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[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. . . .

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