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[246] the negro would work unless under compulsion. One prominent gentleman came all the way from Louisiana to Washington. He had been delegated by a score or more of planters to visit me and show a schedule of prices which they had drawn up as liberal as they could make them and live; he asked for a formal approval.

Much to the astonishment and chagrin of the suggestors and their agent, the statement made and reiterated by me that wages must be free was adhered to, and that they were to be regulated by the assent of both parties to a contract verbal or written, or adjusted from the common market value. I repeatedly cautioned my officers against any substitute whatever for slavery. The assistant commissioners ably seconded these efforts. They left wages to be regulated by demand and agreement. They found that minimum rates, when published, sometimes protected the freedmen; but it was difficult after public notice to ever advance above the minimum. If you fixed rates for able-bodied men, you did not properly discriminate with regard to differences of skill and ability in a given class.

In some communities, finding the plantation negroes inclined to leave their homes and go to the cities, villages, and military posts with no good prospect of work or support, the agents at hand were directed to adopt a system like that of the ordinary intelligence office; they first used every effort to find good places of employment where the idle could find support, and then sent them there. Industrial farms and industrial schools, established by the benevolent societies, helped absorb this class. Government farms, those that had been set apart or allotted, served the purpose in various

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