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“Practically, The Question of Slavery in the Territories” (Boston Daily Courier, December 11, 1860)

169. Practically, The Question of Slavery in the Territories

(Boston Daily Courier [Bell], December 11, 1860)

It does not lie in the power of Congress and the President to plant slavery in a single square mile of those Territories. Grant the right to do so, constitutionally, by unanimous act of both branches of Congress, with the consent of all the people,–give slavery every possible guaranty there for its protection and perpetuation–and yet not a slave would go there. It would require the act of a higher power–by change of climate–to make the conditions by which alone slaves can be taken and kept there. The reason simply is, because “it would not pay.” What will not pay will not be done.

There are more than 30 million acres of good fertile land, in a state of nature, unimproved and untouched by labor, within the bounds of the Cotton growing slave States–capable of producing twenty million bales of cotton, or about four times the present crop of that staple, or reservation of land enough to supply food for all the laboring force required for its cultivation and its employers. The labor for such a production would require three or four times the present number of field slaves now employed in these crops in all the United States. With the world at peace, trade and manufactures prosperous, and the markets for these productions extending in a ratio like that of the last twenty years, the value of labor–that is, the price of slaves,–must increase in all that region. They have lately been profitably worked at a value of $1500 or $1800 for each able-bodied “field hand.” Calculate the time required to supply this labor, and occupy this land with slaves, under the powerful stimulus of great profits. Not even the reopening of the slave trade under protection of the United States flag, aiding the natural increase of this class of labor, could supply it fast enough to prevent the five-fold greater stream of free labor pouring down from the Northwest, overflowing and possessing the country down to central Texas.

To talk of removing them from locations of such profitable use as this, and the still greater prospective profits, to a locality where they cannot be profitably used at any price–where they would be a tax and burthen to their owners to feed and clothe them, in comparison with the cost of hired labor, for any crops to which the soil and climate of the Territories are suited–is as absurd as to propose the reversal of the laws of matter, or the laws of trade. Slave labor, like all other [433] purchasable values, must follow economical laws.[1] Its prolonged stay after it has ceased to be profitable, in localities where it has long been established, is exceptional in appearance, because feeling and habit and domestic ties made the change difficult and slow, but not the less sure.

Look at Missouri. Slavery is there established by law, and amply protected by the irritation of opposition, by prejudice, by alliance with other slave States. Yet it has wasted and faded with an accelerating rate before free labor–because slave labor was more profitable elsewhere, hired labor cheaper and more profitable in Missouri. It is now virtually and to all intents and purposes a free State. How futile then the attempt to plant slavery in any Territory of the same latitude and climate.

Look at Texas, a slave state with rights guarantied of subdividing it into three more States. Southern Texas has soil and climate admirably adapted for slave labor, suitable for the slave grown crops. Land is cheap, immigration invited and urged. Yet such is the demand for the value of this labor in other cotton States, that it is doubtful if Southern Texas will have population enough for two States, before Northern Texas will be occupied by a non-slaveholding population.

Practically, then, there is no earthly power can plant any more slave States, and the North and the south are guilty alike of the supremest folly. The one is denying what she cannot give if she would, the other demanding what she cannot accept, and each is ready to rush upon the destruction of itself and the other, for this empty privilege of being insanely obstinate, the victims of the political demagogues who play upon these jarring chords to work their own selfish ends.

Howard Cecil Perkins, ed. Northern Editorials on Secession, Volume I (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1964), 432-433.
  1. [1]In the original the comma follows rather than precedes “like.”

“The Right of Secession” (Trenton Daily State Gazette and Republican, December 6, 1860)

66. The Right of Secession

(Trenton Daily State Gazette and Republican [Lincoln], December 6, 1860)

The recent threat of South Carolina to secede from the Confederacy has called forth considerable discussion among the journals of the country as to whether a State has, or has not, a right to secede–some contending for, and others against, the right of secession. Those who contend for the right say, that each State is an independent sovereignty, and, as such, has a perfect right to do its own sovereign will and pleasure without regard to the wishes of any other State or sovereignty; while those who contend against the right of secession take the position, that, though each State is a sovereignty, yet it is not absolutely, but only conditionally, so–that is to say, it is sovereign so far as relates to its State regulations, but not sovereign as to any powers confided to the General Government by the Constitution of the country.

