WELL, what next ? We have done the Mission Dolores and its quaint old red - tile - roofed, adobe-walled, and curiously ornamented altar, standing amid the graves of the pious fathers, whose faith led them here and helped them to rear this structure on the far confines of heathendom, generations ago. We have galloped over the broad macadamized road — out past Lone Mountain, with its City of the Dead gathered around the tall white shaft which marks the resting-place of the gallant Broderick, and Mount Calvary, with another City of the Dead gathering around the white cross gleaming from its summit— to Point Lobos, where we have seen the ships from Europe, Asia, Australia, the Atlantic ports, and the islands of the Pacific, come sailing in through the Golden Gate. From the balcony of the Cliff House, overhanging the roaring breakers, we have looked down for hours with never-flagging interest upon those strange monster survivors of the World Before the Flood, the sea-lions, as they crawled from the depths of the slimy sea upon the rugged rocks, writhing and wriggling as if in mortal agony, fighting, and howling in infernal chorus over the degeneracy of the days upon which, through some mistake never fully explained, they have fallen, ages and ages after their co-inhabitants of the primeval world had perished. Fruit we have indulged in, to a surfeit. Wine ? We went round through the cellars yesterday until our heads were, or felt as if they were, as large and as full as the great casks holding thousands of gallons, in which the champagne was being prepared for bottling. The Barbary Coast, with its reeking vice, seething crime, and nameless, unutterable human degradation, we did last night; this evening we do the Chinese Theatre ; to-morrow the Geysers ; next week the Big Trees and Yosemite. But what to-day ?
There is a small white flag, inscribed with the letters U. S. M., flying from each of the San Francisco street-cars as it passes : a mail-steamer from some part of the world has entered the Golden Gate. From the direction of North Beach a messenger of the Merchants’ Exchange comes galloping at full speed along Stockton Street, his half-wild Spanish horse — with head erect, nostrils distended, and lustrous eyes (the glory alike of Spanish steeds and women) that flash like coals of fire — bounding over the rough pavement as proudly as if conscious that he bore the fate of Cæsar and his empire. “ “What is it?” we call out as the messenger flies past us. “The Great Republic, from China and Japan,” is the answer he gives without even turning his head to see who asked ; and the loud report echoing over the city tells us that the proud steamer, which has borne our starry flag to the uttermost parts of the earth, is safe in port, and is rounding Telegraph Hill on her way up the harbor to the wharves of the P. M. S. S. Co. at Rincon Point. Eureka ! here is the wished-for sensation. Let us be off for South Beach ! The Great Republic, flying the flag of our country, that of the P. M. S. S. Co., and the yellow dragon flag of China, has meantime rounded Rincon Point, and is lying in the stream, off the southern end of the wharf, with hawsers
Looking down from Rincon Hill, we see the long shed-covered wharf of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company stretching far out into Mission Bay to the southward, huge steamers lying in the docks, or at anchor in the stream, a stone’s-throw off, and in front, outside the high, closed gates, a vast crowd of Europeans, Americans, and Asiatics commingled, and a jam of vehicles of every description, gathered in anticipation of the steamer’s arrival at her wharf. Descending the hill and making our way slowly through the crowd, we reach the gates at last, and, approaching the group of police-officers on duty, offer the card inscribed, “Admil the Bearer on Great Republic,” which are received at the Company’s office on Sacramento Street as a special courtesy from the great corporation. The officer has already recognized our companion as a member of the San Francisco “ press-gang,”and passes us through the side door with a quiet nod, not even condescending to look at our ticket. Passing down the long wharf, between the great steamers lying on either hand, we find in waiting a few vehicles,—hacks sent to bring away some particular persons known to be on board, the United States Mail and express wagons, — some gentlemen and ladies who, having friends on board, have secured passes to go inside the gates, a crowd of custom-house officers, detectives in the employ of the company, the captain of the San Francisco police, with his entire watch in gray uniforms, and armed with clubs and revolvers, and fifty to one hundred leading Chinese merchants, consignees of the cargo, or representatives of the “ Six Companies,” to whom all the Celestial emigrants or immigrants are consigned.
