Friday, April 4, 2014

Kwong Lee / Kwang Lee

Born: circa 1839, China
Union Navy, 1862


The San Francisco Call
(California)
July 23, 1909
Chinese Civil War Veteran to Vote
Will Cast Ballot Despite Federal Statute and Constitution of California
Despite the federal statute and the constitution of California, Kwong Lee, a native of China, registered as a voter yesterday and will be allowed to participate in the November election.

A federal statute enacted in 1882 debars all Chinese, unless born in this country, from exercising the franchise. The state constitution says no native of China shall ever exercise the privilege of voting. But Kwong Lee, native of China, is going to vote just the same.

For Kwong Lee was naturalized in 1874, before the federal statute was enacted. More than that, Kwong Lee is a veteran of the Civil war, having first seen service in 1862 aboard a gunboat which carried the mails for the army up and down the Mississippi.

That this Chinese-American was no noncombatant was proved yesterday when he bared his queueless head to Registrar Zemansky to show where a confederate bullet had plowed its way. Kwong Lee was shot five times in the defense of the country of which he was not yet a citizen. Besides the bullet hole in the head, he has another in the breast, one in the left leg, one in the right foot and a shell wound in the hip.

The Chinese appeared at the registrar’s office yesterday with Cameron King Jr., who asked Zemansky whether he was entitled to register. After hearing the facts and examining Kwong’s naturalization appears, Zemansky said that he was qualified. The Chinese accordingly registered, refusing to state his politics.

Kwong Lee is 70 years old and belongs to the Chinese reform society.

The Denver Post
(Colorado)
July 23, 1909
But One ‘Frisco Chink’ Can Vote
Was Naturalized Before Federal Statute Withholding Suffrage Was Enacted
San Francisco, July 23.—Despite the fact that the federal statute and the constitution of California forbid the natives of China the privilege of voting, Kwong Lee, a native of that country, will be permitted to vote at the November election here.

But Kwong Lee was naturalized in 1874, before the federal statute was enacted. Yesterday he appeared with a member of the election commission and after producing his naturalization papers was permitted to register.

Riverside Daily Press
(California)
July 23, 1909
Old Chinaman Union Soldier
Seventy-Year-Old Chinaman Registered in San Francisco—Fought on Mississippi River Mail Boat in the Rebellion
San Francisco, July 23.—Despite the provisions of the federal statute that deny him a vote, Kwong Lee, born in China, was duly registered yesterday and will cast his ballot at the coming municipal election.

Kwong is 70 years old. He saw service during the civil war on a Union Mississippi river mail boat and his withered body is scarred by half a dozen wounds received in the service of this country.

The Chinese bases his right to vote on the fact that he became a naturalized citizen in 1876, eight years before the prohibitory statute was effective.

Salt Lake Telegram
(Salt Lake City, Utah)
July 23, 1909
(see Denver Post)

The Tacoma Times
(Washington)
July 23, 1909
Chinaman Will Cast Vote
(By United Press Leased Wire)
San Francisco, July 23.—Despite the provisions of the federal statute that deny a vote, Kwong Lee, born in China, was duly registered today and will cast a ballot at the coming municipal elections.

Kwong is 70 year of age. He saw service during the Civil War, serving on a Mississippi river mail boat.

San Diego Union
(California)
July 24, 1909
Chinaman to Vote in Next Election in S.F.
Kwong Lee, Naturalized in 1874, Proves his Right to Register.
By the Associated Press
San Francisco, July 23.—Despite the fact that a federal statute and the constitution forbid the natives of China the privilege of voting, Kwong Lee, a native of that country, will be permitted to vote at the November election here.

A federal statute enacted in 1882 debars all Chinese, unless born in this country, from exercising the franchise, and the state constitution says no native of China shall ever exercise that privilege. But Kwong Lee was naturalized in 1874, before the federal statute was enacted.

Yesterday he appeared with a member of the election commission and after producing his naturalization papers was permitted to register. He is a veteran of the civil war, having been wounded five times while servicing on a federal gunboat on the Mississippi river.

