to them at high prices. The debts so contracted were 
recovered from the Sinkhehs out of the advances they 
received on accepting an engagement. Further, the brokers, 
greedy for gain, disposed of their victims to employers 
either within or without the colony on the best terms to 
themselves, pressure being exercised to force the Sinkhehs 
to submit. It was under such circumstances that a riot 
occurred on February 17, 1877, in Singapore. A number 
of Sinkhehs recruited for Singapore and " sold " from a 
lodging-house to the Chinese agent of Dutch mines in Suma- 
tra, refused to embark on the vessel to which they were 
being conducted by a " posse of fighting men." 2 The 
Sinkhehs had first been warned that resistance would bring 
punishment — a fact evident from their fear of the Colonial 
Police summoned to protect them.^ 

These abuses increased during the early seventies as 
a result of the sudden labour demands of the tobacco 
planters of Dutch Sumatra. Sinkhehs were forced to 
service in Deli.* Even the free immigrants to Singapore or 
Penang were not safe from the machinations of the brokers 
and their agents, who by one means or another got their 
victims to the lodging-houses en route to the Dutch planta- 
tions. The luc, ess Chinese who had served a first period 
of time were k inapped to the same end. By 1876 Mr. 
Plunket, Superintendent of Police, Penang, declared that 
there were constant complaints of kidnapping in Penang. 
" There are a large number of men who have no occupation 
but going about the country getting coolies to go to Deli, 
Sirdang, and other places in Sumatra." ^ 

1 Mr. Pickering's Report, 1877. ^ Ibid. 

* They protested their willingness to go anyTvhere or do anything if 
they were not punished. 

* Chinese from Straits Settlements to Deli, 1874, 48 ; 1875, 1,088. 
5 Report of S.S. Special Committee, 1876, Penang, No. 4. 


The sinister power exercised by the Chinese brokers and 
depot-keepers is to be explained largely by their authority 
as officials of the more dangerous of the secret societies. 
The investigation that followed the Sinkheh riot February, 
1877, revealed the fact that Leong-ah-Paw, the head of the 
Sung-peh-Kwau Secret Society, " was at the bottom of the 
whole business." Mr. Tan Tek, the powerful Chinese broker 
in Penang, who took charge of all Sinkhehs landed in Penang 
until they were disposed of, was the chief of the Teh Pek 
Kong Society. Sinkhehs were escorted to and from the 
emigrant vessels by Samsengs — fighting men in the pay of 
the societies. The lodging-houses were guarded by the 
same formidable power. It is no doubt true that the 
Sinkhehs were unaware of the existence of any other institu- 
tion of Government in the Straits Settlements. 

There are no reliable figures of the number of Sinkhehs 
introduced into the Straits Settlements under the credit- 
ticket system prior to 1877. In the Journal of the Indian 
Archipelago , 1854, it is written that " masters of junks not 
understanding the science of statistics, view any attempt 
at counting their passengers or bales of goods as a prelude 
to taxation." The figures given in the Journal for the 
total annual immigration of Chinese, free and indebted, 
increased from 5,063 during 1840-41 to 11,484 during 1852-3 
In 1877, 16,668 Chinese immigrants were examined in the 
Straits Settlements. Of the 9,776 immigrants landed in 
Singapore in that year, 2,653 were " unpaid " or " credit- 
ticket " passengers. This ratio of indebted to free immi- 
grants may perhaps be taken for the total immigration into 
the Straits Settlements in 1877. Of the earlier years there 
is no sufficient record. 

That this organized immigration into the Straits Settle- 
ments on so large a scale could continue until 1877 without 
legislative intervention calls for comment. It is true that 
so early as 1823 Sir S. Raffles had endeavoured to regulate 
the credit-ticket emigration by an ordinance that limited 
the amount of passage money to $20 and the period of 
service by an adult in compensation thereof to two years. 
Every engagement was to be entered into with the free 


consent of the parties in the presence of a magistrate. 
But the ordinance does not seem to have been enforced, 
perhaps owing to Sir S. Raffles' removal from the colony. 
From 1829-58 the affairs of the Straits Settlements were 
directed by the East India Company's officials in Bengal ; 
from 1858-67 by the Government of India. The centre 
of authority being so remote the affairs of the Straits Settle- 
ments were not given due consideration by an executive 
indifferent to, if not ignorant of, the needs of the residents. 
Even after 1867, when the Settlements were created a 
Crown Colony, the officials remained for some years ignorant 
"of the nature of the credit-ticket system of immigration. 
" The Government knows little or nothing of the Chinese 
who form the industrial backbone of these settlements," 
declared Mr. Pickering, Chinese interpreter, in a special 
report on the subject in 1877. Moreover, the inefficiency 
of the Government prior to 1867 had made possible the 
extraordinary power of the Chinese secret societies against 
which the Crown Colony officials had later so seriously to 
contend and from the more dangerous of which was derived 
the influence of the Chinese brokers over their coolie- debtors. 
These " dangerous " societies proved a formidable obstacle 
to the intervention of the Government when the latter had 
become aware of the abuses of the credit-ticket system, and 
it was mainly to prevent an extension of their power that 
the special Committee of 1876, while recommending legis- 
lation, urged the necessity of obtaining the confidence and 
co-operation of the respectable members of the Chinese 

But the circumstances of the seventies forced the Govern- 
ment to take action. On different occasions during the 
years 1871-3 the Chinese merchants, who formed the business 
centre of Singapore, petitioned the Government to appoint 
a trustworthy officer to superintend immigration and so 
minimize the power of " ill-disposed persons that often 
make their trade of the Sinkhehs or new-comers." Atten- 
tion was further directed to the subject by the riots of March, 
1871, and October, 1872. The latter disturbances, though 
originating in a dispute between the police and Chinese 


hawkers, was extended in its scope by the influence of the 
Samsengs or fighting men of the secret societies. The 
Committee appointed on November 4 to inquire into the 
causes of the riots, pointed out ^ that the number of these 
Samsengs had considerably increased in the last two years. 
Yet although these men were able to threaten the security of 
the Straits Settlements, the Government had no control over 
their immigration. The Committee drew the Government's 
attention to the fact that two steamers within a week or 
two of one another had landed 3,200 coolies in the Settle- 
ments. " Of such and their movements neither the Govern- 
ment nor the police have any knowledge nor have they 
any control over them." They therefore recommended that 
a Register Officer should be appointed to board each coolie- 
ship and that the coolies should be kept under super- 
vision until they had found an occupation. It was further 
suggested that the Officer might keep a list of persons want- 
ing labour in order to facilitate the employment of the 

The Secretary of State signified his approval of the intro- 
duction of an ordinance to prohibit the kidnapping of 
Sinkhehs ; to establish a depot for registration and lodging, 
and to appoint officers to inspect the conditions of the 
coolies on the plantations. An ordinance was accordingly 
drafted, and accepted by the Legislative Council. But it 
could not be enforced — it was too elaborate in detail. It 
was opposed by parties interested in the introduction of 
labour as " impolitic and unnecessary : impolitic because it 
interferes with the importation of free labour to this Settle- 
ment and unnecessary because it can never accomplish the 
object which it is supposed to secure." When Sir W. 
Jervois arrived as Governor of the Colony, a Committee 
was appointed (1876) to investigate the subject of Chinese 
labour. The Committee made several recommendations. 
The Government should interfere to protect immigrants 
and emigrants against the malpractices of the brokers. 
Protectors of Chinese should therefore be appointed in 
Singapore and Penang and possibly, later on, in Malacca, 

* Special Report on Singapore Riots, 1872, Colonial Office copy. 


who should be European gentlemen conversant with the 
Chinese dialects and assisted by respectable Chinese. Since 
the " unpaid passengers " had no effects which could be 
made Uable, a detention of their persons or a hen on their 
services must be legahzed in substitution for the illegal 
detention on board ship, or in houses on shore by which 
payment was at the time enforced. To this end Government 
depots should be estabhshed for the reception of immigrants 
on arrival and emigrants on departure under engagement. 
The Committee suggested further that the cooHe brokers 
should be hcensed ; no licences to be issued to known bad 
characters and heavy penalties to be imposed for recruiting 
without licence. All engagements for service should be 
made in writing before a Protector of Chinese. Such engage- 
ments should be legahzed and the infraction of them made 
penal. The Committee warned the Government, however, 
that an ordinance should not be of the elaborate pattern of 
the ordinance 1873, and above all that the confidence of the 
respectable portion of the Chinese community should be 
won to the measure. Following immediately on the Report 
of the special Committee which had revealed many grave 
abuses existing in the Straits Settlements, Mr. Pickering, 
Chinese Interpreter, called the attention of the Government 
to a riot of February 27, 1877, caused by the revolt of a 
band of cooHes who were being driven on board tongkangs 
by armed Samsengs, for shipment to Sumatra. Mr. Picker- 
ing urged the necessity of immediate legislative action. An 
ordinance (11 of 1877) was accordingly introduced and 
passed March 23, 1877. It provided for the appointment of 
a Protector (Singapore) and assistant Protector (Penang) 
of Chinese ; it regulated the proceedings of vessels arriving 
with Chinese passengers to ensure the inspection of the 
passengers by the Protector and his officers with a special 
view to ascertaining whether the " unpaid passengers " 
were or were not voluntary immigrants ; it authorized the 
estabhshment of depots for the reception of the Sinkhehs 
and for their detention if the Protector deemed such a course 
necessary ; it obliged the registration of all labour-contracts 
made by the Chinese immigrants. 


The ordinance was, however, only partially brought into 
force. Mr. Pickering was appointed Protector of Chinese, 
Singapore, and Mr. Karl, Assistant Protector, Penang, 
May 3, 1877. But the Secretary of State considered it 
inexpedient to establish Government depots or barracoons — 
" It was thought we were not in possession of such knowledge 
as would allow a step involving so much responsibility to be 
taken." ^ But the added experience gained during the 
period 1877-80 proved the need of certain amendments to 
Ord. II, 1877, and Ord. IV, 1880, was passed on July 13, 
1880, despite the opposition of the unofficial members of 
the Council. The amending ordinance provided more 
efficient regulations for the examination of the Sinkhehs on 
arrival by the officers of the Protectorate. Unpaid passen- 
gers who declared themselves voluntary immigrants were 
to be landed immediately on arrival and taken to depots, 
which might either be provided by the Government or by 
persons licensed by the Government — such licensed depots 
being subject to all the rules and supervision of a Govern- 
ment depot. Sinkhehs might be detained in the depot for 
a period not exceeding ten days, after which, if their services 
had not been engaged, they were to be given their freedom. 

Under the provisions of the ordinance the Government 
estabHshed an examination depot at Penang, but at Singa- 
pore the inspection on arrival continued to be carried out 
on board ship despite the unsatisfactory conditions — 

" Scenes of disorder, amounting almost to riot, sometimes 
occur on the arrival of coolie ships, rowdies from the shore 
assaulting the Boarding officers, boatmen and depot-keepers 
snatching ear-rings and bangles from the women passengers and 
endeavouring to persuade unpaid passengers to run away." 

No detention depots were established. Instead several of 
the lodging-houses were licensed and made subject to regu- 
lations. They were inspected by the Protectorate officials. 
But however frequently inspected, its very nature made 
this system of detention liable to abuse. The Commissioners 
appointed in 1890 were of the opinion that compared with 
the surroundings to which the coolies had been accustomed, 

1 Attorney-General, Straits Settlements, introducing Ord. IV., 1880. 


there was little objection from a sanitary point of view to 
be made to the licensed houses. But, as they pointed out, 
there were objections to the confinement without exercise 
or occupation of a large number of Chinese for a period which 
might extend to ten days. The brokers continued to use the 
authority of the secret societies to exert pressure on the 
Sinkhehs to accept the engagements which brought the 
highest profits. Even after the societies had been suppressed 
(1889-91) the power for evil remained, " The men are 
often forced to go to Deli against their will by threats of 
legal proceedings for debts incurred," the Protector of 
Chinese stated in 1891 ^ before the Commission. He was of 
the opinion that " the power which is thus placed in the 
hands of the depot-keepers, who are agreed on all sides to 
be unscrupulous, appears to us greater than should be 
entrusted to private individuals." 

There was a certain check on the influence exercised by 
the broker to induce the coolies to accept engagements in 
the compulsory registration of contracts for service. 2 These 
must be entered into between the agent of the employer 
and the coolies in the presence of the Protector of Chinese. 
It was the Protector's duty to ascertain whether the coolies 
entered into the contracts voluntarily — though it remains 
open to question whether the influence of the Protector was 
ever great enough to overcome the terror inspired by the 

Such was the degree of control over the credit-ticket 
immigration into the Straits Settlements provided for by 
Ord. II, 1877, and Ord. IV, 1880. However inadequate 
their provisions to free the system from all its abuses, they 
had no doubt resulted in large improvements by subjecting 
it to official inspection.^ The immigration of Chinese coolies 

1 Proceedings of Legis. Council, 1891. Report of Labour Commis- 
sion Evidence, No. 2861. 

^ The terms of the contracts, made in accordance with this provision, 
differed according to the nature of the service. They stipulated as a 
general rule for 360 days' labour with wages varying from $30-42 per 
annum, from which was to be deducted the cost of introduction, reckoned 
as from $19-50 to $22. Food and some clothing and mosquito curtains 
were to be provided by the employer. 

^ It should be added that during the same period the Government 
had attempted to legislate for the emigration from the Straits Settlements 


into the Straits Settlements had been made a matter of 
official interest. 

During the eighties the competition of employers in the 
labour market of the Straits Settlements rapidly increased. 
Singapore and Penang became large distributing ports for 
Chinese cooHes. Labour was in demand for the plantations 
of Province Wellesley. In the Protected Native States a 
quickened economic activity had followed the more settled 
conditions established by the Treaty of Pangkor. The 
mining development that followed the rise in the price of 
tin and the opening up of the sugar and coffee plantations 
resulted in an increased labour importation into territories 
which were without an effective labour supply of their 
own. Until 1888 the tobacco planters of Dutch Sumatra 
were strong competitors in the " men-markets " of Singapore 
and Penang. In that year they made arrangements for 
the direct importation of coolies from Swatow and Amoy, 
so that their labour supply from the Straits ports decreased 
from 13,554 in 1889 to 10414 in 1890. This lesser demand 
was, however, still effective. Moreover, subsequent to the 
agreement of May 12, 1888, between the British North 
Borneo Company and the British Government, a large 
forward poHcy was initiated in British North Borneo. 
With the opening up of the tobacco estates the number 
of contracts to labour made in Singapore with Chinese 
coohes for Borneo 1 increased from 390 in 1887 to 7,223 
in 1890.2 There was in addition a smaller but by no means 
negligible demand from all the neighbouring territories, 
even from Western Australia. » 

under agreements of service of Chinese who had been in the colony for 
some time or who had arrived as free passengers. The Crimping Ordi- 
nance, 1877, imposed a penalty on any person who by deceit or other 
illegitimate persuasion induced any person to leave the colony for service 
elsewhere. It authorized recruiting for such service by licensed recruiters, 
and made a written contract signed before a Protector compulsory for all 
intending emigrants. It imposed penalties on all those who having signed 
such contracts refused to carry out their terms. 

1 This includes a few contracts for Labuan and Sarawak. 

2 The British North Borneo planters also imported coolies direct from 
Hong Kong. 

* In 1874 a Committee was appointed to consider the introduction of 
indentured Asiatic labour for the development of the Pearling Industry 
and pastoral settlement in Western Australia. The Committee reported 


As the labour requirements of the profitable tobacco 
estates increased during the eighties, the cost of the 
Sinkheh to the employer became exorbitant. By 1890 
the expenses incurred in introducing a coolie to the Straits 
Settlements probably did not exceed $14- $16. To this 
sum must be added the advances of $30 paid to coolies 
to induce them to go to Sumatra or Borneo — most of 
which went into the brokers' pockets. The difference 
between this cost and the price paid by the planters 
— $80-890 for Sumatra, $85- $90 for Borneo — represents 
the high rate of profit accruing to the traffic. Even 
the planters in Province Wellesley, who gave no advances 
to their coolies, had to pay for their services a sum varying 
from $35-S38. 

No doubt this rise in costs was in part the result of the 
increased risks of recruitment. During the sixties and 
seventies the Chinese Government had been rudely awakened 
to the abuses attached to the system of Chinese emigration 
under foreign contract. ^ Its vigilance increased. During 
the eighties considerable obstacles were placed in the way 
of coolie-recruitment under the credit-ticket system, the 
opposition of the Government being on occasion so strong 
that the broker's agents hesitated in paying the usual 
advances to the Kheh-Thaus.^ 

In 1891 the Labour Commission S.S. reported, 

"It is probable that no definite rule on the subject has been 
Y laid down by the Chinese Government but that the Governor- 
General of the Two Kwang is personally strongly opposed to the 
credit-ticket system and does all in his power ... to prevent 
unpaid passengers from emigrating." 

unfavourably of Indian labour, but advised the introduction of Chinese 
on a small scale. During the seventies a few coolies were introduced 
^at public expense. In 1880 the Council decided to operate the system 
of indentured labour on a larger scale and, despite opposition locally and 
in the Eastern States, a few hundred Chinese were introduced annually 
during the eighties. Introduction \vas suspended, 1893, but again allowed, 
1897, north of 27° and in the proportion of i coolie to 500 tons shipping. 
In 1894 repatriation at the end of the indentured period was made com- 
pulsory. On the establishment of the Commonwealth the system was 
abolished, save for the Pearl Fisheries. 

1 See below, Chapter III. 

* Report of Labour Commission, S.S. 1890; Evidence 165. 


The Governor-General was determined to suppress 
kidnapping. " Protection against kidnapping should be 
absolutely guaranteed," stated the Chinese Consul- General 
before the Commission, " it is a point on which the Chinese 
Government is more sensitive than on any other." The 
penalty for kidnapping was death, so that if relatives 
complained that one of their number had been decoyed away, 
the headman responsible for his recruitment had to secure 
his return or flee for his life — unless the relatives and minor 
Chinese officials were willing to accept the price of peace. 
On September 29, 1888, a coolie-broker was beheaded in 
Swataw, under instructions from the Viceroy, for having 
sent or taken several persons to Hong Kong and deceived 
them into going to Singapore where they were sold for 
labour in Deli. To minimize their risks the brokers had to 
resort to " the bribing of subordinates, the purchase of the 
silence of parents, the tutoring of the emigrants to lie to 
those in authority." 

In addition to, or perhaps on account of, the risks of the 
coolie-venture, the brokers had followed the fashion of 
monopoly and formed a ring. They " form a ring . . . 
and they are thus able to force prices up to a height 
only limited by the inability of the employers to pay 

The latter had made several attempts to break the power 
of monopoly by recruiting and importing coolies on their 
own account, but except in the instance of the Deli Planters 
Association the brokers' ring was sufftciently powerful to 
render these efforts abortive. 

Under these circumstances the employers of labour 
demanded, in 1890, that a Commission should be appointed 
to investigate the subject of Chinese labour with a view to 
making recommendations for securing an increased and 
cheaper supply. A Commission was accordingly appointed, 
1890. Its recommendations were of a sweeping nature. 
The Commissioners were of the opinion that an endeavour 
should be made to obtain the sanction of the Chinese Govern- 
ment to a system of emigration placed on an entirely new 
basis. It should no longer be a speculative business engaged 


in by Chinese brokers. Instead Government depots should 
be estabhshed in China and placed under the control of a 
Government superintendent. Recruiting should be confined 
to recruiters licensed by such superintendent with the con- 
currence of the Chinese Government. Labourers should be 
recruited for some definite employment. The Commissioners 
suggested that by the latter means the recruiters would act 
under definite orders from employers, not from brokers. 
Speculation would thus be abandoned and the price of 
labour considerably reduced. The coolie would then be 
bound to render services only for the actual cost of his 
introduction. The jCommissioners recommended that the 
cooHes on arrival in the Stra its~~Settlements should be 
examined and detained in Government examination and 
lodging depots. The system of licensed depots should be 
abandoned as inevitably subject to abuse. The Commis- 
sioners emphasized the necessity of gaining the co-operation 
of the Chinese Government. The " pig business " would 
thus be abolished with all its temptations to fraud. The 
difficulties placed in the way of recruitment would be 
overcome. A sufficient and cheap supply of Chinese labour 
would be secured. 

But Mr. F. Powell, the Protector of Chinese, added a 
rider to the Report. He was of the opinion that its recom- 
mendations were impracticable. Before they could be 
acted upon an extensive and searching inquiry would have,,,^ 
to be made into the conditions surrounding recruitment^ 'y ' . 
both in Hong Kong and the Chinese ports. The consent ' ^*^ ^"^ " 
of the Chinese Government would have to be obtained and 
the cordial co-operation of the Hong Kong Government 
assured. His chief objection, however, was the ease with 
which any system of Government depots in China or in the 
Straits Settlements could be evaded. Once the hcensed 
depots were abohshed, neither the depot-keepers nor their 
numerous staffs would have any motive for reporting un- 
licensed depots for receiving credit-ticket passengers. The 
difficulties in the way of preventing irregularities had already 
been proven and such a course as abandoning licensed depots 
for a Government depot would be followed by still more 

C.C.E. c 


^ serious abuses, considering the power of the cooHe brokers 
and the profits of the coohe trade. 

The recommendations of the Commission were not adgpted. 
Apparently no attempt was made to take advantage even 
of the Emigration Convention of 1904 to institute a system 
of official recruitment. No important change was effected 
in the credit-ticket system of emigration until its abolition 
in 1914. The following minor legislative and administrative 
improvements were, however, made. Before the Commis- 
sion the Protector of Chinese had insisted on the need of 
estabHshing an Examination Depot in Singapore similar to 
that in Penang. This need was urged in every Annual 
Report by the Protectorate during the nineties. 1 The 
Examination Depot was at last sanctioned in 1897 and 
established during April, 1899. No Government detention 
depots were allowed, despite the urgent request made for 
their estabhshment by the Protector of Chinese in 1897. 
" No going round visiting depots can be equal to residing 
under the same roof." The request was again urged by the 
Protector of Chinese in 1902,2 after an unfortunate distur- 
bance in one of the hcensed depots, during which the 
Protector was assaulted and two of the ringleaders shot by 
the police. But no change was made. 

In 1902, the Chinese Emigrants' Ord. Amendment Ord. 
1891 was repealed by Ord. XIX of 1902 (Principal Ord.). 
Among other provisions the Protector was given further 
powers to search any place other than a hcensed depot to 
which he had reason to suspect that credit-ticket immigrants 
had been unlawfully removed. Immigrants who had been 
brought into the Straits Settlements by fraud were to be 
released or, together with immigrants unfit for labour, to 
be returned to China at the expense of the creditor. It 
was also provided that the Protector should have power to 

1 " Until this Examination Depot is built we are not in a position to 
challenge the Chinese Government to show cause why * advance-ticket ' 
emigration should not be freely permitted and even encouraged, and 
only by this means can it be taken out of the hands of the unprincipled 
rascals who now control it." — Annual Report, 1S96. 

' In 1902 there were seven depots in Singapore, two in Penang and 
one in Malacca. 


fix from time to time the maximum sum for which an} ' 
emigrant from any port in China to any port in the colony 
should be indebted for the passage money and advances. 
A penalty was provided against an unpaid passenger who 
refused to make a contract within ten days ^ if employers 
offered. Further amendments, chiefly of definition, were 
made in the principal ordinance by an Amending Ordinance 
III of 1910. 

Meanwhile, during 1906 an arrangement was made 
between the Governments of the Straits Settlements and 
Hong Kong on the subject of credit-ticket emigration from ^^5^ 
the latter port. The Hong Kong law ^ was not cognizant ' 
i^V^of the credit- ticket system until the Chinese Emigration 
yj^^^ Amendment Ord. 1908 was passed. Prior to this date it 
^ was required only that the coolies should be voluntary 
emigrants---to which they could be tutored by their Kheh- 
Thaus. If necessary they could be personated at the 
inspection. By the arrangement of 1906 the Government 
of the Straits Settlements refused to recognize as an unpaid 
passenger any immigrant from Hong Kong who had not 
acknowledged his indebtedness before the Registrar- General 
at that port. The Hong Kong Government instituted the 
necessary machinery for administering the arrangement. 
By Ord. 1908 assisted (credit-ticket) emigrants were dis- 
tinguished from free emigrants on the one hand and contract 
emigrants on the other — the interests of assisted emigrants ,. 
being safeguarded by special provisions.^ ' The arrangement 
between the Governments of the Straits Settlements and 
Hong Kong and the administration of Ord. 1908 proved a 
valuable check on emigration abuses. Its assistance to the 

^ Ten days was the period of detention permitted in the licensed depots. 

2 Chinese Emigration Ord. i of 1889. 

3 That serious abuses had obtained in the system in Hong Kong was 
evidenced by the disclosures made Sept. 19, 1904, before Chief Justice 
Berkeley, when three men were indicted for obtaining by force certain 
coolies for the purpose of emigration. " Evidence adduced the fact 
that in Hong Kong the kidnapping of ignorant Chinamen is all too rife. 
The house in question, as proved by a plan made by Mr. Bissell of the 
Public Works Department, wa,s a perfect prison. He (Attorney-General) 
would also prove . . . that personation (i.e. at the inspection) was the 
regular rule." (The Attorney-General for the prosecution. See Hong 
Kong Telegraph, Sept. 20, 1904.) 



s<-vork of the Protectorate Straits Settlements was recognized 

by that Department ^ and testified to by the decrease in 

the number of coohes who had to be returned from 

the Straits Settlements to China as unwilling immi- 

Changes were also made between 1890-1914 in the organi- 
zation of the Protectorate. In 1877 a Protector in Singapore 
and an assistant Protector in Penang had been appointed, 
necessary additions to the Protectorate staff being made 
subsequently. But no officer was appointed at Malacca 
until 1 90 1, despite the large immigration into that port of 
credit-ticket passengers by Hailam junks ^ for the tapioca 
and sugar plantations. In 1903 the Chinese Protectorates 
of the Federated Malay States and Straits Settlements were 
united under the one head — the Protector Straits Settle- 
ments becoming the Secretary for Chinese Affairs Straits 
Settlements and the Federated Malay States. 

Such was the nature of the credit-ticket emigration to 
British Malaysia when it was terminated (1914-16) under 
instructions from the Secretary of State. This decision 
was the result of a report issued in 1910, which revealed 
serious abuses in the system of Chinese contract labour in 
the Federated Malay States. 

During the nineteenth century the services of Chinese 
coolies had been bought in the men-markets of Singapore 
and Penang for the development of tin-mining in Perak and 
\ Selangor. Chinese coolies were also imported for the sugar 
plantations opened up in the Protected Native States after 
the Treaty of Pangkor. But during the last decade of the 
nineteenth and the first decade of the twentieth centuries 
the employment of Chinese labour under service contract 
steadily decreased in the Federated Malay States. Whereas 
in 1900 some 7,462 contract -coolies were employed, only 864 
were under contract in 1909. This decrease was no doubt 
partly due to the high costs of coolie-labour. In 1899, when 
the price of tin was rising, arrangements were made for the 
direct importation of Chinese by subsidized steamers from 

1 Annual Report, 1907. 2 /^j^^.^ igio. 

^ Arrival of Sinkhehs, Malacca, 1888, 2,578 ; 1889, 3,970 ; 1890, 3,383. 


Canton via Hong Kong to Kwala Klang ; but the experiment 
was a failure. The high initial expense, moreover, was 
considerably increased by the ease with which a coolie 
could abscond from the mines. And further it was becoming 
evident that good economic results could not be obtained 
from the labour of men recruited by deceit for no specified 
occupation. " A system of recruitment based on deceit is 
obviously not capable of indefinite extension," stated Mr. 
Barnes, British Resident, Pahang, 1910.^ As sugar culture 
under Chinese owners gave place to rubber-planting under 
European management, Indian and Javanese indentured 
labourers were preferred to Chinese — partly because the 
recruitment of the two former was under Government con- 
trol and partly because for European managers they were 
the more docile workers. ^ Moreover, though the Indians 
were perhaps more subject to disease than the Chinese, the 
Javanese were of good physique and suffered little from 

But the rubber boom, 1909, quickened planting activities 
and thereby created a large labour-demand, so that when 
the decision was made by the Indian authorities to terminate 
the system of indentured Indian labour, 1910, the value of 
Chinese coolies for plantation work was again brought under 
discussion. 3 

Under these circumstances it was deemed necessary by 
the Colonial Office* that the system of indentured labour, 
both Chinese and Javanese, should be investigated in order 
to place it on as sound a basis as possible. Mr. C. W. C. 
Parr was appointed Sole Commissioner for the purpose, on 
January i, 1910. As a result of his investigations he 
reported ^ favourably on the general conditions under which 
the Javanese immigrants were working, but he drew atten- 

^ F.M.S., Parr's Report on Chinese Labour, 1910, Appendix K. 

* Indian and Javanese women emigrated more readily than Chinese 
women. In his report, 1910, Mr. Parr drew attention to the fact that 
on estates where more equal proportions of the two sexes were employed 
the percentage of desertions was very low. 

^ See Hofig Kong Daily Press, June 3, 191 3. 

* The decision was no doubt influenced by the failure of the Transvaal 
experiment (see below, Chapter IV) . 

5 Proceedings of the F.M.S. Council, 1910. 


tion to serious abuses in the system of Chinese indentured 
labour on six sugar estates in Perak and suggested improve- 
ments in the treatment of Chinese coohes on the three 
rubber estates in Negri Sembilan to which they had recently 
been imported. 

Prior to 1900 contracts for the Protected Native States 
had been signed in Singapore or Penang under the provisions 
of Ord. 1877 and 1880. They were then registered in the 
state to which the coolie was taken for service. In 1900 the 
Protectorate Departments of Perak and Selangor were 
made competent to witness the signing of the contracts, 
and after that date contracts were signed either in the 
Straits Settlements or in the Federated Malay States. 
They were subject to the provisions of various Labour laws 
consolidated and amended by the Federated Malay States 
Labour Enactment, 1904. By this enactment the period 
of indenture was limited to one year if the contract was 
made within, and two years if made without, the colony. 
After a maximum period of two years the coolie was free 
from obligation, even though his debts were not paid off. 
Under the enactment it was not competent for any employer 
to charge the coolie any sum for the expenses incurred in his 
introduction or to deduct any sum from his wages on this 
account. The enactment gave power to an aggrieved party 
to make complaint in a magistrate's court, — penalties being 
imposed for a breach of contract. For the coolie, however, 
the protection of the law was mainly nominal — he rarely 
being in a position to take advantage of it. 

A system of inspection of estates had been adopted in ac- 
cordance with a recommendation made by the Labour Com- 
mission S.S. of 1890, ^but such inspections were infrequent and 
irregular. Certainly they did not achieve their purpose. The 
abuses were especially grave in the Krian district, where the 

1 Evidence given before the Commission, 1890, revealed many abuses 
in the treatment of coolies working under contract in the Straits Settle- 
ments. Many were detained for long periods on the estate after the 
contract had expired on the pretext that they were bound to serve until 
their debts were paid off. They were frequently beaten. The Kongsis 
were unsanitary and practically free from supervision. The Commis- 
sioners therefore recommended an Agricultural Labourers' Bill and the 
regular inspection of estates by officials of the Chinese Protectorate. 


" rumah Kechie " system ^ of cultivation had been adopted. 
Under this system sections of an estate were let out for 
cultivation to Chinese " tewkays," the crop being purchased 
at fixed prices by the owner of the estate. The indentured 
Chinese were distributed among these headmen and remained 
entirely under their control. Apparently on none of the 
estates that employed Chinese coolies were checks kept by 
the o\\Tiers on the wage-accounts. In 1910 some of the 
coolies examined by Mr. Parr had no complaints to make 
about their wages. To others, however, large sums of 
money were owing. ^ Wages were rarely paid until the 
expiration of the indentured period,^ though advances in 
cash were apparently made from time to time.^ On the 
Saga rubber Estate (Negri Sembilan) general provisions or 
chandu were given the labourers in lieu of wages. ^ The 
conditions of the coolie-lines on the estates in Negri Sembilan 
were reported as " fair though capable of improvement," 
but in Perak they were in some cases " scandalous." Mr. 
J. R. Delmege, Medical Officer Krian, gave evidence : 
" Sanitation as a rule nil." ^ He had found it necessary 
during the year to order the lines on the Kwong Li Estate 
to be destroyed. His statements were supported by the 
evidence of Mr. H. C. Ridges, Acting Protector of Chinese, 
Perak. The bathing places were found in some instances 
to be infected and partly responsible for the prevalence of 
gonorrhseal ophthalmia. Most of the estates had hospitals, 
though often of indifferent character. Government hospitals 
had been established in order to provide full facilities for 
medical treatment, but the estates were frequently guilty 
of serious delays in sending coolies for treatment — notwith- 
standing prosecutions and fines. Though some of the 
coolies examined stated that they had not been subjected 
to personal ill-treatment by their headmen, others com- 

1 The name derived from the small lines or huts in which the coolies 
were housed. 

2 Evidence 33. S.S. Labour Commission, 1890. 

^ This was in contravention of Sect. 22 (Chinese Agricultural) Labour 
Enactment, 1904. 

* Evidence 42. S.S. Labour Commission, 189a. 
5 Contravention, Sect. 12, Truck Act. 

* Evidence 37. S.S. Labour Commission, 1890. 


plained of floggings and showed rattan marks. ^ There is 
no doubt that some of the headmen were, on occasion, guilty 
of intolerable cruelty. 2 Evidence proved also that they 
frequently practised unnatural offences against their coolies, 
forcing them to their pleasure — the terrorized victims being 
as a rule too afraid to complain. As a result of his investi- 
gations, Mr. Parr recommended that the Chinese credit- 
ticket emigration and the indenture-system which it involved 
should be terminated. He suggested the substitution of the 
Kangany-system — the system by which the Chinese miners 
in 1910 were introducing most of their coolie-labour. 
Managers of estates should send to China trusted headmen 
furnished with a licence from the Protectorate. The 
headmen should be instructed to recruit some of their 
friends in the ancestral village for labour on the estates. 
Such recruits under the law would be free from any obligation 
except the one month's notice of a verbal contract. They 
would be under no bond to refund the expenses of their 
introduction. 3 But Mr. Parr was of the opinion that the 
rise in wages made possible by the abolition of the debt- 
deductions would prove a strong inducement to the coolie 
to remain with his fellow villagers on the estate; He did 
not doubt that the coolies under these circumstances would 
remain long enough to fully compensate the employers for 
the expense of their introduction. But although Mr. Parr 
strongly urged the substitution of the Kangany for the 
credit-ticket system, he was aware that this would be of 
no value for the newly opened estates on which there would 
be no Kangany to send for recruits. He therefore suggested 
that besides encouraging the former system short indentures 
for 150 days should be allowed. Though the employer 
would be well compensated for the expenses of introduction 
by this shortened period of labour, he would not be able 
to pay the high profits demanded by the coolie-brokers. 
Hence the professional broker would tend to disappear, 

1 Visit No. 9, also Evidence 37. S.S. Labour Commission, 1890. 

^ Ibid., Evidence 33, Aik Heng Estate. 

* As suggested by Mr. Parr the Kangany system differed from that 
in operation in Ceylon, where the recruits remained directly indebted 
to the Kangany. 


and with him many of the irregularities to which the credit- 
ticket emigration had been subjected. If the contract- 
system so modified were allowed to continue, Mr. Pan- 
suggested the necessity of making the manager of the estate, 
and not a Chinese contractor, chiefly responsible for the 
welfare of the coolies and the conditions under which they 
worked. It was the ill-treatment of Chinese by Chinese 
that led to the gravest abuses of the system. 

Mr. Parr's Report was received by the Colonial Office 
July 13, 1910. On February 9, 1911, the Colonial Secretary 
(the late Viscount Harcourt) forwarded instructions ^ that 
the system of Chinese indentured labour in British Malaysia 
was to be terminated June 30, 1914." The decision especi- 
ally af ected the Federated Malay States, the ^traits Settle- 
ments and British North Borneo. It should be understood 
that the local enactments passed to carry into effect the 
Imperial instructions did not interfere with the liberty of 
contract nor with the civil remedy for breach of contract. 
It was an indentured system with penal sanctions that was 
abolished. " A system which imposes penalties for breach 
of contract is not a system the continued existence of which 
should be- tolerated in a British community in the twentieth 
century." ^ 

The system was terminated * June 30, 1914, throughout 
British Malaysia with the exception of Kelantan, where 
local circumstances secured for it an extension until June 30, 
1916. The termination of the indentured system which it 
had involved brought to an end Chinese credit-ticket emigra- 
tion to the Straits Settlements. 

1 Private Correspondence, August 8, 35722 /1921. 

* " As regards Javanese indentured labour, the position seemed on 
the whole to be satisfactory, though the terms of the Netherlands Indian 
Labourers' Protection Enactment should be more strictly enforced in 
detail," Ibid. 

5 Attorney-General Straits Settlements, in introducing Labour Con- 
tracts Bill, June 17, 191 3. 

* There was considerable local opposition to this decision, e.g., Mr. Boyd, 
Straits Settlements Legislative Council, August 22, 1913 : " To many 
industries the principal of which is rubber, the ability to establish a labour 
force which will be available for a period of at least a year is a great advan- 
tage in order to enable them to go on with necessary and important works 
in the stages before it has been possible to establish a regular labour 



The movement of Chinese coolies under the credit-ticket 
system into British Malaysia gave rise to a contract system 
of labour sanctioned by law. But neither in Canada 
nor in Australasia was the law cognizant of such a 
labour system as involved in the Chinese immigration 
that commenced during the fifties of last century. The 
decision of the Canadian and Australasian peoples th^t 
the steady movement of Chinese into their midst must 
be restricted arose from no fine sense of the abuses to 
which the coolie might be subjected during the period 
of his bondage. The masses of these young British do- 
minions were more than labourers — they were colonists. 
They were not unacquainted ',vith the political and economic 
creeds of revolutionary Europe, nor were they unaware of 
the opportunity offered to them of creating a society in 
which a life of economic well-being and social security 
might be lived by all their members. They feared that the 
large immigration of Chinese coolies might frustrate their 
hopes. They were not without power to rid themselves of 
the object of their fear. 

Kefore the opposition of the British-speaking peoples of 
the Pacific to Chinese immigration can be understood, the 
nature of that immigration must be explained. In the 
Straits Settlements, the Special Committees appointed to 
investigate the subject had no difficulty in obtaining sufficient 
information for their purpose. The number of Chinese 
emigrating to the Straits Settlements under obligation to 
the brokers represented only a small percentage of the 
total emigration of Chinese to that colony. The majority 



of the Chinese business men were not directly concerned 
with the system. Indeed the.,j;es2ectable_Xhinese were 
themselves opposed to the abuses to which the credit -ticket 
emigration was at times subjected. They approved a policy 
of regulation. They were sufficiently powerful to prevent 
any legislation of which they disapproved, if such a course 
were necessary. But of, the Chinese emigration to Canada 
and Australasia the facts were otherwise. Most of the 
wealthier Chinese merchants in those dominions appear to 
have been directly interested in the cooHe system under 
"which the gireat majority of their fellow-countrymen were 
introduced into the British communities. They displayed a 
" faculty of keeping things to themselves." Under these 
circumstances it is not surprising that reliable information 
on the nature of the credit-ticket emigration to Canada and 
Australasia is scanty and inadequate. Such evidence as 
does exist was taken in British Columbia fcr the information 
of the other Canadian provinces little interested in the 
question. In Australia the agitation against Chinese labour 
was not local to any one state but common to them all. 
They did not wait for the appointment of a Royal Com- 
mission before introducing their restrictive legislation. 
However, it is apparent from the available information that 
the Chinese immigration into Canada and Australasia was 
carried on under a system similar to that in operation in 
California, 1850-82. The reports of the U.S.A. Commission 
on Cliinese immigration into the latter state, 1876-7,^ and 
of the Canadian Commissioner to San Francisco, 1884,2 are 
therefore valuable though incomplete documents, and it* 
seems desirable to preface a study of the " Chinese question " 
in the British dominions by a description of the emigration 
system outlined in the evidence there recorded. 

It was the lure of the gold-fields that first led the Chinese 
to California in the early fifties of last century. So much is 

1 U.S.A. Report Chinese Immigration, 2nd Session, 44th Congress, 
1876. A short abstract of this evidence is given as Appendix I, Canadian 
Commission, 1884. 

2 Canadian Sessional Papers, 1885, No. 54 A. Mr. Chapleau's Report. 


evident. But it is difficult to fix the exact origin of the 
credit-ticket system. Successful Chinese miners probably 
remitted money on loan to their friends or relatives to 
enable them also to seek their fortunes in the new world. 
But there is no doubt that the greater part of the Chinese 
emigration to California was financed and controlled by 
merchant brokers, acting either independently or through 
the Trading Guilds. Mr. T. H. King, merchant of San 
Francisco and formerly in the U.S.A. Consulate, Hong Kong, 
stated before the Commission, 1876, that the original prin- 
cipals of the " passenger trade " to California were Wo Hang 
and Hing Wor, portrait painters in Hong Kong, 1850-1.1 
There is no evidence of the nature of the system prior 
to the shipment of the coolies from Hong Kong, nor have 
the terms of agreement between the emigrant coolie and his 
creditor been adequately described. The latter were respon- 
sible for the coolie's passage. In consideration for this 
expense incurred, Mr. T. H. King stated that the coolies 
entered into contracts to serve the brokers or their agents 
for a term of years. 2 But he may have been confusing 
credit-ticket emigration to California with contract emigra- 
tion to the Southern States, 1869-70. Certainly if such 
service contracts for a definite period of time existed they 
were not visible after 1870, from which date service contract 
emigration from Hong Kong was allowed only to British 
territory. 3 It was the opinion of several of the witnesses, 
1876, that the credit -ticket system wag based not on service- 
* contract but on debt-bondage. " That is as far as I got 
\t from the Chinamen," said Mr. Vreeland, deputy-Com- 
missioner of Immigration.* Governor Low supported this 
view — they were free when they had paid their debts.^ Mr. 
Bee, AtVomey to the Chinese companies, declared that the 
obligation under which the coolies laboured was the repay- 

''^ 1 Canadian Sessional Papers, 1885, No. 54A. Appendix I, p. 192. 
\ a Ibid., p. 188. • • 

» The Act of Congress, 1862, passed with the object of preventing 
contract emigration to U.S.A., failed in its object, owing to an alternate 
interpretation of terms. Definite contract emigration was effected to 
U.S.A., 1869-70. See below. 

* Canadian Sessional Papers, No. 54a, 1885, Appendix I, p. 209. 
5 Ibid., p. 187. 


ment of a debt. " There is not a Chinaman here who comes 
under a servile contract." ^ 

The fate of the " unpaid passenger " on arrival in California 
was very different to that of the Sinkheh in the Straits 
Settlements. In the British Colony the brokers recovered 
the profits of the emigration system as quickly as possible 
by selling to an employer their lien on the services-^f the 
Sinkheh. The interest of the broker in the transaction was f 
then at an end. But in Califo rnia the coolies either worked 
for the agents on the mines or were hired out to employers. 
They remained directly indebted to the brokers, repaying , 
the expenses of their introduction in monthly instalments' 
at a rate of interest that ranged from 4-8 per cent, per \ 
month. This long-term indebtedness necessitated a con- T 
tinuous andT stringent control by the agents over the move- 
ments of the coolies until the lattei: freed themselves from 
obligation. This control was exercised through the Six 
Chinese Companies. *^ 

' The actual constitution of these Companies is difficult 
to determine. They were said to represent the six districts 
of the Kwangtung province. The Chinese merchants in San 
Francisco were the officials of the companies — a fact that 
gave rise to the opinion that the companies were only mer- 
chant firms trading in goods and persons. Qolonel Bee, 
Attorney to the Six Companies in 1876 and Chinese consul 
1884, denied that they had any fmictions other than those 
of a benevolent institution, " It cannot be a fact that the 
Chinese Companies ever have brought any immigrants to 
the country. It is entirely outside of the functions of their 
orga*nization and hence a matter in which they have no 
interest." 2 But the evidence seems to prove that the Six 
Companies were provincial clubs as described by Mr. H. B. 
Morse ia The GiidsZ)/ China. When a native of one Chinese 

'/province had occasion to reside in another province he was 
regarded as an alien. Through the agency of the provincial 
club he associated with others of his native province in 
order that by union they might protect their common 

1 Ibid., p. 182. 
^ Ibid., p. 19. 


interests against their " foreign " countrymen. i The Six 
Companies of San Francisco differed from the provincial 
clubs of China only in their distance from the home province, 
in their establishment among a people of alien race, in the 
unusual proportion of the " coohe "-members. Like the 
provincial clubs the Chinese Companies kept in close'^touch 
with^TIie trading guilds of the seaports. Their functions 
being defensive of their interests, their organization 
was autocratic, the merchants tending to become per- 
manent officials. Vested in this manner with a tradi- 
tional power of unlimited extent, they were in a strong 
I position to secure the repayment of any advances made to, 
or expenses incurred on behalf of, any member of the Com- 
panies by the coolie merchants in China or by the trading 
guilds. All Chinese^rriving iiL California under the credit- 
ticket systeni ^were qbligyiJ;© register with the Company 
that corresponded ^lo their native district, the officials of 
which would be their creditors or the agents of their creditors. 
, Minute records were kept by the Companies. If there were 
any dispute between members of a Company, they were 
obliged to bring it before the officials for arbitration. There 
is no doubt that tribunals were held in California by the 
Chinese Companies in which civil and, on occasion, criminal ^ 
jurisdiction was exercised. In i88^ Colonel Bee denied the 
latter charge, " but as to trying a man for a criminal offence, 
it is not true, or that they inflict punishment." ^ .Mr. 
Bryant, Mayor of San Francisco, in evidence stated he had 
been informed by the Six Companies that they settled their 
differences by " fine or punishment." ^ Apparently on 
occasion the punishment of death was meted out to~a 
recalcitrant member, but there is no evidence to prove that 

1 Mr. Mcrse (p. 40) cites the objects of the Ningpo Club at Wenchow. 
" Here at Venchow we find ourselves isolated. Mountains and seas 
separate us li-om Ningpo, and when in trading we excite the envy and 
hostility of thv^ Wenchow traders and suffer insult and injury, we have 
no adequate means of redress. Mercantile firms, if each looks after its 
own interests, wi'l experience disgrace and loss, the natural outcome of 
isolated and indivfdual resistance. It is this which imposes on us the 
duty of establishing a club." 

2 Canadian Sessional Papers, 1885, No. 54 A. H. Ellis, Chief of Police, 
p. 205. 

* Ibid., p. 20. 4 Ibid., p. 211. 


this was by the decree of a tribunal. It was stated by the 
poHce officers before the Commission, 1876, that Chinese 
notices had at infrequent intervals been posted offering 
rewards for the assassination of certain persons mentioned 
by name.i The " high-binders " or " hatchet men " of 
San Francisco were no doubt comparable to the Samsengs 
or fighting men of the Straits Settlements. " Many of 
them . . . are accustomed to carry concealed about their 
persons or disguised as a fan, formidable deadly weapons." 2 
Mr. Morse, in describing the power exercised by the pro- 
vincial clubs over their members, wrote, 

" Their jurisdiction over their members is absolute, not by 
reason of any charter or delegated power but by virtue of the 
faculty of combination by the community and of coercion on 
the individual which is so characteristic of the Chinese race." ^ 

In addition to any means of direct coercion at the disposal 
of the officials of the companies, they had secured the 
interests of themselves or of their principals by preventing 
the escape from their control of any coolie whose debts 
had not been repaid. There was an agreement ^ between 
the six companies and the Pacific Steamship Companies by 
which no coolie was allowed to return to China until he 
obt«7in€d-a permit stating that he was clear of debt on the 
books of the company and of the company's members. 
Mf. Gibson, the organizer of a Christian School for Chinese, 
had secured the right to have his certificate recognized for 
his converts equally with the permits issued by the com- 
panies. That the shipping companies and the Chinese 
companies worked in close co-operation was evidenced by 
the difficulty which confronted the supervisors of the city 
when* they tried to repatriate coolies suffering from leprosy 
—the shipment having to be effected in the end in a clan- 
destine manner. This co-operation is easily explained. 
The Chinese merchants by providing the passengers and a 

^ See, e.g., Evidence, Chief of Police, p. 205. Ibid. 
^ Ibid., Report by Chapleau, Ixxxi. , 

^ P. 27, The Gilds of China. 

* Canadian Sessional Papers, 18S5, No. 54 A. Chapleau's Report, xviii., 
also Appendix I. p. 267. 


large part of the merchandise, had made possible the 
employment of the 400,000 tons of American shipping 
engaged in the China trade. Under these circumstances — 

" coming here ignorant of our laws, language and customs, with 
these six companies or any one firm or company telling him what 
his duties are, with the surveillance that they exercise over 
him and with the arrangement which ... I know they have 
with the steamship companies ... it is very natural that 
(the coolie) will pay his pro rata per month until he works out 
his debt." 1 

There is very little evidence of the actual effect on the 
coolie of this credit-ticket system. If he paid his regular 
monthly instalment there is no reason to suppose that the 
control of the companies was oppressive. As a rule the 
coolie's wages were low — " that is his raison d'etre." And 
of these wages he could retain little for his own support. 
But it probably gave him more than he had had in his 
impoverished home in China. In California he slept in 
crowded and filthy tenements. 

" I found these people living in big tenement houses and 
large numbers crowded in individual rooms and underground 
without proper ventilation, with bad drainage and a great deal 
of filth. . . . They have passages which go from one street or 
alley to another and in all these underground places where I 
have been I have found people sleeping." ^ 

But the conditions were, perhaps, no worse than those 
to which he had been accustomed. Colonel Bee declared 
that the companies were " benevolent societies." ^ The 
coolie was provided with food and lodging when unemployed 
— the company acting as an unemployment insurance agency. 
Nominally his company cared for him if he were ill, though 
actually the sick coolie seems to have been cruelly neglected. 
" Their own sick in the little hospitals are treated in- 
humanly," 4 stated Dr. Meares, city health officer. If 
the coolie w^ere charged in an American court, the 
company provided the means for his defence. If he died 

^ Canadian Sessional Papers, 1885, No. 54 A. Chapleau's Report, p. xxvii. 

2 Ibid., City Health Officer, Dr. Meares, Appendix I, pp. 197-199. 

3 Ibid., p. 19. * Ibid., p. 198. 


while in California, his company returned his body to 
China that it might iie in the ancestral soil. The most 
serious effects of the system on the coolie must have resulted 
from its exclusively male character. He was deprived of 
family life. He could not have repaid the costs of introducing 
a wife and children. His sexual desires were gratified in the 
infected brothels furnished by the Hip-ye-tung Society, ^ 
with the poor victims of a cruel debt bondage. 

When the coolie had freed himself from obligation, he 
was permitted to escape from the labour-system of Cali- 
fornia to the society of China. There is no evidence of the 
average length of time required to this end — except the 
address purporting to be written by the companies for the 
citizens of the U.S.A. and read in evidence by Mr. Bee, 
Chinese Attorney, before the Commission, 1876. 

" Many Chinamen have come, few have returned. . . . They 
have expected to come here for one or two years to make a little 
fortune and return. Who among them ever tho.ughLof^lLthese. 
difficulties ? Expensive Tents, expensive living though wages 
are low. ^et they are compelled to labour and live in poverty, 
'qurfe"uhable to return to their native land." 

But whatever the result of the credit-ticket system on the 
social welfare of the coolie, there is no doubt of its effect 
J on the economic development of California. In California 
during the early period of its history white labour was 
scarce, irregular and expensive. But the only limit to the 
numbers of Chinese coolies whom the brokers were prepared 
to export was the amount of remunerative employment 
that could be made available. Between the years 1852-75 
Governor Low estimated (1876) that some 200,000 Chinese 
had immigrated into the U.S. A. 2 The greater number of 
these immigrants were, no doubt, destined for California. 
There is no evidence of the number of Chinese, living or 
dead, who returned to China during this period, but in 1876 
the Chinese merchants estimated that there w^ere 148,000 
Chinese in California. A small proportion of this number 

'^ This Society was independent of the six companies. 
* This was probably approximately correct. In 1884 Mr. Huang 
Isun Huin, Consul-General, stated that during the years 1852'^'S 230,430 
Chinese immigrated into the U.S.A. 

C.C.E. D 



were free immigrants or immigrants indebted only to their 
relatives. The -i^mainder, estimated by the Deputy -Com- 
missioner of Immigration aj;. 80 per cent, of the whole, and 
by other witnesses at a still higher percentage, were intro- 
duced under the credit-ticket system. The numbers intro- 
duced in any one year depended on the state of the labour 
market — a large impetus being given by the construction 
of the Canstlian Pacific Railway, . 1&68-72, and by the 
development schemes,^ 1873-5.^ But not only was the 
supply of Chinese coolie labour always sufficient for the 
demand, coolie labour was dpcile labour — wages must be 
earned if the debts were to be repaid. Moreover, the 
system freed the employer from the annoyance of dealing 
with the individual labourer. When the former required a 
labour force he could go to a Chinese merchant and contract 
for it. The coolies were then supplied under the control 
of a headman. If there was a complaint against a coolie, 
it was made to the headman. The coolie was removed. 
If one morning the headman found that some of his men 
were sleeping off an opium debauch, he was always in a ^ 
position to secure the same number of substitutes. This '. 
power of substitution may have been partly responsible for 
the general praise accorded by the employers to the relia- • t 
bility of their Chinese labour force : " The staying power of 
the Chinaman at railway work may, therefore, have been 
deceptive." ^ But there is no doubt that the majority of 
coolies were capable of continued hard work. " To-day if 
I had a big job of work that I wanted to get through quickly 
... I should take Chinese labour to do it with because of 
its great reliability, steadiness and capacity for hard work," 
stated Mr. Crocker, one of the five proprietors of the Central 
Pacific Railway.^ 

1 Governor Low 





gave figures (p. 

1 861 





Total . 









2 1884, Chapleau's Report, xxvii. 
^ Ibid., xvii. 


And coolie-labour was cheap labour compared with that 
of the white man. The wages of the latter had to support 
not only himself but his family at a time when the cost of 
living in the sparsely populated territory of California was 
very high.^ It is true that the coolie after having acquired 
a certain skill in his work and knowledge of his circumstances, 
was not slow to demand, perhaps at the instance of some 
^^liperior power, an increased remuneration. But there was 
always sufficient cheap and unskilled labour to attract the 
capital investment necessary for a rapid economic expansion. 
To this end there is no doubt that the credit-ticket system 
was a valuable economic asset. Mr. J. S. Brooks said, 
1876, " I have seen San Francisco grow up from a few tents 
and adobe houses to a great commercial city." It was 
estimated by the assessor of San Francisco that in 1876 
there were some 30,000 Chinese in the city employed in 
domestic work ; cigar and clothing trades ; boot, shoe and 
slipper manufacture ; canning fruits and pickle factories, 
fisheries, laundries, market gardening, restaurants, etc. 
But this quick development of San Francisco as a manufac- 
turing and business centre only kept pace with the general 
development of the state of California. 

The Chinese merchants supplied the European contractors 
with the labour necessary for the construction of the Pacific 
section of the Central Pacific Railway after the continued 
efforts of the contractors to secure an adequate number 
of white labourers had failed. And this railway was a 
necessity if California was to be brought into touch with the 
life and commerce of the Continent. The Chinese coolies 
had built local railways, canals, roads, telegraphs. They 
were engaged on the large schemes of reclaiming the rich 
tule lands of the Sacramento and St. Joaquin deltas. In 
the harvest -time they " dotted the fields from one end of 
the state to the other." 2 They dug potatoes. They 
gathered strawberries and grapes. ^ It is true that they 
did little skilled work : as a rule they were not employed 

1 Ibid., p. 23, Chief of Police, San Francisco : " I do not exaggerate 
when I say that they can live 75 per cent, less than the white men." 

* Ibid., Chapleau's Report, xxx., Colonel Bee. 