out, vainly endeavoring, against the strong ebb tide, to warp into her berth on the western side. The bow hawser parts at last, and she drifts out towards Yerba Buena Island, then swings slowly round under steam, heads away towards San José, and then, when half a mile away, turns gracefully and, with her monster wheels beating the bay into a foam, comes rushing at full speed directly down toward the wharf. The picket gates, which separate the southern end of the shed from the seetion of open wharf beyond, are opened in an instant by the officers, and the people rush at their utmost speed down towards the northern gateway, apprehensive lest the leviathan, now approaching with the fleetness of a racehorse, should miss the point aimed at by a few feet, knock the pine-timberbuilt wharf into kindling - wood, and send those upon it into Davy Jones’s locker in an instant. Needless alarm ! The monster of the deep obeys her helm to perfection, comes rushing swiftly into her berth right alongside the wharf, and, before we have ceased wondering at the immense proportions of this magnificent specimen of American marine architecture, her wheels are reversed, and she has ceased to move. Then, for the first time, we observe that her main deck is packed with Chinamen. — every foot of space being occupied by them, — who are gazing in silent wonder at the new land whose fame had reached them beyond the seas, and whose riches these swart representatives of the toiling millions of Asia have come to develop. The great gangway - planks—bridges they might be called more appropriately— are run out from the wharf and hoisted into place, the health-officer, who had boarded the steamer off “the Heads,” comes down bowing and smiling as he parts with the officers of the vessel, the custom-house officers ascend to the decks, the detectives and policemen range themselves at the gangways fore and aft, and — hats off in front! — the grand panorama of the Orient is about to be unrolled ! The forward gangway is reserved for the disembarkation of Chinamen exclusively ; the after gangway is for the cabin passengers, mostly Americans and Europeans. Several Chinese merchants, neatly-dressed and quiet, gentlemanly-behaved men, attempt to go on board by the after gang-plank, and are hurled back with, it would seem, needless violence by the officers stationed there. The sub-agents and employés of the Six Companies, who attempt to reach the main-deck by the forward gangway, are repulsed with even greater rudeness and force : the orders are that none shall be allowed to go on board until the custom-house officers have done their work. Half a dozen United States Navy officers, from the squadron in Chinese and Japanese waters, coming home on leave of absence, come down the after gangway, and are told to get their luggage all together in one place on the wharf, and it will be passed immediately by the officers. Their lacquered boxes, trunks, open-work rattan chairs and lounges for reclining upon in a tropical climate, boxes of rare plants, and small collections of “ curios ” from the far East, — West it seems to us, — are soon run through, and chalked with the names of the examining officers, and they enter carriages in waiting, and are driven away to the hotels. A stoutbuilt, manly-looking American, forty years of age or thereabouts, comes down the plank, and a fair-faced woman, who, with her four half-grown-up children around her, has been standing patiently for hours in a corner of the building on the wharf, grows suddenly pale in the face, runs towards him, and with the single exclamation, “ O Joe !" has her arms around his neck in an instant. A few ladies and gentlemen, looking curiously about them, issue from the cabin, point out their luggage on the wharf, receive the proper directions, and, entering carriages admitted through the gates one at a time to receive them, are hurried away, apparently half glad at finding themselves standing on the solid land once more,
half sorry to part from those with whom they have voyaged across the broad Pacific and dared the perils of the sea. And now from the cabin emerges a tiny creature, clad in costly robes of satin, richly embroidered, and stands at the upper end of the plank in the gangway opening, as if in doubt which way to turn or how to proceed. She is not more than four feet in height, — slender and graceful of figure. Her lustrous blue-black hair is puffed out at the sides and fashioned into a wonderful rudder-shaped structure behind, supported with gold and silver skewer-like ornaments thrust through it; and her head, guiltless of hat or bonnet, is surmounted by a small wreath of bright-colored artificial flowers. Her face is really pretty, — the features being delicately formed, — despite the obliquity of the almond-shaped eyes and the slight projection of the anything but Grecian nose. Her complexion, naturally whiter than that of the common working-people of her country, has been so cunningly improved by her maid-servant — who could teach our enamellers and beautifiers the first rudiments of their profession — that she is as fair to look upon as the blond beauties of our race, and you would hesitate long before you would swear whether the red which tinges her cheeks and lips is real or the work of “high art” in its perfection. Her tunic or sack is of sky-blue satin, embroidered with flowers in bright-colored silk ; her wide, loose trousers of darker blue satin, similarly but more elaborately embroidered ; and her dainty little feet are encased in slippers of blue satin with goldbullion embroidery and thick white felt soles with thin bottoms of polished wood. In her hand she holds two fans, with which she endeavors to keep her face hidden as far as possible from the public gaze. Timid to the last degree she seems, and probably is, and she looks neither to the right nor the left, but keeps her eyes fixed on the plank beneath her, as if anxious to avoid the sight of everything else in the world. As she stands there in the open gangway, she looks the perfect counterpart of something we have seen, or dreamed of, before. Ah yes ; we remember now ! Thirty years ago, — fifteen or sixteen years before this little thing was born, — our big cousin came home from a sailing-voyage around the world, and among the curious things he brought with him was a book of rice-paper, white as snow and soft as velvet, each