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Chapter 60: opposition to Bureau and reconstruction work became personal; the Congregational Church of Washington

During my Government work in Washington, D. C., from its commencement, May 12, 1865, to its close, July 3, 1874, as was predicted by my friends, I was obliged to meet and overcome many obstacles, and to encounter a constant and determined opposition. Hostility showed itself in hydra-headed forms. The Freedmen's Bureau itself, regarded by its best friends and promoters as abnormal to our system of Government, and as only a temporary necessity, was always a source of bitterness and complaint to all extreme opponents, North and South. President Johnson's course, after he had made up his mind to antagonize the party that elected him, strengthened all Southern hostility to the Bureau work, and brought into disrepute its most faithful officials. Identifying itself with the upholding of the blacks in their industries, it favored them in the possession of land, in the courts of justice, in labor interests, in having hospitals and asylums, and in planting schools from the primary to the university. In fact the Bureau constantly kept stirred up all social life where its operations touched the field. It was bound to put its foot firmly upon every form of slavery. It was obliged to foster individual independence. While it allowed no apathy among its wards, and thus encouraged industry and justice, and a lawful [424] resistance to wrong, it became out and out an advocate of negro manhood. That was its theory; that was its practice; that was its sanguine hope. How could these Southern white people, who had not even believed in emancipation, enter heartily into sympathy with me, a commissioner, as they claimed, of a party of radical Republicans? How could the conservatives of the North, who wanted the care of the freed people left entirely to their old masters and to the Southern State governments, favor my theory? To them, even to those who had confidence in my integrity and in the distinguished officers who were my assistants, the whole system of dealing seemed wrong. It appeared to be cruelty and oppression. Their sympathetic minds always stopped with the white population. Again, the prospect of suffrage for the late slaves seemed to all such intolerable. Though my officers and myself had no responsibility for the gift of suffrage, yet we had to bear no small part in its introduction. We were at court the friends of the freedmen and had to bear that odium. I think these simple statements are enough to account for all the antagonism that occurred. An officer in charge of any district where the negroes were in considerable majority met with the distrust of the Southern whites; he was maligned by the local press the instant he differed from the prevailing opinion among them; he was ostracised; he was accused; if he favored universal suffrage and it became known, his life even was in peril. The accumulations of this odium, enveloping me in their murky cloud, soon attacked my reputation, though, of course, they could not affect my character. I defended my officers and agents and teachers with all my heart both publicly and privately, and that fact made it desirable for the [425] hostile forces arrayed against the Bureau to be somehow rid of me. It seemed at one time that there was no indignity of language too harsh or contemptible for my foes to use. My friends and supporters were, however, equally pronounced and ardent in my defense, and with their confidence and aid in Congress and out, I carried through the Freedmen's Bureau to the natural consummation of its larger purposes in 1869. About that time I met with troublesome assaults upon my reputation for integrity from two new sources. One came, as we have before seen, through the imposing upon me of the payment of the back pay and bounties and prize money of all unpaid colored soldiers and sailors, and especially the being obliged by law to pay these claimants in currency and not in checks or drafts. This work raised up against all honest payers and payees a wicked host, whose sole aim was greed. They had accomplished much when they could in any way corrupt a paymaster, stain the reputation of a disbursing officer, or circumvent an assistant commissioner. This trouble I fought to a successful issue by facing every official accusation and demanding official investigation and trial.

Other difficulties arose from a second source quite outside of Government operations. Being engaged in a struggle for what I have called the manhood of the black man in labor, justice, suffrage, and the schools, I naturally carried the same efforts with me into the church, with which I was connected. One day, during the fall of 1865, two college classmates met me and asked me if I would not join a little Congregational Church, just then forming in Washington. “We have thirteen members,” they said, “and you will make fourteen. When slavery was here people several [426] times tried the Congregational form of church organization, but had always failed I Now surely, as slavery is dead we can succeed.” This is the substance of their speech. I assented to their request. It was my own church, and I was glad to cast in my lot with the few courageous souls that were starting the first bona fide Congregational Church at the capital. There seemed to be a general understanding that there should now be no distinctions in our church relationship on account of color. Equal rights in church government, equal for all. Rev. Charles B. Boynton, D. D., then chaplain of the House of Representatives, lately from Cincinnati, the chosen historian of the navy, a man of marked ability, and one who had been distinguished as an “old-line abolitionist,” was called as the first pastor. His son, General H. V. Boynton, of the volunteer army, had come to Washington as a correspondent for the press. He was in daily telegraphic communication with the Cincinnati Gazette, and corresponded with other papers. He then lived at the home of his parents in the city.

