The rapid industrialization and growth of a world economy in the Gilded Age gave birth to a reform movement in the last decade of the nineteenth-century that hoped to solve the many problems encountered in this swiftly changing era; they were the Progressives.
Though not unified into a specific political party or single discernable group, the Progressives believed that if people united together behind a common cause, they could forever erase the social ills that plagued society.
But instead of being particularly concerned with the problems, they "swam in an abundance of solutions" (Gilmore, 8).
Average men and women believed that they held the solution to reform these social ills (such as mass immigration, overcrowding, child labor and sanitation) and rid society of them forever.
Quite often, however, a person's position in society defined their stance on how to attack these social ills.
Groups and societies that aligned themselves with the Progressive ideology saw their ranks filled with native-born, white urbanites.
In some cases Progressive attempts to enact social reform depended on them controlling another group's actions and behavior (Gilmore, 3-4).
Distressed about the many newcomers into their cities, the Progressives concerned themselves with the proper way to incorporate the "great unwashed" into civic life.
They feared that the future of Democracy itself was at stake.
The hordes of people flowing into the cities, both from overseas and the
"Great Migration" of African-Americans from the South, posed a threat as foreign institutions could subvert the "American experiment" and corrupt the prearranged civil order.
If the government allowed these newcomers to move into the cities, the Progressives thought, they must incorporate these outsiders into American society; requiring them to "forsake their language and obliterate their cultural differences" (Gilmore, 8).
With all traces of any foreign culture removed, these immigrants would then reflect the "traditional American ideal."
Though a few other Progressives believed in the possibility of a multicultural
melting pot by generally educating the population in proper social mores, most believed that a true American democracy, if it had to contain these immigrants, must assimilate them through a "purifying" type of Americanization (Gilmore, 8).
Many Progressives tried to enact legislation that curbed immigrants' rights or put quotas on certain nationalities' admittance into the United States.
At one point this attempt at exclusion came into direct conflict with the organizers of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
In California there existed a significant resentment of Japanese ownership of farmland, and many politicians campaigned for the prohibition of their rights to own it.
The President of the Exposition, Charles Moore, made a plea to the state legislature that such a censure on Asians would result in the withdrawal of Chinese and Japanese participation.
Such an absence would only serve to damage the opportunity of the exhibitors at the Exposition to engage in trade with these giants from the Far East, he argued.
He suggested the legislature wait until the Exposition was no longer in danger of such a harmful blow as the absence of the two Asian countries.
The Progressive former mayor of San Francisco and current US Senator, James Phelan, countered by saying:
The future of California is of far greater importance than the success of this Exposition.
And in saying this I do not believe for a moment that in enacting this land legislation you will jeopardize the success of the Exposition (Dobkin, 76).
Despite the efforts of Moore and the directors of the Exposition, the
Alien Land Law
passed in 1913 and remained a law until the United States Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1952.
Regardless, the Chinese and Japanese contingents participated in the Exposition despite their opposition to the bill (ibid.).