The Writings of Carl Schurz/Report on the Condition of the South


Sir:—When you did me the honor of selecting me for a mission to the States lately in rebellion, for the purpose of inquiring into the existing condition of things, of laying before you whatever information of importance I might gather, and of suggesting to you such measures as my observations would lead me to believe advisable, I accepted the trust with a profound sense of the responsibility connected with the performance of the task. The views I entertained at the time, I had communicated to you in frequent letters and conversations. I would not have accepted the mission, had I not felt that whatever preconceived opinions I might carry with me to the South, I should be ready to abandon or modify, as my perception of facts and circumstances might command their abandonment or modification. You informed me that your “policy of reconstruction” was merely experimental, and that you would change it if the experiment did not lead to satisfactory results. To aid you in forming your conclusions upon this point I understood to be the object of my mission, and this understanding was in perfect accordance with the written instructions I received through the Secretary of War.

These instructions confined my mission to the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and the department of the Gulf. I informed you, before leaving the North, that I could not well devote more than three months to the duties imposed upon me, and that space of time proved sufficient for me to visit all the States above enumerated, except Texas. I landed at Hilton Head, South Carolina, on July 15, visited Beaufort, Charleston, Orangeburg, and Columbia, returned to Charleston and Hilton Head; thence I went to Savannah, traversed the State of Georgia, visiting Augusta, Atlanta, Macon, Milledgeville, and Columbus; went through Alabama, by way of Opelika, Montgomery, Selma, and Demopolis, and through Mississippi, by way of Meridian, Jackson, and Vicksburg; then descended the Mississippi to New Orleans, touching at Natchez; from New Orleans I visited Mobile, Alabama, and the Teche country, in Louisiana, and then spent again some days at Natchez and Vicksburg, on my way to the north. These are the outlines of my journey.

Before laying the results of my observations before you, it is proper that I should state the modus operandi by which I obtained information and formed my conclusions. Wherever I went I sought interviews with persons who might be presumed to represent the opinions, or to have influence upon the conduct, of their neighbors; I had thus frequent meetings with individuals belonging to the different classes of society from the highest to the lowest; in the cities as well as on the roads and steamboats I had many opportunities to converse not only with inhabitants of the adjacent country, but with persons coming from districts which I was not able to visit; and finally I compared the impressions thus received with the experience of the military and civil officers of the government stationed in that country, as well as of other reliable Union men to whom a longer residence on the spot and a more varied intercourse with the people had given better facilities of local observation than my circumstances permitted me to enjoy. When practicable I procured statements of their views and experience in writing as well as copies of official or private reports they had received from their subordinates or other persons. It was not expected of me that I should take formal testimony, and, indeed, such an operation would have required more time than I was able to devote to it.

My facilities for obtaining information were not equally extensive in the different States I visited. As they naturally depended somewhat upon the time the military had had to occupy and explore the country, as well as upon the progressive development of things generally, they improved from day to day as I went on, and were best in the States I visited last. It is owing to this circumstance that I cannot give as detailed an account of the condition of things in South Carolina and Georgia as I am able to give with regard to Louisiana and Mississippi.

Instead of describing the experiences of my journey in chronological order, which would lead to endless repetitions and a confused mingling of the different subjects under consideration, I propose to arrange my observations under different heads according to the subject-matter. It is true, not all that can be said of the people of one State will apply with equal force to the people of another; but it will be easy to make the necessary distinctions when in the course of this report they become of any importance. I beg to be understood when using, for the sake of brevity, the term “the southern people,” as meaning only the people of the States I have visited.


In the development of the popular spirit in the South since the close of the war two well-marked periods can be distinguished. The first commences with the sudden collapse of the confederacy and the dispersion of its armies, and the second with the first proclamation indicating the “reconstruction policy” of the Government. Of the first period I can state the characteristic features only from the accounts I received partly from Unionists who were then living in the south, partly from persons that had participated in the rebellion. When the news of Lee's and Johnston's surrenders burst upon the Southern country the general consternation was extreme. People held their breath, indulging in the wildest apprehensions as to what was now to come. Men who had occupied positions under the Confederate Government, or were otherwise compromised in the rebellion, ran before the federal columns as they advanced and spread out to occupy the country, from village to village, from plantation to plantation, hardly knowing whether they wanted to escape or not. Others remained at their homes, yielding themselves up to their fate. Prominent Unionists told me that persons who for four years had scorned to recognize them on the street approached them with smiling faces and both hands extended. Men of standing in the political world expressed serious doubts as to whether the rebel States would ever again occupy their position as States in the Union, or be governed as conquered provinces. The public mind was so despondent that if readmission at some future time under whatever conditions had been promised, it would then have been looked upon as a favor. The most uncompromising rebels prepared for leaving the country. The masses remained in a state of fearful expectancy.

This applies especially to those parts of the country which were within immediate reach of our armies or had previously been touched by the war. Where Union soldiers had never been seen and none were near, people were at first hardly aware of the magnitude of the catastrophe, and strove to continue in their old ways of living.

Such was, according to the accounts I received, the character of that first period. The worst apprehensions were gradually relieved as day after day went by without bringing the disasters and inflictions which had been vaguely anticipated, until at last the appearance of the North Carolina proclamation substituted new hopes for them. The development of this second period I was called upon to observe on the spot, and it forms the main subject of this report.


It is a well-known fact that in the States south of Tennessee and North Carolina the number of white Unionists who during the war actively aided the Government, or at least openly professed their attachment to the cause of the Union, was very small. In none of those States were they strong enough to exercise any decisive influence upon the action of the people, not even in Louisiana, unless vigorously supported by the power of the General Government. But the white people at large being, under certain conditions, charged with taking the preliminaries of “reconstruction” into their hands, the success of the experiment depends upon the spirit and attitude of those who either attached themselves to the secession cause from the beginning, or, entertaining originally opposite views, at least followed its fortunes from the time that their States had declared their separation from the Union.

The first southern men of this class with whom I came into contact immediately after my arrival in South Carolina expressed their sentiments almost literally in the following language: “We acknowledge ourselves beaten, and we are ready to submit to the results of the war. The war has practically decided that no State shall secede and that the slaves are emancipated. We cannot be expected at once to give up our principles and convictions of right, but we accept facts as they are, and desire to be reinstated as soon as possible in the enjoyment and exercise of our political rights.” This declaration was repeated to me hundreds of times in every State I visited, with some variations of language, according to the different ways of thinking or the frankness or reserve of the different speakers. Some said nothing of adhering to their old principles and convictions of right; others still argued against the Constitutionality of coercion and of the emancipation proclamation; others expressed their determination to become good citizens, in strong language, and urged with equal emphasis the necessity of their home institutions being at once left to their own control; others would go so far as to say they were glad that the war was ended, and they had never had any confidence in the Confederacy; others protested that they had been opposed to secession until their States went out, and then yielded to the current of events; some would give me to understand that they had always been good Union men at heart, and rejoiced that the war had terminated in favor of the national cause, but in most cases such a sentiment was expressed only in a whisper; others again would grumblingly insist upon the restoration of their “rights,” as if they had done no wrong; and indicated plainly that they would submit only to what they could not resist and as long as they could not resist it. Such were the definitions of “returning loyalty” I received from the mouths of a large number of individuals intelligent enough to appreciate the meaning of the expressions they used. I found a great many whose manner of speaking showed that they did not understand the circumstances under which they lived, and had no settled opinions at all except on matters immediately touching their nearest interests.

Upon the ground of these declarations, and other evidence gathered in the course of my observations, I may group the southern people into four classes, each of which exercises an influence upon the development of things in that section:

1. Those who, although having yielded submission to the national government only when obliged to do so, have a clear perception of the irreversible changes produced by the war, and honestly endeavor to accommodate themselves to the new order of things. Many of them are not free from traditional prejudice but open to conviction, and may be expected to act in good faith whatever they do. This class is composed, in its majority, of persons of mature age—planters, merchants, and professional men; some of them are active in the reconstruction movement, but boldness and energy are, with a few individual exceptions, not among their distinguishing qualities.

2. Those whose principal object is to have the States without delay restored to their position and influence in the Union and the people of the States to the absolute control of their home concerns. They are ready, in order to attain that object, to make any ostensible concession that will not prevent them from arranging things to suit their taste as soon as that object is attained. This class comprises a considerable number, probably a large majority, of the professional politicians who are extremely active in the reconstruction movement. They are loud in their praise of the President's reconstruction policy, and clamorous for the withdrawal of the Federal troops and the abolition of the Freedmen's Bureau.

3. The incorrigibles, who still indulge in the swagger which was so customary before and during the war, and still hope for a time when the Southern Confederacy will achieve its independence. This class consists mostly of young men, and comprises the loiterers of the towns and the idlers of the country. They persecute Union men and negroes whenever they can do so with impunity, insist clamorously upon their “rights,” and are extremely impatient of the presence of the Federal soldiers. A good many of them have taken the oaths of allegiance and amnesty, and associated themselves with the second class in their political operations. This element is by no means unimportant; it is strong in numbers, deals in brave talk, addresses itself directly and incessantly to the passions and prejudices of the masses, and commands the admiration of the women.

4. The multitude of people who have no definite ideas about the circumstances under which they live and about the course they have to follow; whose intellects are weak, but whose prejudices and impulses are strong, and who are apt to be carried along by those who know how to appeal to the latter.

Much depends upon the relative strength and influence of these classes. In the course of this report you will find statements of facts which may furnish a basis for an estimate. But whatever their differences may be, on one point they are agreed: further resistance to the power of the National Government is useless, and submission to its authority a matter of necessity. It is true, the right of secession in theory is still believed in by most of those who formerly believed in it; some are still entertaining a vague hope of seeing it realized at some future time, but all give it up as a practical impossibility for the present. All movements in favor of separation from the Union have, therefore, been practically abandoned, and resistance to our military forces, on that score, has ceased. The demonstrations of hostility to the troops and other agents of the government, which are still occurring in some localities, and of which I shall speak hereafter, spring from another class of motives. This kind of loyalty, however, which is produced by the irresistible pressure of force, and consists merely in the non-commission of acts of rebellion, is of a negative character, and might, as such, hardly be considered independent of circumstances and contingencies.


A demonstration of “returning loyalty” of a more positive character is the taking of the oaths of allegiance and amnesty prescribed by the General Government. At first the number of persons who availed themselves of the opportunities offered for abjuring their adhesion to the cause of the rebellion was not very large, but it increased considerably when the obtaining of a pardon and the right of voting were made dependent upon the previous performance of that act. Persons falling under any of the exceptions of the amnesty proclamation made haste to avert the impending danger; and politicians used every means of persuasion to induce people to swell the number of voters by clearing themselves of all disabilities. The great argument that this was necessary to the end of reconstructing their State governments, and of regaining the control of their home affairs and their influence in the Union, was copiously enlarged upon in the letters and speeches of prominent individuals, which are before the country and need no further comment. In some cases the taking of the oath was publicly recommended in newspapers and addresses with sneering remarks, and I have listened to many private conversations in which it was treated with contempt and ridicule. While it was not generally looked upon in the State I visited as a very serious matter, except as to the benefits and privileges it confers, I have no doubt that a great many persons took it fully conscious of the obligations it imposes, and honestly intending to fulfil them.

The aggregate number of those who thus had qualified themselves for voting previous to the election for the State conventions was not as large as might have been expected. The vote obtained at these elections was generally reported as very light—in some localities surprisingly so. It would, perhaps, be worth while for the Government to order up reports about the number of oaths administered by the officers authorized to do so, previous to the elections for the State conventions; such reports would serve to indicate how large a proportion of the people participated in the reconstruction movement at that time, and to what extent the masses were represented in the conventions.

Of those who have not yet taken the oath of allegiance, most belong to the class of indifferent people who “do not care one way or the other.” There are still some individuals who find the oath to be a confession of defeat and a declaration of submission too humiliating and too repugnant to their feelings. It is to be expected that the former will gradually overcome their apathy, and the latter their sensitiveness, and that, at a not remote day, all will have qualified themselves, in point of form, to resume the right of citizenship. On the whole, it may be said that the value of the oaths taken in the Southern States is neither above nor below the value of the political oaths taken in other countries. A historical examination of the subject of political oaths will lead to the conclusion that they can be very serviceable in certain emergencies and for certain objects, but that they have never insured the stability of a government, and never improved the morals of a people.


A more substantial evidence of “returning loyalty” would be a favorable change of feeling with regard to the Government's friends and agents, and the people of the loyal States generally. I mentioned above that all organized attacks upon our military forces stationed in the south have ceased; but there are still localities where it is unsafe for a man wearing the Federal uniform or known as an officer of the Government to be abroad outside of the immediate reach of our garrisons. The shooting of single soldiers and Government couriers was not unfrequently reported while I was in the South, and even as late as the middle of September, Major Miller, assistant adjutant general of the commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau in Alabama, while on an inspecting tour in the southern counties of that State, found it difficult to prevent a collision between the menacing populace and his escort. His wagon-master was brutally murdered while remaining but a short distance behind the command. The murders of agents of the Freedmen's Bureau have been noticed in the public papers. These and similar occurrences, however, may be looked upon as isolated cases, and ought to be charged, perhaps, only to the account of the lawless persons who committed them.