There was a small church party, after we had grown to fifty or sixty in number, who clung very strongly to New England traditions and church organization. This party often opposed the pastor, but ut first with no noticeable exhibition of feeling, more than is manifested in the usual controversial spirit of our people. There was no important division of sentiment, and I did not take sides with the one party or the other. For a year or more the First Congregational Church greatly prospered. It worshiped sometimes in a hall of the city and sometimes in the hall of the House of Representatives. A large number of the members seriously objected to the latter as a place of worship. [427] It did not, they claimed, afford them either Sabbath or week-day facilities for meetings such as they wished. They could have the place only once or twice a week and often only on Sunday. The church committees, Sunday schools, sociables, and midweek gatherings for prayer were all hindered and so there arose an unpleasant controversy about this matter. The members of the society who did the business for the church became divided for and against the pastor, who earnestly desired to preach at least once each Sunday at the Capitol. From this controversy I also held carefully aloof, but felt that there were growing differences which might soon or late hurt or spoil our enterprise. In one great work we were all the while acting in harmony. It was that of the proposed erection of a church edifice. A building lot was secured at the corner of G and Tenth streets, northwest. The plans for a construction which would cost over $100,000 were carefully made, a picture promise of the new church made and multiplied by handsome woodcuts, and subscription books opened. I was made special treasurer of the building fund on account of my reputed ability to raise money, and further, because, in giving addresses in behalf of the freedmen's schools and colleges, I was visiting different cities and might solicit contributions. In this matter I was at first strongly supported by all our members.

Our brotherly letter, dated November 1, 1867, signed by the pastor himself and countersigned by the deacons of the church and the trustees of the society, had in it sentiments such as I have named, for example:

You are probably aware of the efforts which the friends of an untrammeled gospel, and of equal rights for all men, are making to establish at the national [428] capital a church which, unhindered by any social or political restraints, shall give the support of its teachings and its influence to those principles which the great party of freedom and progress is endeavoring to establish as the basis of our national policy .... Such a church we are endeavoring, by the aid of those who sympathize with us, to establish here, and we wish to make it in all respects a worthy representative of the new spirit of the land ....

Toward the payment of this lot and edifice, about $75,000 have been subscribed, much of it through the personal influence and efforts of General Howard, a member of our church, who has given as much time and attention to the work as his public duties will permit, and will continue to do so. But we need a large sum to enable us to complete our building, etc. . . .

We, therefore, take the liberty of sending this statement to you in the hope that you may give it a favorable consideration. General Howard is chairman of our building committee and treasurer of the building fund, and any amount forwarded to him will be duly accounted for and applied.

The letter further averred that the intention was to make this church a national representative of the Congregationalism of the land, an exponent at the capital of those evangelical doctrines, And those principles of civil and religious liberty, upon which the safety and stability of the nation depended.