leaf of which bore a single, wonderfully elaborate little picture, in colors more brilliant than the rainbow ; her picture, correct and perfect in the most minute detail, was there; no one could fail to recognize it at a glance. She is the bride of an opulent Chinese merchant of San Francisco who has been home to get her ; his parents selected her for him from one of the most respectable families in the Central Flowery Empire, and he had no trouble with courting and such-like Caucasian nonsense. He leads her down the plank, the bracelets and bangles of silver and green semi-transparent stone which encircle her wrists and ankles clinking musically as she walks; and at the wharf a policeman, detailed for the purpose, receives and escorts the party through the crowd, which opens respectfully before the end of his club, and they enter a carriage. Another and another come down the plank ; the last two are accompanied by brighteyed, richly-dressed children, who follow mechanically in their mothers’ footsteps, furtively glancing at the strange crowd as they pass through it. These are the wives and offspring of Chinese merchants resident here, who married before coming to California ; you had better take a good look at them now, while you can, for they—the women and female children — will be kept in the strictest seclusion from the moment they set foot in their husbands’ and fathers’ houses, and they may live many years, and die, here in the midst of a great Christian city, and yet never again be looked upon by Caucasian eyes. You may purchase exquisite pictures, on rice-paper, of these “ firstchop ” Chinese ladies, at the bazaar of Chy Lung & Co., on Sacramento Street, but the living married Chinese women or respectable young girls you will never so much as catch a glimpse of, except on such an occasion as this.
Following the Chinese ladies comes an Englishman returning from the Indies, a broad, burly fellow, with dogged resolution, self-complacency, and a stout, unconquerable determination to grumble at everything he meets in “ this blarsted country, you know,” traced upon every lineament. His feet are encased in clumsy thick-soled gaiters, his nether limbs in gray, very scant cassimere pantaloons, which hang limp as withered cabbage-leaves around his ankles ; a coat broader than it is long covers his shoulders and reaches down just below his waist, and on his head is a hideous Monitor-shaped hat, as large as the shell of a green turtle, and as unmanageable and badly out of place in the San Francisco summer trade-winds as a balloon in a Western tornado. Surely we have seen somewhere the counterpart of this figure also : yes, it was years ago, when we were laid up with a broken leg, and the fever of our waking hours was followed by the nightmare in our troubled sleep.
The custom-house officers have done their work here quickly, and perhaps effectually, and now all is ready at the forward gangway. A living stream of the blue-coated men of Asia, bearing long bamboo poles across their shoulders, from which depend packages of bedding, matting, clothing, and things of which we know neither the names nor the uses, pours down the plank the moment that the word is given, “ All ready!” They appear to be of an average age of twenty-five years,—very few being under fifteen, and none apparently over forty years, — and, though somewhat less in stature than Caucasians, healthy, active, and able-bodied to a man. As they come down upon the wharf, they separate into messes or gangs of ten, twenty, or thirty each, and, being recognized through some to us incomprehensible free-masonry system of signs by the agents of the Six Companies as they come, are assigned places on the long, broad-shedded wharf which has been cleared especially for their accommodation and the convenience of the customs officers. Each man carries on his shoulders or in his hands his entire earthly possessions, and few are overloaded. There are no merchants or business - men among them, all being of the coolie Or laboring class. They are all dressed in coarse but clean and new blue cotton blouses and loose baggy breeches, blue cotton cloth stockings which reach to the knee, and slippers or shoes with heavy wooden soles (these last they will discard for American boots when they go up country to work in the dust and mud ); and most of them carry one or two broad-brimmed hats of split bamboo, and huge palm-leaf fans, to shield them from the burning sun in the mountains or valleys of California or the fertile fields of the South, towards which many of them will eventually direct their steps. There is a babel of uncouth cries and harsh discordant yells, accompanied by whimsically energetic gestures and convulsive facial distortions, as the members of the different gangs recognize each other in the crowd, and search out the places assigned them. The luggage is deposited on the wharf, and each group squat on the planking, or stand silently beside their little property, waiting in patience and perfectly soldier-like order the arrival of the officers who are to search them for smuggled goods. “ Here, this way!” “Here, here on this side!” “ There, over there on that side ! ” shout the policemen, as they swing their clubs about and frantically endeavor to direct the tide, often really creating disorder among these most orderly and methodical people, who would get things straightened twice as quickly without such assistance. For two mortal hours the blue stream pours down from the steamer upon the wharf: a regiment has landed already, and still they come. The wharf is covered with them so densely that the passage-way for carriages through the centre can with difficulty be kept open, and yet the stream is unbroken for a single moment. You wonder where such a swarm of human beings found stowage-room, — the bulk already secms greater than that of the steamer, — and wonder still more when told that the vessel with all these on board had still room for a cargo of thousands of tons ; her freight capacity being some six thousand tons, and her custom-house registry measurement between four and five thousand. This steamer actually brought one thousand two hundred and seventy-two Chinamen : last week one thousand two hundred came by sailing-vessels, and behind them are yet four hundred millions of the most patient, ready, apt, and industrious toilers on the face of the earth.
