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The Political Culture of Sugar Tariffs: Immigration, Race, and Empire, 1898–1930

  • April Merleaux (a1)

This article contends that the chronology of popular and legislative movements for restrictive tariffs and immigration exclusion in the United States ran parallel courses between 1898 and the 1930. Those who spoke for and against such policies did so using the rhetoric of race, labor, and empire. The article analyzes the career of Nevada Senator Francis G. Newlands in order to show how the sugar industry and Asian immigration were intrinsic to debates over imperial policy between 1898 and the First World War. The article then describes policy changes during the First World War. The war set the stage for renewed debates over immigration and the sugar trade in the 1920s as the newly formed Tariff Commission attempted to grapple with an oversupplied world sugar market. Their work ultimately reinforced the old associations among race, labor, and trade policy and did little to improve the global sugar crisis.

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1. Aryan Junius, The Aryans and Mongrelized America: The Remedy (Philadelphia, 1913), 2932.

2. Kathleen Mapes describes similar rhetoric used by Harvey Wiley, the influential proponent of beet sugar in the United States Department of Agriculture. See Sweet Tyranny: Migrant Labor, Industrial Agriculture, and Imperial Politics (Chicago, 2009), 31. See also, Hollander Gail, Raising Cane in the ‘Glades: The Global Sugar Trade and the Transformation of Florida (Chicago, 2008).

3. Mintz Sidney, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History (New York, 1985).

4. Jung Moon-Ho, Coolies and Cane: Race, Labor, and Sugar in the Age of Emancipation (Baltimore, 2006).

5. Jacobson Matthew Frye, Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad, 1876–1917 (New York, 2001); Kramer Paul A., The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States, and the Philippines (Chapel Hill, 2006); Love Eric T. L., Race Over Empire: Racism and U.S. Imperialism, 1865–1900 (Chapel Hill, 2004).

6. Go Julian, American Empire: Elite Political Cultures in the Philippines and Puerto Rico during U.S. Colonialism (Durham, 2008).

7. For an overview of these differences in the context of sugar, see Ayala César, American Sugar Kingdom: The Plantation Economy of the Spanish Caribbean, 1898–1934 (Chapel Hill, 1999).

8. Other commodities were traded, but sugar was by far the most significant in economic and political terms.

9. Dalton John E., Sugar: A Case Study of Government Control (New York, 1937), 198.

10. For examples, see Jung, Coolies and Cane, 218; Gyory Andrew, Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act (Chapel Hill, 1998), 23.

11. “Sugar tariff reduction; Data on Sugar Tariff Reduction, Compiled by Truman G. Palmer,” Presented by Senator Henry Teller (D-Colorado), May 27, 1908, S.doc.523, United States Senate 60th Congress,1st Session. See also testimony of Francis G. Newlands, 237, Maintenance of a Lobby to Influence Legislation, Vol. 1. Subcommittee on Sen. Res. 92, Senate Committee on Judiciary, 63–1 (1913).

12. On Chinese exclusion see Lee Erika, At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era, 1882–1943 (Chapel Hill, 2003); Ngai Mae M., Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Princeton, 2004).

13. Rowley William, Reclaiming the Arid West: The Career of Francis G. Newlands (Indiana University Press, 1996).

14. “Race Issue Plank for the Democrats,” The New York Times, June 17, 1912. Newlands argued that African Americans should emigrate to Africa. See, FGN Speech, April 2, 1912. Newlands Papers, Group 371, Series II, Box 69, Folder 709. For earlier attempts to insert a “white supremacy” plank in the Democratic platform, see “Platform Makers Ride over Bryan,” The New York Times, July 7, 1904.

15. Newlands Francis G., “The San Domingo Question,” The North American Review 180 (June 1905):888.

16. Thomas Aretas W., Facts in a Nutshell about Immigration Yellow and White (Washington, DC, 1912), 44, Series II, Box 76, Folder 776, Newlands Papers, MSSA, Yale Sterling Library. Henceforth FGN Papers.

17. 35 Cong. Rec. (1902), 3856.

18. 35 Cong. Rec. (1902), 1457, 1461.

19. For contemporary critiques of reciprocal trade treaties, see Laughlin J. Laurence and Willis H. Parker, Reciprocity (New York, 1903), 7980; Coman Katharine, The History of Contract Labor in the Hawaiian Islands, Publications of the American Economic Association (New York, 1903), 27.

