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Burlingame Treaty of 1868

Anson Burlingame was the U.S. minister to China in the Lincoln and Johnson administrations. His fairness was respected by the Chinese, who selected him to represent their interests in improving relations with Britain and the United States. In the Burlingame Treaty, also known as the Burlingame-Seward Treaty, concluded in Washington, the U.S. and China agreed on the following:

  • That either nation would be open to unlimited immigration from the other
  • That citizens of one nation would be able to travel, study and reside freely in the other nation
  • That the United States would not interfere with internal Chinese affairs.
Through this treaty, the United States was actively encouraging the influx of Chinese workers as a source of inexpensive labor. However, there was considerable resistance to this trend even at the start, and it grew during the 1870's. Congress attempted to simply abrogate provisions of the Burlingame Treaty by legislation, but President Hayes vetoed the bill on the grounds of separation of powers. This was a technical point, not an objection to limiting Chinese immigrations. The Burlingame Treaty of 1868 would be modified in 1880 and reversed in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, setting a pattern of discrimination for the next 60 years.