But no instance has come to my notice in which the people of a city or a rural district cordially fraternized with the army. Here and there the soldiers were welcomed as protectors against apprehended dangers; but general exhibitions of cordiality on the part of the population I have not heard of. There are, indeed, honorable individual exceptions to this rule. Many persons, mostly belonging to the first of the four classes above enumerated, are honestly striving to soften down the bitter feelings and traditional antipathies of their neighbors; others, who are acting more upon motives of policy than inclination, maintain pleasant relations with the officers of the Government. But, upon the whole, the soldier of the Union is still looked upon as a stranger, an intruder—as the “Yankee,” “the enemy.” It would be superfluous to enumerate instances of insult offered to our soldiers, and even to officers high in command; the existence and intensity of this aversion is too well known to those who have served or are now serving in the South to require proof. In this matter the exceptions were, when I was there, not numerous enough to affect the rule. In the documents accompanying this report you will find allusions confirming this statement. I would invite special attention to the letter of General Kirby [T. Kilby] Smith.

This feeling of aversion and resentment with regard to our soldiers may, perhaps, be called natural. The animosities inflamed by a four years' war, and its distressing incidents, cannot be easily overcome. But they extend beyond the limits of the army, to the people of the North. I have read in Southern papers bitter complaints about the unfriendly spirit exhibited by the Northern people—complaints not unfrequently flavored with an admixture of vigorous vituperation. But, as far as my experience goes, the “unfriendly spirit” exhibited in the north is all mildness and affection compared with the popular temper which in the South vents itself in a variety of ways and on all possible occasions. No observing Northern man can come into contact with the different classes composing Southern society without noticing it. He may be received in social circles with great politeness, even with apparent cordiality; but soon he will become aware that, although he may be esteemed as a man, he is detested as a “Yankee,” and, as the conversation becomes a little more confidential and throws off ordinary restraint, he is not unfrequently told so; the word “Yankee” still signifies to them those traits of character which the Southern press has been so long in the habit of attributing to the Northern people; and whenever they look around them upon the traces of the war, they see in them, not the consequences of their own folly, but the evidences of “Yankee wickedness.” In making these general statements, I beg to be understood as always excluding the individual exceptions above mentioned.

It is by no means surprising that prejudices and resentments, which for years were so assiduously cultivated and so violently inflamed, should not have been turned into affection by a defeat; nor are they likely to disappear as long as the Southern people continue to brood over their losses and misfortunes. They will gradually subside when those who entertain them cut resolutely loose from the past and embark in a career of new activity on a common field with those whom they have so long considered their enemies. Of this I shall say more in another part of this report. But while we are certainly inclined to put upon such things the most charitable construction, it remains nevertheless true, that as long as these feelings exist in their present strength, they will hinder the growth of that reliable kind of loyalty which springs from the heart and clings to the country in good and evil fortune.


It would have been a promising indication of returning loyalty if the old, consistent, uncompromising Unionists of the South, and those Northern men who during the war settled down there to contribute to the prosperity of the country with their capital and enterprise, had received that measure of consideration to which their identification with the new order of things entitled them. It would seem natural that the victory of the National cause should have given those who during the struggle had remained the firm friends of the Union, a higher standing in society and an enlarged political influence. This appears to have been the case during that “first period” of anxious uncertainty when known Unionists were looked up to as men whose protection and favor might be of high value. At least it appears to have been so in some individual instances. But the close of that “first period” changed the aspect of things.

It struck me soon after my arrival in the South that the known Unionists—I mean those who during the war had been to a certain extent identified with the national cause—were not in communion with the leading social and political circles; and the further my observations extended the clearer it became to me that their existence in the South was of a rather precarious nature. Already in Charleston my attention was called to the current talk among the people, that, when they had the control of things once more in their own hands and were no longer restrained by the presence of “Yankee” soldiers, men of Dr. Mackey's stamp would not be permitted to live there. At first I did not attach much importance to such reports; but as I proceeded through the country, I heard the same thing so frequently repeated, at so many different places and by so many different persons, that I could no longer look upon the apprehensions expressed to me by Unionists as entirely groundless. I found the same opinion entertained by most of our military commanders. Even Governor Sharkey, in the course of a conversation I had with him in the presence of Major-General Osterhaus, admitted that, if our troops were then withdrawn, the lives of Northern men in Mississippi would not be safe. To show that such anticipations were not extravagant, I would refer to the letter addressed to me by General Osterhaus. He states that he was compelled to withdraw the garrison from Attala county, Mississippi, the regiment to which that garrison belonged being mustered out, and that when the troops had been taken away, four murders occurred, two of white Union men, and two of negroes. (He informed me subsequently that the perpetrators were in custody.) He goes on to say: “There is no doubt whatever that the state of affairs would be intolerable for all Union men, all recent immigrants from the North, and all negroes, the moment the protection of the United States troops were withdrawn.” General Osterhaus informed me of another murder of a Union man by a gang of lawless persons, in Jackson, about the end of June. General Slocum, in his order prohibiting the organization of the State militia in Mississippi, speaks of the “outrages committed against Northern men, Government couriers, and negroes.” He communicated to me an official report from Lieutenant Colonel Yorke, commanding at Port Gibson, to General Davidson, pointing in the same direction. General Canby stated to me that he was obliged to disband and prohibit certain patrol organizations in Louisiana because they indulged in the gratification of private vengeance. Lieutenant Hickney, assistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau, at Shreveport, Louisiana, in a report addressed to Assistant Commissioner Conway, says: “The life of a Northern man who is true to his country and the spirit and genius of its institutions, and frankly enunciates his principles, is not secure where there is not a military force to protect him.” Mr. William King, a citizen of Georgia well-known in that State, stated to me in conversation: “There are a great many bad characters in the country, who would make it for some time unsafe for known Union people and northerners who may settle down here to live in this country without the protection of the military.” The affair of Scottsborough, in the military district of northern Alabama, where a sheriff arrested and attempted to bring to trial for murder Union soldiers who had served against the guerillas in that part of the country, an attempt which was frustrated only by the prompt interference of the district commander, has become generally known through the newspapers. It is not improbable that many cases similar to those above mentioned have occurred in other parts of the south without coming to the notice of the authorities.

It is true these are mere isolated cases, for which it would be wrong to hold anybody responsible who was not connected with them; but it is also true that the apprehensions so widely spread among the Unionists and Northern men were based upon the spirit exhibited by the people among whom they lived. I found a good many thinking of removing themselves and their families to the northern States, and if our troops should be soon withdrawn the exodus will probably become quite extensive unless things meanwhile change for the better.


The status of this class of Unionists in the political field corresponds with what I have said above. In this respect I have observed practical results more closely in Mississippi than in any other State. I had already left South Carolina and Georgia when the elections for the State conventions took place. Of Alabama, I saw only Mobile after the election. In Louisiana, a convention, a legislature, and a State government had already been elected, during and under the influence of the war, and I left before the nominating party conventions were held; but I was in Mississippi immediately after the adjournment of the State convention, and while the canvass preparatory to the election of the legislature and of the State and county officers was going on. Events have since sufficiently developed themselves in the other States to permit us to judge how far Mississippi can be regarded as a representative of the rest. Besides, I found the general spirit animating the people to be essentially the same in all the States above mentioned.

The election for the State convention in Mississippi was, according to the accounts I have received, not preceded by a very vigorous and searching canvas of the views and principles of the candidates. As I stated before, the vote was very far from being full, and in most cases the members were elected not upon strictly defined party issues, but upon their individual merits as to character, intelligence, and standing in society. Only in a few places the contest between rival candidates was somewhat animated. It was probably the same in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.

The Mississippi convention was, in its majority, composed of men belonging to the first two of the four classes above mentioned. There were several Union men in it of the inoffensive, compromising kind—men who had been opposed to secession in the beginning, and had abstained from taking a prominent part in the rebellion unless obliged to do so, but who had, at least, readily acquiesced in what was going on. But there was, as far as I have been able to ascertain, only one man there who, like the Unionists of East Tennessee, had offered active resistance to the rebel authorities. This was Mr. Crawford, of Jones county; he was elected by the poor people of that region, his old followers, as their acknowledged leader, and his may justly be looked upon as an exceptional case. How he looked upon his situation appears from a speech he delivered in that convention, and especially from the amended version of it placed into my hands by a trustworthy gentleman of my acquaintance who had listened to its delivery. But several instances have come to my knowledge, in which Union men of a sterner cast than those described as acquiescing compromisers were defeated in the election, and, aside from Mr. Crawford's case, none in which they succeeded.

The impulses by which voters were actuated in making their choice appeared more clearly in the canvass for State officers, Congressmen, and members of the legislature, when the antecedents and political views of candidates were more closely scrutinized and a warmer contest took place. The population of those places in the South which have been longest in the possession of our armies is generally the most accommodating as to the new order of things; at least the better elements are there in greater relative strength. A Union meeting at Vicksburg may, therefore, be produced as a not unfavorable exponent of Mississippi Unionism. Among the documents attached to this report you will find three speeches delivered before such a meeting—one by Mr. Richard Cooper, candidate for the attorney-generalship of the State; one by Hon. Sylvanus Evans, candidate for Congress; and one by Colonel Partridge, candidate for a seat in the legislature. The speakers represented themselves as Union men, and I have learned nothing about them that would cast suspicion upon the sincerity of their declarations as far as they go; but all there qualified their Unionism by the same important statement.

Mr. Cooper: In 1850 I opposed an attempt to break up the United States government, and in 1860 I did the same. I travelled in Alabama and Mississippi to oppose the measure. (Applause.) But after the State did secede, I did all in my power to sustain it. (Heavy applause.)

Mr. Evans: In 1861 I was a delegate from Lauderdale county to the State convention, then and in 1860 being opposed to the act of secession, and fought against it with all my powers. But when the State had seceded, I went with it as a matter of duty, and I sustained it until the day of the surrender with all my body and heart and mind. (Great applause.)

Colonel Partridge: He was a Union man before the war and a soldier in the war. He had performed his duty as a private and an officer on the battlefield and on the staff.

These speeches, fair specimens of a majority of those delivered by the better class of politicians before the better class of audiences, furnish an indication of the kind of Unionism which, by candidates, is considered palatable to the people of that region. And candidates are generally good judges as to what style of argument is best calculated to captivate the popular mind. In some isolated localities there may be some chance of success for a candidate who, proclaiming himself a Union man, is not able to add, “but after the State had seceded I did all in my power to sustain it,” although such localities are certainly scarce and difficult to find.

It is not so difficult to find places in which a different style of argument is considered most serviceable. Your attention is respectfully invited to a card addressed to the voters of the sixth judicial district of Mississippi by Mr. John T. Hogan, candidate for the office of district attorney. When, at the commencement of the war, Kentucky resolved to remain in the Union, Mr. Hogan, so he informs the constituency, was a citizen of Kentucky; because Kentucky refused to leave the Union Mr. Hogan left Kentucky. He went to Mississippi, joined the rebel army, and was wounded in battle; and because he left his native State to fight against the Union, “therefore,” Mr. Hogan tells his Mississippian constituency, “he cannot feel that he is an alien in their midst, and, with something of confidence in the result, appeals to them for their suffrages.” Such is Mr. Hogan's estimate of the loyalty of the sixth judicial district of Mississippi.

A candidate relying for success upon nothing but his identification with the rebellion might be considered as an extreme case. But, in fact, Mr. Hogan only speaks out bluntly what other candidates wrap up in lengthy qualifications. It is needless to accumulate specimens. I am sure no Mississippian will deny that if a candidate there based his claims upon the ground of his having left Mississippi when the State seceded, in order to fight for the Union, his pretensions would be treated as a piece of impudence. I feel warranted in saying that Unionism absolutely untinctured by any connection with, or at least acquiescence in the rebellion, would have but little chance of political preferment anywhere, unless favored by very extraordinary circumstances; while men who, during the war, followed the example of the Union leaders of East Tennessee, would in most places have to depend upon the protection of our military forces for safety, while nowhere within the range of my observation would they, under present circumstances, be considered eligible to any position of trust, honor, or influence, unless it be in the county of Jones, as long as the bayonets of the United States are still there.