20. 31Cong. Rec. (1898), 5830; See also, Extension of Immigration and Contract Labor Laws to the Hawaiian Islands, Senate Report No. 1654, February 13, 1899, 55th Congress, 3d Session.

21. Coman, Contract Labor, 46.

22. Caspar Whitney, “Hawaiian-America; Part V—The Labor Question,” Harper's Weekly 43 (2211), 464. See also 35 Cong. Rec. (1902), 1459.

23. April 29, 1902, 32 Stat. 176 renewed Chinese exclusion indefinitely and extended it to US territories.

24. Act of December 16, 1903 (33 Stat. 4).

25. “Admission of Chinese into Cuba,” Foreign Relations of the United States 1902 (Washington: GPO, 1903), 263266. See also Salyer Lucy, Laws Harsh as Tigers: Chinese Immigrants and the Shaping of Modern Immigration Law (Chapel Hill, 1995), 102103.

26. John B. Jackson to Secretary of State, Habana, June 9, 1911, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States (Washington: GPO, 1918), 110

27. See Go Julian, “The Chains of Empire: Building and ‘Political Education’ in Puerto Rico and the Philippines,” in The American Colonial State in the Philippines: Global Perspectives, ed. Go and Foster (Durham, NC, 2003).

28. Sparrow, The Insular Cases, 78; Taft William Howard, Civil Government in the Philippines (New York, 1902), 98. See also, Kramer, The Blood of Government; Quirino Carlos, History of the Philippine Sugar Industry (Manila, Philippines, 1974); Lopez-Gonzaga Violeta B., The Socio-Politics of Sugar: Wealth, Power Formation, and Change in Negros, 1899–1985 (Bacolod City, Philippines, 1989).

29. Taft, Civil Government, 103.

30. The Philippine Islands Sugar Industry. Panama Pacific International Exposition. San Francisco, California (Manila, P.I., 1915).

31. Kramer, Blood of Government, 237, 241.

32. Sparrow, The Insular Cases, Article 4.

33. Cited in Diamond Rings, 183 U.S. 176 (1901), 181.

34. For a critique of this category, see Ramos Efrén Rivera, “Deconstructing Colonialism: The ‘Unincorporated Territory’ as a Category of Domination,” in Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, American Expansion and the Constitution, ed. Duffy Burnett Christina and Marshall Burke (Durham, 2001).

35. 32 Stat. 54 (1902); These rates were reconsidered in 1905–06. See Newlands, “A Democrat in the Philippines,” The North American Review 181 (December 1905):933943.

36. 31 Stat. 77

37. 30 Stat. 750

38. 31 Stat. 141

39. On tariff politics in general, see Frank Dana, Buy American: The Untold Story of Economic Nationalism (Boston, 2000); Sanders Elizabeth, Roots of Reform: Farmers, Workers, and the American State, 1877–1917 (University Of Chicago Press, 1999); and Skocpol Theda, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in United States (Cambridge, MA, 1995).

40. Quoted in Ayala, American Sugar Kingdom, 67.

41. Almaguer Tomás, Racial Fault Lines: The Historical Origins of White Supremacy in California (Berkeley, CA, 1994). See also, Coman, Contract Labor, 47.

42. McKee Delber L., “The Chinese Boycott of 1905–1906 Reconsidered: The Role of Chinese Americans,” Pacific Historical Review 55 (May 1986):165191.

43. Okihiro Gary Y., Cane Fires: The Anti-Japanese Movement in Hawaii, 1865–1945 (Philadelphia, 1992), 3031.

44. Thomas, Facts in a Nutshell about Immigration Yellow and White, 41.

45. Daniels Roger, The Politics of Prejudice: The Anti-Japanese Movement in California and the Struggle for Japanese Exclusion (University of California Press, 1962).

46. To Exclude Japs. Newlands Would Draw Color Line on Immigrants,” Portland Oregonian, February 8, 1909.

47. Francis G. Newlands to Nevada Governor Denver S. Dickerson, February 3, 1909. Newlands Papers, Group 371, Series II, box 69, folder 704, FGN Papers. Newlands' statements were well-received by Southern newspapers. See, e.g., “Bond of Sympathy with the West” The Macon (Georgia) Daily Telegraph, February 12, 1909, 4.

