imperative considerations of humanity, it involves great questions of Christian civilization and of statesmanship. But most urgent at the present moment are its relations with the national struggle in which we are engaged, and with the issue of that struggle for good or evil.
Proposing hereafter to embody in a more maturely considered report the more complex and difficult inquiries of a general character above suggested, the Commission dismiss these for the present with a single brief remark:
The observations of the Commission in the sections of country visited by them, together with the evidence obtained from those having most experience among freedmen, justify the conclusion that the African race, as found among us, lacks no essential aptitude for civilization. In a general way the negro yields willingly to its restraints, and enters upon its duties not with alacrity only but with evident pride and increase of self- respect. His personal rights as a freedman once recognized in law and assured in practice, there is little reason to doubt that he will become a useful member of the great industrial family of nations. Once released from the disabilities of bondage, he will somewhere find, and will maintain, his own appropriate social position.
The Commission revert to the question in its relation to the existing insurrection. Its importance in that connection can hardly be overestimated. If the slaves of the South are loyal to the Union, the North will have itself alone to blame if the war is not speedily and triumphantly closed. Scarcely any other question, therefore, is more intimately connected with the future destiny, prosperous or decadent, of this nation.
But in point of fact it admits of no reasonable doubt that the Southern slaves as a body do desire release from bondage, from forced and often excessive labor, from arbitrary and often inhuman punishment. Their masters have sought to inspire them with a dread of "Yankee abolitionists;" but while doubtless assenting, as the habit of the slave is, to these denunciations of Northern emancipationists, all facts prove that these men as a general rule see through the flimsy pretense and are willing to risk severe punishment, sometimes death itself, whenever they have good reason to hope that in deserting their masters they will find in us just and sincere friends, able and willing to put them in a condition in which they may enjoy the fruits of their own labor.
But we, by our policy toward these people, may encourage or we may discourage that hope. The point on which they are peculiarly sensitive and chiefly need assurance is as to the absolute and irrevocable certainty of their freedom. We cannot expect this untutored race to understand the abstract proposition that a great nation, after having solemnly declared through its Chief Magistrate that 3,000,000 of its inhabitants shall be forever free, cannot, without utter degradation in the eyes of the civilizedon and reconsign these millions to slavery. They must have more tangible proof of the reality and unchangeable character of their emancipation. They must feel themselves treated as freemen before they can fully realize the fact that they are and will forever remain such.
We, by our misconduct, may give color and force to the misrepresentations of slave-holders touching our ultimate intentions toward the negro race. We may cause doubts in the minds of this enslaved people whether in flying from ills they know they may not encounter worse ills by the change.