Japan War Scare of 1906-1907
At the turn of the century, US and Japanese interests appeared to be aligned. A US-Japanese treaty signed in 1894 had guaranteed the Japanese the right to immigrate to the United States, and to enjoy the same rights in the country as US citizens [but not to become citizens]. Both nations supported the idea of an "open door" for commercial expansion in China. After the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, US President Theodore Roosevelt acted as a mediator at Japan's request, and the two sides of the conflict met on neutral territory in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
And in 1905, US Secretary of War William Howard Taft met with Prime Minister Katsura Taro in Japan. The Anglo-Japanese Treaty of 1902 had been a source of some concern for the United States. Because of the 1902 agreement between Britain and Japan, if the United States and Japan entered into a conflict, Britain might be obligated to join Japan against the United States. The two concluded the secret Taft-Katsura Agreement, in which the United States acknowledged Japanese rule over Korea and condoned the Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902. At the same time, Japan recognized US control of the Philippines.
But not too long after the turn of the century, tensions rose over Japanese actions in northeast China and immigration to the United States. Japan had real grievances against the United States. In excluding Japanese immigrants, America offended Japan's pride. In Japan the military spirit had become a national cult. The anti-Japanese movement became widespread by 1905, due both to increasing immigration and the Japanese victory over Russia, the first defeat of a western nation by an Asian nation in modern times.
The Japanese were a major focus of California politics in the fifty years before World War II. Their small numbers, their political impotence and the racial feelings of many Californians frequently combined with resentment at the immigrants' willingness to labor for low pay to make them a convenient target for demagogues or agitators. In 1900, both the Democrats and the Populists of California adopted expressly anti-Japanese planks in their platforms; similarly, the Republican position proposed effective restriction on "cheap foreign labor."
By 1907 America seemed to stand on the brink of war with Japan.
Japanese Expansion in Asia
In 1904, within weeks of the ourbreak of war with Russia, the Japanese compelled the Korean monarch, who in 1897 had proclaimed himself an emperor, to accept a protocol that made Korea a virtual vassal of Japan. When the Japanese took over Korea, the United States made no objection. President Theodore Roosevelt remarked, "We cannot possibly interfere for the Koreans against Japan. ... They could not strike one blow in their own defense." On 29 July 1905, Secretary of War William H. Taft negotiated a secret "agreed memorandum" with the Japanese Prime Minister, Count Taro Katsura. The Taft-Katsura Agreement, recognizing territorial status quo in Far East, was signed on 29 July 1905. The United States approved Japan's "suzerainty over" Korea in return for its pledge not to interfere with American interests in the Philippine Islands. The Korean Emperor's appeal to the United States for help fell on deaf ears.
Having occupied Korea to fight Russia, Japan left its troops there. Ignoring Korean objections, Japan disbanded the Korean Army and abolished the Korean Department of Post and Communications. It allowed a semblance of self-rule in Korea for several years, but remained the real master [Japanese seizure of governmental functions, the forced abdication of Korea's Emperor, and encroachment in all aspects of Korean society culminated in an agreement in July 1907 placing Korea completely under Japanese control].
In 1905, the Japanese started to establish more formal control over South Manchuria by forcing China to give Japan ownership rights to the South Manchurian Railway. The Japanese used this opening to make further inroads into northeast China, causing the Roosevelt Administration concern that this violated the ideals of free enterprise and the preservation of China's territorial integrity.
The Treaty of Portsmouth of September 1905, which terminated the Russo-Japanese War, accorded the Japanese carte blanche to take whatever measures they wished to secure their interests in Korea. Japan's suzerainty was established by agreement with Russia, and the tacit assent of other nations. By the terms of this treaty peace between Japan and Russia, a period of some eighteen months was ascribed for completion by these two powers of the military evacuation of Manchuria, and the restoration of those provinces to the administration of China. Thus an interval was established, a period of transition, during which interested powers were disposed to recognize the existence of extraordinary conditions, and to suspend active prosecution of their own interests.
It was not until December 1906 that Japanese troops were withdrawn from Mukden, Newchwang and other important places, and Chinese autonomy outwardly resumed. At that time Japanese had occupied southern Manchuria over two years, and the military authorities had used this period to establish Japanese in possession of all property formerly owned, occupied or claimed by the Russians.
The time limit for final Japanese evacuation of Manchuria expired in March 1907. Mukden was the last important place evacuated, the Japanese troops being withdrawn from the city in April 1907. Having no intention voluntarily to relax her grip upon the country and the material advantages which it brought, Japan recognized the necessity of creating a situation whereby she would not be disturbed. England already was disposed of, having thrown her interest in Manchuria and Korea into the balance of the Anglo-Japanese alliance. Russia, with two-thirds of Manchuria and the greater part of Mongolia in her possession, possibly could be compromised with by a mutual agreement with Japan to each hold what they had under cover of military occupation. America was the chief obstacle in the way of Japan's project to retain her hold in Manchuria, and if possible to dominate a considerable part of China. the closure of Manchuria and Korea was crippling American trade in those regions.