* Ibid., xxxii. 


for heavy or dangerous tasks : they failed as teamsters. 
But while this " steady stream of the living and the dead " 
passed to and fro between China and California, the profits 
of the Chinese merchants were large ; the economic develop- 
ment of California was rapid. Nevertheless, in 1882 the 
stream was dammed back — it was by the will of the American 
people. 1 

This brief discussion of the credit-ticket emigration to 
California and of the labour system that it there involved 
will serve to supplement the available information on the 
" Chinese problem " in British Columbia and Australasia. 


The discovery of rich placer beds, 1858-64, attracted a 
heterogeneous crowd of adventurers to British Columbia — 
among whom were large numbers of Chinese. When the, 
first eager hopes proved delusive, many of the European 
miners left the country to seek their fortunes elsewhere, 
so that during the sixties and seventies — that " long period 
of depression, of little enterprise, of great shrinkage of 
values " which preceded the gradual revival of interest in 
British Columbia — European labour could not be obtained 
in any sufficient quantity to attract capital investment. 
The Canadian Pacific Railway was not yet constructed. 
The cost of the journey for European immigrants through 
the United States of America was almost prohibitive and 
those who ventured it were often tempted to remain in the 
latter state. An illustration given by Mr. Justice Crease 
1884 2 is typical of the result. The European settlers who 
remained^ in the province had at first to do all their own 
household work. They chartered ships for the introduction 
of female servants, who were under an agreement to refund 
the *cost of their passage. But the immigrants married 
within short periods and only in few instances were the 
expenses incurred in their introduction recovered. The 
settlers then tried to introduce Kanakas from the Sandwich 
Islands, but the experiment was a failure. They then 

1 ChajJleau's report, 1884, p. cvi. * Ibid., p. 142. 


turned to some of the Chinese coolies who had remained on 
the gold-fields — and at last they were satisfied. Gradually 
Chinese labour was employed on the farms. Coolies pro- 
vided the unskilled labour force for public works. They 
were introduced on to the coal mines. The rapid develop- 
ment of the salmon -canning industry after 1878 depended 
on them. It was finally decided by Mr^jOnderdonk, Con- 
tractor for the British Columbian section of the Canadian 
Pacific Railway, that Chinese labour was necessary for that 
vast undertaking and in 1882 some 5,000-6,000 coolies were 
shipped direct from Hong Kong to Victoria under engage- 
ment to the Contractors of the Canadian Pacific Railway.^ 

According to the Census o|^^_8i._t]iere w^re at that date 
SQnje^,350 Chinese in the province, out of a total population 
of 49,459, ^Fwhom25^66i were Indians. During the four 
fiscal years 1881-4 the number of Chinese who arrived in 
British Columbia from the United States of America or 
direct from China was 15,701. ^ 

It was this comparative^ rapid increase Jn numbers that 
roused the majority of the British Columbian people to a 
determined agitation against ' Chinese niimigration. For 
more than a decade there had been a continuous demand by 
certain members of the community for some form of restric- 
tion. So early as February 26, 1872, a motion for the 
imposition of a per capita tax on all Chinese within the 
province had been put to the Legislative Assembty of British 
Columbia by Mr., Robson. But he was denounced as a 
demagogue and the motion was lost 7-15. A like result 
followed the resolution proposed two days later that no 
Chinese should be employed on the public works either of 
the Province or of the Dominion. In 1876 a further unsuc- 
cessful attempt was made by a private member to secure 
the imposition of a Sio poll-tax on every male over eighteen 
years of age who wore a queue — the definition being calcu- 
lated to avoid nominal discrimination. ^-> 

^ Ibid., Evidence, Robert Ward, p. 84. These coolies apparently 
emigrated under definite service c^ntiacts with foreigners, and not under 
^the credit-ticket system. — 

* No evidence was given of the number of Chinese who died or returned 
to China during the same period. 


But the temper of the people was changing. The demand 
for restriction became more insistent. The new ministry 
of 1878 decided to test the powers of the Province in the 
matter of ahen legislation and in August of that year was 
passed an Act which provided that every Chinese male over 
twelve years of age should take out a licence every three 
months, paying for it $10 in advance. The Act was declared 
ultra vires by the provincial court. Legislative discussion 
was therefore transferred to the Dominion Parliament. 
But the motion put 1878 that no man wearing his hair 
longer than 5| inches should be deemed eligible for employ- 
ment on the Canadian Pacific Railway was supported only 
by members from British Columbia. As yet Chinese immi- 
gration was confined to the latter province. It was a local 
matter. Moreover, as the Premier pointed out, the con- 
struction of the Canadian Pacific Railway might be still 
longer postponed if such a motion were carried. 

Again in the following year a petition from Mr. Noah 
Shakespeare and some 1,500 labouring men was presented 
to the Canadian House of Commons by Mr. De Cosnos. 
The petitioners asked that a restrictive Bill similar to the 
recent Queensland Act should be introduced ; that Chinese 
should not be engaged for work on the Canadian Pacific 
Railway, and that the Act of British Columbia imposing a 
local rate on Chinese should be allowed. Mr. De Cosnos 
moved that the petition be referred to a Select Committee. 
He pointed out that nearly the entire English-speaking 
population living on the shores of the Pacific — the people 
of California, of Australia, of British Columbia — ^were opposed 
to Chinese immigration. He warned the House that in the 
past Chinese hordes had scourged the peoples of Western 
Europe. Now again " they were on the move." He 
quoted excerpts from the Reports of the U.S.A. Commission, 
1876, and of the Special Committee of California, 1877, to 
illustrate the highly organized system of Chinese immigration. 
He was aware that under the terms of the Convention of 
Peking, the Chinese might claim a Treaty-right ^of entry. 
He was aware also that many of the coolies entered British 
Columbia via San Francisco, and that there were treaties 


between the United States of America and China. But 
treaties could be modified. He urged that the matter be 
referred to a Select Committee. The members for British 
Columbia supported Mr. De Cosnos. The Prime Minister 
was willing that evidence should be taken on the subject 
and the motion was agreed to on division. A Special 
Committee was therefore appointed under the chairmanship 
of Mr. De Cosnos. They examined Members for British 
Columbia in the Dominion Parliament, but did not proceed 
to that province to take evidence. 

On May 14, 1879, the Report was issued. 1 The Committee 
were of the opinion that Chinese immigration ought not to 
be encouraged and that Chinese labour should not be 
employed on Dominion public works. They did not 
definitely advocate restriction. The recommendation that 
Chinese should not be employed on public works was not 
adopted. The preparations for commencing, work on the 
Canadian Pacific Railway were nearing completion, and if 
the railway was to be constructed as soon as possible, Chinese 
labour must not be disallowed- - It was introduced. But 
as a result of the large importation of Chinese, 1882-4, ^o^ 
this work, the demands from British Columbia for prohibition 
of Chinese immigration, forced the Dominion Government 
to take a q^re active interest in the question. On the- 
motion of Mr. Noah Shakespeare, March 19, 1884, in the 
House of Commons, that there should be a total exclusion 
of Chinese immigration, the Premier promised that a Com- 
mission should be issued for a full and complete investiga- 
tion of the whole subject. The Premier was no doubt 
influenced in his promise by the determined attitude of the 
British Columbia n legislature _during the last Session in 
passing tRe "three" Anti-Chinese Acts, which prohibited 
Chinese from acquiring Crown .. lands, provided for the 
regulation of the Chinese population in British Columbia, 2 

1 Canadian Sessional Papers, 1879, Report of Special Committee on 
Chinese Emigration. 

2 This Act imposed an annual tax of $10 on the Chinese immigrants 
and ^ave the police extensive powers to demand a tax receipt from any 
such Chfnese immigrant. Mr. Lew Ta Jen, Chinese Minister in London, 
strongly protested against the Preamble of the Act (C 5448 Appendix i). 
He quoted the words of Mr. Justice Crease to the effect that " it looks 


and' excluded Chinese immigrants from entering British 
Columbia in the future — the latter '"act being disallowed. 
Moreover, the Imperial aspect of the question had changed. 
In the previous discussions it had generally been assumed 

' that Chinese subjects had a treaty-right to enter British 
dominions under the terms of the Convention of Peking. i 
The Chinese Minister in London claimed such a right for 
his countrymen. But the 5th Article of the Convention 

' was drafted under peculiar circumstances and for a distinct 
purpose. It sanctioned the emigration of Chinese subjects 
under British conl'racts of service. It had no reference to 

^ free or credit ticket emigration. The Queensland Act of 
1877 was therefore not disallowed by the Imperial Govern- 
ment — nor was the restrictive legislation passed by other 
Australian States in 1881. The Imperial Governm^ent would 
not interfere with similar Canadian legislation. And 
further, the United States of America by Treaty had pro- 
hibited the immigration of Chinese labourers into California. 
It was a near example. Moreover, it was pointed out that 
friction had already occurred between Canada and the 
United States of America as a result of the smuggling of 
coolies across the Canadian frontier. 

It must have been evident to the Prime Minister that a 
full investigation could not be long delayed.- Accordingly 
on July 4, 1884, a Commission was issued to the Hon. J. 
Chapleau, Secretary of State, and to Mr. J. Gray, Judge 
of the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Mr. Justice 
Gray took evidence and reported on the subject of Chinese 
immigration into British Columbia. Mr. Chapleau pro- 
ceeded to San Francisco in order to investigate the problem 

like a bill of indictment as against a race not suited to live among a civil- 
ized nation." It reads : — 

" Whereas the incoming of Chinese to British Columbia largely exceeds 
that of any other class of immigrant and the population so introduced 
are fast becoming superior in number to our own race, are not dispensed 
to be governed by our laws, are dissimilar in habit and occupation from 
our people, evade the payment of taxes justly due to the Government, 
are governed by pestilential habits, are useless in cases of emergency, 
habitually desecrate graveyards by the removal of bodies therefrom, and 
generally the laws governing the whites are found to be inapplicable to 
the Chinese, and such Chinese are inclined to habits subversive of the 
comfort and well-being of the community." 

^ See below, page 62. 


as it was known there. The Parhament of Canada was to 
have " all the information which the legislative bodies of 
the U.S.A. and Australia had when they undertook the 
work of legislating on this question." The evidence taken 
in California, where the coolie immigration was of older 
date and on a larger scale than in British Columbia, sup- 
ported the contentions of the Anti-Chinese witnesses in the 
latter province and proved of considerable value to their 

It was generally admitted that Chinese coolie labour had 
been a valuable economic asset to British Columbia. The 
presence of the Chinese had made possible the rapid economic 
development of the province during the period when Euro- 
pean labour was difficult to secure. Anti-Chinese advocates 
protested that the value of the coolies had been exaggerated 
since their competition had discouraged the settlements of 
Europeans who would have filled some of the places occupied 
by them. Mr. Justice Gray declared, however, 1884, " It 
may be questioned whether a single industrious bona fide 
intending white settler was ever prevented from coming to 
British Columbia from fear of Chinese competition alone." ^ 
Probably no active encouragement had been given to 
Europeans to induce them to undertake the arduous journey 
to British Columbia. It was noticed by Mr. Chapleau 
that the exclusion policy adopted by Congress U.S.A. had 
resulted in an immediate campaign by emigration agents 
in the eastern states to secure white labourers for Cahfornia.^ 
But" even had an active policy of white immigration been 
adopted, it may be doubted whether sufficient Europeans 
would have been attracted to British Columbia prior to 
1884 to make possible the economic development that had 
been achieved by that date. 

The arguments against the immigration of Chinese coolies 
were not so direct as this simple argument in its favour. 
Agitation tends inevitably to exaggeration. It adopts the 
language of panic. It distorts proportions. Nevertheless, 
these arguments determined the subsequent legislative inter- 

1 Canadian Sessional Papers, 1885, No. 54 A, Gray xi. 

2 Ibid., Chapleau, cxxxiii. 


venticn of the Dominion Government, for, as the Hon, Mr. 
Chapleau wrote in his Report, 

" The people sometimes, as it were, scent danger in men or 
measures or movements without being able to analyse the source 
of their alarm . . . though a man's logic is weak, what he advo- 
cates may be sound and when you have covered some or all of 
his arguments with ridicule and discomfiture it does not follow 
his cause lies prostrate with himself." ^ 

The moral and social conditions of the Chinese immigrants 
were emphasized. Witnesses described Chinatown. Its 
crowded tenement life was to the British settler the distinct 
mark of an inferior civilization. As Commissioner Gray 
pointed out, there had never been a density of population 
sufficient to render such scenes possible among the whites. 2 
The persons of the coolies were clean, but in their quarters 

" the air is polluted by the disgusting offal with which they are 
surrounded and the vile accumulations are apt to spread fever 
and sickness in the neighbourhood." ^ " There is no question 
that the Chinese quarters are the filthiest and most disgusting 
places in Victoria, overcrowded hotbeds of disease and vice." « 

Arguipents as to the danger of epidemics resulting 
from these conditions were exaggerated — only one out- 
break of smallpox in British Columbia having been traced 
to Chinatown. JVIofeover, as Commissioner Gray pointed 
out, much of the filth could have been removed by 
the efficient administration of necessary legislation. The 
most serious danger to the health of the general com- 
munity from the presence of the masses of Chinese 
males ^ was the spread ^of, syphilis. Dr. ^Innis, in giving 
evidence before the special Committee of 1879, had stated 
that most of the Chinese in British Columbia were suffering 
from the most virulent form of syphilis and that from them 
it was spreading rapidly amongst the Indians. 

Arguments advanced against the Chinese on account of 
the filth of their overcrowded quarters, the opium smoking, 

1 Canadian Sessional Papers, 1885, No. 54A, xiv. ^ Ibid., Gray, Ixiv. 
' Ibid., Ixiii. * Ibid., Ixiv. 

5 In 1884 there were only 154 Chinese females in British Columbia, 
of whom seventy were prostitutes, the others being the wives or concu- 
bines of the merchant class. 


the gambling, the syphiHs, cannot be dismissed in the easy 
manner of Colonel Bee, " I care nothing about the filth of 
Chinatown . . . these mud sills are at the bottom of our 
success." But there is no doubt that their force was 
exaggerated. They leave the impression that the opponents 
of Chinese imniigration were presenting their case in the 
manner best calculated to impress respectable Canadians. 
• It was the effective competing power of the Chinese in the 
unskilled labour market of the province that had first 
determined the opposition of the "labouring classes" to 
Chinese immigration. There is no evidence to prove that 
Chinese labour had entered into competition with white 
labour to any appreciable extent in British Columbia by 
1884. The immigrant pioneers were as a rule skilled 
workers— ^Tiile the Chinese coolies were confined exclu- 
sively to unskilled work. " An instance cannot be named 
where a sober, industrious, frugal and ordinarily sensible 
labouring man has ever failed to make a comfortable living 
! in British Columbia," ^ Judge Gray declared. Nevertheless, 
\ by the eighties circumstances were changing. A new 
generation was growing up. Where were the growing boys 
1 and girls toTmcT work if all the unsJiilkd occupations were 
controlled by the Chinese? " Mr. Robins, Superintendent of 
the Vancouver coal mining company, stated in evidence 
\that when Chinese labour vy^as easily obtained white youths 
jfound-trdifficuTrto get employment. As a result, " thef e 
lis growing up amongst us a class of idlers who will not 
conduce to the well-being of the state." 2 The evidence 
taken by The Hon. Mr. Chapleau in San Francisco supported 
the arguments of the British Columbian witnesses who 
opposed Chinese immigration on account of its future 
competitive effect on white labour. ~ 

Moreover, if the presence of the Chinese had not as yet 
seriously affected the employment of the white labourer, it 
had already lowered his status. The Chinese were useful 
to the employers in breaking the power of the Trade Unions, 
and had been used as a weapon by the former to settle 

^ Ibid., Gray, Ixix. - Ibid. xvii. 


industrial disputes.^ As Colonel Bee explained, the Chinese t/ 
"enabled the well-to-do white to hold a balance of power 
as against Bridget and the Trade Unions." ^ 

It was argued b^r^the opponents ol. Chinese immigration 
that this competitivS'^wer of the coolies was the result 
of their inferior social qualities and not of their superior 
working Capacity. They declared that the coolies had the 
economic advantage of their lower standard of life. " The 
white "man handicapped with the responsibilities of his 
civilization, the Chinaman prepared to struggle for his 
solitary existence — the result is inevitable," declared Mr. 
Noah Shakespeare to the House of Commons, March 19," 
1884. " Look at one of our saw-mills employing other 
labour than Chinese," said Mr. J. Kennedy, partner in the 
firm of De Beek Bros., 1884. / 

" In the immediate neighbourhood there springs up quite a 
village with stores, school-house, church and other places of 
public benefit, while a cannery with the same capital invested 
and employing mostly Chinese, will only show one large barn- 
like building for their use and probably one or two houses for the 
proprietors and overseers." ^ / 

Mr. Kennedy was arguing the value. jdI -a._SDciet^ as con- 
trasted with an economic system. But the competitive 
strength of the latter in the labour market was the greater. 
The brokers' agents who hired out the coolies were alwa3''s 
able, if necessary, to underbid the wages demanded by the 
white man. The Chinese required less expensive foods. 
They were more easily suited with accommodation. 

" You cannot get any class of white labourers that I know of 
who will, for the sake of economy, pack themselves to the extent, 
say, of twenty persons in a room 10 by 12 and sleeping three 
in a bed, there being three tiers of beds one on top of the other, 
and aU the household furniture in the house wherein twenty 
labourers live not being worth more than $2.50," said Mr. 
Barnard, M.P. in 1879.^ 

There was a marked difference in social responsibility. The 
frequent assertion that the Chinese coolie only had his own 

1 Canadian Sessional Papers, 1885, No, 54A., Gray's ReporrT'pV'xvi. 

^ Ibid., Chapleau's Report, xciv. ^ Ibid., p. 106. 

* Special Committee on Chinese Emigration, 1879, p. 40, Appendix 4. 


livelitjood to consider is untrue. It is evident that consider- 1 
able remitments were sent by the cooUes not onl^ to their 
brokers but to their famiHes in China. But of course the 
amount of money necessary to support a family in China 
on the lowest standard of life was not comparable to the 
high cost of maintenance in British Columbia. The little 
cottage with its garden, the dear domestic comforts, the 
education of the children were responsibilities which the 
Chinese coolies did not know. As a rule their wages were 
undoubtedly lower than the wages necessary to support a 
white man's family. Whether coolie labour was therefore 
cheap labour it is difficu lt ^o det ermine. There was no 
system ofxost-accounting. Evidence was given before the 
U.S.A. Commission that the coolies were able to perform 
on railway construction in a given time an amount of work 
equal to the output of Europeans. But in Canada the 
general opinion tended to place a distinctly higher value 
on the capacity of the latter. It may be that the peculiar 
attraction of coolie-labour was not so much that it was 
cheap as that it was docile. There is no doubt that the 
coolie was a more submissive and steady worker than the 
British labourer. When employed in any number they 
were hired from a Chinese merchant and placed under the 
control of a Chinese headman. ^ They were easily terrorized 
by a display of authority and it is apparent that the natural 
docility of the impoverished coolie was increased by the 
Guild system of control. The opponents of Chinese immi- 
gration declared that on the independence of the individual 
should be built the structure of the state. The coolies were 


•^That these arguments against the Chinese coolies as 
actual or potential economic competitors warranted the 
restriction of their immigration was denied by such an 
eminent authority as Mr. Justice Gray. In his opinion the 
coolie system should not be contrasted with a society but 
compared with labour-saving machinery. 

" The Chinese in British Columbia ^^'.v are living machines, 

1 The headman relied for his profits mainly on the sale of provisions 
to his coolie band. 


differing from artificial and inanimate machinery in this, that 
while working and conducing to the same end with the latter, 
they are consuming the productions and manufactures of the 
country, contributing to its revenue and trade and at the same 
time expanding and developing its resources." ^ 

But it wsiS because there were fundamental differences 
between the introduction of Chinese coolies and the intro- 
duction of inanimate machines that the Trade Unions of 
British Columbia in their agitation had the combined 
support of the skilled and professional classes. In the first 
place the temporary displacement of unskilled labour caused 
by the introduction of machinery has generally been com- 
pensated for by the opening up of other suitable avenues of 
employment. But the Chinese coolies were not confined to 
any one industry or class of industry. There was no prac- 
tical limit to their introduction other than the restriction 
of further economic development. While the emigration., 
brokers secured their profits, means would be found to 
induce the impoverished millions of China to " move out- 
wards." " Myriads of them are waiting," Mr. Shakespeare 
protested, in 1884, before the Dominion House of Commons. 
And further, machines were inactive save at the will of the 
employers who were also members of the community. But 
the Chinese coolies were under the direct control of their 
Company's ofQcials. The nature of the organization amongst 
the Chinese was not clearly understood by their opponents. 
Nevertheless it appears from the evidence that the same 
Chinese companies which operated in California operated in 
British Columbia. In these Chinese " encampments in 
hostile territory," the controlling power of the merchant 
officials was absolute. The organization was highly effi- 
cient, ^ its end being the furtherance of Chinese interests. 

1 Canadian Sessional Papers, 1885, No. 54 A, Gray's Report, p. Ixx. 

^ The nature of the organization was partly revealed by the efficient 
system of registration shown in the evidence sent in in 1884 to the Com- 
mission by the Chinese merchants. 

Mr. Barnard, M.P., 1879 Report, p. 42, gave an amusing illustration. 
" A gentleman who had been unfortunate in obtaining white household 
servants applied for a Chinaman to serve him in that capacity. The 
Chinaman in charge to whom he made his application immediately 
turned over his books and said, ' Your name is ? ' ' Yes.' ' And you 






The business acumen of the Chinese merchants and bosses 
gave rise to an uneasy feehng among some of the smaller 
employers. The Chinese knew too much to be in control 
of the formidable labour-instrument. The Chinese wage 
rate was low only for the encouragement of new industries 
or in competition with white labour. Butjijierchants and 
labour 655-^ jwere, not slow to driv^ a hard bargain when it 
was^,to their advantage to do so. The Chinese did not 
compete against each other, so that " the ordinary law 
governing demand and supply is entirely evaded by a higher 
' law of compulsion." Moreover, they were not unacquainted 
with the industrial weapon of " cessation of work," whether 
for the attainment of econoniic or political ends. The 
immediate consequence of an attempt made to enforce the 
arbitrary British Columbian Act of 1878, later disallowed, 
was a significant and well-organized strike of Chinese domes- 
tic servants. Without warning,- all the domestic labour of 
pVictoria was suddenly withdrawn. Mr. Barnard in 1879 
/pointed out the essential difference between the Chinese 
company and the trade union. 

" A man who joins a trade union has generally a family to 
support, and when he goes off on a strike it is only a question 
of a short time to bring him to his senses. What the effect 
would be of rich companies owning thousands of men in different 
parts of the world — men whom they could feed for the sum of 
''from eight to ten cents a day per head — it would be impossible 
to tell, but if this thing is permitted to go on, I take it that one 
day the Chinese will control the labour market everywhere in 
th^ world." 1 

If this organized system of Chinese labour were indefinitely 
extended, the subtle-minded merchants would control a 
formidable power that might be exercised against the 

live at such a place ? ' ' Yes.' ' You give too many dinners. You have 
a lot of men coming to see you every Sunday. . . .' In fact the gentle- 
man found this Chinaman liad in his books a complete register of the 
whole of his family affairs, and at the end of the register was set down 
the price which he was required to pay in order to secure the services of 
a Chinaman. He also found that he could not get a Chinaman for any- 
thing less, and on making inquiries he discovered that they had a correct 
record, not of the standing of the servant who was to be employed, but 
of the standing of the masters who were to employ these men as servants." 

1 Report of Committee, 1879, p. 30. 



interests of the British community. And the people were 
afraid. They beheved that their social security was threat- 
ened by the low standard instrument of their economic 
success. They declared that the fundamental interests of 
the British community and of the Chinese companies were 
in conflict. They drew the Commissioners' attention, for 
instance, to the obstacles put by the Chinese in the -way of 
the administration of British justice. Not only did the 
Chinese endeavour to settle their own disputes in their 
own tribunals.! They made it almost impossible for the 
officials of Justice to investigate the circumstances of a 
crime in which one or more of their number were implicated. 
Statistics of Chinese criminals were low compared with those 
of th^e' whites and Indians, ^ but that did not necessarily 
mean that there was less crime among them. Mr Chapleau 
reported that when Chinese were concerned it was hard to 
make arrests and harder still to obtain convictions. And 
further, Sir M. Begbie, Chief Justice of British Columbia, 
gave written evidence in 1884 that in a case in the recent 
Victoria Assizes, it had been established to the satisfaction 
of the presiding Judge that the Chinese witnesses and inter- 
preters were being terrorized, "by the threats of certain 
Chinamen alleged to belong to a secret association." ^ Dr. 
Swan, in evidence in California, stated that in a coroner's 
investigation " the impression left on us . . . was that 
there was some power behind that we could not grasp nor 
understand." ^ Mr. Justice Gray wrote in his report that : 

1 This, of course, was merely an unrecognized system of extra-territori- 


V ^ Return of Superintendent of Police of City of Victoria of the number 
of cases — Whites, Indian and Chinese — before the police court for five 
and a half years from January i, 1879, to June 30, 1884. 

























3 Canadian Sessional Papers, 1885, No. 45 A, Chapleau's Report, Ixxxiv. 
* Ibid., Ixxxiii. 


" Prominent among these objections is the undoubted .existence 
among the Chinese of secret organizations, enabhng them to act 
as compact bodies in any community where they may be facih- 
tating the evasion of local laws and the concealment of crime, 
our utter ignorance of their language and modes of thought 
placing the officers of justice in the power of interpreters, whose 
veracity is doubtful and whose integrity there are no means 
of testing. The power and extent of these secret organizations 
enable them to command a simultaneity of action throughout 
extended districts and to inflict serious injury upon a community 
while themselves not overtly violating any law so as to incur 
punishment." ^ 

It gave a sense of insecurity to the people. Moreover, 
it was argued that the presence of such a large mass of 
unenfranchised men in the community would subvert its 
democractic purpose. But to give the vote to the coolies 
was simply to put a large political power into the hands of 
the Chinese merchants. " So far as the great body politic 
is concerned they are a fungus, a foreign substance, an 
unhealthy substance." 

The Chinese company served the purpose of the credit- 
ticket system both in enforcing the repayment by the 
coolies of the expenses incurred on their behalf and in 
securing " the individual and collective interests of the 
body of aliens who constitute, its membership." The 
members of the Company remained a " body of aliens " in 
/British Columbia. They would not be absorbed. The 
' objects of their social regard were in China. They came. 
Dead or alive they returned. And others came. They 
reared no children for the state and so the schools could 
not be made an instrument of union. They traded with 
their own merchants, who imported most of their food and 
clothing from China. With the exception of the domestic 
servants, British and Chinese remained mutually inarticulate 
— socially apart. The individual was not distinguished 
from the mass. The result was " irritation, discontent and 
'resentment. " The British hoodlum assaulted the Chinese 
coolie, the political agitator stirred a responsive audience 
on the " Chinese question " because there was something 

^ Ibid., Gray, 1884, Ixi. 
c.C.E. fi 



strange and disquieting in the presence of the Chinese. 
The people feared lest the system under which the coolie 
was introduced and by which he was controlled might 
extend beyond the limit of their effective power over it. 
The strongest argument used by them against an unrestricted 
immigration of Chinese was, therefore, political. They 
assumed a right to establish a British community in the 
western province of Canada. They argued that in the end 
Chinese immigration, if unrestricted, would subvert their 
political purpose chiefly by the competitive power of the 
Chinese organization in the labour market of the province. 
They demanded that they be rid of this danger to the state. 

As a result of their investigations both the Commissioners 
recommended a policy of moderate restriction of Chinese 
immigration into the Dominion. 

The Commission's report initiated a change in Dominion 
policy. Prior to 1884 the attitude of the Dominion Govern- 
ment to the question of Chinese immigration had been one 
of indifference or restraint, the agitation being generalty 
regarded as the work of labour officials and political dema- 
gogues, without respect for the principle of Laissez-aller. 
The evidence given before the Commissioners made it 
apparent, however, that the question was one of no small 
political importance. 

In 1885 Mr. Chapleau introduced a Bill into the House 
of Commons'whicK provided for a moderate restriction on 
the incoming of Chinese — vessels being limited to carry no 
more than one Chinese passenger to every fifty tons, and 
immigrants, with certain exceptions,^ being obliged to pay 
$50 poll-tax before entering the Dominion by sea. In 
addition to these restrictive measures, the holding of Chinese 
courts was made illegal, though 

" nothing in this Section shall be construed to prevent Chinese 
immigrants from submitting any differences or disputes to 
arbitration provided such submission be not contrary to the 
laws in force in the province in which the submission is made." 

The Bill became law, but its terms were too moderate to 

1 Members of the diplomatic corps, tourists, merchants, men of science 
and students, etc., were exempt from this provision. 



satisfy the agitated province. During the next twenty 
years the ratio of Chinese to the total population did not 
decrease, despite the large immigration of Europeans. In 
1881 out of a total population of 49,4591 in British Columbia 
/ there wer.e some 4,350 Chinese. In 1901 the population of 
the province totalled 177,272,2 of whom 15,942 ^ were 
Chinese. The effect of the poll-tax had been not so much 
the restriction of immigration as a slight risejn the rate of 
wages paid to the coolies — their docilit}^ and steadiness 
making them even at an increased cost preferable as em- 
ployees to the more independent white labourers. 

The continued agitation of British Columbia against 
Chinese immigration was forced on the attention of the 
Dominion Parliament during each Session by the Provincial 
Legislature, by continued petitions from the people, by 
frequent motions before the House. In 1900 the poll-tax 
was raised to $100 — an increase which the Legislature of 
the province declared " ineffective and inadequate " for the 
purpose of restriction. The agitation of the people of British 
Columbia against Chinese immigration was increased during 
1900 as a result of the rapid influx of Japanese. In 1901 
the Japanese irfimigrants numbered 4,578 — the majority of 
these having entered the province within the year. They 
were considered r^are respectable than the Chinese, but 
their immigration was objected to almost as strongly as that 
of the latter race.* The greater number of them were\ 
financed by Emigration Companies in Japan and controlled 
by the Companies' agents during their period of labour 
abroad. They had the same competitive advantage of a 
low standard of life. They were obedient and imitative. 
They did not emigrate as settlers, and although they easily 
adopted the fashions of the British community they would 
not be absorbed into it. It was generally believed that they 
were under some political obligation to return to Japan 
within a period of time, or at the command of their Emperor. 

1 Of these some 25,661 were Indians. 
^ Of these only some 129,000 were whites. 
^ According to the statistics of the Chinese merchants. 
* Canadian Sessional Papers, 1902, No. 54, Part II. Report on Japanese 
Immigration. ^ — ~ 


It was feared that they emigrated with the approval, if not 
with the active support, of the Japanese Government. Again 
it was a question of pohtical continuity. 

During May, 1900, two numerously signed petitions were 
forwarded from British Columbia to the Governor-General 
of Canada, pointing out the added seriousness of Asiatic 
immigration and demanding more adequate legislative 
protection. The petitioners declared that they were not 
unmindful of Imperial interests. They argued that the 
latter would be best served by the creation in the Pacific 
Province of the Dominion of a strong British community. 

As a result of this continued agitation a second Comriiis- 
sion was issued on September 21, 1900, by the Dominion 
Government for the investigation of the subject of Asiatic 
immigration.! The Commissioners, under the chairmanship 
of Mr. R. C. Clute, were attended from the first by Counsels 
for the Province of British Columbia, for the Chinese and 
for the Japanese. The two questions of Chinese and of 
Japanese immigration weie, as far as possible, considered 
independently. The general arguments urged against the 
continued immigration of Chinese coolies were similar to 
those advanced in 1884. They do hot'Tlted repetition. 
Moreover, in 1901 the attention of the Commissioners was 
directed almost exclusively to the changed circumstances 
of that date as compared with 1884 in the matter of economic 
competition between Chinese immigrants and British settlers. 
In 1901 there was no doubt that a considerable number 
of white labourers were seeking unskilled work in the pro- 
vince. Mr. J. W. Hay, Superintendent of the Salvation 
Army Shelter, stated in evidence that between 800-1,200 
men had sought temporary employment at the shelter during 
1900, the majority of them being, in his opinion, respectable 
men. 2 In their report the Commissioners explained ^ that 
skilled labourers often went to British Columbia on the 
chance of finding an opening in their trade and were willing, 
until such an opportunity offered, to do any unskilled work 
available. But even unskilled work was difficult to obtain, 

^ For the Reports with Evidence, see Canadian Sessional Papers, No. 54, 
1902. 2 Ibid., p. 205. ^ P. 204. 

, ^iV 


, the Chinese and Japanese monopoly being almost complete. 
'Nor was it only the artisan who was affected by Asiatic 
competition. A settler with small means could only afford 
to clear his land if he utilized the timber, marketed vegetables 
and when necessary secured other forms of outside work.^ 
But there were Asiatic timber cutters, hawkers, unskilled 
labourers in competition. In the opinion of the Commis- 
sioners the effect of Asiatic competition on the future of 
^the children of the province was even more serious, the 
occupations which usually afforded work for boys, girls 
and women being mainly held by the Chinese and Japanese.- 

Nor was it to be expected that the latter would always 

be content with unskilled labour. Chinese were already 

f employed as overseers and even as artisans. " The oriental 

substratum will not remain quiescent " declared counsel for 

British Columbia.^ 

In discussing the causes of this successful competition of 
the Chinese against the white labourers, considerable time 
was devoted by the Commissioners to the study of coolie 
conditions in China, " so important is the question of how 
these people live in China, what in short it costs to produce.. 
a competitor of- white labour here." There was no question,'- 
of the difference in the standard of life. The Commissioner^ 
agreed that it was established beyond all doubt that under 
present -conditions the' white labouring man could not 
compete with the Chinese, and decently support his family. 
"It is wholly illusory to say that wages are fair for the 
ordinary working man,"^ they reported. Moreover, the 
Chinese did not take the place in the community of the 
British labourers against whom they competed. The com- 
petition was that of an alien organization of Chinese, the 
majority of whom were^ndustrial_serfs " paying tribute to 
non-resident capitalists." Counsel for the Chinese declared 
that no evidence could be produced to show that the Chinese 
emigrated under servile conTfacts.'~Tf was definitely denied 
by some oFthe Chinese witnesses that since 1882 any Chinese 
were under a " contract " of labour. But it was not denied 
that a gre at«jiumber of them were under bonds of debt. 

1 p. 276. 2 p. 211. 3 p_ 296. * P. 277. 


The people of British Columbia were not prepared to believe 
that the Chinese coolies who had immigrated into the pro- 
vince since 1885 had amassed by their own efforts not only 
the cost of their passage but the $818,033 gold dollars paid 
as capitation taxes. ^ It was shown to the satisfaction of 
the Commissioners that the resident merchant class exer- 
cised a strong influence over the immigrants of the labouring 
class, largely controlling the numbers coming into the coun- 
try, and also that there wer6 Chinese Boards of Trade in 
the several cities of the Province " whose objects are not 
confined solely to the advancement of trade but enter very 
largely into all the affairs of the immigrant after his landing 
in this country." 2 The Chinese 

" form on their arrival a community within a community separate 
and apart, a foreign substance within but not of our body politic, 
with no love for our laws and institutions ; a people that will not 
assimilate or become an integral part of our race and nation. . . . 
They are so nearly allied to a servile class that they are obnoxious 
to a free community and dangerous to the state." ^ 

In reporting the general demand for exclusion, the Com- j 
missioners stated that it was entirely erroneous to suppose 
that this view obtained mainly with the labouring classes.'* 
They pointe'd'out that of the 131 witnesses examined, 40 
were employers of labour, 44 professional men, 18 merchants, 
14 farmers and gardeners and 15 employees. Of this number 
77 were in favour of total exclusion, 36 for higher restriction, 
5 for the status quo, 7 gave no opinion and 6 were in favour 
of unrestricted immigration. The Commissioners were of 
the opinion that the only way to terminate Chinese competi- 
tion was to exclude further Chinese from the province^/ 
As Counsel for British Columbia declared,^ 

" As long as you have got the desire to profit as the only cause 
operating between the master and servant, just so long will the 
master insist on obtaining as large a profit as he possibly can." 

The Commissioners were moreover of the opinion that 
the economic interests of the province would not be seriously 
affected by a policy of Chinese exclusion. They examined 

^ Counsel for British Columbia, p. 289. 

2 P. 40. 8 p_ 278. « P. 240. 5 p. 291. 


the position of agriculture, mining, the lumber trade, the 
shingle business, the canning industry, the railways and 
domestic service. 

With the exception of the large land-owners and of those 
who rented land to Chinese, the view of those who were 
especially interested in land-clearing, farming and settle- 
ment, " is voiced in the one word ' exclusion.' " White 
labour could be had for the farms at a reasonable rate of 
wages. In gold-mining the Chinese were confined almost 
exclusively to the placer mines and produced only a small 
fraction of the total output. In the coal-inining industry the 
manager of the largest exporting coal company where they 
were employed was in favour of total exclusion. 1 . A large 
number of Chinese and some Japanese were employed in the 
lumber industry in 1901 in addition to white labourers. 
The largest exporter in the lumber trade was of the opinion 
tiiat if further immigration of Chinese was prohibited, the 
labour requirements of the expanding industry would be 
met by the immigration of white families to be expected 
as a result of such a policy. Witnesses interested in the 
^shingle business stated that it had developed to its large 
proportions by the use of Chinese labour which they coHr- 
tinned to regard as a necessity. The Commissioners pointed 
out, however, that the industry had been developed very 
considerably in Washington State and Oregon by the 
exclusive employment of white labour. The salmon can- 
neries almost exclusively employed Chinese — -the fluctuating 
character of this industry having led to the development 
of a system of contracting out to boss Chinamen during 
the salmon season. It was the opinion of the Commissioners 
that the supply of Chinese labour for salmon canning was 
sufficiently large for present requirements and that future 
demands could be supplied by the training of whites and 
Indians. Chinese were no longer necessary for the railwaj^s. 
Of the 4,693 men employed on the Pacific division of the 
Canadian Pacific Railway in 1901 only 99 were Chinese and 
^a Japanese. Moreover, railway charters granted by the 

i/The Chinese were regarded as dangerous workers underground, and 
were the cause of serious accidents in. Nanaimo in 1887 and Wellington 
1888, p. 273. 


' Legislature of British Columbia during recent years had 
expressly prohibited the employment of Chinese and Japa- 
nese both in construction- and operation-work. 

One of the most valuable services rendered by the Chinese 
to the community was in their capacity cf domestic workers. 
They were " honest, obedient, diligent and sober." They 
were always to be had when required, while white servants 
were often difficult to secure. The Commissioners were of 
the opinion that this scarcity of white servants was mainly 
due to the fact that there were few unskilled labourers' 
families in British Columbia, from which class servants 
were mainly drawn. 

Their final conclusion was that there was already sufficient 
> Chinese labour in the province to^ satisfy the ^immediate 
I demands of employers and that in the future those demands 
,j should be met by an active encouragement of British 

" If the end to be sought is the building-up of the nation and 
not thr exploitation of these resources, the one vital interest 
to be secured above all others is an immigration of settlers of 
whom we may hope to make Canadians 'in the highest and best 
sense of the term." ^ 

Their Report, therefore, recommended that in the future 
the immigration of Chinese labourers into Canada should 
be prohibited. They suggested that the most effective 
means of attaining this end would be the negotiation of 
a treaty with the Chinese Government. In the meantime 
they proposed that the existing legislation should be amended 
so as to provide for the imposition of a $500 poll-tax on all 
Chinese immigrants into the Dominion. 

In 1903 the latter suggestion was adopted. An Act 
imposing a poll-tax of $500 was passed and is still in force.2 
But no treaty has been negotiated. 

The question of Chinese immigration into Canada remained 
local to the Dominion. The agitated demands for restriction 

1 Counsel for British Columbia, p. 277. 

2 There have been different amendments, mainly insignificant, granting 
further exemptions from the provisions of the Act. 

aus'i;ralia, and new Zealand 57 

or exclusion came only from the Pacific province and were 
restrained by the Dominion Government until such time 
as it became evident that neither Canadian nor Imperial 
interests would be adversely affected by legislative interven- 
tion. But in Australia all the States were immediately 
concerned with the question — the only check on their 
determined action being the interference of the Imperial 
Government. The federation of the jealous Australian 
states waited on the pressure of a strong public opinion. 
But a pioneer community concerns itself with political 
affairs only when practical interests are directly involved. 
It was the common danger of an Asiatic influx that forced 
the Australian people to recognize the necessity of a political 
instrument for the realization of their common will, while 
it emphasized the fact that Australian and Imperial interests 
were not necessarily in accord. The significance of the 
Asiatic question in the federal history of Australia has been 
generally ignored. 

The first attack by the Australian democrats on Chinese 
immigration formed part of a general campaign against 
indentured labour systems as leading " to the depreciation 
of labour as a sure result." During the forties of last 
century the squatters of New South Wales made continued 
efforts to secure a supply of indentured immigrants — their 
assigned convict labour having been withdrawn. As a 
result, Indians, Kanakas and Chinese were introduced into 
the colony under contracts of service. By 1849 the importa- 
tion of Chinese had become " not a mere matter of experi- 
ment, but a regular and systematic trade." ^ On this issue, 
democrats and squatters were bitterly opposed. The 
former, many of them English Chartists and trade unionists, 
had left the overcrowded cities of the homeland to seek in 
the wide spaces of New South Wales " an ample room to 
live in." They were determined to prevent the frustration 
of their hopes by " the growing insolence and grasping 
propensities of our lordly landed interest." " No coolies, 
no coolies ! " was their cry as they entered upon the epic 
struggle for Australian democracy at the New South Wales 

1 The People's Advocate, March 10, 1849. 


election of 1848. " Let us lay the foundations of this 
empire in truth and justice." ^ 

But the nature of Chinese immigration into the Australian 
colonies was completely changed by the gold discoveries of 
the early fifties. The contract gave place to the credit-ticket 
system. In 1853 news of the gold discoveries was circulating 
in the seaports of the Kwangtung province. In 1854 there 
were already some 2,000 Chinese miners on the Victorian 
gold-fields. In Victoria, as in California, this first contact 
between inarticulate masses of the west and east led to 
an immediate agitation on the part of the Europeans against 
the Chinese. " We were most of us unacquainted with the 
persons or the habits of these Asiatics." ^ It was rumoured 
that " all China was coming." Moreover, a conflict of econo- 
mic interests was manifesting itself — the European miner 
declaring that the Chinese by their slovenly manner of 
mining prevented the ground from being re-worked, and 
that by their " clannish propensities " in obtaining the 
ground they reaped an unfair advantage over their com- 
petitors. There were unfortunate disturbances. As a 
result, when a Responsible Government was established in 
1855, an Act was passed to restrict the immigration of 
Chinese into Victoria. By the Act the number of Chinese 
that any vessel might carry to the State was limited to 
one passenger to ten tons shipping and on all Chinese 
immigrants an entry -tax of £10 was imposed. Power was 
also given to the Government to levy a sum not exceeding 
£1 annually on Chinese residents. But the principal terms 
of the Act were evaded by the Chinese immigrants who 
landed, not in Victoria, but in South Australia ^ whence 
they entered the former state by land — walking across 
country to the goldfields. Though many died on the long 
march, by 1857 'the number of Chinese on the Victorian 
fields had increased to 26,370 out of a total mining population 

1 The People's Advocate, May 12, 1849. " The Advocate " was a 
powerful democratic organ. 

^ Sir I. Murphy, in discussion on Agent-General for Queensland's address 
before Royal Colonial Institute, 1877, on Chinese in Queensland: R.I.C. 
Report, 1877. 

3 In 1856, 4,300 ; and in 1857, 10,325 Chinese landed in S.A. en route 
to Victoria. 


of 82,428. To check the evasion the South Australian 
Government was induced to pass a Bill (3 of 1857) ^ similar 
to the Victorian Act, 1855. But this restrictive legislation 
was insufficient for the European miners in Victoria. There 
were serious riots on some of the fields, during which the 
Chinese were assaulted and shamefully ill-treated. Petition 
followed petition from the Europeans to the Government 
asking for heavier taxes on the Chinese population. 2 The 
petitioners pointed out that the Chinese quarters on the 
fields were filthy and overcrowded. They spoke of Chinese 
immorality. But there is no doubt that the agitation was 
mainly directed against a strange, organized and rapidly 
expanding human mass which by its nature had acquired 
certain economic advantages over the Europeans. The 
Government therefore introduced a Bill (41 of 1857) into the 
House which provided for the imposition every two months 
of a licence fee of £1 on every Chinese resident who was not 
a natural-bom or naturalized British subject. The Chinese 
petitioned ^ against the proposed arbitrary legislation. 
They pointed out that those of their number who were 
engaged in mining pursuits were chiefly employed on ground 
that had been previously worked by Europeans and aban- 
doned by them as no longer remunerative. They main- 
tained that they had always conducted themselves strictly 
in accordance with the law. They begged the Government 
to spare the Chinese already on the fields, whatever course 
might be taken to prevent or restrict further immigration. 
Many of them, it was stated, found it almost impossible 
under present circumstances to make a living and few could 
return home. The Chinese in their petition were supported 
by members of the European mercantile community,* but 
without success. The Bill became law. 

^ Repealed 1861. 

^ A large meeting called on the Geelang Fields demanded that " the 
Chinese Passenger trade to this colony should be declared contraband." 
See Vic. Votes and Proceedings, 1857, " Petitions." 

3 Ihid. 

* E.g., Mr. Aspinall in House, Jan. 14, 1857 : " He hoped that in all 
imports to this country, whether of human beings or any other kind, 
the interests of the mercantile community would always be duly con- 


Nevertheless it was estimated that by 1859 the number 
of Chinese on the fields had increased to 42,000. In that 
year, therefore, both the Acts 39 of 1855 and 41 of 1857 
were repealed and 80 of 1859 substituted. The number of 
Chinese immigrants was still limited to one to ten tons 
shipping while an entry tax of £10 was imposed on Chinese 
arriving by sea. From Chinese arriving by land a tax of 
£40 was demanded. Chinese residents were further required 
to pay an annual fee of £4. This series of discriminative 
Acts led to a rapid decrease in the number of Chinese in 
Victoria, there being only 20,000 in 1863. The entrance 
fee was therefore suspended by 270 of 1863 but was reimposed 
by 200 of 1864, which practically re-enacted the provisions 
of the Act of 1855. But the gold fever in Victoria was 
already subdued and in 1865 the Government repealed all 
restrictive legislation against the Chinese, though power was 
given to the Governor in Council to make certain regulations 
and Chinese were prohibited to vote at the election of the 
mining boards. 

But meanwhile many of the Chinese, unable to meet the 
Victorian taxation, had congregated on the goldfields of 
New South Wales. In 1858 restrictive legislation had been 
passed by the House of Representatives but thrown out by 
the Council, with the result that there were some 12,988 
Chinese on the New South Wales fields in 1861. Their 
presence was strongly objected to by the Europeans and in 
January, 1861, a serious disturbance at Lambing Flat, 
during which the Chinese were driven from the fields and 
their property destroyed, forced the Government to take 
action. A Bill similar to the Victorian Act, 1855, passed 
both Houses. It was allowed by the Crown, for although 
the Duke of Newcastle considered such exceptional legisla- 
tion " highly objectionable on principle," he recognized 
" the exceptional nature of Chinese immigration." 

The first influx of Chinese on to the goldfields of Victoria 
and New South Wales had lasted only a few years — legislative 
intervention having been rapid and effective. During that 
period it had aroused fierce antagonism, but at its close the 
popular excitement was soon subdued. The subject of 


Chinese immigration was not again under public discussion 
until the opening up of the rich Palmer goldfields in Northern 
Queensland, 1875 — but then it assumed a distinct and 
important significance. 

Within a few months in 1875, 7,000 Chinese were working 
on the Palmer fields. The immediate demands for protec- 
tive legislation made by the European mining population 
of the north already outnumbered by the Chinese, were 
re-echoed by the Anti-Kanaka-Labour Party in Brisbane, 
until in August, 1876, the Gold Fields Bill was introduced 
into the Queensland Parliament. The nominal object of 
the Bill was to compel Asiatic aliens to contribute an addi- 
tional sum to the revenue in return for the protection they 
enjoyed on the goldfields, but it was actually aimed at 
restricting their entry into the northern state. The argu- 
ments in support of the Bill were not confined to the necessity 
of preserving order on the goldfields, though serious distur- 
bances were anticipated when the water in the gullies dried 
up.^ It was stated that an organized invasion had begun. 
Chinese speculators were always ready to develop a trade 
in their countrymen when they had a chance of lucrative 
profits and reasonable facilities for shipment — they were 
sending them out now in thousands under the control of 
superintendents. And further, it was argued that, apart 
from any question of economic competition on the goldfields, 
the Chinese " might turn out to be a very formidable people." 
If unrestricted, their immigration " would raise the most 
serious social and political questions affecting the well-being 
of the community." 

The Bill passed the two Houses despite the opposition of 
the shipping companies and of others who advocated the 
employment of Chinese labour for the development of the 
country. But it was reserved by Governor Cairns for the 
Imperial assent and vetoed by the Crown. The diplomatic 
relations between Great Britain and China had changed 

^ Apparently the Chinese coolies suffered considerably when the daily 
yield of gold diminished. In 1877 a magistrate wrote : " I cannot say 
there is starvation among them, but there must be something very like 
it when they come to the court-house windows and call out to the magis- 
trates on the bench for rice and will not go away until removed." Read 
in House by Premier, June 13, 1877. 


since the Duke of Newcastle allowed the New South Wales 
Bill, 1861. In an explanatory statement. Lord Carnarvon 
(Secretary of State) declared that not only was any special 
tax imposed on the subjects of a friendly State objectionable 
as debarring them from " the employment of privileges 
accorded to the rest of the world," but in this particular 
case the proposed tax was " inconsistent with obligations 
imposed upon the Queen by treaty. ..." 

" I may observe," he wrote, " that although the fifth__article 
of the Convention of Peking especially refers to Chinese engaging 
to take service in the Colonies and gives them liberty to emigrate 
for that purpose, it is obvious that the article contemplates that 
all Chinese subjects should have full freedom of entry into 
British dominions without special restrictions or impediments." ^ 

The veto roused an angry temper in Queensland. The 

permanent interests of the State were to be subordinated to 

\^ the treaty obligations, i.e., the commercial ambitions of 

Great Britain ! The Agent-General was instructed to 

inform Lord Carnarvon in reply that 

" As British subjects we value the privileges we possess, but 
if we are called on to sacrifice our hopes of perfecting a com- 
munity founded on the principle of social and political equality, 
we are not content to do so without a most earnest effort to 
avert such a calamity." 

The Premier of Queensland considered the subject one of 
common concern to all the Australian Governments. But 
the other States were busy with their local problems and 
were not as yet directly affected by the Chinese immigration. 
The circular letter sent by the Premier of Queensland to 
the other State Governments was merely acknowledged by 
Tasmania ; South Australia asked for further particulars ; 
Victoria, under the masterly influence of Mr. Graham Berry, 
was " not unmindful of the grave national danger . . . the 
rights and responsibilities of self-government as possessed 
by law should be jealously guarded " ; New South Wales 
was sympathetic and " prepared to support any well devised 
and temperate measure." Public opinion in the southern 
States was, on the whole, indifferent. However, concerted 

^ Despatch Q., No. 12, 1877. 


action by all the Australian Governments was unnecessary 
to achieve Queensland's purpose. Instead of submitting to 
the veto, the northern Government, June, 1877, introduced 
the Chinese Immigrants' Regulation Bill, which limited the 
number of immigrants to one passenger to ten tons shipping 
and imposed an entry tax of £10, which was to be returned 
if the immigrant left the State within three years, providing 
that in the meantime he had not become a charge on the 
public funds. The Government also introduced the Gold- 
fields Act Amendment Bill which with unimportant modifica- 
tions re-enacted the terms of the vetoed Bill of 1876. The 
latter Bill was carried less with the desire that it should be 
enforced ^ than with the determination to assert the Govern- 
ment's right to legislate in all matters affecting the public 
peace. Both Bills received the Royal assent. Confronted 
by the determined action of the Queensland Government 
and no doubt influenced by the Report of the U.S.A. Com- 
mission, 1876-7,2 the Colonial Secretary had decided that 
the 5th Article of the Convention of Peking had reference 
only to contract emigration and need not be interpreted in 
any wider sense. The threatened crisis had passed. 

But in Australia the matter was not at an end. In 1877 
public opinion in the southern States had been indifferent 
to the subject of Chinese immigration into Australia. But 
an event in 1878 roused it to a swift hostility. In November 
of that year the Australian Steam Navigation Company took 
into its employ coolie labour for the recently opened service 
to the East. The trade unions concerned, with their head- 
quarters in Sydney, were antagonistic and called out the 
crews of the Company's ships as they returned to port. 
There followed a thirteen weeks' strike marked by much 
disorder with bitter feeling on both sides. Both the Trades 
and Labour Councils in Sydney and Brisbane actively 
supported the strike. ^ Monetary aid was sent by the unions 
of Victoria and South Australia. In Queensland the Govem- 

^ It was actually repealed the following year. 

^ The Report was frequently quoted throughout the 1877 debates in 
Queensland, and was referred to in an explanatory address given by the 
Agent-General before the Royal Colonial Institute, December, 1877. 

' See Sir T. Coghlan's Labour and Industry in Australia, p. 1335. 


ment gave notice, in January, 1879, that it would discontinue 
the mail subsidy paid to the Company. In the future mail 
contracts would stipulate that no Asiatic or Pol5niesian 
seamen were to be employed. ^ With such active support 
the strikers were able to hold out until the Company agreed 
to gradually withdraw the Chinese from its service. The 
co-operation of the trade unions of the eastern States in 
support of the seamen's strike led directly to the first Inter- 
Colonial Trade Union Congress, 1879. Thus the Federal 
habit was originated by the masses for the discussion of their 
common difficulties, their common aspirations. From the 
first it had a popular basis. The Trade Union Congress, 
1879, was followed in 1880 by the first Inter-Colonial Confer- 
ence of Premiers. 

At the time the number of Chinese in the southern States 
was comparatively insignificant. 

On April 3, 1881, 

Queensland had a total population of 213,525, of whom 11,253 were 

N.S.W. .. ,. „ 751.468 „ 10,205 

S. Australia 
W. Australia 






Total. 2,252,617 38,397 

But especially in Sydney, hostile feeling had been aroused 
by this strike, and legislative protection against further 
immigration of Chinese was demanded. In 1879, Mr. 
Parkes, Premier of New South Wales, had responded to 
the Sydney appeal by introducing into the House a restric- 
tive measure which was, however, thrown out by the Council. 
Popular agitation had increased after an outbreak of small- 
pox which was attributed to the presence of the Chinese, 
and a mass meeting of the " noisy section of the community " 
had been held in Sydney, April 26, 1880, to institute an 
Anti-Chinese League. It was under such circumstances 

1 See Sir T. Coghlan's Labour and Industry in Australia, p. 1335. 

2 The greater number of these had probably entered the State at the 
time of the gold rush, after which they drifted into the towns or on to the 

3 Of these 3,804 were in the Northern territory. 


that Mr. Parkes brought the subject before the attention 
of the Inter-Colonial Conference, November, 1880, His 
motion — 

" that in the opinion of this Conference the grave consequences 
which must follow the influx of large numbers of Chinese call 
in a special manner for the concerted action of all the colonies, 
both in representations to the Imperial Government and in local 
legislation " — 

was carried. During the Christmas vacation the Conference 
was adjourned. When it reassembled the question of 
Chinese immigration had assumed an added importance, 
owing to the decision of the Western Australian Council to 
introduce Chinese labourers under contract into that colony 
at the public expense. Was Western Australia to be per- 
mitted to open the " back-door " of Australia to Chinese 
immigration ? Representatives of the eastern States joined 
in sending a protest to the Imperial Government : " It is a 
matter for deep regret that the smallest colony of the group 
should take a course so calculated to cut her off from popular 
sympathy and isolate her in the civilizing process." ^ The 
Premiers further agreed to introduce into their various 
Legislatures a Chinese Immigration Restriction Bill. 

