From The Undeveloped West; or, Five Years in the Territories
By J. H. Beadle
Philadelphia: National Publishing Company, 1873

NO SAHVEY A one point I found the railroad running on trestle-work for a mile, over a marsh filled with water four months ago, but not dry as the hots rays of a California sun, from six months of cloudless sky, could make it. . . . After a year's experience it has been found necessary to raise the whole road-bed four feet. In this work I encountered many gangs of Chinese, in their wicker-work basket-shaped hats, stolid, impassive air, and universal no sahvey ("don't understand") to every question. To me they all looked alike, the same size, and seemed to have been cast in the same mould. It hardly seemed possible that I could get well-acquainted with one individual. But their Yankee overseer tells me this is "all a notion at first sight"; that they see as much difference as among whites, and when called to identify one under oath, which is often the case, do so without difficulty. To me they appear to work very slowly, feebly even; but the overseers credit them with great steadiness, and aver that one does as much in a day as an average Irishman. They use no coffee and very little water, making tea their regular beverage, both at meals and work.

Those employed on this road receive twenty-eight dollars a month, boarding themselves and resting Sundays. It costs them a dollar and a half each per week to live. They have but two holidays, which they observe with great festivity: the Chinese New Year's, occurring either in January or February, as their year contains thirteen lunar months; and the "Devil-drive," which takes place in October. Chinese labor is only relatively cheap: in California it costs but half that of white laborers, or even less; but in the Eastern States the difference is too little to furnish just grounds to that class who manifest so much horror about "an invasion of barbarous Mongolians."

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