Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907

The Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907 (日米紳士協約, Nichibei Shinshi Kyōyaku?) was an informal agreement between the United States and the Empire of Japan whereby the U.S. would not impose restriction on Japanese immigration, and Japan would not allow further emigration to the U.S. The goal was to reduce tensions between the two powerful Pacific nations. The agreement was never ratified by Congress, which in 1924 ended it.

Tensions had been rising in Tokyo and San Francisco, and after the decisive Japanese victory against Russia, Japan demanded treatment as an equal. The result was a series of six notes communicated between Japan and the United States from late 1907 to early 1908.

The immediate cause of the Agreement was anti-Japanese nativism in California. In 1906, the San Francisco, California Board of Education passed a regulation whereby children of Japanese descent would be required to attend separate, racially specific schools. At the time, Japanese immigrants made up approximately 1% of the population of California; many of them had immigrated under the treaty in 1894 which had assured free immigration from Japan.

In the Agreement, Japan agreed not to issue passports for Japanese citizens wishing to work in the continental United States, thus effectively eliminating new Japanese immigration to America. In exchange, the United States agreed to accept the presence of Japanese immigrants already residing in America, and to permit the immigration of wives, children and parents, and to avoid legal discrimination against Japanese children in California schools.

There was also a strong desire on the part of the Japanese government "to preserve the image of the Japanese people in the eyes of the world": Japan did not want America to pass any legislation confronting the Japanese immigrants, in response to what happened to Chinese under the Chinese Exclusion Act. President Theodore Roosevelt, who had a positive opinion of Japan, accepted the Agreement as proposed by Japan as an alternative to more formal, restrictive immigration legislation.

The government of Japan continued to issue passports for immigration to the Territory of Hawaii, from where immigrants could move on to the continental United States with few controls.

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