Scott Act (1888)

The Scott Act (1888) was a United States law that prohibited Chinese laborers abroad or who planned future travels from returning. Its main author was William Lawrence Scott of Pennsylvania, and it was signed into law by United States President Grover Cleveland on October 1, 1888.[1][2] It was introduced to expand upon the Chinese Exclusion Act passed in 1882 and left an estimated 20,000-30,000 Chinese outside the United States at the time stranded.[1]

Scott Act (1888)
Great Seal of the United States (obverse)
Long titleAn Act a supplement to an act entitled "An Act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese," approved the sixth day of May eighteen hundred and eighty-two.
NicknamesChinese Exclusion Law of 1888
Enacted bythe 50th United States Congress
EffectiveOctober 1, 1888
Public law50-1064
Statutes at Large25 Stat. 504
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 11336 by William Lawrence Scott (DPA) on July 15, 1888
  • Passed the Senate on August 8, 1888 (40-3, in lieu of S. 3304)
  • Passed the House on August 20, 1888 (Passed) with amendment
  • House agreed to House amendment on September 13, 1888 (Passed)
  • Signed into law by President Grover Cleveland on October 1, 1888


Bayard-Zhang treaty

Prior to the Scott Act, the governments of the United States and the Great Qing Empire of China had formed the Bayard-Zhang Treaty, whereby the Chinese government would restrict emigration to the United States, and in exchange, the United States government would crack down on discrimination and bad treatment of Chinese in the US.[1][3]

However, the treaty met with considerable opposition, both in China (particularly Kwangtung province) and among the Chinese in the United States. Due to public pressure, the Chinese government chose not to ratify the treaty. The United States government responded by acting unilaterally to pass the Scott Act.[1]

Supreme Court challenge and upholding

On October 8, 1888, Chae Chan Ping, a Chinese citizen and unskilled laborer working in San Francisco, returned to the US after a trip home to China. He was stopped at the port and denied entry. He challenged the denial and the case reached the Supreme Court. This case, Chae Chan Ping v. United States, was decided on May 13, 1889 in favor of the United States.[4][5] The Supreme Court decision was an important precedent both for establishing the federal government's discretionary power over immigration and upholding the government's authority to pass and enforce legislation contradictory to the terms of past international treaties (the treaty in question being the Burlingame Treaty of 1868).

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Scott Act (1888)". Harpweek. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
  2. ^ The Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
  3. ^ Erhart, Victoria (June 27, 2011). "Bayard-Zhang Treaty of 1888". Immigration in America. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
  4. ^ Immigration in America. "Chae Chan Ping v. United States". Retrieved January 16, 2015.
  5. ^ Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School. "CHAE CHAN PING v. UNITED STATES. 130 U.S. 581 (9 S.Ct. 623, 32 L.Ed. 1068) CHAE CHAN PING v. UNITED STATES". Retrieved January 16, 2015.

Reading Bibliography

External links

1888 in China

Events in the year 1888 in China.

2019 United States Border closure

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Cable Act

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Chae Chan Ping v. United States

Chae Chan Ping v. United States, 130 U.S. 581 (1889), decided by the United States Supreme Court on May 13, 1889, and better known as the Chinese Exclusion Case, was a case challenging the Scott Act of 1888, an addendum to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. One of the grounds of challenge was that it ran afoul of the Burlingame Treaty of 1868. The Supreme Court rejected the challenge, upholding the authority of the Federal Government of the United States to set immigration policy and pass new legislation that would override the terms of previous international treaties. The decision was an important precedent for the Supreme Court's deference to the plenary power of the United States legislative branches in immigration law and in their authority to overturn the terms of international treaties. Although the term consular nonreviewability would not be used until the 20th century, the case was cited as a key precedent in the defining cases that established the doctrine of consular nonreviewability. As such, it played an important role in limiting the role of the judiciary in shaping immigration to the United States.

Chinese Exclusion Act

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Civil Rights Act of 1866

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Fong Yue Ting v. United States

Fong Yue Ting v. United States, 149 U.S. 698 (1893), decided by the United States Supreme Court on May 15, 1893, was a case challenging provisions in Section 6 of the Geary Act of 1892 that extended and amended the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The provisions in question required Chinese in the United States to obtain certificates of residency, and allowed for the arrest and deportation of Chinese who had failed to obtain these certificates, even if they had not violated any other laws. The case involved writs of habeas corpus from Fong Yue Ting and two other Chinese citizens residing in New York City who were arrested and detained for not having certificates. The Supreme Court decision (6 to 3) was in favor of the United States government, upholding the Geary Act and denying the writs of habeas corpus.

Geary Act

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The law required all Chinese residents of the United States to carry a resident permit, a sort of internal passport. Failure to carry the permit at all times was punishable by deportation or a year of hard labor. In addition, Chinese were not allowed to bear witness in court, and could not receive bail in habeas corpus proceedings.

The Geary Act was challenged in the courts but was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in an opinion by Justice Horace Gray, Fong Yue Ting v. United States, 149 U.S. 698, 13 S. Ct. 1016. 37 L.Ed. 905 (1893), Justices David Josiah Brewer, Stephen J. Field, and Chief Justice Melville Fuller dissenting.

Immigration Act of 1882

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Immigration Act of 1891

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Nationality Act of 1940

The Nationality Act of 1940 (H.R. 9980; Pub.L. 76-853; 54 Stat. 1137) revised numerous provisions of law relating to American citizenship and naturalization. It was enacted by the 76th Congress of the United States and signed into law on October 14, 1940, a year after World War II had begun in Europe, but before the U.S. entered the war.

The law revised "the existing nationality laws of the U.S. into a more complete nationality code"; it defined those persons who were "eligible for citizenship through birth or naturalization" and clarified "the status of individuals and their children born or residing in the continental U.S., its territories such as Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Philippines, Panama and the Canal Zone, or abroad." The law furthermore defined who was not eligible for citizenship, and how citizenship could be lost or terminated. This legislation represents the first attempt ever made, since the founding of the United States, to codify and unify all of the U.S. laws relating to nationality and naturalization.

Nishimura Ekiu v. United States

Nishimura Ekiu v. United States, 142 U.S. 651 (1892), was a United States Supreme Court case challenging the constitutionality of some provisions of the Immigration Act of 1891. The case was decided against the litigant and in favor of the government, upholding the law. The case is one of two major cases that involved challenges to the Immigration Act of 1891 by Japanese immigrants, the other (and more famous) case being Yamataya v. Fisher.

Scott Act

Scott Act may refer to:

Scott Act (1863), which guaranteed the right to separate schools in what became Ontario, Canada, named for Richard William Scott

Scott Act (1878), the Canada Temperance Act in the Dominion of Canada, also named for Richard William Scott

Scott Act (1888), a U.S. law prohibiting immigration of virtually all Chinese, by rescinding certificates of reentry for Chinese abroad at the time

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