Burlingame, Anson(bûr`lĭng-gām), 1820–70, American diplomat, b. New Berlin, N.Y. He became a lawyer in Boston and later (1855–61) a Congressman. Defeated for reelection, he was made (1861) minister to China. By his tact and understanding of Chinese opposition to the autocratic methods of foreigners in the treaty ports, he won a place as adviser to the Chinese government. In 1867, China sent him as head of a mission to visit foreign lands in order to secure information and sign treaties of amity. He visited Washington, London, and capitals on the Continent. One result was a treaty between China and the United States, supplementary to the 1858 treaty. This, usually called the Burlingame Treaty, was signed in 1868. It was a treaty of friendship based on Western principles of international law. One clause encouraged Chinese immigration—laborers were then much in demand in the West; later the heavy influx of Chinese under its provisions caused friction on the West Coast and led to the exclusion of Chinese immigrants (see Chinese exclusionChinese exclusion,
policy of prohibiting immigration of Chinese laborers to the United States; initiated in 1882. From the time of the U.S. acquisition of California (1848) there had been a large influx of Chinese laborers to the Pacific coast.
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See biography by F. W. Williams (1912, repr. 1972).
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Burlingame, Anson(1820–70) U.S. representative, diplomat; born in New Berlin, N.Y. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (Free-Soil, Mass.; 1855–59, Repub., Mass.; 1859–61). He was ambassador to China (1861–67) where he deeply impressed the Chinese with his integrity and helpfulness. In 1867, China appointed him the head of their first diplomatic mission to Europe. He died in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.