In this unprecedented new system, famously hostile European nationalities (e.g., English, Irish, Germans, and French) were united as whites, and the numerous African nationalities, together with all those who seemed to exhibit the slightest perceptible trace of African ancestry, were categorized as Negro, thus with no rights that the white man is bound to respect. This hypodescent (or one drop) rule, firmly codified in statute by 1705, was meant to provide crystal clarity to the social status of the numerous racially mixed offspring sired by white planters. society, that predominated: wars, treaties, territorial fights, military/colonial rule, tribal governments, a reservation system, redrawing of boundaries, etc.
Once they paid off their debts, they were more or less free.
And, owing to the rather free-flowing, frontier character of Gold Rush-era California, as well as the crying shortage of labor, racial constraints were not nearly so entrenched or immediate as in the more settled parts of the country.6However, the shortage of labor and the grab for land and gold of this period in California were also prime conditions for the reproduction of racism. racial law and custom not surprisingly backed them.*Although California was an antislavery territory dominated by free soilers,7 attempts to subordinate the Chinese came forthwith. Whites were divided among themselves between those (mainly capitalists) who desired easy access to cheap Chinese labor and those (mainly labor, that is labor) who wished them excluded from the country.
Still, once the case (more on this below) and common practice made clear that the Chinese had no protection of any sort, they were regularly victimized by white miners and extorted by tax collectors.
Another attempt to define the legal status of Chinese took racial, not nativist, form.
Although the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the war guaranteed all the rights of citizenship of the United States to Mexicans who chose to remain in the Southwest, in practice it was routinely violated as white settlers used everything from legal maneuvers to lynching to dispossess Mexicans of land and power throughout the area.5It was into the above situation that the early Chinese immigrants unwittingly thrust themselves.
The Gold Mountain had a racial cordon and a developing ethnic/nationality one as well.
Although in the colonial days many European immigrants started out as indentured servants, the vast majority, or at least their offspring, eventually settled into independent farming, independent trades, small businesses, or better.
It was not until the 1840s that an industrial proletariat of any size began to develop.
The culmination of the process of developing the racial category appropriate to the Chinese, not surprisingly, paralleled and eventually settled the fight over whether or not to exclude Chinese from entering the country and/or attaining U. In practice it was mainly collected from the Chinese in an attempt to drive them from the mines.