Riverside Daily Press
(California)
August 18, 1909
Naturalized Chinaman Surrenders His Papers
San Francisco, Aug. 18—Admitting that he secured naturalization papers fraudulently in St. Louis, in 1874, Kwang Lee today appeared before United States District Attorney Devlin and asked that the papers be cancelled. Devlin complied with the Chinaman’s strange request.

Kwang for 35 years had been voting at every election. the only reason he gave was that his conscience troubled him and he wanted to be honest with the American people.

The San Francisco Call
(California)
August 18, 1909
Court Lifts Heavy Burden of Chinese
Kwang Lee Admits Fraud in Securing Naturalization and Has Papers Canceled
Just how long it takes, a Chinese to find out his conscience hurts him was determined yesterday in the United States district court. Until Kwang Lee came before United States District Judge John J. de Haven, to admit that through fraud and deceit he had been a United States citizen since 1874, the problem had never been legally decided. Now it is known that 35 years is the time limit for those whose ways are peculiar to repent and confess.

According to. the complaint filed by United States Attorney Robert T. Devlin, against Kwang Lee, he was naturalized in St. Louis in 1874. He represented that he was born of white parents in China. He enjoyed all the privilege of citizenship, learned to speak English well, and became a man of prominence in the community.

In truth Kwang Lee was born of Chinese parents. He did not resemble the Mongolian type, but the deception worried him as he grew older. “That he could vote for a president of the United States did not compensate for the sleepless nights spent in thinking of the wrong he had done.

Finally, he visited United States Attorney Devlin and requested that his citizenship be canceled and this was the decision in the only case of Chinese naturalization fraud appearing on the calendar of the federal courts in California. Kwang Lee, of the faith of Confucius, left the courtroom a happier man. He had been relieved of a heavy burden.

Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat
(New York)
August 19, 1909
Kwang Lee No Longer an American Citizen
He Will Probably Get a Pension, However, for His Service in the Navy During the Civil War.
San Francisco. Aug. 19.—Kwang Lee, a Chinese who has held citizenship papers for 35 years, was stripped of his adopted nationality yesterday by the action of the United States district court which cancelled the certificates of naturalization issued by the court of criminal correction of St. Louis in 1874.

Despite the fact that he is now denied by his adopted country, Kwang Lee, who is 69 years old, is likely to become one of its depend­ents, for he served honorably as an enlisted man in the United States navy in the Civil war and his body bears the scars of five wounds received when fighting under the stars and stripes on a Mississippi gunboat. Because of his age, he is now entitled to a pension of $20 a month and has declared that he will apply for it at once.

Arizona Republican
(Phoenix, Arizona)
August 19, 1909
Chinese American No Longer Citizen
Though He Will Become a Pensioner of the United States
San Francisco, Aug. 18. Kwang Lee, a Chinese who held citizenship papers for thirty-five years, was stripped of his adopted nationality today by the action of the United States district court, which cancelled his certificate of naturalization issued by the court of criminal correction in St. Louis in 1874. Lee is in all probability the only Chinese ever granted even for a time American citizenship through naturalization, as the supreme court of the United States declared many years ago that immigrants from the Celestial empire were not eligible to citizenship.

Despite the fact that he is now denied by his adopted country, Kwang Lee, who is 69 years old, is likely to become one of its dependants [sic], for he served honorably as an enlisted man in the United States navy during the Civil war, and his body bears scars of five wounds received while fighting on a Mississippi gunboat.

Because of his age, he is now entitled to a pension of $20 a month for his services, and he has declared that he will apply for It at once. The cancellation of Lee’s papers followed his attempt to register as a voter at the primary election held yesterday. Last March Lee’s papers were taken away by the immigration officials at Nogales, Arizona, but he procured others by applying to the courts of St. Louis.

