August 7, 1964: Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
Passed in response to the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which occurred several days prior, this resolution gave President Johnson the power to “take all necessary measures to repeal any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent any further aggression” without a formal declaration of war by Congress. The resolution was vital in justifying and maintaining American military involvement in Southeast Asia through the decade, even as support from all sides waned.
Eventually, in 1971, the resolution was repealed, and the War Powers Resolution was passed two years later. This new resolution was a direct reaction to the Tonkin Resolution - intended to check the President’s power by requiring him to notify and seek authorization from Congress in order to commit U.S. armed forces to any long-term conflict.
In the end, the Tonkin Gulf Resolution passed unanimously in the House of Representatives; in the Senate, only two members opposed it. One remarked:
I believe this resolution to be a historic mistake.
May 6, 1882: The Chinese Exclusion Act is signed into law.
In 1880, the Burlingame Treaty (which had established formal friendly relations between the United States and China) was amended in order to suspend Chinese immigration. Growing anti-Chinese sentiment, mostly resulting from low wages and unemployment, finally led to the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act. It excluded “skilled and unskilled laborers employed in mining” from entering the country for a ten-year period, and it also prohibited Chinese immigrants from attaining citizenship. The act was controversial, even at the time. Many businesspeople opposed it, resenting the restrictions on their supply of cheap labor; in contrast, most labor unions supported it, with the notable exception being the IWW. And, of course, many Americans supported it for simple race-related reasons.
For years, the Chinese-American population remained stagnant, unassimilated, and largely male. The 1943 Magnuson Act finally repealed the Exclusion Act, and it also allowed for the naturalization of some Chinese-Americans already living in the country; at the same time, it restricted the national quota of Chinese immigrants to the negligible amount of 105 per year. Not until 1965 was the outdated national-origins quota system abolished altogether.