By personal application I did raise a great deal of the church money, and in answer to letters of solicitation that I sent to churches far and near, I received many small sums of $5 and $10 each, all of which were paid into the church treasury. At the May meetings of 1867, held in Brooklyn, during one evening, at the [429] church of Henry Ward Beecher, the Congregational Union, a church building society, had its anniversary. The house was filled with people, and Mr. Beecher presided. Our church had recently solicited pecuniary aid from the building society. Our Washington pastor, Dr. Boynton, and I were designated to plead our cause at this meeting and show why a Congregational enterprise at the capital should receive assistance from this national society. Dr. Boynton was well received by the people and gave an excellent, comprehensive written address. I followed with an offhand speech, in which I said in a half-jocose manner, that I had been at one time offered as a personal gift some United States bonds from citizens of Maine; that the press of Portland and of Boston had quickly taken up the subject before I had any notification. The newspapers declared that it was believed, a priori, that General Howard would not accept such a present. On seeing such words in print, I had written to friends in Portland and Boston and stated that I agreed with the published statement, but that I earnestly hoped that the contemplated bonds and money would be given to the orphans of our deceased soldiers. In the same manner I had hitherto declined such gifts. Then, turning to Mr. Beecher, I said: “Permit me to change my mind about taking presents. Generals Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and Meade have had theirs. Now I will take mine. It shall be wholly for the house of the Lord!”

Mr. Beecher, full of happy humor, said: “Well, General Howard, you shall have your gift.” Then he told the people to pass in their donations. Some $5,000 for our building fund was handed up from the people, in various sums, while Mr. Beecher amused them by his odd and humorous remarks. Something [430] was said or done that night that offended Dr. Boynton. In some way he imbibed the idea that my special friends and myself were endeavoring to build up a “Howard Church,” to which idea he feelingly objected. Soon there came from the Pilgrim Church of Brooklyn, as an outgrowth of my address at Mr. Beecher's church, $7,000 more for the same object. At a later period in Washington Dr. Boynton and his special friends drew up a pamphlet of some thirteen pages which complained of this matter in particular, and of other grievances, imaginary or real, that were coming in ever after that Brooklyn meeting to divide our church and society. The ostensible object of the pamphlet was to put the sister churches, over the country right concerning our Washington enterprise. Opposition now set in strongly against me by many of our church members. Many points of controversy also found their way into the board of trustees of Howard University. Differences arose between Dr. Boynton, the first president of the university, and two or three of my associates, among them my close and confidential friend, General Whittlesey. I defended my friends with ardor, and often said sharp things impulsively that worried the president. He had a great power of satire, a sort of rasping sarcasm, and I was now and then treated to it. I declared that it was like piercing a man with a rapier and then twisting it in the wound. It would anger me at times beyond selfcontrol, and my replies were sometimes such as caused him to send friends to me to insist on apology and reparation, which surely was never withheld. Yet the doctor's frame of mind was such that he would hinder the trustees in the midst of important constructions by withholding his approval. [431]

In church matters, during the summer of 1867, the First Congregational Society was holding all its sessions in Metzerott Hall, while our church edifice was in process of construction. The pastor was away on a short vacation. Seeing one Sunday that our Sunday school was very small, I addressed the teachers and children just before the closing exercise and said that there were plenty of children outside that had no Sunday school, and urged the scholars to make an effort to fill up our room with those who had no such school advantages. My last remark was in keeping with my own constant wish. It was to this effect: “I will give a present to five (I believe that was the number) who will bring in the most new scholars, and they need not look at the color of the eyes, hair, or skin.”

The next Sunday plenty of scholars came trooping in, and among them many colored pupils. This action, to my astonishment, displeased very many of our church members, both men and women. Our pastor was informed. He returned at once from his vacation, took sides against my action publicly and privately, though the colored children already there were suffered to remain in the Sunday school. The church society proved itself now to be divided, and those opposed to Dr. Boynton were uniting in action. However, even yet, I deprecated these dividing tendencies and tried to check them.

