150 years ago last Sunday 18 Chinese immigrants were massacred and lynched in Los Angeles. I am interested in putting the massacre in the national context of Reconstruction. Most likely because of my incompetence, I cannot find mention of it in accounts of Reconstruction. For instance, I sought in vain to find it in Stacey L. Smith's FREEDOM'S FRONTIER: CALIFORNIA AND THE STUGGLE OVER UNFREE LABOR, EMANCIPATION, AND RECONSTRUCTION (2013). Can anyone point me to treatments that I have missed?
So far, I am working with these connections. On October 12, 1871, Grant initiated his now celebrated crackdown on the KKK in South Carolina by issuing a proclamation commanding all unlawful combinations in South Carolina to surrender their arms and return home. When they failed to do so, on November 17, 1871, he ordered a military intervention. But, as far as I can tell, there was no federal response to the events of October 24, 1871, in Los Angeles. On the contrary, in the middle of the Klan trials, Grant fired Attorney General Amos Akerman, who had spearheaded the campaign against the Klan, and replaced him with George Williams of Oregon, whom Grant would later--unsuccessfully--nominate for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. On the Chinese Williams declared: "They are and continue to be the besotted devotees of absolutism in politics and the blind disciples of paganism in religion." He worried that ratification of the 15th Amendment might open the door to Chinese immigrants having the right to vote. Oregon and California refused to ratify the amendment.
Another neglected event of note occurred in 1871, which is not as directly related to the events of October 24, 1871, but is worth mentioning. Frederick F. Low, the former California governor sometimes called "the father of the University of California," had been appointed by President Grant to be minster to China. As minister, he led a naval squadron charged with "opening" Korea to trade in Spring 1871. The Koreans did not welcome the effort, and, after a warning and the refusal of the ships to leave, resisted. The result was a violent exchange in which many Koreans were killed. Eventually, the US ships withdrew. In his December 1871 address to Congress, before reporting on the Klan trials, Grant praised the American force for having "punished the [Korean] criminals" and for "having vindicated the honor of the flag." Grant valued his copy of a book of photographs documenting the US attack. [In 1883 the US and Korea agreed to a trade treaty.]
It is also worth mentioning that in 1885 there was an even worse massacre of Chinese immigrants in Rock Springs, Wyoming. This time, the federal government, under President Cleveland, did act. Martial law was temporarily declared. William E. Birkhimer, the military officer in charge of finding legal justification for that act, would later write MILITARY GOVERNMENT AND MARTIAL LAW (1892). Unlike Grant, he did compare anti-Chinese violence to Klan violence in the South. Likewise, in a speech called "Southern Barbarism," Frederick Douglass alluded to Cleveland's condemnation of the violence against the Chinese and insisted that the "persecuted and murdered black citizens of Mississippi" deserved the same protection. (See my THE LITERATURE OF RECONSTRUCTION: p. 226).
Any help in my efforts to place the Massacre of October, 24, 1871, in the context of Reconstruction is welcome.