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[199] must be taken. The commanding general therefore directed the Sequestration Commission to prepare and report a proper system of labor.

A system was proposed by the Commission, embodying certain conditions demanded by a committee of the negroes themselves. The system was intended to secure to the negro liberty to go where he pleased, and to choose his employment and his employer, compensation for his labor, limitation of hours of work, exemption from corporal punishment and from separation of families, access to proper tribunals to enforce his rights, and an allotment of a small tract to cultivate for himself, as an encouragement to strive for the permanent acquisition of land. It also contained provisions for the support of the aged and infirm, the education of the young, the attendance of the sick, and the burial of the dead. The planters, after conference in public meeting, decided to accede to the ‘Contract,’ and thus, somewhat reluctantly, recognized the freedom of the very men whom the President's proclamation had excepted from that privilege.

Whatever difference of opinion there may be as to the means by which General Banks and his assistants attempted to solve the great problem of the day, there can be no doubt as to the fidelity of Captain Hooper's efforts. He believed in the General, he believed also in the march of events; and though his enthusiasm was often damped by the many failures and the imperfect successes which followed the most zealous efforts, he still worked and hoped and waited. General Banks writes:—

Early in the year 1863 many thousand negroes came within the lines of our army. Captain Hooper manifested a deep interest in all measures suggested for their protection and relief. The newly emancipated people had no truer or wiser friend. He gave great attention during the latter part of his life to the consideration of their interests. The free-labor system of Louisiana is his monument. He lived long enough to justify the belief that it was adapted to secure their liberty, but not long enough to witness the full success which it is destined to accomplish, nor to receive the thanks of those who were the subjects of his anxious care.

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Louisiana (Louisiana, United States) (1)

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William Sturgis Hooper (2)
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1863 AD (1)
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