During the California Gold Rush and the construction of the transcontinental railroad, large numbers of Chinese emigrated to America. After being driven from the mines, most settled in Chinatowns in places like San Francisco, finding jobs mostly as low-pay laborers. In 1868, the Burlingame Treaty established formal friendly relations between the two nations, giving China most favored nation status and encouraging immigration from China. But after the Civil War, anti-Chinese animosity grew as the American economy declined. In 1879, Congress prohibited ships from bringing more than fifteen Chinese passengers in a single voyage. President Rutherford B. Hayes vetoed it as a violation of the Burlingame Treaty, but sent a delegation to China, led by James B. Angell, to negotiate a new treaty that included immigration restrictions.
The two nations signed the Angell Treaty on November 17, 1880, in Peking (now Beijing). The treaty temporarily suspended immigration of Chinese laborers, while allowing white-collar professionals. A concurrent treaty also negotiated by the Angell commission and China limited trade in opium. The U.S. Senate advised ratification of the Angell Treaty on May 5, 1881, and new President James A. Garfield signed it on May 9. This order authorized and directed Secretary of State James G. Blaine to affix the seal of the United States to the treaty, making it official. Presidential documents issued by Garfield are quite rare, given his brief time in office. In fact, the Treaty wasn’t publicly proclaimed until after his assassination.
In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act extended the ban on the immigration of Chinese laborers for another ten years. In 1892, the Geary Act extended Chinese exclusion for another ten years, and in 1902, it became "permanent."
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