The tendency of which in the preceding remarks I have endeavored to indicate the character and direction, appeared to prevail in all the States that came under my observation with equal force, some isolated localities excepted. None of the provisional governments adopted the policy followed by the late “military government” of Tennessee: to select in every locality the most reliable and most capable Union men for the purpose of placing into their hands the positions of official influence. Those who had held the local offices before and during the rebellion were generally reappointed, and hardly any discrimination made. If such wholesale reappointments were the only thing that could be done in a hurry, it may be asked whether the hurry was necessary. Even in Louisiana where a State government was organized during the war and under the influence of the sentiments which radiated from the camps and headquarters of the Union army, and where there is a Union element far stronger than in any other of the States I visited, even there, men who have aided the rebellion by word and act are crowding into places of trust and power. Governor Wells, when he was elected lieutenant-governor of Louisiana, was looked upon and voted for as a thorough Unionist; but hardly had he the patronage of the State government in his hands, when he was carried along by the seemingly irresistible current. Even members of the “Conservative Union party,” and friends of Governor Wells, expressed their dissatisfaction with the remarkable “liberality” with which he placed men into official positions who had hardly returned from the rebel army, or some other place where they had taken refuge to avoid living under the flag of the United States. The apprehension was natural that such elements would soon obtain a power and influence which the governor would not be able to control even if he wished. Taking these things into consideration, the re-nomination of Governor Wells for the governor ship can certainly not be called a victory of that Union sentiment to which he owed his first election.

While I was in New Orleans an occurrence took place which may be quoted as an illustration of the sweep of what I might call the reactionary movement. When General Shepley was military governor of Louisiana, under General Butler's régime, a school board was appointed for the purpose of reorganizing the public schools of New Orleans. A corps of loyal teachers was appointed, and the education of the children was conducted with a view to make them loyal citizens. The National airs were frequently sung in the schools, and other exercises introduced, calculated to impregnate the youthful minds of the pupils with affection for their country. It appears that this feature of the public schools was distasteful to that class of people with whose feelings they did not accord.

Mr. H. Kennedy, acting mayor of New Orleans, early in September last, disbanded the school board which so far had conducted the educational affairs of the city, and appointed a new one. The composition of this new school board was such as to induce General Canby to suspend its functions until he could inquire into the loyalty of its members. The report of the officer intrusted with the investigation shows that a large majority of the members had sympathized with the rebellion, and aided the Confederate Government in a variety of ways. But as no evidence was elicited proving the members legally incapable of holding office, General Canby considered himself obliged to remove the prohibition, and the new school board entered upon its functions.

The real substance, stripped of all circumlocutions, of an editorial taken from the New Orleans Times, of September 12, evidently written in defense of the measure, can be expressed in a few words: “The schools of New Orleans have been institutions so intensely and demonstratively loyal as to become unpopular with those of our fellow-citizens to whom such demonstrations are distasteful, and they must be brought back under ‘popular control’ so as to make them cease to be obnoxious in that particular.” It was generally understood, when the new school board was appointed, that a Mr. Rodgers was to be made superintendent of public schools. In Major Lowell's report to General Canby this Mr. Rodgers figures as follows:

Mr. Rodgers, the candidate for the position of superintendent of public schools, held the same office at the commencement of the war. His conduct at that time was imbued with extreme bitterness and hate towards the United States, and, in his capacity as superintendent, he introduced the “Bonnie Blue Flag” and other rebel songs into the exercises of the schools under his charge. In histories and other books where the initials “U. S.” occurred he had the same erased, and “C. S.” substituted. He used all means in his power to imbue the minds of the youth intrusted to his care with hate and malignity towards the Union. He has just returned from the late Confederacy, where he has resided during the war. At the time he left the city to join the army he left his property in the care of one Finley, who claims to be a British subject but held the position of sergeant in a Confederate regiment of militia.

No sooner was the above mentioned prohibition by General Canby removed than Mr. Rodgers was actually appointed, and he now presides over the educational interests of New Orleans. There is something like system in such proceedings.

Similar occurrences, such as the filling with rebel officers of professorships in the Military Institute of Louisiana, where formerly General Sherman held a position, have already become known to the country, and it is unnecessary to go into further details. Many cases of this description are not of much importance, in themselves, but serve as significant indications of the tendency of things in the South.

It is easily understood that, under such circumstances, Unionists of the consistent, uncompromising kind do not play an enviable part. It is a sad fact that the victory of the National arms has, to a great extent, resulted in something like a political ostracism of the most loyal men in that part of the country. More than once have I heard some of them complain of having been taunted by late rebels with their ill fortune; and it is, indeed, melancholy for them to reflect that, if they had yielded to the current of public sentiment in the rebel States instead of resisting it, their present situation and prospects would be much more pleasing. Nor is such a reflection calculated to encourage them, or others, to follow a similar course if similar emergencies should again arise.


While the generosity and toleration shown by the Government to the people lately in rebellion have not met with a corresponding generosity shown by those people to the Government's friends, it has brought forth some results which, if properly developed, will become of value. It has facilitated the re-establishment of the forms of civil government, and led many of those who had been active in the rebellion to take part in the act of bringing back the States to their Constitutional relations; and if nothing else were necessary than the mere putting in operation of the mere machinery of government in point of form, and not also the acceptance of the results of the war and their development in point of spirit, these results, although as yet incomplete, might be called a satisfactory advance in the right direction. There is, at present, no danger of another insurrection against the authority of the United States on a large scale, and the people are willing to reconstruct their State governments, and to send their Senators and Representatives to Congress.

But as to the moral value of these results, we must not indulge in any delusions. There are two principal points to which I beg to call your attention. In the first place, the rapid return to power and influence of so many of those who but recently were engaged in a bitter war against the Union, has had one effect which was certainly not originally contemplated by the Government. Treason does, under existing circumstances, not appear odious in the South. The people are not impressed with any sense of its criminality. And, secondly, there is, as yet among the Southern people an utter absence of national feeling. I made it a business, while in the South, to watch the symptoms of “returning loyalty” as they appeared not only in private conversation, but in the public press and in the speeches delivered and the resolutions passed at Union meetings. Hardly ever was there an expression of hearty attachment to the great republic, or an appeal to the impulses of patriotism; but whenever submission to the National authority was declared and advocated, it was almost uniformly placed upon two principal grounds: That, under present circumstances, the Southern people could “do no better”; and then that submission was the only means by which they could rid themselves of the Federal soldiers and obtain once more control of their own affairs. Some of the speakers may have been inspired by higher motives, but upon these two arguments they had principally to rely whenever they wanted to make an impression upon the popular mind. If any exception is to be made to this rule it is Louisiana, in whose metropolis a different spirit was cultivated for some time; but even there, the return in mass of those who followed the fortunes of the Confederate flag during the war does not appear to have a favorable influence upon the growth of that sentiment. While admitting that, at present, we have perhaps no right to expect anything better than this submission—loyalty which springs from necessity and calculation—I do not consider it safe for the Government to base expectations upon it, which the manner in which it manifests itself does not justify.

The reorganization of civil government is relieving the military, to a great extent, of its police duties and judicial functions; but at the time I left the South it was still very far from showing a satisfactory efficiency in the maintenance of order and security. In many districts robbing and plundering were going on with perfect impunity; the roads were infested by bands of highwaymen; numerous assaults occurred, and several stage lines were considered unsafe. The statements of Major-General Woods, Brigadier-General Kilby Smith and Colonel Gilchrist give a terrible picture of the state of things in the localities they refer to. It is stated that civil officers are either unwilling or unable to enforce the laws; that one man does not dare to testify against another for fear of being murdered, and that the better elements of society are kept down by lawless characters under a system of terrorism. From my own observation I know that these things are not confined to the districts mentioned in the documents above referred to. Both the governors of Alabama and Mississippi complained of it in official proclamations. Cotton, horse and cattle stealing was going on in all the States I visited on an extensive scale. Such a state of demoralization would call for extraordinary measures in any country, and it is difficult to conceive how, in the face of the inefficiency of the civil authorities, the removal of the troops can be thought of.

In speaking above of the improbability of an insurrectionary movement on a large scale, I did not mean to say that I considered resistance in detail to the execution of the laws of Congress and the measures of the Government impossible. Of all subjects connected with the negro question I shall speak in another part of this report. But there is another matter claiming the attention and foresight of the Government. It is well known that the levying of taxes for the payment of the interest on our National debt is, and will continue to be, very unpopular in the South. It is true, no striking demonstrations have as yet been made of any decided unwillingness on the part of the people to contribute to the discharge of our National obligations. But most of the conversations I had with Southerners upon this subject led me to apprehend that they, politicians and people, are rather inclined to ask money of the Government as compensation for their emancipated slaves, for the rebuilding of the levees on the Mississippi, and various kinds of damage done by our armies for military purposes, than, as the current expression is, to “help paying the expenses of the whipping they have received.” In fact, there are abundant indications in newspaper articles, public speeches, and electioneering documents of candidates, which render it eminently probable that on the claim of compensation for their emancipated slaves the Southern States, as soon as readmitted to representation in Congress, will be almost a unit. In the Mississippi convention the idea was broached by Mr. Potter, in an elaborate speech, to have the late slave States relieved from taxation “for years to come,” in consideration of “debt due them” for the emancipated slaves; and this plea I have frequently heard advocated in private conversations. I need not go into details as to the efforts made in some of the Southern States in favor of the assumption by those States of their debts contracted during the rebellion. It may be assumed with certainty that those who want to have the Southern people, poor as they are, taxed for the payment of rebel debts, do not mean to have them taxed for the purpose of meeting our National obligations. But whatever devices may be resorted to, present indications justify the apprehension that the enforcement of our revenue laws will meet with a refractory spirit, and may require sterner measures than the mere sending of revenue officers into that part of the country.


The principal cause of that want of national spirit which has existed in the South so long, and at last gave birth to the rebellion, was, that the Southern people cherished, cultivated, idolized their peculiar interests and institutions in preference to those which they had in common with the rest of the American people. Hence the importance of the negro question as an integral part of the question of union in general, and the question of reconstruction in particular.

When the war came to a close, the labor system of the South was already much disturbed. During the progress of military operations large numbers of slaves had left their masters and followed the columns of our armies; others had taken refuge in our camps; many thousands had enlisted in the service of the National Government. Extensive settlements of negroes had been formed along the seaboard and the banks of the Mississippi, under the supervision of army officers and treasury agents, and the Government was feeding the colored refugees, who could not be advantageously employed, in the so-called contraband camps. Many slaves had also been removed by their masters, as our armies penetrated the country, either to Texas or to the interior of Georgia and Alabama. Thus a considerable portion of the laboring force had been withdrawn from its former employments. But a majority of the slaves remained on the plantations to which they belonged, especially in those parts of the country which were not touched by the war, and where, consequently, the emancipation proclamation was not enforced by the military power. Although not ignorant of the stake they had in the result of the contest, the patient bondmen waited quietly for the development of things. But as soon as the struggle was finally decided, and our forces were scattered about in detachments to occupy the country, the so far unmoved masses began to stir. The report went among them that their liberation was no longer a mere contingency, but a fixed fact. Large numbers of colored people left the plantations; many flocked to our military posts and camps to obtain the certainty of their freedom, and others walked away merely for the purpose of leaving the places on which they had been held in slavery, and because they could now go with impunity. Still others, and their number was by no means inconsiderable, remained with their former masters and continued their work on the field, but under new and as yet unsettled conditions, and under the agitating influence of a feeling of restlessness. In some localities, however, where our troops had not yet penetrated and where no military post was within reach, planters endeavored and partially succeeded in maintaining between themselves and the negroes the relation of master and slave, partly by concealing from them the great changes that had taken place, and partly by terrorizing them into submission to their behests. But aside from these exceptions, the country found itself thrown into that confusion which is naturally inseparable from a change so great and so sudden. The white people were afraid of the negroes, and the negroes did not trust the white people; the military power of the National Government stood there, and was looked up to, as the protector of both.

Upon this power devolved the task to bring order into that chaos. But the order to be introduced was a new order, of which neither the late masters nor the late slaves had an adequate conception. All the elements of society being afloat, the difficulties were immense. The military officers and agents of the Freedmen's Bureau, to whom the negroes applied for advice and guidance, either procured them such employment as could be found, or persuaded them to return to their plantations and to continue in the cultivation of the crops, promising them that their liberty, rights, and interests should be protected. Upon the planters they urged the necessity of making fair and equitable contracts with the freedmen, admonishing them to treat their laborers as free men ought to be treated. These efforts met with such success as the difficulties surrounding the problem permitted to expect. Large numbers of negroes went back to the fields, according to the advice they had received, but considerable accumulations still remained in and around the towns and along the seaboard, where there was no adequate amount of profitable employment for them. The making and approving of contracts progressed as rapidly as the small number of officers engaged in that line of duty made it possible, but not rapidly in proportion to the vast amount of work to be accomplished. The business experience of many of the officers was but limited; here and there experiments were tried which had to be given up. In numerous cases contracts were made and then broken, either by the employers or the laborers, and the officers in charge were overwhelmed with complaints from both sides. While many planters wanted to have the laborers who had left them back on their plantations, others drove those that had remained away, and thus increased the number of the unemployed. Moreover, the great change had burst upon the country in the midst of the agricultural labor season when the crops that were in the ground required steady work to make them produce a satisfactory yield, and the interruption of labor, which could not but be very extensive, caused considerable damage. In one word, the efforts made could not prevent or remedy, in so short a time, the serious disorders which are always connected with a period of precipitous transition, and which, although natural, are exceedingly embarrassing to those who have to deal with them.