We are of those who believe that no State has the right to secede; nor do we believe in submitting to any measures of mere expediency, when the basis for such measures must be founded upon a wrong. South Carolina may secede, so far as words and paper resolutions go; but when Abraham Lincoln takes his seat on the 4th of March next, he will tell them in a language not to be misunderstood, that secession can not be, and will not be, permitted.

The nature of the American government is in many respects, different from any that has ever existed. It is a government of checks and balances; the federal government has its limits, and the States have their sovereign rights. The questions upon which our political parties have divided have generally been such as involved the consideration of these respective sovereignties–national and State.

When the thirteen provinces–all of them having less than three millions of people–fell like unripe fruit from the parent stem they had no permanent connection with each other; they were united only by consanguinity of race, common interests, and most of all, a common cause. They were independent States, in league through their congress, as the nations of europe may be to-day, for mutual protection. That congress proposed a convention to form a confederation, but it was not till more than a year after the Declaration of Independence that the articles of confederation were agreed to and submitted to the several States; and it was not till 1781, or nearly five years after the Declaration, [194] that Maryland, the last to accede, came into the league, and the confederation was perfected. The object of that confederation was declared to be a “perpetual union,” but it was soon found that the States had not conceded sufficient powers for the general government properly to regulate the revenues and the public credit, and in 1787 congress adopted a proposition for a convention at Philadelphia, for the purpose of “revising” the articles of confederation, to render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of the government and the preservation of the Union.

The convention of 1787, instead of revising the old confederation, formed and submitted the constitution–which did not abrogate the “perpetual union” already existing, but proposed a “more perfect union,”–a union that should consolidate the States for specific purposes. This constitution did not provide for its own destruction, any more than God has provided man with the right and powers of suicide.

We may see the absurdity of peaceful secession, by examining its practical operations. We see Virginia, for instance, ceding to the National Government her vast interests in the Northwest, and even agreeing, with a generosity that it would be well for the North to remember and reciprocate, that it should be free forever, and formed into other States. Who believes that Virginia would thus have acted, if she had not thought the government permanent? Would she have said, here, take these lands and make of them five free States, if those States one and all of them, the day after their organization, would have the liberty of seceding from the Union, and become rivals of herself? Then we purchased Louis[i]ana and Florida, and paid large sums of money for Texas and California–for what?–that they might secede the next day? Proposterous proposition! What a fine idea it would be to pay a hundred millions of dollars for Cuba, as Mr. Buchanan proposed, and give to Cuba the right of becoming independent immediately, and that without a why or wherefore from us! And what wisdom we should show, to expend millions to clear the rivers and harbors of Michigan, or to build the Pacific railroad through Kansas, when to-morrow Michigan by her own will and against our wishes might be united to Canada, and Kansas set up independent under some military dictator! How could we ever declare war, or make peace, or have national revenue or credit under such an arrangement?

The right of secession, as the South term it, is a sham of shams, a humbug of humbugs, as gross a delusion as political insanity ever conjured up. We are one nation from many States; and for better or worse are we to remain so for ever, or till treason and revolution blot the stars [195] from our banner; and God grant that they may not fall as long as supernal powers hold the stars in the heavens.

Howard Cecil Perkins, ed. Northern Editorials on Secession, Volume I (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1964), 193-195.

“Chivalry” (Columbus Daily Ohio State Journal, June 3, 1861)

215. Chivalry

(Columbus Daily Ohio State Journal [Lincoln], June 3, 1861)

Some of the best words in our language have been prostituted to the basest uses. What term is in such bad odor as “affinity,” for instance, since its adoption into the vocabulary of the pestilent Free Lovers. Yet no more corrupt office does it perform than the word written above. “Chivalry” once had a noble meaning. We naturally associate with it the high tone of the ancient warriors, who disdained to strike an unarmed antagonist, and who would defend to the last even a foe who had eaten salt with them. But in the progress of time, with its changes, [536] we find the import of words accommodating itself to the habits, the thoughts and vices of men even. The civilization of slavery, which gilds treason into “peaceful separation,” humiliating concessions into “compromises,” and theft and robbery into an “accumulation of means,” readily transforms cowardly ruffianism, simply, into “chivalry.”

