The Secretary of State to President Roosevelt

My Dear Mr. President: I am referring to your memorandum under date of August 23 and to the letter addressed to you by the Attorney General17 relating to H. R. 307018 and to the general subject [Page 782] of Chinese exclusion concerning which a number of bills have been introduced into the Congress.

The Department of State has been in sympathy with the movement to repeal the Exclusion Act and to include China in the provisions of the Immigration law19 under a quota as in the case of other nations with the thought that the immigration to be permitted under the quota would originate in China rather than consist of persons of the Chinese race who had been a long time resident in other countries.

Of the bills which have been introduced into the Congress on the general subject, H. R. 3070 and H. R. 2942 seem to more closely approximate the general objective.

The Department, however, has been seriously concerned with the possible unfortunate political repercussions upon our friendly relations with China if any of these bills should reach the floor of the House and there be the cause of acrimonious debate, which would in itself be bad, or possibly even suffer defeat—which would be most unfortunate. Consequently, I have caused one of the Assistant Secretaries to keep in very close touch with the leadership of the House as well as to maintain contacts with the leaders of the Senate in this particular. The Assistant Secretary has had a number of conferences with the Speaker, and with the Speaker and Majority Leader, and with both of them and the majority members of the Immigration Committee.

There have been public hearings before the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization of the House of Representatives. At the conclusion of the hearings a vote was taken by the Committee. By a vote of nine to eight the Committee adopted a motion which set aside the provisions of a bill to place China upon a quota basis and then voted by the same majority to report out a bill limited to the question of dealing solely with the repeal of the Chinese exclusion laws and the abrogation of the Immigration Treaty of 1880 with China20 but which did not permit of a quota being established for China or China [sic]. At about the same time statements were made by certain members of the Congress to officers of the Department indicating that the bills mentioned had little chance of passage.

During the early part of the summer the leadership in the House expressed the feeling that caution was an essential part of the program at that time and suggested the impracticability of favorable positive action under the circumstances then existing which circumstances would continue until the beginning of the summer recess. It was [Page 783] thought at that time it would be advisable to postpone any further consideration of action until after the Congress reconvened.

Now that the Congress has reconvened I am causing the matter to be taken up again with the appropriate leaders with the hope that the situation may have changed to such an extent that it will seem to permit favorable consideration, but my deep concern continues to be that a defeat on the floor of the Congress would have a very unfortunate effect upon our relations with the Chinese Government. Almost as unfortunate would be an acrimonious and bitter debate, which might result in passage by a small majority.

I shall do what may be possible to further the objective and will be glad to keep you advised.

Faithfully yours,

Cordell Hull
  1. Neither printed.
  2. A bill introduced by Representative Magnuson on June 29, 1943 (78th Cong., 1st sess.), “to repeal the Chinese exclusion acts, to establish quotas, and for other purposes.”
  3. Approved May 26, 1924; 43 Stat. 153.
  4. Signed at Peking, November 17, 1880, William M. Malloy (ed.), Treaties, Conventions, etc., Between the United States of America and Other Powers, 1776–1909 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1910), vol. i, p. 237.