From the NYT Archives: The Yellow Peril, 1906
Now that the TimesSelect wall is down, the historical fascinating New York Times archives from 1851-1910 are available for free, though all in PDF. Note to nytimes.com: your “advanced search” sucks. Fix it. This piece seems to be an unintentionally ironic work.
August 29, 1906, Wednesday
Mention of the Yellow Peril used to be connected with the vision of vast and armed Oriental hordes moving under the direction of some new Genghis Khan or Tamerlane, and spreading ruin throughout the world. But looked at from the modern point of view, the perilous features of the spectacle seem much modified; in fact, they are winnowed away altogether. Armies, to be sure, are already preparing to come out of that country with their Captains of tens and of hundreds and of chieftains of higher multitudes; but they are to come with instruments and intentions of peace, being the ministers of industry instead of destruction. It will no doubt come about that these armies will be drafted at will, conducted on their missions to the ends of the world, and brought back home again when their work is done and their peaceful campaigns brought to a close. They will bring their savings with them, and that will make them property owners and employers of labor all the rest of their lives. Handling these forces of labor on a great scale is a new business, but there is no great difficulty learning it.
The regulations prescribed for the Panamanian contractors to supply Chinese labor for the canal, settling down with precision their obligations to the laborers, to the Republic of Panama, and to the canal organization with this country behind it, seems to cover the ground with justice and good judgment, and may be regarded as the foundation of a code to rule in similar operations hereafter, and gradually shape itself to all their requirements. With a population of 400,000,000, more or less, roughly speaking a third of the inhabitants of the globe, potentialities of labor are locked up there to put a new face on mundane things and usher in the millennial possibilities which time has been dreaming about so long without coming to their realization. One can picture the ancient empire, sending out in processions its yellow hosts generation after generation and age after age, leaving giant monuments of labor on their track, instead of the brand and ravage of war which the politicians have thought now and then that they discerned alarming prospects of. Possibly in the industrial achievements of this age the organization and handling of Chinese labor, bringing it to bear on the right spots at the right time, and sending its armies home when their work is done, with a record of benefits and on both sides, no permanent infiltration of unwelcome Chinks into our society, and everybody satisfied, will stand as one of the greatest on the record. What we may call the Panamanian-Chinese Code, or the beginning of one, is likely to rank in the aftertime as an institute of high and permanent importance, its regulative prescriptions beneficently influential century after century and from end to end of the world. Moving and returning armies of labor outnumbering the legions of Rome and carrying the spade further than the latter ever carried the pilum, is probably the true solution of China’s problem, not obscuring the yellow note in it, but taking away all peril which in the surmise of a timorous diplomacy used to be braided in with it.
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