48. Newlands, Speech on Senate Resolution No. 279, February 18, 1909, In Series II, box 69, folder 704, FGN Papers. The speech and public correspondence are summarized in Newlands, A Western View of the Race Question,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 34 (September 1909):4951.

49. Graves John Temple, Grasshopper Immigrants, 1909.

50. Balch Emily Greene et al. , “Restriction of Immigration—Discussion,” The American Economic Review, 2; Supplement, Papers and Proceedings of the Twenty-fourth Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association (Mar., 1912):71.

51. Quirino, History of the Philippine Sugar Industry.

52. See e.g., Newlands to Erving Winslow. July 22, 1909. Series I, Box 18, Folder 177, FGN Papers. On opposition to Philippines allotment, see 44 Cong. Rec. May 19, 1909. 2184.

53. 44 Cong. Rec. May 25, 1909. 2373. Newlands and Foster had traveled to the Philippines together in 1905 as part of William Howard Taft's delegation to the Islands. “Plans for Taft Party,” The Washington Post, March 26, 1905. See also, Rowley, Reclaiming the Arid West, 118–120. Foster also opposed the reciprocity treaty with Cuba in 1903. See, “Sectional Issue in Cuban Debate,” New York Times, December 13, 1903.

54. 36 Sat. 83–84 (1909) provided for free trade between the Philippines and the United States, with specified limits. 36 Stat. 11 exempted the Philippines from the Act, and positioned the Islands as outside of the United States. This language would prove to have a long life in tariff lawmaking. Export duties authorized in 36 Stat. 130.

55. Department of Commerce, Annual Report of the Chief of Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce to the Secretary of Commerce for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1916 (Washington: GPO, 1916), 20.

56. A typical articulation of this theory is Frank C. Lowry, Sugar at a Second Glance 1913, Serial Set Vol. No. 6524, Session Vol. No.9. 63rd Congress, 1st Session. S. Doc. 23.

57. Newspaper coverage was much heavier in Western and Southern states. See, e.g., “Caucus Hears The Newlands Plan,” Salt Lake (Utah) Telegram, May 6, 1913, Evening edition, 10; “Senators to Discuss Tariff with Wilson” Olympia Record, April 25, 1913, 1; “Tariff Hearings Will Not be Held,” Portland Oregonian, May 17, 1913, 7.

58. J. Kuhio Kalanianaole to FGN, May 23, 1913. Series I, Box 37, Folder 377, FGN Papers.

59. Helen Stewart Campbell to FGN, April 12, 1913. Series I, Box 35, Folder 358, FGN Papers.

60. R.C. Bialy, Treasurer, Nevada Sugar Company to FGN, April 30, 1913. Series I, Box 36, Folder 366, FGN Papers. See also “Receiver is Named for Sugar Company,” Salt Lake (Utah) Telegram, September 23, 1913, 6.

61. J.H. Kent to FGN, May 21, 1913, and May 26, 1913. Series I, Box 37, Folder 376, FGN Papers. See also, Rowley, Reclaiming the Arid West, 146.

62. FGN to President Wilson, June 4, 1913. 7. Series I, Box 38, Folder 383, FGN Papers.

63. Campbell Robert B., “Newlands, Old Lands: Native American Labor, Agrarian Ideology, and the Progressive-Era State in the Making of the Newlands Reclamation Project, 1902–1926,” Pacific Historical Review 71 (2002):203238.

64. There were some attempts to hire Mexican and Japanese workers in 1913, a point upon which Newlands received some criticism. See H.R. Cooke to FGN, May 24, 1913. Series I, Box 37, Folder 378, FGN Papers.

65. 38 Stat. 114, 192 (1913).

66. Blakey Roy G., “Sugar Prices and Distribution under Food Control,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 32 (August 1918):567596.

67. Sugar Crops of the World,” Weekly Statistical Sugar Trade Journal, January 6, 1916, cited in Blakey, “Sugar Prices and Distribution under Food Control,” 569. See also, “Sugar Crops of the World,” Weekly Statistical Sugar Trade Journal, January 6, 1921, 5.

68. Bernhardt Joshua, Government Control of the Sugar Industry in the United States (New York, 1920), 8. See also, News Letter from Our Havana Office,” The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer 57 (December 23, 1916):407408.