From the time Virginia first made negro-breeding her forte, South Carolina furnished a fine crop of poltroon tories for Marion’s bullets, and Louisiana opened her arms to receive the harlots and cut-throats of France–our Southern brethren have monopolized all the chivalry of the entire Western Continent. They couldn’t hear to the possession of a lingering spark of this element in the pleb[e]ian masses of the North, who work for a living, build churches and school-houses, construct railroads, pay their debts and fear God. These base Puritans never swagger. They have no servile population to bully. They consume a less amount of coarse tobacco and poor whisky, and have failed to reach the apex in brutal profanity and general beastliness. Hence their want of chivalry. Could these pitiable creatures be induced to embrace the saving grace of African slavery, repudiate their just debts, conspire against the Government, steal its property, the merchants turn their trading vessels into pirate ships, abolish the free school systems, devote themselves to dissipation, not forgetting the amusement, when maddened with “tangle-foot,” to stab or shoot some unoffending, unarmed neighbor in the back, they might yet possibly redeem themselves.

This Southern chivalry takes on many shapes. It is as various as the different degrees of ignorance and brutality of its champions. To cudgel a United States Senator in his seat, of his guard and with no means of defence, beating him with a bludgeon within an inch of his life, while other armed ruffians stand near to see that the job is thoroughly executed, is the height of South Carolina chivalry and daring. It made no hero of the perpetrator of such a deed, and had not Providence so signally shown his hand, this same drunken bully would now doubtless be occupying a high seat in the rebel synagogue of the South.

The chivalry of Missouri assumed a form in Kansas which is yet fresh in the public mind. There Clark and Gardner, vieing [sic] with each other in the display of valor, stole behind one Barber, guilty of entertaining Free State notions, and fired their rifles at his back. He fell dead, but it was impossible to determine which hero had taken him off. A pro-slavery President got along with the matter, however, by appointing one Post Master and the other Purser in the Navy. In Kansas, too, was where Hopps, another Free State agitator, was scalped by Murphy, who was rewarded with an Indian Agency; where a Free State town was [537] battered down and pillaged, everything portable being carried off; where a son of the old martyr Brown, a prisoner and unarmed, was hacked to pieces by a hatchet in the hands of one Gibson–where, in short, butchering Free State men and laying waste their property was the chief employment of the Missouri braves for two or three years.

Later we find the chivalry of Texas–after that State has committed the most disgraceful treason, and resorted to the most dishonorable means to capture the loyal soldiers of the Federal Government–cropping out in the paying of respects to a Massachusetts woman. It was discovered by the chivalric citizens of San Antonio that this unprotected female was guilty of the heinous offense of having been born in Boston. It was inferrable from this, of course, that she did not regard the system of African slavery as a little ahead of the atonement in the regeneration of a fallen world, and she was surrounded by the daring sons of the South, who led her into the public streets, stripped her bare, applied a soothing, unctuous plaster of tar to her naked person, set off with an outer covering of down, rode her in state around the public square on an unpolished rail, with a secession flag on either side, the march accompanied by the musical yells of an excited mob. It is not uncommon for slave women to be stripped and lashed, in the South; and the above incident but shows that Southern character is progressing in the natural direction. We are constrained to believe there is yet some show for Sodom and Gamorrah in the last day.

After this chivalry has thieved and robbed until there was nothing else to lay its hands on, and plotted the most damnable treason, setting up its vileness against the Federal Government, it asks to be recognized as an independent power, and intimates a desire to carry on war after the civilized programme. It commences this war, however, by setting seven or eight thousands of its bullies on a starving garrison of seventy soldiers, and when discovered that the post the latter held was wrapped in flames, the braves plied the red-hot shot the more furiously. The Southern chivalric plan of warfare continues as it began, and is, in fact, but an expansion of its ruffianism and assassinations in time of peace. Bribes have been offered our faithful soldiers, who were guarding entrances to forts, and sentinels have been shot down at their posts by concealed foes. The lives of entire regiments have been attempted through poisoned liquors, dealt out as if from friendly hands.–The slaveholding Indians of Arkansas and North Carolina have been instigated to visit their savage atrocities upon the loyal citizens of the United States when fitting opportunity should offer.

The assassin’s dagger and bullet, the savage’s tomahawk and scalping [538]knife, arsenic, prus[s]ic acid and strychnine are to be the weapons of chivalry in this war. Oh Dahomey! Ye cannibal realms of the South Pacific! hold up your heads!

Howard Cecil Perkins, ed. Northern Editorials on Secession, Volume I (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1964), 535-538.