In pursuance of this agreement the Parliaments of New 
South Wales and Victoria, after sharp tussles in the legisla- 
tive councils, passed a Bill which restricted the number of 
Chinese immigrants to one passenger to 100 tons and 
imposed a £10 entry tax. The New South Wales Bill 
prohibited the issuing of letters of naturalization to Chinese 
residents, while that of Victoria excluded Chinese from the 
political franchise. 2 

In the South Australian Legislature, the Bill agreed upon 
in Conference was modified — a vessel being allowed to carry 
one passenger to ten tons shipping. And further, the 
Northern Territory, by an amendment of the Council, was 
excluded from the provisions of the Bill — Council members 

^ Inter-Colonial Conference Papers, 1 880-1. 

* In 1880 (Chinese Voters Bill) Mr. Graham Berry had declared : " There 
is nothing the people of this country desire more than to put a check on 
the influx of Chinese and their deterioration of the ballot." Liberal 
feeling had been aroused by the capitalist exploitation of ' brute votes.' " 

C.C.E. K 


being of the opinion that Chinese labour was necessary for 
the tropical development of the north. Western Australia 
and Tasmania did not take protective measures until 1886 ^ 
and 1887 2 respectively. The various restrictive Bills were 
allowed by the Crown. 

In 1 881, concerted action had been taken by some of the 
Australian States on the subject of Chinese immigration. 
But it should be noted that such action had not been 
unopposed even in Australia. There were still a number 
of Anglo-Australians for whom the Australian states ranked 
as English counties. To them there was not the slightest 
doubt that the mere fact of treaties of friendship and 
commerce "... makes any measure of this kind a violation, 
of the spirit, if not the letter, of those arrangements." And 
the treaty obligations of Great Britain should be honoured. 
Again, the Sydney Morning Herald voiced the opinion of 
those on whom " the Cobden Medal weighed heavily." To 
them all protective measures were anathema. Laissez 
aller ! Were not all men brothers ? And there were also 
those who continued to demand a plentiful supply of cheap 
labour. The latter group were further influenced by the 
possible value of the China market. Thus the Chinese 
issue was already grouping the Australian people into one 
or other of two ill-defined groups. Those who continued 
to oppose restrictive legislation became the advocates of 
Imperial Federation. Those who were determined at any 
cost to protect their high " standard of life " were the 
" Young Australians," more and more aware of the necessity 
of Australian Federation, more and more determined that 
the future of the Empire should be that of a Britannic 
Alliance. It was the latter group that determined the 
issue in the " crisis " of 1888. 

If the nature of that " crisis " is to be understood, the 
influence of events during the intervening years should 
neither be ignored nor exaggerated. Inter- State tariff barriers 
with Custom Houses along the frontiers ; differential railway 
rates to attract trade to jealous capitals ; rivalries over 

* One to fifty tons, ;^io poll-tax. 
^ One to 100 tons, £10 poll-tax. 


navigation and irrigation rights in the one great river 
system, defeated their own end by arousing a public opinion 
against the economic effects of parochiahsm. Moreover, 
though pubHc attention was continually distracted from 
high politics by local issues, foreign affairs were not without 
an influence on the Federal movement. The circumstances 
connected with the annexation of New Guinea made Queens- 
land capitalists aggressively national, while the continued 
introduction of Kanaka labourers roused a bitter " anti- 
colour " temper in the workers. The small expeditionary 
force sent from New South Wales to the Sudan Campaign, 
1885, did more than capture a donkey — they introduced 
Australian democracy to British Imperialism. In Victoria 
the success of the Protectionist Campaign had broken the 
Imperial tradition and roused in the state a strong local 
consciousness. Nevertheless, while such isolated events 
weakened the links of the Imperial chain, the fear of external 
aggression, whether from Germany, Russia or China, had 
forced the states to accept the naval proposals made by 
the Secretary of State at the Imperial Conference, 1887.1 
While the states remained weak and divided, their only 
protection was the Imperial strength. Independence must 
wait on a strong Federal power. Thus the temper of the 
Australian people had considerably changed since 1881, 
when in 1888 a crisis occurred in the problem " that stands 
out unique and sphinx-like in Australian history, irritating 
and agitating all classes, and operating in the most intense 
way on those least informed." 

The partial defeat of the French had given an enhanced 
prestige to the " awakening " Empire of China, and veiled 
in a mysterious largeness the Marquis Tseng's attempt to 
organize a Naval Force. Moreover, the tour of investigation 
made in 1887 through the Australian States by General 
Wungho, Chinese Ambassador, occasioned the fear that the 
" peaceful invasion " was to take a new and systematic 
form. As a result of the ambassador's report, the Chinese 

^ Australian States to pay the cost of maintenance of a number of 
British warships in the Australian seas. The proposals were disliked by 
all parties in the Australian Legislatures, though they were accepted by 
all the States, save Queensland, as inevitable. Queensland accepted 1891. 


Minister in London, Lew Ta-Jen, made a formal protest ^ 
to the British Government against " the exceptional and 
exceptionable laws which some of the Colonial Legislatures 
of Australia and the Dominions have at different times 
enacted against Chinese subjects." He requested that with 
a view to 

" the elimination of any part of them which may be found to be 
at variance with treaty obligations and international usage, 
H.M. Government will be pleased to institute an inquiry into 
their nature and how far they are compatible with the increasing 
growth of the friendly relations which now happily exist between 
the two countries." 

The note was forwarded by the Colonial Secretary to the 
Governors of the Australian States, January 23, 1888, with 
a request for explanation and comment. In Australia it 
occasioned alarm and indignation. During March to April, by 
telegrams and dispatches the state Premiers explained the 
circumstances that had led to the adoption of the restrictive 

" It has been proved by experience that the Chinese become 
formidable competitors with European labour in almost every 
branch of industry . . . the effect of their unrestricted competi- 
tion would undoubtedly be to materially lower wages and to 
reduce the standard of comfort of the European artisan and 
labourer." ^ 

But, as the Tasmanian Government pointed out ^ : 

" In none of the Australasian colonies would the artisans and 
labourers have sufficient power or influence to obtain restrictive 
legislation on this question if they were not aided by the convic- 
tion of a majority of the other members of the community that 
such legislation is necessary for its present and future welfare." 

For the 

" main objection to allowing the immigration of Chinese is the 
fact that they cannot be admitted to an equal share in the 
political and social institutions of the colony. The form of 
civilization existing in the Chinese Empire, although of a com- 
plicated and in many respects marvellous character, is essentially 

^ C. 5448, Enclosure in i, and passim. 

2 Chief Secretary of Queensland, Enclosure in No. 22. 

^ Enclosure in 70. 


different from the European civilization which at present prevails 
in Australia and which I hold to be essential to the f utiu-e welfare 
of the Australian continent to preserve." ^ 

" They come without their women and children, apparently 
having no intention to settle, and occupy an isolated position in 
every community where they are found. They are not only 
of an alien race but they remain alien — thus we have not a 
colonization in any true sense of the word, but practically a sort 
of peaceful invasion." ^ 

Nor indeed was amalgamation possible or desirable. If 
the unnaturalized Chinese 

" should at any time become as numerous, or nearly as numerous, 
in any colony as the residents of European origin, the result 
would be either an attempt on the part of the Chinese to establish 
separate institutions of a chaiacter that would trench on the 
supremacy of the present legislative and administrative authori- 
ties, or a tacit acceptance by them of an inferior social and 
political position which, associated with the avocations that the 
majority of them would probably follow, would create a com- 
bined political and industrial division of Society upon the basis 
of a racial distinction. . . . Societies so divided produce parti- 
cular vices in exaggerated proportion and are doomed to certain 
deterioration." ^ 

The menace of Chinese immigration was increased by the 
" enormous number of the Chinese population " in China, 
and the fact that Australia was within easy sail of the 
China ports. The States were agreed in their arguments : 
they were determined to prevent any large immigration 
of Chinese. 

On April 19, the Governor of New South Wales telegraphed 
to Lord Knutsford (Secretary of State) : "I am positive 
that this is not ... a cry got up for political purposes ; 
it is a deeply founded feeling and belief of the vast majority 
of the Colonists, a feeling which time will intensify." * The 
British Government was urged by all the States to secure 
Australian interests as the United States of America had 
secured the interests of California — by treaty. " If we have 
no voice in making the treaties, it seems only just that our 

^ Chief Secretary of Queensland, Enclosure in No. 22. 

° Premier of Victoria, Enclosure in 44. 

3 Enclosure in 70. * No. 63. 


interests should be considered and protected by those who 
exercise that power." i But before the Secretary of State 
had had time to consider the dispatches, the Australian 
people were convinced that " the invasion " had begun. 

During January, 1888, the Government Resident in the 
Northern Territory had called the attention of the South 
Australian Government to the " exceptional influx " of 
Chinese immigrants expected there within the next few 
weeks. Was the Chinese Government aware of what was 
taking place ? The South Australian Parliament being in 
recess, the Government issued a proclamation imposing a 
£10 entry tax on all Chinese immigrants into the Northern 
Territory and declaring all the China ports infected with 
smallpox. This unexpected barrier having been raised in 
the north, some of the immigrants originally destined for the 
Territory were carried down the eastern coast. There was 
almost a panic in the eastern capitals when the approach 
of the first vessel, the Afghan, bound for Melbourne, was 
reported at the end of April. The significance of this first 
arrival was wildly exaggerated, and the British Govern- 
ment's " delay " in negotiating a treaty with the Chinese 
Government unjustly condemned. 2 The eastern States were 
determined to take action. On May i, a large pubHc meet- 
ing had been held in the Town Hall, Melbourne, at which 
it was unanimously resolved that the poll-tax should be 
raised to £100. The Government was urged to protect the 
people. It was decided, therefore, that the Chinese on the 
Afghan should not be allowed to land. The Government 
was enabled to act " strictly within the limits of the law," 
for the Afghan, mesisunng only 1,439 tons, was carrying 268 
Chinese passengers — 254 more than it should lawfully have 
brought to Victoria. Some of the immigrants were carrying 
British naturalization papers, and should therefore have 
been exempt from the provisions of the Act (1881), but since 

* No. 3, see also Enclosure in 44. 

" At the time Lord Knutsford (Colonial Secretary) was awaiting some 
of the Premiers' dispatches forwarded in reply to his note of Jan. 23. 
As he declared in the House of Lords, June 8 : " We have always been 
ready to negotiate, but it was necessary before beginning negotiations 
that we should thoroughly understand the case." 


the Government had recently observed a considerable 
traffic in such documents, the papers presented by some of 
the Afghan immigrants were declared to be fraudulent. 
The master of the vessel was warned that if he landed any 
of the passengers he would have to pay the heavy fines 
to which he was liable for carrying immigrants in excess of 
the number allowed by law. 

The Afghan therefore made for Sydney. On the eve of 
its arrival two mass meetings were held in the Sydney Town 
Hall, and were followed by a procession, the chief magistrate 
leading, to Parliament House. The Premier, riding on the 
crest of the public agitation, took no care to keep within the 
law. With a gesture, dramatic and unrestrained, he assumed 
the prerogative of sovereignty — he forbade the immigrants 
to land. All standing orders of the House were cancelled 
for the next day in order to obtain Parliament's indemnity 
" for all acts done by the Executive in connexion with the 
Chinese immigrants." However, a writ of habeas corpus 
having been taken, the Supreme Coiu-f declared illegal the 
Executive's action in forbidding Chinese with exemption ^ 
tickets to land. Forty-five immigrants from the Afghan 
were therefore allowed ashore. The others were refused 
admission. There were no further demonstrations. 

The Chinese Minister in London immediately protested ^ 
against " what the Imperial Government regrets to have to 
characterize as the arbitrary and irregular proceedings of the 
Colonial authorities." On behalf of the Chinese Government 
he demanded that the prohibition should be cancelled and 
compensation paid for any losses sustained in the meantime 
by the immigrants. " I presume that in its international 
and conventional aspects H.M. Government will not deny 
the illegality of the action of the Colonial authorities in this 

The difficulty of Lord Knutsford's position was further 
increased by the action of the Government of New South 
Wales in introducing a Bill into the House that limited the 
number of Chinese immigrants to one passenger for 500 tons 

^ I.e. Chinese who had naturalization papers or had been in the state 
previously. ^ C. 5448. Enclosure in No. 51. 


shipping and imposed a poll-tax of £ioo — a Bill the object 
of which was not restriction but prohibition. The Colonial 
Secretary therefore welcomed the proposal of the South 
Australian Government that an Inter-Colonial Conference 
should be held to discuss the subject of Chinese immigration 
with a view to arriving at an " Australian " decision as to 
future policy. The Conference met June 12 in Sydney. 
It had been suggested in the British Parliament that an 
Imperial representative should be present, but that sugges- 
tion was not adopted on account of " the jealousy still 
entertained of anything approaching to what is called 
Do\Miing Street spirit or Imperial influence. "^ The Colonial 
Secretary', however, by telegraph 2 reminded the Conference 
of the political and commercial interests of the Empire in 
general and of the Australian States in particular, and 
suggested that some ' ' laws and regulations equally restricting 
immigration into the colonies of aU foreign labourers with 
power of relaxing the regulations in special cases " might 
meet the circumstances. . . . 

" \\Tiile H.M. Government will be prepared to consider any 
representations from the Conference, they are not at present 
able to give any assurance that negotiations with the Chinese 
Government can be opened, as it depends on the nature of the 
proposals to be made to that Government." 

The Conference ^ rejected the Colonial Secretar^^'s pro- 
posal for general legislation. It was " ver}^ carefully de- 
liberated upon, but no scheme for giving effect to it was found 
practicable." The Premiers were of opinion, however, that 
the desired restriction could best be secured through the 
diplomatic action of the Imperial Government, and although 
they considered that local legislation was necessary ^ pending 
the negotiation of a treaty, they proposed to drop the poll- 
tax 5 and to attain their end by limiting the number of 
Chinese which any vessel might bring into an Australian 
port to one passenger to every 500 tons ship's burden. 

^ Lord Knutsford, House of Lords, June 8. 

^ C. 5448, No. 69. ^ Ibid., No. 78, Conference Report. 

 Tasmania dissented from this, and Western Australia did not vote, 
s New South Wales agreed to modif}^ her recent Act as soon as the 
Resolutions of the Conference had been adopted by two States. 


In accordance with the resolutions of the Conference, the 
various Legislatures (except in Tasmania) introduced and 
passed further restrictive measures based on the principle 
of a limitation of immigrants in proportion to the tonnage 
of the passenger ships. 1 And further, on June 22 (1888), 
the British Foreign Minister instructed 2 the British Ambas- 
sador at Peking to enter at once into negotiations with the 
Tsungli Yamen with a view to obtaining an agreement 
similar to that made with the United States. But if 
negotiations were entered into nothing eventuated. Appar- 
ently the Chinese Government yielded to the inevitable, 
while for the Australian purpose the local Acts were suffi- 
ciently effective. Moreover, the decision of the Privy 
Council in the appeal case IMusgrove v. Chun Teong Toy, 
" as a security to Australia and New Zealand . . . may be 
held worth many statutes." ^ 

The appeal was against a decision of the Supreme Court 
of Victoria in the case Chun Teong Toy v. Musgrove. Chun 
Teong Toy, a passenger on the Afghan turned away from 
Melbourne, had sued the Collector of Customs for £1,000 
damages for having refused to accept his £10 poll-tax, and 
thereby prohibited his landing at that port. The defendant 
had denied that the money had been offered, but held that 
even had it been so and been refused the action could not 
be maintained, since it was within the power of the Govern- 
ment of Victoria to do such an Act of State in exercise 
of the Queen's prerogative to exclude aliens from any part 
of her Dominions, and even if the act had been done in 
excess of the power vested in the local Government by the 
Imperial Government that was not a question to be opened 
up by an alien. The case led the Supreme Court of Victoria 
into an important and searching political inquiry as to the 
nature of the powers vested in the Government of Victoria 
by the Constitution Act, 1855. The court's decision was to 
the effect that only the express powers stated in the Act, 
with such additions as were strictly necessary for the pur- 

* South Australia lowered the tonnage. Queensland thereupon imposed 
a poll-tax, vetoed by Crown. ^ C. 544S, No. 85. 

' State Experiments in Australia and New Zealand, W. Pember Reeves, 
I vol. ii., p. 339. 


pose of giving effect to those powers, had been vested in 
the local Government. 

" I have been for years . . , under the delusion (as I must 
term it) that we enjoyed in this Colony responsible Government 
in the proper sense of the term. I awake to find, as far as my 
opinion goes, that we have only an instalment of responsible 

Mr. Justice Williams declared. The court therefore held 
the action of the Victorian Government illegal, and gave 
damages to the plaintiff. On appeal before the Privy 
Council (November, 1890), Counsel for the appellant again 
argued that an alien could not sue on account of non- 
admittance into a British colony in the courts of the colony. 
But it was on the constitutional aspect of the question that 
emphasis was laid. Counsel contended that as a result of 
the passing of the Constitution Act, 1855, and of Act 91, 
of 1859, a thorough and complete system of local responsible 
Government had been established ; that such plenary 
power had drawn with it the executive authority necessary 
to carry out the legislation together with such prerogative 
as was necessary for local purposes, and especially for the 
preservation of the public peace ; that the prerogative was 
vested in the Governor as Viceroy, since his power in matters 
local to the State could not be limited to his instructions : 
" for if he has to take the advice of his Ministers he cannot 
be merely the agent of the Imperial authorities, else respon- 
sible advice is not a reality " ; that the Court ought to have 
assumed that the Act of the Victorian Government had been 
done in exercise of such prerogative since the Governor 
retained the Ministers responsible for it as his advisers. 
The decision of the Privy Council was in favour of the 
appellant. It was held that such an action was not main- 
tainable by an alien : but more important for the Australian 
Governments was the recognition of their power to do such 
an Act of State. 

Armed thus with restrictive legislation and with a recog- 
nized power to deal with an emergency similar to that of 
1888 should it again arise, the Australian people had no 
occasion to fear a Chinese influx in the near future. They 


had achieved their immediate purpose ; and in achieving 
it they had discovered themselves to be one people. National 
feeling had quickened, deepened. On October 25, 1889, 
Mr. Parkes spoke the Federal word : " The time has come 
when we should set about creating a great national govern- 
ment." In 1891 a convention met and framed a Federal 

It was shelved. The bogies were dead. The drought 
and the strike had intervened. Everywhere were apparent 
public indifference, political impotence. Federation might 
have been postponed until forced by the necessity of imme- 
diate danger had not the increasing immigration of Japanese 
during the nineties developed a determining influence on 
the Federal Movement. And when Federation had been 
effected, it was the fear of a Japanese, rather than of a 
Chinese, influx that was responsible for the change from a 
restrictive to a prohibitive policy in the matter of Asiatic 
immigration. For the Japanese were feared as the Chinese 
were feared — only more so, since the treaties of 1894 
had given the people of the Rising Sun a new status. 
In 1896, at the Conference of Australian Premiers, called 
to discuss the terms of the Treaty of Commerce and 
Navigation between Great Britain and Japan, it was 
decided, on behalf of all the States except Queensland,^ 
to reject the treaty and to extend the provisions of the 
Chinese Immigration Restriction Act so as to include all 
Asiatics. But when the Governments of New South 
Wales and South Australia passed the Amendment Bill 
decided upon in Conference, it was vetoed by the Crown. 
The diplomatic relations between Great Britain and Japan 
were very different to those existing between Great Britain 
and China. Moreover, the restriction on Indian immigration 
affected the unity of the Empire. At the Imperial Confer- 
ence held in London, 1897, Mr. Chamberlain proposed to 
tread the maze by a subterfuge : 

" We quite sympathize with the determination of the white 
inhabitants of these colonies which are in comparatively close 
proximity to hundreds of millions of Asiatics that there should 

^ Queensland ratified the treaty, March i6, 1897. 


not be an influx of people alien in civilization, alien in religion, 
alien in customs, whose influx moreover would most seriously 
interfere with the legitimate rights of the existing labour popula- 
tion . . . but we ask you also to bear in mind the traditions of the 
Empire, which make no distinction in favour of or against race 
or colour, and to exclude by reason of their colour or by reason 
of their race all Her Majesty's Indian subjects, or even all Asiatics, 
would be an act so offensive to those peoples that it would be 
most painful, I am quite certain, to Her Majesty to have to 
sanction it." * 

He proposed the introduction of legislation based on the 
principle of the language test adopted by Natal. An 
immigration Bill drafted on these lines was passed in 
Western Australia and in New South Wales. It was 
discussed in South Australia and Victoria. But it was 
evident that the subject was one for the consideration of 
a Federal and not of a State Legislature, and further dis- 
cussion was postponed until in a struggle of party principles ^ 
was born the Federation of Australia. 

From 1877-1901 the policy adopted by the Australian 
States towards Asiatic immigration was one of restriction. 
From 1901 ^ onwards that policy gave way to one of ex- 
clusion by means of a language test. In 1897, in order 
to stem the tide of Indian immigration, the Natal legislature 
had passed an Act that necessitated the writing in English 
of an application for entry by every immigrant. This 
method of restriction was recommended to the Australian 
States by Mr. Chamberlain at the Imperial Conference. But 
the Commonwealth adopted a more rigorous policy. The 
Immigration Bill introduced into the Federal Parliament 
in 1 90 1 provided for a dictation test in any language at 
the discretion of the Home Secretary. It was understood 
that, as a general rule, only Asiatics would be required to 
write such a passage. Members were not unaware of the 
responsibility they were incurring in passing this Bill, but 
though they differed in opinion as to the means to be 

1 C. 8596, " Alien Immigration." 

* Conservatism had found in the Federal constitution the opportunity 
of " a check to democratic progress " ; the Labour Party was roused to 
an immediate activity. 

^ In 1 90 1 the Asiatics in Australia numbered 47,014 out of a total 
population of 3,773,801. 


adopted, they were unanimous as to the end to be attained, 
" for it is nothing less than the national manhood, the 
national character, and the national future that are at 
stake." The Bill was passed and still obtains, although it 
has been amended to allow Asiatic merchants and students 
to enter the Commonwealth on a passport system. ^ It 
embodies the " White Australia " policy — a policy that 
developed from circumstances momentous for the national 
movement in Austraha ^ ; and that, rightly or wrongly, the 
Australian people still believe necessary for the security of 
their social life. 

For Australia the Immigration Restriction Bill has 
temporarily solved the problem of Asiatic immigration. 
Whereas the Commonwealth population of Asian birth was, 
on March 31, 1901, 47,014 or 1-246 per cent, of the total 
population ; on April 3, 191 1, it had decreased to 36,442 or 
0-82 per cent, of the total.^ Of the Asiatics in Australia 
the Chinese have always formed the largest proportion, 
numbering, for instance, in 1901, 29,907, and in 1911, 20,775. 
Many of them are engaged in mining — the occupation that 
first attracted their countrymen — usually working alluvial 
tin-deposits and abandoned gold-diggings. Others render 
good service as market-gardeners, hawking their own 
vegetables. A few have generally found employment as 
station-hands, and as such have on occasion lent themselves 
to strike-breaking.^ For economic reasons also their 
employment as seamen has been resented by the trade 
unions concerned, who have feared the competition of 
Asiatic cheap labour. In the country towns, to which many 
of the Chinese drifted when the goldfields failed, their early 

^ Asiatics indentured for the Pearl Fisheries were exempted from the 
provisions of the Act. 

^ See speech by Mr. Deakin, Attorney-General, on the Immigration 
Bill, September 12, 1901 : "At this early period of our history we find 
ourselves confronted with difficulties which have not been occasioned 
by union, but to deal with which this union was established. . . . Cer- 
tainly no motive operated more powerfully in dissolving the technical 
and arbitrary political divisions which previously separated us. . . . 
This was the motive power which swayed tens of thousands who take 
little interest in contemporary politics." 

' 1901 — Males, 43,772 ; females, 3,242. 191 1 — Males, 33,284 ; females, 

* E.g. during the Shearers' strike, 1891. 



success as small shopkeepers and merchants gave rise to a 
considerable jealousy amongst their competitors. Indeed, 
so strong was the " anti-Chinese- merchant " agitation in New 
South Wales during 1904 that a deputation waited on the 
State Premier with the request that the Chinese be segregated 
into locations, the necessity for such segregation having 
been decided on in April by a conference of delegates gathered 
together to discuss that specific question. But in the 
larger towns the Chinese have been chiefly objected to for 
their engagement in the furniture trade, and since the last 
decade of the nineteenth century discriminating legislation 
has been passed in the eastern States with the object of 
regulating the employment of Chinese in furniture " fac- 
tories " with a view to minimizing any competitive advan- 
tage which otherwise they might possess. But from a 
study of such evidence as that taken before the Committee 
of Inquiry appointed by the Victorian Government, June i, 
1893, it seems that the effect of Chinese competition in the 
furniture market has been greatly exaggerated. If, prior 
to the enforcement of the various Factories and Shops Acts, 
the Chinese employer paid his men lower wages than those 
demanded by the trade unions, the work they did was 
generally of a poorer quality than that done by union 
members ; if the Chinese worked late hours, it was frequently 
because they had not commenced the day until noon, their 
habits being different to those of their competitors. It is 
evident from figures ^ submitted to the Committee that in 

Registered European Fiimiture Factories. 

Registered Chinese Furniture Factories. 


No. of Factories. 

Male Hands. 

No. of Factories. 

Male Hands. 















Victoria Chinese competition was only felt in a time of trade 
depression when the Australian furniture-maker, losing on 
the better market and trying to meet a cheaper one, found 
that the latter had already been captured by the Chinese, 
who also suffered when there was a general contraction 
of trade. In short, although under special circumstances 
the employment of Chinese in Australia has occasioned local 
bitterness, there is no reason to suppose that, as a general 
rule, they enter into unfair competition with the Australian 
labourer, manufacturer or merchant. Certainly their num- 
bers are too small to give rise to any serious economic or 
social danger. The end aimed at by the Australian people 
in adopting a restrictive and finally an exclusive policy has 
been achieved — at least for a time : they are free from the 
" race- problem." 


In New Zealand the anti-Chinese movement had a develop- 
ment similar to that in the Australian States, though of 
course it had not the same large influence on political 
history as the latter, which acquired a Federal significance. 
On October 19, 1871, the total number of Chinese in New 
Zealand was 4,215, of whom 4,159 were in the province of 
Otago, 3,570 being employed as miners. So that, although 
the Chinese formed less than 175 per cent, of the total 
population of the Dominion they represented 6 per cent, of 
the provincial community. As a result, the opposition in 
Otago to Chinese immigration became so strong that on 
August 29, 1871, a Special Committee was appointed by 
the Government to investigate the subject. The evidence 
given before the Committee showed that the majority of 
the Chinese had been sent into the Dominion by Chinese 
merchants, who advanced the money for outfit and passage, 
receiving in return a lien on the debtor's services until the 
debt was repaid. The Committee found that the Chinese 
in the Dominion were industrious, frugal, and orderly ; 
that they were not hkely to introduce any special infectious 
disease ; that few would become permanent settlers since, 
as soon as they had amassed a net sum of £100, they generally 


evinced a desire to return to China. The majority of the 
Committee were of the opinion that no sufficient grounds 
had been shown either for the exclusion of the Chinese or 
for the imposition of special burdens upon them. The 
Committee's report was adopted by the Government, and 
no legislative action was taken to restrict Chinese immigra- 
tion until 1881, although after 1877 the subject was under 
annual discussion in the Dominion Parhament. In 1880 a 
private Bill was introduced and carried into Committee, 
but at the time the question was being considered by the 
Australian Governments, and in New Zealand it was thought 
better not to take definite action until it was known what 
the sister colonies proposed to do in the matter. The Bill 
was therefore dropped on the distinct understanding that 
the Government would introduce legislation in 1881. It 
having been agreed at the Australian Inter- State Conference 
of 1880-1, to which New Zealand had sent a representative, 
that a Bill imposing a ;^io poll-tax on all Chinese immigrants 
and restricting their number to one to ten tons shipping 
should be introduced into the various Colonial Legislatures, 
the New Zealand Government introduced a Bill to that 
effect into the Dominion Parliament in 1881. It was 
passed despite the strong opposition of a section of the 
House, who considered such action " a depraved pandering " 
to the working classes. No further restrictive measures 
were taken until 1888, when the Australian scare of a 
"Chinese invasion" was communicated to New Zealand, 
and resulted in an early proclamation declaring all Chinese 
ports infected, vessels carrying Chinese immigrants being 
by this means obliged to undergo quarantine before landing 
any passengers. When the holding of an Inter-Colonial 
Conference to consider the question of Chinese immigration 
was first mooted in 1888 the New Zealand Government 
viewed the proposal with some disfavour, preferring that 
separate or joint representation should be made by the 
various colonies to the Imperial Government, urging it to 
negotiate a treaty with the Chinese Government similar 
to that made by the latter with the U.S.A. However, if the 
other colonies would not agree to such representation, they 


were prepared to send a delegate to an Inter-Colonial 
Conference. In the meantime, however, they considered 
that further restrictions on the immigration of Chinese were 
necessary, since the latter, finding themselves barred from 
entry into the U.S.A. and Australia, might turn in consider- 
able numbers to New Zealand. Therefore the Chinese 
Immigrants Bill, 1888, which increased the shipping restric- 
tion to one passenger to 100 tons, was introduced. During 
the debate on- the Second Reading (May 15, 1888) objections 
were raised to this isolated action taken by the Government 
of New Zealand, many favouring the relegation of the whole 
matter to the Inter-Colonial Conference, which the Austra- 
lian colonies had decided to convene. The Bill was passed 
after much delay and on the understanding that it was a 
temporary measure and would be amended to embody any 
decisions that might be arrived at during the Conference, 
to which, in accordance with a Resolution of the House, 
June I, a delegate had been sent. The delegate, however, 
arrived too late to attend the sessions of the Conference 
and no further action was taken by the New Zealand 
Government to amend the Act of 1888 until 1896. 

During the intervening years a slow movement of the 
Chinese from the goldfields into the cities occasioned local 
irritation, though the numbers remained small, in 1896 
totalhng in Wellington, where they had doubled during the 
past five years, only 205 males and tw^o females. Neverthe- 
less, the local opposition was sufficiently strong by 1896 — 
in which year the Chinese in the colony numbered 3,711 — to 
occasion the introduction of the Asiatic Restriction Bill 
(No. i) of 1896, " in order to safeguard the race purity of 
the people of New Zealand." The provisions of the Bill 
covered all Asiatics, for although it was admitted that the 
Indian and Japanese immigration was at the time negligible, 
it was feared that an impetus might be given to it by the 
action agreed upon by the Australian premiers, at the 
Conference of 1895. The Bill provided for the imposition 
of a poll-tax of ;£ioo on Asiatic immigrants, while hmiting 
their numbers to one to 200 tons shipping. It was accepted 
by the Assembly, but rejected by the Council on the ground 

C.C.E. G 


that in providing for the restriction of Indian immigration 
it was contrary to the interests of the Empire. The Asiatic 
Restriction Bill (No. 2), which exempted from its provisions 
British Indians and people of the Jewish race, was thereupon 
introduced and passed. But it was reserved for the Imperial 
assent since the restriction eo nomine of Japanese (as Asiatics) 
was contrary to Imperial policy. Until the Imperial assent 
to the Act was given, the Government considered it desirable 
as a temporary expedient to amend the Chinese Immigrants 
Bill of 1888, by raising the poll-tax to £100 and increasing 
the restriction on entry to one to 200 tons. The amend- 
ment was carried. During the following year (1897), the 
question of Asiatic immigration into New Zealand was 
discussed at the Colonial Conference in London, when the 
whole matter of Asiatic immigration into the British 
dominions was under consideration. Mr. Chamberlain then 
explained to the Representatives of the Dominions the 
principle of the language test embodied in the Natal Act, 
1897. New Zealand agreed, together with the AustraHan 
States, to adopt the principle and, the Asiatic Restriction 
Bill having failed to secure the Royal assent, and the 
Chinese Immigration Restriction Amendment Act, 1896, 
having lapsed, an Immigration Restriction Bill was intro- 
duced into the New Zealand Parhament, 1899. Under the 
Bill, immigrants, unless belonging to a race or class exempted 
by the Governor in Council, were required to write out an 
application for entry in a European language. In addition 
to making such application, Chinese immigrants were further 
required to pay a poll-tax of £100, while their numbers were 
restricted to one to 200 tons shipping. 

The number of Chinese in New Zealand continued to 
decrease during the years subsequent to 1897.^ Neverthe- 
less, the necessity of further restricting their entry remained 
a permanent electioneering cry in the cities and larger 
towns into which they slowly drifted from the used-up 
goldfields. Finally, in 1907, when the Chinese in New 
Zealand numbered 2,570 (of whom 2,515 were males and 
55 females), a further amending Bill, which imposed on 

For Footnote * see opposite page. 




Chinese immigrants a test of 100 English words, was debated 
in the House. Sir J. Ward, Prime Minister, explained that 
to further increase the poll-tax, as a means of restricting 
immigration, was useless, since the majority of the Chinese 
who came to the colony were industrial serfs, whose poll-tax 
would be paid for them by speculators, with the result 
that they would be kept longer in the country to pay off 
their debt. Educated Chinese who might pass the proposed 
test would not desire to come to New Zealand in large 
numbers, nor would those who did come compete in the 
unskilled labour market. The Bill was passed and is still 
in force. Any Chinese now landing in the Dominion, unless 
previously domiciled therein, are restricted in numbers to 
one to 200 tons, are obliged to pay £100 poll-tax and to 
pass an examination test in English. In 1916 the number 
of Chinese in New Zealand was 2,147, and since that date 
they have continued to decrease, the arrivals about equalling 
the departures until 1920, when there was an excess of the 
former over the latter. Since the early legislation that led 
to a restriction of the Chinese rush to the goldfields, the 
Chinese question in New Zealand has not been one of large 
importance, although it has been raised during each 
election campaign. Such " question " as there has been 
has arisen from the gradual drifting of the Chinese into the 

Arrivals during Year. 


during Year. 

Number in 




































































Number of Chinese born in colony igo6 = 11. 


towns where they have been unwelcome, for presumed 
unfair competition, to the Labour Party and the retail 
traders, and, for presumed social reasons, to the majority 
of the citizens. 

And thus the thinly-populated countries of Canada, 
Australia and New Zealand have become more or less 
effectively barricaded against a dreaded influx from the 
over-crowded provinces of China — and of all Asia — which 
the young communities of these British Dominions believe 
would endanger their social well-being. 



" The Indentured System differs from slavery 
principally in this respect — that of his proper civil 
rights those which are left to the slave, if any, are 
the exception, while in the case of the indentured 
laboiirer the exceptions are those of which he is 
deprived. Hence it is the freedom of the slave and 
the bondage of the indentured labourer against 
which all the unforeseen incidents and accidents 
of law must tell." ^ 

^ British Guiana Commission, 1871, p. 63. 



" When I came to the investigation of this traffic, I had no 
adequate conception of its enormity." 

(Mr. Parker, U.S.A. Minister in China, 

Jan. 14, 1856.) 

The Act of Emancipation, 1833, was the expression of a 
determined public opinion in Great Britain. Petition 
followed petition from the people to the Parliament. Their 
argument was perhaps exaggerated, but its demand was 
plain. Liberty ! — And the rights of man must be recognized 
in a slave as in a free society. Fraternity !— And the 
cruelties of the slave system must be terminated by its 

On the other hand, the West India planters insisted on 
economic justice. They must be compensated for the loss 
of slaves recognized as property by British law. It was 
agreed by Parliament that compensation should be paid 
by voting a sum of money and by securing the services of 
the freedmen to their masters for a period of years! A 
system of apprenticeship was to be substituted for slavery 
— ^e essential difference between the two economic orders 
being that under slavery the power of punishment was 
vested in the master ; under apprenticeship, in a stipendiary 
magistrate. In this manner for a period of six years a 
temporary labour force was to be secured for the planters 
and in the meantime the negroes were to be trained to the 
responsibilities of freedom. The system was instituted. 
When it became known that cruelties were practised by the 
employers against the indentured labourers, the British 
people demanded that it be brought to a premature end. 
They would not tolerate this thing. The pressure of British 



public opinion expressed through Colonial Office instructions 
achieved its purpose in 1838, when non-praedial and praedial 
slaves were freed in the West India colonies. But any hopes 
that may have been entertained for an easy transition from a 
slave to a free society soon proved delusive. The abundance 
of fertile land in British Guiana, Trinidad and Jamaica made 
it possible for the emancipated negroes to win an easy 
livelihood without the necessity of regular work on the 
plantations, and their continued withdrawal into the interior 
left the planters with a steadily diminishing labour force. 
Various schemes for the importation of labour had been 
put into operation when the system of apprenticeship was 
terminated, but they had proved more or less abortive. 
In 1838, the West India planters had agreed to follow the - 
successful example of Mauritius by importing Indian coolies. 
But the alleged abuses of Indian emigration led the Govern- 
ment of India in 1839 to prohibit further recruitment of its 
subjects. Africans had been introduced from the smaller 
and more populated West India islands, but they had at 
once associated themselves with the emancipated negroes. 
Immigrants from Madeira and Brazil had been encouraged 
until they proved such easy victims to disease that the 
West India Government had to terminate the uncontrolled 
experiment. In 1841 the British Government put into 
operation its proposals for the introduction of Africans 
from the Kroo coast. The scheme, however, was surrounded 
by such careful safeguards against a recurrence of slave- 
trade that insignificant results were anticipated. 

No adequate constructive policy had accompanied the 
overthrow of the social order founded on slavery. The 
sugar industry, already burdened by the debts of an artificial 
past, remained dependent on the irregular and unwilling 
labour of the freedmen. By 1842 the financial position of 
the West India planters was admittedly critical. Lord 
Stanley's Select Committee on July 26, 1842, emphasized 
the need of compensating for this diminished supply by 
promoting " the immigration of a fresh labouring population 
to such an extent as to create competition for employment." 

The West India Committee had already realized this 


necessity and had forwarded on July ii, 1843, a memorial ^ 
to the Secretary of State in which they pointed out the 
serious position of the planters and requested that immigra- 
tion from Africa should be more actively encouraged and 
that the right recently accorded to Mauritius of reopening 
Indian immigration should be extended to them. This 
request was given careful consideration by Lord Stanley, 
Secretary of State for the Colonies. The financial position 
of the West India estates was unsound even under the slave 
system, but the effect on the labouring population of the 
Act of Emancipation and the subsequent abolition of appren- 
ticeship had undoubtedly precipitated the crisis. Hence 
the abrupt refusal with which he had replied 2 to the squatters 
of New South Wales when they asked permission to introduce 
Indian coolies at the public expense, was unsuited to the 
West India occasion. But though the economic position 
of the planters demanded his sympathetic consideration. 
Lord Stanley was determined to prevent the institution of 
any order approximating to slavery. He would not remove 
the safeguards from the African recruitment. Nor would 
he disregard the welfare of the Indian coolies. The previous 
decade had shown only too conclusively the evils of an 
unregulated movement of labour. As he declared, " The 
test of experience is wanting to prove that the apprehensions 
may be removed by increased vigilance and new precau- 
tions." 3 He was anxious that the renewed Indian immigra- 
tion into Mauritius should be regarded as a test experiment. 
No decision had been made on the subject of labour importa- 
tion when the West India Committee applied, July 14, 1843, 
for permission to introduce Chinese contract coolies from 
the Straits Settlements into the West Indies.* 

The application followed the receipt of letters ^ from a 
British Guiana proprietor who had been visiting the British 
possessions in the East. He had witnessed the heavy 

1 1844, P.P. [530], No. I. 

* N.S.W. Dispatch No. 156, Sept. 29, 1843; Colonial Office Minute 
to Dispatch, No. 63, May 5, 1843, Gipps to Stanley ; Colonial Office 
Minute to Dispatch No. 37, March 27, 1843. 

' 1844, P.P. [530], Sept. 4, 1843, Stanley to West India Committee. 

* Ibid., No. 2. 

^ Ibid., Enclosures in No. 2 dated May 8 and 12, 1843. 


annual movement of Chinese immigrants into the labour 
markets of the Straits Settlements and did not doubt that 
they could meet the requirements of the West India planters. 
Their work on the plantations of Penang had impressed "i 
him very favourably ; they were men of excellent physique 
and from infancy accustomed to toil ; they were eager to 
acquire money ; they seemed freer from prejudice than the U^ ^ 
Indians and would probably marry into the native popula- j 
tion. Indeed the Mauritius planters had been so favourably I 
impressed by the opportunity that they had imported / 
1,000 coolies from the Straits Settlements at the beginning J 
of the year. On the other hand, the proprietor warned the 
West India Committee that there were certain disadvantages 
in the Chinese character as compared with that of the 
Indian. The Chinese were not so likely to subject them- 
selves to the discipline of the estate ; they would probably 
demand higher wages ; they would cause trouble if an o ^ 
attempt was made to keep their wages lower than those 
current at the time. " They would no more bear ill-usage 
than an English labourer." Nevertheless, on the whole, he 
considered them far superior to the Indian coolies. It 
would be necessary, he thought, to enter into a contract 
with the labourers for definite terms of service before they 
would emigrate with foreigners. Copies of the Mauritius 
contracts, valid for two years, were forwarded for reference. 
No difficulty was anticipated in the transport of a labour 
force from the East to the West. Vessels were easily 
chartered, freight was low, and rice and salt fish could be 
had at Singapore at cheap rates. 

The West India Committee were not able to obtain 
information of the results of the experiment in Mauritius. 
They could not therefore place such confidence in Chinese ^ 

as in Indian immigration. Nevertheless, the necessity f^'' .^^' 
being great, they requested Lord Stanley to except any /^ 
contracts made with Chinese labourers from the provisions 
of Order in Council, September, 1838, which declared invalid 
any contracts for labour entered into outside the colonies. 
If this exception were allowed, arrangements would be made 
for the introduction of a certain number of Chinese, providing 


that Lord Stanley agreed to the principle of a bounty payable 
for the introduction of immigrants without any special 
contract or under a contract which they rescinded after 

Lord Stanley gave close attention to the proposed system 
of Chinese contract labour. The subject was " under 
constant discussion at the Colonial Office." The Colonial 
Land and Emigration Commissioners forwarded questions 
to gentlemen who had had experience in China, and a body 
of evidence and opinion was collected. As a result, Lord 
Stanley in his reply to the West India Committee, Septem- 
ber 4, 1843,^ admitted that the introduction of Chinese 
coolies would probably have a better effect on the emanci- 
pated negroes than the introduction of any other race. 
They would set them an " example of continuous and 
industrious application." From the information he had 
been able to obtain he was led to believe that the Chinese 
were fully competent to stipulate for what would be most 
to their own advantage. Present political considerations 
in China made it necessary to limit the ports of embarkation 
to the Straits Settlements. Therefore any Chinese coolies 
engaged for the West India Colonies would have already 
found their way to the Straits ports — a fact which gave 
some guarantee that they would understand the nature of 
the proposals made to them. A serious difficulty in the 
way of sanctioning a bounty upon their introduction into 
British colonies was the purely male character of their 
immigration. It was said that tradition bound the women 
to the ancestral village. However, since it was the habit 
of the Chinese to return to China after a temporary engage- 
ment abroad, Lord Stanley did not consider the difficulty 
insuperable. He agreed with the West India Committee' 
that a contract would be necessary to induce the Chinese 
coolie to engage for the West Indies, but he limited its 
period to five years and insisted that the coolie must have 
power to rescind it after arrival in the colony. This was 
to be his security against terms which might seem unjust 
when compared with those under which free labourers were 

1 1844, P.P. [530], September 4, 1843. 


engaged. The West India Committee objected to a power 
of immediate termination. Their desire was to secure the h-^ 

supply of steady labour which a contract system promised. 
They argued, moreover, that an emigrant was in no position ^ , 
to make a decision regarding new labour in new conditions ' . " ,|^ 
until after some months of residence . Lord Stanley accepted ^ ^ 
a compromise. The contract was to be obligatory on the {} ^J^ 
labourer for six months after his arrival. Then and at the (^ 
end of every subsequent year, he was to have the option 
of continuing or rescinding it. Lord Stanley agreed also 
to the bounty system,^ but although a maximum rate of 
bounty was to be fixed ($65), only the actual amount spent 
was to be reclaimed. Despite the West India Committee's 
strong objection, Lord Stanley persisted in his determination 
to prevent an emigration system from degenerating into a 
speculative venture. There was further dispute as to 
whether the full cost of introduction should be claimable 
on contracts rescinded at the end of six months — a point 
which Lord Stanley finally allowed, the general benefit of 
the emigrant's services during the first half year being thus 
regarded as a premium to cover the extra risks of acclimatiza- 
tion. After the first six months a graduated scale of bounty 
was to come into operation, one-fifth being deducted for 
every subsequent six months served. On these conditions 
Lord Stanley gave his consent to the introduction of a 
limited number of Chinese by such persons as first obtained 
a licence from the Secretary of State. There had been 
continual disagreement between the Colonial Office and the 
West India Committee on the different questions arising out 
of the proposal to introduce Chinese coolies. The planters 
were determined to secure a labour-force. Lord Stanley, 
while admitting their necessity, was determined to safeguard 
the welfare of the immigrants. On December i, 1843, he 
curtly refused any further discussion on the sub j ect . Already 
on October 27, 1843, instructions had been sent to the 
Commissioners for the Affairs of India to issue such orders 
to the officials in the Straits Settlements as were necessary 

1 Expense of introduction to be reclaimed from Government funds if 
coolie rescinded his contract after arrival. 


for the experiment to be carried into effect. Licences were 
issued for the introduction of some 2,850 Chinese coolies 
into British Guiana, Trinidad and Jamaica. 

But no Chinese were introduced. The necessityjorjhem 
.^ no longer obtained. The Governor-General of India had 
acceded to Lord Stanle3^'s request (November 29, 1843) to 
reconsider the question of Indian contract emigratio'njtoThe 
West Indies under Government control, and the regulateS^ 
movement of Indian coolies recommenced. Further, a large 
immigration from Madeira was again allowed under satis- 
factory regulations. 

The subject of Chinese importation was not reopened until 
the " Free Trade " crisis 1846-9 had swept away the old 
proprietary and " transmuted colonial agriculture into a 
business entirely commercial and speculative." 

The second crisis was even more serious than the first. 
The Order in Council, September, 1838, had prevented__any 
contract with the Indian and Portuguese immigrants otheF^ 
than an agreement for one month. Their ranks were swept 
by discontentment and disease. At the end of the first 
month many of them wandered away into the interior to 
die. Both Indian and Portuguese immigrations were dis- 
continued. The planters insisted and the Home Govern- 
ment agreed that the only satisfactory solution was to 
legalize contracts to labour for not less than three years 
(Ord. 3, 1848). But before any system of free labour had 
been satisfactorily established on the ruins of slavery — 
before an immigrant population had been introduced to 
take the place of the emancipated negroes who continued 
to withdraw from the plantations, the colonies were plunged 
into the crisis which ended in temporary collapse. The_^ 
Sugar Act of 1846 had equalized duties on foreign and colonial 
sugar. Free Trade had followed hard on Emancipation. 
The result was inevitable to a system of sugar cultivation 
pushed under Slavery and Protection far beyond the limit 
warranted by its real resources. Many estates changed ^M 
hands. The new proprietors realized that financial recovery ^ 
waited on a regular labour supply. " From this time for- 
ward the remedy of immigration, the one chance that 


remained, was seized on and pursued with rare tenacity and 
vigour." In these circumstances the necessity of introduc- 
ing both Chinese and Indian immigration was again dis- 
cussed. On Junej25, 1849/ Lord Grey had written to the 
Governor of Hong Kong " to ascertain and report on the 
practicabihty of inducing Chinese labourers to proceed 
from China." The Governor's repl}- was forwarded with 
Memoranda, October 3, 1849.2 Early in 185 1 the Secretary 
of State was also in receipt of Dr. BowTing's Annual Report , 
on Trade in China, ^ in which the subject of Chinese coolie ^^)^ 
labour was discussed. Further, Mr. White, appointed . vT x^ 
assistant immigration agent in Calcutta on the renewal of i. 
Indian cooHe immigration, arrived in China, May 26, 1851, \ 
on a semi-official mission to consider the whole problem of 
Chinese immigration. His letters were forwarded to the 
Colonial Ofhce by Governor Barkly (British Guiana).'' In 
addition to the information contained in these reports 
valuable evidence ^ on the subject of coolie-emigration was / 
submitted later in the year (1852) by the British Consular 
officers at the treaty ports in reply to a circular note sent 
them by Dr. Bo wring under instructions from the Earl of 

These various official and semi-official reports and 
memoranda were considered by the Colonial Office and the 
West India authorities 1849-52. They described the 
impoverishment of Southern China and the annual emigra- 
tion of large numbers of coolies under the pressure of want. 
Such emigration was nominally illegal — Chinese law for- 
bidding a Chinese subject to emigrate without a special 
permit. But the local authorities did not interfere. The 
facts were too much for them. The result was the annual 
outflow of " hungry able-bodied men," part of which the 
planters and squatters of the new world were already divert- 
ing into the channel of a peculiar contract system of labour. 

1 p.p. 624, Sub-enclosure i to Enclosure 2 in No. 3. 

2 Ibid. 
^ Ibid., No. 85 and Enclosure. 

' * P.P. 986, Dispatches from the Secretary of State, Sub-enclosures 

to Enclosure in No. i. 

5 P.P. 263 1852-3, Enclosures in Nos. 8, 9 and 10. 


The first shipment of coohes under contract to foreigners 
was made in 1845 in a French vessel from Amoy to the 
Isle of Bourbon ^ — a clever French adventurer having 
speculated on obtaining the coolies cheaper in the country 
of origin than in the Straits. In 1847 a Spanish company 
induced a body of 800 to go under contract to Cuba.^ It 
was estimated that by July, 1852, agents had, entered into 
contracts for the shipment to Havana of coolies tq^ the 
number of from 8,000-15,000. By August 25, 1852, 2,025 
coolies had left China for South America, many of them 
destined for the guano works of the Chincha Islands. A 
number had also been introduced into California ^ for agri- 
cultural work, but the rapid development of the credit- 
ticket system under the stimulus of the gold discoveries, 
supplied the wants formerly met by contract emigration. 
The squatters of New South Wales had also turned to the 
East for labour. As early as 1838 a Mr. Mackay had been 
authorized by the squatters to arrange for the introduction 
of several hundreds of Chinese coolies on private account — 
a scheme non-resultant until 1848, when Chinese contract 
labour in New South Wales became " not a mere matter 
of experiment but a regular and systematic trade." * It 
remained on private account receiving neither public money 
nor supervision. 

Large shipments ^ had been effected in the Canton waters 
by 1852 ; contract coolies had also been embarked at Hong 
Kong, though the latter port was the centre of the " credit- 
ticket " movement. It was Amoy, however, that was fast 
becoming the chief port of the early contract-trade. In 
August, 1852, Dr. Winchester estimated ^ that 6,255 coolies 
had been shipped under foreign contract from Amoy while 
some 10,756 tons had been employed. 

1 P.p. 263, 1852-3, Enclosure 3 in No. 8. 

* P.P. 624, Sub-enclosure to Enclosure 2 in No. 3. 

^ See U.S.A. House of Representatives, 34th Congress, ist Session, 
Ex Doc. No. 105. No. 12, Translation of contract with Chinese labour 
for agricultural work California signed Consulate U.S.A., March, 1854. 

* The People's Advocate (Sydney journal), March 10, 1849. 

5 It was estimated that 24,561 emigrants had left the port, but many of 
these must have been credit-ticket coolies for California. 
" P.P. 263, Enclosure 3 in No. 8. 


Whatever the destination of the coolies under contract 
the method of their recruitment was essentially the same. 
" A trifle advanced to give their hungriness food, a suit of 
clothes to cover their nudity, a dollar or two for their 
families, and candidates in abundance are found for trans- 
portation to aiiy foreign land." The common designation 
of the system was " the buying and selling of pigs." It 
centred in the payment of head money. British firms at 
the treaty ports were engaged either by the would-be 
employer or associations of employers (as in New South 
Wales), or by merchants speculating on the profit of a sale 
of contracts to employers (as in Cuba). These firms 
employed Chinese recruiters or coolie brokers, men of ques- 
tionable reputation who were paid per head for the number 
of coolies brought to the barracoons. A promise of lucrative 
work to the half-starved coolies was usually sufficient to 
get them into the land barracoons or on to the receiving 
ships, from which it was difficult to escape. Moreover, 
peculiar laws in China as to debt bondage made it an easy 
method for obtaining possession of the persons of the coolies 
either by way of the gaming tables or by a small advance 
in money or goods. The sudden and competing labour- 
demands of 1852 having forced up the price of coolies, the 
cupidity of the Chinese brokers was stimulated by the 
foreign gold and during 1852 resorts to fraud in recruitment 
were not infrequent, the brokers having the support of their 
European employers. The " pigs," recruited by debt, 
deceit, or argument, were conveyed by the brokers to 
" pig-pens." The " pig-pens " were the emigrant depots. 
At Amoy the firm of Messrs. Syme, Muir & Co. had erected 
a special barracoon in front of their hong. Messrs. Tait & 
Co., the other large firm of coolie-merchants, had engaged a 
\'essel, the Emigrant, as a receiving depot. . The coolies 
were detained in the barracoons under restraint ^ until 

^ During the investigation held at Amoy, December, 1852, a plan of 
Messrs. Syme, Muir & Co.'s barracoon was submitted. There were only 
two doors through which the coolie could leave the barracoon. Expert 
opinion was given that, unless a general rush were made, two watchmen 
would be sufficient to prevent exit. Mr. Syme declared that no restraint 


r^ their shipment, the exercise of restraint increasing with the 
irregularities of the system. The argument advanced for 
its necessity was that some coohes offered to emigrate, 
entered the depots, received food, and even perhaps the 
advance given before embarkation — and then made good 
their escape, as they had from the first intended. Obviously 
the temptation was great. The force of the argument, 
however, was generally invalidated by questionable methods 
of recruitment. 

Prior to signing the contracts a medical examination was 
held. CooUes found physically defective were rejected. 
Their fate was pitiful. Their native village being often at 
some distance from the port, and they without means of 
returning to it, they died in the streets. " It was in vain 
to argue to these gentlemen (the merchants) that a moral 
obligation lay upon them to return these poor creatures." ^ 

Coolies medically fit signed the contracts. If the latter- 
were for Cuba, they were official, and drawn up as between 
the Spanish Consul on behalf of the contracting firm on the 
one part and the emigrant on the other. ^ But the authority 
of the Spanish Consul can hardly be reckoned as proof that 
the contracts for Cuba were equally understood and as 
readily entered into by both parties — Mr. Tait,vthe Spanish 
Consul at Amoy, being the largest shipper of coolies from 
that port.3 The Acting-Consul for the United States of 
America was, until the end of 1852, in the employ of Messrs. 
Tait & Co. Apparently the emigrants destined for Peru 
had, during this early period of the system, no guarantee 
that they would not be sold into slavery. Once the con- 
tracts were signed, final advances were made to the coolies, 
who were frequently indebted to the brokers for the full 

was used to restrict the freedom of the coolie. But it was suggested 
during the investigations that if this were true it was somewhat difficult 
to understand why the coolies left the barracoon, not by way of the door, 
but through an opening in the water closet into the mud and water of 
the river. See P.P. 263, 1852-3, Enclosure 8 in No. 14. 

1 Ibid., Enclosure i in No. 17, Commander Fishbourne. 

» Copies of Contract for Cuba, P.P. 986. Enclosure in Sub-enclosure 2 
in Enclosure in No. i. Dispatches from Secretary of State. 

