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Chapter 56: famine reliefs; paying soldiers' bounties, and summary of work accomplished

In parts of our Southern States a famine existed early in March, 1867; the published reports of the extensive destitution of all classes of people, including the freedmen, became so heartrending, that for once I anticipated the action of Congress. It was one offense of which none of those who were hostile to my administration ever complained. I had abundant authority so far as the loyal refugees and freedmen were involved to feed them to the extent of our food appropriation; but we had reduced this number to narrow limits when this famine fell upon the Southern coast. In some counties actual starvation had set in. I hurried off my quartermaster, as soon as I was convinced, to Alexandria, and succeeded in getting Mr. McKenzie, a wealthy and prominent citizen of that city, to load a vessel with the necessaries of life and send them off in the quickest time. I also shipped other supplies to points where the suffering appeared greatest; then going before a Senate committee reported what I had done. One of the most conservative of our Northern members said at first: “We will not give help to rebels.” I insisted stoutly: “The rebellion is over; people are starving, and humanity demands that we succor them. It is not a question now of whether we shall help those who are likely to perish, for I have already made a beginning and have come to Congress to ask to be sustained. I have sent a shipload of provisions [351] and want approval.” A joint resolution (March 30, 1867) followed; it was the substantial answer to my petition. My action was thus approved.

The public resolution directed the Bureau: “To issue supplies of food sufficient to prevent starvation or extreme want to any and all classes of destitute and helpless persons in those Southern and Southwestern States where failure of the crops and other causes have occasioned widespread destitution.” The expenditure itself was not to extend beyond my existing appropriations, but the Congress authorized the use for this purpose of unexpended balances of appropriations which had been made for other objects. After carefully considering the items of our funds on hand, I saw that we would not require for transportation all the money held under that head. The necessity for large removals of freedmen or refugees had now ceased. Thereupon, four days after the passage of the law, April 3, 1867, I set apart $500,000 to go as far as it could toward the relief of the great destitution. I made the following estimate: In Tennessee, persons needing aid, 2,000; in Mississippi, 3,900; in Alabama, 15,000; in Georgia, 12,500; in South Carolina, 10,000; in North Carolina, 5,545, and in Virginia, 5,000; total destitutes, 53,945. Of this number 30,000 were children under 14, giving 23,945 adults.

For a general rule, I thought it safer to begin the issue with corn and pork. Corn for adults ................... 5,363,680 lbs. 95,780 bu. Corn for children .................. 3,160,000 lbs. 60,000 bu.

Total .................. 155,780 bu. Pork-Total ...................... 1,246,240 Ilbs. 6,232 bbl. Estimated cost of the corn ................................. $233,670 Estimated cost of the pork ................................. 186,960 Making a total of ................... ...................... $420,630 [352]

On April 4th General Eliphalet Whittlesey, then the inspector general of the Bureau and recently brought from North Carolina, was appointed to superintend the distribution of the supplies. All the clerical force which he might require was placed at his service. The assistant commissioners in the States concerned were notified of this appointment and each was ordered to assign a faithful and efficient officer to act in this relief work as a commissary for his State. This officer was in this matter over the local agents, who receipted in bulk for all the supplies distributed to the needy; they made all proper returns and vouchers, as was done in the army subsistence department. No fund was ever better regulated, and the reports of General Whittlesey were so neat and clear that accounting officers highly complimented them.

Whittlesey closed his able reports made near the end of the year 1867, in a condensed paragraph: “The whole expense incurred in giving this relief has been $445,993.36, i. e., about $8 to each person for the period of four months, or $2 per month. There remain on hand some commissary stores, which are reserved for the most destitute who will require help during the coming winter.”

Little evidence of deception or fraud was found anywhere in the vast field supplied, and showed that for the most part the relief, small as it was, was timely and effective. As the incoming corn crop in the South and West was good, the relief, after the middle of August, was discontinued. The amount given to an individual appears very small; but there was an indirect additional supply through our associate benevolent societies. I have credited them in school aid with about one half. In this relief for the famine also, they [353] did about as much; they supplied funds where the famine was severest, sending through their teachers and agents sometimes food and sometimes clothing. General Whittlesey said that voluntary contributions from this source had served to lessen the demand so much that the expenditure had fallen far short of the original estimate of the relief needed. Surely this was an unusual exhibit.