The writer shares none of the prejudice against this, people which is manifested so strongly by the lower order of the European-born residents of California and leads to so many disgraceful acts of violence and outrage ; but such a sight as this awakens curious thoughts, and suggests doubts of the future in the mind of every one who has made political economy and free institutions a study to any extent. The Chinese-labor question is destined within the next ten years — five years, perhaps — to become what the slavery question was a few years since, to break down, revolutionize, and reorganize parties, completely change the industrial system of many of our States and Territories, and modify the destiny of our country for generations to come. Educated, thinking men do not, as a rule, fear the result, or see in this vast semi-civilized immigration any danger to republican institutions ; nevertheless, it is a movement fraught with mighty consequences for good or ill, and the question demands and must receive a most careful consideration in all its bearings. Commerce, religion, politics, capital and labor, education, our whole social fabric, must be affected more or less. Occident and Orient stand face to face at last, and the meeting must signalize a notable era in the history of mankind. The customs agents search the person of every Chinaman as he lands, and go through the luggage of every group or mess as thoroughly as possible, in quest of opium, the one blighting curse of China, for which she may thank Christian England, and for which her children will run any risk and bear any privation. The deadly drug is so costly in proportion to its bulk, that, next to gold and precious stone, it offers the greatest inducement for smuggling ; and on the arrival of every steamer and sailing-vessel frow China large seizures are made by the officers. On this occasion one officer detected and confiscated forty boxes of opium, each worth eight or ten dollar coin, which had been concealed in the false bottom of a box containing merchandise of comparatively small value. To do them justice, we should say that one of the Chinese companies’ agents directed the officer’s attention to the box, and so caused him to make the discovery. Another officer discovered a suspicious protuberance on the person of a Chinaman, and had just reached out his hand to examine it, when the frightened Celestial flung from him into the bay half a dozen boxes of the poison. Bladders of it, flattened out like pancakes, were found concealed in the linings of blankets or bed-quilts and the stuffed undergarments worn by some of the men. In all, several thousand dollars’ worth thus fell into the hands of the officers, and a moiety of its value will go into the treasury of Uncle Sam, if the costs cannot be made large enough to swallow up all his share.
Fifteen or twenty Chinese girls, — the poor raft and boat born women of Canton, trained, from childhood, to lewdness, and as utterly ignorant of the ways of virtue or any sense of shame or moral responsibility as so many blocks of wood, — were landed also ; some steamers bring them by hundreds, in spite of the efforts of the Six Companies to discourage the traffic. These women signed contracts, in China, to serve their masters a given number of years for their passage-money, board, and clothing, and, despite our laws, will submit to live and die in a slavery more horrible than any other which ever existed on earth ; all efforts of our authorities to break it up having proved utterly unavailing. As they land, they are searched in no delicate manner by the officers, and then received by theirpurchasers, and delivered into the charge of the sallow old hags in blackcostume with bunches of keys in the girdles at their waists, who are called “old mothers,” and who will hold them in horrible bondage and collect the wages of their sin —if those who have no idea of moral responsibility can be said to sin — for the remainder of their days. The girls are dressed in silk or cotton tunics and trousers, similar in shape and color to those worn by the married ladies, but far less costly, are painted gaudily on cheeks and lips, and wear on their heads the checked cotton handkerchiefs which are the badge of prostitution. They are jeered and “hi-hied” by the crowd of common Chinamen waiting outside the gates, as they pass out to enter the open express-wagons waiting to receive them and carry them away to the dens in Murderers’ Alley and along the Barbary Coast. As fast as the groups of coolies have been successively searched, they are turned out of the gates, and hurried away towards the Chinese quarter of the city by the agents of the Six Companies. Some go in wagons, more on foot; and the streets leading up that way are lined with them, running in “ Indian file,” and carrying their luggage suspended from the ends of the bamboo poles slung across their shoulders. By nightfall the throng has dispersed, the work of the officers is over, and the vast wharf is cleared for the delivery of the immense cargo in the hold of the steamer.