8 " The principal shipper of coolies is Mr. Tait, a British subject who 
has all the advantage and influence which his being Spanish, Dutch and 
Portuguese Consul gives him." 


amount of the money received. Embarkation was then 

The fraudulent methods of recruitment, the shortage of 
food and water provided by mercenary agents, the^ harsh 
treatment not infrequently meted out by captain and crew 2 
on the long unknown voyage across the Pacific to California 
or Peru, across the Indian and Atlantic to Cuba, occasioned, 
not seldom, riot and murder. " Such cases are of frequent 
occurrence," Dr. Bowring wrote, May 17, 1852, when report- 
ing the murder of the captain and part of the crew on the 
American ship Robert Browne, bound with 410 coolies to 
California.3 Coolie-voyages to South America became so 
risky that in August, 1852, though large contracts were in 
the market, no vessels could be procured for shipment. 

Apart from the crimes at sea, the average mortality was 
high — the vessels being of small tonnage, devoid of all 
facilities for proper exercise, and often supplied with bad 
water and insufficient food. So serious were the conditions 
of the emigrants at sea that the Earl of Malmesbury, July 21, 
1852,^ requested Dr. Bowring to suggest the most effective 
means for controlling British ships chartered for the coolie- 
service. But the Middle Passage continued to be the scene 
of many reported horrors, of forgotten sufferings. 

Although it was apparent from the story told by the 
reports and letters laid before the Secretary of State for the 
Colonies, 1849-52, that the increasing competition between 
the exploiters of the new world for a labour-supply had 
already led to serious abuses in China, the opinion generally 
expressed was that the latter could be minimized if not 
eliminated by official recruitment and regulation of ship- 
ment. And there was no doubt of the economic value of 
Chinese labour. All were in agreement on this point. The 

ip.p. 263, No. 2. 

* The fatal disturbance on the Robert Browne, reported b}^ Dr. Bowring 
(P.P. 263, 1852-3, No. 2), originated in the captain's order that the coolies' 
pig-tails " should be cut off and their bodies scrubbed with hard brooms." 
However desirable such a measure might have been from the point of 
view of cleanliness, it was an indignity too great for Chinese endurance. 
In Dr. Bowring's opinion " there are few instances (of disturbance) in 
which the commanders have not been blameworthy in a high degree " 
— an opinion shared by Mr. White. (Sub-enclosure to Enclosure 3 in No . 5.) 

3 P.P. 263, 1852-3, No. 2.J * Ibid., No. 3- 

C.C.E. H 



rapid development of the system of contract-emigration 
attested it. Nevertheless, in his reports to the Governor 
of British Guiana, Mr. White gave a warning, the force of 
which was emphasized by subsequent experience : 

" The peculiar character of the Chinese will render the man- 
agement of them, on their first arrival, ... a matter of some 
difficulty before they get accustomed to their new locations. 
To all appearance they are perfectly impassive, cold and hard 
as a rock, yet they are fond of music, such as it is, and of theat- 
rical shows and amusements, and at their sing-song exhibitions 
I have seen hundreds, if not thousands of them, convulsed from 
ear to ear with roars of laughter. They have an unexhaustible 
fund of obstinacy, and yet they are always willing to do anything 
that is required of them provided it be clearly explained to them 
and that they are allowed to do it in their own way. On their 
first arrival they must be kept cheerful and managed with kind- 
ness and a consideration for their feelings and habits. Yet 
indulgence will spoil them, for they are extremely cunning, and 
wiU profit by the least opening to obtain an advantage. Pos- 
sessed of strong animal passions, I am afraid they may become 
sullen and discontented unless they should form connexions 
with the negro women, but if this difficulty can be overcome, 
they will be found cheerful, contented, and industrious." ^ 

Messrs. Syme, Muir, & Co. had further suggested the advis- 
ability of sending English-speaking headmen with the 
coolies. Such headmen, however, would " require to be 
closely watched, as presumption on authority for personal 
aggrandizement is inseparable from the Chinese character 
in every situation of life." ^ 

Mr. White was of the opinion ^ that shipping would be 
easily secured for the emigration service once the risks of 
riot were eliminated. A large influx of American " clipper 
ships " into Chinese waters had seriously affected British 
shipping for the tea trade, and many captains were without 
cargoes for their vessels. Mr. White further suggested that 
the vessels employed in conveying troops, emigrants, and 
convicts to the Australian colonies would probably be glad 
of the opportunity thus afforded for continuous employment 
in the emigration service. 

1 p.p. 986, 1852-3. Dispatches from Secretary of State, Sub-enclosure 
to Enclosure in No. i. ^ Ibid. ^ Ibid., July 19, 1851. 


Such favourable opinions led the British Government 
and the West India authorities to the decision that Chinese 
immigrants should be imported into the West India Colonies. 
Indeed, early in 1850 there were several interviews between 
Lord Grey and representatives of the Trinidad Association, 
as a result of which Lord Harris, Governor of Trinidad, 
was informed, February, 1850, that such importation 
would be permitted. A similar communication was for- 
warded to the Governor of British Guiana. In the latter 
colony it was hoped that the Chinese would form a middle 
class " better capable of standing the climate than the 
natives of Madeira, more energetic than the East Indians, 
and less fierce and barbarous than the emigrants from 
the Kroo coast." ^ A rate of bounty (Sioo) for Chinese 
labourers was therefore fixed by Ordinance 23, 1850. On 
August 26, 1851, Governor Barkly forwarded to the Secretary 
of State a minute of the Court of Policy, urging him to 
adopt every possible means for the encouragement of 
emigration from China. After the receipt of Mr. White's 
letters the urgency of the British Guiana planters became 
even more marked. The Court of Policy was unanimously 
in favour of appropriating £50,000 of the parliamentary 
guaranteed loan for the introduction of labourers from 
China. On October 13, 1851, the Colonial Land and Emi- 
gration Commissioners were directed by the Colonial Office 
to place themselves in communication with the West India 
Committee with a view to practical discussion on the sub- 
ject. 2 The evils of a speculative system were already so 
apparent that neither the Commissioners nor the Committee 
desired the emigration to fall into chance hands. A proposal 
for the despatch of coolies having been made to a highly 
respected firm in China and refused, it was decided that a 
contract system under Government control should be 
estabhshed, with Mr. White as Government agent. His 
return was unfortunately delayed, and in the meantime the 
Governor of British Guiana permitted the dispatch, by a 
Mr. Booker, of a vessel, the Lord Elgin (351 tons), for the 

1 Ibid., Dispatches from Governor Barkly, No. i. 

^ Ihid., Dispatches from the Secretary of State, Enclosure in No. 3. 


introduction of coolies on the bounty system. The Com- 
missioners therefore agreed to the large schemes of Messrs. 
Hyde, Hodge, & Co. for the recruitment and shipment of 
Chinese for the West India plantations. A temporary 
development of the cooHe Jbusiness hy„priYate_£nterprise 
was thus given official sanction. 

"^ On his return to England Mr. White was appointed 
Emigration Officer in China, his duties being to supervise 
the bounty emigration already in operation, and, as the 
opportunity offered, to estabhsh a permanent system of 
emigration under Government control. In their instructions 
the Commissioners urged him to secure as large a proportion 
, of females as possible, and also a suitable number of inter- 
Lpreters. They reminded him that His Majesty's Govern- 
ment had authorized the expenditure of public money on 
this scheme on the understanding that the Chinese law 
forbidding the emigration of Chinese subjects had fallen 
into desuetude. Should it prove otherwise, Mr. White was 
immediately to desist from all operations carried on by him 
in his official capacity. The British Government was not 
prepared to allow the contravention of a Chinese law if it 
had present force and effect. High hopes were entertained 
for the result of the experiment. 

In the East, rumours of " vast plans " for the introduction 
of Chinese coolies into the British West Indies were in 
circulation before rehable information was received by the 
British officials. Dr. Bowring, British Trade Commissioner, 
reported on August 3, 1852, that nine vessels measuring 
4,000 tons were said to have reached Amoy for coohe ship- 
ments to the British West Indies—" a sudden irruption of 
a fleet of ships." ^ In view of the serious competition that 
the planters of the southern States might experience as a 
result of the importation of large numbers of cheap labourers 
by the British colonies, Mr. A. Marshall, Commissioner for 
the United States at Macao, inquired ^ of his Government 

1 P.P. 263, 1852-3, No. 5- , ^ . c • IT 

2 U.S.A. House of Representatives, 34th Congress, ist Session, tx 
Document 105, No. 9, Mr. A. Marshall to Mr. Everett : " The experiment 
when made must depress the entire planting interest of the U.S. The 
total cost of a Chinese labourer is estimated at $80 per annum, which is 


whether it was proper and poHtic to allow American shipping 
to take part in the business. It is evident that officials 
in the East were expecting a rapid expansion of the coolie 

But if such large schemes had been entertained they were 
to be modified by the force of circumstance. ^ When Mr. 
White arrived at Amoy in October, 1852, two ships, the 
LordTEignToi Mr, Booker and the Glentanncr of Messrs. 
Hyde, Hodge, & Co. had already left with heavy cargoes 
of men.^The Samuel Boddington took a third shipment 
after his arrival, but the competition in coolies had become 
so keen that the agents for the vessel were not prepared to 
brook much official supervision of their recruitment and 
embarkation. Then in November occurred an interruption 
in the coolie business at Amoy that had a marked effect 
on emigration under British contract. On different occa- 
sions during 1852 public indignation against the abuses of 
" pig-dealing " had been expressed in Amoy by the posting 
of placards. The anti-foreign temper of the Chinese populace 
was joused to hafre Jin November when Mr. Sj^me, of Messrs. 
Syme, Muir, & Co., rescued from a Chinese court a " pig- 
stealer " who had been in his employ and was being tried 
for kidnapping. On November 21 Mr. Syme, his assistant, 
and a clerk of Messrs. Tait & Co., were attacked by a party 
of Chinese soldiers, a general assault being averted only by 
a resort to arms. Casualties were not heavy — some twelve 
killed and sixteen wounded — but their occasion augured ill 
for the future. Mr. Harvey, an official of Hong-Kong, was 
sent to Amoy for a detailed investigation. At the British 
Consular court, held to try Mr. Syme and his assistant for 
breach of treaty, the whole British mercantile community 
were examined, as were also English and American mis- 
sionaries and several Chinese subjects. Mr. Syme declared 
in evidence that the trouble originated as a plundering raid 
on foreign hongs — and no doubt there were vagabonds 
who hoped to profit from it. But witnesses less interested 

far below the cost of slave labour independently of the risk the planter 
runs in the original investment." 
^ P.P. 263, 1852-3, passim. 


than Mr. Syme were satisfied that it was directly incited 
by the irregularities of the coolie business. Moreover, 
various meetings were held by respectable Chinese, at which 
suggestions were made for the destruction of the foreign 
hongs and the attacking of the coolie ships with a view to 
mitigating the evils of the system, i The Proclamation 
issued by the " Inhabitants of the eighteen Wards," 2 though 
of general character, directed its hatred against the two firms 
of coolie merchants. 

" The barbarians are ungovernable in the extreme, and their 
only motive of action is the desire for gain . . . from this time 
if any persons transact business with the Te-Ki and Ho-Ki 
hongs (Messrs. Tait & Co. and Messrs. Syme, Muir, & Co.) they 
shall be put to death." 

Again, a proclamation issued by the scholars and mer- 
chants of Amoy3 declared: "From the time that the 
barbarians began to trade at Amoy they have had the 
practice of buying people to sell again." . . . The antago- 
nism of the Chinese authorities was of a more questionable 
jiature. The Chinese Marine Magistrate asked Commander 
Fishbourne to forbid the merchants from carrying on any 
longer their traffic in Chinese coolies. Notices were issued 
and strict orders given to the police for the apprehension 
of all brokers suspected of kidnapping. But one is inclined 
to agree — 

" that there is not, and has not been, a man shipped from Amoy 
without their full knowledge, and that if report speaks true, 
they have not been without their share of the profits derived 
,by^ the brokers from the coolie sliipments." * 

Later, the incurable corruption of Chinese officials proved 
one of the greatest obstacles in the way of proper regu- 

Not only had the evils of the contract system aroused the 
antagonism of the Chinese population of Amoy. By so 
arousing antagonism the coolie-business had seriously inter- 

^ Evidence, December 17, Rev. G. V. Talmage, Enclosure 8 in No. 14. 

2 Enclosure 8 in No. 14, Appendix B. 

* Appendix A, * Enclosure 7 in No. 14. 



fered with legitimate commerce. ^ As Dr. Bowring wrote 
to the Earl of Malmesbury : 

" Nothing could be more fatal to our interests and prospects 
in China than that the shipment of emigrants should be connected 
with breaches' of the pubhc tranquillity, that it should make 
foreigners odious to the Chinese people and interfere with that 
growing disposition to friendly intercourse which was so remark- 
able at Amoy and its neighbourhood, and was producing such 
an extension of our commercial relations until interrupted by 
the irregularities which have had their origin in the cupidity 
of the collectors and shippers of coolies." ^ 

' British official opinion in the East was further strongly 
condemnatory of the fact that at Amoy, where the con- 
sular establishment was very inefficient, some of the mer- 
chants had disregarded the consular authority, and had 
estabUshed direct intercourse with the mandarins. ^ The 
mandarins complained very bitterly to Mr. Harvey of 
such a course, since it lowered their position and dignity 
Jn the eyes of the people.^ It was distinctly contrary to 
Art, XIII. of the General Regulations of Trade. Indeed, 
not seldom during the nineteenth century were official 
representatives in the East confronted with almost insuper- 
able difficulties in bending British subjects to the restraints 
of British law — a fact that was at once " a national 
reproach and a pubhc calamity." As a result of the 
November disturbances. Dr. Bowring was instructed to 
inform the British Consular officers in China that they 
should act in strict conformity with treaty-rights, and 
neither directly nor indirectly aid in the shipment of Chinese 
subjects should the Chinese Government object to emigration. 

" But if the Chinese subjects of their own free will should 

prefer to risk the penalty attached to the transgression of the 

Uaw . . . you are not bound to prevent, or even ostensibly be 

! cognizant of , such acts, for it is the duty of the Chinese Govern- 

Iment to enforce its own laws." ^ 

For some years after 1852 it was almost impossible for 

1 Evidence of Mr. H. Helms, of Messrs. Dent, & Co., and of Mr. R. 
McMurdo, of Messrs. Jardin, Matheson, & Co., Enclosure 8 in No. 14. 

* Dr. Bowring to the Earl of Malmesbury, December 20, 1852. 
3 Dr. Bowring to Vice-Consul Backhouse, December 29, 1852. 

* Enc. 7 in No. 14, Mr. Harvey to Dr. Bowring. ^ Enclosure in No. 12. 


the coolie merchants to continue their business at Amoy. 
From November 21 to the end of the year only three jvessels 
left the port with coolies, and their complement was nearly 
complete, or was so when the outbreak occurred. ^ Mr. 
White consequently advised the agents engaged by Messrs. 
Hyde, Hodge, & Co. to secure coolies for the Australia, 
destined for the West Indies, to go to Macao. A second 
ship, the Clarendon, loaded its coolies at Whampoa. Mr. 
Tait, the coolie merchant, had already sent his receiving 
ship, the Emigrant, to Macao, where it was reported that 
he had bought over the local mandarins for one tael per 
^; head of the coolies shipped. ^ 'This general movement of 
^ ^^ the coolie business from Amoy to non- Treaty ports was 
-^ft" strongly opposed by the great opium-houses, both as 
J'u infringing their monopoly and threatening disturbance 
^ ^ among the people. British officials in the East viewed the 
matter gravely. In referring to the principle laid down 
by the Secretary of State that the Chinese Government 
was bound to enforce its own laws. Dr. Bowring, on Decem- 
ber 24, 1852,3 drew his attention to the fact that the Chinese 
Government was " too impotent, corrupt, and disorganized " 
to give effect to its own legislation. ,i' And meanwhile the 
immense interests of the opium trade and of general com- 
merce might be imperilled. " The whole topic is surrounded 
by the most serious difficulties — difficulties attaching alike 
to interference and non-interference," he declared. When 
Mr. White's action of advising the agents to collect coolies 
at non-Treaty ports was known in England, it elicited an 
" immediate remonstrance " ^ from the Foreign Office, 
although it roused no comment from the Emigration Com- 
missioners. While shipment under contract to other foreign 
countries continued to be effected at non- Treaty ports, Mr. 
White was obliged to make Hong-Kong his head-quarters. 
So far Mr. White had acted only in a supervisory capacity 
with reference to bounty emigration. But he had been 
instructed to establish, as soon as possible, a system of 
contract-emigration under Government control. Failure 

^ Enclosure i in No. 19. ^ No. i8. 

» No. 13. 4 P.P. 255, 1855, Enc. 6 in No. 3. 


dogged his efforts in that direction. The separation of 
Hong-Kong from the mainland almost inevitably rendered 
recruitment more difficult and more subject to abuse. 
Moreover, despite his anticipations, Mr. White found it 
almost impossible to get shipping at that port. Captains 
had become alarmed by the frequent disasters at sea. 
" Captains are very unwilhng to engage in the emigration 
service if anything else can be obtained," he wrote, January 
7, 1853.^ On February 23, he reported that the Medina 
at Namoa and destined for Cuba and the Nepaid at Amoy 
destined for Peru, had been detained for some time owing 
to the positive refusal of the crew to go on a voyage with 
Chinese emigrants. ^^ " It would be a fine thing for shipping 
... if we could see a probability of arriving at our desti- 
nation with our heads on," ^ declared Captain J. Cass, of 
the Thetis. And such shipping as did offer was in large 
demand for credit-ticket emigrants to California. Parties 
connected with Cuban and Peruvian emigration were also 
willing to pay high prices for what they could get. Mr. 
White declared that a strict enforcement of the English 
Passengers Act would exclude English vessels from this 
source of profit. He suggested that agents might be 
authorized to make a small advance on account of freight, 
but even should this be successful he saw no prospect before 
the commencement of the south-west monsoon of shipping 
to Demerara the number originally intended, or of acting 
on Sir J, Pakington's instructions to send 2,000 coolies to 
Jamaica before the end of the season. Nothing further 
was done, and on April 9 he wrote regretting that he had 
been able to accomplish so little and that only in a-super- 
visory capacity. But his remaining longer could be pro- 
ductive of no good, for — 

" under present circumstances, while the Press is teeming with 
the disasters that have occurred to emigrant ships ... it would 
be highly imprudent and impolitic to dispatch any vessel 
against the south-west monsoon." ^ 

^ P.P. 986, 1852-3, Sub-enclosures to Enclosure in 14. 
* Ibid., Extract i, March 5, 1853. 

' Ibid., Despatches of Secretary of State, Sub-enclosure i to Enclosure 
in No. 16. 


When he left Hong-Kong, April ii, the first season of 
Chinese contract emigration to the British West Indies was 
at an end. Of the 1,824 ^ coolies dispatched to the British 
West Indies by private enterprise 1,637 had arrived — 647 
for British Guiana and 990 for Trinidad. One hundred and 
eighty-seven coolies had died on the Middle Passage. 
L On the plantations opinion differed as to the economic 
( value of the coolies. Some employers had found them very 
difhcult to manage, 2 and many misunderstandings had taken 
: place on the subject of work and wages — chiefly due, one 
\ gathers, from the want of intelligent interpreters, and to 
} the failure of the managers to inspire confidence. The 
; health of the Chinese was better than that of the Indians, 
iL though when the former were ill their disapproval of Euro- 

 ^^ X*\ pean doctors retarded their recovery.^ Isolated frays had 
^r^, ' taken place in British Guiana between Chinese and negroes, 
but the latter "gave an assurance that they considered 
them (Chinese) more respectable than the Indian coolies, 
and would be glad to live on good terms with them."^ 
That much was expected of their services in the future ^ 
was evidenced by the demand of the British Guiana planters 
(Feb. 26, 1853) that 1,500 emigrants from China should 
be introduced during the next season. The Trinidad 
planters, less fortunate ^ than those of British Guiana in 
their dealings with the Chinese, asked (July 7, 1853) ' that 
300 should be introduced the following year in addition to 
1,000 Indian coolies. 
The colonies being thus desirous of continuing the Chinese 

1 These figures exclude the 350 coolies shipped on the Emigrant at 
Whampoa, April 24. The vessel had to put into Hong-Kong as a result of 
a serious outbreak of fever. The intended voyage was abandoned, and 
the surviving coolies were sent back to their homes by agents of the 
vessel (for Messrs. Hyde, Hodge, & Co.). 

2 P.P. 986, Despatches from Governor, 5 in 16. Memorandum by Act- 
ing-Governor Walker, June 23, 1853 : Disobedience of orders and 
refusal to work were due at times to the malicious interference or 
jealous and overbearing disposition of the creole foremen or drivers 
employed to overlook the Chinese labourers. 

3 Enc. 5 in No. 16. " Me no like English doctor ; he wash out my 
inside all same as one teacup." 

* Ihid., British Guiana, Dispatches from Governor, No. 9. 

5 Ibid., and No. 13 ; also Enclosures in Nos. 12, 13 and 16. 

« Ibid., Trinidad, Dispatches from Governor, Enclosure in No. 3. 

7 Ibid., No. 6. 



experiment, the Colonial Land and Emigration Commis- 
sioners took advantage of the opportunity offered by the 
presence in London of Mr. White, Dr. Bowring, Dr. Win- 
chester (of the Consulate, Amoy), and Sir Henry Barkley 
(Governor of British Guiana) to hold several conferences on 
the subject ^ which led to the report 2 drawn up by the 
Commissioners, July 29, 1853. It was agreed that the 
bounty system must be terminated. After the arrival of 
the Lord Elgin and the Glentanner at Demerara, Governor 
Barkly had declared that " indiscriminate immigration 
upon bounty to this colony ought to cease," and on February 
II, 1853, Ordinance 3, 1853, of British Guiana had provided 
for the withdrawal of bounty after July 31. Mr. White 
held similar views. They were further confirmed by the 
fact that on the two vessels dispatched from Amoy prior o^^^-s^^ 
to Mr. White's arrival the mortality had been deplorable, \! 
while of the three dispatched subsequently the first loaded 
its human cargo under conditions which allowed of no fair 
test and the other two had very successful voyages. It was 
therefore decided by the Commissioners that all future 
emigration under contract to the British West Indies should 
be conducted by a Government official. They also agreed 
witji the views expressed in conference that any collision 
with the Chinese people or authorities must be carefully 
. avoided. Dr. Winchester's suggestion that heavy penalties 
should be imposed if British ships embarked emigrants at 
a non-Treaty port was accepted. The gentlemen in con- 
ference had considered a proposal that British ships should 
be forbidden to carry emigrants to foreign colonies since 
" all the odium arising from the cruelties, disturbances and 
bloodshed in English vessels carrying emigrants to foreign 
slave countries is attached generally to the British name." 
But the Commissioners were of the opinion that any such 
interference would be impracticable. They agreed, how- 
ever, to the necessity of satisfactory regulations for the 
conveyance of emigrants at sea, although the difficulty of 
giving effect to any law that might be passed on the subject 
was very apparent. It was resolved, further, that the space 

1 P.P. 285, 1854-5, No. I. - Ibid., Enclosure i in No. i. 


required under the English Passengers' Act (15 ft.) was 
unnecessarily large and that under the Indian Act (12 ft.) 
sufficient — to which resolution effect was given by Act 16 
and 17, Vic. C. 84, which made it competent for a Colonial 
Governor to declare by proclamation that a space of 12 
feet would be sufficient for natives of Asia or Africa travel- 
hng through the tropics. The suggestion that the tonnage 
of ships engaged in the emigrant_service should be not 
less than 800 tons was accepted. 1 The necessity for secu- 
ring female emigrants was recognized, but in conference Drs. 
Bowring and Winchester had deprecated in the strongest 
manner a purely female emigration as leading inevitably 
to the wholesale purchase and shipment of prostitutes, while 
they gave little hope of any appreciable result following 
the payment of a special bounty to male emigrants to 
induce them to take their wives with them.'i 
/ The Commissioners having thus carefully considered the 
 subject of Chinese emigration under contract to the British 
West Indies, appointed Mr. White to the position of Emi- 
gration Agent in China for the next season. Contract 
emigration was to be allowed under a system, the cost of 
which was to be borne partly by the public funds and partly 
by a tax on the employers of Chinese labour. Mr. White 
was instructed to make Hong-Kong his head-quarters, but 
discretionary power was left him to have recourse to Amoy 
if such a course were practicable and necessary. 

On arriving at Hong-Kong, however, Mr. White was met 
by the insuperable difficulty of shipping. 1 He was only 
authorized to incur a maximum charge of $100 in respect 
to each coohe, and vessels offering for the emigration service 
were immediately taken up at prices which far exceeded the 
sum he was able to pay. Apart from Cuban and Peruvian 
contract emigration, the credit-ticket movement to Cali- 
fornia had increased at an almost incredible rate. Rumours 
of gold in Australia were already circulating in China, and 
an increased competition for shipping was expected for 
emigrants to Sydney and Melbourne. Seeing little prospect 
of getting vessels at Hong-Kong, Mr. White advised Messrs. 

1 For following, see P.P. 255, 1855, Enclosures 2, 3 and 4 in No. 3, 


Tait & Co., Amoy, to take up iiny suitable vessels at that 
port for 500 or 600 emigrants to British Guiana and Jamaica. 
He further suggested that the emigrants might be procured 
at Namoa — a non- Treaty port — " although this is contrary 
to my expressed wish that the emigration should be conducted 
from Hong-Kong." It was contrary also to the opinion 
of the London Conference, and it completely ignored the 
late remonstrance of the Foreign Office. The Commissioners, 
on receipt of the news of Mr. White's decision, " regretted " 
the occurrence. " Your instructions were to get emigrants 
from Hong-Kong and Amoy. Emigration from Namoa is, 
you are aware, in direct violation of treaties with China." 
The censure of the Foreign Office was more severe : 

" Lord Clarendon has seen with surprise the deliberate dis- 
regard shown by Mr. White for treaty engagements between 
Her Majesty and the Emperor of China and for Her Majesty's 
Order in Council, February 24, 1843 . . . and (he) cannot 
consider an expression of regret on the part of the Commissioners 
as sufficient to mark the disapprobation of Her Majesty's Govern- 
ment of so irregular a proceeding. ... (It would ) be impossible 
for H.M. servants in China to enforce the observance by British 
subjects of treaties between the two countries and of Her 
Majesty's Orders in Council for giving effect to them if a person 
in the employment of the British Government is suffered to 
take upon himself to disregard them altogether." ^ 

Considering the difficulty of restraining the mercenary 
ambitions of many British subjects in the Far East, the 
attitude of the Foreign Office can be appreciated. The 
Commissioners argued that Mr. White had only suggested 
the collection of emigrants at, not the dispatch of ships 
from, non-Treaty ports. If such were not permitted, 
recruitment would be confined to the great seaport towns 
at which " the least well-disposed, healthy, and serviceable 
emigrants are likely to be procured." However, on June 12, 
1854, the Colonial Office informed the Foreign Office that 
Mr. White was already on his way back to England, and 
would not be reappointed as agent. " Any other agent 
who may be sent out will be duly apprised that if he should 
knowingly and contrary to his instructions adopt any 

1 Ibid., No. 4. 


proceedings in violation of treaties he will be held amenable 
to the law." i 

No coolies had been shipped during the second season 
of contract-emigration to the British West Indies — nor was 
the outlook for the future any more hopeful. Nevertheless, 
on March 9, 1854, the Court of Policy, British Guiana, had 
adopted a resolution for the importation of 3,500 Chinese 
during the coming season. The Commissioners, however, 
drew the attention of the Court to the fact that the deter- 
mination of the Foreign Office to prevent illegal proceedings 
necessitated recruitment either at the open ports where the 
British general merchants and the higher Chinese officials 
were openly adverse to it, or at Hong-Kong, where there 
was no surplus population for emigration. But perhaps a 
greater difficulty in the way of continuing the experiment 
was its exclusively male character. The Indian Govern- 
ment, on behalf of the Indian coolies, had taken precautions 
against a social evil which threatened an emigration, the 
deliberate object of which was the establishment of a labour 
system, not the founding of a society. But Chinese con- 
tract emigration not only wanted official sanction. It was 
believed that the complex social traditions of the people 
were directly opposed to Chinese females leaving China. 
On the other hand, medical reports of disease and crime on 
the ships and plantations emphasized the urgency of the 

" The form of depravity which is to be anticipated from a 
purely male emigration already exists among the Chinese, and 
we can scarcely doubt that the absence of females would ultim- 
ately accumulate an amount of vice which would be intoler- 
able." 2 

Though some of the emigrants later formed connexions 
with the native women, social differences at the commence- 
ment naturally tended to keep them apart. Mr. White 
had proposed to advance a small sum of money to male 
emigrants to make it possible for them to secure wives — an 
inverted dowry system being a long-established Chinese 
custom. The Colonial Office supported Mr. White's pro- 

1 P.P. ,255, 1855, No. 6. 2 Enc. I in No. 6. 


posal, providing of course that it was officially regulated. 
But such a course was strongly opposed by Lord Clarendon ^ 
" as authorizing and legalizing the sale of women on British 
territory," Lord Clarendon's attitude being no doubt in 
part determined by the adverse reports of Dr. Bowring.^ 

The only alternative to Mr. White's proposal seemed to 
be for the agents to purchase young female children, who 
could be had at rates varying from $3 to $8. This was 
apparently the method adopted by Cuban agents who were 
placed under the obhgation, by a Spanish Royal Decree, 
1854, to secure a certain proportion of females. ^ But it 
was not suggested that the British West India problem should 
be solved in this manner. 

The Commissioners, while regretting this difficulty, were 
not prepared to advise that Chinese emigration should be 

" As regards China, this emigration is to transfer thousands, 
and may result in transferring hundreds of thousands from a 
country in which the pressure of population renders famine not 
infrequent and female infanticide habitual to one in which 
their physical well-being, is humanly speaking, certain." 

Moreover, they would be brought within the reach of 
fresh influences from law and rehgion. In addition to the 
value of the emigration to the Chinese themselves, " they 
may be of the greatest value in support of West Indian 

1 No. 4. 

2 No. 14. Dr. Bowring declared that although marriages were the 
subject of negotiations, bargainings, and contracts, it was not the fact 
that wives were habitually and regularly bought in China, though con- 
cubines might be. 

' No. 39, and Enclosures in No. 41. There was at least one in- 
stance of gross abuse. The master of the Inglewood had taken on board 
at Ningpo forty-four female children, the eldest of whom was only 
eight years of age. The children had been bought by a Mr. Martinez; 
of Macao, for a destination not disclosed, but believed to be Cuba. The 
children had been confined in a cabin stated as being 18 ft. X 9 ft. X 
5 ft. 10 in. between decks for three weeks without any attendants save 
the male cooks. As a result of the stench from the children's cabin, the 
master, second mate, and steward went down with fever. The matter 
was thereupon reported by some of the crew to the British Consul at 
Amoy. Under his care the children were removed, and subsequently 
taken into the charge of the Chinese Haefang. Lord Clarendon ordered 
that the master of the Iiiglewood should be criminally proceeded against 
under 5 Geo. IV. C. 113, S. 10, and the forfeiture of the ship sued for under 
Sections 4 and 12 of the Statute. 


cultivation . . . the failure of which would lead to a relapse 
of the negroes to barbarism and an encouragement to the 
slave system of sugar production." ^ The Duke of New- 
castle was, however, unmoved by these careful humanitarian 
arguments. On June 12, 1854, he reaffirmed the decision 
that unless a solution were found the Chinese contract 
emigration could not be permitted to proceed. " Her 
Majesty's Government cannot again incur the reproach of j 
forming over again . . . such male communities as were 
formed in the earher part of this century in Austraha." 2 
There being such obstacles in the way of its success, the 
experiment of introducing Chinese labour under contract 
to the British West Indies was discontinued until 1859. 
A large and regular supply of Indian coolies was obtainable 
jfp' "^^ during the intervening years, so that the planters were not 
dependent for their prosperity on Chinese immigrants. 
But the latter were valuable labourers, and the question of 
their introduction continued to be discussed. The West 
India Committee were therefore quick to seize upon the 
opportunity offered by the pohtical rupture with the 
Governor- General of the Two Kwang in 1856 and the con- 
sequent appointment of Lord Elgin as British Minister- 
Plenipotentiary to negotiate a new Treaty with the Chinese 
Government. It was generally beheved that the British 
Government could dictate the terms of the proposed Treaty. 
If the Chinese Government could be forced or induced to 
sanction emigration, not only might the latter be estabhshed 
on a better basis, but females might be more willing to 
leave the country. Pressure was put upon the British 
Government, with the result that a special clause was 
included in the detailed instructions issued to the Earl of 
Elgin, April 20, 1857. " The experiment might be worth 
trying of obtaining formal recognition on the part of the 
Emperor of the right of all classes of his subjects, male or 
female, to leave the country if they should be incHned to 
do so." 3 In addition to these general instructions to the 
Ambassador, Governor Wodehouse suggested ^ on January 

1 Enc. I in No. 6. ^ Enc. 2 in No. 6. 

3 P.P. [2571], 1859, Sess. 2, No. 2. 
* P.P. 31, Sess. 2, 1859, p. 143. 


22, 1858, the need in China of some person selected by the 
British Government to collect information, and to prepare 
a scheme for the establishment of a sound system of contract 
emigration. This scheme might be submitted to the Chinese 
Government by the Earl of Elgin as a basis for negotiations. 
The Governor was of the opinion that if the Secretary of 
State approved the proposal, the Legislature of British 
Guiana would be prepared to vote the necessary funds. 
Mr. J. Gardiner Austin, Immigration Agent-General of 
British Guiana and Acting Government Secretary, was 
recommended for the task. Governor Wodehouse testified 
to Mr. Austin's abihty and acquaintance with the needs 
of the colony and the character of the coolies. The sugges- 
tion was accepted, and April 13, 1858, the Court of Policy 
approved Mr. Austin's appointment, and voted his salary 
of £1,500 per annum exclusive of travelling expenses. The 
Governor instructed Mr. Austin, May 25, 1858, to use every 
effort to devise such a scheme as " ought to satisfy the 
requirements of all reasonable and right-thinking men " ; 
to dissociate British West Indian emigration from that to 
foreign countries ; to secure as large a proportion of females 
as possible ; to take care that every emigrant leaving China 
for the West Indies should do so of his own free will. Mr. 
Austin then left for China. 

But the planters, realizing that it would be some months 
at least before any new scheme of legalized emigration 
could be instituted, had already proposed that the British 
Government should give its sanction to a temporary importa- 
tion by private enterprise. To this end, Governor Wode- 
house had suggested, March 18, 1858, that British Guiana 
should be given power to extend the meaning of the term 
immigrant in Ordinance of 1854, 62nd Section, in order to 
validate contracts made with Chinese coolies introduced at 
private expense. 

" I sincerely hope," wrote the Governor, " that in face of 
the unlimited supply of labour which the French and Spaniards 
are now obtaining from Africa, India, and China, Your Lordship 
will feel warranted in sanctioning this experimental measure 
for the relief of one of your largest sugar-growing colonies." * 

^ P.P. 525, 1858, passim. 
C.C.E. I 


Lord Stanley gave his consent to the proposal, but limited 
its operation to one year. This second attempt to secure 
contract emigrants for the British West Indies by private 
enterprise proved the necessity for a system under full 
Government control. Mr. T. Gerard, who was sent to China, 
June, 1858, as agent for the West India Committee, succeeded 
in dispatching two emigrant vessels — on December 8, 1858, 
the Royal George, of 608 tons, with 300 Chinese males ; and 
on February 15, 1859, the General Wyndham, 865 tons, 
with 461 Chinese, also males. Their recruitment and ship- 
ment had been effected in a manner so irregular as to call 
forth adverse comment from the Colonial Office, the Emigra- 
tion Commissioners, and the Governor of British Guiana. 

The experiments of the fifties had shown only too con- 
clusively that Chinese emigration under contract to the 
British dominions, when conducted by private enterprize, 
was subject to the same abuses as that directed to other 
foreign countries. But there were too many British interests 
involved in the affairs of China for the British Government 
to sanction a traffic that was rousing an ugly temper in the 
Chinese populace of the seaports. The contract system must 
be established on a new basis if it was to continue in opera- 
tion. But this was true not only of coohe emigration to 
British colonies — a small proportion of the total emigration 
from China under contract to foreigners. The Chinese, in 
fixing the responsibility for irregularities, did not discriminate 
between the foreign devils. The British Government, 
therefore, after 1859 adopted a pohcy of active intervention 
in the coolie traffic of the Chinese seaports. 

Prior to this date a definite attempt had been made to 
minimize the abuses of the traffic by passing, in 1855, a 
" Chinese Passengers Act." Until this Act was enforced, 
British vessels, with almost a monopoly of the coolie trade, 
had been more or less free from official inspection. Evea 
at Hong-Kong, where a few shipments of coohes under 
contract and most of the shipments of free and credit-ticket 
emigrants to California and Austraha were effected, only 
certain portions of the Colonial Passengers Act had been 
applied— Sir S. Bonham having feared that a stringent and 


efficient enforcement of the Act would drive a large and 
lucrative trade to other ports. Dr. Bowring, when taking 
over the Governorship of Hong-Kong, complained that 
there was not even machinery for carrying out such regula- 
tions as had been adopted, and suggested that the chief 
magistrate, Mr. Hillier, should be appointed emigration 
agent for the purpose of enforcing passenger regulations. ^ 
On the other hand, some of the clauses of the Passengers 
Acts were unnecessarily stringent and without relevance to 
the facts. An Act adapted to the circumstances was 
necessary, and on June 5, 1855, Lord Russell announced 
that a measure would shortly (June 30) be introduced into _ 
the House of Commons designed expressly for the repression 
of abuses in the Chinese emigration. "The Chinese Pas- y« 
sengers Act " 2 contained detailed regulations to be observed 
by every British ship, and by every ship leaving a British 
port, carrying more than twenty Asiatics on a voyage of 
more than three days' duration. The duty of certifying / 
that the regulations had been observed was to devolve on 
an emigration officer — a Government officer thus being 
given power and placed under the necessity of thoroughly 
inspecting every such emigrant vessel with a view to ensuring 
that the emigrants had been shipped voluntarily and that 
suitable provisions had been made for their accommodation. 
But the Act, though it lightened the responsibihty of the 
British Government, was inadequate to control and regulate 
contract emigration. It was continually evaded by British 
ships. Pending the appointment of emigration officers at 
the treaty ports, every British ship carrying passengers i 
froin China should have repaired to Hong-Kong for emigra- \ 
tion papers. But by July 26, 1856, in only one instance \ 
had a " cargo of emigrants " been taken to Hong-Kong for \ 
examination, though there was reason to believe that many 
shipments had taken place from Swatow, Cumsingmoon, 
and Macao, in none of which was there a British official. ^ 
Even in Hong-Kong the principle of the Act was vitiated 
by the most inefficient administration.^ For example, in 

1 Approved, August 29, 1854. '^ 18 & ig Vict. c. 104. 

3 P.P. 521. 1857-8, XLIII., No. 24. 

* Ibid., No. 7. Case of John Calvin. See also No. 16 and enclosures case of 


the case of the John Calvin, which cleared from Hong-Kong, 
March, 1856, bound for Havana, the emigration officer was 
not satisfied that out of 298 passengers more than 81 were 
wilhng emigrants. Nevertheless, he did not order the 
re-landing of the remainder, nor did he prevent the captain 
from putting to sea with all on board. ^ Even when the 
Act was more rigorously enforced, the result was not a 
regulated emigration but a more rapid substitution of the 
larger American for the smaller British ships in the emigrant 
trade. American vessels engaged between foreign ports 
were uncontrolled by Act of Congress until 1862, despite 
the reports of American officials in the East urging the 
necessity of penalties to fortify their proclamations against 
irregularities. 2 By i860 the contract trafhc was practically 
■monopolized by the American clipper ships — French and 
Spanish vessels playing as yet only a minor part. 

Obviously there was need of a more effective control over 
the contract traffic than an Act of the British Government. 
Sir G. Bonham and Dr. Winchester had both insisted that 
the Chinese Government must first officially allow emigration 
before satisfactory regulations could be instituted. The 
opportunity for urging such a course on the Chinese officials 
seemed to have arisen, when, as a result of the political 
rupture with the Chinese Commissioner of Canton, 1856, 
the British Government had decided to send the Earl of 
Elgin to China as Ambassador-Plenipotentiary. 

Lord Elgin had been instructed to discuss the question 
with the Chinese plenipotentiaries when negotiating the 
Treaty of Tientsin. But he had not pressed the subject, 
fearing lest it should be made an excuse for further delay. 
And indeed the sanction of the Imperial Government was 
unnecessary for the purpose of regulation and control. 
The occupation of Canton by the British and French troops 
enabled the allies to exert effective local pressure on the 
Governor- General of the Two Kwang, who was responsible 

Duke of Portland, and case of Gulnare, where the cursory nature of the 
examination called forth a severe comment from the Commissioners. 

1 Of these 298 coolies, 135 were lost on the passage — seven by drowning. 

^ U.S.A. House of Representatives, 36th Congress, ist Session, April 16, 
i860. Report No. 443. 


to the Emperor for the preservation of peace in the provinces 
under his jurisdiction. 

In 1859 that peace was seriously threatened ^ ; competition 
in the coohe-traffic had rapidly increased during the last 
decade. The large shipments to Cuba had continued. 
In Peru the Decree of Emancipation, 1855, had resulted in 
an importation of Chinese coolies on a scale larger than had 
been required in the previous years 2 to satisfy the agri- 
cultural demands for a steady labour force. France had 
also turned to the East, a contract having been entered 
into, 1855, by the Minister of Marine and Colonies and two 
French merchants for the introduction of Chinese coolies 
into the French colonies of Guadeloupe and Martinique. 
\ For the years 1858-9 the importation of Chinese into the 
British West Indies at private expense was allowed. By 
1859, though this contract traffic was carried on at most 
of the southern seaports of China, its centre had shifted to 
Canton, mainly as a result of the coolie activities in the 
Portuguese settlement of Macao, the outflow from which had 
its principal source in the Whampoa anchorage. Canton. 

The abuses of the traffic had increased with the competi- 
tion. In Canton they beggar credence. Coolies were 
induced to sell their freedom in the gambling dens,^ or they 
were deceived by promises or engagements of work — such 
deceit being a common practice of the coolie-brokers.* 

1 Unless otherwise specified, see P.P. 2714, i860, passim. 

2 From June, 1849-June, 1854, 7,356 coolies had been shipped to 
Callao and Panama in vessels of 11,470 aggregate tonnage. See P.P. 255, 
Enclosure in No. 24. 

3 P.P. 2714, i860, No. 20 in 6, an arrested Kidnapper, Tang-Kang deposes : 
" On 2nd of loth month I went into the town of Tung-Kwan and met an 
acquaintance named Chang-a-te' in the Yen-pu Street, where he kept a 
staU and enticed him by saying that gambling was a very lucrative business 
at Chang-chow, when he expressed his willingness to accompany me thither. 
I thereupon took Chang-a-te', hired a small boat, and went on board 
Yeh-a-sin's gambling boat at Chang-chow. Yeh-a-sin paid me $10 and 
gave Chang-a-te' himself $10 head money on the agreement that this 
money was to be gambled with. If Chang-a-te' won he was to pay Yeh- 
a-sin 100 cash profit for every dollar; if he lost he was to become a coolie. 
Chang-a-te' consented to this, risked his money and lost. He was then 
put in confinement by Yeh-a-sin in order that he might be sold. 

* Enclosure 19 in No. 6. Deposition No. 19. Tsun-Chang : " I am thirty- 
six and belong to the Tung-Kwan district. I am a pedlar by trade. On 
the 3rd of the present month an acquaintance, Li-ah-Chang, engaged me 
to go with him to Canton to act as salesman for him, and we took our 


Some of the coolies were deliberately drugged and possession 
taken of their persons/ others were seized by force. Once 
on the river-boats the coolies were detained until they 
expressed their willingness to emigrate with the foreigners. 
The crimps, stimulated by the combined promise of large 
profits and the effective protection afforded by their foreign 
employers, took desperate measures to bend the coolies to 
their will. They were pitiless and cruel, with many exquisite 
forms of torture at their command. The coolies were 
misused and beaten. If necessary they were tied up by 
the thumbs. " The tying up by the thumbs is a very 
painful thing," explained one rescued coolie who had been 
subjected to the torture. 2 Or they were plunged into the 
cold waters of the river until they consented to emigrate.^ 
Some were told to choose between emigration and death.* 
The coolies were often " beggars in purse, energy, and 
intellect " — poor things easily terrorized. The torture was 
generally effective. " The punishment was more than I 
could endure, so I cried out that I was willing." ^ Having 
declared their willingness to emigrate, the coolies were 
taken on to the foreign receiving ships. They were asked 
by the foreigner if they were voluntary emigrants. If they 
replied in the negative they were returned to the crimps — 
until they changed their minds ; if in the affirmative they 
were bought for sums varying from $13- $20 and put into 
the hold of the receiving vessel, where they were confined 
until their shipment to Macao or overseas. 

By March-April, 1859, the coolie traffic in Canton had 
roused in the Chinese populace an angry fear. Their safety 

passage thither. On the 7th as we passed Chang-chow, Li-ah-Chang left 
the boat with me for another, where he shut me up. Thus was I when 
taken (by the soldiers)." 

Deposition No. 32. Lih-cheh deposes : " I am age thirty-two from the Chuh 
Yang district. On the 2nd day of the loth month I met at Sheh-lung an 
acquaintance named Seen-a-te, who stated that a younger brother of 
his was a shopkeeper at Chang-chow, and he persuaded me to go thither 
to seek employ. I consented, and went with him in a boat. On the 4th 
we reached Chang-chow, where Seen-a-te, taking a sampan, put me on 
board a coolie vessel where I was kept in confinement. Before being 
sold I was seized and set at liberty (by the soldiers)." 

1 Enclosure in No. 4. 

- Enc. 26 in No. 13. See also Nos. 20, 21, etc. 

^ Nos. 14, 19, 25, 26, etc. * Nos. 2, 5, etc. 5 Nq. 18. 


was threatened, their tradition violated by thie practices 
of Chinese crimps acting for foreign agents unider a con- 
tract system nominally illegal and intolerably abused. 

" When no man could leave his own house even in the public 
thoroughfare and in open day without the dangler of being 
hustled under false pretences of debt or delinquency and carried 
off a prisoner in the hands of the crimps to be sold to the pur- 
veyors of coolies at so much a head, and carried off) to sea never 
again to be heard of, the whole population of the city and 
adjoining districts were roused by a sense of common peril." 

So the British Consul reported. He added : | 

" That, under such circumstances, the people shiould attempt 
to protect themselves by administering a wild ji'istice of their 
own upon the persons of any of the nefarious gangs of crimps 
that fell into their hands was a natural consequence of the 
supineness of the authorities." | 

During the early days of April several kidnappers were 
killed by the mob, " with the vindictive crufelty to which 
the Cantonese under less provocation are well^ known to be 
addicted." 2 The danger to the foreign community lay in 
the fact that although Chinese subjects were the agents, 
foreigners were the employers and ships and lorchas under 
foreign flags supplied the means. " There can be no respect 
for foreign flags and no security for foreigners while so 
monstrous a wrong is associated with them in the Chinese 
mind," Mr. Consul Alcock declared. 

^The allied commanders in occupation oj; Canton since 
January, 1858, no longer dared to remain, .inactive. The 
presence of the allied troops had so far restrained the people 
from giving vent to their angry disquiet in an attack on the 
foreign community as was the case in Shanghai dur ig the 
following July, when the " iniquitous proceedings of cer'ain 
Spaniards " in the coolie business led to serious disturbances. ^ 

^ Enc. I in No. i. British Consul, Canton. " Ibid. 

' See P.P. 2587, i860, Correspondence with Mr. Brace. 

For a time it was feared that the European community of Shanghai 
was in danger. The French Consul, M. de Bourboulan, ordered the 
Gertrude to be brought into port, and an investigation was held by him 
in concert with the Intendant of the Su-Sung-Tai circuit. Later several 
crimps were discovered and summarily executed. Correspondence passed 
between Mr. Bruce, British Plenipotentiary, at the time stationed in 
Shanghai, and Commissioner Ho, Bruce declaring that the Chinese authori- 


But there A^as a grave danger to the general peace. On 
April 6, the Chinese mercantile community sent a petition 
to Mr. Consul Alcock " humbly requesting that you, the 
honourable consul, will communicate with the other foreign 
consuls in order that with a reverential respect towards 
High Heaven's love of animate creation stringent measures 
may be adopted." ^ On the 7th the allied commanders 
issued a proclamation warning the people against the crimps 
and strictly forbidding kidnapping. 2 The allied police 
were instructed to take action in the matter. But as the 
British Commissioner, Mr. Parkes, pointed out to the Gover- 
nor Peh-Kwei, " prohibition alone would not reach the root 
of the evil, which lay in the circumstance that foreigners 
coming to engage labour in China . . . have no authorized 
or respectable source to apply to for the men they want." ^ 
The necessity was for sanction and control. The allied 
commanders were in a position to exert pressure on the 
provincial authorities. Governor Peh-Kwei was responsible 
for the peace; of the Kwangtung province. There was 
therefore no alternative to his revolutionary proclamation 
of April 9, 1859,4 Kidnapping was forbidden on pain of 
death, rewards being offered for the apprehension of any 
" villains who inflict this misery." But while emigration 
under restraint; was prohibited, voluntary emigration was 
allowed. It w£j.s admitted that amongst the densely crowded 
population som4e mJght be compelled by want to seek a 
livelihood beyoKid the seas. They were now at liberty to 
do so provided that they emigrated with free consent. 
Thus law and t^-adition were alike set aside. The British 
Minister. Mr. Bruce, wrote, May 3, that — 

" it ^rS a novel a?ad important fact in Chinese administration 
to _,ee a high office^: and his magistrates setting aside a traditional 

ties were making n( j serious attempt to discover the persons responsible 
for the outrage on ! British subjects, and accusing the Imperial Commis- 
sioner Ho of want cnf good faith in not contradicting reports which " if 
not entirely unfoun'ied are at all events grossly exaggerated." " Day 
after day notificatioiLis have been issued ostensibly to quiet the public 
mind, but in realityV calculated to excite it against foreigners by the 
announcement which invariably heads these notices that the late disturb- 
ance was solely due to the forcible abduction of Chinese by foreign agents." 

1 B.P., 2714, i860, ibassim, Enc. 2 in No. i. ^ Enc. 4 in No. i. 

2 Enclosure in No. 3. * Enc. 5 in No. i. 


maxim which the circumstances of the population renders no 
longer applicable and admitting virtually that laws must be 
subservient to the exigencies of social change and progress 
— adopting, in short, the mobihty of European in lieu of the 
rigidity of Chinese statesmanship." 

The degree of compulsion necessary to effect this change 
must remain a matter for speculation. 

The significance of the Proclamation was generally 
recognized by British officials in China : 

" I conceive the legalization of free emigration as calculated 
not only to strike at the root of the crimping system by depriving 
it of all plausible pretext, but to open wide the door for the 
supply of as much labour as may be required, and under con- 
ditions of the most unexceptionable and satisfactory character," 

wrote ^ Mr. Consul Alcock to Dr. Bowring, April 12, 1859. 
Contract-emigration from China could now be regulated 
with the assistance of Chinese officials. But unfortunately 
Governor Peh-Kwei's death postponed the consideration of 
satisfactory regulations until October of the same year, 
when Mr. Austin's scheme, already sanctioned by the 
British Colonial Office, was formally submitted to the 
Chinese provincial authorities for approval. 

Mr, Austin's scheme was, of course, confined to emigration 
under contract to the British West Indies. In so far he 
proposed an entire change in its conduct. Contract emigra- 
tion was no longer to be a speculative venture based on the 
payment of head-money. He himself was a salaried official 
without any immediate pecuniary interest in the number 
of coolies emigrating under the proposed regulations. The 
system of recruitment by Chinese crimps was to be aban- 
doned. In its place he proposed to established a system 
of voluntary emigration operated with the fullest support 
and under the direct supervision of the Chinese authorities. 
There was to be a regulated movement of Chinese families 
from the overcrowded districts of the Kwangtung province 
to the half-empty spaces of the British colonies. All Chinese 
desiring to emigrate thither were to be invited to apply in 
person at a British Emigration House to be established on 

1 Enc. I in No. 2. 


shore with every facihty for ingress and egress. The Emigra- 
tion House, he proposed, should be conducted under the 
joint supervision of a Chinese official appointed for the 
purpose and of the Emigration Agent. The Emigration 
Agent and the Chinese official should be responsible for the 
comfort of the coolies in the House and for the complete 
freedom in signing the contract. A coolie's wife and children 
should receive a free passage without being obliged to enter 
into any contract of service. Emigrant vessels should be 
carefully inspected by the Chinese official and Emigration 
Agent, who should be responsible for the accommodation 
prepared for the passengers. Shipment was to be effected 
under their joint control. 

Mr. Austin was anxious that his scheme should be put 
into operation before the withdrawal of the allied troops 
from Canton. On receiving the sanction of the Colonial 
Office to his proposals he therefore applied, October 22, 
to the Allied Commissioners for permission to establish an 
Emigration House. Mr. Parkes, the British Commissioner, 
actively supported Mr. Austin's proposals in the informal 
interviews which followed with Governor- General Laou and 
some of the leading gentry. As a result of these discussions 
five Articles of Regulation ^ were drafted and formally 
presented to the Governor- General on October 26. He 
accepted them on the following day. 2 Voluntary emigration 
was again allowed, and the necessity of regulating contract 
emigration admitted. 

On the 28th the Governor-General issued a proclamation, 
making known to the people that Mr. Austin's emigration 
scheme had the sanction of the provincial Government. 
For the Chinese, having no alternative, had at last dealt 
with the business in a practical manner, as Mr. Bruce pointed 
out to Lord Russell, December 5, 1859. The Governor- 
General adhered to his agreement, despite the contrary 
orders received from the Imperial Commissioner Ho, as a 
result of the serious disturbances at Shanghai and Ningpo 
in July. Mr. Austin immediately posted public notices 
explaining the conditions of service in the British West 

^ Enc. 5 in No. 6. ^ Eqc, 7 in No. 6. 


Indies and the rules under which the Emigration House 
was to be conducted in Canton. He informed the people 
that there was no slavery in the British West Indies, where 
special magistrates had been appointed to care for the 
interests of indentured immigrants. Contracts of service 
were for a period of five years, but might be determined 
after one year's service on repayment of a sum of money 
proportioned to the amount of passage money and the 
length of the period already served. Coolies under contract 
in the West Indies could claim $4 a month wages. If 
after arrival they preferred to receive the day-rate paid in 
the colonies, the matter would be arranged by the Protector 
of Immigrants. Food, clothing, accommodation, medical 
attendance, garden-ground would be provided by the 
employers. Chinese desiring to emigrate were encouraged 
to take their wives and children with them. If they desired 
to allot part of their wages to their relatives in China they 
could do so by agreement with the Emigration Officer, who 
would pay such amounts directly. The public were advised 
that every facility would be given the emigrants while in 
the House to have free intercourse with their friends. The 
applicants were warned, however, that if any Chinese 
remained in the House for seven days and then decided not 
to emigrate, they would be liable to prosecution for having 
received free food and accommodation under false pretences. 

In addition to the posting of notices, Mr, Austin, by 
arrangement with the Governor-General, sent Chinese 
officials through the country districts in order to explain 
to the elders of the various villages and the gentry of the 
towns the proposed system of emigration under contract 
to the British West Indies. Copies of the regulations and 
explanatory pamphlets were freely distributed. 