Our Claim Division was of great help in protecting ignorant colored soldiers and sailors, now scattered in different parts of the country, who were claimants for bounties, back pay, and prize moneys. Referring to this General Swayne remarks: “Five hundred and sixteen applicants passed through my office (at Montgomery, Ala.) during the month of August. There is reason to believe that convenient and gratuitous assistance is almost indispensable to the parties in interest.” Yet without further legislation the Bureau could not give sufficient protection. There were some claim agents who had taken advantage of the late colored soldiers. They at first charged them exorbitant fees. Then by various expedients they managed to get from them a large part of their claims. As long as they could work into the Treasury the receipts well drawn up, signed and witnessed, and satisfy the deceived soldier that his cash in hand was all he could get, and all right, the fraudulent claim agent laughed at the feeble complaints that subsequently reached his ears, and escaped with the poor man's money too often without punishment. Officers of the treasury and myself, finding that there were on foot extensive frauds of the kind described, brought the matter to the attention of Congress.

The Hon. Henry Wilson introduced a joint resolution [354] in the Senate, March 12, 1867, entitled: A Resolution in reference to the collection and payment of moneys due colored soldiers, sailors, and marines, or their heirs.

This resolution underwent considerable discussion, and no little opposition. It provided that all checks for the object named should be made payable to me as commissioner, or to my order. Senator Wilson showed abundant evidence of the frauds against the soldiers and marines that had been already committed, and averred that the second comptroller and the second auditor urged the passage of the resolution. Mr. Wilson was asked if General Howard should not be required to give bonds, and replied: “I have no objection to his giving bond, but this is imposing upon him a duty for which he gets nothing, and it is a great responsibility. I think it is enough to ask him to do this work.” Even while I was frequently consulted and was myself urging some legislation to protect these wards of the Government, I did not dream of the passage of such an Act as the one that finally went through both Houses and became a law (March 29, 1867). All references to the help of the branches of the Freedmen's Bank which Mr. Wilson proposed and embodied in his bill, an institution chartered by Congress to do a banking business in the South, but with which I was not connected, were thrown out by the amendments. My duties and responsibilities under the resolution which finally passed may be thus summed up:

1. Every claim of the colored soldiers, sailors, and marines, or their heirs, for bounty, back pay, or prize money, no matter by whom prosecuted, was to be paid by me, or through me, as commissioner. [355]

2. Any agent or attorney, if he had prosecuted the claim, was to be paid by me his lawful fee.

3. The claimant was to be discovered, identified, and settled with through my officers and myself, not in checks or drafts but in current funds.

4. I was responsible for the safe custody and faithful disbursement of all the funds involved. Probably at that time there were over 50,000 colored soldiers and sailors who had not yet been fully paid.

5. All this disbursement was to be done under the same regulations as those which governed other disbursing officers of the army.

Fortunately, well-disposed agents and attorneys became my friends; but the others, not well disposed, made indescribable trouble for my officers and agents, and finally involved me, myself, in the meshes of accusation, personal expense, and Congressional and military investigations very prolonged, and which have become historic. There were two points of attack that worried me most: one was to work carefully through political influence to get a dishonest field agent appointed who probably would not only defraud the Government, but would delude the poor claimant. Glad to get even a small sum, the soldier would go off without objection or complaint, having in some instances received less than half his due. By the most thorough care and inspection the fraudulent were caught. We had, all told, but a very limited number of such cases. The second point of attack was to deceive the honest field agent, by palming off upon him frauds, i. e., wrong men, who had been coached enough to prove themselves the genuine claimants, and so carry off the currency and divide with the dishonest attorneys. These cases were more frequent than the first; but the [356] real claimants very often helped us to detect that sort of crime, and so checked its occurrence or repetition. When the bona fide soldier or sailor had died, the crime, which was a robbery of the heirs, was harder to uncover and punish. There was but one transaction in connection with these moneys held by me for the soldiers and sailors (after remaining for six months or more to my credit at authorized depositaries) of which some of my real friends complained; it was putting the waiting money into United States bonds.

The use I made of the interest on the bonds was to meet cases where the true claimants had been defrauded, as heretofore explained, and for such other purposes as were by law authorized for any and all refugees and freedmen's funds. I made the investment under the advice of Dr. Brodhead, the venerable second comptroller. Doubtless his interpretation of all the laws which were involved, was right. On his clear and fearless decisions all War Department disbursing officers always depended for the final adjustment of their money accounts.

