Gentleman’s Agreement of 1907

The Gentleman’s Agreement of 1907 was an agreement between the United States of America and Japan. It was called the Gentleman’s Agreement because both sides didn’t sign any formal agreement and it was hoped that both would honor it, as two gentlemen would honor an informal agreement.


USA and Japan are situated on the two opposite ends of the Pacific Ocean. Japanese immigrants started arriving in USA by the end of the 19th century. Most of these came in search of better prospects and usually arrived with their families. Although the number of Japanese immigrants was quite small at start, it steadily grew and by the beginning of the 20th century, a sizable population of Japanese immigrants lived in the western coast of USA, specifically in California.

This led to racial tensions in the state. Although the federal government under President Theodore Roosevelt tried to handle the racial tensions, the Californian state institutions refused to follow his advice. They wanted him to take care of the ever-increasing number of the Japanese immigrants.

Japanese Immigrants in California

When the Japanese population grew in California, the native California residents started resenting their growing numbers. Before soon, newspapers such as the San Francisco Chronicle were publishing anti-Japanese content.

Some Californians also established anti-Japanese organizations such as the ‘Japanese and Korean Exclusion League’. The purpose of this organization was to segregate the Japanese immigrants from the white community and to stop Japanese students from attending public schools for white students. The activism of this League finally resulted in the California Board of Education passing a new regulation in 1906. This regulation made it compulsory for Japanese students to attend racially specific schools.

Reactions of Japan and USA

The regulation passed by the California Board of Education strained the diplomatic relations between USA and Japan. President Theodore Roosevelt wanted the Board to end the discriminatory policy but the local population supported the Board.

On the other hand, the Japanese government wanted to guard its honor as a national power. So it demanded that the American government take appropriate action against such discriminatory policies. All of this finally resulted in the Gentleman’s Agreement of 1907.

What did the agreement say?

This was an informal agreement between the two governments. According to this agreement, Japan would stop any more Japanese immigrants from coming into USA. On the other hand, USA agreed to end the discriminatory policy and ensure the equal rights of Japanese citizens in California. The agreement worked and defused the tensions between the two nations.

Was the agreement effective?

The agreement stated that the Japanese immigrants who were already in USA could bring their wives, parents or children from Japan to USA. This provision allowed Japanese men in USA to marry a partner in Japan and then bring her over to USA. As a result, the population of the Japanese immigrants in California continued to grow. Finally, the American Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924. This Act barred any Asians from migrating to the United States of America.

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