Hooper, the acting superintendent at Port Poyal under General Saxton, having charge of some 17,000 refugees, Do these persons work willingly for wages?
Answer. I never knew a case in which a colored man had reasonable security for getting wages, even moderate wages, that he was not ready to work.
Such cases, however, occur, as other witnesses testify; but the general rule is as Captain Hooper states it.
Mr. Frederick A. Eustis, son of General Eustis, who owned the plantation on Ladies Island, and who has returned to cultivate that plantation by hired labor, while expressing the opinion that the new system of labor in South Carolina was too lenient, and that "the negro should have no appeal, except in cases of extreme cruelty on the part of the superintendent," gave the following testimony as to the people now working on his own plantation:
I never knew during forty years of plantation life so little sickness. Formerly every man had a fever of some kind, and now the veriest old cripple, who did nothing under secesh rule, will row a boat three nights in succession to Edisto, or will pick up the corn about the corn-house. There are twenty people whom I know were considered worn out and too old to work under the slave system, who are now working cotton, as well as their two acres of provisions; and their crops look very well. I have an old woman who has taken six tasks (that is, an acre and a half) of cotton, and last year she would do nothing.
But the great school for giving character to the race in this State and elsewhere is military discipline. Colonel Higginson, commanding a colored regiment at Port Royal, was asked:
Question. Do you think that, as preparation for the life of a citizen, the organization of negroes into military bodies is important?
Answer. I should say, of unspeakable value.
Judge Smith, chairman of tax commissioners for the State of South Carolina, deposes:
Question. What is your idea about enlisting negroes as soldiers?
Answer. It is the best school in the world. If you could have seen the men who now compose the colored regiments here as they were before, lounging about with a shuffling gait, looking sideways with suspicious manner, and could have contrasted their appearance then with their present bold, erect carriage and free bearing, I am sure you would agree with me. It makes men of them at once.
The Commission bear emphatic testimony, so far as their researches have yet extended, to the truth of these remarks. The negro has a strong sense of the obligation of law and of the stringency of any duty legally imposed upon him. The law in the shape of military rule takes for him the place of his master, with this difference, that he submits to it heartily and cheerfully without any sense of degradation. The Commission believe that of all present agencies for elevating the character of the colored race, for cultivating in them self-respect and self-reliance, military training, under judicious officers, who will treat them firmly and kindly, is at once the most prompt and the most efficacious. In this respect the war, if the negro be employed by us as a soldier, becomes a blessing to him, cheaply bought at any price.
Under proper treatment public opinion among these people sets in in favor of military duty. No difficulty is anticipated in procuring colored men to enlist, provided those now in the field shall be regularly paid, and provided the determination of the Government to protect them in all the rights of the white soldier shall be clearly made known to them; especially if this latter determination shall be signified to them by the President in his own name.