where they "hire themselves," as it is called, and still pay their way. We have given two examples, of this in the chapter on 'Slavery; " a and they but represent hundreds of similar cases to be found in all the chief cities of the South. In the one, it will be remembered, a mother paid $260 a year to be allowed the privilege of supporting herself and two children by washing. What white washerwoman would like to undertake that? In the other case, a man and his wife paid $372 a year, throughout eleven years, for permission to labor and to feed and clothe their children until they were old enough to work; and then they were taken from them. How few white laborers would stand up at al launder the burden of such a capitation tax? How few, under circumstances of such cruel discouragement, would have maintained, as these two slaves did, a comfortable home, tidily kept, and children clean, well clad, and thriving?
One hears current among slave-holders the assertion that negroes emancipated and left to themselves are worthless and helpless, and are sure in the end to become a burden on the community. But the Commission has not found in a single locality occupied by numbers of free negroes proof that there is any truth in such an opinion; on the contrary, the actual facts are all against it. In many free States colored immigrants are required by law to give bond that they will not become a county charge. There is no class of day laborers from whom, with equal justice, the same demand might not be made.
There came to the knowledge of the Commission in New Orleans a fact which, more strikingly perhaps than any other they have met with, bears testimony to the ability of the colored population, when emancipated, to take care of themselves.
The Commission ascertained that the free colored people of Louisiana, in the year 1860, paid taxes on an assessment of $13,000,000. But by the census of 1860, the free colored population of that State is put at 18,647. This would give an average for each person of about $700 of property.
It is probable, however, that the actual average is considerably less than this. Those best informed on the subject expressed to a member of the Commission who visited New Orleans the opinion that the census return was below the truth, and that in 1860 there were probably in Louisiana 25,000 free colored persons. Assuming this to be the actual number, then the average wealth of each is $520.
But the average amount of property to each person throughout the loyal free States is estimated at $484 only. It follows that the free colored people of Louisiana are, on the average, richer by 7 1/2 per cent. than the people of the Northern States.b And this occurs, it should be remembered, under many civil disabilities, which are a great pecuniary injury-seriously restricting the means of accumulating property.
It is not only as individuals, but, so far as they have had opportunity to show it, in a collective capacity, that these people appear to manage well. We have the following testimony from a well-known and respected citizen of Louisville:
Question. Throughout the State do the colored people manage their own church affairs?
Answer. Entirely. Nobody has anything to do with them but themselves. Here is a curious fact to show what their capacity is. A great many of the
a See p. 180 , et seq., ante.
b See, in connection with this subject, Supplementary Report of the Commission, B, by James McKaye. See also, for the above estimates of average wealth and population, National Almanac for 1863, pp. 147 and 309. The average wealth in Great Britain and Ireland is $707 for each person. (Same almanac, p. 146.)