The solution of the social problem in the South, if left to the free action of the Southern people, will depend upon two things: (1) upon the ideas entertained by the whites, the “ruling class” of the problem, and the manner in which they act upon their ideas; and (2) upon the capacity and conduct of the colored people.


That the result of the free labor experiment made under circumstances so extremely unfavorable should at once be a perfect success, no reasonable person would expect. Nevertheless, a large majority of the Southern men with whom I came into contact announced their opinions with so positive an assurance as to produce the impression that their minds were fully made up. In at least nineteen cases of twenty the reply I received to my inquiry about their views on the new system was uniformly this: “You cannot make the negro work without physical compulsion.” I heard this hundreds of times, heard it wherever I went, heard it in nearly the same words from so many different persons, that at last I came to the conclusion that this is the prevailing sentiment among the Southern people. There are exceptions to this rule but, as far as my information extends, far from enough to affect the rule.

Unfortunately the disorders necessarily growing out of the transition state continually furnished food for argument. I found but few people who were willing to make due allowance for the adverse influence of exceptional circumstances. By a large majority of those I came in contact with, and they mostly belonged to the more intelligent class, every irregularity that occurred was directly charged against the system of free labor. If negroes walked away from the plantations, it was conclusive proof of the incorrigible instability of the negro, and the impracticability of free negro labor. If some individual negroes violated the terms of their contract, it proved unanswerably that no negro had, or ever would have, a just conception of the binding force of a contract, and that this system of free negro labor was bound to be a failure. If some negroes shirked, or did not perform their task with sufficient alacrity, it was produced as irrefutable evidence to show that physical compulsion was actually indispensable to make the negro work. If negroes, idlers or refugees crawling about the towns, applied to the authorities for subsistence, it was quoted as incontestably establishing the point that the negro was too improvident to take care of himself, and must necessarily be consigned to the care of a master. I heard a Georgia planter argue most seriously that one of his negroes had shown himself certainly unfit for freedom because he impudently refused to submit to a whipping. I frequently went into an argument with those putting forth such general assertions, quoting instances in which negro laborers were working faithfully, and to the entire satisfaction of their employers, as the employers themselves had informed me. In a majority of cases the reply was that we Northern people did not understand the negro, but that they (the Southerners) did; that as to the particular instances I quoted I was probably mistaken; that I had not closely investigated the cases, or had been deceived by my informants; that they knew the negro would not work without compulsion, and that nobody could make them believe he would. Arguments like these naturally finished such discussions. It frequently struck me that persons who conversed about every other subject calmly and sensibly would lose their temper as soon as the negro question was touched.


A belief, conviction, or prejudice, or whatever you may call it, so widely spread and apparently so deeply rooted as this, that the negro will not work without physical compulsion, is certainly calculated to have a very serious influence upon the conduct of the people entertaining it. It naturally produced a desire to preserve slavery in its original form as much and as long as possible—and you may, perhaps, remember the admission made by one of the provisional governors, over two months after the close of the war, that the people of his State still indulged in a lingering hope slavery might yet be preserved—or to introduce into the new system that element of physical compulsion which would make the negro work. Efforts were, indeed, made to hold the negro in his old state of subjection, especially in such localities where our military forces had not yet penetrated, or where the country was not garrisoned in detail. Here and there planters succeeded for a limited period to keep their former slaves in ignorance, or at least doubt, about their new rights; but the main agency employed for that purpose was force and intimidation. In many instances negroes who walked away from the plantations, or were found upon the roads, were shot or otherwise severely punished, which was calculated to produce the impression among those remaining with their masters that an attempt to escape from slavery would result in certain destruction. A large proportion of the many acts of violence committed is undoubtedly attributable to this motive. For the sake of illustration I will give some instances:

Brigadier-General Fessenden reported to Major-General Gillmore from Winnsboro', South Carolina, July 19th, as follows:

The spirit of the people, especially in those districts not subject to the salutary influence of General Sherman's army, is that of concealed and, in some instances, of open hostility, though there are some who strive with honorable good faith to promote a thorough reconciliation between the Government and their people. A spirit of bitterness and persecution manifests itself towards the negroes. They are shot and abused outside the immediate protection of our forces by men who announce their determination to take the law into their own hands, in defiance of our authority. To protect the negro and punish these still rebellious individuals it will be necessary to have this country pretty thickly settled with soldiers.

I received similar verbal reports from other parts of South Carolina. To show the hopes still indulged in by some, I may mention that one of the sub-district commanders, as he himself informed me, knew planters within the limits of his command who had made contracts with their former slaves avowedly for the object of keeping them together on their plantations, so that they might have them near at hand, and thus more easily reduce them to their former condition, when, after the restoration of the civil power, the “unconstitutional emancipation proclamation” would be set aside.

Cases in which negroes were kept on the plantations, either by ruse or violence, were frequent enough in South Carolina and Georgia to call forth from General Saxton a circular threatening planters who persisted in this practice with loss of their property, and from Major-General Steedman, commander of the Department of Georgia, an order bearing upon the same subject. At Atlanta, Georgia, I had an opportunity to examine some cases of the nature above described. While I was there, 9th and 10th of August, several negroes came into town with bullet and buckshot wounds in their bodies. From their statements, which, however, were only corroborating information previously received, it appeared that the reckless and restless characters of that region had combined to keep the negroes “where they belonged.”[2] Several freedmen were shot in the attempt to escape, others succeeded in eluding the vigilance of their persecutors; large numbers, terrified by what they saw and heard, quietly remained under the restraint imposed upon them, waiting for better opportunities. The commander of the sub-district and post informed me that bands of guerillas were prowling about within a few miles of the city, making it dangerous for soldiers and freedmen to show themselves outside of the immediate reach of the garrison, and that but a few days previous to my arrival a small squad of men he had sent out to serve an order upon a planter, concerning the treatment of freedmen, had been driven back by an armed band of over twenty men, headed by an individual in the uniform of a rebel officer.

As our troops in Georgia were at that time mostly concentrated at a number of central points, and not scattered over the State in small detachments, but little information was obtained of what was going on in the interior of the country. A similar system was followed in Alabama, but enough has become known to indicate the condition of things in localities not immediately under the eye of the military. In that State the efforts made to hold the negro in a state of subjection appear to have been of a particularly atrocious nature. Rumors to that effect which reached me at Montgomery induced me to make inquiries at the post hospital. The records of that institution showed a number of rather startling cases which had occurred immediately after the close of the war, and some of a more recent date; all of which proved that negroes leaving the plantations and found on the roads, were exposed to the savagest treatment. A statement signed by the provost marshal at Selma, Alabama, Major J. P. Houston, says:

There have come to my notice officially twelve cases, in which I am morally certain the trials have not been had yet, that negroes were killed by whites. In a majority of cases the provocation consisted in the negroes trying to come to town or to return to the plantation after having been sent away. The cases above enumerated, I am convinced, are but a small part of those that have actually been perpetrated.

In a report to General Swayne, assistant-commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau in Alabama, communicated to me by the general, Captain Poillon, agent of the bureau at Mobile, says of the condition of things in the southwestern part of the State, July 29th:

There are regular patrols posted on the rivers, who board some of the boats; after the boats leave they hang, shoot or drown the victims they may find on them, and all those found on the roads or coming down the rivers are almost invariably murdered. . . . The bewildered and terrified freedmen know not what to do—to leave is death; to remain is to suffer the increased burden imposed upon them by the cruel taskmaster, whose only interest is their labor, wrung from them by every device an inhuman ingenuity can devise; hence the lash and murder are resorted to to intimidate those whom fear of an awful death alone causes to remain, while patrols, negro dogs, and spies disguised as Yankees, keep constant guard over these unfortunate people.

In a letter addressed to myself, September 9th, Captain Poillon says:

Organized patrols, with negro hounds, keep guard over the thoroughfares; bands of lawless robbers traverse the country, and the unfortunate who attempts to escape, or he who returns for his wife or child, is waylaid or pursued with hounds, and shot or hung.

In Mississippi I received information of a similar character. Lieutenant-Colonel, P. J. Yorke, post commander at Port Gibson, Mississippi, reported to General Davidson, on August 26th, that a “county patrol” had been organized by citizens of his sub-district, which, for reasons given, he had been obliged to disband; one of these reasons in his own language, was:

The company was formed out of what they called picked men, i.e., those only who had been actually engaged in the war, and were known as strong disunionists. The negroes in the sections of country these men controlled were kept in the most abject slavery and treated in every way contrary to the requirements of General Orders No. 129, from the War Department.

As late as September 29th, Captain J. H. Weber, agent of the Freedmen s Bureau, reported to Colonel Thomas, assistant-commissioner of the Bureau in the State of Mississippi, as follows:

In many cases negroes who left their homes during the war, and have been within our military lines, and having provided homes here for their families, going back to get their wives and children, have been driven off and told that they could not have them. In several cases guards have been sent to aid people in getting their families; in many others it has been impracticable, as the distance was too great. In portions of the northern part of this district the colored people are kept in slavery still. The white people tell them that they were free during the war, but the war is now over, and they must go to work again as before. The reports from subcommissioners nearest that locality show that the blacks are in a much worse state than ever before, the able-bodied being kept at work under the lash, and the young and infirm driven off to care for themselves. As to protection from the civil authorities, there is no such thing outside of this city.

The conviction, however, that slavery in the old form cannot be maintained has forced itself upon the minds of many of those who ardently desired its preservation. But while the necessity of a new system was recognized as far as the right of property in the individual negro is concerned, many attempts were made to introduce into that new system the element of physical compulsion, which, as above stated, is so generally considered indispensable. This was done by simply adhering, as to the treatment of the laborers, as much as possible to the traditions of the old system, even where the relations between employers and laborers had been fixed by contract. The practice of corporal punishment was still continued to a great extent, although, perhaps, not in so regular a manner as it was practised in times gone by. It is hardly necessary to quote any documentary evidence on this point; the papers [originally] appended to this report are full of testimony corroborating the statement. The habit is so inveterate with a great many persons as to render, on the least provocation, the impulse to whip a negro almost irresistible. It will continue to be so until the Southern people will have learned, so as never to forget it, that a black man has rights which a white man is bound to respect.

Here I will insert some remarks on the general treatment of the blacks as a class, from the whites as a class. It is not on the plantations and at the hands of the planters themselves that the negroes have to suffer the greatest hardships. Not only the former slaveholders, but the non-slaveholding whites, who, even previous to the war, seemed to be more ardent in their pro-slavery feelings than the planters themselves, are possessed by a singularly bitter and vindictive feeling against the colored race since the negro has ceased to be property. The pecuniary value which the individual negro formerly represented having disappeared, the maiming and killing of colored men seems to be looked upon by many as one of those venial offences which must be forgiven to the outraged feelings of a wronged and robbed people. Besides, the services rendered by the negro to the National cause during the war, which make him an object of special interest to the loyal people, make him an object of particular vindictiveness to those whose hearts were set upon the success of the rebellion. The number of murders and assaults perpetrated upon negroes is very great; we can form only an approximative estimate of what is going on in those parts of the South which are not closely garrisoned, and from which no regular reports are received, by what occurs under the very eyes of our military authorities. As to my personal experience, I will only mention that during my two days sojourn at Atlanta one negro was stabbed with fatal effect on the street, and three were poisoned, one of whom died. While I was at Montgomery one negro was cut across the throat evidently with intent to kill, and another was shot, but both escaped with their lives. Several papers [originally] attached to this report give an account of the number of capital cases that occurred at certain places during a certain period of time. It is a sad fact that the perpetration of those acts is not confined to that class of people which might be called the rabble. Several “gentlemen of standing” have been tried before military commissions for such offences.

These statements are naturally not intended to apply to all the individuals composing the Southern people. There are certainly many planters who, before the rebellion, treated their slaves with kindness, and who now continue to treat them as free laborers in the same manner. There are now undoubtedly many plantations in the South on which the relations between employers and employés are based upon mutual good will. There are certainly many people there who entertain the best wishes for the welfare of the negro race, and who not only never participated in any acts of violence, but who heartily disapprove them. I have no doubt, a large majority can, as to actual participation—not, however, as to the bitter spirit—offer a good plea of not guilty. But however large or small a number of people may be guilty of complicity in such acts of persecution, those who are opposed to them have certainly not shown themselves strong enough to restrain those who perpetrate or favor them. So far, the spirit of persecution has shown itself so strong as to make the protection of the freedman by the military arm of the Government in many localities necessary—in almost all, desirable. It must not be forgotten that in a community a majority of whose members is peaceably disposed, but not willing or not able to enforce peace and order, a comparatively small number of bold and lawless men can determine the character of the whole. The rebellion itself, in some of the Southern States, furnished a striking illustration of this truth.