The Auburn Citizen
(New York)
August 19, 1909
After 35 Years
Naturalization Papers of Chinaman, Civil War Veteran, Cancelled.
(see Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat)

The Binghamton Press
(New York)
August 19, 1909
Chinaman Loses His Nationality
Veteran of Civil War Deprived of Naturalization Certificates.
(see Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat)

Bisbee Daily Review
(Arizona)
August 19, 1909
Only Chinese Ever Naturalized Loses Citizenship Rights
Oriental Who Fought for Country in Civil War Has Papers Taken.
Celestial Bears Scars of Honorable Wounds
San Francisco, Cal. Aug. 18.—Kwang Lee a Chinese who has held citizenship papers for thirty five years was stripped of his adopted nationality today by the action of the U. S. district court which cancelled the certificate of naturalization issued by the court of criminal correction in St. Louis in 1874.

Lee is in all probability, the only Chinese ever granted even for a time, American citizenship through naturalization as the supreme court of the United States declared many years ago that immigrants from the Celestial empire are not eligible for citizenship. Despite the fact that he is now denied by his adopted country, Kwang Lee, who is sixty nine years old, is likely to become one of its dependents for he served honorably as an enlisted man in the United States Navy during the civil war and his body bears the scars of five wounds received while fighting on a Mississippi gunboat. Because of his age he is now entitled to a pension of $20 a month for his services and has declared he will apply for at once.

The cancellation of Lee’s papers followed his attempt to register as a voter at the primary election held yesterday. Last March Lee’s papers were taken away by the immigration officials at Nogales, Arizona but he procured others by applying to the courts of St. Louis.

Boston Evening Transcript
(Massachusetts)
August 19, 1909
A New Chinese Puzzle
Odd Complications in Case of Kwang Lee

The Day
(New London, Connecticut)
August 19, 1909
Uncle Sam Must Pension a Chink

Elmira Star-Gazette
(New York)
August 19, 1909
Chinese Veteran Is Now an Alien
Cancellation of Court’s Naturalization Certificates Robs Him of Citizenship—Can Get Pension
(see Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat)

The Evening Post
(New York)
August 19, 1909
Stripped of His Citizenship
Chinese Wounded in Civil War Deprived of Naturalization Papers.
(see Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat)

The Evening Telegram
(New York)
August 19, 1909
Stripped of Citizenship After Thirty-Five Years
Chinese Who Was Wounded Five Times in Civil War, Has Rights Revoked
(see Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat)

The Evening Times
(Pawtucket, Rhode Island)
August 19, 1909
Chinese Veteran of Civil War Disowned
Uncle Sam Cancels his Certificate, Issued in 1874—He’s 69, Now.
San Francisco, Aug. 19.—Kwang Lee, a Chinese who has held citizenship papers for 15 years, was stripped of his adopted nationality yesterday by the action of the United States District Court, which cancelled the certificate of naturalization issued by the Court of Criminal Correction of St. Louis in 1874.

Despite the fact that he is denied by his adopted country, Kwang Lee, who is 69 years old, is likely to become one of its dependents, for he served honorably as an enlisted man in the Untied Sates navy in the Civil War and his body bears the scars of five wounds received when fighting under the Stars and Stripes on a Mississippi gunboat.

The Kansas City Star
(Missouri)
August 19, 1909
A Chinese Loses His Vote.
But Kwang Lee Was a Sailor in the War and Will Draw a Pension.
(see Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat)

Los Angeles Herald
(California)
August 19, 1909
Chinese Loses Citizen’s Rights
Man Who Served Country Is Repudiated at Last
Application of Kwang Lee for Vote at Primary Election Calls Attention to His Unique Case
(see Bisbee Daily Review)

Los Angeles Times
(California)
August 19, 1909
Only Chinese Citizen, Civil War Veteran, Loses Rights.

The Morning Mission and Riverside Enterprise
(California)
August 19, 1909
Chinese Stripped of His Citizenship
San Francisco. Aug. 18.—Kwang Lee, a Chinese who has held citizenship papers for 35 years was stripped of his adopted nationality to-day by the action of the federal court, which cancelled his certificate on the ground that the supreme court decided many years ago that emigrants from the Chinese empire are ineligible to citizenship.

