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7.1.2 Indenture of Awye, Chinese man

A typed indenture document signed by Awye (in Chinese characters) and early California merchant Jacob P. Leese. Handwritten notes fill the margin on one side of the document.
1849 July 28

Indenture of Awye, Chinaman. Manuscript. 1849. California Historical Society, Jacob P. Leese papers, 1837-1862, MS OV 10.

Many Chinese, especially men, came to work in San Francisco and in other parts of California. Most of them came under indenture, which meant that they signed a contract to work for an employer for a certain number of years. In return, the employer paid for their ship passage to California. This indenture contract was for a Chinese man named Awye, who agreed in 1849 to work for three years as a tailor for a San Francisco merchant, Jacob Leese. Many more Chinese came for the Gold Rush and then worked building railroads, farming, and making clothing. In 1852, 30,000 Chinese sailed from Hong Kong to San Francisco. In the same year, San Francisco’s population grew to more than 36,000 — from about 800 just four years before.

The Gold Rush forever transformed not only California, but the whole Pacific region, turning it into the world trade zone linking North America with China and beyond. Hong Kong became the Asian gateway to Pacific trade routes and a major San Francisco trading partner. Ships from Hong Kong not only delivered cargo to support California’s rapidly growing population but also supplied the population itself, as tens of thousands of workers departed China from Hong Kong attracted by the economic opportunities that the Gold Rush presented. The document is the earliest known evidence of Chinese labor migration to California. Jacob Leese was born in Ohio and made his fortune in San Francisco. He indentured Awye and at least two other Chinese men as well as some Hawaiians, who also worked as sailors and laborers in California.

ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT made, entered into and concluded this 28th day of July, in the Year of Our Lord, One thousand Eight hundred and Forty Nine Between Jacob P….
Esq. of [illegible—Monterey?] I of the one part Awye Chinaman of the other part, Witness that for the consideration hereinafter contained on the part of the said Jacob P.... Esq. he the said Awye doth hereby covenant, promise and agree with, and to the said Jacob Esq, that he the said Awye will proceed in and on board of a certain...of Vessel called the...whereof Master now lying in the Harbour of Hongkong, and about to proceed on a voyage to San Francisco a Port or Ports, on the West Coast of America, and that he will any where in that Country, for the space or period of (3) three Years from the date of his arrival at the Port of destination, work as a Tailor or otherwise to the best of his knowledge and ability, under the orders and directions, of the said Jacob P.... Esq. or any other person holding this Contract. And that the said Awye will keep and provide himself with all the necessary and proper tools of his trade, and will also find, and provide his own clothing. And that he will not do or assist to do or direct or aid in any manner whatsoever any work or business, other than, that ordered or directed by the said Jacob P, Esq., or any other persons to whom this contract may be transferred. And these presents further witness that in consideration of the covenants herein before contained on the part of the said Awye he the said Jacob P. . , Esq. doth hereby for himself his Heirs Executors, and administrators covenant promise, and agree with, and to the said Awye that be his Survivors or Substitutes shall and will afford to him a passage in the above mentioned Vessel, to the West Coast of America, and shall, and will as soon as he shall have entered on such work or trade of a Tailor as aforesaid furnish and provide him with lodgings, and suitable provisions, and food for, and during the said space or period of (3) three Years, and that the said Awye is to be paid for his work a the rate of ($15) Fifteen Dollars per month payable monthly in the due, and proper fulfilment and completion of their said agreement, and covenants herein before contained, the said wages to be computed for the period of (3) three Years from the date the said Awye shall arrive at the Port of destination. And it is hereby agreed by and between the said parties hereto that the said Awye shall not receive any wages until, and after the Sum of ($30) thirty Dollars advanced to the said Awye shall have been paid off, and satisfied, and the said Awye doth hereby acknowledge the receipt of the said advance so made to him by the said Jacob P.. ,
Esq. And it is hereby further agreed, that in case the said Jacob P.. . Esq. or his substitute not requiring the services of the said Awye at any time during the said period of (3) three Years; he the said Jacob P….Esq. or his substitute shall be at liberty to cancel this Contract on giving to said Awye One Month's notice, and from and after the expiration of such one Month's notice, this contract shall be null and void.

In Witness whereof the said patties to the presents have hereunto set their Hands and affixed their Seals at Victona, Hongkong aforesaid the Day and Year first before written,

Signed Sealed and delivered after being duly explained in the presence of

[Chinese character signature (Awye)]
[Chinese character; A Shue]
[Signature: J. P.…]