Later in the year, I was called to St. Louis, Mo., and when there in the Congregational churches pleaded for help to our building fund, restating, as our early letters had declared, that our new Congregational body would be careful to make no distinctions on account of race or color. That was one of our reasons for the establishment of our church in Washington. [432] When I reached home, I found that the pastor had seen fit completely to reverse the wheels, and to make public contradiction to this sentiment in a remarkable sermon. Like Moses in Egypt, he insisted that the colored people should refuse to remain with the Egyptians. He praised their advancement, but declared for separation. That was his own opinion, and though grieved about it I did nothing immediately because our pulpit was always free. The newspapers, however, religious and secular, took up the sermon, and showed our plain inconsistency. We professed the utmost catholicity in raising money, but were behind all other churches in our practice. For did not Christ live and die for all ment Then the pastor and his immediate friends, being vexed by this public criticism, which was in their suspicions imputed to my influence, at a church meeting from which a large number of those holding to the original views were absent, adopted a series of resolutions; these fully endorsed the statements and theories of that strange sermon. They were passed, and spread upon the church record. That sermon there defined the attitude of our body toward the freedmen. It seemed to me like a wall of partition between races. I drew up a brief protest, making it as strong as I could word it. Over fifty of the male members of our church and congregation united with me by signing the document. From that time a veritable controversy was upon us, and our troubles soon became known to all the kindred churches of our country. Our Northern contributors almost ceased their gifts. It resulted finally in our calling an ex parte council to judge between the opposing parties.

When the sessions of the council meeting in Washington [433] were had and the discussions of the members of the council, which was gathered from many Northern Congregational churches, were going on and became animated, the son of the pastor, General Boynton, the newspaper correspondent, naturally sided with his father and his party, and filled his columns with what I deemed biased accounts of the proceedings. The excitement ran high.

One or two incidents will show how remarkable had been our heated debates and how divergent were our views. At a communion service held in a hall on Fifth street, opposite the city square, Dr. Boynton made some preliminary remarks in which he said that according to the teachings of our Lord in Chapter XVIII of Matthew, he was conscious of being ready for this solemn ordinance and implied as much for those who were on his side; but he averred that there were those present who had improper feeling toward him and those who believed as he did. He was sure that they ought not to partake of the communion in such a frame of mind. That was the burden of his address. It was an extraordinary thing for me to do at a communion, but I arose and entered at once upon the defense of myself and my friends so charged. I was claiming for us love to God and our neighbor, when suddenly the pastor asked significantly: “General Howard, do you believe in amalgamation” Instantly it occurred to me that there were two meanings of that word “amalgamation” ; one was the union of whites and blacks in church and school relation; the other the union in marriage. Whichever Dr. Boynton meant, I decided to make answer to the latter. I had never hitherto advocated intermarriage; but a case illustrated my thought on that subject. I said: “A gentleman in Virginia, [434] soon after graduating from West Point, had left the army, married, and settled on a plantation. After perhaps one year his young wife died. He did not marry again, but had one of his slave women as his housekeeper, and by her he had several children. This woman had recently come to me for protection against the gentleman's severity of discipline; as she was leaving she said: ‘Do not hurt him, for I love him; only keep him from whipping me I’ Now,” I added, “before God that man and that woman are man and wife.” Here I closed. Dr. Boynton cried out: “Yes, and I would marry them.” The communion, after that, proceeded without further interruption.

On another occasion after the communion, in the parlors of our new church building, among those who presented themselves for uniting with the church were a colored woman and two colored men; the men were graduates of Oberlin College and one of them had been a captain of volunteers in our army during the war. No objection could be made to them by the examining committee; but during the session of the committee, the pastor put to the men the same question he did to me: “Do you believe in amalgamation” As they were already married to women of their own race, they understood very naturally that the pastor objected to the union of races in the church, and they therefore withdrew without becoming members of our body.

A more general council in process of time was secured and assembled in Washington, holding their sessions in our new church edifice. It was composed of our ablest clergymen and laymen, drawn from some twelve or fifteen Northern and Western churches. Before that body were brought all our points of difference, and notwithstanding the able manner in which [435] matters were met by Dr. Boynton and his followers, the council decided that, in the principal subjects at issue, my friends and myself were right. My protest was sustained. General Boynton, who seemed at that time to control the correspondence with many papers besides the Cincinnati Gazette, in his dispatches did not let me rest. His father, followed by the majority of our members, now left the First Congregational Church and united with a Presbyterian Church, of which he became the pastor. He resigned, too, from the presidency of Howard University, and from that time on my official intercourse with him ceased. But the woes that follow such divisions continued.

