OFFICE AMERICAN FREEDMEN'S INQUIRY COMMISSION,
New York, June 30, 1863.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:
SIR: The American Freedmen's Inquiry Commission have the honor to report (preliminarily) as follows:
SECTION I. - Negroes as refugees.
(District of Columbia, Eastern Virginia, and North Carolina.)
All the investigations and inquiries the Commission have made throughout the above sections of country, all the evidence they have there collected in connection with the character and condition of the negro population, who from all quarters find refuge within our lines, tend to this - that these refugees need not be, except for a very brief period, any burden whatever on the Government, but that, on the contrary, they may speedily become, under a system of supervision not difficult either to arrange or to conduct, provided the proper persons be employed, auxiliaries to the Government in its prosecution of the war, to the full as efficient as if the same number of loyal whites had emigrated into the Northern States.
The evidence before the Commission establishes beyond cavil the fact that these refugees are, with rare exceptions, loyal men, putting faith in the Government, looking to it for guidance and protection, willing to work for moderate wages if promptly paid, docile and easily managed, not given to quarreling among themselves, of temperate habits, cheerful and uncomplaining under hard labor whenever they are treated with justice and common humanity, and (in the Southern climate) able and willing, on the average, to work as long and as hard as white laborers, whether foreign or native born.
The circumstances which have thrown them, for a time, on the care of the Government for support are such as operate equally upon indigent whites arrested in their ordinary course of labor by the operations of the war, and it is a mistake to suppose that assistance has been needed or obtained exclusively by persons of color in consequence of such disturbance. In some places the number of poor whites succored has been greater than that of poor blacks. In November last Major-General Butler was feeding in New Orleans 32,000 whites, 17,000 of whom were British-born subjects, and only 10,000 negroes, these last chiefly women and children, the able-bodied negro men being usually employed on the abandoned plantations. (a)
Nor, where relief has been required by both whites and blacks, have the latter usually applied for or received, in proportion to numbers, nearly as much as the former. Mr. Vincent Colyer, appointed by General Burnside at New Berne, N. C., superintendent of the poor, white and black, reports that while 7,500 colored persons and 1,800 white persons received relief through his instrumentality, the average proportion dealt out in each of the staple articles of food - as flour, beef, bacon, bread, & c. - was about as one for each colored person relieved to sixteen for each white person to whom such relief was granted. (b) At the time this occurred work was offered to both blacks and whites; to the whites at the rate of $ 12 a month, and to the blacks at the rate of $ 8 a month.
a General Butler's letter to the President, of date November 28, 1862, of which a copy was kindly furnished to the Commission.
b The exact figures are given in a report made by Mr. Colyer to the Commission.