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“ [239] Howard, why do you take away our lands! You take them from us who are true, always true to the Government I You give them to our all-time enemies! That is not right”

At my request, the assembly chose three of their number, and to them I submitted with explanations the propositions to which the land owners were willing to subscribe. Then I faithfully reiterated to the whole body the conditions of the existing tenure under our President's action, they having no absolute title but simply occupying the homesteads. I urged them to make the best terms they could with the holders of the titles. These simple souls with singular unanimity agreed to leave everything to my decision with reference to restorations to be made, and also the conditions attending them. But their committee after considering all the matters submitted to them said that on no condition would the freedmen work for their late owners as formerly they did under overseers; but if they could rent lands from them, they would consent to all the other arrangements proposed. Some without overseers would work for wages; but the general desire was to rent lands and work them.

At last, to be as fair to all parties as possible, I constituted a board of supervisors in which the Government, the planters, and the freedmen were equally represented. This board was to secure and adjust contracts and settle cases of dispute and controversy. The freedmen and the planter could form contracts for rental or for labor with wages as elsewhere; but before the latter could do so his land must be formally restored. To effect this restoration, there was drawn up for his signature an obligation in which he promised substantially: To leave to the freedmen the existing

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Oliver O. Howard (1)
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