Gresham-Yang Treaty of 1894

The Law: U.S.-Chinese agreement that suspended immigration of Chinese laborers to the United States for ten years but allowed conditional readmission of immigrants who were visiting China

Date: Signed on December 7, 1894

Also known as: Sino-American Treaty of 1894

Significance: The Gresham-Yang Treaty did away with the terms of the Scott Act of 1888 and placed exclusion and registration laws passed since 1882 on a proper treaty basis. Proposed renewal of the treaty caused China to call for a boycott of American goods and the U.S. Congress to extend exclusion indefinitely.

The Scott Act of 1888 excluded virtually all Chinese from entering the United States, including those who had traveled from the United States to visit China. It was superseded in 1894 by the Gresham- Yang Treaty, which stipulated total prohibition of immigration of Chinese workers into the United States for the next ten years, with the promise that immigrants who were visiting China could be readmitted. Readmission was allowed only if returning Chinese immigrants had family living in America or property or debts owed to them of at least one thousand dollars. The treaty exempted Chinese officials, students, and merchants.

In 1904, China refused to renew the Gresham-Yang Treaty and asked to negotiate a less harsh agreement. Chinese merchants called for a boycott of American goods. Unrest over the mistreatment of Chinese immigrants in America changed the political landscape in China by fueling political participation of the Chinese populace. The administrations of U.S. presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt showed little concern over China’s repeated protests and warnings. When China denounced the Gresham-Yang Treaty in 1904, the U.S. Congress extended exclusion indefinitely.

Alvin K. Benson

Further Reading

  • Cassel, Susie Lan, ed. The Chinese in America: A History from Gold Mountain to the New Millennium. Walnut Creek, Calif.: AltaMira Press, 2002. 
  • Lee, Erika. At America’s Gates: Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007. 

See also: Alien Contract Labor Law of 1885; Anti- Chinese movement; Burlingame Treaty of 1868; Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882; Chinese Exclusion Cases; Chinese immigrants; Contract labor system; Geary Act of 1892; McCreary Amendment of 1893; Taiwanese immigrants.

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