“Blood Will Tell” (Detroit Daily Advertiser, Apr. 4, 1861)

208. “Blood Will Tell”

(Detroit Daily Advertiser [Lincoln], April 4, 1861)

Until Texas was admitted into the Union, it was considered the Botany Bay of America–the chief difference between the former and the British penal colony being, that one was the compulsory, and the other the voluntary resort of criminals. Every horse thief, murderer, gambler, robber, and other rogue of high and low degree, fled to Texas when he found the United States too hot longer to hold him. The pioneers of that State were cut-throats of one kind or another, with some honorable exceptions. Those of them who have escaped hanging or the State prison, and their descendants, are the men who have led the secession movement in that State. It is not strange that, with such [525] antecedents, they should turn out traitors when all other crimes had been exhausted.

If the population of the State had not been of such an origin, we might have looked for some slight show of gratitude from them towards the United States, and even towards the North. But as it is, the world will hardly be disappointed, infamous as their ingratitude and treachery has been. In their war for independence, Northern men fought gallantly and contributed largely to its ultimate emancipation from Mexican rule. The United States government has not only indulged the people of Texas, but it has paid their debts and involved itself in a war which cost the country three hundred millions of dollars.

Since 1848 nearly three-fourths of our active army have been employed in protecting the State of Texas from the Indian and Mexican incursions. We have maintained forts and garrisons at an enormous expense, to protect Texan people, and the return which their potent demagogues make us is the confiscation or seizure of United States property, and the impudent declaration that Texas has seceded from the American Union. A hoary-headed old traitor, Gen. Twiggs, who had grown rich upon the favors of the National Government, tried to betray the army under his command in Texas; but there was not a man, and but few of his officers, mean enough to follow his dastardly example.

Howard Cecil Perkins, ed. Northern Editorials on Secession, Volume I (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1964), 524-525.

“The yellow or bronze racial color is the hallmark of Oriental despotisms…” / “The White race was … ‘peculiarly fitted for self-government’” (Haney Lopez)

(Cf. 1836 Declaration from Texas on “unfit to govern themselves,” etc., which is cited in briefs in In re Rodriguez.)

The prerequisite cases also naturalized Whiteness by linking cognitive and cultural traits to physical difference. The prerequisite courts tied temperament, culture, intellect, political sophistication, and so on to physical features, treating questions of behavior as innate elements of human biology rather than as aspects of acquired identity.[16] Reconsider the justification offered by one court for the racial bar on Asian naturalization: “The yellow or bronze racial color is the hallmark of Oriental despotisms.”[17] This language draws a direct link between race and political temperament, thereby making culture a function of racial rather than social variability. This view of race seems to undergird the prerequisite laws, rendering fitness for citizenship not a question of learned behavior but of innate predispositions. To see this, contrast the remark about “despotism” with the view commonly held at the turn of the century that the White race was, as a leading scholar put it, “peculiarly fitted for self-government. It submits its action habitually to the guidance of reason, and has the judicial faculty of seeing both sides of a question.”[18] Whites qualified for citizenship because they were fit by nature for republican government; non-Whites remained perpetual aliens because they were inherently unfit for self-rule. Putative differences in temperament and culture were naturalized as “racial” differences.

Ian F. Haney López, White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race (New York: New York University Press, 1996), 162.

 

  1. [16]SMEDLEY, supra, at 27.
  2. [17]Terrace v. Thompson, 274 F. 841, 849 (W.D.Wash. 1921).
  3. [18]FRANCIS PARKMAN: REPRESENTATIVE SELECTIONS 380-82 (William Schram ed., 1938), quoted in THOMAS GOSSETT, RACE: THE HISTORY OF AN IDEA IN NORTH AMERICA 95 (1963).

“The prerequisite cases show that race is a social construct fabricated in part by law.” (Haney Lopez)

The prerequisite cases show that race is a social construct fabricated in part by law. More than this, these cases specifically illuminate the construction of Whiteness, constituting that rare instance when White racial identity is unexpectedly drawn out of the background and placed abruptly in question. Moving away from legal theory, it is useful to ask what the prerequisite cases tell us about Whiteness. It may seem that these cases say relatively little, both because the courts failed to offer a developed definition of White identity, and also seemed to concern themselves much more with who was not White. In the end, however, it is exactly these practices that tell us most about the nature of White identity today, drawing into view both the maintaining technologies of transparency and the relational construction of White and non-White identity.

Ian F. Haney López, White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race (New York: New York University Press, 1996), 155.

“Racism and prejudice, it is clear, played a fundamental role in encouraging mob violence against Mexicans … [1920s] ‘I would not think of classifying Mexicans as whites’” (Carrigan and Webb)

1920s: “I would not think of classifying Mexicans as whites.” / BB&W 50 (From Taylor interviews.)