In the meantime the allied commanders had drafted a 
set of rules ^ under which Emigration Houses might be 
established within the allied jurisdiction. A licence was 
then issued to Mr. Austin, and on November 10 the British 
Emigration House was opened under the charge of Mr. T. 
Sampson, the local agent appointed by Mr. Austin, who had 

1 Enclosure 12 in No. 6. 


already established his headquarters in Hong-Kong. A 
Chinese deputy Magistrate was also appointed as supervising 
officer for the Chinese authorities. A regulated system of 
Chinese emigration under foreign contract of service had 
at last been established. The British Commander-in-chief, 
Major-General Sir C. van Straubenzee, paid a tribute to 
Mr. Commissioner Parkes " for the very earnest and assiduous 
manner in which he has laboured to carry through a just 
system." ^ Dr. Winchester, the Acting British Consul, 
wrote of Mr. Austin, " that gentleman's ideas are remarkable 
for practical humanity and common sense. The Emigration 
Board appears to be eminently fortunate in having secured 
the services of a person possessed of such tact, prudence 
and liberal temper." ^ 

But to establish a regulated system of contract emigration 
to the British West Indies was not sufficient for the effective 
control of the coolie traffic. Spanish, Portuguese and 
Peruvian speculators had been mainly responsible for the 
monstrous wrongs injflicted on the people by the Chinese 
crimps. An end must be made to the private traffic if the 
public peace was to be secured — and the British position in 
China maintained. As Mr. Bruce informed Lord Russell, 
the coolie agents had " succeeded ... in implicating us in 
their proceedings because the Chinese cannot understand 
how they can be carried on without the permission of those 
who are virtually the masters of the country." ^ The final 
result must be " a popular outcry which may prove more 
dangerous to our position here than any hostility of Govern- 
ment or people when based on political grounds." ^ 

The Governor-General, therefore, made it known that the 
regulations governing contract emigration to the British 
West Indies were to have general effect. A circular letter 
was sent to the foreign consuls, requesting them to instruct 
their nationals that emigration under contract might be 
carried on only through licensed Houses in Canton city. 
Mr. Perry, U.S.A. Consul, proposed that the business at 
Whampoa should be allowed to continue under regulations 

1 Enc. 2 in No. 17. ^ Enc. i in No. 10. * No. 13. 

* Mr. Commissioner Parkes to the British Commander, Dec. 31, 1859, 
Enc. 2 in No. 13. 


enforced by a Chinese superintending official appointed for 
the purpose. Laou insisted in reply that Whampoa was 
too far removed from his personal supervision for effective 
control. Moreover, there were many opportunities for 
abuse even in a regulated system if coolies were collected 
into receiving ships and not into Emigration Houses. Mr. 
Perry's apphcation was therefore refused. Several parties 
desisted from their operations at the anchorage on being 
warned by the Consular officials of their illegality, but other 
speculators continued to collect coolies for shipment until 
the business was rendered too dangerous and costly by the 
active intervention of the Governor-General. Already, on 
November i, he had sent a force of Chinese war junks to 
the Whampoa anchorage to suppress the practice of kid- 
napping. Forty-one kidnapped coolies were rescued and 
thirty-six kidnappers arrested. Of the latter eighteen were 
subsequently beheaded " as a warning to the people." A 
cruiser was then stationed at the anchorage as a permanent 
guard against the collection of receiving boats. The guard, 
however, proved inadequate for the purpose as the officer- 
in-charge was afraid to interfere too actively with native 
boats working in co-operation with foreign receiving ships. 
At the anchorage on December 9 there were still six foreign 
vessels receiving coolies — three American, one Dutch, one 
Peruvian and one Oldenburg.i Indeed the activities of the 
Chinese crimps and the foreign agents quickened during 
December as a result of engagements entered into by 
Spanish speculators to the extent of some half million 
dollars for the shipment of cooHes to Cuba.^ Eight petitions 
^or the release of kidnapped men having been presented to 
the Governor-General early in December, Chinese officials 
were appointed to make an investigation. But they were 
incompetent and corrupt, and a first and second investiga- 
tion were carried out by them in an unsatisfactory manner .^ 

1 Enc. 2 in No. 9. ^ Enc. 2 in No. 9. 

3 Enclosure 23 in No. 13. Report of Mr. Mayers, of British Consulate, 
who was appointed as interpreter, but was refused admission to American 
vessels by American vice-consul. He accompanied the ofticers on the 
vessels of other nationalities. Of the investigations on the latter he 
wrote : " The ofi&cers, although furnished with clear instructions, mani- 


The Governor-General therefore commanded that all coolies 
detained at Whampoa should be brought into the city for 
examination. On January 5, Mr. Perry, U.S.A. Consul, 
agreed to have the 578 coolies on the American ships con- 
ducted to Canton. On the same evening, however, the 
Messenger, under American colours transhipped over 200 
of her coolies into a smaller vessel which made direct for 
Macao. For this deliberate attempt to evade their agree- 
ment, Laou held the Consul responsible. Mr. Ward, U.S.A. 
Minister Plenipotentiary, was immediately notified of the 
occurrence. He arranged with the Portuguese Governor to 
have the coolies returned to Canton for examination. He 
also instructed Flag-officer A. Stribling to prevent the captain 
of- the Messenger from putting to sea without his papers. 
" Should he do this, our national position with the Chinese 
would certainly be most seriously compromised." ^ Mr. 
Ward allowed the coolies to be examined within the juris- 
diction of the allies in Canton only on the distinct under- 
standing that such an examination should be conducted by 
American and Chinese officials without the slightest inter- 
ference on the part of the allied Powers. " The mixed 
Government of Canton rendered all negotiations upon this 
subject both difficult and delicate." 2 When questioned 
the coolies declared themselves unwilling to emigrate. 
Monstrous wrongs had been inflicted on them by the Chinese 
brokers. They were freed. 

During December the French emigration agent had applied 
for and received permission to establish an Emigration 
House under the rules already sanctioned.^ As a result 
of the Whampoa incident, Mr. Ward, the U.S.A. Minister, 
required all American ships to conform to the regulations 
governing emigration under contract ^ pending receipt of 

fested from first to last an utter disregard of their manifest duty of obedi- 
ence, showed anxiety only for the avoidance of all personal trouble and 
for the shifting of any responsibility that might be incurred upon myself." 
The Chinese investigation was punctuated at short intervals by cham- 
pagne and sweetmeats. 

1 U.S.A. Ex Docs. House of Reps. 1859-60, Vol. 13, Jan. 12, i860. 
Ward to Stribling. 2 Ibid., Ward to Cass, February 24, i860. 

3 P.P. 2714, i860. Enc. I in No. 10. 

* He could, however, impose no penalty for non-compliance. In 
Feb., 1858, Mr. Reed, American Consul, had declared it his opinion that 


further instructions from the Secretary of State. The 
Spanish speculators also found themselves under the 
necessity of converting their coolie business into a system 
of voluntary emigration, and Spanish Emigration Houses 
were established in Canton. 

On February 4, the Governor-General repeated his decision 
to disallow contract emigration unless under control — 
" Neither Chinese nor Foreigners will be permitted to estab- 
lish at any place within this river dens for the clandestine 
collection of coolies. This for the future is a fixed rule." ^ 

The importance of the change in the nature of contract 
emigration was appreciated by the Foreign Consuls. To it 
they gave their full support. They were agreed that the 
continuance of an unregulated trade in coolies would have 
exposed the resident community to a serious peril, especially 
if the allied garrison were withdrawn. On January 12, the 
allied commanders had begged them " to concert among 
yourselves the measures best calculated to correct the abuses 
that have been brought to light." 2 " We can see no 
remedy for these evils," they replied on February 11, i860. 

" save the establishment of a ' free emigration ' under national 
and comprehensive rules easily understood and impartially 
executed under the active and constant supervision of officers 
appointed by the Chinese Government. . . . We shall gladly 
exert the influence of our official positions in preventing the 
shipment at this port by vessels under the flags of our respective 
Governments of any coolies who shall not have been properly 
passed under the regulations already promulgated by His 
Excellency Laou." ^ 

the provisions of the 4th Section of Act of Congress, April 20, 1818, should 
apply, but the Hon. J. S. Black, Attorney-General of U.S., ruled such 
an opinion to be erroneous, March 11, 1859. " I sincerely hope," Mr. 
Ward wrote to Mr. Cass, Jan. 24, i860, " that the attention of Congress 
being called to this subject some law will be passed regulating this trade 
and putting it more under the control of the American Minister or chief 
diplomatic agent in China." On February 19, 1862, an Act of Congress 
(109) was passed to prohibit " the Coolie Trade by American citizens in 
American vessels." Though the prohibition was evaded by the inter- 
pretation of terms, American vessels engaged in the traffic were by this 
Act brought under the supervision of Government officials. 

1 P.P. 2714, i860. Enc. 2 in No. 18. 2 Enc. 25 in No. 13. 

' Enclosure 4 in No. 16. The memorandum was signed by the Spanish 
Consul-General, French Consul, U.S.A. Consul, Acting British Consul, 
Acting Belgian Consul, Acting Prussian and Oldenburg Consul. The 
Dutch, Portuguese and Hanseatic Consuls were absent from Canton. 


But there were many difficulties in the way of an efficient 
administration of the new system. While the shipment of 
coohes from Macao, and to some extent from Hong-Kong, 
was effected without adequate control, Chinese crimps 
would be prepared to risk the charge of kidnapping in 
return for the high profits of the coolie traffic. On the 
sincerity of the Portuguese Governor in his decision to pre- 
vent Macao from becoming " a refuge for men systematically 
engaged in violating Chinese law," i largely depended the 
future of the regulated emigration. 

Moreover, the administration of the system would certainly 
be weakened when the alhed occupation was terminated. 
Governor- General Laou was no doubt sincere in his deter- 
mination to suppress kidnapping. But minor Chinese 
officials could generally be corrupted or browbeaten by 
enterprising foreigners. And further there was no certainty 
of the attitude of the local authorities once the alUed troops 
were withdrawn. It was known that the Imperial Com- 
missioner Ho was strongly opposed to any emigration system, 
and it was believed that he represented the opinion of the 
Court of Peking. As Mr. Bruce, British Minister in China, 
explained, February 6, i860, the atrocities connected with 
private emigration effectually served the purpose of the anti- 
foreign party by exciting the animosity of the Chinese 
people. He was inchned to think that they were, on that 
account, regarded with satisfaction by some of the officials. 
If the Imperial Government adopted an attitude hostile 
to a supervised system of contract emigration the new 
regulations might be disallowed by the provincial authorities. 
The inevitable result of such a disallowance would be a 
revival of the illegal and inhuman but profitable traffic of 
the past. Mr. Bruce therefore urged Lord Russell to 
consider the matter in concert with the French and 
Spanish Governments. The greater the inaction of the 
Chinese officials, the greater the responsibihty on the 
foreign powers, " a responsibihty which the dictates of 

1 Enc. I in No. 16. See also U.S.A. Ex Docs. 1859-60, Vol. 13, Mr. Ward 
to Mr. Cass, February 14, i860 : " The Governor-General of Macao, who 
is both a man of ability and humanity, has assured me that the coolie 
trafhc in Macao shall hereafter be placed under very different regulations." 


humanity and of self-interest alikeforbid them to evade." 1 
Lord Russell responded to the appeal by sending a circular 
letter on the subject to the British Ambassadors at the 
principal foreign courts. 

" The state of society in that vast Empire, where the popula- 
tion is superabundant and at the same time civilized, where 
regular laws can be enforced and the hiring of labourers for 
the purposes of emigration may be reduced to method, affords 
peculiar opportunities for organizing a system of emigration 
by which the wants of those countries which have heretofore 
looked to Africa for labourers may be fully supplied. These 
fair prospects will, however, be marred if the various European 
and American Governments interested in Chinese emigration 
do not combine to enforce stringent regulations upon those 
who are engaged in conducting it, and H.M. Government earnestly 
hope that the (French) Government will take the necessary 
measures for this purpose. By judiciously promoting emigra- 
tion from China and at the same time vigorously repressing 
the infamous traffic in African slaves, the Christian Govern- 
ments of Europe and America may confer benefits upon a large 
portion of the human race, the effects of which it would be 
difficult to exaggerate." ^ 

But in this matter there was no need for concerted action 
on the part of the European and American Governments. 
^In i860 Imperial China was in the power of the allied 
conquerors. By an emigration clause inserted by the Earl 
of Elgin, for Great Britain, and Baron Gros, for France, in 
the Convention of Peking, voluntary emigration from China 
for service in British or French territories was sanctioned 
and the necessity for regulating such emigration under 
contract admitted. The Spanish Government secured 
similar Treaty rights in 1864. 

•The 5th Article of the (British) Convention of Peking 
ratified under such circumstances has had a significance 
in British Colonial History unforeseen at the time of its 
drafting. In i860 it expressed the unwilling consent of 
the Imperial authorities to a system of foreign contract 
emigration. In 1887 it was interpreted by the Chinese 

^ No. 19. 

» Lord Russell to Earl Cowley for French Government, July ii, i860, 
No. 22. 

C.C.E. K 


Government as securing to Chinese subjects a right of 
immigration into British Dominions. Its phrasing therefore 
acquires a pecuUar interest. 

" As soon as the ratifications of the Treaty of 1858 shall have 
been exchanged, His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of China 
will, by decree, command the high authorities of every province 
to proclaim throughout their jurisdiction that Chinese choosing 
to take service in British colonies or other parts beyond the 
sea are at perfect liberty to enter into engagements with British 
subjects for that purpose, and to ship themselves and their 
families on board any British vessel at any of the open ports 
of China ; also that the high authorities aforesaid shall in 
concert with Her Britannic Majesty's Representative in China 
frame such Regulations for the protection of Chinese emigrating 
as above as the circumstances of the different open ports may 
demand." ^ 

The regulated system of Chinese emigration under 
contract to the British West Indies, established in 1859, 
was extended during i860 and 1861 by the opening of 
subsidiary agencies in country districts and at Swatow and 
Amoy. During the years 1859-66 some 9,987 Chinese, of 
whom 143 1 were women and 244 children, were shipped by 
the British agent, the greater number of them being destined 
for British Guiana. Owing to two tragedies at sea, only 
9,206 of the total number shipped were landed at their 
destination. Mr. Austin had been very successful in pro- 
moting the emigration of families, but the expense of the 
system was questioned by parties concerned, and after the 
1862 season Mr. Austin was not reappointed Emigration 
Agent. At the same time instructions were sent to Mr. 
Sampson, now Emigration Agent, to reduce the establish- 
ment. However, in 1864 it was again decided that Chinese 
importation should be encouraged, and orders for a regular 
supply of 2,000 coolies for three years were forwarded to 
China. That these orders were not carried out was due 
to the intervention of the Chinese Government. 

The Treaty of Peking had provided for the drafting of 
general regulations for the control of the coolie traffic, but 
there was no interference with the system as established in 

^ Article 5 (British) Convention of Peking. 


1859 with the consent of the provincial authorities until 
1865. Such abuses as occurred in the recruitment and 
shipment of coolies after 1859 testiiifed to the want, not of 
further regulation, but of honest officials. However, scant 
attention had been given in 1859 to the terms of the contract 
signed by the coolies prior to embarkation. But since that 
date ugly rumours concerning the fate of the Chinese who 
had T)een shipped abroad were circulating. Few contract 
emigrants had come back from Cuba or Peru ; none at all 
from the British West Indies. Yet the love of the Chinese 
for the ancestral home was no weak thing. Why did they 
not return ? To understand the action taken by the Chinese 
Government in order to safeguard the welfare of its subjects 
during their period of labour abroad, the conditions under 
which they'worked should be known. It will be sufficient for 
this purpose to describe these conditions as they obtained 
in British Guiana and Cuba, concerning which two countries 
the information recorded by diplomatic correspondence and 
private reports is substantiated by the valuable evidence 
of two Royal Commissions, the one appointed in 1871 by 
the British Government to inquire into the conditions of 
labour in British Guiana ; the other appointed 1873 by the 
Chinese Government to inquire into alleged abuses against 
Chinese subjects in Cuba. 

In British Guiana the Royal Commission was appointed 
under instructions from the Colonial Secretary (March 10, 
1870), to investigate serious charges against the treatment 
of indentured labourers on the sugar estates in British 
Guiana, made on December 26, 1869, by the Hon. Mr. Des 
Voeux, Administrator of St. Lucia, late stipendiary magis- 
trate of the former colony. The terms of reference under 
which the Commission conducted the investigation included 
an inquiry into the condition of all indentured labourers, 
whether Indian or Chinese. The present description will 
be confined exclusively to the latter class. ^ On arrival in 
British Guiana the coolies were taken into the charge of a 
Government Immigration Agent. The whole process of 
labour importation into British Guiana was officially regu- 

^ Report of B.G. Commission, 1871, C. 393, passim. 


lated — the necessary funds being raised partly at the pubHc 
cost, partly by direct or indirect taxes on the employers. 
By the Immigration agent the coolies were allotted to the 
sugar estates. British contracts were not assignable as 
between private parties — speculation being thus ehminated. 
The estates were visited by Government inspectors to 
assure the welfare of the labourers. Nevertheless the 
Report of the Commission revealed several instances of 
personal cruelty to the indentured coolies. Mr. Des Voeux 
had declared that " the power of obtaining an unlimited 
amount of new hands to so great an extent at the public 
cost is an encouragement of an uneconomical use of existing 
labour and of carelessness and even cruelty in the treatment 
of those already under indenture." The Commissioners 
admitted, " It may be readily conceived that the occurrence 
of one or two instances in such a manner as to become 
known must indicate a high-handed and arbitrary rule of 
management such as may be the cause of daily petty acts 
of tyranny never investigated or heard of." It is evident 
also that the authors of any ill-treatment too frequently 
escaped punishment. ^ On the whole, however, personal 
cruelty was not of frequent occurrence and did not constitute 
one of the serious grievances about which the indentured 
labourers complained. Their chief complaint was on the 
subject of wages or of the too exacting task work. 2 

Reporting on the payment of wages the Commissioners 
stated, " In our researches we have noticed here and there 
an excessive indulgence in the practice of arbitrary stoppages 
and some scattered instances on estates where the practice 
did not seem so common of which no satisfactory explana- 
tion was afforded us." ^ Nor did the coolies have adequate 
means of redress. It is true that the terms of the contract 
were subject to penal sanctions. But as the Commissioners 

^ Even in a clear prima facie case of the murder of a Chinese coolie 
by the head overseer and a driver on the plantation Annandale, the per- 
petrators went unpunished. See p. 82. 

^ One of the special grievances of the Indian coolies — the interference 
of European overseers with their women — does not seem to have applied 
to the Chinese, perhaps because the number of Chinese women was com- 
paratively small. 

^ P. 83. 


reported, the labourers were rarely able to secure justice 
in the Courts. The impartiality of some of the magistrates 
was open to question. The planter or his representative 
were always in a position to produce " a phalanx of evi- 
dence," while the coolie's unfamiliarity with the English 
language made it difficult for him, whether prosecuting or 
defending, to successfully plead his cause. The Commis- 
sioners reported that " as a matter of daily experience . . . 
penal enforcement has been an enforcement against the 
labourer alone." The Commissioners further condemned 
the evils which resulted from the existence of a harsh penal 
law only occasionally put in force. For instance, the 
number of labour-tasks which the employers were permitted 
by law to exact were beyond the power of the average 
labourer to perform. But altho ugh the maj ority of labourers 
were thus open to the charge of breach of contract, only a 
minority were prosecuted. These latter naturally tended 
to regard a sentence by the courts not as punishment for a 
breach of law, but as a mark of the employers' disfavour. 
Though the Commissioners declared that many of the 
charges made by Mr. Des Voeux were exaggerated, they 
reported that they " had been face to face with a condition 
of things the gravity of which it is folly to extenuate." 

Apart from particular abuses arising under the indentured 
system, the status of the indentured labourer was gradually 
being lowered. It is instructive to trace the course of British 
Guiana labour legislation over a period of years. When 
the subject of Chinese contract labour was under discussion 
in 1843, Lord Stanley had allowed contracts for five years 
on the conditions that they should be terminable by the 
labourer at the end of six months or at subsequent yearly 
intervals. In Lord Stanley's opinion this was a necessary 
security against injustice. When the subject was reopened 
1850-52, Lord Grey had again allowed contracts for five 
years, the coolies being empowered to terminate them either 
on the repayment of the expenses of their introduction less 
an amount proportioned to their period of service ; or at 
the end of each year, after which they would be subject to 
a small monthly tax. But this right to terminate contracts 


was regarded by the planters as subversive of the very pur- 
pose of the contract system — the command of a regular labour 
force on which they could rely over a period of years. In 
1853, the British Guiana Legislature passed an Ordinance 133 
by which contracts were legalized absolutely for five years — 
the right of redemption being withdrawn. But the Ordinance 
was disallowed by the Duke of Newcastle in a letter of 
severe criticism. Hence when Chinese immigration was re- 
commenced, 1857, the coolies were able to terminate their 
contracts, though only at annual intervals and on the 
repayment of a sum proportioned to the expenses of intro- 
duction and the period of service rendered. But by Ord. 
14, 1859, on the plea that the contracts recently signed in 
China were badly drafted, new contracts were substituted. 
They could not be determined for a period of three years. 
This Ordinance was temporarily revoked in i860, but Ord. 
30, 1862, and the Consolidated Ord. 4, of 1864, went still 
further. The contracts were legalized absolutely for five 
years. " No such immigrant shall be entitled to change 
his employer or to commute any part of his term of service." 
Even the former power vested in the Governor to declare 
an indenture cancelled, and an indenture fee forfeited in 
cases of misconduct by the employer was revoked. The 
planters had acquired a rigid control over the services of the 
coolie for a period of five years. The Ordinances were not 
disallowed. And, further, as the Commissioners pointed out, a 
no less significant change in the contract system was effected 
by the clauses of Ord. 3, 1863 which were embodied in the 
Consolidated Ord. 4 of 1864. At the end of an industrial 
period a further contract of five years was legalized. It was 
not determinable during that time. No immigrant was 
bound to enter into a second contract, but " care has been 
taken so to arrange the incidents of the system as to induce 
him with very strong inducements to reindenture." The 
Commissioners were of the opinion that " a harsh system of 
law had been kept up not so much for use as that condonation 
of offences under it might be bartered against reindenture." 
They declared that the position of a free immigrant disposed 
to remain in the colony had not received that consideration 


from the Legislature, which a new country needing popula- 
tion should have afforded. A bounty of S50 was offered 
" to persuade those in a dependent position to refrain from 
claiming their independence." The Duke of Newcastle had 
regarded the contract as a necessary but temporary incident 
in the life of the immigrant. He had contemplated the 
development of a free society. But the planters' legislation 
was directed to the establishment of a permanently inden- 
tured labour force. " It thus represents if it did not cause 
a great change in the aspect of the problem in British 

But if the indentured labour system in the " free society " 
of British Guiana was open to grave criticism, in Cuba, 
where slavery was not yet abolished, it was subject to 
intolerable abuses. 

On November 29, 1873, the Tsungli-Yamen, under the 
sanction of an Imperial Edict of September 21, appointed 
Commissioner Ch'en, officer-in-charge of the educational 
mission abroad, and the Commissioners of Customs, Mr. 
Macpherson (British) and M. Ruber (French) to inquire into 
the conditions under which Chinese subjects lived in Cuba. 
The Commissioners met in Cuba, March 19, 1876. 1,176 
depositions were taken and 85 petitions, supported by 1,665 
signatures, received. The Commission's Report ^ is perhaps 
the most serious indictment ever made by responsible 
officials against a labour system. 

In all, some 40,413 Chinese coolies had been shipped to 
Cuba. Eighty per cent, of that number had been kidnapped 
or decoyed. Ten per cent, had died during the Middle 
Passage. Only in very few instances did petitions or 
depositions admit a satisfactory treatment on the vessels. 
On arrival in Havana the coolies were taken into the 
" men-markets." One of the most objectionable clauses in 
the Cuban contracts was that which rendered them assign- 
able as between private parties without the further consent 
of the coolie. In Cuba the coolie was not knocked down 
to the highest bidder. It was his contract that was bought 

1 Printed at Imperial Maritime Customs Press, Shanghai, 1876, P.O. 


and sold, — but " the chattel went with the conveyance." 
All the elements of a slave trade were present in the trans- 
action. " We waited in the men-market the inspection of 
a buyer and the settlement of the price." The coolies were 
stripped and their bodies examined " in the manner practised 
when oxen or horses are being bought." The proceeding 
was regarded by the Chinese as " shameless and before 
unheard of by us." Ninety per cent, of the contracts were 
bought for the sugar plantations ; the remainder were 
either for tobacco and coffee estates, farms and market 
gardens, warehouses, the " cigar, shoe, hat, iron, charcoal, 
bakers', confectioners', stone-cutters' and carpenters' shops ; 
bricklayers and washing establishments, railways and gas 
works, brick-kilns or cargo boats." Some of the coolies 
were employed as municipal scavengers or as domestics 
and cooks. The coolies taken to the sugar plantations — 
90 per cent, of the total number- — suffered more than those 
whose fate took them to other situations. The contracts 
stipulated for twelve hours' work a day and free Sundays. 
The Spanish Royal Decrees 1854 ^^^ i860 also provided 
that under no circumstances should employers exact on an 
average more than twelve hours' work a day, though they 
allowed work on festival days (including Sundays) if per- 
mitted by the ecclesiastical authorities. But the inquiries 
of the Commissioners and numerous petitions showed that 
eighteen to twenty-one hours' work a day were commonly 
exacted. " The administrator who forces the Chinese to 
work twenty hours out of the twenty-four is a man of 
capacity, if he extorts twenty-one hours his qualities are 
of a still higher order." But no increase was made to the 
$4 wages usually stipulated for in the contracts. Indeed, 
as many of the coolies by petition complained, this amount 
was not equal to $2 in China owing to the depreciated paper 
currency. Moreover, in not a few cases large arrears of 
wages were owing to the coolies. The rations appear to 
have been insufficient — consisting largely of maize and 
bananas. Additional food had to be bought at the estate 
shops. "If we attempt to make a purchase outside it is 
said that we are running away and we are compelled to 


work with chained feet," The prices in the estate shops 
were extortionate and the goods of inferior quahty. There 
was also the complaint in one petition that " Monthly as 
wages we receive four tickets, which can only be employed 
in payment of purchases at the plantation shops. Else- 
where they cannot be used, nor is it possible to change them 
for bank notes." 

If under these unsatisfactory circumstances the coolies 
did not work with their full vigour or with satisfactory 
results, the plantation managers and their negro overseers 
had many forms of torture to urge them on. Clause 69 
of the Spanish Royal Decree, i860, empowered employers in 
certain instances to exercise a disciplinary jurisdiction in 
virtue of which they might inflict the penalties of arrest 
from one to ten days, or deduct wages during the same 
period. But the Spanish Government " never intended to 
sanction the arbitrary infliction of chastisements and fines." 
The managers, however, placed no limit on their own dis- 
ciplinary powers. Whips, rods, knives, chains, hounds, 
cells — any cruelties that pitiless minds could suggest were 
used to extort the last degree of economic strength from the 
victims, cruelties that defeated their purpose.^ Satis- 
factory hospitals were provided on many of the estates . . . 
" but the proportion of Chinese penetrating to them is 
apparently small." Coolies reporting sick were frequently 
accused of neglecting their work and were flogged — on 
occasion to death. During the industrial term the contract 
was transferred at the will of the employer. Statements 
were made to the Commissioners to the effect that many 
of the coolies had been " resold " for amounts varying from 
$70 to S170. The Cuban contracts stipulated for a labour 
period of eight years. Before i860 the Chinese, once they 
had completed their industrial service, were entitled to 
purchase their letters of Domicile and the Cedula which 
permitted them to engage in independent work. By this 
means some of the coolies shipped to Cuba in the early years 

^ " It was also possible to verify by personal inspection wounds inflicted 
upon others, the fractured and maimed limbs, blindness, the heads full 
of sores, the teeth struck out, the ears mutilated, the skin and flesh lacer- 
ated, proofs of cruelty patent to the eyes of all." — Report, 


of the traffic were able to attain to some degree of freedom. 
But by the Royal Decree of i,86o the right to become a free 
citizen was withdrawn. The status of the coolie in Cuba 
after the contract term was thus fundamentally altered. 
Within two months after the termination of his contract 
he must either have entered into a new engagement or have 
left the island. This provision was successively applicable. 
In the intervals between recontracting the coohe must be 
lodged in a government depot and employed on public 
works. In depot the coolie received no wages. Nominally, 
the value of his work was estimated, and the sum thus 
accumulated to his credit, after reduction for maintenance, 
was utilized to defray the cost of his passage " to the locality 
which he may select or which, if he fails to do so, the Captain- 
General may designate for him." This provision had no 
reference to a return passage to China, despite the complaint 
of many of the depot coolies that they had been engaged 
for years without wages on public works. The Regulations 
of 1868, which provided that a coolie who had worked for 
a year in a depot should be sent away at the cost of the 
depot, were not enforced. The Decree of i860 thus left the 
coolie with no escape from a life of industrial servitude. 
Few had ever been able to accumulate sufficient money 
to leave the island — the wages being so small and the prices 
of additional food and clothing so high. The total depar- 
tures were estimated at 2,179.1 Pressure was put on the 
coolie to renew his contract with the original employer, 
the latter's position being strengthened by a system of 
guardianship that obtained in Cuba until 1872. If the 
coolie was able to attain the depot, he was generally coerced 
by the officials to recontract — unless his sufferings had 
incapacitated him for continuous work. On occasion the 
depot coolies were hired out by the depot officials, who 
retained the larger share of the coolies' wages. " At their 
will they hire out to labour or recall from it our countrymen 
whom they have converted into serfs not of an individual 
but of an entire island." In British Guiana there was a 
marked tendency to retain the Chinese under contract. 

1 Probably to the neighbouring islands. 


In Cuba the period of industrial servitude was endless save 
by death. During the first twenty years of Chinese labour, 
out of the 114,081 coolies landed, 53,502 escaped from life. 
" All these too were young men." 

Certain nominal provisions had been made by the Spanish 
Royal Decrees to secure the persons and the contract-rights 
of the Chinese. By the Decree i860, the Captain General 
of Cuba was appointed Chief Protector of Chinese. He 
exercised this function in the various jurisdictions by means 
of his delegates, the Governors and Lieutenant-Governors, 
who in turn were aided by the Captain of the district. On 
June 20, 1873, under orders, from Spain, a paid Inspector of 
Chinese immigration was appointed. But the value of such 
protection can be measured by the cruelties practised. It 
was also provided in i860 that Chinese labourers, when 
ill-treated by their employers or subjected to any breach of 
contract, should proceed to their Protector, whose duty it 
was to investigate the cause of complaint. But in the first 
place the coolies found it almost impossible to avail them- 
selves of the right. If a coolie left his plantation without a 
special permit from the manager, against whom his com- 
plaint would be most frequently directed, he was treated as 
a deserter. Huang A Shin deposed that following on the 
murder of one of the coolies by a plantation administrator, 
a party of Chinese set out to lay complaint before the 
authorities, " but we had proceeded only half the distance 
when we were overtaken by the administrator at the head 
of a party of armed men and were carried back and chained." 
Even when the coolies succeeded in preferring a complaint, 
redress was seldom obtained. " The officials here are often 
merchants, others are completely under the influence of the 
planters and all ignore the outrages committed and do not 
even make an inquiry into the cases of suicide or murder. 
..." " The authorities when such cases reach their ears 
accept the masters' bribes and give no heed to the crime." 
The officials did, on occasion, transfer the coolie from the 
service of an employer to a government depot. But if 
such a course expressed a sense of justice, it was regarded 
by the coolies themselves as punishment. " My employer 


owes me $128," declared Lin A' T'an. " I came to Havana 
to complain, but the officials not only gave no heed, but 
also confined me in the depot, where I have now been 
working without wages for two years." It should be 
remembered, in considering the relations between the cooHes 
and their Protectors, that they were divided from each 
other by the unbridged gulf of language — a difficulty in the 
way of justice that one is forced to appreciate. 

A right to redeem the contract was a further nominal 
security for the Chinese in Cuba. But the conditions of 
redemption were so onerous as to be absurd.^ 

There was then no redress. " Though all these wrongs 
are inflicted we can only fold our arms and submit." They 
suffered. When the suffering became intolerable they 
died. " All these too were young men." 

It cannot be assumed that the Chinese Government in 
1865-6 was fully aware of the actual conditions under 
which the Chinese coolies were labouring abroad. Never- 
theless, sufficient information was available to show the 
necessity of a careful supervision of the contract terms 
and of a fixed responsibility for their fuffilment. Therefore 
when the attention of the Prince of Kung was drawn to the 
subject by the increased irregularities in recruitment and 
shipment during 1865, he directed a new code of Regulations 
to be drafted. 2 After the arrival of Sir R. Alcock, the 
British Minister Plenipotentiary who had been sent to 
China to negotiate a revision of the Treaty, the Code with 
certain alterations was embodied in an Emigration Con- 
vention, ^ which was signed, March 5, 1866, by Sir R. Alcock 
and M. de Bellouet, for Great Britain and France, on the 
one hand, and the Prince of Kung, for China, on the other. 
The provisions of 1859 for the control of recruitment and 

^ The coolie must refund the amount paid for his acquisition, an indem- 
nity for any period of cessation of work during the preceding service, 
the highest estimate passed by experts of the increased value of the immi- 
grant's services since his acquisition, and compensation for the loss incurred 
by the difficulty of replacing him. The coolie might not redeem his 
contract during the sugar season or in a time of pressing labour. 

- The following information has been taken by the courtesy of the 
Foreign Office from the F.O. Confidential Papers. 

* Sir R. Alcock to Lord Stanley, Mar. 24, 1866, Enclosure 5. 


shipment were retained almost in their entirety. But the 
Convention of 1866 had a larger scope than the agreement 
of 1859. Chiefly, it limited the period of contract to five 
years and it secured to the emigrant a free return passage 
at the end of his service or a sum of money equivalent to 
the value of such passage. ^ It held the Emigration Agent 
responsible under the laws of his country for the due execu- 
tion of the clauses of the contract signed by him until its 
expiration. 2 In addition to the terms of the Convention 
the Prince of Rung requested that if Chinese subjects 
were taken to countries with which China had no treaty 
relations, efficient protection might be extended to them 
by the Representatives of the Power under whose flag 
they had been shipped. " The sole object and aim of the 
Government of China is to secure proper protection to her 
subjects." The Convention was at once put into force at 
the Northern and Southern seaports. Thereupon Sir R. 
Alcock instructed H.M. Consuls to prohibit any shipment 
of Chinese to British territory unless made under the terms 
of the new Regulations. 

In forwarding the Convention to the British Foreign 
Office, Sir R. Alcock strongly recommended its acceptance. 
In his opinion a five years' service and a free return passage 
on its completion were essential conditions if the emigration 
system was to be of mutual advantage to employers and 
labourers.^ But the Convention was not ratified either by 
Great Britain or by France. 

Immediately on receipt of " this extraordinary Conven- 
tion," the British West India Committee protested (June 8, 
1866) against the free return passage. A deputation inter- 
viewed Lord Carnarvon, August 3, 1866, and won from 
him the promise that the Convention would not be ratified 
save with modifications.^ At the request of the Foreign 
Office (Oct. 20, 1866) the Colonial Land and Emigration 

1 Arts. VIII and IX. 2 Art. V. 

^ " I cannot too earnestly repeat my conviction that if a traf&c in 
coolies in no true sense distinguishable from slavery, and the most odious 
form of it which the world has yet seen, is to be put a stop to in China, 
the two most essential conditions are those established by the Convention 
of March last." — Alcock to Stanley, Nov. 26, 1866. 

•* Mr. Elliot to Mr. Hammond, Jan. 4, 1867. Enclosure. 



Commission explained their objections to the Convention 
and drafted a set of alternative Regulations. The views 
of the Commissioners were supported by the West India 
Committee, by the Acting Governor of British Guiana 
and the Governor of Trinidad. The chief objection was 
the return passage and the clauses relating thereto. The 
basis of their argument was financial. They argued that 
at the end of ten years not more than from 10-15 P^r 
cent, of the Indian immigrants took advantage of the 
return passage to which they, by arrangement with the 
Government of India, were then entitled. Under the 
Convention each Chinese immigrant would get at the end 
of five years either a return passage or the value of it. 
The cost of 100 Chinese labourers would then exceed the 
cost of 100 Indian labourers by nearly £2,000.1 Moreover, 
Mr. Murdoch pointed out that there were some 12,000 
Chinese immigrants in British Guiana and Trinidad who 
had been introduced without a stipulation for back passage. 
He was of the opinion that the introduction of a number 
of their fellow countrymen under the more favourable 
terms proposed in the Convention would produce discontent 
and jealousy among those already in the colony, and would 
probably lead to a determination on their part to refuse 
to work unless granted similar advantages. 

" The contest that that would produce between the employer 
and the immigrants would be an evil of serious magnitude, 
and might even threaten the peace of the colony. It would 
therefore be a question with the planters especially in British 
Guiana whether, irrespective of expense, the labour to be obtained 
under the new Convention would be worth the evils to which 
it would give occasion among the Chinese already there." ^ 

The West Indian planters were not dependent on Chinese 

1 Passage of 100 coolies from India at £16 per head . . ;^i,6oo 

Return of 15 per cent, to India at £1^ per head . . 195 

Total . £1,795 

Under the terms of the Convention : 

Passage of 100 coolies from China at £2=, per head . . ;^2,500 

Return of So per cent. (20 per cent, mortality) at ;^I5 per 

head ......... 1,200 

Total ;^3.700 

2 Mr. Murdoch to Sir F. Rogers, Nov. 7, 1866. 


labour — the Indian supply being satisfactory. Neverthe- 
less, the Chinese coolies were valuable labourers and there- 
fore the planters directed their energies to securing a Con- 
vention, modified so as to permit the continued importation 
of Chinese coolies by omitting the condition of a return 
passage or its equivalent. 

But if the British planters objected to a return passage, 
the French merchants objected no less strongly to the five 
years' hmitation. The French were concerned with the 
emigrants less as labourers than as cargo, French ships 
having found the trade to Cuba and Peru very lucrative. 
But Cuban and Peruvian contracts stipulated for eight years' 
service. The five years' condition was obviously impossible. 

On June 30, 1866, the French Ambassador in London 
suggested that the two Governments should prepare " une 
redaction identique " which the British and French repre- 
sentatives in Peking should be instructed to present to 
the Prince of Kung. On July 26, Lord Stanley advised Sir 
R. Alcock that the French and British Governments pro- 
posed to reconsider the Convention and instructed him to 
make a communication to this effect to the Chinese Govern- 
ment. The correspondence between London and Paris was 
protracted. There were minor points of dispute between 
the British and French Governments acting in the interests 
of planters and merchants respectively. The chief diffi- 
culty, however, lay in the fact that while the French, in 
deference to British opinion, were willing to omit the pro- 
vision of a return passage, thej^ insisted on the period of 
service being extended to eight years. The British, while 
insisting on the omission of the return passage, were not 
prepared to demand a contract of more than five years. 
If the period of indenture were extended, bounties given 
by the British agents would have to be increased to the 
same amount as those offered by Cuban and Peruvian 
speculators. The British planters declared that they could 
not afford such an increase, since they were not able to 
extort from the coolies the same amount of labour as that 
exacted by foreign taskmasters.^ 

^ Murdoch to Rogers, Mar. 29, 1867. 


On May 15, M. de Moustier yielded to the views of the 
British Government — that the return passage should be 
omitted and the five years accepted. On October 10, 
however, after the receipt of a communication from the 
French Minister in Peking to the effect that the Chinese 
Government was prepared to insist on the provision for a 
" return passage," and after consultation with the Ministers 
of Marine and Commerce with " a view to the interests of 
the French mercantile marine," he suggested that, if abso- 
lutely necessary for agreement with the Chinese Government, 
the back passage should be allowed provided that 

1. The term of engagement be extended to seven years. 

2. The emigrant submitted during his whole period of 

service to a deduction of 5 per cent, off his wages. 

3. Those who should elect to remain in the colony should 

have no claim to any payment in lieu of a back 

passage. ^ 
The British Colonial Secretary was, however, not prepared 
(Nov. 26, 1867) to allow the back passage even with the 
French modifications. There seemed no further use in 
continuing the correspondence. Moreover, " the interests 
of H.M. colonial subjects are suffering, from delay in arriving 
at a settlement." ^ Sir R. Alcock was therefore instructed ^ 
to prepare in concert with his French colleague and " the 
Representative of any other power who may desire to take 
part," the draft of a new Convention 

" and to press the same on the acceptance of the Chinese Govern- 
ment, taking care not to admit of any provision for giving back 
passages and intimating to the Chinese Government, if they 
pertinaciously adhere to it, that not only must the proposed 
new arrangement fall to the ground, but tfiat H.M. Government 
will expect that, pending the substitution of another, the arrange- 
ment which the Convention of March, 1866, was intended to 
supersede will be allowed to continue in force." 

On December 11, M. de Moustier instructed the French 
Minister at Peking ^ (M. le Comte de Lallemond) to support 

1 Dispatches from Mr. Fane to Lord Stanley, Nos. 673 and 688 of 
October 11 and 13, 1867. 

- Lord Stanley to Lord Lyons, No. 68, Nov. 28, 1867. 

2 Lord Stanley to Sir R. Alcock, No. 213, Dec. 6, 1867. 

* Lord Lyons to Lord Stanley, No. 226, Dec. 30, 1867. Enclosure. 


Sir R. Alcock as far as possible, but in the event of the 
Chinese Government refusing to give way, he was to allow 
the modifications suggested October 10 — modifications 
which were subsequently accepted by the British Govern- 
ment, if necessary as a last resort, and forwarded to Sir R. 
Alcock. The two Governments were thus more or less in 
agreement. In order to bring still stronger pressure on the 
Tsungli Yamen, the British Government had invited the 
different European Governments ^ to instruct their repre- 
sentatives in Peking to co-operate with the British and 
French Ministers. The Dutch 2 and Prussian ^ representa- 
tives and the Governor of Macao ^ were instructed accord- 
ingly — the Spanish representative was advised to enter 
into the negotiations, but not to give his adherence to any 
Convention until approved by the Spanish Government. ^ 
The United States Minister was instructed to attend, but 
the United States Secretary of State replied to the British 
invitation, January 10, 1868 : 

" In respect to the principal modifications proposed by Great 
Britain and France ... it is due to frankness to avow that 
this Government sympathizes with that of China. It is not 
inclined to exert its influence to withdraw or impair any reason- 
able security which that Government deems essential in the 
exercise of its paternal guardianship over the welfare of its 
unfortunate subjects." ^ 

But the Tsungli Yamen, created at the instance and as 
the puppet of the British and French Governments 1861, 
had the unexpected and unprecedented courage to defy 
them in 1868. The official argument of the British and 
French representatives was weakened by the serious dis- 
agreement of the Spanish Minister,' who approved the 
original opinion of the French Government that the term 
of service should be extended to eight years and a free 
return passage granted — the latter in the interests of the 

1 Lord Stanley to Sir R. Alcock, Dec. 6, 1867. 

- Vice-Admiral Harris to Lord Stanley, No. 8, Jan. 16, 1868. 

^ Lord Loftus to Lord Stanley, No. 14, Jan. 16, 1868. 

* Sir C. Murray to Lord Stanley, No. 26, June 26, 1868. 

^ Sir J. Crampton to Lord Stanley, No. 14, Jan. 16, 1868. 

« Mr. Ford to Lord Stanley, Enclosure i in No. 20, Jan. 20. 1868. 

" Sir R. Alcock to Lord Stanley, No. 72, April 4, 1868. 

C.C.E. L 


Spanish colonies themselves. But on the questions of hours 
of labour, rates of wages, distribution of emigrants after 
arrival at their destination, there was no common ground 
that could be taken. " What might be fair or expedient 
in one colony or set of circumstances was inadmissible in 
another." ^ Moreover, none of the three Representatives 2 
could give an effectual guarantee that the terms of the 
contracts would be observed in territories not under their 
rule — in Peru, Chile and elsewhere. It was further admitted 
that even in Cuba and the British West Indies, where the 
coolies were protected by special legislation, the details of 
the contract could not be guaranteed without an elaborate 
and costly surveillance which " would render the position 
of the coolies themselves uncomfortable and that of the 
masters unendurable," ^ an admission which in itself was 
the moral justification of the Chinese Ministers in insisting 
on such terms as seemed to them necessary safeguards for 
the welfare of Chinese subjects. 

It being impossible for the three foreign Ministers to 
agree on terms of service, the fulfilment of which could be 
guaranteed, it was decided by them to draw up a new set 
of regulations in which all reference to the details of the 
contract and the proposal for a return passage should be 

The draft ^ presented to the Chinese Ministers on April i 
was based on the regulations of 1859 with a few modifications, 
chiefly of administrative detail, suggested by the practical 
experience of the Spanish Minister. The importance of the 
contract as the basis of the emigration labour system was 
thus ignored. The Tsungli Yamen refused to consider the 
proposals. They refused no less absolutely to revert to 
the arrangements which obtained in the Kwantung Province 
before the Convention of 1866 was signed. Great Britain 
and France might not have ratified that Convention, but 
it had received the signature of the Chinese Emperor and 
was therefore binding on his Ministers.^ Under these cir- 

^ Sir R. Alcock to Lord Stanley, No. 72, April 4, 1868. 
^ Great Britain, France and Spain were Treaty Powers. * Ibid. 
4 Sir R. Alcock to Lord Stanley, No. 8i. April 15, 1868, Enclosure 2. 
6 Ibid., Enclosure 2 in No. i56, June 15, 1868. 


cumstances, a " note identique " ^ was sent to Prince Kung, 
June 4, 1868, urging the necessity either of declaring the 
Convention null and void because unratified by the British 
and French Governments, or of so modifying its terms as 
to make it acceptable to them. On the following day the 
Biitish and French interpreters delivered in person to the 
Ministers of the Yamen a Memorandum 2 on the general 
question of contract emigration in which " the strongest 
arguments were employed short of absolute menace." ^ 
It v/as argued that "the rules agreed upon in 1866 have 
only this effect — they prevent all emigration under Govern- 
ment inspection and thereby encourage it where there is no 
security against fraud and violence." It was pointed out 
that the practical effect of the rule was to nullify Art. V. 
of the British, and Art. IX. of the French, Convention of 
Peking, and that they must therefore be modified so as to 
serve their original end, " which was to encourage and 
protect, not to check and destroy." But the Ministers of 
the Yamen were unmoved. The Prince of Kung stated, 
on March 13, 1869, to Sir R. Alcock that " the Yamen being 
by right the protector of Chinese subjects, and having to 
that end devised the present satisfactory code, cannot 
recklessly modify it and allow villains again to play their 
kidnapping tricks." * The reply of the Yamen to the 
British and French interpreters was that it was not an all- 
powerful body, and could not afford the loss of prestige 
which would be involved by the sudden cancelling of a 
formal edict issued at its own request and under some 
pressure from the foreign Ministers.^ Sir R. Alcock con- 
sidered the persistence of the Tsungli Yamen due to their 
fear that the abrogation of the Convention would place 
them in a false and dangerous position as regards other 
bodies of the State. " It is possible that (they) . . . found 
themselves exposed to both obloquy and reproach by 
being mixed up in any way with a traffic so nefarious as 

^ Ibid., Enclosure i in No. 142, June 8, 1868. 

* Enclosure 2 in No. 142. 

* No. 142, June 8, 1868. 

* No. 17, March 18. 1868. Enclosure i (to Earl of Clarendon). 
^ Enclosure 2, No. 166. June 15, 1868. 


the coolie trade has hitherto proved to be " (May 25, 1869). 
And further, 

" They feel mortified at the appearance of dictation in a 
matter which so nearly concerns their own people and calls 
upon them to rescind a formal act to which the Emperor's 
assent had been obtained for the avowed reason that two Foreign 
Powers . . . insisted upon obtaining Chinese coolies under 
less onerous conditions to the employers." ^ 

The Viceroy Juilin, of Kwantung, was of the opinion that 
" the gentry and literati were strongly opposed to the 
people leaving the country . . . and as these form the 
influential, indeed the governing, class of the Empire, the 
Government is naturally averse to doing an act to which 
they are opposed." - The Macao atrocities also may have 
had some influence on the decision — particularly as it was 
well known that the French Houses in Canton were agencies 
of the Macao barracoons. Short of force there was nothing 
further to be done. Local pressure was ineffectual. On 
September 21, 1868, telegraphic instructions were sent 
by the Secretary of State to Sir R. Alcock to inform 
the Chinese authorities that contract emigration would 
be continued under the old regulations, and to advise 
the British emigration agents in China to carry on their 
duties. Similar instructions had been sent, July 17, 1868, 
by the French Government to their Minister, who had 
already " bullied " both the Yamen and the Viceroy of 
Kwantung in an endeavour to induce them to revert to 
the old state of things. On receipt of the British Govern- 
ment's instructions, forwarded to him by Sir R. Alcock, Mr. 
Consul Robertson (Canton) interviewed the Viceroy Juilin. 
The Viceroy replied that under other circumstances he 
would not hesitate to incur responsibility, but his instruc- 
tions were so positive not to permit emigration except under 
the terms of the Convention that he dare not sanction any 
departure from it. He maintained that the questioned 
validity of the Convention was neither for his nor Mr. 
Robertson's decision. His orders were positive and must 

1 No. 292. Nov. 21, 1868. 

'^ Consul Robertson to Mr. Hammond. Nov. 29, 1868. 



be obeyed. Mr. Robertson then hinted that the Emigration 
House might be opened and the system carried on under 
the old rules without the interference either of the Viceroy 
or himself. The Viceroy's reply was that he would not 
allow such a course. His decision was final. ^ Contract 
emigration must be conducted under the Convention or by 
clandestine means. But if by the latter course it would 
" subject us very justly to reproach from the Imperial 
(Chinese) Government " — and might have serious conse- 
quences to foreign interests in China. Under these circum- 
stances the British Government agreed with Sir R. Alcock 
that for the time it was useless to continue discussion on 
the subject. They continued to regard the Chinese Govern- 
ment as bound to admit the right of voluntary emigration. 2 
" The Treaty Right of England remains unimpaired, and 
may be at any time hereinafter invoked." Sir R. Alcock, 
firm in his opinion that the moral argument was with the 
Chinese Ministers, communicated to them the decision of 
the British Government, while expressing his regret " that 
this should be the only business left in suspense after having 
so happily concluded all the negotiations connected with the 
much more serious questions involved in the revision of 
the Treaty." ^ 

In i860 and 1861, when negotiating with the French 
Government the Convention which allowed the renewal of 
Indian contract emigration to French colonies, British 
Ministers had insisted on the conditions of a five years' 
contract and a return passage, which in 1866 when demanded 
by the Tsungli Yamen were declared " unacceptable and 
inadmissible." It is instructive to remember that the 
Yamen, in refusing either to modify or abrogate the Emigra- 
tion Convention of 1866, was but resisting foreign efforts to 
impose upon it against its will harsher terms than the 
British Government had been wilUng to allow for British 

The effect of the Convention was temporarily to suspend 

1 Consul Robertson to Mr. Hammond. Nov. 28, 1868. Enclosure 2. 

2 By Art. V. Convention of Peking. 

8 Sir R. Alcock to Earl of Clarendon. Oct. 29, 1869. 




contract emigration from Chinese ports. A Spanish agent, 
however, soon recommenced to recruit coolies for Cuba under 
a local agreement that stipulated for a contract period of five 
years, at the termination of which the coolie could claim S50 
towards a back passage. In 1872 the British Minister in 
China was instructed to secure a similar agreement for 
coolie emigration to the British West Indies, and on February 
14, 1873, the British Emigration Agency was reopened, a 
first shipment of 314 emigrants being effected December, 
1873. But this renewed activity was regarded with dis- 
favour by the Tsungli Yamen and the British Foreign Office, 
especially when the efforts made by interested parties to 
evade the terms of the Convention resulted in a series of 
horrors that succeeded in arousing a public opinion in China 
and Great Britain to demand the final cessation of the whole 

To understand the growth of this public opinion it is 
necessary to follow the activities of the parties who attempted 
to evade the terms of the Convention by directing their 
business from Hong-Kong and Macao — the two foreign 

Though the greater number of coolies who emigrated 
from Hong-Kong did so under the credit-ticket system, some 
18,000 had left the port 1856-67 under foreign contracts.^ 
Moreover, its contract emigration had recently received a 
new impetus. Recruitment for service in Dutch Surinam 
was active. The temporary prohibition, November 23, 1868, 
of contract emigration from Macao to Peru as a result of 
reported cruelties to Chinese coolies on a Peruvian planta- 
tion, had driven the Peruvian agents to Hong-Kong. No 

^ Hong-Kong was the head-quarters of the West India emigration from 
1859 until 1862, when they were moved to Canton. 
To Havana, 1856-8 
„ British West Indies, 1859-62 
„ Bombay, 1864 
„ Tahiti, 1864 . 

Dutch Guiana, 1856-67 
Honolulu, 1865 
Borneo, 1865 . 
Labuan, 1866 
Sarawang, 1866 












power was vested in the Government to prohibit their 
activity. Moreover, large plans were being developed for a 
Chinese contract emigration to the Southern States of the 
United States — the planters having determined to free 
themselves from dependence on the labour of the emanci- 
pated negroes. The purpose of the U.S. Act of Congress, 
1862 — the prohibition of immigration under contract — was 
evaded by a loose interpretation of terms. Messrs. Koop- 
manschap & Co., Dutch merchants at San Francisco, were 
appointed agents, and the first Chinese emigrant ship, Ville 
de St. Lo, for New Orleans cleared from Hong-Kong, Feb- 
ruary 7, 1870, with 200 coolies destined for work in the 
Arkansas Valley. ^ It seemed probable that the Chinese 
insistence on the Emigration Convention would lead to a 
rapid expansion of contract emigration from Hong-Kong, 
But the island was unsuited to a well-regulated system. 
Emigrants for shipment had to be introduced from the main- 
land. Mr. Austin and Mr. Sampson had both declared that 
no vigilance that could be exercised over the activity of 
brokers on the mainland would prevent abuses. The 
Harbour Master admitted that " a few isolated cases of 
improperly procured coolies may come to Hong-Kong." ^ 
Had the Chinese Passengers Act and local Ordinances been 
effectively administered, there might have been some 
guarantee that no coolies would be shipped against their 
will. But one cannot assume that such was the case. On 
occasion the administration had been grossly negligent. ^ 

^ F.O. Confidential Papers, Mr. E. Thornton's Dispatch, No. 393, 
November i, 1869. 

This decision was also in defiance of Resolution of Congress, Jan. 16, 
1867 : " Whereas the traffic in labourers transported from China and other 
eastern countries, known as the coolie trade, is odious to the people of 
the U.S. as inhuman and immoral, and whereas it is abhorrent to the 
spirit of modem international law and policy which have substantially 
extirpated the African slave trade to permit the establishment in its place 
of a mode of enslaving men differing from the former in little else than 
the employment of fraud instead of force to make its victims captive, 
be it therefore resolved that it is the duty of this Government to give effect 
to the moral sentiment of the nation through all its agencies for the purpose 
of preventing the further introduction of coolies into this hemisphere or 
adjacent islands." 

* F.O. Enclosure 5, Mr. Elliot to Mr. Hammond, Oct. 7, 1868. 

^ Mr. Murdoch to Mr. Rogers, July 29, 1869. Sec also Duke of Bucking- 
bam to Governor MagDonnell, May 18, 1868. 


