War of the Rebellion: Serial 125 Page 0381 UNION AUTHORITIES.

Search Civil War Official Records

is as much danger in doing too much as in doing too little. The risk is serious that, under the guise of guardianship, slavery, in a modified form may be practically restored. Those who have ceased, only perforce, to be slave-holders, will be sure to unite their efforts to effect just such a purpose. It should be the earnest object of all friends of liberty to anticipate and prevent it. Benevolence itself, misdirected, may play into the hands of freedom's enemies, and those whose earnest endeavor is the good of the freedman may, unconsciously, contribute to his virtual re-enslavement.

The refugees from slavery, when they first cross our lines, and temporary aid, but not more than indigent Southern whites fleeing from secessionist, both being sufferers from the disturbance of labor and the destruction of its products incident to war. The families of colored men, hired as military laborers or enlisted as soldiers need protection and assistance, but not more than the families of white men similarly situated. Forcibly deprived of education in a state of slavery, the freedmen have a claim upon us to lend a helping hand until they can organize schools for their children. But they will soon take the labor and expense out of our hands, for these people pay no charge more willingly than that which assures them that their children shall reap those advantages of instruction which were denied to themselves.

For a time we need a freedman's bureau, but not because these people are negroes, only because they are men who have been, for generations, despoiled of their rights. The Commission has heretofore-to wit, in supplemental report made to you in December last-recommended the establishment of such a bureau, and they believe that all that is essential to this proper organization is contained, substantially, in a bill to that effect reported on April 12 from the Senate Committee on Slavery and Freedmen.

Extensive experience in the West Indies has proved that emancipation, when it takes place, should be unconditional and absolute. The experiment of a few years" apprenticeship, plausible in theory, proved in practice, a failure so injurious in its effects that the provincial legislatures, though they had been opposed to the abolition of slavery, voted, after trial, for the abolition of apprenticeship.

The freedman should be treated at once as any other free man. He should be subjected to no compulsory contracts as to labor. There should not be, directly or indirectly, any statutory rates of wages. There should be no interference between the hirers and the hired. Nor should any regulations be imposed in regard to the local movements of these people, except such regulations incident to war, relative to vagrancy or otherwise as apply equally to whites. The natural laws of supply and demand should be left to regulate rates of compensation and places of residence.

But when freedmen shall have voluntarily entered into any agreement to work, they may at first usefully be aided in reducing that agreement to writing and for a time we may properly see to it that such freedmen do not suffer from ill- treatment or failure of contract on the part of their employers and that they themselves perform their duty in the premises.

It is of vital importance that the leasing and supervision of abandoned real estate in insurrectionary districts should be intrusted to the same persons who have in charge the interests of the freedmen who are likely to cultivate the lands in question. Between two