This source is a political cartoon that depicts the way that Americans viewed Chinese immigrants in the late 1800s, exposing the nativist beliefs and actions of people in regard to Chinese labor. At the time that this cartoon was made, there were millions of Chinese immigrants coming into the United States, one of the first examples of mass immigration in a long period to follow (Lee 2010). As the Chinese immigrants that came to the United States were being used as a form of cheap labor, American natives were led to believe they were superior, as they watched over the immigrant’s work on the railroads. This belief in white dominance contributed to a larger belief in American nativism. These beliefs can be attributed to the many nativist actions and controversies that are seen throughout the rest of history (Lee 2010).
Cartoon drawn by Thomas Nast in 1869, retrieved form Thomas Nast Cartoons.
The Only Way to Handle It
This political cartoon shows a funnel of immigrants coming into the United States with Uncle Sam “closing the gate” after a certain number of immigrants “came through.” A direct reaction to the Emergency Immigration Act of 1921, this cartoon shows the beliefs of the American people not wanting to let more immigrants into the country than they needed to. The high levels of immigration in the 1920s eventually reached a point where it was seen as a threat to the American population, leading officials to put a cap on the number of immigrants allowed into the country (Hing 2004). These beliefs evolved from thoughts about Chinese immigrants in the late 1800s, as the status of new immigrants led Americans to think that they were naturally superior (Lee 2010). The restriction of immigrants was not as effective at keeping people out as it was meant to, however it was successful at closing off the views of Americans all over the country to immigrants.
“The Only Way to Handle It,” political cartoon taken from The Library of Congress.