Japanese Exclusion in America
After Japan's striking victory over Russia in 1904-05, fear of Japanese territorial advances fueled the anti-Japanese immigration forces-movies, novels and newspapers reiterated accusations that Japanese in America were merely agents of the Emperor. In early March 1905, both houses of the California legislature passed anti-Japanese resolutions. The Asiatic Exclusion League, formed primarily by labor groups in May 1905, mounted a campaign to exclude Japanese and Koreans from the United States. In May 1905, the San Francisco School Board announced a policy of removing Japanese students to the one Oriental school so that "our children should not be placed in any position where their youthful impressions may be affected by association with pupils of the Mongolian race."
Discrimination in American immigration laws had started with the Naturalization Act of 1790, which provided for naturalization of "any alien, being a free white person." The Bureau of Immigration, which had been created in 1895 and placed under the Secretary of the Treasury, moved to the newly created Department of Commerce and Labor in 1903. Executive branch responsibilities for naturalization were assigned to redesignated Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization by the Naturalization Act (34 Stat. 596), 29 June 1906. Prior to 1906, decisions regarding citizenship applications and recording requirements were left up to local, state, or federal courts. The 1906 Naturalization Act gave Department of Commerce and Labor's Naturalization Division a clear mandate to guide naturalization courts toward uniformity on racial eligibility for naturalization. Local courts were encouraged to relinquish their naturalization jurisdiction to federal courts. And in 1906 a ruling by a US Attorney General halted the issuing naturalization papers to Japanese, on the grounds that they were not white, and therefore ineligible for US citizenship [the Supreme Court first attempted to construe the meaning of "white persons" in 1922, in the case of Ozawa v. The United States, in which the court denied naturalization to Takao Ozawa, a Japanese born in Japan, on the grounds that he was not a white person].
On 11 December 1906, under increasing public pressure spurred by a coalition of labor and politicians, the San Francisco Board of Education school board issued an order which barred Asian children, including Japanese, from white primary schools. All Japanese and Korean students were ordered to join the Chinese at the segregated Oriental School that had been established in 1884. To put the problem in perspective, only 93 Japanese students, 25 of them born in the United States, were then in the San Francisco public schools. When the news of this reached Japan, violent anti-American protests broke out. The Government of Japan was outraged by the San Francisco school policy, claiming that it violated the 1894 treaty between the US and Japan. Leading Japanese officials expressed frustration with the treatment of Japanese immigrants in the United States.
Concerned about maintaining sound diplomatic relations with Japan, Roosevelt began negotiations with California. After consultation, the President agreed that if the San Francisco School Board rescinded its order and if California refrained from passing more anti-Japanese legislation, he would negotiate with Japan to restrict immigration in a manner which did not injure that country's pride. In his annual message to Congress on 04 December 1906, President Roosevelt labeled the school segregation order a "wicked absurdity," asked Congress to grant citizenship to those Japanese immigrants who wanted it, and vowed to protect the rights of all Japanese residents in the United States. Reaction to the message was largely negative.
In early 1907 Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts added an amendment to an immigration bill that gave the president the authority to ban any foreign individual's entry to the US if the admission would adversely affect labor conditions. The bill passed in February 1907, despite opposition from Southern Democratic. And in early March 1907, the Roosevelt administration convinced Japan to issue passports to only those going to Hawaii. The San Francisco school board then relented, and reversed the segregation order.
When anti-Japanese rioting again errupted in San Francisco in late May 1907, local police quelled the violence. Japan was angered and newspapers in both countries fanned another war scare.
Early in 1907 the Roosevelt Administration seemed to have apprehended that there was more in Japan's diplomatic maneuvering than appeared on its surface. The San Francisco school board had backed down, but the crisis flared anew in the Summer of 1907 when anti-immigration riots broke out in San Francisco and immigrant Japanese workers were beaten by mobs. This unrest led opposition leaders in Japan to call for war. Japan's war party apparently believed it could prevail against the US. Roosevelt didn't want a break with Japan, as the United States was ill-prepared for war.
In September 1907 riots in Bellingham, Vancouver and elsewhere provided the political backdrop during the final negotiations of the "Gentleman's Agreement" between the US and Japan, restricting Japanese immigration. Roosevelt worried that riots, school segregation orders and other action against Japanese people up and down the West Coast, particularly in San Francisco, would insult the government of Japan, a rising military power.
In a series of notes exchanged between late 1907 and early 1908, known collectively as the Gentlemen's Agreement, the US Government agreed to pressure the San Francisco authorities to withdraw the measure, and the Japanese Government promised to restrict the immigration of laborers to the United States. On 24 February 1907, in the first "Gentlemen's Agreement", Japan promised to restrict emigration to ease US-Japan tensions. Hoping to halt anti-Japanese sentiment in the United States, the Japanese government agreed to prohibit the emigration of Japanese laborers to the United States. The Japanese government, however, continued to allow wives, children, and parents 'of Japanese in the United States to emigrate.
With the immigration problem temporarily settled, the two countries met to provide mutual reassurances about their territories and interests in East Asia. On 30 November 1908 the Root-Takahira Agreement committed Japan and United States to maintain the status quo in the Pacific. US Secretary of State Elihu Root and Japanese Ambassador Takahira Kogoro formed an agreement in which Japan promised to respect US territorial possessions in the Pacific, its Open Door policy in China, and the limitation of immigration to the United States as outlined in the Gentlemen's Agreement. The Government of Japan redirected its labor emigrants to its holdings in Manchuria, maintaining that these were not a part of China. For its part, the United States recognized Japanese control of Taiwan and the Pescadores, and the Japanese special interest in Manchuria.
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