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[199]

Mr. Eliot, the latter part of January, 1863, began his open work by a House bill to try to establish a “Bureau of emancipation.” As this was smothered in the committee room and produced no fruit, he introduced another bill in December, 1863, which was referred to a select committee of which he was chairman. It came back from the committee to the House with a majority and minority report. It was first debated on the floor February 10, 1864. The provisions of this interesting bill were substantially:

1. The creation of a Commissioner of Freedmen's Affairs. His powers were to be large. All matters pertaining to freedmen, all laws enacted or prospective concerning them, and all rules and regulations for general superintendence and management were committed to him.

2. All officers, military or civil, having to do with freedmen's affairs must report and be governed by him.

3. He was especially instructed to give protection to the freedmen in their rights, and to care for the interests of the United States touching them.

4. He was able to organize departments of freedmen to be placed under assistant commissioners who were to report to him.

5. These assistants were to allow freedmen to occupy, cultivate, and improve abandoned lands; assist them to labor properly compensated; aid them to obtain their wages duly earned, and arbitrate all troublesome controversies except in those localities where existing legal tribunals could receive the cases at issue.

6. The commissioner himself was to act under the supervision and direction of the Secretary of War,

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