Some of the planters with whom I had occasion to converse expressed their determination to adopt the course which best accords with the spirit of free labor, to make the negro work by offering him fair inducements, to stimulate his ambition and to extend to him those means of intellectual and moral improvement which are best calculated to make him an intelligent, reliable and efficient free laborer and a good and useful citizen. Those who expressed such ideas were almost invariably professed Union men, and far above the average in point of mental ability and culture. I found a very few instances of original secessionists also manifesting a willingness to give the free-labor experiment a fair trial. I can represent the sentiments of this small class in no better way than by quoting the language used by an Alabama judge in a conversation with me.

I am one of the most thoroughly whipped men in the South [said he]; I am a genuine old secessionist, and I believe now, as I always did, we had the Constitutional right to secede. But the war has settled that matter, and it is all over now. As to this thing of free negro labor, I do not believe in it, but I will give it a fair trial. I have a plantation and am going to make contracts with my hands, and then I want a real Yankee to run the machine for me; not one of your New Yorkers or Pennsylvanians, but the genuine article from Massachusetts or Vermont—one who can not only farm, but sing psalms and pray and teach school—a real abolitionist, who believes in the thing just as I don't believe in it. If he does not succeed, I shall consider it proof conclusive that you are wrong and I am right.

I regret to say that views and intentions so reasonable I found confined to a small minority. Aside from the assumption that the negro will not work without physical compulsion, there appears to be another popular notion prevalent in the South, which stands as no less serious an obstacle in the way of a successful solution of the problem. It is that the negro exists for the special object of raising cotton, rice and sugar for the whites, and that it is illegitimate for him to indulge, like other people, in the pursuit of his own happiness in his own way. Although it is admitted that he has ceased to be the property of a master, it is not admitted that he has a right to become his own master. As Colonel Thomas, assistant-commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau in Mississippi, in a letter addressed to me, very pungently expresses it:

The whites esteem the blacks their property by natural right, and, however much they may admit that the relations of masters and slaves have been destroyed by the war and by the President's emancipation proclamation, they still have an ingrained feeling that the blacks at large belong to the whites at large, and whenever opportunity serves they treat the colored people just as their profit, caprice or passion may dictate.

An ingrained feeling like this is apt to bring forth that sort of class legislation which produces laws to govern one class with no other view than to benefit another. This tendency can be distinctly traced in the various schemes for regulating labor which here and there see the light.

Immediately after the emancipation of the slaves, when the general confusion was most perplexing, the prevalent desire among the whites seemed to be, if they could not retain their negroes as slaves, to get rid of them entirely. Wild speculations were indulged in, how to remove the colored population at once and to import white laborers to fill its place; how to obtain a sufficient supply of coolies, etc., etc. Even at the present moment the removal of the freedmen is strongly advocated by those who have the traditional horror of a free negro, and in some sections, especially where the soil is more adapted to the cultivation of cereals than the raising of the staples, planters appear to be inclined to drive the negroes away, at least from their plantations. I was informed by a prominent South Carolinian in July, that the planters in certain localities in the northwestern part of his State had been on the point of doing so, but better counsel had been made to prevail upon them; and Colonel Robinson, 97th United States Colored Infantry, who had been sent out to several counties in southern Alabama to administer the amnesty oath, reported a general disposition among the planters of that region to “set the colored people, who had cultivated their crops during the summer, adrift as soon as the crops would be secured, and not to permit the negro to remain upon any footing of equality with the white man in that country.” The disposition to drive away all the negroes from the plantations was undoubtedly confined to a few districts; and as far as the scheme of wholesale deportation is concerned, practical men became aware that, if they wanted to have any labor done, it would have been bad policy to move away the laborers they now have before others were there to fill their places. All these devices promising at best only distant relief, and free negro labor being the only thing in immediate prospect, many ingenious heads set about to solve the problem, how to make free labor compulsory by permanent regulations.

Shortly after the close of the war some South Carolina planters tried to solve this problem by introducing into the contracts provisions leaving only a small share of the crops to the freedmen, subject to all sorts of constructive charges, and then binding them to work off the indebtedness they might incur. It being to a great extent in the power of the employer to keep the laborer in debt to him, the employer might thus obtain a permanent hold upon the person of the laborer. It was something like the system of peonage existing in Mexico. When these contracts were submitted to the military authorities for ratification, General Hatch, commanding at Charleston, at once issued an order prohibiting such arrangements. I had an opportunity to examine one of these contracts, and found it drawn up with much care, and evidently with a knowledge of the full bearings of the provisions so inserted.

I had a conversation with Mr. W. King, of Georgia, a gentleman of good political sentiments and undoubtedly benevolent intentions. He recommends a kind of guardianship to be exercised by the employer over the freedman. He is a fair representative, not of the completely unprejudiced, but of the more liberal-minded class of planters, and his sayings show in what direction even those who are not actuated by any spirit of bitterness against the negro seek a way out of their perplexities.


The motives and spirit bringing forth such ideas found a still clearer expression in some attempted municipal regulations. In no State within the range of my observation had, at the time of my visit, so much progress been made in the reorganization of local government as in Louisiana. In most of the parishes, the parish authorities had exercised their functions for some time; in others the organization was less complete. Governor Wells informed me that he had filled the parish offices with men recommended to him by the people of the parishes, and it is fair to assume that in most cases the appointees represented the views and sentiments of the ruling class. Some of the local authorities so appointed furnished us an indication of the principles upon which they thought it best to regulate free labor within their jurisdiction.

Mr. W. B. Stickney, agent of the Freedmen's Bureau at Shreveport, Louisiana, reported to the assistant-commissioner of the bureau in Louisiana as follows:

August 1.—The following is a literal copy of a document brought to this office by a colored man, which is conclusive evidence that there are those who still claim the negro as their property:

“This boy Calvin has permit to hire to whom he pleases, but I shall hold him as my property until set free by Congress. July 7, 1865. (Signed.) E. V. Tully.”

The spirit of the above also made its appearance in another form, in the action of the police board of the parish of Bossier, which was an attempt to revive at once the old slave laws, and to prevent the freedmen from obtaining employment (away) from their former masters. The gist of the enactment alluded to is contained in the paragraph directing the officers on patrol duty “to arrest and take up all idle and vagrant persons running at large without employment and carry them before the proper authorities, to be dealt with as the law directs.” A regulation like this certainly would make it difficult for freedmen to leave their former masters for the purpose of seeking employment elsewhere. The matter was submitted to Brevet Major-General Hawkins, commanding western district of Louisiana, who issued an order prohibiting the parish police forces from arresting freedmen unless for positive offence against the law.

Clearer and more significant was the ordinance passed by the police board of the town of Opelousas, Louisiana. It deserves careful perusal. Among a number of regulations applying exclusively to the negro, and depriving him of all liberty of locomotion, the following striking provisions are found:

Section 3. No negro or freedman shall be permitted to rent or keep a house within the limits of the town under any circumstances, and any one thus offending shall be ejected and compelled to find an employer or leave the town within twenty-four hours. The lessor or furnisher of the house leased or kept as above shall pay a fine of ten dollars for each offence.

Sec. 4. No negro or freedman shall reside within the limits of the town of Opelousas who is not in the regular service of some white person or former owner.

Section 8. No freedman shall sell, barter or exchange any articles of merchandise or traffic within the limits of Opelousas without permission in writing from his employer or the mayor or president of the board.

This ordinance was at first approved by a lieutenant-colonel of the United States forces having local command there, and it is worthy of note that thereupon the infection spread at once, and similar ordinances were entertained by the police boards of the town of Franklin and of the parish of St. Landry. The parish ordinance of St. Landry differs from the town ordinances of Opelousas and Franklin in several points, and wherever there is any difference, it is in the direction of greater severity. It imposes heavier fines and penalties throughout, and provides, in addition, for a system of corporal punishment. It is also ordained

that the aforesaid penalties shall be summarily enforced, and that it shall be the duty of the captain or chief of patrol to see that the aforesaid ordinances are promptly executed. While the town ordinances provide that a negro who does not find an employer shall be compelled to leave the town, the parish or county ordinance knows nothing of letting the negro go, but simply compels him to find an employer. Finally, it is ordained “that it shall be the duty of every citizen to act as a police officer for the detection of offenses and the apprehension of offenders, who shall be immediately handed over to the proper captain or chief of patrol.”

It is true, an “organization of free labor” upon this plan would not be exactly the reëstablishment of slavery in its old form, but as for the practical working of the system with regard to the welfare of the freedman, the difference would only be for the worse. The negro is not only not permitted to be idle, but he is positively prohibited from working or carrying on a business for himself; he is compelled to be in the “regular service” of a white man, and if he has no employer he is compelled to find one. It requires only a simple understanding among the employers, and the negro is just as much bound to his employer “for better and for worse” as he was when slavery existed in the old form. If he should attempt to leave his employer on account of non-payment of wages or bad treatment he is compelled to find another one; and if no other will take him he will be compelled to return to him from whom he wanted to escape. The employers, under such circumstances, are naturally at liberty to arrange the matter of compensation according to their tastes, for the negro will be compelled to be in the regular service of an employer, whether he receives wages or not. The negro may be permitted by his employer “to hire his own time,” for in the spirit and intent of the ordinance his time never properly belongs to him. But even the old system of slavery was more liberal in this respect, for such “permission to hire his own time” “shall never extend over seven days at any one time.” (Section 4.) The sections providing for the “summary” enforcement of the penalties and placing their infliction into the hands of the “chief of patrol”—which, by the way, throws some light upon the objects for which the militia is to be reorganized—place the freedmen under a sort of permanent martial law, while the provision investing every white man with the power and authority of a police officer as against every black man subjects them to the control even of those individuals who in other communities are thought hardly fit to control themselves. On the whole, this piece of legislation is a striking embodiment of the idea that although the former owner has lost his individual right of property in the former slave, “the blacks at large belong to the whites at large.”

Such was the “organization of free labor” ordained by officials appointed by Governor Wells, and these ordinances were passed while both the emancipation proclamation and a provision in the new constitution of Louisiana abolishing slavery in that State forever were recognized as being in full force. It is needless to say that as soon as these proceedings came to the knowledge of the Freedmen's Bureau and the department commander they were promptly overruled. But Governor Wells did not remove the police boards that had thus attempted to revive slavery in a new form.

The opposition to the negro s controlling his own labor, carrying on business independently on his own account—in one word, working for his own benefit—showed itself in a variety of ways. Here and there municipal regulations were gotten up heavily taxing or otherwise impeding those trades and employments in which colored people are most likely to engage. An ordinance passed by the common council of Vicksburg is an illustration. A letter from Colonel Thomas says:

You will see by the city ordinance that a drayman, or hackman, must file a bond of five hundred dollars, in addition to paying for his license. The mayor requires that the bondsmen must be freeholders. The laws of this State do not, and never did, allow a negro to own land or hold property; the white citizens refuse to sign any bonds for the freedmen. The white citizens and authorities say that it is for their interest to drive out all independent negro labor; that the freedmen must hire to white men if they want to do this kind of work.

I found several instances of a similar character in the course of my observations, of which I neglected to procure the documentary evidence.

It may be said that these are mere isolated cases; and so they are. But they are the local outcroppings of a spirit which I found to prevail everywhere. If there is any difference, it is in the degree of its intensity and the impatience or boldness with which it manifests itself. Of the agencies which so far restrained it from venturing more general demonstrations I shall speak in another part of this report.


It would seem that all those who sincerely desire to make the freedman a freeman in the true sense of the word, must also be in favor of so educating him as to make him clearly understand and appreciate the position he is to occupy in life, with all its rights and corresponding duties, and to impart to him all the knowledge necessary for enabling him to become an intelligent cooperator in the general movements of society. As popular education is the true ground upon which the efficiency and the successes of free-labor society grow, no man who rejects the former can be accounted a consistent friend of the latter. It is also evident that the education of the negro, to become general and effective after the full restoration of local government in the South, must be protected and promoted as an integral part of the educational systems of the States.