A brief summary will set forth in convenient form the vast work touching back pay, bounty, and prize money for colored claimants. All cases intrusted to me by the claimant were settled without necessitating attorney's fees. After the bounty law of March, 1867, went into effect, up to October, 1870, 5,108 such cases were thus brought in, saving to freedmen concerned $51,080 legal fees, and, judging from attempts at fraud continually occurring, many times that sum in illegal fees which would have been extorted from them on every conceivable pretext by greedy attorneys. The whole amount paid from the passage of the Act to October, 1870, was $7,683,618.61. At the close of the [357] Bureau we had settled over 40,000 cases and turned over but a few as yet unsettled to the Secretary of War. It was not too much to affirm that through the labors and vigilance of the officers and agents of the Bureau, enough had been saved to the Government and to deserving claimants to justify all the expense involved.

By the autumn of 1867 there was food generally throughout the South, and the district commanders, in connection with their military commands and the work of political reconstruction, were still acting for me as assistant commissioners.

During this and the next year it was constantly asserted by opponents and by the press in some parts of the country that I was opposed to closing out the Bureau work. This statement was untrue. I did wish to close out all other parts as rapidly as possible and have the educational work continued as long as necessary. At the end of 1868 I wrote this to the Secretary of War: “Many entreaties have come to me from Southern men, white and colored, and from several commissioners, to urge upon Congress the continuance of the operations of this Bureau beyond the time of its limit by law (January 1, 1869). But after having carefully considered the whole subject, I believe it is better not to do so.”

It was extremely difficult to induce the cities and counties to assume the charge of the indigent, and they would not do so while the general Government furnished assistance, so I added: “Much suffering will doubtless result from the complete withdrawal of the Bureau during the coming winter in Virginia and Mississippi unless some provision (for the poor) be made by the district commanders. I therefore recommend [358] that a special appropriation be placed in their hands to enable them to defray the expense of the freedmen's hospitals in Richmond and Vicksburg.” I also recommended the continuance of a hospital or an asylum for the District of Columbia to be used for the aged and infirm and the many sick who had come there. They had come from the freedmen's village, near Arlington, from other parts of Virginia, from Maryland, and elsewhere as refugees. I also urged provision for the hospital at New Orleans which contained the aged, the infirm, and the insane. I asked that the military commander of Louisiana have the care of the New Orleans hospital.

Congressmen, who were willing to impute good motives, saw clearly that I was acting in good faith, and was earnestly desirous of closing out all the Bureau work possible without producing suffering or acting with inhumanity, but that I hoped to hold steadily to aiding the faithful colored soldiers and sailors till that Claim Division should properly end; and, further, they saw that I wished to stimulate every educational interest till our Government schools and those of benevolent societies should become absorbed in a grand free system; we hoped such a system would be inaugurated by each separate State after the processes of reconstruction had had time to crystallize.

To further my wishes and recommendations, Congress gave us the Act of June 24, 1868. This continued the Bureau with some modifications, to July 16, 1869. It directed after discontinuance at any point, that the Secretary of War should reestablish it in any place where he was satisfied the safety of the freedmen required it.

The second paragraph enabled the secretary, after [359] advising with the commissioner, to discontinue the Bureau from any State fully restored in its constitutional relations with the United States, excepting the “Educational division,” which was to continue in each State till suitable provision for the education of the children of freedmen had been made by the State.

The third section enabled me to apply all unexpended balances to the education of freedmen and refugees.

The fourth section gave us the power to retain volunteer and veteran reserve officers in the service of the Bureau with their proper pay, and the fifth and last section enabled me to sell buildings to associations, corporate bodies, or trustees; this was to be done either for the relief of want or for purposes of education.

This Act of Congress became a law without the approval of President Johnson, he permitting the ten days allowed for his veto to elapse without returning it to the House where it originated.

Owing to the heated controversy still going on between the President and Congress, it was thought that the President would cause my removal, the air being full of rumors to that effect, so that the work of reconstruction as provided by the several Acts would be retarded by his replacing me by an opponent of Congress. To prevent that, the Act of June 24th was followed by another brief Act, that of July 25, 1868, entitled: “An Act relating to the Freedmen's Bureau, and providing for its discontinuance.” The first paragraph provided that I should be continued as commissioner while the Bureau lived; that in case of vacancy by death or resignation, the Secretary of War should nominate and the Senate confirm a new commissioner, [360] or during the recess of Congress that the acting assistant adjutant general of the Bureau should do the work. The second and last paragraph directed me to discontinue the Bureau altogether on January 1, 1869, except the educational department and payment of bounties and other dues to colored soldiers and sailors or their heirs. These two latter divisions were to go on until otherwise ordered by Act of Congress.