In order to prevent abuses, Ord. 12, of 1868, was passed under 
instructions from the Colonial Office. It declared " the 
detaining or carrying away by force or fraud any Chinese 
for the purpose of the coohe trade " to be a felony. That 
no offence had occurred under this section of the Ordinance 
by January 22, 1873 ^ is a matter for regret. In justice to 
the Hong-Kong officials it should be recognized, however, 
that the brief examination of some hundreds of coolies on 
an emigrant vessel immediately prior to its departure did 
not allow of the efficient administration of any Act or Ordi- 
nance which required that no coolies should be shipped 
against their will. The brokers were quite prepared for 
such an unsatisfactory examination. Under these circum- 
stances Mr. Consul Robertson declared that Hong-Kong 
bid fair to rival Macao. Moreover, for some time the 
China Mail had kept up a continued criticism of Hong-Kong 
emigration abuses. The Colonial Office, therefore, instructed 
the Governor of Hong-Kong to prevent any Chinese 
passenger ship from proceeding to sea without a hcence 
from the Governor. Ord. 4, 1870, was accordingly passed. 
But a certain section of British pubhc opinion was not 
satisfied that this discriminatory power vested in the 
Governor was sufficient to save the good name of the colony, 
and on December 17, 1869, a joint memorial from the Anti- 
Slavery Society, the Aborigines Protection Society, and the 
Social Science Association was forwarded to Earl Granville, 
setting out the abuses of contract labour in Surinam, Peru, 
and Cuba. Instructions were sent to the Governor, May 30, 
1870, that the hcence to put to sea with contract emigrants 
was to be granted only if the destination of such emigrants 
were some place within the British Empire. Further 
restrictions on Hong-Kong's profits from the coohe traffic 
followed special prominence given to the Macao emigration. 
On August 21, 1851, Mr. White had written of the Portu- 
guese colony of Macao : " The place is in decay, and property 
is of comparatively httle value." 2 But after the Amoy 

1 C. 829 (1873), No. 7. 

« P.P. 986, 1852-3. Dispatches from Secretary of State, Enclosure in 
No. I. 


disturbances, 1852, it became one of the largest coolie ports. 
The traffic led to a rapid commercial development. In 
1866, the year of the Convention, there was a large influx 
of coolie speculators. Mr. Mayers, Interpreter to the British 
Consulate, Canton, estimated that whereas in 1865 there 
were only eight to ten barracoons in Macao, there were 
thirty-five to forty in 1866 ; in the former year the 
quotation for coolies stood at $30- $40 a head — it rose to 
S60-S80 in the latter. 1 

Prior to 1866 some of the Macao coolies were recruited 
through the Franco- Spanish agencies in Canton and Swatow, 
but after that date emigrants were apparently obtained 
clandestinely with or without the cognizance of the minor 
Chinese officials. Some were secured by the kidnapping 
of Annamites — the pirate trade during this period being 
very lucrative, as goods and crew of a captured junk all 
yielded high profits. ^ The evidence given before the Chinese 
Commission to Cuba made it clear that few coolies left 
Macao as voluntary emigrants. " I was deceived," " I was 
decoyed," were general complaints. In i860, the Governor 
of Macao had declared his intention of ridding the Macao 
traffic of its abuses, but as Mr. Consul Robertson wrote : 

" I am inclined to think that the Governor . . . hke all 
others in high position, is the last to hear or know of the mal- 
practices." ^ . . . " The coolie traffic has been and is the 
staple of the trade at Macao, and there are too many and too 
powerful interests concerned to allow of much hope for its 
amelioration. * 

In 1886 the Prince of Kung, in urging Sir R. Alcock to 
request the British mercantile community to refrain from 
engaging in contract emigration from that port, distinctly 
specffied Macao as the seat of evil.^ British officials in the 
East viewed the Macao traffic with grave concern. Sir R. 
Alcock suggested that it be treated as piracy. ^ Mr. Consul 
Robertson wrote, 1867 : 

1 Enclosure i, Mr. Mayers' Report, Nov. 12, 1866. 

2 Depositions of Annamites rescued from Macao and taken to Hong- 
Kong, July 24, 1867. 

' Consul Robertson to Sir R. Alcock, April 14, 1866. 
* Consul Robertson to Mr. Hammond, June 9, 1866. 
6 Prince Kung to Alcock, Maj' 15, 1866. * Dispatch 49, 1866. 


" It may be a matter of indifference to Portugal, with no 
material interests of commerce at stake, that under the pro- 
tection of its flag such an odious and disgraceful traffic should 
be carried on. But countries like Great Britain and the United 
States, with a vast commerce, are bound, in self-defence, if not 
from higher motives, to take effective steps to prevent the 
continuance of a traffic so fraught with danger to their interests." 

The British Government took diplomatic action. On 
January 5, 1867, relevant communications from British 
officials in the East were forwarded to Lisbon. Senhor 
Corvo in reply stated that the abuses occurred in Chinese 
territory, and were therefore beyond the control of the 
Macao authorities. Subsequently the depositions of Anna- 
mites rescued from Macao were forwarded to the Portuguese 
Government, with the result that the Governor of Macao 
was instructed to enforce the regulations with the greatest 
vigour. In April, 1868, the Superintendent of Chinese 
Emigration, Macao, presented a very able report on contract 
emigration from that colony. ^ He admitted the abuses of 
fraud and force in recruitment. He was of the opinion 
that the evils could not be overcome while Chinese crimps 
were employed to recruit the coolies. Nevertheless, he 
believed it was possible to neutralize their evil influence by 
establishing a Government agency in which the coolies 
could be housed for some days prior to the signing of the 
contract. By this means the power of the crimps would be 
lessened and confidence in the Government inspectors 
encouraged. He insisted, as the Tsungli Yamen had insisted, 
on the importance of the contract terms. In his opinion a 
back passage should be given to the coolies at the end of 
their period of service if they so desired. 2 The Governor of 
Macao, in September, 1868, therefore instituted a Board 
of Superintendence of Chinese emigration. A new code of 

^ Enclosure in Consul Robertson's Despatch, April 29, 1868. 

* " In view of the fact that the principal object of this emigration is 
not so much colonization as the supply of labour, it appears to be just 
and equitable that the emigrants, after having completed the term of 
their contract and having laboured remote from their country and their 
relatives during eight long years, should have a free passage for their 
return to their homes, if they wish it, to be paid by those who profit by 
their toil during so many years." — Enclosure in Consul Robertson's 
Despatch, April 29, 1868. 


regulations was adopted, and a Government emigration 
Depot, in which coolies were housed for some days prior 
to the signing of the contract, was established. These 
regulations were already in operation when the nature of 
the contract emigration from Macao was forced on the 
public attention by a tragedy at sea.^ On October i, 1870, 
a French ship. La Nouvelle Penelope, left Macao with 300 
coolie emigrants for Callao. Within a few days the coolies 
rioted, murdered the captain and several of the crew and 
took control of the ship. When one of the coolies respon- 
sible for the outrage was captured in Hong-Kong, his 
extradition was suspended by Mr. Justice Smale,^ subject 
to the decision of the Privy Council. His Honour impugned 
the extradition on the ground that the captain of the vessel 
was engaged in a slave trade, having the ship's hatchways 
fitted with iron gratings and part of the crew armed. The 
Governor of Macao replied to the attack made by the British 
Judge on contract emigration from Macao by forwarding to 
Lisbon full explanations of the manner in which the traffic 
was controlled. On August 29, 1871, the Department of 
Marine and Colonies, Lisbon, drafted a Memorandum on 
the subject for the British Government. In it they argued 
that contract emigration from Macao was better regulated 
than the contract emigration from Hong-Kong. They 
declared further that the large credit-ticket emigration from 
the British settlement was in no important particular to be 
distinguished from the Macao contract system. The coolies 
were not " free " emigrants. The armed precautions taken 
on Chinese emigrant ships clearing from Macao were of the 
same nature as those taken on the short voyage between 
Hong-Kong and Canton. And finally the Memorandum 
pointed out that Hong-Kong merchants profited largely 
from the Macao emigration in which they were immediately 

^ C. 504 (1872), passim, and C. 403 (1871). 

' Mr. Justice Smale had been bitterly hostile to contract emigration 
since 1863, when he had taken the depositions of some rescued coolies. 
One of the victims had been a capable schoolmaster, but as a result of 
the terror induced by the coolie crimps he had become a conlirmed idiot. 
In 1867 the Judge had denied the possibility of regulating the traf&c. 


The allegations were serious, and Governor Macdonnell 
was requested by the Colonial Office to report on the matter. ^ 
In reply 2 he declared that the Chinese passengers on the 
American ships clearing from Hong-Kong were as free and 
unrestricted as any Europeans or Americans. If there were 
such emigration agents as the Portuguese maintained, " they 
are not known." He declared that " such emigration con- 
ferred the greatest benefit on emigrants, whether male or 
female, by improving their position beyond what would have 
been at all probable or possible had they remained in China." 
He admitted that during the war in China and for a limited 
period afterwards armed men watched at the gangways and 
companions of river steamers, but in 1872 this precaution 
was taken only " under peculiar circumstances." No 
reference was made to the allegation that residents in Hong- 
Kong habitually profited by the Macao trade. The Gover- 
nor's defence reads as a weak confession, though it was 
accepted by the Colonial Office, March 18, 1872. But the 
matter did not end there. The attention of the Colonial 
Office had been directed to the alleged making, by residents 
of Hong-Kong, of the iron gratings, barricades, etc., employed 
in the cooHe service. ^ By Section XXVII. Hong-Kong 
Ord. I, 1867, the fittings of any vessel for conveyance of 
emigrants, whether to be shipped at Hong-Kong or any 
other port, were made subject to the approval of the Harbour- 
master, who was empowered to go on board at all reasonable 

^ C. 504, 1872, Enc. I in No. 10. 2 jfcj^, 

^ The nature of the precautions taken on the emigrant vessels for the 
control of the emigrants attracted particular attention after the lurid 
tragedy of the Don Juan. The vessel left Macao May 4, 1871, with 650 
emigrants. On the 6th it took fire. After making some attempt to check 
the flames, the captain and crew abandoned ship. With the exception 
of a few coolies on deck, most of whom were in chains, the others were 
imprisoned below, the iron gratings that covered the three hatches being 
all locked. After half an hour the fore-hatch was burst open by the 
tortured prisoners. Hundreds had already perished, overcome with 
smoke or flames. Many more were trampled to death in the wild stampede 
for freedom. Of the 650 emigrants some 50 were saved (C. 504, 1872, 
Enc. I in No. i). 

The Don Juan was only one of a long series of tragedies at sea, a list 
of which, forwarded by Sir B. Robertson, 1874, involved fifteen British 
ships (mainly in 1852-3), two American, three Peruvian, six French, one 
Dutch, five Italian, one Belgian, one Salvador. " A fearful record it is 
. . . indeed, I venture to say it could not be matched in the palmiest 
days of the African slave trade." — (C. 1212 (1875), Enc. 3 in No. 6). 


times to inspect such vessels. Sir A. Kennedy, on assuming 
the office of Governor of Hong-Kong, reported that the 
machinery for such administration was very imperfect. It 
was a usual practice for the iron gratings, etc., to be made 
in port and fitted at sea. " Your Dispatch strongly confirms 
the opinion as to the necessity of fresh legislation," ^ the 
Colonial Secretary wrote December 17, 1872. As a result, 
Governor Kennedy introduced three Ordinances into the 
Hong-Kong Assembly to deal more effectively with the 
alleged abuses. Ord. 3, of 1873, gave the Harbour-master 
extensive powers of regulation, and iron fittings for passenger 
ships were expressly forbidden. Ord. 5, of 1873, required 
every ship fitting and provisioning in Hong-Kong for the 
emigrant service to first obtain a licence from the Governor. 
It was made an offence for any person to assist in provisioning 
any unlicensed ship preparing for such emigrant service. 
Ord. 6, of 1873, provided better protection for Chinese women 
and female children, the sale of whom for the Californian 
market was a notorious fact. It expressly forbade the 
decoying of persons from China to Hong-Kong for the 
purpose of shipment from some outside port (as e.g., Macao). 

The three Ordinances were directed actually though not 
nominally against the Macao trade. As soon as the Queen's 
confirmation of Ord. 5, 1873, was received in Hong-Kong 
(August 23, 1873) the seven ^ emigrant ships fitting in Hong- 
Kong for the Macao emigration were ordered to leave the 
harbour. They made their way to the Whampoa anchorage. 
But by the activity of Sir B. Robertson, British Consul, 
Canton, orders were immediately issued by Viceroy Juilin 
that all vessels destined for the carriage of coolies and 
belonging to non-Treaty Powers were to leave the anchorage. 
In future only emigrant vessels belonging to Treaty Powers 
would be permitted to use it, and they only by licence 
(Sept. 6, 1873). A general Proclamation on the subject was 
issued October 17, 1873.^ 

The effect on the Macao coolie trade of the closing of 

1 C. 829. 1873, No. 5. 

* One Italian, one Belgian, four Peruvian, and one Portuguese. 

3 C. 908 (1874), Enc. 2 in No. 11. 


Hong-Kong and Whampoa to Macao emigrant ships would 
in itself have been serious. But the Portuguese Government 
had decided to close Macao altogether to the traffic, and 
on December 29 the Governor's Proclamation (89) was 
issued prohibiting all coolie shipments after a period of 
three months. At the end of March, 1874, contract emigra- 
tion from Macao ceased. The abuses of the Macao system 
are too obvious for comment. Recruitment by the agency 
of Chinese crimps gave occasion to a cruelty that beggars 
description. But there is no reason to suppose that the 
Governors of Macao were not sincere in their attempts to 
mitigate the evils, and especially should respect be given 
to the able and honest administration of Admiral de Souza. 
There was no doubt some truth in Senhor Corvo's remark 
that Portugal had been " more than once unjustly treated 
by artificially excited opinions not always animated by 
sincerity and disinterestedness." ^ 

The Macao traffic having been terminated, contract 
emigration could only take place at the Treaty ports under 
the terms of the Convention, 1866, or at Hong-Kong if the 
destination of the emigrants was a British colony. Until 
the end of the century, however, the Treaty ports were 
effectively closed to the system by the Chinese Government 
which, after the presentation of the report on the Cuban 
abuses, demanded guarantees 2 for the welfare of its subjects 

1 C. 1212 (1874-5), Enc. I in No. 7. 

Senhor Corvo declared the real interests of Macao had been sacrificed 
to an illusory prosperity which, while destroying the energy of the popu- 
lation, discredited the Portuguese name. At the same time relations with 
China were becoming less and less cordial, and might come to open hostility 
were the traf&c not abandoned. The general commerce of Macao had 
become almost stationary, while the coolie traffic had absorbed its whole 
activity, destroying its natural sources of wealth. 

General commerce, 1864, 10,552 contos of reis. 
1865, 10,954 .. .. .. 

1871, 10,889 „ „ „ 
Average total annual commerce : 

1864-6, 10,882 contos of reis. 
1870-2, 8,915 „ ,, „ 
The emigration business was concentrated in a few hands, and nearly 
all the gains went into foreign pockets. Governor of Macao (Enc. 2 in No. 7) : 
" A great reform dictated by morality, by the exigencies of our interna- 
tional relations, and by the dignity of the nation will have been effected." 
'^ In thanking the Anti-Slavery Society for their continued interest in 
the welfare of his countrymen under contracts of service abroad, the 


that the prospective employers or their Governments were 
unwilHng to provide. For a further supply of Chinese 
coolies the planters of the British West India colonies were 
thus forced to rely on the operation of the contract system 
at Hong-Kong. But the opposition of the Foreign Office 
to a continuation of Chinese contract emigration and the 
pressure of public opinion aroused by the Anti-Slavery 
Society in Great Britain were effective, and the British 
West India Emigration Agency, the activities of which 
had been suspended since 1874, was finally closed down. 

The majority of the Chinese coolies shipped to the West 
Indies under British contracts, 1852-74, were destined for 
British Guiana. That they proved valuable labourers in 
the latter colony is evidenced by the Report of the Com- 
mission of Inquiry, 1871. Their worth was tested in both 
I field and factory labour. The success of the vacuum-pan 
[ method of refining was generally attributed to their neat 
! skill. They were more intelligent than either Indian or 
I negro, and more independent. They were an order-loving 
people, though formidable in disturbance if convinced of 
injustice. They preferred, when possible, to work indepen- 
dently, but in British Guiana the opportunity of so doing 
was very limited on account of the almost complete Portu- 
guese monopoly of the small retail trade. From such an 
appreciation of their work it might naturally be expected 
that the 14,002 Chinese introduced into the colony 1853-79, ^ 
together with the additional 1,718 who entered it 1880-1913, 
would make a distinct impression on its history. Why 
they have not done so is explained by Mr. Cecil Clementi 

Marquis Tseng assured them, July, 1886, that the Chinese Government 
was now thoroughly alive to the abuses of the system, and was no longer 
prepared to allow its subjects to proceed to foreign countries under con- 
ditions which would deprive them of their liberty of action on arrival. (See 
" Anti-Slavery Reporter," August and September, 1886.) 

1 Contract emigration was suspended in 1874, but in 1879 was made 
an experiment to introduce Chinese without contract, one-third of the 
expense being borne by the State and two-thirds by the planters. On 
December25, 1878, the Dartmouth left Hong- Kong with 437 men, 47women, 
and 32 children. Of the 514 allotted to various estates in British Guiana 
on March 21, 1879, on July i, 18S0, there were left on the estates 252 
(49 per cent.). The results of the experiment were not sufficiently remun- 
erative to the planters, and it was not repeated. See Mr. Cecil Clementi's 
The Chinese in British Guiana, p. 272. 


in his valuable book The Chinese in British Guiana. 
The statistics given by Mr. Clementi show that there landed 
in British Guiana, 1853-79, 14.002 Chinese immigrants, and 
1880-1913, 1718. The Chinese community in the colony 
numbered : 

In 1881, 5,234, of whom 3,905 were males and 1,329 females. 
„ 1891, 3,714 „ „ 2,583 „ „ 1,131 

„ 1911, 2,622 „ „ 1,481 „ „ 1,141 

Out of a total number of 15,720 Chinese immigrants, of 
whom 13,485 were males and 2,235 females, there remained 
in the colony in 191 1, 2,622, of whom 1,481 were males and 
1,141 females. The rapid decrease was due not to any 
unusual mortality nor to a large excess of the death-rate 
over the birth-rate, but to a subsequent emigration of the 
immigrants. " What has been taking place during these 
years," explains Mr. Clementi, " is a natural readjustment 
of the male population to a number approximately equal 
to that of the female population." ^ Many of the Chinese 
immigrants who remained in the colony achieved wealth 
and honour, and reared worthy children as their successors. 
But the experiment of introducing Chinese labour, though 
generally successful as a temporary economic expedient, 
failed to have a permanent social value, for the reason that 
" it was neither initiated nor pursued in the interests of 

1 The Chinese in British Guiana, see discussion, pp. 324-6. 



Although the British Government had not ratified the 
Emigration Convention, 1866, it still held that British 
Treaty rights under the Convention of Peking (Art. V.) 
remained unimpaired, and " may be at any time hereinafter 
invoked." An occasion for so invoking them did not arise 
until the Rand " crisis," 1903-4. 

Chinese coolies were introduced on to the Rand to meet 
a deficiency in the labour force after the Boer War. The 
extent of and the reasons for such a deficiency were made 
known in the evidence given before the Labour Commission, 
appointed July 21, 1903, by the Transvaal Government.^ 
It was estimated that in September, 1903, there were only 
59,078 2 natives employed on the gold mines of the Wit- 
watersrand, whereas in 1899 there were some 97,000- 
107,827 3 (representing 91,484 effective labourers). The 
wants of the natives in the kraals were limited and easily 
satisfied. Moreover, native economy was based on a tribal 
land system, so that the annual supply of their labour 
fluctuated according to the harvest yield, although, before 
the war, the supply had been steadily increasing, if not 
always so rapidly as the demand. In addition to the lag 
in supply, it was a general practice among the natives to 
return to their kraals after a few months' labour. As a 
result the different mines had been driven to competitive 
recruiting with rising costs. Moreover, the mine managers 
found themselves under the necessity of continually training 
new boys. Such a labour supply, inadequate, irregular, and 

1 Cd. 1897. 

^ Ibid., Evidence, Chamber of Mines, p. 402. 
3 Cd. 1896, p. 15. 
C.C.E. 161 M 


temporary, was a weak instrument for the rapid expansion 
of the Rand. 

During the war a dehberate attempt had been made by 
the Chamber of Mines to solve the difficulty by the organiza- 
tion, September, 1900, of the Witwatersrand Native Labour 
Association.! Its object was to enable the mines to recruit 
their own native labour through a central organization or 
labour bureau. Competitive recruiting was abandoned. 2 
It was expected that centralized recruiting would make 
possible a decrease in the wages offered to the natives, so a 
wage-cut was agreed upon at 30 per cent, to 50 per cent, of 
the pre-war figure. ^ It was also anticipated that such a 
decrease in wages would force the native to spend more 
time on the mines and less in the kraal. ^ As a further 
measure to regularize supply it was agreed that natives 
should be recruited on a six months' contract. 

But the statistics of 1903 proved the new policy unsuc- 
cessful. The Association had taken into consideration 
neither the effects of the war nor the character of the native. 
During the war it had been difficult for the latter to secure 
cattle, the customary form of capital investment. The 
result was that they were able to live for a long period 
on the high wages paid by the army. The necessity for 
work was thus, for many of the natives, temporarily removed. 
Moreover, the Government, with its policy of rapid recon- 
struction and rehabitation, entered as a competitor in the 
labour market. Agriculture and city work also offered good 
recompense. The reduction in wages on the mines not 
only induced the natives to remain in their kraals or to 
enter other occupations, but sowed the seeds of a suspicion, 
the harvest of which was not yet gathered. " In my opinion 
it is beyond question that the abortive attempt to reduce 
wages is responsible for the deficient supply of labour," ^ 

1 Evidence Mr. Perry, Chairman W^.N.L.A., Cd. 1897, p. 31, Q. 746, 
^Ihid., Q. 843. 

* The Boer Government, at the opening of the war, had actually lowered 
wages of natives by proclamation more than this — hence the action of 
the W.N.L.A. had the appearance of a rise in wages. 

* Sir Percy Fitzpatrick : " My own experience of the ordinary native 
labourers is, the quicker they can earn the means the quicker they go." 
Cd. 1897, Q. 2653. 

5 Mr. Grant, Cd. 1897, p. 334. See also p. 332. Mr. Grant was a 


stated Mr. Grant in 1903. The introduction of a piece-work 
system at the end of 1902 and the return to the pre-war 
schedule, January, 1903, took a long time to counteract 
the influence of the earlier policy. Moreover, the system of 
centralized recruiting by the Association and the institution 
of a six months' contract added to the distrust. Boys 
coming into the country independently of the W.N.L.A. 
were to apply for work not to a particular mine but to the 

" They will then be sent to the mine to which they wish to 
go, provided that this mine has not its average number. . . . 
Otherwise they will be distributed to such mines as have not 
their full average. . . . Should the boys not wish to go to 
such mines, they are at liberty to return home or to seek work 
in other districts, but they will obtain no employment on the 
Witwatersrand mines." 

Mr. Grant stated : " I am aware of very many cases where 
natives have been diverted from the mines to which they 
wished to be sent and allotted to mines to which they did 
not wish to go." ^ Some modifications had been made 
in this rigid policy during 1903 ^ — recruiters being authorized 
to contract natives for any particular mine if the natives 
expressed a wish to go there, and employers being permitted 
to engage natives applying voluntarily at their mine provid- 
ing the Association was notified. Considering the dislike 
expressed by the natives for some of the mines, their distrust 
of any measure that implied coercion, their natural desire 
to be with their friends, the attempt to distribute supply by 
averages had been contrary to common sense. Moreover, 
the six months' contract was distrusted by the natives. 
Mr. Perry, Chairman of the W.N.L.A., admitted to the 
Commission that the six months' contract had an adverse 
effect on recruitment.^ Mr. Grant declared that " any 
attempt to enforce the conditions of contract by law can 
but produce irritation and provide a permanent supply of 
inmates for our gaols." ^ Even before the war mine-work 

I gentleman " whose knowledge of African natives, extending over fifty 
|j years, is second to none." (Minority Report, Cd. 1896, § 13.) 

1 No. 8212, p. 340. 2 jvir. Grant, No. 8204, p. 339. 

s Mr. Perry, p. 33. * Mr. Perry. No. 795, p. 41. 

6 Mr. Grant, p. 333 


had been growing in disrepute. ^ Few attempts had been 
made before 1903 to make it less arduous and more attrac- 
tive. Statistics of accidents and deaths were heavy. Food 
was insufficient and unvaried. Housing conditions were 
bad. Attempts made towards the end of 1903 to improve 
mining conditions naturally took time to affect supply. 
Under the circumstances — the nature of mine work, the 
effects of the war, the policy of the Chamber of Mines' 
W.N.L.A. — Mr. Grant maintained before the Commission 
that no proof had been given that the number of men 
required would not be forthcoming " provided the conditions 
of service are satisfactory not to the employer only but 
also to the employee." ^ General Botha was of the opinion 
that the shortage was the result of abnormal circumstances 
and would improve as the latter diminished.^ " There will 
be a steady though slow improvement," Lord Milner had 
stated to a deputation in June.* The monthly average of 
recruitment during the past half-year by the W.N.L.A. 
had been 7,000,^ making a net increase of some 3,000 a 
month in the number of natives working on the mines. In 
conclusion, it seems evident that the figures of 1899 could 
have been reached in a few months even if recruiting were 
confined to the pre-war sources of supply. Moreover, the 
efficiency of native labour was very much higher in 1903 
than in 1899, mainly owing to the liquor prohibition. 

Nevertheless it is true that this steady increase depended 
on a relaxing of control. The highly centralized cheap- 
labour policy of 1900 had been considerably modified during 

" The unpalatable truth has been demonstrated that the 
native is after all master of the position ; instead of black being 
dependent on white, white is dependent on black, the coveted 

^ Mr. Grant p. 334. Also see Memorandum by General Manager, 
East Rand Proprietary Mines, p. 426. 

2 P. 334. 8 Q. 11220-11222. See also Q. 8207. 

* Cd. 1895, Enclosure in No. 17. ^ Cd. 1897, Q. 873, p. 43. 

^ Ibid., p. 43. Mr. Perry :" 60s. per month is standing wage for all boys 
with the exception of raw boys coming from the East Coast. The latter 
do not necessarily receive minimum wage of 60s. per month, but they 
do receive 45s. when they first come up ; later on, as they get to the work, 
they rise to the 60s. per month. Boys from Northern Transvaal, able- 
bodied boys, receive 60s. at the start." 



position being thus entirely reversed." ^ " He (the native) is 
master of the situation, and is able to dictate terms to the 
industry and ... if the industry is to go on his terms must 
be accepted until the conditions change or an extraneous source 
of supply shall be available." ^ 

But if the shortage of native labour had been due to other 
causes than " ignorance or design," ^ the evidence seems to 
show that it could have been compensated for by the 
introduction of unskilled white labour on the mines under 
favourable conditions. The Chamber of Mines opposed 
such a policy. The cost was argued. In their judgment 
attempts made on five mines to employ such labour proved 
that if white unskilled labour were generally adopted, out 
of seventy-nine companies formerly working at a profit, 
forty-eight would be working at a loss and the profits of 
the remaining thirty-one would be very materially reduced.* 
White men could not be employed as additional to natives, 
because they would not work together. In a short time 
the white men became demoralized or left the mines. 

The conclusions arrived at by the Chamber of Mines were 
declared by Mr. Creswell to be without basis in facts. His 
experience was his argument. Three of the Rand experts 
had drawn up a report,^ November, 1902, on his experiment 
with white labour on the Village Main Reef mines. They 
considered the entire substitution of native labour by 
imskilled whites impracticable, but were of the opinion 
that in certain departments underground and on the surface 
white labour could profitably be employed. " If unskilled 
white labour is adopted to the extent outlined in the fore- 
going, mines should be in as good a position as regards 
profits as in 1899." It was admitted by Mr. Sydney Jen- 
nings that the results of Mr. Creswell's scheme had been 
not a loss on costs but a decrease on profits. " I call it loss 

1 Mr. Grant, Cd. 1897, p. 8174. 

* Memorandum by General Manager of East Rand Proprietary Mines, 
Cd. 1897, p. 426. 

3 Mr. Grant, Cd. 1897, No. 8174. 

* Statement of ChamlDer of Mines, Cd. 1897, p. 403. 

6 It is a matter for comment that this Report, drawn up by three experts 
and unique of its kind, was not laid before the Commission by the Chamber 
of Mines although in its possession, but was extracted in cross-examina- 
tion. Cd. 1897, p. 574. 


when you are paying for work more than what you could 
have got it at before." ^ Given a will to success, Mr. Cres- 
well believed that, with the present native supply eked out 
with white labour, work could be done in 1903 as cheaply 
as in 1899 and eventually much cheaper. When asked to 
explain the apparent discrepancy between the results on 
the Village Main Reef and on the other mines which had 
employed unskilled white labour, he gave it as his opinion ^ 
that wherever white labour had proved unsuccessful the 
conditions had been entirely unfavourable — no less in a 
failure to reorganize management to meet the requirements 
of and to offer incentives to the unskilled whites than in 
the deliberate opposition of the financial authorities in 
Europe to the employment of such labour. 

" The financial authorities at home viewed it at the outset 
with disfavour, being afraid that the employment of a large 
number of white men as labourers would make the labour 
element too strong a factor in economic questions, and when 
representative government was given, in political questions." ^ 

A signed statement was submitted to the Commission 
from a number of the mining engineers, denying that they 
had received communications from London to the effect 
that the financial authorities there viewed the employment 
of unskilled labour with disfavour on political grounds. 
They did not refer to the economic argument.* Mr. Cres- 
well supported his contentions by a letter from the Chairman 
of the Board of the Village Main Reef Company ^ : " The 
feeling seems to be one of fear that if a large number of 
white men are employed on the Rand in the position of 
labourers the same troubles will arise as are now prevalent 
in the Australian colonies." Mr. Wybergh, Commissioner 
of Mines, was also of Mr. Creswell's opinion. He stated 
that Mr. Herman Jennings, one of the leaders of the mining 
industry, had made no secret of his dislike of unskilled white 
labour. He was afraid of strikes.^ 

" Could Mr. Kidd replace the 200,000 native workers by 
100,000 unskilled whites, they would simply hold the govern- 

1 Cd. 1897, No. 13875, p. 610. 2 cd. 1897, N. 103131, p. 581. 

3 Cd. 1897, No. 13131. * Cd. 1897, No. 13836, p. 608. 

B Cd. 1897, No. 13468, p. 593- ® No. 13956. 



ment of the country in the hollow of their hand. I prefer to 
see the more intellectual section of the community at the helm. 
. . . The native is at present, and I hope will long remain, a 
useful intermediary between the white employer and employee ,' ' 

stated Mr. Rudd in a Memorandum.^ The evidence seems 
to support Mr. Creswell's contention that the experiments 
in the employment of unskilled white labour which had 
proved unsuccessful had been carried on under unfavourable 

If the immediate policy of the mining industry after the 
Boer War had been to retrieve the favourable position of 
1899 before entering on a development programme, there 
would have been no " serious crisis " on the Rand in 1903. 
The only condition of a steady improvement in the labour 
supply was the adoption of a more liberal attitude towards 
the natives or the introduction of unskilled white labour 
on to the mines. The measure of the crisis in 1903 would 
then have been the degree of loss in absolute power by the 
management over the labour force. But it is evident that 
large hopes of a quick development had been raised by the 
declaration of war. A forward policy had been at once 
adopted. Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, the representative of a 
powerful group of financiers, stated before the Commission 
in 1903 that it was not sufficient to show that enough labour 
could be obtained to do the work done in 1899. " The 
position of the industry in the past is not our ultimate 
goal . . . it is not sufficient to show that we may get enough 
labour to do the work which we did in 1899." 2 According 
to Mr, C. Hanau, " they had spent since the declaration of 
peace millions of money, 299 fresh companies had been 
floated and millions of money had been found to develop 
the mineral resources of the country." ^ Mr. Hellman 
stated that " the high interests involved, the enormous 
outlay already incurred in development and in magnificent 
equipment, demand that the money so invested be made 
productive without further delay." ^ Development must 

1 Cd. 1896, p. 65. 2 cd. 1897. No. 2748. 

3 Mr. Carl Hanau, Cd. 1896, p. 74. 
* Mr. Hellman, Cd. 1897, p. 423. 


be rapid. Mr. Hellman, General Manager of the East Rand 
Proprietary Mines, was of the opinion that to double the 
life of a mine laid out for exhaustion in a given number of 
years would be to decrease the value of claims and shares 
approximately 50 per cent. " The adoption of such a 
policy would be a tremendous blow to the industry and 
would absolutely destroy the financial position of the country 
and its credit throughout the world. "^ The labour require- 
ments of the industry were reckoned by the determination 
to work as much low grade ore as possible. " There is such 
an enormous quantity of lower grade ore, and there are so 
many extensions that there will always be a great incentive 
to make the most of all kinds of labour." ^ Mr. de Jongh, 
in presenting the statement of the Chamber of Mines, 
assumed the necessity of working the largest possible bulk 
of the lowest possible working ore. " We want to work 
the largest possible bulk of low grade ore." ^ Hence the 
immediate labour requirements were calculated by reckoning 
the number of boys necessary to work the stamps on the 
lowest grade mines (20). Therefore instead of the 91,484 
effective natives employed in 1899, the Chamber of Mines 
estimated that 129,588 were immediately necessary, 1903. 
The requirement for five years hence was given as 365,637. 
When Lord Elgin questioned the Chamber of Mines, 1906, 
why they had then abated their 1903 figure by two-thirds, 
it was admitted that " the totals arrived at (in 1903) in 
regard to present and future requirements were based on 
the expectation of a continuous period of five years of 
work under the most favourable conditions." 

The Chamber of Mines had already incurred heavy 
financial obligations on the prospect of a large forward 
policy. It was for these plans of rapid development that 
the labour supply was insufficient. Mr. Grant admitted 
that the pre-war sources of native supply were inadequate 
to meet this five years' programme unless there was " a 
material change in the native world throughout the conti- 

* Page 462, Nos. 10162-10163. See also Mr. Hamilton's evidence, 

^ Cd. 1897, No. 2813, p. 132. Sir Percy Fitzpatrick. 
' No 9665, p. 438. 


nent." ^ But the existing system of tribal land tenure 
could not be broken up to meet the industrial demands 
of the Transvaal. The Mining directors had based their 
forward policy largely on the prospects of an available 
labour supply in Central Africa. " I started with and 
clung to the belief that we had an unlimited supply in 
Central Africa if we chose to extend our organization and 
incur the expense." 2 "I several times discussed with 
him (Mr. Rhodes) the possibility of pushing on this Cape 
to Cairo railway with the object of opening up the labour 
supply." ^ But the heavy mortality suffered by the first 
group of Central Africans introduced on to the Rand and 
the reluctance shown by the British Government to allow 
any general extension of the field of recruitment in Africa 
made it unlikely that there would be any considerable 
supply from these areas. 

The only immediate alternative was the employment of 
white unskilled labour. But this would entail increased 
costs, threats of industrial unrest. Moreover, white unskilled 
labour did not exist in the Transvaal in any considerable 

In short, as Sir P. Fitzpatrick stated, " cheap labour 
(which for some time to come really means coloured labour) 
has been the basis of South African calculation. It fixes 
the limit of development and determines the pace." ^ For 
a rapid development of the Rand for a large accumulation of 
profits an unlimited supply of cheap, docile and regular 
labour was necessary — but it was wanting. That was the 
Rand crisis of 1903. 

But to understand subsequent events it is necessary to 
appreciate the effects of such a " crisis " on the general 
development of the Transvaal. The Boer War was to have 
been followed by the transformation of a poor Dutch State 
into a prosperous British colony — such was the Imperial 
policy which it was Lord Milner's task to carry into effect. 
An efficient but expensive government had been set up 
immediately after the war. The Boers had been repatriated 

1 Cd. 1897, No. 8644, p. 358. 2 Sir P. Fitzpatrick, No. 2671, p. 124. 
' Sir P. Fitzpatrick, No. 2668, p. 124. * Cd. 1897, p. 120. 


and their farms reconstructed. Schemes for new roads, 
railways, irrigation, harbour works had already been con- 
sidered. " I am weary of reiterating that this country 
wants almost everything in the way of material equipment 
that a civilized country ought to have," Lord Milner 
declared. 1 Agricultural development was to lead to the 
settlement of an increasing number of British colonists on 
the soil of the Transvaal. A strong rural community was 
necessary, " to bring the body into proportion with its 
head." A strong British community was necessary to bind 
the Transvaal close within the Empire. But these large t 
projects waited on an expanding revenue from the Rand. ' 
" The faster we get (the gold) out the greater is the over- 
spill . . . and it is that overspill which benefits the local 
community and fills the coffers of the state. " If the shortage 
of labour were accepted as inevitable the official programme 
for South Africa would have to be recast. Lord Milner 
naturally supported the Imperial policy. He agreed that 
native labour was insufficient for the proposed develop- 
ment and that a " white proletariat " was undesirable 
since the position of the whites among the vast population 
of blacks made it necessary for them to maintain a supe- 
rior standard. So that not only large industrial projects 
but large Imperial projects waited on an increased supply 
of suitable labour for the Rand. 

There was known to be a large surplus population in 
Southern China. The importation of Chinese contract 
labour had been under consideration at different times on 
the west coast of Africa, and a few Chinese had been intro- 
duced by Sir A. Jones into Sierra Leone. In Rhodesia the 
Immigration Ordinances 1901 and 2 had been passed mainly 
with the object of securing Chinese labour, although the 
Secretary of State had not yet named China as a coun- 
try from which such immigration would be permitted. 
According to the Annual Report of the Chamber of 
Mines for 1898 proposals were made in that year for the 
introduction of Chinese labour on to the Rand, but the 
general opinion at the time was that such a course was 

^ Cd. 1895. Enclosure in No. 17. 


inadvisable. After the war the subject was again under 
discussion, and on February 14, 1903, the Witwatersrand 
I Native Labour Association, under the aegis of the Chamber 
of Mines, ^ asked Mr. Ross Skinner to proceed to Cahfornia 
and the Far East to inquire into 

(i) the conditions under which indentured Chinese 
labourers might be employed on the Rand ; 

(2) the possibility of obtaining such labour ; 

(3) its suitabihty to supplement the present inadequate 

Kaffir supply. 
, The question was discussed at the Bloemfontein Conference, 
March, 1903, ^ and a grudging consent won, "if industrial 
development positively requires it, the introduction of 
unskilled labourers under a system of Government control, 
by which provision shall be made for indenture and repatria- 
tion . . . shall be permissible." The active campaign on 
behalf of Chinese labour for the Rand was opened by Sir 
G. Farrar's speech to his employees at Driefontein, March 31, 
1903.3 He explained the conditions on which it was pro- 
posed to effect their introduction. 

These conditions were determined partly by the experience 
of the U.S.A., Canada and Australia in the matter of Chinese 
immigration, but mainly by the attitude of the Transvaal 
people to the Indians in their midst. Many of the Natal 
Indians freed from indenture had entered the Transvaal 
after its retrocession to the Boers 1881. Their liberty to 
acquire property and to trade was questioned by the 
Europeans, and despite the diplomatic attempts of the 
British Government to enforce the claims of its Indian 
subjects — claims secured by Art, XIV. of the London Con- 
vention 1884 — Law 3 of 1885, imposing restrictive measures, 
was passed. An award made by Arbitrators, 1895, and a 
decision of the Supreme Court of Transvaal, 1898, virtually 
abrogated Art. XIV. of the London Convention and the 
rights enjoyed under it by British Indians. The matter 
remained a subject for diplomatic correspondence until the 

1 Cd. 1895. Enclosure in No. 52. 

* Important Conference of Representatives of British Colonies in 
South Africa to discuss general questions of South African interest. 
3 Cd. 1896, p. 66. 


outbreak of the war. The war altered the circumstances. 
For the British Government it was no longer a question of 
enforcing the claims of British Indians against a foreign 
government, but of settling a dispute between opposing 
groups of British subjects. Europeans insisted that the 
Indians were taking advantage of the Peace Preservation 
Ord. 1902 and its Amendments to flood the country. The 
Indians denied it. The Indians objected that they were 
deprived of civil rights, being without power to acquire 
the franchise or to own land, and being liable to segregation. 
The Europeans argued that these restrictions were necessary 
to preserve a European community. ^ FeeUng was already 
tense and bitter in 1903 when Mr. Gandhi, the beloved 
leader, entered on the self-imposed task of educating his 
fellow-countrymen until their moral prestige should enforce 
their civil claims. 2 

Under these circumstances the conditions governing the 
proposed introduction of Chinese labourers were strictly 
determined. The Chinese must not enter the Transvaal 
on the same terms as the Indians had entered Natal. Sir 
G. Farrar admitted it. "I am absolutely at one with you." ^ 
The Chinese would be brought to the Rand to do unskilled 
work — they would in no circumstances be allowed to com- 
pete in the skilled labour market. They would be pro- 
hibited to trade, or to hold land or to exercise any civil 
function. At the end of their service they would be repa- 
triated — scrapped. When the time came that the mines 
could dispense with them, none would be left in the Trans- 
vaal. Meanwhile they would be the means of opening 
skilled work for increasing numbers of British workmen. 
The superiority of the white race would be maintained. 
The " servile state " made a necessity by the vast black 
population would be preserved. 

The case for Chinese labour had been stated. By July, 

1 An excellent summary of the position of Indians in Cd. 3308, No. 3. 
Governor of Transvaal and Secretary of State. 

2 To this end Mr. Gandhi, 1903, started the weekly journal, Indian 
Opinion, and established the little Phoenix Community. His policy of 
non-co-operation was not developed until later. See An Indian Patriot in 
South Africa, by J. Doke, 1909. 

3 Cd. 1896, p. 70. 


1903, the individual members of the Chamber of Mines had 
" almost all " expressed themselves in favour of the importa- 
tion, although the Chamber as a body refrained from giving 
an opinion until after the report of the Labour Commission 
was issued, lest it " prejudice the evidence " ^ of the Chamber 
, of Mines. The Labour Importation Association was 
organized, nevertheless, and an active and well-financed 
campaign opened. 

The Labour Importation Association had the support of 
Lord Milner. He was waiting on the " overspill " of the 
Rand. Under the circumstances, he declared, " there is 
absolutely no reason that I can see in nature or common 
sense why we should not use indentured labourers . . . for 
purposes for which we may require them." ^ He endorsed 
Sir G. Farrar's statement that an importation of Chinese 
labourers would increase the amount of work available for 
skilled British labour, " The strongest argument, it seems 
to me, in favour of unskilled Asiatic labour is that it will 
open up a field for the employment of a vastly increased 
number of whites and of weU-paid whites." ^ Lord MiLner 
did not want a " white proletariat " in the Transvaal.) 
Chinese labour was to supply him with the means of achieving 
his Imperial purpose. 

There was, however, another aspect to this question of 
Chinese labour. It aroused strong opposition among the 
Transvaal community — as distinct from the Mining leaders 
and the Government officials.* " The White League," the 
" African Labour League," the " Trades and Labour 
Council " and the less " tame " Boers under General Botha 
organized an anti-Chinese campaign. They did not allow 
the chief argument of the Rand leaders. The latter had 
assumed their right to extract the gold on which they had 
secured a lien as rapidly and as profitably as possible, 
without consideration for any larger issues than the securing 
of suitable capital and labour instruments necessary for 
the task. The Anti-Chinese organizers denied the right that 
had been assumed. They objected to the foreign capitalists 

1 Cd. 1896, p. 75. - Cd. 1895, Enclosure in No. 17. ^ /j^^, 

* Reports of Public Meetings and Resolutions, Cd. 1895. 


utilizing their country's resources for their own ends and 
by their own means without reference to communal pur- 
pose.^ " The mineral wealth of the Transvaal is the pro- 
perty of the people of the Transvaal, both white and 
coloured, and not of the foreign investor, who is entitled 
to nothing more than good interest on the capital he 
invests." - They declared that the rate of progress of 
the Rand industry must be determined not by the power 
of the capitalists to use any means to their end, but by the 
permanent interests of the Transvaal Community. There 
would be a steady development without Chinese labour — 
and it was by a steady development, not by an artificial 
stimulation that the permanent prosperity of the Transvaal 
would be secured. Let Lord Milner modify his Imperial 
project. What guarantee had the people that the Chinese 
would be kept to unskilled work ? What guarantee that 
they would be isolated from the community ? Could they 
be repatriated ? Could their habits ? Could, for instance, 
their opium habit ? The Transvaal should be developed as 
a white man's country. They declared that it was undesir- 
able to increase the coloured population of South Africa. 
The Chinese, if introduced, would hoard their wages, to 
spend in China. With most of the Rand wealth going in 
interest and dividends to Europe and in wages to China, 
how much " overspill " would be left for the Transvaal ? 
Its best interests required that the development of the Rand 
should be regulated by the combined supply of white and 
native labour. It was for the people to decide. Let the 
Rand leaders wait for the decision of a Responsible Govern- 

The subject of a labour supply for the Rand had become 
" a centre of public controversy — the staple topic of conver- 
sation." A strong opposition having been aroused. Lord 
Milner was unwilhng that an Importation Ordinance should 
be introduced into the Legislative Council unless it was 

1 Cd. 1895, Enclosure to No. 17, Mr. Hay to Lord Milner : " We colonial 
born men feel that our country is being utilized by capitalists for the 
purpose of making money to spend the money they make outside the 

2 Minority Report, Cd. 1896, p. 61, § 75. 


shown by a Commission that the labour required for the 
development of the Transvaal could not be obtained from 
Africa. The Commission was appointed July 2, 1903. The 
terms of reference were carefully drafted. The Commission 
was to inquire into the amount of labour necessary for the 
requirements of the agricultural, mining and other industries 
of the Transvaal, and to ascertain how far it was possible to 
obtain an adequate supply of labour to meet such require- 
ments from Central and Southern Africa, Any reference 
to Chinese labour was thus entirely excluded from discus- 
sion. ^ The Commission sat thirty- two days to take evidence, 
i and ninety-two witnesses were examined. But the nature 
j of the Majority and Minority Reports, issued November 19, 
j was a foregone conclusion. The Majority Report (of 10) 
i declared the requirements of the Mines to be such that 
j they could not be met by the native supply and that white 
j labour as a substitute was an economic impossibility. The 
I Minority Report (of 2) declared that the rate of Rand 
development must be determined by the permanent interests 
of the community and proportioned to the supply of native 
j and white labour. The Majority Report determined the 
i issue. Already, on September 22, 1903, Mr. Ross Skinner 
I had written his report ^ on the prospects of obtaining 
I Asiatic labour for the Mines. During his tour of investi- 
gation he had discussed the subject in California. He had 
visited the coolie depots in the Straits Settlements. He 
had heard the opinion of officials in the East. In his 
report he pointed out the important economic value of the 
Chinese labourers in the early development of CaUfornia. 
But he urged the necessity of stringent control over any 
cooUes who might be introduced into the Transvaal. The 
Transvaal legislature " should make it absolutely certain 
that the immigrant is securely indentured and his repatria- 
tion rendered compulsory on the termination of such inden- 
ture." He warned the Chamber of Mines against the guild 
system which obtained amongst the Chinese. The power 
of the Guilds might become a danger, especially if the 
Chinese beUeved that the mines were entirely dependent 

^ Cd. 1896. p. I. - Cd. 1895, Enclosure in No. 52. 



on their unskilled labour. He therefore advised the Chamber 
of Mines to employ as many Kafhrs as possible. He did not 
anticipate any difficulty in recruitment. The knowledge 
that the Government of the Transvaal approved of the 
importation of Chinese indentured coolies and " will create 
a Department to look after their welfare and see that the 
conditions of the contracts are being fulfilled on both sides, 
will, more than anything else, cause the Chinese authorities, 
the Hong-Kong Government and consular authorities to 
look with favour on the scheme." He pointed out that it 
was a serious undertaking " to bring into a country a large 
number of people of an alien race, whose whole idea of 
civilization and manner of living " was different to that 
of the Transvaal community. 

" Whilst utilizing the labour proposed to get over present 
difficulties, the policy of the country and of the mines should 
be the augmentation of the Kaffir labour supply by every means 
possible, looking forward to the time, distant though it may be, 
when South Africa can supply her own native requirements for 
both skilled and unskilled work." 

On November 16, Lieut.-Governor Lawley had forwarded 
a draft ordinance to Mr. Lyttleton — the introduction of the 
ordinance being contingent on the adoption by the Legis- 
lative Council of the policy of Asiatic labour, and on the 
sanction of the Imperial Government to such a course. ^ 
While Lord Milner was on leave in England (August 5- 
December 10) he discussed Chinese importation with Sir 
Frank Swettenham, Governor of the Straits Settlements, 
and long- experienced in Chinese affairs. On Lord Milner 's 
return to the Transvaal, Sir G. Farrar moved a resolution 
(December 30, 1903) for the introduction of the necessary 
legislation. The resolution was adopted 2 and the Trans- 
vaal Labour Importation Ordinance introduced. The 
Ordinance as passed by the Legislative Council provided 
for the introduction of non- European labourers from outside 
Africa South of 12° north. No person might introduce 
such labourers without first obtaining a licence from the 
Lieut.-Governor. The labourers must be under contract — the 

^ Cd. 1895, No- 72- ^ Only four members voted against it. 


contract to be valid for three years. On the expiry of the 
first period the contract might be renewed by mutual 
agreement for a second and similar time. A contract might 
be transferred by the importer only with the sanction of 
the Lieut. -Governor, and on condition that no payment 
had been made between the interested parties other than 
for the expenses of introduction. The imported labourer 
was not to be employed save in the Rand mines, and on 
unskilled work. He must not be employed on any skilled 
work, and particularly not in the fifty-five trades and occupa- 
tions specified by schedule. He might acquire neither 
directly nor indirectly any liquor, mining or trading licences ; 
nor any leasehold nor property rights. While in the Trans- 
vaal he must reside on the premises on which he was 
employed. He was prohibited from leaving such premises 
without a proper permit. With a permit he might absent 
himself for a period not longer than forty-eight hours. Any 
labourer leaving his mine premises must carry both his 
passport and permit. If he failed to produce these on the 
demand of any official appointed under the Ordinance he 
might be arrested without warrant and fined £10, or in 
default imprisoned for one month. Desertion or refusal 
to carry out any of the terms of, the contract would be 
punished as penal offences. The Superintendent appointed 
under the Ordinance was given power to repatriate any 
labourer convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprison- 
ment without the option of a fine. At the end of a first, 
or if the contract was renewed, the second period of service, 
the labourer was to be returned to his country of origin. 
If he refused to return he might be arrested without warrant 
and fined or imprisoned, after which, if he again refused 
to return, he might be forcibly repatriated. The same 
applied to the wife and children of any labourer who might 
be introduced with the labourer by the importer. In the 
event of a labourer's death, his wife and children were to 
be returned to China. Before securing a licence to import 
labourers, the importer must first enter into a bond to pay 
the expenses of repatriation. Provision was made for the 
appointment of a Superintendent and staff required for 

C.C.E. ^ N 


the general administration of the Ordinance. The Lieut.- 
Governor was also empowered to make such regulations as 
were necessary, i7iter alia for the execution, registration and 
proper enforcement of contracts, and for the proper care 
of the labourers, for the inspection of their premises, for the 
protection of their property and rights. 

The Labour Importation Ordinance of 1904 compares 
curiously with the Emigration Convention of 1866. In 
1904 the term of service had been reduced to a first period 
of three years ; the right of repatriation, on which Prince 
of Kung had insisted and which the British Government 
had refused, was made a necessity. It had a penal sanction ; 
it might be effected by force. Any colonizing element 
obtaining in the West Indian immigration had been entirely 

The Ordinance had passed the Transvaal Legislative 
Council. That Council was a nominated assembly of official 
and non-oificial members. The bitter popular opposition 
to the importation of Chinese had been represented by the 
four members who had voted against Sir G. Farrar's Reso- 
lution — an impotent minority. But there is evidence that 
the popular anger had become less intense. When forward- 
ing the Ordinance to London, Lord Milner wrote, 

" With the exception of certain trade societies, which have 
little influence even with the working men, there is no one left 
to oppose Asiatic labour. You have in favour of it the munici- 
palities, the Chamber of Commerce, converted from a majority 
of 51 to 5 against to a majority of 51 to 11 for — the great body 
of white (skilled) miners, the whole professional class, four 
Christian churches and a unanimous press." 

A petition heavily signed in favour of introduction was 
presented by Sir G. Farrar to the Legislative Council. It 
is difficult to estimate the value of such an apparent change 
in popular opinion. The Chamber of Mines was in a position 
to threaten an owners' strike. The long drought of 1903 
may have strengthened the contention that the Transvaal 
was on the " verge of total ruin." The fettering of the 
Chinese to unskilled work no doubt satisfied the skilled and 
trading classes, hostile only from the fear of economic com- 


petition. For the Churches it was an evangeUcal opportu- 
nity. The Press was unanimous — after Mr. Monypenny, 
the brilhant editor of the Star, had been dismissed. The 
Labour Importation Association had been well-financed and 
highly organized. Sir G. Farrar admitted that the petition 
he presented was, like all petitions, the result of skilful 
organization. The Witwatersrand Trades and Labour 
Council complained to the Colonial Office, " It has been 
brought to the Council's notice that undue pressure is being 
exercised by the leading officials on the mines to induce 
employees to sign papers favouring the importation of 
Asiatics." ^ It is a curious coincidence that both Mr. 
Creswell and Mr. Wybergh, the advocates of white unskilled 
labour, found it necessary to resign their positions. General 
Botha continued to oppose the Ordinance, but refused to 
organize a petition — there being no responsible Government 
to which to present it.^ The apparent change may have 
been the artfficial result of skilful engineering and economic 
pressure. The Chamber of Mines and the Legislative Coun- 
cil continued to oppose any suggestion for a Referendum. 
Yet, artfficial or genuine, there was an apparent change. 
Active hostiUty, as expressed in public meetings and petitions, 
ceased. Lord Milner was able to forward the Ordinance as 
an expression of the will of the Transvaal Community. 

The Transvaal being a Crown Colony, the ultimate respon- 
sibility for the Ordinance rested with the British Govern- 
ment. Indeed, the subject had become something of an 
Imperial question. The Dominions had helped to v/in the 
War, and claimed a voice in the Peace. The Cape repre- 
sentatives had given a grudging consent at the Bloemfontein 
Conference to the introduction of Chinese if it became an 
economic necessity. They now held such necessity not 
proven. Lord Milner accused them of using a Transvaal 
question for a cry in their coming elections. The continued 
resolutions and petitions sent from the Cape Government 
and people to the Colonial Office were dismissed by him 
as so much political capital.^ There may, however, have 
been some force in the argument that the ordinance would 

1 Cd. 1895, No. 32. a Cd. 1899, No. 7. ^ cd. 1899, p. 6. 


prove an obstacle to South African federation — it would 
introduce " a servile element destitute of rights or interests 
either in the present or future of South Africa, — a highly 
discordant element between the European communities 
which will certainly complicate, if not altogether prevent, 
the union of the colonies." ^ 

Australian and New Zealand opinion was no less strong. 
Australia had been told that the war was a miners' war, 
but not for Chinese miners. " The truth, if it had been 
told, would have presented ... a very different appeal," 
declared the Australian Prime Minister. On January 19, 
1904, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the 
Premier of New Zealand had telegraphed to Pretoria, 

" Our experience with the Chinese shows that however strin- 
gent the conditions of their introduction and employment may 
be made, yet it is practically impossible to prevent many and 
serious evils arising. Moreover, such introduction creates 
vested interests on the part of employers which render it very 
difficult to terminate the practice once it has been sanctioned." ^ 

The urgent protests of these Dominions do not seem to 
have had any influence on the Imperial decision in this 
matter considered as local to the Transvaal. It was other- 
wise, however, with the opposition of the Liberal and 
Labour parties in the House of Commons. In debate they 
presented another aspect of the " Chinese question," that 
had apparently escaped the attention of both parties in 
the Transvaal, occupied more exclusively with their own 
particular interests. It had formed no part of the objection 
urged by the Cape Colony, Austraha and New Zealand. 