I made it a special point in most of the conversations I had with Southern men to inquire into their views with regard to this subject. I found, indeed, some gentlemen of thought and liberal ideas who readily acknowledged the necessity of providing for the education of the colored people, and who declared themselves willing to coöperate to that end to the extent of their influence. Some planters thought of establishing schools on their estates, and others would have been glad to see measures taken to that effect by the people of the neighborhoods in which they lived. But whenever I asked the question whether it might be hoped that the legislatures of their States or their county authorities would make provisions for negro education, I never received an affirmative, and only in two or three instances feebly encouraging, answers. At last I was forced to the conclusion that, aside from a small number of honorable exceptions, the popular prejudice is almost as bitterly set against the negro's having the advantage of education as it was when the negro was a slave. There may be an improvement in that respect, but it would prove only how universal the prejudice was in former days. Hundreds of times I heard the old assertion repeated, that “learning will spoil the nigger for work,” and that “negro education will be the ruin of the South.” Another most singular notion still holds a potent sway over the minds of the masses—it is, that the elevation of the blacks will be the degradation of the whites. They do not understand yet that the continual contact with an ignorant and degraded population must necessarily lower the mental and moral tone of the other classes of society. This they might have learned from actual experience, as we in the North have been taught, also by actual experience, that the education of the lower orders is the only reliable basis of the civilization as well as of the prosperity of a people.

The consequence of the prejudice prevailing in the Southern States is that colored schools can be established and carried on with safety only under the protection of our military forces, and that where the latter are withdrawn the former have to go with them. There may be a few localities forming exceptions, but their number is certainly very small. Chaplain Joseph Warren, superintendent of education under the Freedmen's Bureau in Mississippi, after describing the general spirit of opposition to the education of the negroes exhibited in Mississippi and enumerating the reasons assigned for it, says:

In view of these things I have no doubt but that, if our protection be withdrawn, negro education will be hindered in every possible way, including obstructions by fraud and violence. I have not the smallest expectation that, with the State authorities in full power, a Northern citizen would be protected in the exercise of his Constitutional right to teach and preach to the colored people, and shall look for a renewal of the fearful scenes in which Northerners were whipped, tarred and feathered, warned off and murdered, before the war.

In the letter of General Kilby Smith occurs the following statement referring to the condition of things in Mobile, Alabama:

Threats were made to destroy all school-houses in which colored children were taught, and in two instances they were fired. The same threats were made against all churches in which colored people assembled to worship, and one of them burned. Continued threats of assassination were made against the colored preachers, and one of them is now under special guard by order of Major-General Woods.

While I was in Louisiana General Canby received a petition, signed by a number of prominent citizens of New Orleans, praying him “to annul Order No. 38, which authorizes a board of officers to levy a tax on the taxpayers of the parish of Orleans to defray the expense of educating the freedmen.” The reasons given for making this request are as follows:

Most of those who have lost their slaves by the rebellion, and whose lands are in the course of confiscation, being thus deprived of the means of raising corn for their hungry children, have not anything left wherewith to pay such a tax. The order in question, they consider, violates that sacred principle which requires taxation to be equal throughout the United States. If the freedmen are to be educated at public expense, let it be done from the treasury of the United States.

Many of the signers of this petition, who wanted to be relieved of the school tax on the ground of poverty, were counted among the wealthy men of New Orleans, and they forgot to state that the free colored element of Louisiana, which represents a capital of at least thirteen millions and pays a not inconsiderable proportion of the taxes, contributes at the same time for the support of the schools for whites, from which their children are excluded.

While travelling in the South I found in the newspapers an account of an interview between General Howard and some gentlemen from Mississippi, in which a Dr. Murdoch, from Columbus, Mississippi, figured somewhat conspicuously. He was reported to have described public sentiment in Mississippi as quite loyal, and especially in favor of giving the colored race a good education. I inquired at the Freedmen's Bureau whether anything was known there of a feeling so favorable to negro education among Dr. Murdoch's neighbors. It appears that the feeling of Dr. Murdoch's neighbors at Columbus was not only not in favor of negro education, but that, according to the report of the agent of the Freedmen's Bureau at that place, “the citizens of the town are so prejudiced against the negroes that they are opposed to all efforts being made for their education or elevation”; that “the people will not give rooms or allow the children of their hired freedmen to attend the schools,” and that the citizens of the place have written a letter to the officers, saying, “that they would respectfully ask that no freedmen's schools be established under the auspices of the bureau, as it would tend to disturb the present labor system, and take from the fields labor that is so necessary to restore the wealth of the State.” It seems Dr. Murdoch's neighbors do not form an exception to the general rule. In this connection I may add that several instances have come to my notice of statements about the condition of things in the late rebel States, being set afloat by Southerners visiting the North, which would not bear close investigation. The reason, probably, is that gentlemen are attributing their own good intentions to the rest of their people with too great a liberality.

Having thus given my experience and impressions with regard to the spirit actuating the Southern people concerning the freedman and the free-labor problem, and before inquiring into their prospective action, I beg leave to submit a few remarks on the conduct of the negro.


The first Southern men with whom I came into contact after my arrival at Charleston designated the general conduct of the emancipated slaves as surprisingly good. Some went even so far as to call it admirable. The connection in which they used these laudatory terms was this: A great many colored people while in slavery had undoubtedly suffered much hardship and submitted to great wrongs, partly inseparably connected with the condition of servitude, and partly aggravated by the individual wilfulness and cruelty of their masters and overseers. They were suddenly set free; and not only that: their masters, but a short time ago almost omnipotent on their domains, found themselves, after their defeat in the war, all at once face to face with their former slaves as a conquered and powerless class. Never was the temptation to indulge in acts of vengeance for wrongs suffered more strongly presented than to the colored people of the South; but no instance of such individual revenge was then on record, nor have I since heard of any case of violence that could be traced to such motives. The transition of the Southern negro from slavery to freedom was untarnished by any deeds of blood, and the apprehension so extensively entertained and so pathetically declaimed upon by many, that the sudden and general emancipation of the slaves would at once result in “all the horrors of St. Domingo,” proved utterly groundless. This was the first impression I received after my arrival in the South, and I received it from the mouths of late slaveholders. Nor do I think the praise was unjustly bestowed. In this respect the emancipated slaves of the South can challenge comparison with any race long held in servitude and suddenly set free. As to the dangers of the future, I shall speak of them in another connection.

But at that point the unqualified praise stopped and the complaints began: the negroes would not work; they left their plantations and went wandering from place to place, stealing by the way; they preferred a life of idleness and vagrancy to that of honest and industrious labor; they either did not show any willingness to enter into contracts, or, if they did, showed a stronger disposition to break them than to keep them; they were becoming insubordinate and insolent to their former owners; they indulged in extravagant ideas about their rights and relied upon the Government to support them without work; in one word, they had no conception of the rights freedom gave, and of the obligations freedom imposed upon them. These complaints I heard repeated with endless variations wherever I went. Nor were they made without some show of reason. I will review them one after another.

Unwillingness to work.—That there are among the negroes a good many constitutionally lazy individuals is certainly true. The propensity to idleness seems to be rather strongly developed in the South generally, without being confined to any particular race. It is also true that the alacrity negroes put into their work depends in a majority of cases upon certain combinations of circumstances. It is asserted that the negroes have a prejudice against working in the cultivation of cotton, rice and sugar. Although this prejudice, probably arising from the fact that the cotton, rice and sugar fields remind the former slave of the worst experiences of his past life, exists to some extent, it has not made the freedmen now on the plantations unwilling to cultivate such crops as the planters may have seen fit to raise. A few cases of refusal may have occurred. But there is another fact of which I have become satisfied in the course of my observations, and which is of great significance: while most of the old slaveholders complain of the laziness and instability of their negro laborers, the Northern men engaged in planting, with whom I have come into contact, almost uniformly speak of their negro laborers with satisfaction, and these Northern men almost exclusively devote themselves to the cultivation of cotton. A good many Southern planters, in view of the fact, expressed to me their intention to engage Northern men for the management of their plantations. This circumstance would seem to prove that under certain conditions the negro may be expected to work well. There are two reasons by which it may be explained: first, that a Northern man knows from actual experience what free labor is, and understands its management, which the late slaveholder, still clinging to the traditions of the old system, does not; and then, that the negro has more confidence in a Northern man than in his former master. When a Northern man discovers among his laboring force an individual that does not do his duty, his first impulse is to discharge him, and he acts accordingly. When a late slaveholder discovers such an individual among his laborers, his first impulse is to whip him, and he is very apt to suit the act to the impulse. Ill treatment is a doubtful encouragement for free laborers, and it proves more apt to drive those that are still at work away than to make the plantation attractive to others. But if the reasons above stated are sufficient to explain why the negroes work better for Northern than for Southern men, it will follow that a general improvement will take place as soon as the latter fulfil the same conditions—that is, as soon as Southern men learn what free labor is and how to manage it in accordance with its principles, and as soon as they succeed in gaining the confidence of the colored people.

In the reports of officers of the Freedmen's Bureau you will find frequent repetitions of the statement that the negro generally works well where he is decently treated and well compensated. Nor do the officers of the Freedmen's Bureau alone think and say so. Southern men, who were experimenting in the right direction, expressed to me their opinion to the same effect. Some of them told me that the negroes on their plantations worked “as well as ever,” or even “far better than they had expected.” It is true the number of planters who made that admission was small, but it nearly corresponded with the number of those who, according to their own statements, gave free negro labor a perfectly fair trial, while all those who prefaced everything they said with the assertion that “the negro will not work without physical compulsion,” could find no end to their complaints. There are undoubtedly negroes who will not do well under the best circumstances, just as there are others who will do well under the worst.

In another part of this report I have already set forth the exceptional difficulties weighing upon the free-labor experiment in the South during this period of transition. The sudden leap from slavery to freedom is an exciting event in a man's life, and somewhat calculated to disturb his equanimity for a moment. People are on such occasions disposed to indulge themselves a little. It would have shown much more wisdom in the negroes if all of them had quietly gone to work again the next day. But it is not reasonable to expect the negroes to possess more wisdom than other races would exhibit under the same circumstances. Besides, the willingness to work depends, with whites as well as blacks, somewhat upon the nature of the inducements held out, and the unsatisfactory regulation of the matter of wages has certainly something to do with the instability of negro labor which is complained of. Northern men engaged in planting almost uniformly pay wages in money, while Southern planters, almost uniformly, have contracted with their laborers for a share in the crop. In many instances the shares are allotted between employers and laborers with great fairness; but in others the share promised to the laborers is so small as to leave them in the end very little or nothing. Moreover, the crops in the South looked generally very unpromising from the beginning, which naturally reduced the value falling to the lot of the laborer. I have heard a good many freedmen complain that, taking all things into consideration, they really did not know what they were working for except food, which in many instances was bad and scanty; and such complaints were frequently well founded. In a large number of cases the planters were not to blame for this; they had no available pecuniary means, and in many localities found it difficult to procure provisions. But these unfavorable circumstances, combined with the want of confidence in Southern men, were well calculated to have an influence upon the conduct of the negro as a laborer.

I have heard it said that money is no inducement which will make a negro work. It is certain that many of them, immediately after emancipation, had but a crude conception of the value of money and the uses it can be put to. It may, however, be stated as the general rule, that whenever they are at liberty to choose between wages in money and a share in the crop, they will choose the former and work better. Many cases of negroes engaged in little industrial pursuits came to my notice, in which they showed considerable aptness not only for gaining money, but also for saving and judiciously employing it. Some were even surprisingly successful. I visited some of the plantations divided up among freedmen and cultivated by them independently without the supervision of white men. In some instances I found very good crops and indications of general thrift and good management; in others the corn and cotton crops were in a neglected and unpromising state. The excuse made was in most cases that they had obtained possession of the ground too late in the season, and that, until the regular crops could be harvested, they were obliged to devote much of their time to the raising and sale of vegetables, water melons etc., for the purpose of making a living in the meantime.

On the whole I feel warranted in making the following statement: Many freedmen—not single individuals, but whole “plantation gangs”—are working well; others do not. The difference in their efficiency coincides in a great measure with a certain difference in the conditions under which they live. The conclusion lies near, that if the conditions under which they work well become general, their efficiency as free laborers will become general also, aside from individual exceptions. Certain it is, that by far the larger portion of the work done in the South is done by freedmen.