Very naturally this bill was vetoed by the President, but was speedily passed by both the Senate and the House over his veto, and so became a law.

To close out my general work, and to aid schools and pay the bounties, I was equipped with just the right kind of an organization, and also relieved of much of the previous responsibility and consequent anxiety. The necessary orders and instructions were issued very soon after the publication of the Act of Congress which, in fact, was to effect the substantial close of the Freedmen's Bureau.

Officers, agents, and clerks were notified that their services would be no longer required after December 31, 1868. The freedmen were generally carefully apprised of the situation, and shown that they must now look to the civil magistrates more directly than heretofore for protection of their rights and redress of their wrongs, and that supplies of food and clothing for the destitute, medicines and care for the sick, the transportation of laborers to new homes, and all aid and oversight of contracts must very soon cease to come to them from the general Government.

Disbursing officers were directed promptly to settle outstanding obligations, and to sell the public property no longer needed. “Abandoned lands and lots,” now few in number, must at once go to their owners? [361] where it was possible to find them, or be dropped from their returns.

All this served as a sufficient warning, we thought, to all parties concerned. But I found that the freedmen's hospitals at New Orleans, Vicksburg, Louisville, Richmond, and Washington could not be abolished so soon without exposing the numerous helpless patients therein to great distress. The local authorities refused to assume charge, so that pressed by an extreme necessity, with the assent of the Secretary of War, I continued them for a while, and reported my action to Congress. All my action, by an Act approved April 7, 1869, was formally approved by that body. Congress instructed me then to discontinue these hospitals as soon as practicable in the discretion of the President of the United States. General Grant, after March 4th, was the President, so that no unkind action was feared. His discretion and mine naturally agreed. No immediate troubles worth the record followed the discontinuance of the Bureau. The officers paying bounties had to be kept, and nearly all the school machinery remained intact, and the military arm, with General Grant for President and General Sherman for army commander, was still garrisoning the entire Southern field. Thus my trying work and responsibility appeared happily diminished. All disbursements were henceforth to be made from the Washington headquarters.

The entire work of the preceding four years was summarized by me October 20, 1869, to wit:

One year ago there were on duty in this Bureau one hundred and forty-one (141) commissioned officers, four hundred and twelve (412) civilian agents, and three hundred and forty-eight (348) clerks. At [362] present there are fifteen (15) commissioned officers, seventy-one (71) civilian agents, and seventy-two (72) clerks. A year ago clothing and rations were distributed to the destitute, costing ninety-three thousand seven hundred and five dollars (93,705) per month. At present no such supplies are issued, except to the sick in hospitals. At the date of the last annual report there were in operation twenty-one (21) hospitals and forty-eight (48) dispensaries, with five thousand three hundred and ninety-nine (5,399) patients and eightyfive (85) surgeons. Now there are two (2) hospitals, no dispensaries, with five hundred and forty-one (541) patients and five (5) surgeons. During the last year transportation was furnished to six thousand four hundred and eighty-one (6,481) persons, and four thousand eight hundred and fifteen (4,815) packages of stores, at a cost of twenty-four thousand eight hundred and forty dollars ($24,840) per month. Now no transportation orders are issued, and the only expenditure for this service is for mileage or actual expenses of officers traveling under orders. .. .

Previous to any Bureau relief and early in the progress of the war, it was seen by intelligent military officers, and by statesmen in Washington, that the condition of the colored people set free by the army demanded earnest attention and wise consideration. ...

The law establishing a Bureau committed to it the control of all subjects relating to refugees and freedmen under such regulations as might be prescribed by the head of the Bureau and approved by the President. This almost unlimited authority gave me great scope and liberty of action, but at the same time it imposed upon me very perplexing and responsible duties. Legislative, judicial, and executive powers were combined [363] in my commission, reaching all the interests of four millions of people, scattered over a vast territory, living in the midst of another people claiming to be superior, and known to be not altogether friendly. It was impossible at the outset to do more than lay down general principles to guide the officers assigned as assistant commissioners in the several States. These officers were men of well-tried character, and to them was committed to a considerable extent the task of working out the details of organization in accordance with the different conditions of affairs in their respective districts. No one minute system of rules could have been rigidly adhered to and applied in every part of the Southern country. I therefore set forth as clearly as I could the objects to be attained and the powers which the Bureau could legally exercise, and left it to my subordinates to devise suitable measures for effecting these objects.