As I was returning from an International Conference of the Young Men's Christian Association, held in Detroit, Mich., in June, 1869, and passing through Ohio, I had been conversing with Mr. Locke, whose nom de plume was “Petroleum V. Nasby.” As he was glancing over a paper, sitting just behind me, he spoke up with evident surprise: “How is this, General?” He then showed me one of General Boynton's Washington communications of about a column in length, which attacked me severely. It was one of a series of articles which accused me in my Government administration of every sort of delinquency. As it appeared in the Cincinnati Gazette, and as I was near at hand, I wrote to the editor and asked the privilege of replying to the allegations as soon as I should arrive in Washington. But I did not receive an answer from the paper, and as the same sort of charges were published from day to day elsewhere, in Pittsburg, Penn.; St. Louis, Mo.; Cleveland, O., and in Boston, with an occasional column of similar import in the New York Press, all of them often inserting reasonable statements in rebuttal, [436] I decided to wait and confine my replies officially made to charges from official sources. When at last, after I had formally and strongly recommended the closing out of the Freedmen's Bureau, except the educational division, and that this be transferred to the Department of Education with the residue of the Bureau money, then estimated at $600,000, the subject came up in the House of Representatives for consideration. Fernando Wood, representative from New York, was reported in the Congressional Globe and Daily Chronicle to have asserted that this was only a scheme of General Howard to make away with $600,000 more of the public money. It appeared to me incredible that he, a representative in Congress, could have made the remark, so I wrote him immediately the following letter:

War Department, Bureau Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, Washington City, April 1, 1870.
Dear Sir:
By this morning's Chronicle you were made to intimate that I had grown rich from this Bureau, and that the Bill proposed on education was to enable me to control $600,000 more. I do not think you can have said it, because if you know my financial condition you will know that I have a large family, a small property, and considerable indebtedness, and as the Bill proposed to take from me the $600,000 and put it into the Bureau of Education, I cannot think you made the remark. I have discharged the trust committed to me with fidelity, and as you yourself would say if you would give every transaction the most thorough examination.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, O. O. Howard, Commissioner, etc., etc. Honorable Fernando Wood.

Mr. Wood, taking advantage of my letter, asked the privilege by a unanimous consent of the House to [437] make a personal explanation. Obtaining the consent, he first sent my letter to be read at the clerk's desk; then, answering it briefly, submitted fifteen formulated charges. Though he might possibly have been checked, as he was going farther than a “personal explanation” called for, yet my friends-and I had a great many on the floor of the House-insisted on my having an opportunity to answer, and so did not rest until Mr. Wood's charges, which were substantially those that had appeared in the Cincinnati Gazette, had been sent to the Committee on Education and Labor. Furnished with able counsel on both sides, Mr. Wood and I brought my case before this committee of Congress having a membership of ten in number. The Hon. Samuel M. Arnell, of Tennessee, was chairman. The committee met behind closed doors in a commodious room in the basement of the House side of the Capitol, nearly every day for three months, and had brought before them hundreds of witnesses, giving, as I much desired, every opportunity to the prosecutors to bring to light their accusations.

The committee by a vote of 8 to 2 sustained me and closed a faithful review of the fifteen charges by these remarks:

The committee has thought it proper to deal, primarily, with the charges referred to them by the House. But it would be unjust to the gallant officer and faithful public servant who has so honorably passed the severe ordeal to which he has been subjected, daily, during the last three months, to close this report with a simple verdict of acquittal.

No approximately correct history of civilization can ever be written which does not throw out in bold relief, as one of the great landmarks of political and [438] social progress, the organization and administration of the Freedmen's Bureau.

The great labor to be performed, its unremitting and exhausting anxieties, the wide field of operations, the obstacles that interposed and were to be overcome, the breadth of mind and sympathy of heart necessary to the proper accomplishment of the task, are facts which must be considered in forming a just estimate of General Howard's services.

