family. The freedman would have been entirely satisfied to be paid at the same rate and on the same conditions; while under the ration system, though actually receiving from the Government the equivalent of $ 1.75 per month more, he feels as if he were receiving no wages, but barely food, and has to go in rags unless private benevolence eke out a supply of clothing. Funds to pay these wages might be obtained from the "cotton fund" and from the sale of other personal property abandoned by the rebels, and could be repaid when the crops were disposed of.
If in any location it was found that refugee laborers on plantations receiving wages had no opportunity to purchase, on reasonable rates or within reasonable distance, such articles of food and clothing as they required, the remedy might be:
First. Either to sell them rations at cost and trust to their purchasing clothing elsewhere, an imperfect mode of remedying the evil;
Second. Or else, that encouragement should be given to the establishment, under proper restraints for a time, of stores for the accommodation of the freedmen. The department superintendent, hereafter to be spoken of, might be instructed to enter into correspondence with freedmen's relief associations in New York, New England, and elsewhere, and to suggest to them that instead of sending clothing and other supplies for gratuitous distribution, they would more effectually and more economically attain their object by intrusting on loan to some honest, trustworthy young person who had been trained to retail business, and upon whom they could depend for repayment, a few thousand dollars" worth of substantial food, dry goo the wants of these freedmen, at moderate rates and of reliable quality. All persons establishing freedmen's stores might, on recommendation of the superintendent, receive from the general commanding a pass and permit to sell, revocable at any time in case of misconduct.
The Port Royal Relief Committee of Philadelphia established such a store last year at Port Royal, which has been eminently useful and successful.
If these stores be multiplied, it may be the means of introducing a useful class of young and enterprising settlers into portions of a country abandoned by slaveholders.
It is proper for the Commission here to say that scarcely anything is more essential to the good government and improvement of these refugees than that the wages they earn should be promptly and regularly paid. Nothing so encourages their influx from rebeldom as this, and it is most desirable that aa freedman, should learn as speedily as possible that emancipation means neither idleness nor gratuitous work, but fair labor for fair wages.
If additional argument in favor of such regularity of payment were needed, it is to be found in the fact well known to those who have had experience with these people as laborers, that where they are regularly paid a single threat suffices, in place of all other punishment, to check laziness and other delinquency - the threat, namely, of dismissal. But if the payment of wages be uncertain or delayed for months, such a threat has no force; and the foreman has no hold over those whose work he directs. In every case in which complaints were made to the Commission of the inefficiency of freedmen's labor they found, on inquiry, that wages had been withheld from these men for months. White laborers would not work at all under such circumstances.