The first information received from these officers presented a sad picture of want and misery. Though large sums of money had been contributed by generous Northern people; though many noble-hearted men and women, with the spirit of true Christian missionaries, had engaged zealously in the work of relief and instruction; though the heads of departments in Washington and military commanders in the field had done all in their power, yet the great mass of the colored people, just freed from slavery, had not been reached. In every State many thousands were found without employment, without homes, without means of subsistence, crowding into towns and about military posts, where they hoped to find protection and supplies. The sudden collapse of the rebellion, making emancipation an actual, universal fact, was like an earthquake. It [364] shook and shattered the whole previously existing social system. It broke up the old industries and threatened a reign of anarchy. Even well-disposed and humane land owners were at a loss what to do, or how to begin the work of reorganizing society, and of rebuilding their ruined fortunes. Very few had any knowledge of free labor, or any hope that their former slaves would serve them faithfully for wages. On the other hand, the freed people were in a state of great excitement and uncertainty. They could hardly believe that the liberty proclaimed was real and permanent. Many were afraid to remain on the same soil that they had tilled as slaves, lest by some trick they might find themselves again in bondage. Others supposed that the Government would either take the entire supervision of their labor and support, or divide among them the lands of conquered owners, and furnish them with all that might be necessary to begin life as independent farmers.

In such an unsettled state of affairs it was no ordinary task we undertook, to inspire hostile races with mutual confidence, to supply the immediate wants of the sick and starving, to restore social order, and to set in motion all the wheels of industry. ....

Surely our Government exercised a large benevolence. We have had under our care no less than five hundred and eighty-four thousand one hundred and seventy-eight (584,178) sick and infirm persons, for whom no provision was made by local authorities, and who had no means themselves of procuring the attendance and comforts necessary to health and life. It has not been possible to provide for the proper treatment of the insane. For some of this unfortunate class admission has been gained by earnest correspondence to [365] State asylums, but the majority have been of necessity retained in the Bureau hospitals, and all that could be done for them was to supply them with food and clothing and prevent them from doing injury.

For more than a year our principal aim has been to relieve the general Government by transferring to the civil authorities all these dependent classes for future care and treatment. To this end medicines and hospital stores have been furnished as an outfit where State or municipal governments have consented to assume charge of destitute sick and disabled freedmen within their own borders. By means of this aid, and by patient and persistent effort on the part of my officers, the hospitals, at one time numbering fifty-six (56), have been reduced to two (2), and one (1) of these is about to be closed.

In addition to the sick, many others were destitute and required aid. To relieve this destitution without encouraging pauperism and idleness was at all times a difficult problem. ...

The wonder is not that so many, but that so few, have needed help; that of the four millions of people thrown suddenly upon their own resources only one in about two hundred has been an object of public charity; and nearly all who have received aid have been persons who, by reason of age, infirmity, or disease, would be objects of charity in any State and at any time.

It would have been impossible to reach such satisfactory results, and reduce the issue of supplies to so small proportions had not employment been found for a great multitude of able-bodied men and women, who, when first set free, knew not where to look for remunerative labor... [366]

They were uniformly assisted by us in finding good places and in making reasonable bargains. To secure fairness and inspire confidence on both sides, the system of written contracts was adopted. No compulsion was used, but all were advised to enter into written agreements and submit them to an officer of the Bureau for approval. The nature and obligations of these contracts were carefully explained to the freedmen, and a copy filed in the office of the agent approving it; this was for their use in case any difficulty arose between them and their employers. The labor imposed upon my officers and agents by this system was very great, as is evinced by the fact that in a single State not less than fifty thousand (50,000) such contracts were drawn in duplicate and filled up with the names of all the parties. But the result has been highly satisfactory. To the freedman, the Bhreau office in this way became a school in which he learned the first practical business lessons of life, and from year to year he has made rapid progress in this important branch of education. Nor can it be doubted that much litigation and strife were prevented. It could not be expected that such a vast and complicated machinery would work without friction. The interests of capital and labor very often clash in all communities. The South has not been entirely exempt from troubles of this kind. Some employers have been dishonest and have attempted to defraud the freedmen of just wages. Some laborers have been unfaithful and unreasonable in their demands. But in the great majority of cases brought before us for settlement, the trouble and misunderstanding have arisen from vague verbal bargains and a want of specific written contracts. . . . [367]