The colossal proportions of the work of the Bureau will be seen at a glance. Its operations extended over 500,000 square miles of territory devastated by the greatest war of modern times. More than 4,000,--000 of its people sunk in the lowest depths of ignorance by two centuries of slavery,and suddenly set free amid the fierce animosities of war-free but poor, helpless, and starving. Here, truly, was a most appalling condition of things. Not only the destiny of the liberated race was in the balance, but the life of the nation itself depended upon the correct solution of this intricate problem. It was a great practical question that had to be met.

The letter to Mr. Whiting, solicitor of the War Department, setting forth the details of the scheme, has been cited in another connection. His plan was substantially adopted by Congress, save in regard to the suggestion that the head of the work ought to hold a Cabinet position, to which the dignity and magnitude of his duty certainly entitled him. Then arose the practical question — who among the tried, wise, and humane men of the nation should be trusted with the execution of this work As has been before stated, Major General Oliver O. Howard was appointed commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau in 1865. The duties [439] assigned him were novel and perplexing. He had no landmarks to guide him. The experience of France and England was even discouraging. The emancipation problem in Russia was, in many important respects, different from ours, and he could get no hints from that quarter to serve him. The failures of the past were before him, and as he thought of the causes of them, he could get but little consolation from those sources, so he addressed himself boldly to the work before him from a new standpoint. The impulses of freedom and progress were controlling the national mind; and, trusting to those impulses, he went to work on the principle that only “ideas save races.” If the negroes were to be saved and were to benefit civilization, it was to be only by making them self-relying and responsible citizens.

His first attempts therefore were to prevent pauperism, to make the freedmen and their families understand that charity should be considered odious by them, that they should work to support themselves and families, and that they should be educated.

The Bureau, at the close of the war, was the representative at the South of the best ideas of the country, promoting peace and ordaining justice. What it accomplished in this respect exceeded the expectations of its most sanguine advocates.

Let it be further remembered, to the credit of the colored race, and of the inspiration that prompted General Howard's plans, that not one insurrection, not one murder, has occurred on the part of the negroes in revenge for two centuries of slavery. Yet the two races have lived side by side, in the same neighborhoods, looking into each other's eyes, while this wonderful transformation has been going on. What a different [440] spectacle presents itself on the blood-drenched sands of the Antilles under French rule. Ours was the substitution of moral for brute force.

It may be well to state, in this connection, that it was in a freedmen's court that colored persons were first admitted to testify in any of the late slave States. To-day all the courts are open to them, and a colored senator sits at the other end of the Capitol and assists in making laws for those courts.

Not less potent has been the influence of the Bureau on the labor question. At the close of the war famine looked the South in the face. There was a cry for bread throughout the Southern country. It was sneeringly said by the enemies of emancipation that the negro would not labor. Satisfied by the Bureau that contracts would be enforced, that justice would be administered, with words of encouragement whispered in his ear, the negro went to work. The battle-plowed, trampled fields of the South yielded a wealth of production that seemed not the result of human labor, but as if “ earth had again grown quick with God's creating breath.” The crops at the South have been larger proportionately since the war than at any previous date.

An article by Sidney Andrews, in the February number of Old and New, makes the following concise and truthful statement of the workings of the Bureau:

“Of the thousand things that the Bureau has done no balance sheet can ever be made. How it helped the ministries of the church, saved the blacks from robbery and persecution, enforced respect for the negro's rights, instructed all the people in the meaning of the law, threw itself against the stronghold of intemperance, settled neighborhood quarrels, brought about amicable relations between employer and employed, [441] comforted the sorrowful, raised up the downhearted, corrected bad habits among whites and blacks, restored order, sustained contracts for work, compelled attention to the statute books, collected claims, furthered local educational movements, gave sanctity to the marriage relation, dignified labor, strengthened men and women in good resolutions, rooted out old prejudices, ennobled the home, assisted the freedmen to become land owners, brought offenders to justice, broke up bands of outlaws, overturned the class rule of ignorance, led bitter hearts into brighter ways, shamed strong hearts into charity and forgiveness, promulgated the new doctrine of equal rights, destroyed the seeds of mistrust and antagonism, cheered the despondent, set idlers at work, aided in the reorganization of society, carried the light of the North into dark places of the South, steadied the negro in his struggle with novel ideas, inculcated kindly feeling, checked the passion of whites and blacks, opened the blind eyes of judges and jurors, taught the gospel of forbearance, encouraged human sympathy, distributed the generous charities of the benevolent, upheld loyalty, assisted in creating a sentiment of nationality-how it did all this and hundredfold more, who shall ever tell What pen shall ever record?”