Kwange [sic], who is 69 years old, as likely to become a ward of the country, however, as he has served honorably in the navy during the civil war, and bears scars of five wounds received while fighting under Farragut. He is entitled to a pension, which he will apply for at once. Revocation of his citizenship followed his attempt to qualify for the primary held yesterday.

The Ogden Standard
(Ogden City, Utah)
August 19, 1909
Chinaman Stripped of Adopted Nationality
San Francisco, Aug. 19.—Kwang Lee, a Chinese who has held citizenship papers for thirty-five years, was stripped of his adopted nationality yesterday by the action of the United States District Court, which cancelled the certificates of naturalization issued by the court of criminal correction of St. Louis in 1874.

Despite the fact that he is now denied by his adopted country, Kwang Lee, who is 69 years old, is likely to become one of its depend­ents, for he served honorably as an enlisted man in the United States navy in the Civil war and his body bears the scars of five wounds received when fighting under the stars and stripes on a Mississippi gunboat. Because of his age, he is now entitled to a pension of $20 a month for his services, and has declared that he will apply for it at once.

The Rome Daily Sentinel
(New York)
August 19, 1909
Chinese a Union Veteran.
But After 35 Year of Citizenship He Is Stripped of His Papers
(see Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat)

Salt Lake Evening Telegram
(Utah)
August 19, 1909
p2 c2: Curious Position of California Chinaman
(see Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat)

The San Diego Weekly Union
(California)
August 19, 1909
Chinese Loses His Citizenship
Naturalization Papers Taken Out in 1874 Are Revoked in San Francisco.
(see Los Angeles Herald)

The San Francisco Call
(California)
August 19, 1909
Aged Chinese Served 3 Years in Civil War
Order Canceling Naturalization Certificate Signed
An order canceling the naturalization certificate of Kwang Lee, a Chinese who had enjoyed the privileges of United States citizenship since 1874, was signed yesterday by United States District Judge John J. de Haven.

It was further ascertained by those investigating the case that Kwang Lee served in the United States navy during the civil war, having enlisted immediately after his coming to the country. His service was mostly on the Mississippi river, and he was wounded five times. As testimony to this he exhibited the scars. He had applied for a pension and would probably have been in receipt of it within a few weeks.

He registered in San Francisco July 22 of this year, and would have voted at the coming election.

San Francisco Chronicle
(California)
August 19, 1909
Near Citizen Is a Naval Veteran
Kwang Lee May Get a Pension, Even If He Has Lost Franchise.
United States District Judge De Haven cancelled yesterday the certificate of naturalization which had been issued to Kwang Lee by the Court of Criminal Correction of St. Louis in 1874 as having been issued to a Chinese person. The Supreme Court of the United States decided long ago that at no time has the law recognized a Chinese person as eligible for citizenship of this country through naturalization.

Kwang Lee has a history such as few of his race can boast. He was born in China in 1840 and came to this country in 1861. A year later he enlisted in the United States Navy, served principally on gunboats on the Mississippi, was wounded five times and was honorably discharged after his enlistment of three years had expired.

One of the wounds is plainly shown by a deep scar on his head, but though he has applied for a pension he does not make the wounds ground for his claim, but the recent law which grants a pension to every veteran of the Civil War who served for ninety days or more and is 60 years of age. If granted, his pension will amount to about $20 a month.

For six years past he has lived in Arizona and at Nogales. Last March an Immigration Inspector took from him the certificate of naturalization issued to him by the St. Louis court. He procured a certified copy, however, and came to this city, where he registered as a voter on the authority of this certified copy of an illegal document June 22d last.

The matter was taken up by Chief Examiner Blazer of the Federal Naturalization Bureau, and as Kwang Lee admitted his Chinese birth, an application to the court was filed for the cancellation of his citizenship papers, which was granted yesterday.

