Seth Kaller, Inc.

Inspired by History

Other Presidents and Elections Offerings


Other Gilded Age (1876 - c.1900) Offerings


Excluding Chinese Immigration: President Chester Arthur Orders Seal Affixed to His Angell Treaty Proclamation
Click to enlarge:
Select an image:

With this order, new President Chester A. Arthur authorized Secretary of State James G. Blaine to affix the seal of the United States to the fully ratified Angell Treaty of 1880 that suspended the immigration of Chinese laborers to the United States. Further discriminatory steps were enacted by subsequent legislation continuing until 1943.

CHESTER ARTHUR. Partially Printed Document Signed, Order to Affix Seal of the United States to His Proclamation, October 10, 1881, Washington, DC. 1 p., 8 x 10 in.

Inventory #27711       ON HOLD

Complete Transcript
            I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of State to cause the Seal of the United States to be affixed to my proclamation attached to the Treaty between the United States and China, signed at Peking on November 17, 1880, and dated this 5th day of Oct., and signed by me; and for so doing this shall be his warrant.

                                                                        Chester A. Arthur

Washington Oct 10, 1881


Historical Background
The Burlingame Treaty established formal relations between the U.S. and China in 1868. The treaty granted China most-favored-nation status and encouraged immigration from China, but it did not allow those immigrants to become citizens. In the 1870s, Congress repeatedly tried to limit Chinese immigration. For example, the Page Act of 1875 prohibited the immigration of women who were believed to be prostitutes or anyone coming as a forced laborer.

A commission, led by University of Michigan President James Burrill Angell, was sent by President Hayes to negotiate a new treaty signed in Beijing on November 17, 1880. In that, the U.S. committed to protecting the rights and privileges of Chinese laborers already here, while temporarily suspending immigration of both skilled and unskilled laborers from China. Only professionals were allowed to immigrate.

The Senate ratified the Angell Treaty on May 5, 1881, and President Garfield signed it on May 9. Garfield’s assassination delayed its proclamation. He was shot in a Washington, D.C., train station on July 2, 1881, and lingered for eleven weeks before dying of his wounds on Sept. 18.

President Arthur took the oath of office the next day. He proclaimed the Angell Treaty on October 5, 1881. Fewer than seven months later, on May 6, 1882, Arthur signed The Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers for ten years. This act, which excluded only merchants, teachers, students, travelers, and diplomats, was the first and only major U.S. law to prevent all members of a specific national group from immigrating to the United States. Another act in 1892 extended the prohibition for an additional decade, and a 1902 act made it permanent, until finally repealed in part by the 1943 Magnuson Act.

The document offered here authorized the affixing of the seal to Arthur’s proclamation, which incorporated the full text of the Angell Treaty, copied here for reference:

            Whereas a Treaty between the United States of America and China, for the modification of the existing treaties between the two countries, by providing for the future regulation of Chinese immigration into the United States, was concluded and signed at Peking in the English and Chinese languages, on the seventeenth day of November in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty, the original of the English text of which Treaty is word for word as follows:

            Whereas, in the eighth year of Hsien Feng, Anno Domini 1858, a treaty of peace and friendship was concluded between the United States of America and China, and to which were added, in the seventh year of Tung Chih, Anno Domini 1868, certain supplementary articles to the advantage of both parties, which supplementary articles were to be perpetually observed and obeyed.

            Whereas the Government of the United States, because of the constantly increasing immigration of Chinese laborers to the territory of the United States, and the embarrassments consequent upon such immigration, now desires to negotiate a modification of the existing Treaties which shall not be in direct contravention of their spirit:

Now, therefore, the President of the United States of America has appointed James B. Angell, of Michigan, John F. Swift, of California, and William Henry Trescot, of South Carolina as his Commissioners Plenipotentiary; and His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor of China, has appointed Pao Chun, a member of His Imperial Majesty's Privy Council, Superintendent of the Board of Civil Office; and Li Hungtsao, a member of His Imperial Majesty's Privy Council, as his Commissioners Plenipotentiary; and the said Commissioners Plenipotentiary, having conjointly examined their full powers, and having discussed the points of possible modification in existing Treaties, have agreed upon the following articles in modification.