This cargo is made up of articles in a great measure strange to the people of the Atlantic States ; and for their benefit the list is copied out in full from the manifest, as follows : —
For San Francisco : 90 packages cassia : 940 packages coffee, from Java and Manilla; 192 packages fire-crackers; 30 packages dried fish, cuttle-fish, sharks’-fins, etc.; 400 packages hemp ; 116 packages miscellaneous merchandise, lacquered goods, porcelain-ware, and things for which we have no special names; 53 packages medicines; 18 packages opium ; 16 packages plants ; 20 packages potatoes ; 25 packages rattans ; 2735 packages rice; 1238 packages sundries, — chow-chow, preserved fruits, salted melon-seeds, dried ducks, pickled duck’s eggs, cabbage sprouts in brine, candied citron, dates, dwarf oranges, ginger, smoked oysters, and a hundred other Chinese edibles and table luxuries ; 824 packages sugar ; 20 packages silks ; 203 packages sago and tapioca; 5463 packages tea; 27 packages tin.
For New York : 2 packages merchandise ; 21 packages sundries ; 150 packages silks ; 465 packages teas ; 144 packages rhubarb ; 9 packages hardware.
For Panama, I package opium ; I package sundries ; 115 packages tea.
It is not the tea season, and this cargo is consequently a small one comparatively, —nothing, in fact, to what is sometimes landed from a China steamer; though, as will be seen from the foregoing manifest, it comprises no less than 13,354 packages of merchandise,many of them of large size, — a small mountain in the aggregate.
Having enjoyed to the utmost the pleasure of a new sensation, we leave the wharf, meditating on the strange scene which we have beheld, and wondering what is to be the end of all this, and wend our way back to Montgomery Street. Sitting by the fruit-laden table in our own room in the evening, and breathing the air charged with the odors of the fairest flowers that bloom, a doubt arises in our mind, and we begin to inquire if there was in sober truth any such scene as we fancy we have been witnessing. Was that little oval-faced woman, clad in blue, purple, crimson, and gold, shrinking in speechless fear from the strange throng around her, a being of flesh and blood after all, or a creature of the imagination ? Did we actually see her come out of the great black steamer’s cabin and stand there hesitating in the gangway, or have we been gazing at some brilliant-tinted picture from the land where Marco Polo journeyed centuries ago, until one of the figures took on itself the semblance of life and action, and walked forth from its frame? Was it not in fact all a dream ? A dream, we would almost swear! And yet a dream it could not have been, we find when we come to reflect upon it. There is the card of admission to the wharf, still lying on the table before us: that is tangible and real at least. The sunlight which the waters of the bay of San Francisco glistened under, and which flooded with its golden glory the mountains of Contra Costa and Alameda, looked and felt real. We can still hear the roar, of many voices shouting in an unknown tongue, and see the stream of men in blue blouses, with shaven foreheads, and with long braided queues of glossy black hair and silk hanging down their backs. The strange odor of Asiatic tobacco, spices, opium,
“ Mandragora, and all the drowsy sirups of the East,”
which pervaded ship and cargo, still clings to our clothing, and finds its way into our nostrils. It was real, wholly real, after all! We have indeed stood on the farther shore of the New World, and seen the human tides which have surged around the globe from opposite directions meet and commingle, and have beheld the yellow flag, emblazoned with the red - dragon emblem of the “ Lord of the whole Earth and Brother of the Sun and Moon,” — master of the oldest nation which the sun shines upon, — and the starry emblem of a sovereign people, “ By the Grace of God Free and Independent,” floating side by side. It was a sight worth living long and coming far to look upon, — a scene to wonder at, to ponder over and reflect upon, to gaze upon once and remember through all the coming years of life, — a scene such as our fathers never beheld nor dreamed of, and of which our children and our children’s children only may know the full purport and meaning.