borne to white men and from the manner in which they have been treated by them, they naturally suspect the good intentions of our race toward theirs.
The above seems to the Commission so grave in its consequences as to justify a general order on the subject by the War Department.
As regards horses, wagons, and similar property brought within our lines by fugitives, it is proper, of course, that it be taken by the quartermaster when needed for the public service. But in such cases it should be paid for as other property taken from loyal men is paid for, either to the refugee, if he makes no demand on the Government for support for himself or for his family, or to the freedmen's fund in the hands of the superintendent, in cases in which the refugee or his family apply for rations or other governmental aid. The capture and carrying off of such property weakens the enemy, and we ought not to discourage the practice by depriving the captors of the legitimate reward for the risk they incur.
There is no legal reason why the conscription law should not apply to fugitives from labor as it does to white citizens. We have already, probably, placed in the field since the rebellion broke out a million and a quarter of white soldiers, nearly a third of our adult population between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. The investigations of the Commission, however, lead them to believe that if men of the proper stamp are selected as negro superintendents, these can and will procure the voluntary enlistment of a much larger proportion of able-bodied refugees than this. The more intelligent among these people not only feel that it is their duty to fight for their own freedom, but by proper appeal many of them can be made to understand that only by proving their manhood as soldiers, only through a baptism of blood, can they bring about such a change in public opinion as will insure for their race, from the present generation in this country, common respect and decent treatment in their social relations with whites.
In practice, it has been found that by judicious treatment it is not difficult to create among these people a state of public opinion such that every able-bodied man among them who refuses to enter the public service when required is tabooed by the rest, and falls into general contempt as a mean, despicable fellow. This was especially the case at New Berne as reported to the Commission by Mr. Vincent Colyer, formerly superintendent there. And the Commission believe it may be relied on in almost every case in which the superintendent has succeeded in awakening the sympathy and winning the confidence of those under his care.
In all cases, therefore, the Commission think that every expedient (short of bounties, which they do not recommend) should be employed to induce volunteering by freedmen before resorting to conscription or other coercive measures. Such measures, though for a time they may fill the ranks, are calculated to arrest that exodus from rebeldom of freedmen there held as slaves upon which we must depend to keep up the supply of colored recruits.
The Commission understand it to be your policy that to all colored soldiers of the United States shall be extended the same protection as to other U. S. troops, when taken prisoners by the enemy, as well as under all other circumstances. They cannot too strongly express their conviction that such a policy is demanded alike by justice and expediency, and that pains should be taken to make it officially and widely known.