In spite of all disorders that have prevailed and the misfortunes that have fallen upon many parts of the South, a good degree of prosperity and success has already been attained. To the oft-repeated slander that the negroes will not work, and are incapable of taking care of themselves, it is a sufficient answer that their voluntary labor has produced nearly all the food that has supported the whole people, besides a large amount of rice, sugar, and tobacco for export, and two millions of bales of cotton each year, on which was paid into the United States Treasury during the years 1866 and 1867 a tax of more than forty millions of dollars ($40,000,000). It is not claimed that this result is wholly due to the care and oversight of this Bureau, but it is safe to say, as it has been said repeatedly by intelligent Southern men, that without the Bureau or some similar agency, the material interests of the country would have greatly suffered, and the Government would have lost a far greater amount than has been expended in its maintenance. . . .

Of the nearly eight hundred thousand (800,000) acres of farming land and about five thousand (5,000) pieces of town property transferred to this Bureau by military and Treasury officers, or taken up by my assistant commissioners, enough was leased to produce a revenue of nearly four hundred thousand ($400,000) dollars. Some farms were set apart in each State as homes for the destitute and helpless, and a portion was cultivated by freedmen prior to its restoration....

In a few instances freedmen have combined their means and purchased farms already under cultivation. They have everywhere manifested a great desire to become land owners, a desire in the highest degree laudable and hopeful for their future civilization. [368] Next to a proper religious and intellectual training, the two things needful to the freedmen are land and a home. Without these, high degrees of civilization and moral culture are scarcely possible. So long as he is merely one of a herd working for hire and living on another's domain, he must be dependent and destitute of manly individuality and self-reliance. But the most urgent want of the freedmen was a practical education; and from the first I have devoted more attention to this than to any other branch of my work. . . .

Though no appropriations had in the outset been granted by Congress for this purpose, by using the funds derived from rents of “abandoned property,” by fitting up for schoolhouses such Government buildings as were no longer needed for military purposes, by giving transportation for teachers, books, and school furniture, and by granting subsistence, I gave material aid to all engaged in the educational work. With the aim to harmonize the numerous independent school agencies in the field, and to assist all impartially, I appointed a superintendent of schools for each State, who should collect information, encourage the organization of new schools, find homes for teachers, and supervise the whole work. The law of July 16, 1866, sanctioned all that had been previously done, and enlarged my powers. It authorized the lease of buildings for the purposes of education, and the sale of “Confederate States” property to create an educational fund. Appropriations by Congress were also made for the “rental, construction, and repairs of school buildings.” This enabled me to give a more permanent character to the schools, and to encourage the establishment of institutions of a higher grade. . . . [369]

In 1869, official reports gave two thousand one hundred and eighteen (2,118) schools, two thousand four hundred and fifty-five (2,455) teachers, and one hundred and fourteen thousand five hundred and twentytwo (114,522) pupils. These figures do not include many evening and private schools which have not been reported. It is believed that not less than two hundred and fifty thousand (250,000) colored adults and children have received considerable instruction during the past year. . . .

Since the freedmen have been invested with all the rights and privileges of free men, and already exert a powerful political influence, it is admitted by all the intelligent and fair-minded people that they must be educated, or they will become the tools of demagogues, and a power for evil rather than good. This necessity has already led to the organization of a system of free schools in some of the reconstructed States. Until this is done in every State, and such public schools are in practical operation, the safety of the country, and especially of the South, will demand the continuance, by some agency, of the additional work now carried on. Not only this, but means should be provided for greatly extending these operations to meet the wants of the whole people. Just at present not more than one tenth of the children of the freedmen are attending school. Their parents are not yet able to defray the expenses of education. They are already doing something, probably more in proportion to their means, than any other class. During the last year it is estimated that they have raised and expended for the construction of schoolhouses and the support of teachers not less than two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000). They have shown a willingness to help, [370] and as they prosper and acquire property, they will assume a larger share of the burden, either by voluntary contributions or by the payment of taxes for the support of schools.

The poverty of the freed people has been in some slight degree relieved by the payment of bounties and other moneys due from the Government to soldiers, sailors, and marines. These payments have been made through us in accordance with law.