69. See Kennedy, Over Here. See also, Brownlee, “Wilson and Financing the Modern State.”

70. Senator Furnifold Simmons (D-North Carolina), Congressional Record 53 (1916): 5777; “To repeal the free-sugar provisions,” February 28, 1916, Congressional Serial Set Vol. No. 6903 Session Vol. 1; “Tariff on sugar.” March 28, 1916. Congressional Serial Set Vol. No. 6898 Session Vol. 2.

71. Brownlee W. Elliot, “Wilson and Financing the Modern State: The Revenue Act of 1916,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 129 (June 1985): 177.

72. Dalton, Sugar, 290.

73. Kramer, The Blood of Government, 353–358.

74. For example, The Plan to Resist Philippine Sugar Tariff Reduction,” The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer, January 6, 1906, 2. 53 Cong. Rec. 7201 (1916). May 1, 1916. 7201.

75. “A Consumption Tax on Sugar” New York Times, January 24,1916, 10; “Says Japan Is Preparing To Take Over Philippines,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 21, 1916, 11; “Japan Denies Investment,” New York Times, March 5, 1916, 16. The following year the Bureau of Insular Affairs privately confirmed purchase of sugar mills in the Philippines by Japanese investors, Carmack to Samuel Fergeson. December 15, 1917. Box 325, File 1770–103. RG 350, NARA.

76. Hawaiian Letter,” The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer, September 2, 1916, 152.

77. 39 Stat. 877 (1917). Japan was not included in the “Barred Zone.”

78. Alanis Fernando Saul, El Primer Programa Bracero y el Gobierno de México, 1917–1918 (San Luis Potosí: El Colegio de San Luis, 1999).

79. Okihiro, Cane Fires, 39, 55.

80. “Dimnet Says Debt Must Be Canceled,” New York Times, Aug 18, 1923, 3.

81. Culbertson William S., Raw Materials and Foodstuffs in the Commercial Policies of Nations (Philadelphia, 1924).

82. “Caucasian Solidarity Urged to Insure Safety of World,” The Christian Science Monitor, August 17, 1923, 3; Culbertson William S., International Economic Policies; A Survey of the Economics of Diplomacy (New York, 1925), 487488.

83. Dunn Robert W., American Foreign Investments (New York, 1926), 122.

84. Jenks Leland Hamilton, “The Dance of the Millions,” Our Cuban Colony, A Study in Sugar (New York, 1928); Ayala, American Sugar Kingdom, 87–88.

85. 42 Stat. 942 exempted the Philippines from the provisions that authorized Tariff Commission comparative cost of production studies.

86. See Ayala, Chapter 6 in his American Sugar Kingdom; Carr Barry, “Identity, Class, and Nation: Black Immigrant Workers, Cuban Communism, and the Sugar Insurgency, 1925–1934,” The Hispanic American Historical Review 78 (February 1998): 83116.

87. Truman G. Palmer to President Calvin Coolidge, August 20, 1924, Reel 83, File 147, Coolidge Papers; A.E. Carlton to Coolidge, August 21, 1924, Reel 83, File 147, Coolidge Papers.

88. Roller Arnold, “Black Ivory and White Gold in Cuba,” The Nation 128 (Jan 9, 1929): 5556. Cuban nationalists made the same point. See Sánchez Ramiro Guerra y, Sugar and Society in the Caribbean: An Economic History of Cuban Agriculture [1927] (New Haven, 1964), 27, 7172, 142.

89. Kramer, The Blood of Government, 392–399; Ngai, Impossible Subjects, 120–121; Mapes, Sweet Tyranny, 204–205.

90. Bernhardt , The Sugar Industry and the Federal Government: A Thirty Year Record, 1917–1947 (Washington, DC: Sugar Statistics Service, 1949), 164.

91. Dalton, Sugar, 206.

92. On commodity nationalism, see, for example, McAlister Melani, Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, & U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945 (Berkeley, 2001); Frank, Buy American; Hollander, Raising Cane in the Glades; Derby Lauren, “Gringo Chickens with Worms: Food and Nationalism in the Dominican Republic,” in Close Encounters of Empire: Writing the History of U.S.-Latin American Relations, ed. Joseph Gilbert M. et al. (Durham, NC, 1998).

93. On the concept of racial formation, see Omi Michael and Winant Howard, Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s (New York, 1994).

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