On February 16 an Amendment was moved to the Address 
in Reply to the effect that the Ordinance should not be 
sanctioned until responsible government had been estab- 
lished. On the 17th the closure and division (330 v. 172) 
terminated the discussion. It was reopened by Dr. Mc- 
Namara on 22nd in a motion for adjournment. He was 
supported by Liberal and Labour Members. During the 
debate the members of the Opposition declared that the 

1 Cd. 1895, No. 29. Minute of Ministers, Cape Govt. 
- Cd. 1941. Enclosure in No. 26. 


Transvaal could not be regarded as a self-governing colony 
on which full responsibility rested. It was not self-govern- 
ing. The House of Commons could not shelve its responsi- 
bility. Was it fair to have such a proposal flung at the 
House without full opportunity of examining the details ? i 
The Ordinance transformed a Contract of Service into a 
status of serfdom. The Regulations must be awaited — they 
were vital. The labourer's consent was not required under 
the Ordinance for the transfer of his contract. He was 
given no power to terminate the latter. The maximum 
length of the working day had not been determined — nor 
the number of working days in the year. No provision had 
been made for the fixing of a minimum rate of wages. The 
labourer had no power of appeal to a magistrate against 
his records kept by the employer. He was given no right 
to be accompanied by his wife and children. His interests 
had not yet been considered. Mr. Lyttelton (Secretary of 
State for the Colonies) promised that these contract-rights 
should be safeguarded in the Regulations. Then, it was 
argued by the members of the Opposition, let the Regulations 
be awaited. " This House cannot delegate a Trust," 
declared Mr, Asquith. 

On February 22, Mr. Lyttelton telegraphed to Lord 
Milner that he could not advise His Majesty's consent to 
the Ordinance until the Regulations had been drafted. ^ 
Mr. Evans, Protector of Chinese, Straits Settlements, had 
been invited to the Transvaal to assist in the drafting of 
the Regulations. He arrived on February 20 and, with the 
Attorney- General, set to work at once. The pledges made 
by Mr. Lyttelton to the House had already been forwarded 
to Lord Milner. The Regulations were telegraphed in 
outline February 23, and in extenso March 8.^ They 
provided for the appointment of Government officials in 
China to supervise the recruitment of the labourers, and to 
explain the terms of the contract ; the labourer was given 
power to terminate his contract of service at any time 

^ A full copy of the Reports of the Commission was not issued in London 
until February 14. 

2 Cd. 1941, No. 35. 3 Cd. 1986, No. 10. 


without assigning any reason — on repaying to the importer 
the costs of introduction and repatriation ; the sanction of the 
Lieut. -Governor to a transfer of contract was to be given 
only on receipt of a certificate signed by the Superintendent 
of Labour and the labourer testifying to the latter's consent ; ^ 
every labourer was entitled to be accompanied by his wife 
and children under ten years at the expense of the importer, 
or to have them introduced after his arrival into the colony 
if their names and addresses had been registered by him 
with the officials before whom the contract was signed ; 2 
the labourer was to be returned to the port of embarkation. ^ 
No clause prohibiting corporal punishment was introduced 
as it was already an offence against the Transvaal Law. 
Mr, Lyttelton's pledges to the House had been generally 
embodied — except that no provision was made for a rate 
of wages. On March 11, Mr. Lyttelton telegraphed to Lord 
Milner that the Ordinance would not be disallowed. The 
Ordinance and Regulations had been accepted by the 
Transvaal Legislative Council and British Government. 
But one further effort was made by the Opposition in the 
British House of Commons to prevent the institution of a 
system of Chinese contract labour on the Rand. 

On March 21, Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman moved a vote 
of censure on Mr. Balfour's Government. The subsequent 
debate was vigorous. The Government had promised 
smiling homes for British families in the Transvaal as soon 
as the " semi-barbarous civilization and the effete Govern- 
ment of the Boers " had been swept away. They were now 
faced with the fiasco of having conquered a country which 
they could not colonize. The House was asked to commit 
itself to an economic creed of low wages and servile labour. 
Why not introduce Chinese to work out the old Cornish 
mines ? Let the Rand mines increase their white labour. 
Such a policy might lower the profits of the richer mines 
and perhaps delay the working of the poorer ones, but an 

^ This meant that the contract could not be signed for the Labour 
Importation Association, but only for each group of mines. 

^ Only agreed to after further correspondence. 

^ As result of suggestion from Chinese Ambassador in London, to whom 
Ordinance had been forwarded. 


enormous quantity of white labour would be thus absorbed 
to form the nucleus of the future nation of South Africa. 
The Chinese might perhaps be better off in South Africa 
than in China. But was the misery of China to become 
the standard of British rule ? Manual Labour would be 
dishonoured ; the contempt of the white for the coloured 
races intensified ; the sense of separation and antagonism 
strengthened. The problem would be even more serious. 
No wage rate had been fixed. Was Chinese labour to 
undercut Kaffir ? And if so, was there to be a gradual 
displacement of Kaffir for Chinese in South Africa ? What 
would be the effect on the development of the native races ? 
The Ordinance and Regulations in many features resembled 
slavery in so far as they handed over human beings to the 
custody of their masters and declared them in effect, if 
not in terms, to be outside the pale of human society. 

The Government denied the establishment of " this 
precious system of slavery which is producing so great a 
sensation throughout the country." Mr. Lyttelton refuted 
the arguments against Chinese laboiu: as cheap labour or 
as calculated to undercut the Kaffirs. He stated, on the 
authority of Rand financiers in London, that the Chinese 
would receive at least 2s. a day — an amount which the 
Chamber of Mines were, however, unwilling to pay, and 
which after several communications between Lyttelton and 
Milner was reduced to a minimum of is. a day, to be raised 
to IS. 6d. if within six months the average coolie pay was 
not equal to £2 los.^ The Government approved the Ordi- 
nance on the distinct understanding that Chinese labour 
was to be a temporary measure and an addition to, not 
a substitute for, native labour. The vote of censure was 
lost (242 V. 299). 

But the Ordinance could not be put into effect pending 
agreement with the Chinese Government. Regulations for 

^ This modification was regarded by some of Mr. Lyttelton 's political 
opponents as a serious breach of faith. It was agreed to by the Colonial 
Secretary upon representations from Lord Milner that the Chinese coolies 
would not work well if a high minimum was secured. Piece-work was 
desirable. Mr. Lyttelton insisted that classes of labour to which piece- 
work was not applicable should not be paid at lower rates than existing 
scale corresponding to schedule of mining wages. 


the emigration of Chinese subjects to British territory pro- 
vided for by the Convention of Pekin and not ratified, 1866-9, 
had now to be drawn up as between the two Governments. 
The Chinese Government had evidently agreed to regard 
the Emigration Convention, 1866, as null and void, for on 
October 23, 1903, the Prince Ching, on receipt of a note 
from Chang Ta Jen, Minister in London, suggested ^ that 
Regulations should be framed by the British Foreign Office 
in concert with the Chinese Minister Plenipotentiary. It 
was in view of these pending negotiations that, February 4, 
1904, the Ordinance was submitted by the Secretary of 
State to Chang Ta Jen for any suggestions he might desire 
to make. ... " Whether this Ordinance is in your opinion 
one on which Regulations acceptable to the Chinese Govern- 
ment could be framed." 2 The suggestions made by the 
Chinese Minister in reply were either already met by pro- 
visions of the Transvaal Law or embodied in the Regulations 
of the Ordinance — with the exception that no provision was 
made giving power to the Consul of the country of the 

" to visit the mines and inspect the places prepared for the 
accommodation of the immigrants at all reasonable times, and 
to make representation to the authorities on the subject of any 
matter affecting the comfort and well-being of the immigrant 
which may appear to him necessary." ^ 

To this proposal the Chamber of Mines strongly objected 
on the ground that any Consul appointed would most 
probably be a local trader, such appointment being certain 
to cause friction. * 

During April representatives of the Foreign Office, the 
Colonial Office and the Chinese Embassy met to draft the 
necessary Emigration Convention. Every effort was made 
by the British Minister to hasten an agreement — the Cham- 
bers of Mines, Trades and Commerce in the Transvaal pro- 
testing against the long delay. During the negotiations 
the Chinese Minister was in continuous telegraphic communi- 
cation with the Pekin Government, which " unexpectedly 

1 Cd. 1945. Enclosure in No. i. 2 q^ 1945, No. 5. 

» Cd. 1945, No. 6. * Cd. 2026, No. 2. 


assumed an attitude that opened up an endless vista of 
blackmailing diplomacy and wearisome procrastination — a 
terrible anxiety to Mr. Lyttelton." ^ The Convention was 
not signed until May 13,2 though the special points in dispute 
have not been disclosed. The Regulations were made 
general. When Chinese immigrants were required in any 
British colony or Protectorate the Chinese Government 
was to be notified : " The Chinese Government shall there- 
upon, without requiring further formalities, immediately 
instruct the local authorities at the specified Treaty port to 
take all steps necessary to facilitate emigration." A 
salaried Chinese official was to be appointed at the port of 
embarkation — his duties being almost identical with the 
duties of the Chinese Inspector under Mr. Austin's scheme 
(1859). Neither the length of contract nor the right of 
repatriation was determined, though it was stipulated that 
where a return passage was provided it should be to the 
port of embarkation. Under no circumstances was the 
employer to have the right to transfer a contract without 
the free consent of the labourer and of his Consul or Vice- 
Consul. It was declared competent for the Emperor of 
China to appoint a Consul or Vice-Consul to the territory 
to which emigration was directed in order to watch over 
the interests and well-being of the Chinese subjects, but it 
was agreed in a formal letter attached to the Convention 
that the Consul should be exclusively in the service of the 
Chinese Emperor and that the approval of H.M. Government 
to his appointment should be obtained. Regulations for 
shipment and passage were laid down by Schedule. The 
Convention came into force on the date of signature and 
remained in force for four years, after which time it was 
terminable by either of the High Contracting Parties on 
giving one year's notice. 

As soon as the Emigration Convention, 1904, was signed, 
Sir E. Satow, British Minister in Pekin, was instructed to 
take all necessary steps to bring the Convention into opera- 
tion at Tientsin.3 The Governor of Hong-Kong was like- 

^ Worsfold, Reconstruction of the New Colonies under Lord Milner, Vol . I, 
p. 343. * Cd. 2026, Appendix. * Cd. 2026, No. 51. 


wise instructed as to emigration from that port. It was 
anticipated that the greater number of contract coohes 
would be obtained from the Southern province through 

On May i8, 1904, Lord Milner was instructed ^ to allow 
the Ordinance to come into force as soon as all preliminary 
conditions were satisfied, and the necessary amendments in 
the Ordinance and Regulations to allow for appointment of 
the Chinese Consul and Vice-Consul made. 

A Foreign Labour Department 2 had already been estab- 
lished in Johannesburg under a Superintendent, Mr. Wm. 
Evans, late Protector of Chinese, Straits Settlements. He 
was responsible to the Transvaal Government for the 
administration of the Ordinance and the working of the 
Department. Four Inspectors, all speaking Southern Chi- 
nese dialects, were appointed to the Department for the 
supervision of the arrangements on the mines and the 
general treatment of the coolies. Emigration agents, 
seconded from the service of the Hong-Kong Government, 
Government of the Federal Malay States and from the 
Wei-Hai-Wei civil service, had been appointed at Hong- 
Kong, Chinwangtao and Chifu. They were responsible to 
the Foreign Labour Department for the administration of 
the relevant parts of Ordinance, Regulations and Conven- 
tion in the East. They issued the necessary Hcences to 
the recruiting agents of the Chamber of Mines' Labour 
Importation Agency. In concert with the Chinese Inspector 
appointed under the Convention they made known through 
the Chinese press the conditions of labour in the Transvaal, 
explained to the recruited coolie the terms of the contract, 
examined him as to his voluntary acceptance and issued 
the necessary licences to the masters of the emigrant vessels, 
if the requirements of the Indian Emigration Act of 1883 
with such rules as were made applicable by the Schedule 
to the Emigration Convention (1904) had been satisfied. 

Preparations had been made also at Durban to receive 
the expected coolies. The Natal Government passed Ord. 

1 Cd. 2026, No. 54. 

" See Annual Report, Foreign Labour Dept., 1904-5, Cd. 3025. Ap- 
pendix IV, 


No. 7 of 1904 to provide for their disembarkation and transit 
to the Rand, the Chamber of Mines having agreed to pay 
£1,000 per annum, through the Transvaal Government, for 
medical and police services. On the arrival of an emigrant 
vessel, it was to be the duty of the Boarding Officer, repre- 
sentative of the Transvaal Foreign Labour Department at 
Durban, to examine the certificate issued by the Transvaal 
Emigration Agent to the master of the ship and to make 
a general inspection. After the Port Health Officer, Immi- 
gration Restriction Officer (Natal) and an officer from the 
Port Captain's Department had boarded the ship, the 
labourers, under the direction of the Boarding Officer, were 
to be disembarked, entrained at the ship's side and taken 
to the depot erected by the Chamber of Mines' agency five 
miles away. Registration would begin immediately, the 
coolie being again examined as to the voluntary nature of 
the contract, his Government pass issued him, and his 
finger-prints taken by an expert Department. ^ After 
which the coolie would return to the compound to wait for 
the special train which would carry him to the premises 
on which he was to work. Once having arrived on the 
mine, the coolie would come under the immediate super- 
vision of the Inspectors of the Foreign Labour Department. 

Before the Ordinance had come into force (May 19), 
instructions had been sent by the Labour Importation 
Agency to their recruiting agents in the East, and recruiting 
had already begun. Contracts were signed as soon as the 
Ordinance came into force and on May 25, 1904, the first 
emigrant vessel, s.s. Tweeddale, left Hong-Kong with 1,054 
labourers for the East Rand Proprietary Mines. Within a 
year 43,296 contract coolies had been shipped from China 
for the Rand. 

But within a similar period the Transvaal officials had 
been forced to reconsider the subject of Chinese contract 
labour on the mines. A Labour Importation Ordinance 
Amendment Ordinance was drafted, and received Legislative 

^ This finger-print system was especially important, as it formed the 
sole basis upon which the coolie was identified during the period of inden- 
ture. A special staff of experts had been appointed in Johannesburg, 
to whom the prints were forwarded for final classification, etc. 


sanction September 25. The conditions necessitating this 
amending ordinance require some detailed explanation. 

Satisfactory preparations seem to have been made on the 
mines for the reception of the contract coolies. One suspects 
the pretty fiction of the compound, " It sounds like a 
cattle-pen : it looks like Hyde Park." But to the visitor 
the compounds had an air of tolerable comfort and their 
indwellers an air of tolerable content " as they crowd 
round . . . and answer questions volubly with smiling eyes 
and polite ingratiating gestures." On September 18, 1905, 
Governor the Earl of Selborne wrote an interesting report 1 
on the conditions under which the Chinese coolies were 
living on the Rand. They 

" do not differ from those of the native on the Witwatersrand, 
except that everything provided for him (the Chinese) in the 
way of food and accommodation is, judged by the European 
standard, much superior to the food and average accommodation 
provided for the native. . . . Their food can only be described 
as excellent." 

The health of the Chinese was much better than that of 
the natives. Good hospitals had been erected by the 
employers and medical services obtained for the care of the 
sick coolie. During the year, June, 1904-5, 1,167 ^ labourers 
were repatriated to China owing to permanent incapacity 
for work by physical infirmity or disease.^ For the same 
period the statistics of deaths among the Chinese were only 
469. " It cannot be too widely understood," wrote Lord 
Selborne, " that the normal condition of affairs on a mine 
where Chinese are employed is that of tranquillity." 

But the " abnormal conditions " were sufficiently grave. 

1 Cd. 2786, No. 25. 

* Annual Report 1904-5, " Health," Cd. 3025, Appendix IV. 

2 Six hundred of these were suffering from an unfortunate outbreak 
of beri-beri. 

There is no information concerning the fate of those who were returned 
— the employer's Hability terminated when the labourer was returned to 
port of embarkation, though " latterly (August 28, 1905) the Chamber 
of Mines' Labour Importation Agency has consented, as an act of grace, 
to supply repatriated labourers who arrive at their original port of embarka- 
tion in a destitute condition with suits of clothes and a sum of money 
to assist them in reaching their homes." This privilege, however, was 
not extended to labourers repatriated for misconduct or to those who 
had purchased their discharge. Cd. 2786, No. 15. 


Reports of disorders, crimes and abuses were not infrequent . 
The easy explanation that all the trouble on the mines was 
due to " the scum of the Chinese cities, the offscourings of 
Chinese gaols " is quite inadequate. It is possible that some 
adventurers were shipped. " There appears to be no 
doubt," reported a Special Committee, 1905, " that the 
earlier shipments of coolies were hurriedly recruited and that 
the selection of an inferior class of men resulted." ^ Fifty- 
one " undesirable characters " were repatriated during the 
first year. But the great number of the coolies were " pea- 
sants fresh from the plough or petty traders." Lieutenant- 
Governor Lawley admitted, September 6, 1905 : " That 
they have had grievances I am perfectly certain, and that 
they have had good cause for grievances." 2 

The difficulty experienced by the mine managers in 
obtaining the services of reliable Chinese-speaking Europeans 
had forced many of them either to employ inefficient com- 
pound controllers or to surrender the coolies into the power 
of their English-speaking headmen and mine police. 

" Enjoying special privileges at the hands of and working 
in collusion with their so-called controllers, the police committed 
excesses which, owing to a system of mutual screening, it was 
extremely difficult, if not impossible, to bring home to them." ^ 

There is no doubt that the police encouraged gambling, 
for which they lent money at usurious rates and derived 
large profits from private trading amongst the coolies. The 
power of the police in the compounds was almost absolute, 
and on occasion mass revolts, with fatal results, expressed 
the anger of their victims against its too frequent abuse. 

But the grievances were of wider scope than compound 
extortions. When at work under their white shift bosses, 
orders indifferently understood were as indifferently obeyed. 
Master and man being mutually inarticulate, the former not 
infrequently expressed his wants by a weighty arm or heavy 
boot. It was not surprising that the " coolies' views of the 
white man's supposed integrity undergo considerable revision, 

1 Cd. 3025. Enclosure 5 in No. loi, Part VI. 

2 Cd. 2786, p. 16. 

3 Annual Report, Foreign Labour Department, 1905-6, Cd. 3338, p. 9. 


a factor not tending to increase the prestige or moral influence 
of those placed over them." i Unlike the Kaffir, the cooHe 
retorted on kicks and blows with " stones and jumpers." 
The temper of the Chinese was not such as to take submis- 
sively the white man's bullying. Lord Selborne ascribed to 
" the improper exercise of authority by individual white 
men," 2 some of the difficulties on the mines. The result 
was several disturbances sufficiently serious to necessitate 
the summoning of the civil police. There were, moreover, 
frequent grievances on the subject of wages. The com- 
promise insisted on by Mr. Lyttelton, that if the average 
rate of wages of the coolies on any mine after six months 
was less than £2 los., the minimum daily wage should be 
raised to is. 6d. a day, was the occasion of disputes. In a 
statement ^ of the wages paid by the Witwatersrand Gold 
Mining Company, Mr. Bianchini, late Compound Manager, 
declared that the wages of the first batch of coolies (601) on 
the Company's mines should have been raised in April, 1905 ; 
of the second (450) and third batch (1,261) in June, 1905, 
and of the last batch (746) in July, 1905. An increase had 
been given to 336 of the coolies and some 100 had been 
put on piece-rates, but the rest were still being wrongly 
rated — an assertion which was substantiated.* A serious 
strike disturbance on the North Randfontein Mine, April i, 
1905, originated in a like dispute over the reckoning of the 
wage rates after six months' work.^ Mr. Lyttelton admitted 
that the coolies had been in the Transvaal more than six 
months and that the average wages appeared to be under 
50S., though there had not been time to compute the rate 
of wages paid. The mine managements did not always 
realize the necessity of scrupulous honesty in their relations 
with their Chinese labourers. 

It was further frequently asserted that coercion was used 
by the managements to induce the coolies to sign contracts 
for piece-work. Lord Selborne stated ^ on November 20, 
1905, that coercion was not possible after the recent agree- 

^ Annual Report, Foreign Labour Department, 1905-6, Cd. 3338 p. 13. 
2 Cd. 2786. p. 26. 3 Cd. 2819, p. 49. 

' Cd. 2819, Enclosure 3 in No. 29. ^ cd. 3025, p. 162. 

" Cd. 2819, Enc. I in No. 14, p. 22. 


ment made between the Chamber of Mines and the Foreign 
Labour Department that the contracts were to be signed 
in the presence of an Inspector as evidence of the voluntary 
nature of the contract. Under the piece-work contracts no 
wages were paid for less than a given amount of work 
variously estimated, but generally given as twenty-four 
inches. Between twenty-four inches and thirty-six inches 
small wages were paid. After thirty-six inches a system of 
bonuses came into operation. The piece-work system 
secured the management against loss on labour. It was 
no doubt favourable to the coolies of strong physique, some 
of whom achieved astonishing results, drilling up to 100 
inches per diem.^ But this piece-rate system was hard on 
the older men, the weaker men, the men unused to 
strenuous physical work. 

There was also some dissatisfaction among the Chinese 
with the allotment system. Those who so desired had been 
able before leaving China to assign a certain amount of their 
wages to their families, which amount was to be paid direct 
by the officers of the Foreign Labour Department in China. 
The difficulties in the way of administering the system seem 
to have been very great, and no doubt frequent mistakes 
occurred. Mr. Bianchini maintained 2 that 

" the amount withdrawn every month from the labourer's 
wages and paid to the allottee in China constitutes in most 
cases either a partial or a total squeeze made by coolie con- 
tractors or coolie brokers to their own and sole benefit." 

Mr Jameson reported that " no case had come to light 
in which payments had been made on a stolen pass-book." ' 
Nevertheless, the Foreign Labour Department would have 
abandoned the allotment system had not the Chinese 
Government, through the Governor-General of Chihli (His 
late Excellency Yuan Shih-K'ai), made its continuance a 
sine qua non of further recruitment. 

The coolie, disappointed or aggrieved, could purchase his 
discharge if he had sufficient money for the purpose, and 
during the year 1904-5 twenty coolies freed themselves from 

1 Cd. 2786, No. 25. 2 Cd. 2819, p. 52. 3 Cd. 3338, p. 24. 


contract in this manner. Moreover, by the Ordinance and 
Regulations certain means of redress had been provided for 
the aggrieved coohe. The most important was that of the 
Inspectorial staff of the Foreign Labour Department. But 
the unexpected nature of the Chinese emigration seriously 
handicapped those who were appointed to this task. It 
had been anticipated that the greater number of the coolies 
would be recruited in the Kwangtung province. Mr. 
Evans, late Protector of Chinese, Straits Settlements, and 
experienced in the dialects and habits of the Southern 
Chinese, had been appointed Superintendent, and he had 
surrounded himself with a staff equipped with a similar 

But out of the 43,296 coolies recruited during the first 
year, only 1,741 were from the Kwangtung province. These 
latter were of a poor type — many of them being victims of 
a severe outbreak of beri-beri. Recruiting in the south was 
therefore suspended. ^ It was fortunate for the experiment 
that the Russo-Japanese War, by closing Manchuria against 
the usual influx of agricultural labourers, provided thousands 
of Northern Chinese on whom the Labour Importation 
Agency was able to draw for the Rand. Of the total number 
of emigrants, 10,195 were recruited through Chifu and 
31,360 through Chinwangtao. " It may not be superfluous 
to point out that the inhabitants of North China differ 
toto ccbIo in ethnological descent, traditions, customs, and 
language from those of South China." ^ The staff of the 
Foreign Labour Department were not able to cope with the 
problems of Northern Chinese emigration. It was not until 

^ Light is thrown on the reasons why the recruiters of the Labour 
Importation Agency had such difficulty in Canton province by evidence 
No. 33 given before the Commissioner who inquired into the condition of 
labour, Federated Malay States, 1910. It was then admitted by the late 
Transvaal Emigration Agent, Hong-Kong, that " licences to recruiters were 
issued by me to recruit in China, but the Viceroy of Canton treated my 
licences with utter contempt because they were issued in Hong-Kong, which 
was not a Treaty Port." One suspects that the Viceroy's attitude was due 
in part to the formation of a ring by the Straits Settlements coolie brokers. 
" A very powerful guild is at work, either in Singapore or Penang, the aim 
of which is to prevent coolies from going to South Africa from Hong- 
Kong " — their object, of course, being to secure the coolie market for the 
Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States. — Hong-Kong Telegraph, 
September 23, 1904. * Cd. 3338, p. 3. 


June 10, 1905, that the Transvaal Government was able to 
secure, as Superintendent of the Foreign Labour Department, 
Mr. J. W. Jamieson, late Commercial Attache to H.M. 
Legation, Peking, seconded from the service of the Foreign 
Office to the Transvaal. 

Even apart from this serious difficulty, the number of 
inspectors was quite inadequate, and their visits to the 
mines too occasional. Their work, moreover, was hindered 
by the fact that their investigations among the coolies were, 
by some managers, "characterized as unwarrantable inter- 
ference betwixt employer and employed," ^ and also by the 
aversion showTi by the coolies against making complaints 
" in the presence of those (headmen) who have the potential 
faculty of paying them out later on." Under these circum- 
stances it is not surprising that the Inspectorial safeguard 
was too often futile. " Chinese coolies on the mines have 
not realized the controlling hand of Government, and 
have not had an opportunity of making their grievances 
known " 2 (Lieut. -Governor Lawley). 

Failing the Foreign Labour Department the aggrieved 
coolie still had the right of recourse to the magistrate's 
court. But his legal experiences, whether as complainant 
or defendant, resulted only in the often repeated phrase — 
" Constituted law and authority do not exist in this 
country." ^ To the Chinese peasant the highly organized 
system of Roman-Dutch law was " weird and unintelligible." 
Efficient interpreters were wanting. As a complainant it 
was practically impossible for the coolie, bewildered and 
inarticulate, to make good his cause against the trained 
pleading of the white man — particularly would this seem to 
have been so in suits brought against white men for assault.* 
Surrounded by a crowd of alien, and to him unsympathetic, 
faces, all that he knew was that he was " helplessly impotent 
to present his case in his own way." As a defendant the 
plight of the coolie was no better. The congestion in the 
magistrates' courts necessitated frequent remands, " and the 

^ Cd. 3338. p. 9. 

^ Lawley, Sept. 6, 1905. Cd. 2786, Enc. i in No. 22. 

* Annual Report, Foreign Labour Department, Cd. 3338, p. 4. 

* Ibid., p. 5. 

C.C.E. O 


coolies found themselves escorted from one Government 
office to another in what appeared to them an aimless 
manner, until they were finally lodged in gaol, convicted on 
charges which they did not understand." It was some 
time before the finger-print system of identification was 
perfected, and in the meantime cases of mistaken identity 
were not infrequent, some prisoners being released prior to 
the expiry of their sentences, while others were forced to 
remain in custody long after their sentences had expired. 
Murderers and accomplices were on occasion acquitted owing 
to the difficulty of obtaining sufficient legal evidence to 
convict. " The Chinese had not the slightest idea of what 
was going on or what it all meant, and dissociated the whole 
proceedings from their previous conception of justice." i 

A Chinese Consul in the Transvaal during the first year of 
the labour experiment might have offered a way of appeal, 
but Lin Ta-jen was not appointed to that office until May i6, 

Wanting satisfactory means of redress, the disappointed 
or aggrieved coolies resorted on occasion either to a private 
administration of justice or to desertion. If the former, the 
result was slack work, absence from work or assault. During 
the first year, June, 1904-July, 1905, there were 21,205 
cases of Chinese unlawfully absent from work. Two 
hundred and fifty-nine coolies were convicted during the 
same period for refusal to work. If the aggrieved coolie 
were able to command a following, a serious situation 
developed. The number of riots, June, 1904- June, 1905, 
sufficiently grave to necessitate the summoning of the 
civil police, was twenty-eight,^ while 232 coolies were 
convicted during the year for leading the disturbances. 

If the coolie from whatever reason failed to fulfil his 
contract, the mine management had the support of the 
law. The contracts had penal sanctions. But the waste of 
time in taking the coolie to the overcrowded courts for every 
trivial offence against the Ordinance, and the general refusal 
of the convicted coolies to pay fines, resulting in the imprison- 

1 Cd. 2786, No. 25, p. 27. 

2 Annual Report, 1904-5, Cd. 3025, p. 162. 


ment of a very considerable proportion of the labour force, 
made the managers loath to take advantage of their legal 
right. It was under these circumstances that extraordinary 
powers were vested in them. By contract the coolie was 
entitled to a definite minimum rate of wage. During the 
year it was agreed (apparently between the Foreign Labour 
Department and the Chamber of Mines) that an employer 
was entitled to demand a fair day's work, and that he might 
deduct a portion of a labourer's pay for a day on which 
he had worked but had not performed a fair day's work.^ 
The difficulty of defining a " fair day's work " was admitted, 
but an amount of thirty-six inches drilling was fixed. If 
the coolie did less than this amount, 

" the whole matter is most carefully gone into, all the circum- 
stances of the case, such as the difficulty of the work, the state 
of the coolie's health, etc., being taken into account by the 
management. If the decision was that a fair day's work had 
not been done, a proportionate reduction was made in the coolie's 
pay." 2 

The serious riot on the Princess Estate, April 27-28, 1905, 
was occasioned by " loafers being discontented at not 
receiving a full day's pay for little or no work done." ^ 
The compound managers and headmen on some of the 
mines also had a method of making the coolie drill his 
thirty-six inches in stones in the compound to compensate 
for slackness below ground.* Further, the Chamber of 
Mines had taken legal advice as to whether or not they 
would be within their rights in withholding rations from 
coolies who broke their contract by consistently refusing 
to do a fair day's work. The legal advice given was that 
they had such a right. Lord Selboume was, however, of 
the opinion that " the mine-owners had voluntarily abstained 
from applying the principle that if a man will not work 
neither shall he eat," ^ — basing his opinion on the absence 
of complaint by the coolies to the Superintendent. At an 
earlier period of the experiment, Mr. Massingham wrote, as 

1 Ihid., p. 157. a Ibid., p. 158. ^ /j^^.^ p. 162. 

* Cd. 2819, No. 70, § 27. « Cd. 2819, No, 70, § 33. 


a result of a visit to the Rand, that rations were withheld.^ 
But a more serious power was vested in the management 
by the Superintendent, Mr. Evans — the power, in cases of 
breach of disciphne or trivial offences, of inflicting corporal 
punishment. According to the Transvaal law, flogging was 

As Mr. Lyttleton admitted later, " Mr. Evans appears to 
have held that it was possible to draw a distinction between 
slight corporal punishment for disciplinary purposes and flog- 
ging, for which the Government was bound to prosecute if 
brought to its notice." ^ 

Mr. Evans reserved to himself the right to take action 
on behalf of the labourer in the event of such punishment 
" being in his opinion excessive or improper." Lord Milner 
and Sir A. Lawley were said by Mr. Evans to have made 
no objection to the decision. The matter, however, was not 
referred to Mr. Lyttelton as Secretary of State until after 
serious abuses ^ necessitated its withdrawal, June, 1905. 

These extra-contract powers of deducting wages or 
inflicting punishment were certainly of great advantage to 
the management in the saving of time and money. They 
were probably not considered by the coohes as more unjust 
than the unintelligible methods of the law. But the impli- 
cations were significant. The mine manager and the coohe 
were the two parties to a contract, the terms of which could 
by Ordnance and Regulations be enforced by penal law. 

1 Daily News, January 9, 1905. ^ Cd. 2786, No. 36. 

3 Flogging should have been administered only after thorough and 
impartial inquiry by the manager. The value of such an inquiry, how- 
ever, was necessarily in inverse ratio to the degree to which the manager 
was open to corruption and the amount of reliance which he was forced 
to place on the interpretation of the Chinese police. But it was admitted 
that corporal punishment was inflicted by the Chinese police without 
any such preliminary inquiry, and that the power vested in the management 
had been extended to include the humiliation of the beam and the cruelty 
of Asiatic torture ; e.g. Mr. Pless, a compound manager, was responsible 
for an instance of cruelty sworn to by A. J. McCarthy, a witness. After 
giving a coolie a cold bath, he then gave him a hot one, after which he 
had him strapped naked by his wrists to two large nails on the door of his 
dining-room, tied his pigtail up to his hands, and then tied his feet. He 
kept him tied up from 7 p.m. to 11. 15 a.m. At mealtimes Pless brought 
food and placed it on a chair in front of the coolie, where he was not able 
to reach it. The coolie was subsequently admitted to hospital. — Cd. 
2819. p. 30. Affidavit by A. J. McCarthy. 


Mr. Evans gave into the hands of the one party the power of 
enforcing the contract against the other party. No recip- 
rocal power was given to the coohe. 

If a disappointed or aggrieved cooHe resorted to desertion 
the matter was more serious than if he tried a private adminis- 
tration of justice — for such a course involved the interests 
of the general community. Under Section 19 of the Labour 
Importation Ordinance, 1904, it was an offence for a labourer 
to leave his mine premises without a permit. No permit 
was vaUd outside the Witwatersrand district for a period 
exceeding forty-eight hours. It is difficult to estimate the 
number of coolies who did so absent themselves, whether 
from accident or design, without the necessary permit. 
Figures given by the Attorney- General 1 for the period 
June, 1904- July, 1905, show 570 convicted for absence 
without permit during this period, and 1,165 convicted for 
desertions. To this latter figure he added some 250 coolies 
still at large. Unfortunately these figures are not reliable 
as a total estimate. The managers did not always consider 
it to their interests to prosecute for absence from the 
premises. Indeed, so frequently was this the case that the 
Inspectors were given the power, 1904-5, to certify to such 
absence without prosecution in order that the employer 
might claim the extra time at the end of the coolie's service. 2 

It is evident that a considerable number of the Chinese 
contravened Section 19, Labour Importation Ordinance, 
during the first period of the importation closed by the 
passing of the Amending Ordinance, though, compared with 
the total number of Chinese, the figures of desertion are small. 
It was almost inevitable that out of some 45,000 males 
some would try to escape the conditions of the contract. 
It is not probable that all Chinese absent without permit 
were " deserters." Many wishing to visit their friends on 
neighbouring mines or to make purchases in one of the 
Rand towns might not trouble about the formality of a 
permit, or again, curious as to their surroundings, they 
might wander past their boundaries and lose their way. 
On the other hand, there can be no doubt that many Chinese 

^ Cd. 2786, p. 64. 2 Annual Report, 1904-5, Cd. 3025, p. 161. 


left the mines intending never to return. Some, homesick 
and disappointed, perhaps hoped to find the advertised 
overland route to Thibet, ^ or to smuggle themselves on to 
a vessel if they could reach the sea. Others, desperate 
victims of the professional gamblers, had no other motive 
than escape. Some, no doubt, had legitimate grievances 
either against the Chinese headmen or mine management. 

The coolie, once he had left the mine premises without a 
permit was, as the Attorney- General explained, in the 
position of an outlaw. ^ It was an offence for anyone to 
employ a Chinese coolie except on the mine premises of 
the Rand district. Consequently the only means by which 
he could obtain food and shelter was by a gift or a theft. 
But the temper of the agricultural families was not generous 
to the imported coolie appearing at a lonely farm by night, 
inarticulate and hungry. As the number of desertions 
increased, the period between escape and capture naturally 
lengthened. Hunger became more acute. The Daily Mail 
pictured the deserter 

" hiding in dongas by day, slinking across the farms by night, 
dodging South African constabulary patrols, chivied by Boer 
farmers, chased by Kaffirs, stealing fowls, robbing lonely home- 
steads, barefooted, half-starved, desperate, with an Asiatic con- 
tempt of hfe in their blood and Chinese cruelty and [callous- 
ness in their hearts. No one can understand them, they under- 
stand no one." ^ 

The alternative to starvation was crime. The position 
became more serious after the withdrawal of the power of 
corporal punishment from the managements, June, 1905, 
which meant inevitably a slackness of control on the mines. 
Thefts increased, although additional pohce had been 
stationed in the Rand area and arms had been offered on 
certain conditions to the farmers. The terror of the latter 
was intensified after the murder of one of their number, 

1 " Evidence was also adduced establishing the fact that at a certain 
mine one of the labourers set up in the calling of a ' geographer,' and. 
doubtless for a consideration, supplied maps to labourers showing in great 
detail the road to Thibet, by travelling which these labourers were informed 
they could reach that country in less than a couple of weeks." — Cd. 3025, 
p. 81. 

2 Cd. 2786, p. 65. ' Daily Mail, September 25. 1905. 


August 17, by a Chinese deserter. Public meetings were 
organized. On September 6, a significant deputation of 
twenty Boers was introduced to the Lieut. -Governor by 
General Botha. ^ They objected to the conditions imposed 
on the issue of arms — viz., a security of £100 for their return 
within three months. 

" We look upon such a step as an insult, for if these fire-arms 
were given to us for our own protection we do not see what is 
the object of requiring security for them. . . . We have taken 
on us the status of British subjects, and as such we claim to be 
fully entitled to protection. . . . There is a feeling of intense 
unrest among the people . . . neighbouring families congregate 
together by night for protection." 

Boer hearts grew bitter under the boasted Pax Britannica. 
Lord Selborne informed Mr. Lyttelton, September 18, that 
he had authorized all farmers living in the Witwatersrand 
district to possess fire-arms of any kind except magazine 
rifles, and that he had made arrangements by which any- 
one who could not afford to buy fire-arms could apply to a 
Resident Magistrate for the loan of a Martini-Henry rifle. ^ 

By the end of the first year of the experiment (June, 
1905) , it had become evident that some reform in the system 
was imperative. The Magistrates' Courts, as instruments 
for the enforcing of the terms of contract, had proved entirely 
unsuited to the circumstances ; extra-contract powers 
vested in the managements to the same end were subject 
to such abuses that they had to be withdrawn. The result 
was a want of control over the coolies on the mine premises 
so great as to threaten the peace of the surrounding com- 
munity. " One then found oneself face to face with a 
veritable chinoiserie." ^ 

Since his arrival in the Transvaal, Lord Selborne had 
taken an active interest in the conditions under which the 
coohes were living and working on the Rand, and had made 
careful investigation on his own account. In June, 1905, 
the Foreign Labour Department was strengthened by the 
appointment as Superintendent of Mr. Jamieson, an experi- 

1 Cd. 2786, Enclosure i in No. 22. * Cd. 2786, No. 16. 

' Cd. 3338, p. 4. 


enced and capable officer conversant with Northern Chinese 
dialects. The determination of these gentlemen, with the 
support of their administrative staffs, to free the system 
from abuse led to the drafting of the Labour Importation 
Amendment Ordinance, No. 27, 1905, to which legislative 
sanction was given September 22. By the Ordinance ^ the 
Superintendent and Inspectors of the Foreign Labour 
Department were given power to hold Inspectors' Courts on 
mine premises and to try : (i) offences by Chinese labourers 
committed within the Witwatersrand District against the 
Labour Importation Ordinance, 1904, as amended by Amend- 
ment Ordinance, 1905, and any Regulations made under the 
Ordinance ; (2) all offences by Chinese labourers summarily 
triable by a court of a Resident Magistrate and committed 
on the mine premises on which the accused was employed 2 ; 
(3) certain new offences were now created : the possession of or 
the sale or barter of opium ; the practice of fraud or deception 
in the performance of any work which the labourer is bound 
to perform ; wilful or negligent loss or damage to the 
property of the employer ; the use of threatening or insult- 
ing language towards the employer or towards anyone in 
authority ; the contravention of sanitary rules for observance 
in the compounds, were all made offences punishable in the 
Inspectors' Courts. In addition to these new judicial 
powers, it was made the duty of every importer to 

" divide the labourers employed by him on any mine into so 
many gangs or sections as might be necessary for the proper 
conduct of work, and for the maintenance of discipline and good 
order to appoint a ' head-boy ' in charge of each gang or section." 

Any head-boy not reporting to the manager of his mine 
an offence committed by a labourer in his gang or section 
was to be deemed guilty of an offence. Power was further 
given to the Superintendent, with the approval of the 
Lieut. -Governor, to impose a collective fine on all the 
members of a gang for the non-reporting of an offence 

1 Cd. 2786, p. 57. 

^ If committed outside the mine premises, the accused had to be sent 
for trial to a court of Resident Magistrate. 


committed by one or several of their number. 1 When 
the Superintendent or Inspector passed sentence of a fine 
on a labourer or on a gang of labourers, it became the 
duty of the employer to deduct such fine from the labourers' 
wages and to pay it over for the benefit of the Colonial 
Treasury. 2 The Superintendent was further given wider 
powers of compulsory repatriation than had been provided 
under the original ordinance. All sentences imposed in the 
Inspectors' Courts were made subject to review by the 
Supreme Court, and in the same manner and under the 
same conditions as sentences imposed by a Court of Resident 
Magistrates. Such sentences of imprisonment as were not 
so subject were made conditional on the approval of the 
Attorney-General. Every cooUe convicted and sentenced 
could lodge an appeal against such conviction to the Supreme 
Court. Clause 10 of the Amending Ordinance, 1905, made 
it lawful for any private white person to arrest without 
warrant any labourer found outside the Witwatersrand 
District. On delivering any labourer so arrested at the 
nearest poHce station, the person making the arrest was 
entitled to claim compensation for reasonable expenses 
incurred and for loss of time. 

By the efficient administration of this Amendment 
Ordinance Mr. Jamieson and Lord Selborne were confident 
that grievances arising out of conditions on the mines 
would be promptly investigated and removed, and that as 
a consequence the number of desertions would decrease, and 
the peace of the surrounding community be secured.^ But 
the reforms came too late. British public opinion did not 
wait for experience to test their value. The continued 
interest of the House of Commons in the question of Chinese 
labour in the Transvaal had led to frequent questions and 

^ " This doctrine of collective responsibility does not appear in any of 
our legislations, but it is not a doctrine which is foreign to legislations 
in other countries." — Attorney-General, Cd. 2786, p. 61. 

^ This decision was due to the fact that only on rare occasions would 
a labourer sentenced to imprisonment with the option of a fine pay the 
fine. After withdrawal of corporal punishment the gaols of the Wit- 
watersrand were seriously overcrowded. 

^ The staff of the Foreign Labour Department was increased to eight 
inspectors, and eight orderly clerks (Chinese) were appointed. 


to two debates (February 17, 1905, and July 27, 1905). 
In the House of Lords, May 16, Lord Coleridge raised a 
discussion on the difference between the actual and the 
promised conditions of the labourers. By-elections, fought 
on the Chinese issue, kept the subject before the attention 
of the people. It was not difficult to foretell the effect on 
the labour experiment of Mr. Balfour's resignation, Decem- 
ber 4, 1905. On December 15, the Earl of Elgin, Colonial 
Secretary in the new Liberal Ministry, requested Lord 
Selborne's opinion on the suggestion made by Mr. Lyttelton 
that the mine-owners should voluntarily stop importation 
for the next six months.^ Lord Selborne stated that the 
mine-owners would be most unwilUng, as they had recently 
gone to enormous expense in development work, " the whole 
of which will be thrown away if they do not get a labour 
supply sufficient to make production keep pace with develop- 
ment." - " All arrangements have been made with a view 
to [the] continuous flow of immigration from China being 
established on [a] permanent basis." ^ The fear, expressed 
by Mr. Deakin of Australia, that the mine-owners would 
come to regard importation as a vested right had not been 
without basis. Indeed, the Chamber of Mines had already 
replied to Mr. Lyttelton's proposal by making large applica- 
tion for licences, 13,199 of which were issued between 
November 12-18.^ Under these circumstances the Earl of 
Elgin instructed Lord Selborne, December 20, 1905, to issue 
no further licences for the importation of Chinese pending 
the grant of Responsible Government, and to consult the 
law officers as to the possibility of preventing the introduc- 
tion of the coolies under licences recently issued. ^ He 
pointed out that 

" from the beginning the importation of Chinese labour was 
regarded as an experiment, and was accepted by H.M. late 
Government as necessary to meet a serious shortage of labour. 
Chinese labour was permitted as a supplement to, not as a sub- 
stitute for, Kaffir labour, and it was necessary for H.M. Govern- 
ment to be assured that the numbers introduced were within 

1 Cd. 2788, No. I. 2 Cd. 2788, No. 3. 

* Cd. 2788, No. II. Lord Selborne, December 30, 1905. 
* Cd. 2788, No. 7. « Cd. 2788, No. 4. 


the powers of supervision and control of the Transvaal Govern- 
ment. . . . Native labour has largely increased since January, 
1904, when it was represented to H.M. late Government that a 
grave financial crisis would ensue unless immediate relief was 
afforded by Chinese labour. The numbers then were 75,000 
and are now 96,000 — practically on a level with the numbers 
in 1899 at the time of maximum gold production before the 
war took place. In addition, there are now on the Rand over 
47,000 Chinese. ... It is clear that there are indications of 
local opposition to the importation . . . the experiment of the 
introduction of Chinese labourers should not be extended further 
until they can learn the opinion of the colony through an elected 
and really representative Legislative." ^ 

The licences already issued could not, however, be revoked. 
But no more were to be granted before the institution of 
Responsible Government. Lord Selborne was also asked to 
consider the withdrawal of the exceptional powers, vested 
in Inspectors of the Foreign Labour Department under 
Amendment Ordinance 1905 , e.g. , those of deducting fines from 
wages, of levying fines on head-boys, and collective fines. 
He was further requested to consider proposals by which 
a coolie, disappointed with mining conditions on the Rand 
but without sufficient means to buy his freedom, might be 
assisted to that end by the Government. 

These immediate declarations of policy by the new Ministry 
made it more certain that the general election in January 
would turn largely on the Chinese question. Mr. Chamber- 
lain urged the electors to make Protection v. Free Trade 
the clear issue of the political contest ; Unionists raised the 
bogy of Irish Home Rule ; Dr. Clifford united the Noncon- 
formists against the Education Act. But it was by none 
of these issues that the British masses were roused to the 
political activity that achieved the social revolution of 1906. 
They were freeing themselves from the torpor of half a 
century, they were preparing to enter the lists of industrial 
democracy. The Chinese question in the Transvaal was 
significant of the larger issues in Great Britain. It served 
as a reveille for the industrial army. The British people 
had been " betrayed into a war by the ' money-power ' in 

1 Cd. 2788, No. 5. 


politics." The " money-power in politics " fooled them 
about the Peace. So they had fought the war for Chinese 
labour ! Their anger was roused by the disciplinary powers 
vested in the managers, 1904-5. Flogging was a subject 
that lent itself easily to exaggeration. But Mr. Lyttelton, 
who had given his pledge to the House that flogging would 
be punished as a common assault, had been forced to admit 
that it had been resorted to as a disciplinary measure with 
the permission of the Transvaal authorities. There was 
evidence that the power had been seriously abused. More- 
over, it was admitted by Mr. Jamieson ^ that even after 
June, 1905, corporal punishment had been administered in 
instances where it proved difficult to secure sufficient evi- 
dence to sustain a successful prosecution. Were the very 
persons of the labourers to be given into the power of their 
masters ? Was this the Unionist interpretation of a con- 
tract of service — a bond of serfdom ? The Labour Party 
did not wait for experience to test the value of the reforms 
instituted by Mr. Jamieson and Lord Selborne. There was, 
moreover, the immediate and practical argument that the 
ratio of white to coloured labour in the Rand was rapidly 
diminishing. According to the figures supplied by Mr. 
Creswell in the public meeting at Potchefstroom, October 4, 
1905,2 for every additional 100 stamps dropped, June, 1903- 
October, 1904, the producing mines had required and gave 
employment to 220 white men. In the following five 
months for each additional 100 stamps they required and 
employed only 142 white men ; in the next five months every 
additional 100 stamps gave employment to only seventy- 
nine white men. Further, there was an increase of 100 in 
the number of white men employed on non-producing mines 
in June, 1903, compared with the number employed August, 
1905. This decrease in the relative number of white men 
employed on the Rand mines was sufficient proof for the 
working man of Great Britain that the policy of employing 
Chinese coolies was the policy of exploiting cheap and 
docile labour. It struck at the very fouiidations of Trade 

1 On this subject report on Li Kuei Yii should be read, Cd. 3025, Enclo- 
sure in No. 52. " Cd. 2819, Enclosure 2 in No. 6. 


Unionism. And the responsibility for it rested with the 
late Unionist Government of Great Britain. The British 
working man was roused to a determination, strong and 
unruly, to prevent the Unionist party from returning to 

But the late Unionist Government found itself opposed on 
its Chinese pohcy not only by the Labour Party. It was 
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman who had moved the vote of 
censure, March, 1904. It was his declaration that the issue 
of licences would be suspended that had roused the crowded 
audience of the Albert Hall to a five minutes' cheering, 
December 21, 1905. The Liberals were Free Traders, and 
were opposed to the tariff cry of Mr. Chamberlain. But 
they were no less opposed to the system of Chinese labour 
with its effect not only on the coolies but on the Transvaal 
community. Mr. Balfour retorted with a tit quoque. Liberal 
Ministers had been responsible for the Ordinances under 
which Indian labourers were introduced to the West Indies. 
He was invited to consider, in reply, whether the conditions 
of the Chinese in the Rand compounds and of the Indians 
in the West Indies could be compared. Unionists taunted 
Liberals for being Little Englanders. They would snap 
the Transvaal, as well as Ireland, from the Empire. Chinese 
labour was necessary for the Rand. It had been introduced 
by the will of the Transvaal people. Rebellion would be 
the result of the Liberals' policy. The Liberals denied 
that the Labour Ordinance had expressed the will of the 
people of the Transvaal. That will could only be expressed 
through a Responsible Government. They proposed to 
estabhsh such a Government. They believed their policy 
had the support of the Transvaal people. They had the 
support of the Boer farmers, who had sent the deputation 
to the Governor demanding protection. They had the 
support of the mass meeting, held by the Rand miners 1 
in protest against Chinese labour, and by the Afrikander 
Bond party,2 in denial of the statements made in the British 
Tory Press that they would join the " cut the painter " 

^ December 15, 1905, of meeting some 3,000 miners. — Daily News, Jan. 8, 
1906- ^ January 9. — Daily News, Jan. 10, 1906. 


movement if Chinese importation was stopped. ^ The 
Liberal candidates declared that the only party likely to 
cry " Republic " was that of the Rand magnates. The 
labour system estabhshed on the Rand was unjust to the 
Chinese, denied all social rights, and dangerous to the com- 
munity which denied those rights. Let the Transvaal 
people choose through a Responsible Government. The 
campaign was keen and noisy. The words of " Chin-Chin- 
Chinaman " were sung to interrupt the speeches of Unionist 
candidates. Significant cartoons and posters, suggesting 
exaggerated aspects of Chinese Hfe on the Rand, were 
widely distributed. The result of the elections was due to 
something more than the weakness of the Unionist machine. 
It expressed a people's wrath. A great historic party was 
almost effaced. Mr. Balfour and a number of the late 
Cabinet Ministers were defeated. It was " the most em- 
phatic condemnation at the hands of the people that has 
ever been passed upon any Prime Minister." 2 

The Anti- Chinese importation pohcy of the Liberal 
Government had received the overwhelming support of the 
British people. As a result, the mining magnates feared 
that the extreme measure of repatriating the Chinese already 
on the Rand might be contemplated. But such was not 
the pohcy of the British Government. Until a Responsible 
Government was estabhshed they would prevent the issuing 
of further hcences for recruitment, ^ and in the meanwhile 
they would insist that the system must be rid of its abuses. 

Their first interest was the case of the coohes who were 
disappointed with the nature of mining work and desirous 
of returning to China, but who were without the funds 
necessary to purchase their discharge. Lord Selborne had 
written, September 18, 1905 : 

" While I believe that the Chinese were told that they were 

1 E.g. Daily Telegraph, Dec. 22, 1905 : " English and Boers, the 
hitherto loyal and the permanently disloyal, will combine to ' cut the 
painter ' and politely and unanimously to usher the British garrison and 
the British flag out of South Africa." 

^ Mr. Lloyd George, January 15, 1906. 

3 The Labour Importation Association was permitted to introduce 
coolies on licences already issued until November, 1906, after which 
recruitment was prohibited. 


coming to work on a mine, I also believe that many of them 
did not understand what work on a mine entailed." ^ 

" H.M. Government are anxious to avoid anything in the nature 
of an incitement to the coolies to terminate in large numbers 
their contracts, and thereby cause a heavy charge to Imperial 
funds and an industrial collapse on the Witwatersrand," 

Lord Elgin informed Lord Selborne. But 

" they desire that no man who earnestly and repeatedly 
avows his wish to return to China, and can prove that he does 
not possess the necessary funds, shall be detained in South Africa 
against his will." ^ 

The mine managers protested, and Lord Selborne in 
general supported their arguments that mine discipline 
would be subverted if coolies were assisted by Government 
to buy their freedom. Many of the coolies who had been 
repatriated had made different attempts to return to the 
Transvaal. 3 The coolies would attribute any such proposal 
to an attempt on the part of H.M. Government to upset 
the existing contracts to their disadvantage ; or they would 
take advantage of it to leave the country in a body before 
the Government could deprive them of the savings they 
had accumulated, and with which they could have purchased 
their own discharge had they seriously wished it. The 
Acting Lieut. -Governor suggested * that no notices should 
be posted in the compound, but that the Superintendent or 
Inspectors in their visits of inspection might ascertain if 
there were labourers genuinely anxious to return to China. 
All genuine cases could then be investigated, and if deemed 
worthy, the cooHe could be assisted to China — and to free- 
dom. In a Memorandum ^ to the Earl of Selborne, the 
Chamber of Mines pointed out that when the Labour 
Importation Ordinance was passed, the Mining Companies 
" expended large sums of money and undertook heavy 
commitments " whereby " important vested interests have 

1 Cd. 2786, No. 25, p. 29. 2 C(j. 3025, No. 18. 

^ Selborne to Elgin, Jan. 22, 1906 : " It was with a view to checking 
this movement that I asked your permission for instructions to be sent 
to our Minister ac Peking, directing him to ask Chinese provincial authori- 
ties to keep an eye on the repatriated coolies so as to prevent their return." 
— Cd. 2819, No. 67, p. 107. 

* Cd. 3025, No. 48. 5 Cd. 3025, No. 58. 


been created." To them the British Government was 
proposing to violate the right of private contract. When 
the Earl of Elgin instructed Lord Selborne that the notices 
were to be posted, the Chamber of Mines made an appUca- 
tion to the Supreme Court for an injunction against such a 
procedure. ^ Judgment being given, May 9, that there was 
no legal objection to it, the notices were posted at once in 
all the compounds. By the end of a fortnight only twelve 
applications for assistance had been made. 2 During the 
same period a petition was presented to Lord Selborne from 
one group of coolies, protesting against a supposed com- 
pulsory repatriation, and petitioning that the full amount 
of wages for the unexpired portion of their three years' 
contract should be made good to them, " that they may 
have the wherewithal to start life anew." ^ Lord Elgin was 
consequently led to the opinion that the form of the notices 
must have led the coolies to completely misunderstand the 
offer, and he therefore instructed Lord Selborne, June 28,* 
to omit all " minatory and hortatory sentences " from them. 
In addition to such a reform as was thus proposed, the 
Liberal Ministry in Great Britain were determined that 
legitimate grievances on the mines should be removed. In 
this they had the active co-operation both of Governor 
Selborne and of Mr. Jamieson and his staff. The Inspectors' 
Courts had been organized. In replying to certain of the 
objections raised in Great Britain against the Inspectors' 
Courts, Mr. Jamieson insisted on the value of the greater 
facilities given to the coolies to state their case freely in 
their own language to a sympathetic individual acquainted 
with their methods of thought and racial idiosyncrasies. 
The coolie "is so to speak at home." ^ He was further in 
a position to summon any witnesses in his favour. 

"As an instance of how justice administered in this way 
appeals to the individuals concerned, it may be noted that coolies 
brought before the Court held in the Superintendent's Office in 
Johannesburg, which in externals more resembles an ordinary 
court-room than the Courts on the mines, exhibit greater con- 

1 Cd. 3025, No. 75. 2 C(j. 3025, No. 106. 

3 Cd. 3025, Enclosure in No. 134. 
« Cd. 3025, No. 143. 6 Cd. 3338, p. 7. 


strain! in stating their case or in giving evidence than they do 
elsewhere, the inference being that they associate it more inti- 
mately with their recollections of the magistrates' courts."^ 

Under instructions from Lord Elgin, Ord. 12, 1906, was 
passed. By it were rescinded certain of the extraordinary 
powers vested in the Inspectors of the Foreign Labour 
Department by the Amending Ordinance, e.g., the deduction 
of fines from wages, the fining of head-boys for not reporting 
an offence, the imposition of collective fines. The British 
Government was determined that any possible cause of 
complaint should be removed. The success of the honest 
efforts made by the Inspectors to remove legitimate griev- 
ances is evidenced by the non-occurrence of group distur- 
bances, 1905-6. Nevertheless, the tale of crime for the 
year, June, 1905-6, was longer than for 1904-5. Out of an 
average number of 47,600 labourers employed during the 
period, 13,532 were convicted of offences, 11,754 of which 
were against the Importation Ordinance. The cases of 
deliberate " desertion " numbered 1,700. During the year 
26 coolies had been convicted of murder, 7 of attempted 
murder and 210 of house-breaking. 

