A Plea for Universal Brotherhood

Asia at the Door. By. K. K. Kawakami. Fleming H. Revell company.

SO much has been written and declaimed with regard to “The Yellow Peril” that most practical minded people have come to class it with the extravagant witticisms of the comic supplement. Nevertheless, there are many men with a reputation for far seeing who do not so regard it. Still others look upon it as the pet doll of militarism, presented by certain interests concerned in the manufacture of war trappings; and a certain California political organization has been accused of using it as a bait for the labor vote.

Whatever the truth may be, the question offers an admirable opportunity for the visionary. He may point out the fact that civilization in its westward course has at last encircled the globe, and that at the closing of the world circuit the gigantic east has shocked into new life. He may find cause for alarm in considering the amazing rapidity with which the newly awakened Orient has comprehended and adopted the result of a long evolutionary process among western races. He may say that it is as if a Titan slept while pigmies forged arms proportioned to his might, and that when the arms were finished the pigmies aroused the sleeper to their own undoing. The visionary may go farther, taking the history of the past civilizations as a guide, and see the time when western civilization, having reached its height on the North American continent, shall perish there as Egyptian, Persian, Greek and Roman civilizations perished, the traditions of its arts and sciences passing as a legacy to a superior semi-Oriental race which shall encumber our land.

It is a fine pipe-dream. But there have been numerous “perils“ in the westward advance of civilization. The Greeks and Romans were “perils” to the other fellow, and it is because our race has been a successful “peril” that some of us are so much troubled with regard to the Orientals.

“Asia at the Door“

As always, seen from the side which is supposed to wield the menace, all is serenity; and in “Asia at the Door,” written by Kiyoshi Kawakami, a Japanese with an excellent Occidental education, even the extreme jingo should find a grain of comfort.

First of all, the manner in which Mr. Kawakami thinks and writes is sufficient in itself to show that we are dealing with no intellectually inferior race when we deal with the Japanese. From his vantage point as an enlightened American, with the learning of two hemispheres at his command, he presents the whole question with remarkable clearness and with a restraint which is far from common among our own writers. Any logical minded Occidental who sincerely believes the religious and political doctrines which we profess, cannot but grant that some of Mr. Kawakami's arguments are unanswerable. Nothing but inherent race prejudice can hold out against this sanely conducted inquiry into the Japanese question as it exists in the United States, Hawaii and Canada.

Mr. Kawakami begins by pointing out reasons for amity between the two races which confront each other across the Pacific. Each race is composite, the one consisting of Malayan, Mongolian and Aryan stocks; the other of many stocks in which the Aryan predominates. “Because most composite, therefore most largely human, and as a consequence more vitally related.” Furthermore, both races are noted for their love of peace, we are told, each having fought only when war was thrust upon it. A third reason for friendship lies in America's great services to Japan, beginning with Commodore Perry's visit to Yokohama in 1854. In short, it is urged that no real cause for enmity exists, the recent strained relations between the races being due solely to the machinations of private capital that might profit by hostilities.

Monroe Doctrine Given Drubbing

As to the cry of “America for Americans,” Mr. Kawakami summons up the poor old Monroe doctrine for a drubbing. With some not unconvincing argument, he maintains that the doctrine is obsolete, having lost its reason for existing “when European despotism and its offspring, the Holy Alliance, sank into the limbo of oblivion.” What we now call the Monroe doctrine is something brand new; and, furthermore, we forfeited our moral right to the policy, even in its present garbled version, by taking the Philippines. Consistency, not to mention Christianity, makes such a policy absurd, so the author remarks. We must confess that it sounds a bit odd to hear a “heathen” preaching to us our own gospel; but that is precisely what Mr. Kawakami does.

In regard to our discriminatory immigration laws, the author writes: “What I protest against is the false notion that all Asiatics are undesirables, while all Europeans are desirables. Physiognomy, stature and the color of the skin have no more bearing on the moral character and intellectual quality of a man than the pattern of the garment he wears.” There should be only two nationalities, we are told, the good and the bad.

As to the mixture of races through intermarriage, Mr. Kawakami takes issue with those who maintain that the offspring of such unions is necessarily inferior and cites cases that have come under his observation. This portion of his discussion will doubtless be the least convincing to the average Occidental.

Japanese Held Only 12,726 Acres

Taking up the California question, with regard to the right of the Japanese to own the land they cultivate, Mr. Kawakami stigmatizes the whole as “persecution,” and attributes the disturbance to popular hysteria aroused by designing politicians. He shows that out of 27,931,444 acres of agricultural land in the Golden state, only 12,726 acres had been acquired by Japanese at the time the cry went up, “They are taking our farms!” Most of this land, we are assured, had been utterly useless until the patience and industry of the Japanese reclaimed it.

“A study of the census,” writes Mr. Kawakami, “reveals interesting facts in this connection. In the ten years between 1900 and 1910 there was a decrease in the amount of land in California farms of 897,597 acres, and in the amount of improved land in farms a decrease of 568,943 acres. This unhappy condition was, no doubt, partly due to the movement of the population from the country to the city. In the face of such facts, I fail to see how a body of wise legislators could afford to enact a law which is calculated to drive out thrifty industrial famers. To disinherit these would be an act unthinkable in the great country of liberty and enlightenment.”

By way of contrast, Japanese laws relative to the rights of foreigners in the Mikado’s empire are discussed. In 1910 a law was passed by Japan whereby foreigners were permitted to own land provided such foreigners came from countries granting similar privileges. Although this law has not yet been enforced, owing to the difficulty of applying the reciprocal principle to such countries as the United States, which has no uniform land law, nevertheless it is shown that foreigners in Japan are allowed to enjoy almost all the rights enjoyed by natives.

Situation in Hawaii

Leaving that aspect of the situation which applies to our coast, the author discusses the situation in Hawaii. He shows that what has been termed “the Japanese invasion of Hawaii” began by the importation of coolie labor at the hands of American plantation owners, and he resents the implication that his countrymen should be contented with remaining “hewers of wood and drawers of water.” Allowing for human frailties and the pernicious influence of mercenary Buddhist priests, Mr. Kawakami presents a pleasing picture of race amalgamation in our island territory.

In a final chapter, the situation on the west coast of Canada is examined.

In spite of inherent race prejudice, which all men find it difficult wholly to eradicate, the general effect of Mr. Kawakami's work is likely to be a favorable one with any rational minded person. It is a plea for cosmopolitanism as oppposed to insular prejudice; an attempt to apply on a world scale the humanitarianism which we ourselves profess. When the book is closed, one is likely to remember, with a touch of chagrin, the remark once made by Simeon Ford: “Excelsior is our motto — but we don't put it in our mattresses!”