Friday, March 4, 2016

Horace Page (1833-1890): Congressman who sponsored Asian immigration restrictions

Horace Page and an anti-Chinese immigrant poster
PLOT 27, LOT 63

Horace Francis Page was a four-term member of Congress who was first elected as a Republican in 1878. He represented what was then the 2nd Congressional District from 1873-1883. During the 47th United States Congress, he was the chairman of the Committee on Commerce. He lost his bid for a fifth term in 1882.  

He is perhaps best known for the Page Act of 1875, which was the first restrictive federal immigration law and prohibited the entry of immigrants considered "undesirable." The law classified as "undesirable" any individual from Asia who was coming to America to be a forced laborer, any Asian woman who would engage in prostitution, and all people considered to be convicts in their own country. Page said he introduced the bill to "end the danger of cheap Chinese labor and immoral Chinese women" It imposed  a fine of up to $2,000 and maximum jail sentence of one year upon anyone who tried to bring a person from China, Japan, or any Asian country to the United States. The Page Act created the policing of immigrants around sexuality which “gradually became extended to every immigrant who sought to enter America,” and today remains a central feature of immigration restriction.

Horace Page gravesite
Page was born near Medina, Orleans County, New York and attended the Millville Academy, before going on to study law.  In 1854, he moved to California and worked in the sawmill business near Colfax. He moved to Placerville and worked in the livery-stable business and then the mining industry as a mail contractor and stage proprietor. He went on to establish a stage coach line that connected El Dorado, Placer and Sacramento counties.

He was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for state senate in 1869 and served as a major in the California Militia.  In 1884,  Page was a delegate to the Republican National Convention. After he left Congress, he resumed the practice of law in Washington, D.C. for about eight years.

He died suddenly at the Strathmore House on Larkin Street in San Francisco on August 23, 1890. He was survived by his widow Jane Walters Page and four children.

Sources: San Francisco Call, Wikipedia

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