For there were evils inherent in the system of Chinese 
indentured labour on the Rand that were beyond the con- 
trol of any administrative department, however able. The 
problem of the leisure time had not been solved. The coolies 
could engage in no normal social activities. There was 
no family life in the compounds. During the two years, 
June, 1904-6, only five women and thirty-one children 2 had 
accompanied the labourers to the Rand. Mr. Jamieson 
wrote : 

"It is a subject of comment amongst the resident officers 
conversant with the Chinese in their own country that after a 
few months on the Rand the coolies become ' de-Chinese-ed,' 
... a sudden uprooting of ancient landmarks defining the 
path of duty, a relaxation of time-honoured canons of be- 

1 Cd. 3338, p. 7. 

* Of these one woman and two children had returned to China. By 
regulations the labourer had a right to be accompanied by his wife and 
children. Mr. Bianchini declared that the coolies complained that their 
wages were not sufficient to support their families in the Transvaal, 
where the cost of living was admittedly high. 

C.C.E. P 


haviour, the withdrawal of the collective moral atmospheric 
pressure, if it may be so called, brought to bear on the indi- 
vidual from the day of his birth, by the family, the village 
and the community at large can be good for no man, and if 
after a short sojourn here the coolie finds that he can afford 
to disregard with impunity prescriptions hitherto considered 
sacred, it is not surprising that he should develop a tendency 
towards degeneration." ^ 

The insolence of a white boss, the want of scrupulous 
honesty in a manager, the swindling by a Rand store- 
keeper 2 quickened the inevitable result. Gambling rapidly 

" An instance has been quoted to us where a labourer has 
incurred a debt amounting to about ;(^200 through gambling. 
This practically means that he has more than pledged the rest 
of his industrial existence in this country. Cases in which debts 
of this nature have reached amounts of £20 and £30 appear to 
be fairly numerous," ^ 

reported a special committee appointed to investigate the sub- 
ject. Non-payment of such a " debt of honour " resulted 
in intolerable collective pressure. " Life becomes unbear- 
able to them." The Special Committee stated that nine- 
tenths of the deserters were victims of gambling — their object 
in deserting being either to escape or to obtain the means by 
which to satisfy their creditors. The professional scoundrels 
did very little work, forcing their debtors to fill their work 
tickets for them ^ and securing through them leave permits 
from which they might otherwise have been debarred. The 
" opium-habit," made illegal by the Amending Ord. 1905, 
was frequently though surreptitiously practised, and gave 
good profits to the opium dealers. Such irregularities were 
connived at, if not participated in, by the Chinese mine 
police, who "are not only unreliable but resort to all sorts 
of malpractices and extortions." But the " degeneration " 
was marked not only by gambling, opium-dealing and 
professional idleness. Early in August, 1906, Mr. Mackar- 
ness gave certain evidence to the Earl of Elgin which led 
the Secretary of State to request the Earl of Selborne to 

1 Cd. 3338, p. 13. Mr. Jamieson. in Annual Report. 

2 Ibid., p. II. 3 Cd. 3025, p. 82. 

■' Cd. 3025, p. 820. " The best coolie is often the worst scoundrel." 


institute a confidential inquiry into the social conditions 
of the mine compounds. The inquiry was entrusted to Mr. 
Bucknill, who examined twenty-six witnesses and collected 
a great mass of documentary evidence, including fifteen 
reports from medical officers. Evidence and reports were 
confidential, but by an accident certain members of the 
House of Commons learnt the secret. On November 15, 
Mr. Lehmann moved the adjournment of the House for a 
discussion on the matter, and on the same day questions 
were asked in the House of Lords. It was then made known 
by the Colonial Secretary that the offence of male prostitu- 
tion " prevails at most if not all of the compounds." ^ It 
was clear from the evidence " that there were in those 
compounds persons who lent themselves to these practices 
either from habit or for money." In defending the mine- 
officials against a charge of having tolerated this thing. 
Lord Elgin stated that " one of the main difficulties which 
arose in checking [it] is the secrecy with which it is con- 
ducted." In the House of Commons the Prime Minister 
declared that the police and other officials could not be 
blamed for indifference, because witness after witness said 
that although they knew the evil existed, it was almost 
impossible to detect it ; but it was known to exist." 2 The 
result was demoralization and disease. As the Prime Minis- 
ter stated, such dangers " were certain to arise where the 
ordinary social conditions were so commonly inverted." 
Somewhat unjustly, Mr. Lyttelton was called upon to judge 
of the system established by his consent in the light of 
after events. He declared that " he would never have 
proposed that coolie labour should be established on an 
organized system of prostitution." The only available 
evidence he had had in 1904 concerning the habits of emi- 
grant-Chinese was that of the Canadian Commission in 
which it was stated that " to the frugality of the Chinese 
was to be attributed the comparative absence of habits of 
sensuality." However, the truth was out in November, 

1 See also H. of C. Debates, Nov. 15, p. 202, Mr. Winston Churchill 
(Under-Secretary) . 

2 H. of C. Debates, Nov. 15, p. 217. Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman. 


1906. The Under-Secretary stated that " The revelations 
of Mr, Bucknill's report disclosed a sufficiently unhealthy, 
unwholesome and unnatural condition of affairs to seal the 
fate of Chinese labour." " This Report," declared the 
Colonial Secretary, " making every allowance for certain 
qualifications which it contains . . . does in my judgment 
strengthen the view that the permanent adoption of this 
system is impossible." 

But even had the Liberal Ministry not been convinced by 
this " moral disaster " that the system must be terminated, 
the hostile fear of the Rand community would have been 
sufficient to attain this end. For demorahzation led to 
more gambling and more gambling to desertion. Robbery 
was deliberate. When it was resisted there was murder or 
attempted murder. Early in 1906, Lord Selborne had 
issued instructions for a wider distribution of arms, as a 
result of which " I understand there will not be a single 
case of an unarmed man within ten miles of the Witwaters- 
rand." Additions had been made to the Transvaal police, 
while a military force of 400 men of the South African 
constabulary had been appointed to arrest deserters and to 
prevent the excursions of predatory parties. Nevertheless, 
outrages continued. During April and May large mass 
meetings were held in Heidelberg and Pretoria. Strong 
speeches were made expressive of an " intense feeling of 
irritation and uneasiness." On May 4, Lord Selborne, 
together with the Acting Lieut. -Governor, received a 
deputation of delegates from the Het Volk branches in the 
towns along the Reef accompanied by Generals Botha and 
Smuts and other members of the Head Committee. " The 
hearts of the people were sore," ^ said General Botha. Lord 
Selborne promised that the recommendations of the Select 
Committee, appointed April 2 to inquire into the conditions 
of control of Chinese coolies on the Mine premises, should 
be carefully considered. In so far as these related to a 
more efficient system of issuing leave-permits and of securing 
control of the mine premises they were adopted. But the 
Report stated that 

1 Cd. 3025, p. 71. 



" The only effective method of control that we can see for 
checking desertions from the mine premises is maintaining a 
system of guards on the mine boundaries and the erection of 
physical barriers in the shape of wire fences as a police measure 
and to assist the management of the mines in maintaining a 
proper control over the labourers." ^ 

This recommendation was opposed by three members of 
the Committee, including Mr. Jamieson and the Chinese 
Consul, and was disallowed by the Secretary of State. The 
measures taken to meet the situation proved inadequate, 
though Lord Selborne continued to be of the opinion that 
" by the proper control of the labourers without any infringe- 
ment of the liberty they enjoy by law . . . these outrages 
can be avoided." ^ He again pointed out that the present 
desertions were due not to grievances against the mine 
managements but to the results of gambling — to the social 

By May 16, General Botha considered the situation so 
" grave and menacing " as to make a direct communication 
to H.M. Imperial Government imperative.^ 

" Repeated representations and remonstrances addressed 
on . . , behalf (of the rural population) to H.M. Transvaal 
Government have so far been fruitless in checking the steadily 
growing volume of crime and outrages committed by the Chinese 
coolies. . . . The Transvaal Government have made every 
effort to stamp out these outrages but . . . they have so far 
failed. . . . The result is a most lamentable state of unrest 
in the country, such as has not been known within the memory 
of man. Farms are being deserted, the people living on the 
isolated farms have at great inconvenience and loss to trek at 
night to one locality from the neighbouring farms for mutual 
protection and to keep watch and ward as if a state of war 
existed ; men seldom ventuie from their farms in order not to 
leave their women and children defenceless . . . and the 
coloured servants are trekking away and bringing farming 
operations to a standstill. The rural population have hitherto 
submitted with admirable forbearance to this intolerable state 
of affairs, but it is to be feared that unless a change takes place 
immediately, a sense of self-protection might force them to 
take the law into their own hands and the consequences might 

1 Cd. 3025, p. 83. 2 Cd. 3025, No. 120. 

^ Cd. 3025, Enclosure in No. 120. 


be most lamentable. . . . Unless these outrages can be effec- 
tively stopped without further delay, the only alternative in 
the interests of public tranquillity will be the immediate repatria- 
tion of the Chinese labourer." 

The experiment of Chinese labour could not continue. 
The elaborate safeguards instituted to prevent any economic 
competition between the Transvaal community and the 
" human machines " imported from China were inadequate 
to the circumstances. The Rand had imported men. 

On November 30, 1906, the machinery of recruitment in 
China was broken up. By the Letters Patent of the Trans- 
vaal Constitution (Dec. 6, 1906) it was provided that no 
licence should be issued or no contracts renewed under the 
Labour Importation Ord. after the commencement of the 
Letters Patent ; that on 

" the termination of the period of one year from the date of the 
first meeting of the Legislature, the Ordinance of the Colony 
intituled the ' Labour Importation Ordinance, 1904 ' and all 
ordinances amending the same and all Rules and Regulations 
made under the authority of the said Ordinances shall be repealed 
and cease to have effect within the Colony and the system of 
labour deriving effect from the said Ordinances, Rules and 
Regulations shall accordingly be determined." 

The new Legislature had the power to accelerate the end 
or to regulate it subject to the conditions of the Letters 

In their first general election the Transvaal community 
gave an urgent support to the Liberal Ministry's decision. 
General Botha, as Premier, delivered his poHcy speech, 
June 14, 1907. He announced that although pressure had 
been put on the new Government to amend the Constitution 
in order to allow of the renewal of contracts, the repatriation 
of the labourers would take place as their indentures termi- 
nated 1 — a decision to which the Government adhered, not 
only because Chinese labour was " in the highest degree 
inimical to the abiding interests of the Transvaal . . . but 
also by the consideration that the supply of native labour 
is and has been for some time in marked excess of the 
demand." The Native Labour Bureau established by the 

1 Before the end of the year some 16,759 contracts would be deter- 


Government in connexion with the Native Affairs Depart- 
ment would undertake the duty of regulating the supply 
of labour to the mines, would supervise recruitment and see 
that it was better controlled and more systematically con- 
ducted, and would safeguard the interests of the natives 
in labour districts. The Government had determined to 
foster a native as distinct from a Chinese policy. 

Sir G. Farrar, leader of the Opposition, led a strong debate 
against a Government, who were now pulling down the 
economic structure " which has taken five weary years to 
build up." He declared that 

" the mining industry needs labour, not a fluctuating supply 
of labour but a labour supply that will be consistent, labour 
that must be there and labour that is to be a guarantee to those 
who put capital into this country so that the works which are 
started here shall not be delayed through want of labour." 

He attacked bitterly " the policy of the interference of 
Downing Street in the internal affairs of this country." 
The right of renewal of contract was a vested interest. 
Ordinance and Regulations had given the right to the coolie 
and the management. The Prime Minister had promised 
that every coolie going out of the country would be replaced 
— but where was the evidence that any large supply of 
native labour could be procured in South Africa ? 

But the Transvaal people had made their decision : 

" The Government anticipate that the repatriation of the 
Chinese will lead to the restoration of healthier and more stable 
conditions on the mines ; to a larger employment of white 
labour, to the more economic and efficient use of native labour, 
and to the application on a larger scale of mechanical appliances 
to mining operations." 

By the Constitution it was provided that all Ordinances 
and Regulations became without force or effect one year 
after the meeting of the Transvaal Legislative Assembly. 
This would have meant not only that a large number of 
labourers would be unable to complete their contracts, but 
that they would remain in the Transvaal as free men. Act 
19 of 1907 was accordingly passed to allow sufficient time 
for the natural termination of the contracts and a reason- 


able period afterwards for repatriation. The importers 
remained liable for the expenses of repatriation, the Govern- 
ment having taken the position that no vested right had 
been created. The Act received Royal assent August i6, 

The Chinese labour experiment in the Transvaal termin- 
ated as the contracts expired. 





The failure of the Transvaal experiment no doubt influenced 
the British Government to terminate Chinese contract 
labour in British Malaysia, 1914-15. Since that time there 
have been no Chinese coolies working under indentures of 
labour in any territories under British control, save in the 
ex-German islands of the South Pacific under the mandatory 
power of New Zealand and Australia — namely. Western 
Samoa and Nauru. ^ The circumstances that led the British 
Government in 1919 to yield to the pressure of the Govern- 
ment of New Zealand for permission to renew Chinese 
contract emigration to Western Samoa direct attention to 
the problems now confronting the administrators of the 
Pacific Islands. 

During the last thirty or forty years the rich brown soil 
of the islands of Western Samoa has attracted a large inflow 
of capital for the opening up of coco-nut, cocoa and rubber 
plantations. 2 But the planters of the islands have found 
the population of some 30,000 native Samoans unsuited to 
their economic projects. In Upolu and Savaai the Samoans 
still retain possession of some half a million acres of land, 
and are therefore under no necessity to labour on the 
European plantations. " The fertile lands and seas provide 
in abundance the modest requirements of these native 

^ The men engaged in the Pearl Fisheries ofiE the north and north- 
western coast of Australia come rather under the special category of 

* During 1919, 16,356 tons of copra and 820 tons of cocoa were exported 
to America, Australia, and New Zealand — the total value of the export 
amounting to some ;^304,ooo. 



races." ^ " The statement was not altogether true that 
the Samoan did not work," Colonel Tate, Administrator of 
Samoa, stated, March, 1920, 

" but he did not work in the way in which the Europeans under- 
stood the term. ... At the same time he achieved a good 
deal in his own way. He was not a person who simply sat in 
the sun and grew fat. Not only did he keep in hand the beetle, 
which if unchecked would kill all the coco-nuts, but he also 
produced a considerable proportion of the copra. . . . The 
Samoan was not available at present as a labourer because he 
aheady did sufficient work to keep him going." 2 

He was independent of the European. The planters in 
their report, prepared for the New Zealand Parliamentary 
Committee, 1920, laid "great stress upon the fact that with 
the present price of copra, a native and his wife can (if 
they are in want of money) by cutting out 400 lb. of dry 
copra — an easy task — earn in one day more than the 
planters could afford to pay them in a month." ^ As Mr. 
Harman complained before the Australian Trade Commis- 
sion, 1917 : 

" You cannot always rely on natives (Samoans), and you 
cannot always be teaching raw hands. They prefer perhaps 
going somewhere else where they may get better food on another 
plantation or get a little more pay — they become very particu- 
lar." 4 

Obviously they have been unsuited to the needs of the 
plantation. As a result labour has been imported into 
Western Samoa under contracts. 

Before the war, 1914, the principal German Company, 
" Deutsche Handels und Plantagen Gesellschaft " (The 
D.H. & P.G. Co.) held the sole right of recruiting Kanaka 
labour from the Solomon Islands and German New Guinea 
for their large coco-nut plantations of 56,000 acres in 
Upolu and 20,000 in Savaai. The smaller cocoa and rubber 
planters, German and British, have therefore been under 

^ Australian Inter -State Commission on Trade in South Pacific, April 8, 
1918, p. 58. 

^ New Zealand Pari. Paper, 1920, Visit of Parliamentary Party to 
Pacific Islands, p. 73. ^ Ibid., p. 40. 

* Australian P.P. No. 66, F 13489. Evidence, p. 50. 



the necessity of recruiting their indentured labour in Asia. 
In 1902-3 the Planters' Association first introduced Chinese 
under contracts. According to the evidence given by Mr. 
Harman, the Chinese Government placed such difiiculties in 
the way of the experiment that attempts were made by the 
planters to recruit labour in Java and the South Pacific 
Islands — but without success. Concessions having been 
made to meet the conditions imposed by the Chinese 
Government, Chinese contract emigration to Western Samoa 
was allowed to continue " under terms more favourable to 
the coolies, and on the whole with good results from the 
employers' standpoint." There is no information at present 
available of the terms of contract under which the first 
Chinese coolies were introduced nor of the concessions 
made by the German administration to meet the conditions 
of the Chinese Government. But in March, 1913, the 
" 7th Transport Contract " was agreed upon as between 
the military Governor of Kwangtung and the German 

Under the terms of this agreement, contracts for a period 
of three years might be entered into by a Chinese coolie 
and the recruiting firm Wendt & Co. on behalf of a planter 
in Western Samoa. During the indentured period the 
coolie was to be paid 20 M. a month, from which deductions 
might be made for advances given on embarkation and for 
any days on which the coolie was absent from work. The 
coolie was also to receive sufficient food and suitable accom- 
modation. The day's work was to be limited to ten hours, 
or nine hours if the temperature was over 100° F. There 
was to be no work on Sundays or on special holidays. The 
coolie might not leave the plantation on which he was 
labouring without a permit, though it was stipulated that 
a permit should not be refused without good reason. If the 
coolie died or became permanently injured while working 
under contract, compensation was to be paid by the em- 
ployer. During the indentured period the interests of the 
coolie were to be safeguarded by the special Commissioner 
appointed for that purpose by the German administration. 
^ Cmd. 919. Enclosure in No. 14. 


The coolies might also appeal to their consular representative 
in the islands. Moreover, the terms of the contracts were 
enforced by penal sanctions imposed by labour enactments. 
On the termination of the contract, the coolie was to be 
repatriated at the cost of his employer. No mention was 
made of reindenture in the terms of the agreement, but it 
was allowed by mutual consent. Chinese who did not 
wish to return to China might re-engage their services to an 
employer, but they might not remain in the country as free 
settlers. There were some 2,200 Chinese coolies working 
under these conditions in Western Samoa prior to the mili- 
tary occupation of 19 14. 

On the declaration of war, the New Zealand Government 
dispatched a military expedition to take possession of the 
German islands of Western Samoa. The military officers 
who administered the island-affairs during the war-period 
were quickly confronted by the " labour difficulty." An 
application made by the planters for permission to continue 
the introduction of Chinese coolies under contract into 
Western Samoa was referred to the Secretary of State for 
the Colonies. It was refused. The planters were informed 
that it was against the fixed policy of the British Govern- 
ment to allow indentured Chinese coolies in the British 
possessions. In 1920 Sir J. Allen stated that " The 
Imperial Government sent us absolutely definite instructions 
not to indenture any more Chinese labour during war-time 
— nor Solomon Island labour either." ^ The Colonial 
Secretary persisted in the refusal, despite repeated com- 
munications from the New Zealand Government. The 
planters argued that " technically and strictly speaking, it 
was not a British possession but a German colony under 
British military occupation, and according to the Hague 
Convention the German law and all German arrangements 
continued in force." The argument was ineffectual. The 
attitude of the British Government being so determined on 
the subject of further Chinese immigration under contract, 
an urgent request was made that at least the Chinese 
already in the islands should be allowed to reindenture. 

^ N.Z. p.p. Visit of Pari. Party to Pacific Is. 1920, p. 53. 

sa 'h 


" Their first reply was ' No,' " Sir J. Allen stated, March 10, 

" We realized that that meant the destruction of the Samoan 
plantations, and we communicated over and over again with 
the Imperial Government and begged them to permit us to 
reindenture the labour which was here. Finally they gave a 
partial consent. They consented to our reindenturing for three 
months only during the war-time." ^ 

The period was later extended to six months — and after 
the Armistice to two years. 

The planters were bitter against the new administration. 

" Our Chinese hospital, which had been erected in a central 
position for the convenience of the plantations, and furnished 
with the medicines and equipment necessary for our purpose 
at considerable expense, was closed by the Government, and 
we were forced to send our men to the Government hospital, 
which was not conveniently situated. Again, our labour bar- 
racks, which had previously been considered to fulfil all require- 
ments, were found unsuitable for the accommodation of our 
labour force, and we were compelled to make additions or erect 
new buildings, this in spite of the fact that the health of our 
men had been universally good and. building material was scarce 
and the price inflated. To add to our difficulties, the forced 
repatriation of our labour at the prohibitive cost we were called 
upon to pay was almost the last straw." ^ 

The short periods of reindenture meant that " we have 
had to repatriate men who had desired to go back. We 
had to charter steamers to take those people away at an 
enormous expense to us." The result was to be expected. 

" As each transport was dispatched, the demand for inden- 
tured labour quickly overran the supply, and labour, getting 
scarcer and scarcer each year, planters, in order to secure the 
minimum amount of help necessary to the running of their 
estates, were compelled to bid against each other, thus gradually 
forcing the cost of indentured labour to the present almost 
prohibitive price " ^ {£2 los. per month with certain food rations). 

At the end of 191 9, of the 2,200 indentured coolies in 

1 Ibid. 

2 Ibid., p. 41. 

' Ibid., p. 43, reprint of an article in Samoa Times, September, 1919, by 
Mr. A. Cobcroft. 


Western Samoa, 1914, 108 had died — 31 as a result of the 
influenza epidemic — and 1,254 had been repatriated. The 
remainder (838) were left on the plantations. 

When it became known that Western Samoa would be 
declared mandated territory under the control of the New 
Zealand Government, the latter renewed their efforts to 
secure a labour force for the European plantations. The 
economic results of the influenza epidemic were somewhat 
serious — especially for the coco-nut planters. Apparently 
the rhinoceros-beetle is the scourge to be dreaded on the 
coco-nut plantations. Prior to the epidemic the ravages 
of the beetle were stayed. Mr, Cobcroft wrote, in September, 

" Every credit should be given to the Department of Agri- 
culture and administration generally for having brought about 
. . . this most desirable situation. They spent thousands 
of pounds combating this pest. Competitions with generous 
prizes were started among the natives for the greatest number 
of beetles, larvae and eggs destroyed. . . . The male population 
of Samoa, together with all indentured labour, had to turn out 
each Monday forenoon to search for beetles."^ 

During the epidemic the beetle hunting was practically 
suspended. In a period of three months about 19 per cent, 
of the total population perished ^ — among the dead being 
75 per cent, of the most influential matais or headmen. 
So the beetle flourished undisturbed. " Signs may be 
noticed by intelligent observers," wrote Mr. Cobcroft, 
" which warn us that once more we will have to buckle 
down to a very strenuous fight if we are to save our trees 
and regain the position we held before the epidemic." The 
Samoans would have enough to do to look after their own 
area. What of the European plantations ? The New 
Zealand Government, having decided to work the large 
ex-German estates as Crown property, was immediately 
concerned in finding a solution of the problem. Attempts 
were therefore made to secure the reintroduction of Kanakas 
from the Solomon Islands — the Kanakas in the pay of the 
D.H. & P.G. before the war having proved docile and steady 

^ N.Z., P.P., Visit of Pari. Party, to Pacific Is., 1920, p. 44. 
- Deaths totalled 7,543. 


workers. But the Australian Government, to whom the 
mandate of the Solomon Islands was to be given, refused 
to permit the recruitment of Kanakas for indentured labour 
outside their home territory. Efforts to secure Japanese 
labourers were equally unsuccessful. The New Zealand 
Government then renewed the request for the introduction 
of Chinese coolies under contract. " Since the Armistice 
we have communicated over and over again with the 
Imperial Government." ^ On September 7, 1919, the 
Governor-General of New Zealand telegraphed to the 
Secretary of State that " the value of the mandate was 
dependent on a solution of the difficulty." 2 On Sep- 
tember 9, Lord MiLner, the Colonial Secretary, replied 
by telegraph that the British Ambassador at Peking 
had been asked to consider the best means of meeting 
the wishes of the New Zealand Government. The matter 
was difficult to negotiate, both on account of the recog- 
nized objection of the Chinese Government to the con- 
tract system, and especially of the political differences 
between the Peking and Kwangtung Governments. To 
obviate the latter difficulty, the British Minister, Peking, 
suggested that an agreement should be made with the local 
authorities of the Kwangtung province whom, he under- 
stood, were at the time waiting for a report on Chinese 
labour from the Consul in Samoa. In November, 1919, the 
Chinese Commissioner in Samoa was sent to China with 
full power to enter into service contracts with coolies on 
behalf of the Administration of Samoa. 

Two further obstacles, however, delayed the operation of 
the coolie experiment. In the first place. Captain Carter, 
the recruiting agent sent to China by the Samoan adminis- 
tration, experienced considerable difficulty in recruiting 
labour " on reasonable terms through the Chinese authori- 
ties, owing to their exorbitant demands and taxes and to 
the general political unrest." ^ Therefore on April i, 1920, 
the Governor-General of New Zealand telegraphed to the 
Secretary of State for permission to allow the coolies 

1 Ibid., p. 54. 2 Cmd. 919, No. 5. 

* Cmd. 919, No. 12. 


recruited in Chinese territory to be drafted through Hong- 
Kong for Government supervision. The request was allowed. 
In the second place, the proposals were actively opposed 
by the political Labour Party of New Zealand. In the 
Debate on the Second Reading of the Treaties of Peace 
Bill, October, 1919, which gave power to the Governor to 
make laws, rules, and regulations for the administration of 
Samoa by Orders in Council if necessary during the Parlia- 
mentary recess, Mr. Holland moved the amendment that 
" Such order in Council shaU expressly forbid the employ- 
ment of indentured labour in Western Samoa," The 
amendment was lost on a division (10-29) t>ut the Prime 
Minister gave the House to understand that the numbers 
of indentured labourers in Samoa would not be increased 
until the House had a further opportunity in the following 
Session to discuss the matter. He further asked members 
to take advantage of the arrangements made for the 
visit during the recess of a Parliamentary Party to the 
Pacific Islands administered by the New Zealand Govern- 
ment. The Party landed in Western Samoa, March 5, 
1920. During their stay on the islands, the opinion of 
the Faipules, on the subject of imported labour, was not 
officially asked or given — though, according to a state- 
ment made by Mr. Holland,^ the Samoan people had 
especially desired that it should be discussed in order that 
it might be abolished. Inspections were made on some of 
the plantations, and a few Chinese coolies were questioned 
through an interpreter. Members of the Labour Party 
gave considerable attention to the indentured system as at 
the time established. The average rate of pay to the 
Chinese coolies working under reindentures was £2 ids. a 
month, with an additional 12s. food allowance, and a daily 
ration of if lb. of rice. 

Q. What is the difference between the wages they receive 
here and the wages they received in their own country before 
they came here ? 

A. They have rather more wages here, but the cost of living 
is dear, which makes up the difference. ^ 

^ N.Z. Pari. Debates, July, 1920, p. 895. 
2 N.Z. P.P. Visit to Pacific Is., p. 30. 


Some were working on tasks, some by the day, according 
to the will of the planter. The Chinese were not permitted 
to leave the estates without a special permit. In practice, 
however, apparently no notice was taken of a one day's 
absence without leave apart from a deduction in wages. 
If the absence was for a longer period the matter was 
reported to the Commissioner and the coolie punished. 
When four coolies were questioned by Mr. Holland on the 
subject of punishment, the reply was " He says he is afraid 
to answer." 1 On the assurance being given that the 
party were there to protect and not to injure them, the 
information was given that " these four are good coolies. 
They have all a clean record. They have never been up 
for punishment." 2 Knowing the moral disaster that had 
occurred during the coolie experiment in the Transvaal, 
particular attention was given to the relations between the 
Chinese and the Samoan women — there being no more than 
four Chinese women in the islands. Evidence was given 
that of the 838 Chinese, some fewer than 200 had lived, 
or were living, for longer or shorter periods, with Samoan 
girls. In some instances the attachment was no doubt 
sincere. When the coolies were repatriated their women 
and children were forced to remain behind. In questioning 
a planter concerning the habits of the coolies who had not 
cohabited with the Samoans, either from the natural diffi- 
culty of language or for other reasons, Sir J. Allen asked : 

" Do they live lives of absolute cehbacy ? " 

A. " 1 think they tried to get one, but they cannot support 
or cannot get a woman. So far as I know I do not think there 
is any male prostitution. I have been here only a short time." a 

Mr. H. Morley, Manager of the Tanumapua Plantation, 
was also asked : 

" What was their relationship with the women on the island ? 
Did they live lives of absolute cehbacy ? " 

A. "They used to go down to the Samoan villages at the 
week-end ... if the Chinese are allowed to run about the 
island it is bad for the natives." ^ 

^ N.Z. Pari. Debates, July, 1920, p. 896. 

2 N.Z. P.P. Visit to Pacific Is., p. 30. 

^ Ibid. 4 Ibid., p. 31. 

C.C.E. O 


A coolie questioned by a member of the Parliamentary 
Committee gave the following replies : 

Q. Would he like to bring his wife to Samoa ? 

A. He would not like it at present. 

Q. What is his objection at present to bringing his wife here ? 

A. He has no money at present. 

Q. If he had money, would he like his wife here ? 

A . Yes, he would like to bring her if he had sufficient money.* 

The New Zealand Parliament reassembled in June, 1920, 
after a general election. When the subject of Samoan 
administration was under discussion, Mr. Holland, as a 
result of his experiences on the islands, moved that " the 
House records its opposition to the continuance of inden- 
tured labour in Western Samoa." The case for the Govern- 
ment was stated by Mr. Lee, Minister of External Affairs. 2 
He quoted from a speech made by Sir J. Allen. 

" As I read the Mandate, the islands are committed to us, 
it is true, in the first instance to conserve the native interests ; 
but they are also committed to us in care for the rest of the 
world, and I personally do not believe it possible or right that 
rich islands like these in the Pacific, which produce things that 
the inhabitants of the world require, should be left unculti- 
vated." 3 

The Government had undertaken the task. But " the 
only way to develop these islands is to produce what the 
lands will so well produce and by labour from outside," — by 
" properly controlled indentured labour from China." The 
Samoans would not work steadily on the European planta- 
tions. If the Europeans could not get outside labour they 
would be unable to check the beetle and the results would 
be disastrous for the islands. Mr. Lee quoted the opinion 
of the London Missionary Society that there was no " sub- 
stantial foundation in fact for the assertion that the intro- 
duction of single Chinese in the past has resulted in a great 
moral degradation of the Samoan people." Such trouble 
as had arisen was the result of the long periods served by 
some of the Chinese in the islands. It took them three 

1 N.Z. P.P. Visit to Pacific Is., p. 37. 

^ N.Z. Pari. Debates, July 28, 1920, p. 798. 

3 N.Z. P.P. Visit to Pacific Is., p. 54.; 


years to learn the Samoan language, so that if the contracts 
were limited to three years, the danger would be minimized. 
He pointed out that the Chinese did not complain of their 
condition. The Chinese " are going to help to develop 
Samoa . . . and raise the Samoans from the state they are 
now in." Mr. Lee declared that " one must take a common- 
sense view of the position." From the remarks made later 
by the Prime Minister, it is evident that he regarded the 
indentured system as a necessary evil, for at the time 
he knew of no alternative if the European plantations were 
to be worked. Without Chinese labour the islands would 
be non-revenue-producing, since the Samoans only laboured 
for their immediate requirements. If New Zealand did not 
retain mandatory control over Western Samoa, some foreign 
country would be prepared to accept the responsibility. 
He promised that " so far as I am concerned, I will do my 
level best to get rid of the indentured labour system and 
replace it by free labour." ^ 

The Labour Party advanced no alternative proposal for 
the securing of a sufficient laboiir supply for the European 
plantations. Mr. Holland suggested, however, that the 
Samoans could hardly be expected to work for Europeans 
for a monthly wage that only equalled what they were 
able to earn by independent labour in one day. The argu- 
ment that the Samoan race would be starved out by the 
beetle if the European plantations were left without labour 
was declared by Mr. Bartram to be preposterous, considering 
that by far the greater part of the islands were still unculti- 
vated. Part of the undergrowth could be kept down by 
the introduction of Indian cattle. Suggestions were made 
for the scientific investigation of the beetle problem by the 
Agricultural Department with a view to its solution by 
chemical devices. It was the opinion of the Labour Party 
that no argument had been advanced in support of a policy, 
which in the past had proved so disastrous in the Transvaal, 
and in the future might threaten the social welfare of the 
Samoan people. Why had the Samoans not been officially 
consulted on the subject ? Mr. Fraser deliberately asked 

1 N.Z. Pari. Debates, p. 938. 


the Government what their attitude would be if the condi- 
tions of the Transvaal compounds were re-established in 
Western Samoa — a question that brought the Prime Minister, 
in anger, to his feet. Mr. Eraser declared : 

"If it cannot be demonstrated (that in Samoa, as distinct 
from any other portions of the earth, men can be herded together 
without the ordinary domestic environment and can live a 
celibate and absolutely pure life) there is no excuse of any kind 
that can weigh in the balance against the moral iniquity of it." ^ 

The Labour Party were accused by a member of the 
House of seizing on the question of indentured labour as 
affording an opportunity for a " magnificent political stunt." 
The accusation may, or may not, have been justifiable. 
But there seems no reason to doubt the sincerity of the 
Labour speakers. Their argument was that no Government 
would dare to introduce such a system into New Zealand. 
" I want to lay it down as a guiding principle, that a system 
. . . you yourselves would not work under in New Zealand, 
you have no right to impose upon any other people." 2 

The Government won the division by a large majority. 
The Samoan Administration thereupon proceeded to draw 
up the terms of contract under which Chinese coolies would 
be recruited for labour in the mandated territory of Western 
Samoa. The introduction of the coolies was to be entirely 
under Government control though at the employers' expense. 
The contracts were to be valid for three years if the coolie 
emigrated without his wife. But approved labourers were 
to be allowed to take their wives with them to Samoa at 
the cost of the administration. Coolies taking advantage 
of this " privilege " were expected to enter into a six years' 
contract. On landing in Samoa, the coolies were to be 
drafted on to the plantations or into domestic service. If 
a coolie's services were not immediately engaged, he would 
be expected to work for the Government on public works 
until employment was offered him. He would not be 
employed in mines or on railway construction (light rails 
for plantation work excepted). His wages during the first 

1 N .Z. Pari. Debates, p. 926, Mr. Fraser. 

2 Ibid., p. 894, Mr. Holland. 


three years were fixed at 30s. per month, with extra for 
overtime. During a period of reindenture or during the 
second half of a six years' service, the wages were to be 
raised as agreed upon between the labourer and the em- 
ployer, the minimum advance being los. per month. The 
coolie was to be supplied with food,^ lodgings, some clothes, 
and medical treatment. The hours of work were limited 
to 9I hours, or 9 hours if the temperature was over 100° F. 
No work was to be done on Sundays or special holidays. 2 
After working hours or on holidays, the coolies were to be 
free to go out without restriction, but they must be back 
in their homes by 9 p.m. No gambling, opium smoking or 
drinking was to be allowed in the islands of Western Samoa, 
and " all temptations " leading to bad habits and extrav- 
agance were prohibited. For refusal to work, or absence 
from work, or illness caused by the labourer's own fault, 
an amount proportioned to the number of days not worked 
might be deducted from his wages for the month. No 
labourer might be subjected to corporal punishment " under 
any pretext whatever." It was the duty of the Chinese 
Commissioner to care for the interests of the coolie, who 
might also lodge a complaint against his employer to the 
Chinese Consul. The coolie retained his right of recourse 
to the courts of law. If the coolie died or became perma- 
nently disabled as a result of his work or of the climate, 
compensation was to be paid. At the end of a first period 
of service, a second contract might be entered into by mutual 
agreement, and with the consent of the Administrator and 
the Chinese Consul. If the coolie did not desire to be 
reindentured he must be repatriated to his native village 
at the employer's expense. Repatriation was made com- 
pulsory. All the terms of the contracts were subject to 
penal sanction imposed by Labour Enactment. 

Under such terms of contract, 1,430 Chinese were intro- 
duced into Western Samoa, June, 1920-December, 1921, 
the total number on the islands at the latter date being 


^ Rations were stated : i lb. loj oz. rice ; J lb. meat or fish ; i J oz. 
fat and ample vegetables per day. One-third lb. tea per month. 
2 This did not apply to domestic workers. 


No information concerning the actual conditions under 
which these coolies are living and working in the mandated 
territory is at present available. When it is forthcoming 
it should give an answer to certain queries suggested by the 
history of the system. Have the economic interests of the 
coolies been secured ? Even with rations, a monthly wage 
of 30S, or a possible 32s. for a period of three years seems 
surprisingly low, especially when it is remembered that 
the general testimony, both of the West Indian planters 
and of the Transvaal mine-managers, was to the effect that 
in a period of six months the Chinese became efficient work- 
men. Moreover, on the plantations the coolies are under 
the control of Chinese headmen or Kapala. It is true that 
these headmen are expressly forbidden to subject the 
coolies to corporal punishment. It may also be true that 
in Samoa the Chinese headmen are very different to the 
Chinese headmen who have controlled coolie labour in 
Malaysia, in the West Indies, in the Transvaal. But it 
should be remembered that while the language-gulf separates 
the European manager from his labourers, the Chinese 
headmen will have a degree of power over their coolies 
that may not be conducive to the well-being of the latter, 
who are easily terrorized by a show of authority. These 
matters would not require such attention were it not that 
the indentured labourers are bound to the estates for a 
minimum period of three years. If they are dissatisfied 
they cannot leave their service. They can, of course, bring 
any complaints to the notice of the Commissioner. But 
" the Commissioner is a long way away." So also is the 
Consul. They can appeal to the courts. But in the past 
such a right of appeal has not been of much value. And, 
further, what information will be forthcoming concerning 
the social and moral welfare of the coolies ? The Samoan 
Administration, in drawing up the regulations governing 
the importation of Chinese labourers, provided for the 
introduction of the wife of an " approved " labourer if he 
signed a contract for six years. Between June, 1920- 
December, 1921, only two Chinese women emigrated to 
Western Samoa. Past experience suggests that as a result 


either (i) there will be a repetition on a smaller scale of 
the Transvaal disaster. For some time after their arrival 
in Western Samoa the language difficulty will make inter- 
course between the coolies and the Samoan women difficult, 
even if the Government is prepared to allow the coolies 
full opportunity to go into the Samoan villages. Under 
such circumstances it seems futile to forbid men to succumb 
to " all temptations leading to bad habits." 

Or (2) the difficulty of intercourse between the Chinese 
immigrants and the Samoan women may be readily over- 
come, and fa'asamoa marriages may take place. There is 
no evidence to show that intermarriage between the Samoan 
and Chinese races would have unsatisfactory results in 
normal circumstances. But the circumstances are not 
normal. At the end of their service the men will be repa- 
triated — if necessary under compulsion. The women and 
children will remain behind. 

Or (3) the Samoan Administration may actively encourage 
Chinese women to accompany their husbands to Western 
Samoa. But if such is the case it should be remembered 
that it is not so easy to repatriate a family as to repatriate 
a man. As a rule the Chinese coolies who have emigrated 
from China under the credit-ticket or contract system have 
manifested a strong desire to return some time to China, 
to the ancestral village. But when Chinese families have 
emigrated they have been more prepared to settle in the 
country in which they have rendered a temporary service. 
If families are introduced into Samoa, they may be able 
to make an effective appeal against repatriation. Certainly 
if children are born to them in the islands their claim will 
be difficult to dispute. But such a claim may not be con- 
ducive to the welfare of the Samoan people, especially if 
there is truth in the statement made by Mr. Harman before 
the Australian Trade Commission : " The fact is there is 
no room for an alien population for settlement in Samoa, 
although they want more labour." The permanent interests 
of the Samoan people in a matter of such special importance 
cannot well be ignored by the mandatory power. 



(6) NAURU 

In addition to the Chinese imported into Western Samoa 
for labour on the plantations, there are 592 Chinese work- 
ing under contract in the ex-German island of Nauru, 
administered by Australia as the mandatory power. On 
April 24, 1921, out of a total population in Nauru of 
2,166 ^ the Chinese numbered 597. Of these 592 were men, 
2 women, and 3 children. There is no available informa- 
tion of the conditions under which the Chinese labour on 
the rich phosphate-bearing island, but the fact that out of 
a total administrative expenditure of £12,712 from Decem- 
ber 17, 1920, to December 31, 1921, some £2,966 were 
spent on police and prisons gives cause for reflection on 
the indentured system. It is probable that the Australian 
Government, in deference to the known opposition of the 
Australian people to any traffic in Asiatic labourers, will 
substitute Nev/ Guinea natives for Chinese in the economic 
system of Nauru. 

But the problem of securing a suitable labour supply for 
economic development is not local to Western Samoa and 
Nauru amongst the islands of the Pacific. It was stated, in 
evidence before the Australian Trade Commission, that " no 
commercial enterprise of any magnitude can be carried on 
in the South Pacific without labour from outside sources." 
The Indian Government is not willing to allow the continued 
exploitation of its subjects under an indentured system. 
It is possible therefore that proposals will be made to 
facilitate the adoption of a " forward policy " in the Pacific 
Islands and in tropical Australia by extending the system 





Europeans .... 


Caroline Islanders . 
Marshall Islanders . 
Nauruans .... 













Total. . . . 






of Chinese indentured labour now in operation on a small 
scale in Western Samoa and Nauru. By reading the lessons 
of history it is possible to reckon up the approximate human 
costs that would be involved in the acceptance of such 



The subject of Chinese immigration into countries within 
the British Empire may be considered under two general 
aspects, viz. : — (i) immigration into temperate regions, where 
young and vigorous British communities have already settled ; 
and (2) immigration into tropical areas, where the native 
population is either too small or too unsuited for modern 
economic development to meet the needs of capitalistic 

During last century the opening up of Canada, Australia, 
and New Zealand gave a stimulus to the speculative exporta- 
tion of men by Chinese merchants — the conditions governing 
the development of the new countries and the discovery 
therein of rich goldfields promising a quick return for money 
invested in the trafiic. As a result, the young British 
communities came to regard China as a source whence 
there might pour forth into their midst a flood of immigrants, 
and therefore they secured themselves against the subver- 
sion of the body-politic that would follow a large movement 
outwards of the Chinese by adopting a policy of restriction 
which is practically one of prohibition. 

Although the right of these British communities to 
preserve the continuity of their social organization may be 
admitted, it is open to question whether a policy of moderate 
restriction would not be sufficient to achieve this end. But 
it is further argued by the British Dominions that a modified 
policy would encourage an alien system of debt bondage 
over which they can have no control. Such a system, it is 
believed, has led, and would again lead, to unfair economic 
competition with both wage-earning and merchant classes, 
the inevitable result being a lowering of the " Standard of 
Life," won by them after much strenuous endeavour. But 



as it becomes more apparent that the economic danger of 
Chinese immigration could be lessened by the efficient 
administration of necessary legislation, the emphasis in the 
argument against it is shifting from economics to eugenics. 
Chinese immigrants will be unwelcome to any British com- 
munity so long as they remain a group apart. But assimi- 
lation almost inevitably means miscegenation, and against 
the latter there is a strong and widespread prejudice. 
Whether this prejudice is or is not well grounded is a subject 
for careful scientific investigation and not for argument. 
It is curious that the significance of the " race-question " 
for the immediate future has been so little appreciated in 
the past. Certainly from the data at present available 
no conclusion .of any value can be drawn. But until it 
can be shown that miscegenation even on a small scale 
does not necessarily give rise to the evils generally ascribed 
to it, it is improbable that even a moderate immigration of 
Chinese — or of other Asiatics — into the British Dominions 
will be allowed. 

The immigration of Chinese into the tropical British 
colonies — with the exception of the Straits Settlements, 
where the conditions of proximity and numbers favour the 
continuous coming and going of the Chinese — has resulted 
mainly from the institution of the indentured labour system. 
The story of the past makes it apparent that this system is 
subject to abuse. Moreover, when an effective opposition 
from either the native population or the governing authori- 
ties leads to a compulsory repatriation at the end of the 
period of service, the labourers under contract are removed 
for a period of years from a society to a labour system 
which prevents the satisfaction of normal human wants. 
It may be questioned whether, under such circumstances, 
the indentured labour system should be allowed to continue 
if the end to be attained through social organization is the 
welfare of man rather than the accumulation of " cities and 
money and rich plantations." 


The material used in the above work has been obtained chiefly 
from Parhamentary Papers and Debates. Of the Parhamentary 
Papers the most important have been the Reports of Special 
Commissions appointed to investigate the subject of Chinese 
coolie migration and of certain aspects of it, e.g., Reports of 
Commissions, S.S., 1876 and 1890 ; U.S.A., 1876 ; Canada, 
1884 and 1902 ; British Guiana, 1871 ; Cuba, 1876 ; South 
Africa Labour Commission, 1903, and Australian Commission 
on Trade in the South Pacific, 1918. 

For the period of Foreign Competition for Chinese coolie 
labour, 1845-74, the chief source of information has been 
the P.P.'s containing the dispatches of official representatives 
in China. The confidential dispatches, having reference to 
the period 1860-9, have been read in the Foreign Office 
Library by the permission of H.M. Minister for Foreign Affairs. 
The Command Paper C. 5448 is of importance to the under- 
standing of the Australian crisis of 1888 ; and the frequent 
Command Papers, issued 1904-6, on the subject of Chinese 
Labour in the Transvaal contain the material necessary for its 

Parliamentary Debates in all the States or Colonies affected 
by the question have been read whenever it was necessary to 
ascertain the trend of public opinion. In this connexion the 
Special Debates in the various State Parliaments of Australia, 
1876-7, 1881, 1888, and in the Federal Parliament 1901-2, the 
Debates on Chinese Contract Labour on the Rand in the British 
Parliament 1904-6, and the Debates in New Zealand on the 
subject of contract labour for Western Samoa, 1919-20, are of 

There is some interesting material in the Annual Reports of 
the Chinese Protectorate, S.S., 1877-1914, and especially of 
the Foreign Labour Dept., Transvaal, 1904-9. 

A file of the Anti-Slavery Reporter, the organ of the Anti- 
Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society, though having only 
scattered references to the subject of Chinese coolie emigration, 
gave several suggestions of interesting material. 

The daily press was frequently consulted, especially the 
British Press during the political crisis, 1905-6. 



In addition to these primary sources of information, books 
of general historical and biographical interest have been con- 
sulted. Among these may be mentioned : 

The Malay Peninsula, Wright and Reid. 

Labour and Industry in Australia, Coghlan. 

The Gilds of China, Morse. 

Reconstrtiction of the New Colonies under Lord Milner, Worsfold. 

State Experiments in Australia and New Zealand, W. Pember 

The Chinese in British Guiana, C. Clementi. 


Alcock, Sir R., 140, 141, 144 
Allen, Sir J., 220, 221, 226 
Austin, J. Gardiner, 113 

Voluntary Emigration Scheme 

1859, 121 et seq. 
Australia, Chinese Immigration : 
" Afghan " Incident, 70, 71 
Anti-Chinese League, 64 
Chun Teong Toy v. Musgrove 

Case, 73 
Contracts of Service, 57 
Credit-Ticket System, 58 
Entry Taxes, 63, 65, 70, 73 
Federation, Influence of Chinese 

Labour Question, 75 
Goldfields, Chinese Labour in, 58, 

60, 61 
Population Statistics, 64, 77 
Restrictive Legislation, 58, 59 et 

seq., 75, 76 et seq. 
Segregation of Chinese, 78 
Shipping Services, Employing 

Chinese, 63 

Balfour, Sir Arthur, 202, 204, 

205, 206 
Barkly, Sir Henry, 93, 99, 107 
Borneo, British North, Coolie 

Labour, 14 
Botha, General, 212, 213, 214 
Bowring, Dr., 93, 97, 100, iii, 115 
British Columbia, Chinese Immi- 
gration : 
Restrictive Legislation, 38, 39 et 

Statistics, 37 ^ 

Taxation of Immigrants, 37, '^6 
White Labour, Competition with 
Chinese,^43 et seq., '52, 53 
British Columbia, Japanese' Immi- 
gration, 1 90 1, 51 
British Guiana, see West Indies. 
British Malaysia, see Malaysia. 

California, Credit Ticket System 

in, 27 et seq. 
Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H,, 182, 


Canada, Chinese Immigration, 36 

et seq. 
Canadian Pacific Railway, Chinese 

Labour for, 34, 35, 36 et seq. 
Carnarvon, Lord, 62 
Chapleau, Hon. Mr., 43, 50 
Chinese Companies in California, 29 
Chinese Coolie Brokers, Methods of, 

2 et seq., 95, 117 
Chinese Secret Societies, 8, 13, 46, 

Clementi, Cecil, 159, 160 
Contract Emigration : 

Cuba, 94, 96, III note, 117, 131, 

135 et seq., 146 
Peru, 96, 97, 105, 117, 131, 150 
West Indies, Experiments 1852- 

9, 86 et seq., 107, 121 et seq. 
Western Samoa, 228 et seq. 
Convention of Peking, 40, 62, 129, 

Credit- Ticket System : 
California, 27 et seq. 
Hong-Kong, 19 

Kangany System substituted, 24 
Malaysia, 2 et seq. 
Origin and Development of, 2 et 

Terminated, 20, 24, 25 
Cuba, Chinese Contract Immigra- 
tion, 94, 96, III note, 117, 131 
et seq., 135, 146 

Des Voeux, Hon. Mr., 131, 132, 

Dutch Sumatra, Coolie Labour in, 7, 

Elgin, Lord, 202, 208, 209 
Evans, W., 181, 196 

Farrar, Sir G., 176, 178, 215 
Federated Malay States, see Malay- 
Fitzpatrick, Sir Percy, 167, 169 
Foreign Competition for Chinese 
Labour, 97 




" Free " Emigration Schemes, West 
Indies, 121 et seq. 

Gold-fields, Chinese Labour in, 
27. 36, 58, 161 

Hong-Kong : 

Coolie Traffic abuses, 150, 152 ei 

Credit-Ticket Emigration from, 

Indian Coolies, Employment of, 

21, 87, 92, 112, 171 
Inspection of Estates, 22 

Jamieson, J. W. , 193, 199, 201, 

204, 208 
Javanese Coolie Labour on Rubber 

Plantations, 21 
Jervois, Sir W., 10 

Kanaka Labour, 218, 222 
Kangany Emigration System, 24 
King, T. H., 28 
Knutsford, Lord, 69, 71 

Labour Commission, Straits Settle- 
ments 1 890- 1, 15 

Labour Importation Ordinance, 
(Transvaal) 1904, 176, 178 

Labour Importation Amendment 
Ordinance, 187, 200, 201 

Labour Laws, Malaysia, 22 

Lumber Trade, Chinese and Japan- 
ese Labour for, 55 

Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. vUfred, 181, 182, 
183, 196, 199, 202, 211 

Macao, Chinese Coolie Traffic, 52 et 

Malaysia, Chinese Immigration : 
Cost of Coolies, 3, 5, 15, 20 
Credit Ticket System, 2 et seq. 
Government Regulations 1877- 

1914, 12 et seq. 
Labour Enactments, 22 
Licensing of Lodging-houses, 12, 


Protector of Chinese appointed, 

12, 20 
Secret Societies, Influence of, 8, 

Singapore and Penang Trade, i 

et seq. 
Termination of Contract System, 

20, 25, 217 
Male Immigration, Social Problem 

of, 1 10 et seq., 209 

Milner, Lord, 169, 170, 173, 174, 176 

179, 186, 223 
Morse, H. B., 29, 31 
Moustier, M. de, 144 

Nauru, Chinese Labour in, 232 
New South Wales, Chinese Labour 

in, 60 
New Zealand, Chinese Immigra- 
tion : 
Population Statistics, 83 
Restrictive Legislation, 80 et seq. 
Samoa — Mandated Territory, see 

Western Samoa. 
Shipping Restrictions, 81 
Taxation of Immigrants, 80, 81, 

Pacific Islands, Chinese Contract 

Labour, 2,1 'j et seq. 
Parr, C. W. C. 21, 25 
Penang and Singapore Trade, i et 

Peru, Chinese Immigration into, 96, 

97, 105, 117, 131, 150 

Queensland, Chinese Labour, 61, 
62 et seq. 

Raffles, Sir S., i, 8 

Ridges, H. C, 23 

Rubber Plantations, Indian and 
Javanese Labour, 21 

" Rumah Kechie " Cultivation Sys- 
tem, 23 

Salmon Canning, Chinese Labour 

in, 55 
Samoa, see Western Samoa. 
San Francisco, Chinese population, 


Selborne, Lord, 188, 190, 195, 199, 
201, 202, 204, 206, 207, 208 

Shakespeare, Noah, 38, 39, 44, 46 

Singapore and Penang Trade, i et 

" Sinkeh " Coolie Emigrants, 5 et 
Riots by, 1871-7, 8, 9 

Smuts, General, 212 

South Australia, Taxation of Chin- 
ese Immigrants, 70 

Stanley, Lord, 88, 89, 90, 91 

Straits Settlements, see Malaysia. 

Sugar Plantations, Chinese Coolie 
Labour, 20 

Swettenham, Sir Frank, 176 

Syme, Muir, & Co., 95, 98, loi 



Tait & Co., 95, 96, loi, 109 
Tate, Colonel, 218 
Transvaal, Chinese Labour in : 
Allotment System, Defects of, 191 
Anti-Chinese Campaign, 1 73 ei seq. 
Commission of 1903, 175 
Conditions governing, 169 
Corporal Punishment, 196, 204 
Desertion by Coolies, 197, 198 
Emigration Convention 1904, 189 

et seq. 
General Election Issue 1906, 203 
Grievances of Coolies, 188, 189 
Indian Immigrants, Position of, 

Labour Importation Ordinance 

1904, 176, 178 
Labour Importation Amendment 

Ordinances, 187, 200, 201 
" Rand Crisis " 1903, 161 
Reforms attempted, 1905, 199 et 

Social Condition of Compounds, 

1906, 209 et seq. 
Termination of Contract Labour, 
214 et seq. 
Tin Mines, Malaysia, Chinese La- 
bour in, 2 1 
Treaty of Peking, 40, 62, 129, 130 

United States of America, Chinese 
Immigration Statistics, 33 

United States Commission 1876-7, 

Victoria, Chinese Labour in, 58 et 

West Indies, Chinese Immigra- 
tion : — 

British Guiana, Coolie Labour, 
159, 160 

" Contract Trafific " 1845-52, 98 
et seq. 

Emigration Treaty i856, 140 et 

Government Schemes, 113 et 

Indian Contract Labour, 87 et 
seq., 92, 112 

Introduction of Chinese, 88 

Male Immigration, Social pro- 
blem of, no et seq. 

Non-Treaty Ports, Emigration 
from, 109 

Royal Commission on Sugar 
Estates Labour, 1870, 131 

Slave Emancipation, Effect on 
Labour Supply, 86 et seq. 

Value of Chinese Labour, 106 

Voluntary Schemes, 121 et seq. 
Western Samoa, Chinese Labour, 
217 et seq. 

Contract Terms, 1920-21, 226 et 

German Regime, Conditions un- 
der, 218 et seq. 

Labour Party (N.Z.) investiga- 
tions, 224, 225 

Mandated Territory, Control by 
N.Z., 222 et seq. 
White, Mr., Emigration Officer in 
China, 98, 99, 100, loi, 108, 


A Series of Monographs by Lecturers and Studevts connected with the 
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1. — The History of Local Rates in England, in relation to the 
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63. — The Theory of Marginal Value 

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1. — The Reigate Sheet of the One-inch Ordnance Survey : a 
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