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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Daily Eagle Interviews Wong Chin Foo, 1880

The Chinese Lecturer’s Views on American Politics

A reporter of the Eagle this morning had an interview with Mr. Wong Chin Foo, the Chinese lecturer now in our city, during which some expressions were drawn from the latter on his views touching the political parties.

Wong Chin Foo is a little cautious about declaring himself decidedly in favor of any party, though he regards himself as a citizen and a voter. It will be remembered by some of our readers that this Chinaman visited our city some years ago and took out naturalization papers, an act of expatriation which , it is generally supposed, would put his head or his bowels in jeopardy should he ever again show himself in the Celestial Empire.

In answer to a question about his politics Wong Chin Foo said he would like to vote for a party that would so abide by the Constitution and maintain all its guarantees that the poor man without a dollar could fight his way in the courts as effectively as the rich man, against those who injure him, and “get his right if he proves his case or be severely spanked if he makes out no cause of complaint.”

His expressions in regard to parties are quaint and peculiar. He says, curtly: “The Republicans are intellectual heathens: the Democrats are confounded barbarians; the Greenbackers—well, I don’t know what to think of them, they are too young yet, don’t seem to have any character, can’t tell till after election.”

Wong Chin Foo thinks he can tell a man’s politics by his looks. “It is very easy to pick them out since the Indiana fight,” he says, “the Democrats look as if they had been paying too much internal revenue tax—sour and poverty-stricken; the Republicans seem serene and happy, look all the same like one Presbyterian missionary, predestined from the beginning to rule; the Greenbackers don’t care which way the wind blows, look as if they thought it didn’t pay to worry, but watching all the same to catch some of the drift-wood.”

Citizenized as Mr. Wong Chin Foo is, and proud as he appears of it, he retains a good deal of veneration for Chinadom and its ancient institutions. He is very sharp and quick in his perceptions, if not profound, and when he comes to make comparisons of “how they do in China,” with the conduct of affairs in this country, his keen flashing eyes seem to gather themselves up to form the points of a star, while he illustrates the superiority of Confucian simplicity in law and administration.

He says his lecture next Sunday evening will be largely devoted to translations of Chinese law, and to explaining how it is that the immense empire of 450,000,000 people is governed so easily and with so little friction.

Grand Rapids Daily Eagle, October 21, 1880, page 4

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