The Gentlemen`s Agreement with Japan was a political deal negotiated between the United States and Japan in 1907. The agreement aimed to limit Japanese immigration to the United States, which had been a significant source of tension between the two countries. The agreement was made possible due to underlying sentiments among the American public and government officials, which were largely fueled by racism, economic anxiety, and political tension.
At the turn of the 20th century, Japanese immigrants were arriving in the United States in large numbers, particularly to the West Coast. This caused significant concern among white Americans, who feared the “yellow peril” and the potential dilution of the country`s white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant identity. There were also concerns about competition for jobs and resources, as well as the perceived threat of Japanese militarism.
These sentiments were reflected in the political rhetoric of the time. The California legislature passed a series of anti-Japanese laws in 1905, including one that prohibited Japanese immigrants from owning or leasing land. President Theodore Roosevelt, who was known for his imperialist views, also expressed concern about the “racial issue” in the Pacific and the need to protect American interests.
Against this backdrop, the Gentlemen`s Agreement was negotiated in 1907. The agreement was not a formal treaty but rather a diplomatic understanding between the two countries. Under the terms of the agreement, Japan agreed to restrict emigration to the United States and to discourage Japanese immigrants from obtaining passports for the purpose of entering the country. In return, the United States agreed to allow Japanese children already in the country to attend public schools and to not impose any new restrictions on Japanese immigration.
The agreement was seen as a victory for the United States, which was able to limit Japanese immigration without resorting to more drastic measures. However, it was also criticized by some as a diplomatic sleight of hand that did not address the underlying issues of racism and economic competition. The agreement was eventually superseded by the more formal Immigration Act of 1924, which severely restricted immigration from Asia and other non-Western regions.
In conclusion, the sentiments that fueled the Gentlemen`s Agreement with Japan were largely rooted in racism, economic anxiety, and political tension. These underlying issues were shaped by the broader social and political context of the time, including concerns about the “yellow peril,” competition for resources, and the perceived threat of Japanese militarism. While the agreement was a diplomatic success for the United States, it did not address the underlying issues and tensions that continued to shape relations between the two countries for decades to come.