May 29th, a new documentary will air on PBS from the American Experience on The Chinese Exclusion Act.
(Click on the link above to play the trailer.)
The act was one of the most puzzling parts of Arthur’s tenure as President. America’s first racially- and national-origin based immigration restriction, it was the result of a complex set of pressures and lobbying from western interests. Arthur vetoed the first version of the law, and then signed a second one that was essentially unchanged except for the term of the act.
Arthur’s reputation as a champion of civil rights was put to the test in the debate over this act, and the documentary should prove quite interesting with respect to the moral compromises of the guilded age.