Vagrancy.—Large numbers of colored people left the plantations as soon as they became aware that they could do so with impunity. That they could so leave their former masters was for them the first test of the reality of their freedom. A great many flocked to the military posts and towns to obtain from the “Yankees” reliable information as to their new rights. Others were afraid lest by staying on the plantations where they had been held as slaves they might again endanger their freedom. Still others went to the cities, thinking that there the sweets of liberty could best be enjoyed. In some places they crowded together in large numbers, causing serious inconvenience. But a great many, probably a very large majority, remained on the plantations and made contracts with their former masters. The military authorities, and especially the agents of the Freedmen's Bureau, succeeded by continued exertions in returning most of those who were adrift to the plantations, or in finding other employment for them. After the first rush was over the number of vagrants grew visibly less. It may be said that where the Freedmen's Bureau is best organized there is least vagrancy among the negroes. Here and there they show considerable restlessness, partly owing to local, partly to general causes. Among the former, bad treatment is probably the most prominent; among the latter, a feeling of distrust, uneasiness, anxiety about their future, which arises from their present unsettled condition. It is true, some are going from place to place because they are fond of it. The statistics of the Freedmen's Bureau show that the whole number of colored people supported by the Government since the close of the war was remarkably small and continually decreasing. This seems to show that the Southern negro, when thrown out of his accustomed employment, possesses considerable ability to support himself. It is possible, however, that in consequence of short crops, the destitution of the country and other disturbing influences, there may be more restlessness among the negroes next winter than there is at present. Where the results of this year's labor were very unsatisfactory, there will be a floating about of the population when the contracts of this year expire. It is to be expected, however, that the Freedmen's Bureau will be able to remedy evils of that kind. Other emancipatory movements, for instance the abolition of serfdom in Russia, have resulted in little or no vagrancy; but it must not be forgotten that the emancipated serfs were speedily endowed with the ownership of land, which gave them a permanent moral and material interest in the soil upon which they lived. A similar measure would do more to stop negro vagrancy in the South than the severest penal laws. In every country the number of vagrants stands in proportion to the number of people who have no permanent local interests, unless augmented by exceptional causes, such as war or famine.

Contracts.—Freedmen frequently show great disinclination to make contracts with their former masters. They are afraid lest in signing a paper they sign away their freedom, and in this respect they are distrustful of most Southern men. It generally requires personal assurances from a United States officer to make them feel safe. But the advice of such an officer is almost uniformly followed. In this manner an immense number of contracts has been made, and it is daily increasing. A Northern man has no difficulty in making contracts, and but little in enforcing them. The complaints of Southern men that the contracts are not well observed by the freedmen are in many instances well founded. The same can be said of the complaints of freedmen with regard to the planters. The negro, fresh from slavery, has naturally but a crude idea of the binding force of a written agreement, and it is galling to many of the planters to stand in such relations as a contract establishes to those who formerly were their slaves. I was, however, informed by officers of the Freedmen's Bureau, and by planters also, that things were improving in that respect. Contracts will be more readily entered into and more strictly kept as soon as the intimate relations between labor and compensation are better understood and appreciated on both sides.

Insolence and insubordination.—The new spirit which emancipation has awakened in the colored people has undoubtedly developed itself in some individuals, especially young men, to an offensive degree. Hence cases of insolence on the part of freedmen occur. But such occurrences are comparatively rare. On the whole, the conduct of the colored people is far more submissive than anybody had a right to expect. The acts of violence perpetrated by freedmen against white persons do not stand in any proportion to those committed by whites against negroes. Every such occurrence is sure to be noticed in the Southern papers, and we have heard of but very few.

When Southern people speak of the insolence of the negro, they generally mean something which persons who never lived under the system of slavery are not apt to appreciate. It is but very rarely what would be called insolence among equals. But, as an old planter said to me, “our people cannot realize yet that the negro is free.” A negro is called insolent whenever his conduct varies in any manner from what a Southern man was accustomed to when slavery existed.

The complaints made about the insubordination of the negro laborers on plantations have to be taken with the same allowance. There have been, no doubt, many cases in which freedmen showed a refractory spirit, where orders were disobeyed, and instructions disregarded. There have been some instances of positive resistance. But when inquiring into particulars, I found not unfrequently that the employer had adhered too strictly to his old way of doing things. I hardly heard any such complaints from Northern men. I have heard planters complain very earnestly of the insubordinate spirit of their colored laborers because they remonstrated against the practice of corporal punishment. This was looked upon as a symptom of an impending insurrection. A great many things are regarded in the old slave States as acts of insubordination on the part of the laborer which, in the free States, would be taken as perfectly natural and harmless. The fact is, a good many planters are at present more nervously jealous of their authority than before, while the freedmen are not always inclined to forget that they are free men.

Extravagant notions.—In many localities I found an impression prevailing among the negroes that some great change was going to take place about Christmas. Feeling uneasy in their present condition, they indulged in the expectation that Government intended to make some further provision for their future welfare, especially by ordering distributions of land among them. To counteract this expectation, which had a tendency to interfere seriously with the making of contracts for the next season, it was considered necessary to send military officers, and especially agents of the Freedmen's Bureau, among them, who, by administering sound advice and spreading correct information, would induce them to suit their conduct to their actual circumstances. While in the South I heard of many instances in which this measure had the desired effect, and it is to be expected that the effect was uniformly good wherever judicious officers were so employed.

Impressions like the above are very apt to spread among the negroes, for the reason that they ardently desire to become freeholders. In the independent possession of landed property they see the consummation of their deliverance. However mistaken their notions may be in other respects, it must be admitted that this instinct is correct.

Relations between the two races.—There are whites in the South who profess great kindness for the negro. Many of them are, no doubt, sincere in what they say. But as to the feelings of the masses, it is hardly necessary to add anything to what I have already stated. I have heard it asserted that the negroes also cherish feelings of hostility to the whites. Taking this as a general assertion, I am satisfied that it is incorrect. The negroes do not trust their late masters because they do not feel their freedom sufficiently assured. Many of them may harbor feelings of resentment towards those who now ill-treat and persecute them, but as they practiced no revenge after their emancipation for wrongs suffered while in slavery, so their present resentments are likely to cease as soon as the persecution ceases. If the persecution and the denial of their rights as freemen continue, the resentments growing out of them will continue and spread. The negro is constitutionally docile and eminently good-natured. Instances of the most touching attachment of freedmen to their old masters and mistresses have come to my notice. To a white man whom they believe to be sincerely their friend they cling with greater affection than even to one of their own race. By some Northern speculators their confidence has been sadly abused. Nevertheless, the trust they place in persons coming from the North, or in any way connected with the Government, is most childlike and unbounded. There may be individual exceptions, but I am sure they are not numerous. Those who enjoy their confidence enjoy also their affection. Centuries of slavery have not been sufficient to make them the enemies of the white race. If in the future a feeling of mutual hostility should develop itself between the races, it will probably not be the fault of those who have shown such an inexhaustible patience under the most adverse and trying circumstances.

In some places that I visited I found apprehensions entertained by whites of impending negro insurrections. Whenever our military commanders found it expedient to subject the statements made to that effect by whites to close investigation, they uniformly found them unwarranted by fact. In many instances there were just reasons for supposing that such apprehensions were industriously spread for the purpose of serving as an excuse for further persecution. In the papers [originally] annexed to this report you will find testimony supporting this statement. The negro is easily led; he is always inclined to follow the advice of those he trusts. I do, therefore, not consider a negro insurrection probable as long as the freedmen are under the direct protection of the Government and may hope to see their grievances redressed without resorting to the extreme means of self-protection. There would, perhaps, be danger of insurrections if the Government should withdraw its protection from them, and if, against an attempt on the part of the whites to reduce them to something like their former condition, they should find themselves thrown back upon their own resources. Of this contingency I shall speak below.

Education.—That the negroes should have come out of slavery as an ignorant class is not surprising when we consider that it was a penal offence to teach them while they were in slavery; but their eager desire to learn and the alacrity and success with which they avail themselves of every facility offered to them in that respect, has become a matter of notoriety. The statistics of the Freedmen's Bureau show to what extent such facilities have been offered and what results have been attained. As far as my information goes, these results are most encouraging for the future.


I stated above that, in my opinion, the solution of the social problem in the South did not depend upon the capacity and conduct of the negro alone, but in the same measure upon the ideas and feelings entertained and acted upon by the whites. What their ideas and feelings were while under my observation, and how they affected the contact of the two races, I have already set forth. The question arises, what policy will be adopted by the “ruling class” when all restraint imposed upon them by the military power of the National Government is withdrawn, and they are left free to regulate matters according to their own tastes? It would be presumptuous to speak of the future with absolute certainty; but it may safely be assumed that the same causes will always tend to produce the same effects. As long as a majority of the Southern people believe that “the negro will not work without physical compulsion,” and that “the blacks at large belong to the whites at large,” that belief will tend to produce a system of coercion, the enforcement of which will be aided by the hostile feeling against the negro now prevailing among the whites, and by the general spirit of violence which in the South was fostered by the influence slavery exercised upon the popular character. It is, indeed, not probable that a general attempt will be made to restore slavery in its old form, on account of the barriers which such an attempt would find in its way; but there are systems intermediate between slavery as it formerly existed in the South, and free labor as it exists in the North, but more nearly related to the former than to the latter, the introduction of which will be attempted. I have already noticed some movements in that direction, which were made under the very eyes of our military authorities, and of which the Opelousas and St. Landry ordinances were the most significant. Other things of more recent date, such as the new negro code submitted by a committee to the legislature of South Carolina, are before the country. They have all the same tendency, because they all spring from the same cause.

It may be objected that evidence has been given of a contrary spirit by the State conventions which passed ordinances abolishing slavery in their States, and making it obligatory upon the legislatures to enact laws for the protection of the freedmen. While acknowledging the fact, I deem it dangerous to be led by it into any delusions. As to the motives upon which they acted when abolishing slavery, and their understanding of the bearings of such an act, we may safely accept the standard they have set up for themselves. When speaking of popular demonstrations in the South in favor of submission to the Government, I stated that the principal and almost the only argument used was, that they found themselves in a situation in which “they could do no better.” It was the same thing with regard to the abolition of slavery; wherever abolition was publicly advocated, whether in popular meetings or in State conventions, it was on the ground of necessity—not unfrequently with the significant addition that, as soon as they had once more control of their own State affairs, they could settle the labor question to suit them selves, whatever they might have to submit to for the present. Not only did I find this to be the common talk among the people, but the same sentiment was openly avowed by public men in speech and print. Some declarations of that kind, made by men of great prominence, have passed into the newspapers and are undoubtedly known to you. The current sentiment is expressed in the language of a candidate for a seat in the State convention of Mississippi. It is a card addressed to the voters of Wilkinson county, Mississippi, by Gen. W. L. Brandon. The General complains of having been called “an unconditional, immediate emancipationist—an abolitionist.” He indignantly repels the charge and avows himself a good pro-slavery man.

But, fellow-citizens [says he], what I may in common with you have to submit to, is a very different thing. Slavery has been taken from us; the power that has already practically abolished it threatens totally and forever to abolish it. But does it follow that I am in favor of this thing? By no means. My honest conviction is, we must accept the situation as it is, until we can get control once more of our own State affairs. We cannot do otherwise and get our place again in the Union, and occupy a position and exert an influence that will protect us against greater evils which threaten us. I must, as any other man who votes or holds an office, submit for the time to evils I cannot remedy.

General Brandon was elected on that platform, and in the convention voted for the ordinance abolishing slavery, and imposing upon the legislature the duty to pass laws for the protection of the freedmen. And General Brandon is certainly looked upon in Mississippi as an honorable man, and an honest politician. What he will vote for when his people have got once more control of their own State affairs, and his State has regained its position and influence in the Union, it is needless to ask. I repeat, his case is not an isolated one. He has only put in print what, as my observations lead me to believe, a majority of the people say even in more emphatic language; and the deliberations of several legislatures in that part of the country show what it means. I deem it unnecessary to go into further particulars.

It is worthy of note that the convention of Mississippi—and the conventions of other States have followed its example—imposed upon subsequent legislatures the obligation not only to pass laws for the protection of the freedmen in person and property, but also to guard against the dangers arising from sudden emancipation. This language is not without significance; not the blessings of a full development of free labor, but only the dangers of emancipation are spoken of. It will be observed that this clause is so vaguely worded as to authorize the legislatures to place any restriction they may see fit upon the emancipated negro, in perfect consistency with the amended State constitutions; for it rests with them to define what the dangers of sudden emancipation consist in, and what measures may be required to guard against them. It is true, the clause does not authorize the legislatures to reestablish slavery in the old form; but they may pass whatever laws they see fit, stopping short only one step of what may strictly be defined as “slavery.” Peonage of the Mexican pattern, or serfdom of some European pattern, may under that clause be considered admissible; and looking at the legislative attempts already made, especially the labor code now under consideration in the legislature of South Carolina, it appears not only possible, but eminently probable, that the laws which will be passed to guard against the dangers arising from emancipation will be directed against the spirit of emancipation itself.

A more tangible evidence of good intentions would seem to have been furnished by the admission of negro testimony in the courts of justice, which has been conceded in some of the Southern States, at least in point of form. This being a matter of vital interest to the colored man, I inquired into the feelings of people concerning it with particular care. At first I found hardly any Southern man that favored it. Even persons of some liberality of mind saw seemingly insurmountable objections. The appearance of a general order issued by General Swayne in Alabama, which made it optional for the civil authorities either to admit negro testimony in the State courts or to have all cases in which colored people were concerned tried by officers of the bureau or military commissions, seemed to be the signal for a change of position on the part of the politicians. A great many of them, seeing a chance for getting rid of the jurisdiction of the Freedmen's Bureau, dropped their opposition somewhat suddenly and endeavored to make the admission of negro testimony in the State courts palatable to the masses by assuring them that at all events it would rest with the judges and juries to determine in each case before them whether the testimony of negro witnesses was worth anything or not. One of the speeches delivered at Vicksburg, already referred to in another connection, furnishes a specimen of that line of argument.

