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A California Newspaper Deplores the Foreign Miner's Tax

Within months of statehood, the California legislature passed the Foreign Miner’s Tax, which required immigrant miners to pay $20 a month for the privilege of mining in the state. The unbearably high tax drove many Latin American miners back to their home countries. Immigrant miners who stayed organized protests in Sonora County. Business owners also protested the tax, because they depended on foreign miners, especially Mexicans who could easily buy goods in the United States and take them back to families in Mexico, as customers.

[The tax is] decidedly unconstitutional, unjust, impolitic, opposed to every principle of our free institutions… We have said to the world we are free, come and enjoy freedom with us… Knowing this, tens of thousands came to California in the full belief that they would not only meet with gold, but far better, justice and kindness. From Mexico and Peru, and Chile they flocked here, better miners than our own people. They dug, they got gold, and they spent it freely… But the iniquitous law was passed… They could not stand it. They left by thousands and tens of thousands. The Southern Mines especially felt the stunning blow… 

The law gave to unprincipled of our own countrymen and others claiming to be such a wide scope for oppression… Wrongs and robberies led to murders and anarchy, and general prostrations of business. The state has been injured to the value of millions of dollars. 

While the human devils who hail from the penal colonies are allowed the rights of our citizens because they speak the English language, a quiet and laborious people have been driven from among us because they did not speak the language.

Source | Alta California, newspaper, circa 1850; quoted in Sucheng Chan, “A People of Exceptional Character: Ethnic Diversity, Nativism, and Racism in the California Gold Rush,” California History, Vol. 79, No. 2, Rooted in Barbarous Soil: People, Culture, and Community in Gold Rush California (Summer 2000), 44—85.
Creator | Alta California
Item Type | Newspaper/Magazine
Cite This document | Alta California, “A California Newspaper Deplores the Foreign Miner's Tax,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 24, 2023,

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