So far as I have had authority and power I have endeavored to protect the freedmen from all kinds of abuse and injustice to which they were exposed in a region for a time destitute of civil government, and among a people bitterly hostile to their emancipation . .

In all important cases where the civil courts existed they were first resorted to; but when such courts would not admit the testimony of negroes nor treat them as equals before the law with whites, appeal was made to military tribunals or under the Civil Rights bill to the United States courts. ....

One assistant commissioner reports three thousand four hundred and five (3,405) cases adjudicated in a single quarter, which, taken as a fair exponent of the business, gives more than one hundred thousand (100,--000) complaints heard and acted upon by Bureau officers in a single year. The reports of murders, assaults, and outrages of every description were so numerous, and so full of horrible details, that at times one was inclined to believe the whole white population engaged in a war of extermination against the blacks. But careful investigation has proved that the worst outrages were generally committed by small bands of lawless men, organized under various names, whose [371] principal objects were robbery and plunder. There was no civil government with strength enough to arrest them, and they overawed and held in terror the more quiet citizens who were disposed to treat the freedmen with fairness and humanity. But for the presence of Bureau officers, sustained by a military force, there would have been no one to whom these victims of cruelty and wrong could have appealed for defense. And the evils remedied have probably been far less than the evils prevented. No one can tell what scenes of violence and strife and insurrection the whole South might have presented without the presence of this agency of the Government to preserve order and to enforce justice. Several officers and agents have been severely wounded, and some have lost their lives in this service. Fallen in the faithful discharge of duty, in brave defense of right, in heroic protection of the weak and poor, their names deserve a place on their country's “Roll of fame.”

Notice the appropriations by Congress:

For the year ending July 1, 1867$6,940,450.00
For the year ending July 1, 18683,836,300.00
For relief of destitute citizens in the District of Columbia40,000.00
For relief of destitute freedmen in the same15,000.00
For expenses of paying bounties in 1869214,000.00
For expenses for famine in Southern States and transportation1,865,645.40
For the support of hospitals50,000.00
Making a total, received from all sources, of$12,961,395.40

Our expenditures from the beginning (including assumed accounts of the “Department of negro affairs” ), from January 1, 1865, to August 31, 1869, have been eleven million two hundred and forty-nine thousand and twenty-eight dollars and ten cents ($11,--249,028.10). In addition to this cash expenditure the subsistence, medical supplies, quartermaster stores [372] issued to refugees and freedmen prior to July 1, 1866, were furnished by the commissary, medical, and quartermaster's department, and accounted for in the current expenses of those departments; they were not charged to nor paid for by my officers. They amounted to two million three hundred and thirty thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight dollars and seventy-two cents ($2,330,788.72) in original cost; but a large portion of these stores being damaged and condemned as unfit for issue to troops, their real value to the Government was probably less than one million of dollars ($1,000,000). Adding their original cost to the amount expended from appropriations and other sources, the total expenses of our Government for refugees and freedmen to August 31, 1869, have been thirteen millions five hundred and seventy-nine thousand eight hundred and sixteen dollars and eighty-two cents ($13,579,816.82). And deducting fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) which Congress transferred to the Agricultural Department, and five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) set apart as a special relief fund for all classes of destitute people in the Southern States, the real cost has been thirteen millions twenty-nine thousand eight hundred and sixteen dollars and eighty-two cents ($13,029,816.82). ...

It was obvious that the payment of bounties and other moneys due colored soldiers must be continued by some agency until all should have a reasonable time to present their claims. National honor forbade that the task should be left incomplete, and an Act of Congress was required to transfer this important work to some other department when our divisions should be entirely closed. I so recommended.

I added: the Educational Division should not only [373] be continued but greatly extended. If the State governments are not prepared nor willing to provide for the education of all classes (as I hope they will soon do), I recommend that the general Government take the matter in hand. “The safety of the Republic is the supreme law.” There can be no safety nor permanent peace where ignorance reigns. The law of selfpreservation will justify the national legislature in establishing through the Bureau of Education, or some other agency, a general system of free schools, and furnish to all children of a suitable age such instruction in the rudiments of learning as may be necessary to fit them to discharge intelligently the duties of free American citizens.

The foregoing comments and summary upon what was undertaken and accomplished, which were made forty years ago, are, I believe, of special interest today. Problems touching labor are always recurring.

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