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[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

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