Economic competition, although a significant force, does not sufficiently explain the history of anti-Mexican or anti-black mob violence. If mobs had considered only economics, they would have been just as likely to murder or expel any group standing in their way. But, in fact, mobs specially targeted Mexicans in the southwestern United States. Racism and prejudice, it is clear, played a fundamental role in encouraging mob violence against Mexicans. Mexicans were portrayed as a cruel and treacherous people with a natural proclivity toward criminal behavior. Racist stereotypes abounded in private correspondence, contemporary literature, and the popular media. “The lower class of Mexicans, on the west coast, appear to be a dark, Indian-looking race, with just enough of the Spanish blood, without its appropriate intelligence, to add a look of cunning to their gleaming, treacherous eyes, wrote Theodore T. Johnson in 1849.[54] In April, 1872, the Weekly Arizona Miner exclaimed: “Bad Mexicans never tire of cutting throats, and we are sorry to be compelled to say that good Mexicans are rather scarce.”[55] These assumptions, legitimated by pseudoscientific research, remained prevalent well into the twentieth century. A track foreman interviewed in the late 1920s in Dimmit County, Texas, observed: “They are an inferior race. I would not think of classing Mexicans as whites.”[56]

William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb, "Muerto por Unos Desconocidos (Killed by Persons Unknown): Mob Violence against Blacks and Mexicans," in Beyond Black & White: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the U.S. South and Southwest, edited by Stephanie Cole and Alison M. Parker (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004), 50.

 

 

  1. [54]Theodore T. Johnson, Sights in the Gold Regions and Scenes by the Way (New York: Baker and Scriber, 1849), p. 240. Another early example of Anglo prejudice against Mexicans can be found in T. J. Farham, Life, Travels, and Adventures in California and Scenes in the Pacific Ocean (New York: William H. Graham, 1846), pp. 356-57.
  2. [55]Weekly Arizona Miner, Apr. 26, 1872.
  3. [56]Paul S. Taylor, Mexican Labor in the United States: Dimmit County, Winter Garden District, South Texas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), p. 446 (quote). For additional accounts of prejudicial views towards Mexicans, see Robert Lee Maril, Poorest of Americans: The Mexican Americans of the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989), pp. 10-11, 30, 33, 41-47, 49, 51-54, 79, 81, 151-55; Américo Paredes, “With His Pistol in His Hand,” in Chicano: The Evolution of a People, ed. by Renato Rosaldo, Robert A. Calvert, and Gustav L. Seligmann, Jr. (Malabar, Fla.: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1982), p. 101; Richard Griswold del Castillo and Arnoldo De León, North to Aztlán: A History of Mexican Americans in the United States (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1996), p. 30; Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1914), vol. 1, p. 516; Mark Reisler, “Always the Laborer, Never the Citizen: Anglo Perceptions of the Mexican Immigrant during the 1920s,” in Between Two Worlds: Mexican Immigrants in the United States, ed. by David G. Gutierrez (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources Inc., 1996), pp. 25-29.

“Frustrated at having been beaten out by the lower prices of their Mexican rivals, white competitors resorted to murdering cartmen, driving off their oxen and burning their carts and freight. Economic rivalry with Mexicans continued to inspire retributive action by whites throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.” (Carrigan and Webb)

1857: Cart War in context of Anglo lynchings of Mexicans. / BB&W 49

Although the California gold rush witnessed some of the worst acts of mob violence against Mexicans, whites also resorted to savagery–in order to secure economic supremacy–on other occasions. Actions during the Texas “Cart War” of 1857 exemplify this. During the 1850s, Texas businessmen developed a freight-hauling service between Indianola and San Antonio. Frustrated at having been beaten out by the lower prices of their Mexican [50] rivals, white competitors resorted to murdering cartmen, driving off their oxen and burning their carts and freight. Economic rivalry with Mexicans continued to inspire retributive action by whites throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1898, a group of Gonzales, Texas men–probably poor white sharecroppers in competition with Mexican immigrants–posted this warning: “Notice to the Mexicans. You have all got ten days to leave in. Mr. May Renfro and brother get your Mexicans all off your place. If not, you will get the same they do. Signed, Whitecaps.” In the 1920s, alarm at the increasing number of Mexican laborers who settled in the Rio Grande valley contributed to the growth of the local Ku Klux Klan.[53]

