The Angell Treaty recognized the power of the U.S. government to regulate labor immigration from China. The Angell treaty reversed course from the 1868 Burlingame treaty, which liberalized trade relations between China and the United States and encouraged Chinese immigration. After President Rutherford B. Hayes was forced to veto a 1879 bill that would have restricted the number of Chinese passengers per vessel as it conflicted with the Burlingame treat, he appointed diplomat James Angell to negotiate a new treaty with China that would recognize the right of the United States to restrict, but not prohibit, Chinese immigration. The Angell Treaty specifically identified the need to limit the immigration of Chinese laborers and laid the diplomatic groundwork for the the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.
Treaty signed at Peking November 17, 1880, modifying treaties of
June 18, 1858, and July 28, 1868 . . . .
Whereas the Government of the United States, because of the constantly increasing immigration of Chinese laborers to the territory of the United States, and the embarrassments consequent upon such immigration, now desires to negotiate a modification of the existing Treaties which shall not be in direct contravention of their spirit . . . .
Whenever in the opinion of the United States, the coming of Chinese laborers . . . affects of threatens the interests of that country . . . the Government of China agrees that the Government of the United States may regulate, limit, or suspend such coming or residence, but may not absolutely prohibit it. The limitation or suspension shall be reasonable and shall apply only to Chinese who may go to the Unites States as laborers . . . .