The Syracuse Herald
(New York)
August 19, 1909
Citizenship Taken From Veteran of Civil War
(see Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat)

The Topeka State Journal
(Kansas)
August 19, 1909
Will Ask for Pension.
A Chinaman Is Deprived of Naturalization Papers.
(see Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat)

The Watertown Daily Times
(New York)
August 19, 1909
Veteran of Civil War Loses His Citizenship
Chinaman Who Has Held Citizenship Papers for 35 Years Without a Country.
(see Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat)

Auburn Democrat-Argus
(New York)
August 20, 1909
After 35 Years
Naturalization Papers of Chinaman, Civil War Veteran, Cancelled.
(see Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat)

Auburn Weekly Bulletin
(New York)
August 20, 1909
After 35 Years
Naturalization Papers of Chinaman, Civil War Veteran, Cancelled.
(see Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat)

Binghamton Press and Leader
(New York)
August 20, 1909
Chinaman Loses His Nationality
Veteran of Civil War Deprived of Naturalization Certificates.
(see Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat)

The Boston Journal
(Massachusetts)
August 20, 1909
Denied Citizenship Will Draw Pension
Chinaman Has Papers Cancelled, but Relies on Record as Sailor in Civil War
(see Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat)

Daily People
(New York, New York)
August 20, 1909
Strip Chinese of Nationality. Although He Was Long Naturalized and Fought Under the Flag
(see Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat)

The New York Times
August 20, 1909
Made Alien After 35 Years.
Chinese Veteran of Civil War Stripped by Court of His Citizenship.
(see Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat)

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
(New York)
August 20, 1909
Strange Action of a Federal Court.
San Francisco, Aug. 19.—Kwang Lee is a California Chinaman. Whether he is a heathen or a Christian doesn’t appear in the record.

But what does appear, according to a dispatch from San Francisco, is that Kwang Lee is 69 years of age, has held his papers as a citizen of the United States for 35 years, was an enlisted man in the United States navy during the Civil War, and received five wounds, the scars of which remain, in that service on a Mississippi gunboat.

These facts would seem to entitle Kwang Lee to some respect and consideration from the American people and courts. The sentiment of the people, we believe—excepting possibly a few relics of the late Dennis Kearney—is all right, but the justice on the bench of the United States District Court in San Francisco—whatever his name may be doesn’t appear—has cancelled the certificates of naturalization issued to Kwang Lee by a court in St. Louis in 1874.

If that action of the court was determined by the law, the statue under which it was taken is a disgrace to the Federal government. If it was determined by the caprice of prejudice of the judge, he is unworthy of a seat on the Federal bench.

Kwang Lee, as a Civil was veteran, and in view of his age, is entitled to a pension of $20 a month, and he is going to apply for it.

The Waterville Times
(New York)
August 20, 1909
Chinese to Seek Pension.
Court After Thirty-five Years Annuls His Citizenship.
San Francisco, Aug. 20.—Kwang Lee, a Chinese who has held citizenship papers for thirty-five years, has been stripped of his adopted nationality by the United States district court.

Kwang Lee served in the navy in the civil war and was wounded when fighting on a Mississippi gunboat. Because of his age he is entitled to a pension, and will apply for it.

Boston Herald
(Massachusetts)
August 23, 1909
Have you tried to think how Kwang Lee, a Chinaman in San Francisco, must feel, he who for 35 years has been cherishing the belief that he was a citizen of the United States and has been living up to its duties, but who now has had a certificate of naturalization, issued in 1874, cancelled? Nor will the cruelty of the process be mitigated by the fact that he fought through the civil war on a gunboat, suffered grievous wounds and is still entitled to a pension.

Middlebury Register
(Vermont)
August 27, 1909
It is rather tough on a Chinaman even to be denied entrance to the United States after holding citizenship papers for thirty-five years, but this happened to one Kwang Lee of San Francisco last week, when by the action of the United States District Court certificates of naturalization issued by the court of criminal of St. Louis in 1874 were cancelled.

Evening Bulletin
(Honolulu, Hawaii)
August 31, 1909
Cancel Citizenship of a Chinese.
Suit has been brought by the government to cancel tho naturalization of Kwang Lee, a Chinese, who was admitted to citizenship in the Court of Criminal Correction at St. Louis, Mo., on August 19, 1874. The government contends that Kwang Lee, not being a white person, was not entitled to admission to citizenship. Kwang admitted in an affidavit filed with the complaint that his certificate of naturalization was illegally procured and consents to its cancellation.

