Angell Treaty of 1880 Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

By placing restrictions on the number of Chinese workers permitted to immigrate to the United States, the Angell Treaty marked a turning point in the U.S.-Chinese relationship on immigration issues that paved the way for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which suspended Chinese immigration for ten years.

In 1880, Angell, James BurrillJames Burrill Angell, president of the University of Michigan, was nominated as minister to China by U.S. president Hayes, Rutherford B.Rutherford B. Hayes. Angell was confirmed by the Senate on April 9, 1880. Angell’s first task was to negotiate changes to the [a]Burlingame Treaty of 1868;changes toBurlingame Treaty of 1868 that would reduce the number of Chinese immigrants moving into the western United States. Angell and fellow members of the treaty commission to China, John F. Swift and William Henry Trescot, traveled to Peking (now Beijing), China, in June, 1880, to seek an agreement.[a]Angell Treaty of 1880Chinese immigrants;and treaty restrictions[treaty restrictions][a]Angell Treaty of 1880Chinese immigrants;and treaty restrictions[treaty restrictions][cat]INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS;Angell Treaty of 1880[00210][cat]EAST ASIANIMMIGRANTS;Angell Treaty of 1880[00210][cat]IMMIGRATION REFORM;Angell Treaty of 1880[00210]

Editorial cartoon by J. A. Wales commenting on the convergence of anti-Chinese policies of the Democratic and Republican Parties in 1880.

(Library of Congress)

Using the argument that Chinese laborers did not readily assimilate into American culture, Angell and his colleagues negotiated a treaty to regulate and limit the immigration of Chinese laborers to the United States but not to prohibit it outright. The resulting Angell Treaty was signed on November 17, 1880, and proclaimed U.S. law on October 5, 1881. This treaty ended free Chinese immigration to the United States and separated U.S. trade interests from the immigration issue. It also provided an avenue for anti-Chinese lobbyists to push for an exclusion law. Most of the protections that the treaty secured for Chinese immigrants were reversed by passage of the [a]Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.[a]Angell Treaty of 1880Chinese immigrants;and treaty restrictions[treaty restrictions]

Further Reading
  • Lee, Erika. At America’s Gates: Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.
  • McClain, Charles J. In Search of Equality: The Chinese Struggle Against Discrimination in Nineteenth-Century America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

Anti-Chinese movement

Burlingame Treaty of 1868

Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

Chinese Exclusion Cases

Chinese immigrants

Page Law of 1875

Taiwanese immigrants

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