William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb, "Muerto por Unos Desconocidos (Killed by Persons Unknown): Mob Violence against Blacks and Mexicans," in Beyond Black & White: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the U.S. South and Southwest, edited by Stephanie Cole and Alison M. Parker (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004), 49ff.
  1. [53]Waco Times-Herald, Feb. 17, 1898; David J. Weber, ed., Foreigners in their Native Land: Historical Roots of the Mexicans (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1973), p. 153; George P. Garrison, Texas: A Contest of Civilizations (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1973), p. 274; Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1914), vol. 1, pp. 515-16; J. Fred Rippy, The United States and Mexico (New York: F. S. Crofts & Co., 1931), pp. 179-80; Charles C. Alexander, The Ku Klux Klan in the Southwest (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1965), p. 24. For further evidence of economic competition precipitating mob violence, see Mary Romero, “El Paso Salt War: Mob Action or Political Struggle?” Aztlán 16, nos. 1-2 (1985): 119-38.

“The role of nonlegal actors in the legal construction of race can be understood as a question about whether people obey or acquiesce to the law.” (Haney Lopez)

Non-Whites

Judges and legislators continue to participate in the legal construction of race, if for some only through the internalization [147] of socially prevalent racist beliefs. But what of non-legal actors? The role of nonlegal actors in the legal construction of race can be understood as a question about whether people obey or acquiesce to the law. To obey suggests a rational, considered relation to law in which the law coerces through threats and rewards that are evaluated and form the basis for decisions about how to act. Acquiescence suggests a more complex relationship with law, one in which the actor accepts the norms and assumptions underlying law as legitimate or at least binding, leading to behavior conditioned, not just through a rational calculus of rsisk and rewards, but through subscription to the normative world of the legal regime.[67] This question of obedience or acquiescence among nonlegal actors is central to assessing the intractability of existing racial categories. If people merely obey the law, then altering laws might promise quick changes in racial construction; however, change might be more difficult if through a lifetime of acquiescence people have fully embraced the assumptions about races embedded in current laws. Questioning whether people obey or acquiesce to law takes on a significantly different character, however, when posed in a discussion about the role of people of color in the legal construction of race. In this context, the question becomes one of complicity: If rather than simply obeying the law we have acquiesced to it, are we complicitous in our own oppression?

Ian F. Haney López, White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race (New York: New York University Press, 1996), 146-147.

 

“In the western states, racial discrimination against Mexicans shares an almost equally long history, appearing for example in California’s 1855 ‘Greaser Act’” (Haney Lopez)

California 1855 ‘Greaser’ Act — [using a Texas-origin ethnic slur… -CJ]

It may be that those who draft or support such laws are unconscious racists in the sense that they operate under the influence of prevalent social prejudices but cannot admit even to themselves the racial antipathies that rule their fears and desires. Racial prejudice against immigrants is a long tradition in the United States, evident [145] certainly in the prerequisite cases. In the western states, racial discrimination against Mexicans shares an almost equally long history, appearing for example in California’s 1855 “Greaser Act,” an antiloitering law that applied to “all persons who are commonly known as ‘Greasers’ or the issue of Spanish and Indian blood . . . and who go armed and are not peaceable and quiet persons.”[65] Prejudice forms an established part of the contemporary social fabric, even as it stands in contradiction to society’s expressed disapproval of racial discrimination. Racial prejudice, though not consciously recognized as such, exists at a level that motivates and directs social hostility, giving it rhetorical and, more importantly, legal form.

The relative lack of intentional racial animus behind Proposition 187 and similar anti-immigrant legislation does not reduce the effect such laws have in maintaining and deepening racial hierarchies. […] Anti-immigrant laws, drawing on deep social beliefs in racial hierarchy, give effect to and entrench those same social beliefs.

The prevalence and daily material reinforcement of racist beliefs in our society ensure the continued legal construction of race in the form of ostensibly neutral but [146] actually discriminatory laws put forward by those who assure us, and are genuinely convinced of, their own good intentions.

Ian F. Haney López, White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race (New York: New York University Press, 1996), 144-146.

 

  1. [65]Act of April 30, 1855, ch. 175, § 2, 1855, Cal. Stat. 217, excerpted in ROBERT F. HEIZER and ALAN J. ALMQUIST, THE OTHER CALIFORNIANS: PREJUDICE AND DISCRIMINATION UNDER SPAIN, MEXICO, AND THE UNITED STATES 151 (1971).