Whenever in the opinion of the Government of the United States, the coming of Chinese laborers to the United States, or their residence therein, affects or threatens to affect the interests of that country, or to endanger the good order of the said country or of any locality within the territory thereof, the Government of China agrees that the Government of the United States may regulate, limit, or suspend such coming or residence, but may not absolutely prohibit it. The limitation or suspension shall be reasonable and shall apply only to Chinese who may go to the United States as laborers, other classes not being included in the limitation. Legislation taken in regard to Chinese laborers will be of such a character only as is necessary to enforce the regulation, limitation, or suspension of immigration, and immigrants shall not be subject to personal maltreatment or abuse.


Chinese subjects, whether proceeding to the United States as teachers, students, merchants or from curiosity, together with their body and household servants, and Chinese laborers who are now in the United States shall be allowed to go and come of their own free will and accord, and shall be accorded all the rights, privileges, immunities, and exemptions which are accorded to the citizens and subjects of the most favored nation.


If Chinese laborers, or Chinese of any other class, now wither permanently or temporarily residing in the territory of the United States, meet with ill treatment at the hands of any other persons, the Government of the United States will exert all its power to devise measures for their protection and to secure to them the same rights, privileges, immunities, and exemptions as may be enjoyed by the citizens or subjects of the most favored nation, and to which they are entitled by treaty.


The high contracting Powers having agreed upon the foregoing articles, whenever the Government of the United States shall adopt legislative measures in accordance therewith, such measures will be communicated to the Government of China. If the measures as enacted are found to work hardship upon the subjects of China, the Chinese Minister at Washington may bring the matter to the notice of the Secretary of State of the United States, who will consider the subject with him, and the Chinese Foreign Office may also bring the matter to the notice of the United States Minister at Peking and consider the subject with him, to the end that mutual and unqualified benefit may result.

In faith whereof the respective Plenipotentiaries have signed and sealed the foregoing at Peking, in English and Chinese being three originals of each text of even tenor and date, the ratification of which shall be exchanged at Peking within one year from date of its execution.

Done at Peking, this seventeenth day of November, in the year of our Lord, 1880.
Kuanghsii, sixth year, tenth moon, fifteenth day.


And whereas the said Treaty has been duly ratified on both parts and the respective ratifications were exchanged at Peking on the 19th day of July 1881:

Now, therefore, be it known that I, Chester A. Arthur, President of the United States of America, have caused the said Treaty to be made public to the end that the same and every article and clause thereof may be observed and fulfilled with good faith by the United States and the citizens thereof.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done in Washington this fifth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty-one, and of the Independence of the United States the one hundred and sixth.

            [SEAL.]                                     CHESTER A. ARTHUR,

By the President:
JAMES G. BLAINE, Secretary of State.

Chester A. Arthur (1829-1886) was born in Vermont to a Baptist minister from Northern Ireland and his wife. When he was young, his family settled in Schenectady, New York. He graduated from Union College in 1848, became a teacher, and studied law. After studying with an abolitionist lawyer in New York City, Arthur was admitted to the bar in 1854 and joined his mentor’s firm. In 1859, he married Ellen “Nell” Herndon (1837-1880), and they had three children over the next twelve years. During the Civil War, Arthur served as a key member of the staff of New York Governor Edwin D. Morgan. At Morgan’s request, Arthur turned down several opportunities to command New York regiments. When Democrat Horatio Seymour replaced Morgan as governor in 1863, Arthur returned to practicing law. With the patronage of Senator Roscoe Conkling, Arthur became chairman of the New York City Republican executive committee in 1868. In 1871, President Grant appointed him as Collector of the Port of New York, an extremely profitable patronage position that he held until 1878. From September 1879 to October 1881, Arthur served as chairman of the New York State Republican Executive Committee. In 1880, the Republican National Convention selected Arthur as the vice-presidential running mate for presidential nominee James A. Garfield. The Republicans won a narrow victory over Democratic nominees Winfield Scott Hancock and William H. English. Never close, Garfield and Arthur divided further over Garfield’s appointments. After Garfield’s assassination, Arthur became president. As a widower, Arthur became the capital city’s most eligible bachelor, and his sister functioned as the White House hostess. Many members of Garfield’s cabinet resigned, and Arthur appointed members of his wing of the Republican Party to replace them. In 1881, Arthur requested civil service reform legislation from Congress and signed the reform into law in January 1883. Arthur’s presidency was also marked by the rebirth of the U.S. Navy and a ban on Chinese immigration to the United States. In poor health, Arthur made only a limited effort to obtain the Republican nomination in 1884 and retired at the end of his term in March 1885.

Condition: Fine.

Purchase Item Ask About This Item Add to Favorites