Tombstone Epitaph
(Arizona)
September 5, 1909
Citizenship Rights Were Cancelled
The rights of citizenship which had been enjoyed by Kwang Lee, the Chinese storekeeper here, who is married and has a family of eight children, was cancelled by the court at Tombstone recently, it being found that Lee was not entitled to the same. He had been voting and in other ways exercised the duties of American citizenship since the civil war, and it seems his rights in the matter had never before been successfully challenged. —Nogales Times.

Among the recent cases filed in the United States court at Tombstone is one entitled the United States of America, petitioner, vs Kwang Lee, respondent, brought by United States Attorney J. L. B Alexander of Arizona. The petitioner asks the court to set aside the naturalization papers granted to the Chinaman by the St. Louis Court of Correction on the 10th day of August, 1874, of which proceedings the United States had no notice or knowledge. The action is entitled a petition to cancel certificate of naturalization.

The following is a copy of the papers as granted to the Chinaman by the above mentioned court of Missouri:

“Kwang Lee, a native of China, who applies to be admitted a citizen of the United States, comes and proves to the satisfaction of the court that he has resided in the United States at least five years, and in the State of Missouri at least one year, immediately preceding [sic] this application, during which time he has conducted himself as a man of good moral character, attached to the principals of the constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same; and the court, moreover, being satisfied that said applicant has taken the preparatory steps required by the laws of the United States concerning the naturalization of aliens, he declaring here, in open court, upon oath, that he will support the Constitution of the United States, and that he doth absolutely renounce and abjure forever, all allegiance and fidelity to every foreign power, prince, potentate, state or sovereignty whatsoever, and particularly to the emperor of China, of whom he is present a subject, therefore the said Kwang Lee is admitted a citizen of the United States.”

The naturalization laws of the United States specify that no subjects of the celestial kingdom are eligible to become citizens of this country.

Lee has been a resident of Nogales for many years and voted at all elections. 

Street’s Pandex of the News
July, August, September 1909
Naturalization,
Chinese:
—Kwang Lee of San Francisco; papers issued in 1874 revoked by District court; Kwang had served in Civil war and announces intention of asking for pension.
Aug. 19

Tombstone Epitaph
(Arizona)
November 6, 1910
U.S. vs Kwang Lee, petition to cancel certificate of naturalization.

Tombstone Epitaph
(Arizona)
May 28, 1911
Upon the motion of the United States attorney the case pending up on the civil government docket against Kwong Lee, a petition to cancel certificate of naturalization, was ordered dismissed.


U.S. Navy Pensions Index, 1861-1910
Name: Kwong Lee
Publication: M1408
Pension Approval: Disapproved
File Number: 39400
Certification Number: 57333
Fiche Number: 13053
Archive: National Archives and Records Administration


A comment at the Association to commemorate the Chinese serving in the American Civil War has a connection:
Hi Gordon,
Just received some info from a Chinese Woman whose great grandfather was in the union army. His photo is currently on the cover of a book titled: An American Chinese Album….His name his Lee Kwong….Any info on this guy?...
Thanks, Monty Hom
Pictured below is the cover of the book, The Chinese American Family Album. On the copyright page is the cover caption: Lai Ngan (center left) and Lee Kwong (center right) with their children in Nogales, Arizona, around 1905.

























Kwong Lee is profiled in the National Park Service book, Asians and Pacific Islanders and the Civil War.

(Updated February 26, 2015; next post: Ling Kubser)

3 comments:

  1. Hello,my mother is the "Chinese woman" mentioned in the email. If you have any additional information on Kwong Lee or would like to know any additional information please let me know. Currently I am trying to find his immigration records with no luck.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi James,

      I hope you can read my message. I wrote an article about Lai Ngan with the help of your uncle Mike. Just want to say hi. Hope you have new discoveries about your family history. Li

      Delete
  2. I have updated this post with additional newspaper articles. You can contact me at apaontv (at) aol (dot) com

    ReplyDelete