These are warm and generous words. They are eloquent. But the facts that they state are still more eloquent.

Still it is asked, “Has the Bureau been a success?” Success! The world can point to nothing like it in all the history of emancipation. No thirteen millions of dollars were ever more wisely spent; yet from the beginning this scheme has encountered the bitterest opposition and the most unrelenting hate. Scoffed at [442] like a thing of shame, often struck and sorely wounded, sometimes in the house of its friends, apologized for rather than defended; yet with God on its side, the Freedmen's Bureau has triumphed; civilization has received a new impulse, and the friends of humanity may well rejoice. The Bureau work is being rapidly brought to a close, and its accomplishments will enter into history, while the unfounded accusations brought against it will be forgotten. ...

In conclusion, the committee find on the whole case that the charges are utterly groundless and causeless; that the commissioner has been a devoted, honest, and able public servant. The committee find that his great trust has been performed wisely, disinterestedly, economically, and most successfully. If there be anything in the conduct of affairs of the Bureau which would excite a suspicion, even in the breast of partisan or personal hate, it is owing to the fact that General Howard, conscious of his own purity, intent on his great work, has never stopped to think of the appearances which men of less conscious integrity much more carefully regard.

Who is the inventor or instigator of these charges it is not the purpose of the committee to inquire. Mr. Wood, as has already been stated, disclaims all personal responsibility for them. The evidence which he adduced was not evidence tending to establish the accusation, but was, nearly all of it, merely experimental --an inquiry by the person calling the witness into the details of transactions of which he seemed to have neither accurate knowledge nor information. While the examination was going on, with closed doors, under a pledge of secrecy imposed on the committee, counsel and parties, incorrect statements, purporting to be reports [443] of the testimony, were spread extensively through the country, most injurious to General Howard, and utterly without support in the evidence. It is not in the power of the committee or of the House to repair this injustice or to compensate this faithful public officer for the indignity, anxiety, and expense which his defense has entailed upon him. All that is in our power is to recommend to the House the passage of the following resolution, as expressing our opinion of the whole case, and an act of justice to a faithful and distinguished public servant:

Resolved, That the policy pursued by the United States toward four and a half million of its people suddenly enfranchised by the events of a great Civil War, in seeking to provide for them education, to render them independent and self-supporting, and in extending to them civil and political equality, is a source of just national pride; and that the House hereby acquits Major General Oliver O. Howard of the groundless and causeless charges lately preferred against him, and does hereby declare and record its judgment, that in successfully organizing and administering with fidelity, integrity, and ability the Freedmen's Bureau, which has contributed so much to the accomplishment of the first two of these great ends, he is deserving of the gratitude of the American people.”

March 2, 1871, the House passed this resolution by a large majority. I was often subsequently assured by men in opposition to the Republican party, that it was because the first part of the resolution claimed so much credit for Republican action, that they voted no; but that so far as I was concerned the resolution was all right.

The minority of two of the committee reported two [444] resolutions, recommending that I be court-martialed and that the Secretary of War be directed to take steps to recover money disbursed in aid of “churches, religious associations and educational institutions not in pursuance of law.” The Aadoption of the majority report eliminated this one. This minority utterly ignored the Acts of Congress which had empowered me as commissioner to cooperate with all the bodies and associations referred to by them in the work of the support and education of refugees and freedmen. It had become a political party matter, and one of the minority when asked to join with the majority, said frankly: “I cannot leave my party.”

Surely, I was gratified at the result, though so long delayed. I had been brought under severe charges and bitter accusation before the House of Representatives. After a long and tedious investigation, the House awarded me, instead of censure, a happily worded vote of confidence and thanks.

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