In response to my prior article where I mentioned Napa Valley was destination of the first wave of laborers from China (and later became the driving force behind the Chinese Exclusion Act), reader perspectivehere reminds us there were in fact much more horrifying atrocities against the poor Chinese. perspectivehere digs up a piece of history from February 22, 1860.
We typically think of the Opium Trade as one of the great evils perpetrated by British Empire on China. However, another great evil was the Chinese Coolie Trade, which the British started in 1806 with an “experimental” shipment of 200 Chinese from Macau, Penang, Calcutta and to Trinidad on the vessel Fortitude. (See Walton Look Lai, The Chinese in the West Indies, 1806-1995: A Documentary History.) Over the next century, hundreds of thousands of Chinese were kidnapped, tricked, or enticed to enter into a relationship of indentured servitude, which in many cases ended in death, injury or poverty. Profiting from the trade were coolie traders, agents, shipowners, suppliers and plantation and mineowners who employed the coolies in slavery-like conditions. The sufferings of these laborers is part of the tragic story of Chinese in the nineteenth century, and mistreatment at the hands of British and European traders.
This newspaper article (scanned copy below) from 1860 tells the story of a shipment of 850 captured Chinese coolies, picked up from Macau on the way to Havana, who all died in a shipwreck, after being abandoned by the British crew. The treatment of these poor Chinese is heartrending.