In my despatch from Montgomery, Alabama, I suggested to you that instructions be issued making it part of the duty of agents of the Freedmen's Bureau to appear in the State courts as the freedmen s next friend, and to forward reports of the proceedings had in the principal cases to the headquarters of the bureau. In this manner it would have been possible to ascertain to what extent the admission of negro testimony secured to the colored man justice in the State courts. As the plan does not seem to have been adopted, we must form our conclusions from evidence less complete. Among the [originally] annexed documents there are several statements concerning its results, made by gentlemen whose business it was to observe. The opinions expressed in these papers are uniformly unfavorable. It is to be hoped that at other places better results have been attained. But I may state that even by prominent Southern men, who were anxious to have the jurisdiction of the State courts extended over the freedmen, the admission was made to me that the testimony of a negro would have but little weight with a Southern jury. I frequently asked the question, “Do you think a jury of your people would be apt to find a planter who has whipped one of his negro laborers guilty of assault and battery?” The answer almost invariably was, “You must make some allowance for the prejudices of our people.”

It is probable that the laws excluding negro testimony from the courts will be repealed in all the States lately in rebellion if it is believed that a satisfactory arrangement of this matter may in any way facilitate the “readmission” of the States, but I apprehend such arrangements will hardly be sufficient to secure to the colored man impartial justice as long as the feelings of the whites are against him and they think that his rights are less entitled to respect than their own. More potent certainly than the laws of a country are the opinions of right and wrong entertained by its people. When the spirit of a law is in conflict with such opinions, there is but little prospect of its being faith fully put in execution, especially where those who hold such opinions are the same who have to administer the laws.

The facility with which Southern politicians acquiesce in the admission of negro testimony is not surprising when we consider that the practical management of the matter will rest with their own people. I found them less accommodating with regard to “Constitutional amendment.” Nine-tenths of the intelligent men with whom I had any conversation upon that subject expressed their willingness to ratify the first section, abolishing slavery throughout the United States, but not the second section, empowering Congress “to enforce the foregoing by appropriate legislation.” I feel warranted in saying that, while I was in the South, this was the prevailing sentiment. Nevertheless, I deem it probable that the “Constitutional amendment” will be ratified by every State legislature, provided the Government insists upon such ratification as a conditio sine qua non of readmission. It is instructive to observe how powerful and immediate an effect the announcement of such a condition by the Government produces in Southern conventions and legislatures. It would be idle to assume, however, that a telegraphic despatch, while it may beat down all parliamentary opposition to this or that measure, will at the same time obliterate the prejudices of the people; nor will it prevent those prejudices from making themselves seriously felt in the future. It will require measures of a more practical character to prevent the dangers which, as everybody that reads the signs of the times must see, are now impending.


I do not mean to say that the Southern people intend to retrace the steps they have made as soon as they have resumed control of their State affairs. Although they regret the abolition of slavery, they certainly do not intend to reëstablish it in its old form. Although they are at heart opposed to the admission of negro testimony in the courts of justice, they probably will not reënact the laws excluding it. But while accepting the “abolition of slavery,” they think that some species of serfdom, peonage or some other form of compulsory labor is not slavery, and may be introduced without a violation of their pledge. Although formally admitting negro testimony, they think that negro testimony will be taken practically for what they themselves consider it “worth.” What particular shape the reactionary movement will assume it is at present unnecessary to inquire. There are a hundred ways of framing apprenticeship, vagrancy or contract laws, which will serve the purpose. Even the mere reorganization of the militia upon the old footing will go far towards accomplishing the object. To this point I beg leave to invite your special attention.

The people of the Southern States show great anxiety to have their militia reorganized, and in some instances permission has been given. In the case of Mississippi I gave you my reasons for opposing the measure under existing circumstances. They were, first, that county patrols had already been in existence, and had to be disbanded on account of their open hostility to Union people and freedmen. Second, that the governor proposed to arm the people upon the ground that the inhabitants refused to assist the military authorities in the suppression of crime, and that the call was addressed, not to the loyal citizens of the United States, but expressly to the “young men who had so distinguished themselves for gallantry” in the rebel service. And third, because the State was still under martial law, and the existence of organized and armed bodies not under the control of the military commander was inconsistent with that state of things.

But there are other more general points of view from which this question must be looked at in order to be appreciated in its most important bearings. I may state, without fear of contradiction, that, in every case where permission was asked for reorganizing the militia, the privilege or duty of serving in that armed organization was intended to be confined to the whites. In the conversations I had with Southern men about this matter, the idea of admitting colored people to the privilege of bearing arms as a part of the militia was uniformly treated by them as a thing not to be thought of. The militia, whenever organized, will thus be composed of men belonging to one class, to the total exclusion of another. This concentration of organized physical power in the hands of one class will necessarily tend, and is undoubtedly designed, to give that class absolute physical control of the other. The specific purpose for which the militia is to be reorganized appears clearly from the uses it was put to whenever a local organization was effected. It is the restoration of the old patrol system which was one of the characteristic features of the régime of slavery. The services which such patrols are expected to perform consist in maintaining what Southern people understand to be the order of society. Indications are given in several of the [originally] accompanying documents. Among others, the St. Landry and Bossier ordinances define with some precision what the authority and duties of the “chief patrols” are to be. The militia, organized for the distinct purpose of enforcing the authority of the whites over the blacks, is in itself practically sufficient to establish and enforce a system of compulsory labor without there being any explicit laws for it; and, being sustained and encouraged by public opinion, the chief and members of “county patrols” are not likely to be over-nice in the construction of their orders. This is not a mere supposition, but an opinion based upon experience already gathered. As I stated above, the reorganization of the county patrol system upon the basis here described will result in the establishment of a sort of permanent martial law over the negro.

It is, therefore, not even necessary that the reaction against that result of the war, which consists in emancipation, should manifest itself by very obnoxious legislative enactments, just as in some of the slave States slavery did not exist by virtue of the State constitution. It may be practically accomplished, and is, in fact, practically accomplished whenever the freedman is not protected by the Federal authorities, without displaying its character and aims upon the statute book.


That in times like ours, and in a country like this, a reaction in favor of compulsory labor cannot be ultimately successful, is as certain as it was that slavery could not last forever. But a movement in that direction can prevent much good that might be accomplished, and produce much evil that might be avoided. Not only will such a movement seriously interfere with all efforts to organize an efficient system of free labor, and thus very materially retard the return of prosperity in the South, but it may bring on a crisis as dangerous and destructive as the war of the rebellion itself.

I stated above that I did not deem a negro insurrection probable as long as the freedmen were assured of the direct protection of the National Government. Whenever they are in trouble, they raise their eyes up to that power, and although they may suffer, yet, as long as that power is visibly present, they continue to hope. But when State authority in the South is fully restored, the Federal forces withdrawn and the Freedmen's Bureau abolished, the colored man will find himself turned over to the mercies of those whom he does not trust. If then an attempt is made to strip him again of those rights which he justly thought he possessed, he will be apt to feel that he can hope for no redress unless he procure it himself. If ever the negro is capable of rising, he will rise then. Men who never struck a blow for the purpose of gaining their liberty, when they were slaves, are apt to strike when, their liberty once gained, they see it again in danger. However great the patience and submissiveness of the colored race may be, it cannot be presumed that its active participation in a war against the very men with whom it again stands face to face, has remained entirely without influence upon its spirit.

What a general insurrection of the negroes would result in, whether it would be easy or difficult to suppress it, whether the struggle would be long or short, what race would suffer most, are questions which will not be asked by those who understand the problem to be, not how to suppress a negro insurrection, but how to prevent it. Certain it is, it would inflict terrible calamities upon both whites and blacks, and present to the world the spectacle of atrocities which ought to be foreign to civilized nations. The negro, in his ordinary state, is docile and good-natured; but when once engaged in a bloody business, it is difficult to say how far his hot impulses would carry him; and as to the Southern whites, the barbarous scenes the country has witnessed since the close of the rebellion indicate the temper with which they would fight the negro as an insurgent. It would be a war of extermination, revolting in its incidents, and with ruin and desolation in its train. There may be different means by which it can be prevented, but there is only one certain of effect: it is, that the provocations be avoided which may call it forth.

But even if it be prevented by other means, it is not the only danger which a reactionary movement will bring upon the South. Nothing renders society more restless than a social revolution but half accomplished. It naturally tends to develop its logical consequences, but is hindered by adverse agencies which work in another direction; nor can it return to the point from which it started. There are, then, continual vibrations and fluctuations between two opposites which keep society in the nervous uneasiness and excitement growing from the lingering strife between the antagonistic tendencies. All classes of society are intensely dissatisfied with things as they are. General explosions may be prevented, but they are always imminent. This state of uncertainty impedes all successful working of the social forces; people, instead of devoting themselves with confidence and steadiness to solid pursuits, are apt to live from hand to mouth, or to indulge in fitful experiments; capital ventures out but with great timidity; the lawless elements of the community take advantage of the general confusion and dissatisfaction, and society drifts into anarchy. There is probably at the present moment no country in the civilized world which contains such an accumulation of anarchical elements as the South. The strife of the antagonistic tendencies here described is aggravated by the passions inflamed and the general impoverishment brought about by a long and exhaustive war, and the South will have to suffer the evils of anarchical disorder until means are found to effect a final settlement of the labor question in accordance with the logic of the great revolution.


In seeking remedies for such disorders, we ought to keep in view, above all, the nature of the problem which is to be solved. As to what is commonly termed “reconstruction,” it is not only the political machinery of the States and their constitutional relations to the General Government, but the whole organism of Southern society that must be reconstructed, or rather constructed anew, so as to bring it in harmony with the rest of American society. The difficulties of this task are not to be considered overcome when the people of the South take the oath of allegiance and elect governors and legislatures and members of Congress and militia captains. That this would be done had become certain as soon as the surrenders of the Southern armies had made further resistance impossible, and nothing in the world was left, even to the most uncompromising rebel, but to submit or to emigrate. It was also natural that they should avail themselves of every chance offered them to resume control of their home affairs and to regain their influence in the Union. But this can hardly be called the first step towards the solution of the true problem, and it is a fair question to ask, whether the hasty gratification of their desire to resume such control would not create new embarrassments.

The true nature of the difficulties of the situation is this: The General Government of the republic has, by proclaiming the emancipation of the slaves, commenced a great social revolution in the South, but has, as yet, not completed it. Only the negative part of it is accomplished. The slaves are emancipated in point of form, but free labor has not yet been put in the place of slavery in point of fact. And now, in the midst of this critical period of transition, the power which originated the revolution is expected to turn over its whole future development to another power which from the beginning was hostile to it and has never yet entered into its spirit, leaving the class in whose favor it was made completely without power to protect itself and to take an influential part in that development. The history of the world will be searched in vain for a proceeding similar to this which did not lead either to a rapid and violent reaction, or to the most serious trouble and civil disorder. It cannot be said that the conduct of the Southern people since the close of the war has exhibited such extraordinary wisdom and self-abnegation as to make them an exception to the rule.

In my despatches from the South I repeatedly expressed the opinion that the people were not yet in a frame of mind to legislate calmly and understandingly upon the subject of free negro labor. And this I reported to be the opinion of some of our most prominent military commanders and other observing men. It is, indeed, difficult to imagine circumstances more unfavorable for the development of a calm and unprejudiced public opinion than those under which the Southern people are at present laboring. The war has not only defeated their political aspirations, but it has broken up their whole social organization. When the rebellion was put down, they found themselves not only conquered in a political and military sense, but economically ruined. The planters, who represented the wealth of the Southern country, are partly laboring under the severest embarrassments, partly reduced to absolute poverty. Many who are stripped of all available means, and have nothing but their land, cross their arms in gloomy despondency, incapable of rising in a manly resolution. Others, who still possess means, are at a loss how to use them, as their old way of doing things is, by the abolition of slavery, rendered impracticable, at least where the military arm of the government has enforced emancipation. Others are still trying to go on in the old way, and that old way is in fact the only one they understand, and in which they have any confidence. Only a minority is trying to adopt the new order of things. A large number of the plantations, probably a considerable majority of the more valuable estates, is under heavy mortgages, and the owners know that, unless they retrieve their fortunes in a comparatively short space of time, their property will pass out of their hands. Almost all are, to some extent embarrassed. The nervous anxiety which such a state of things produces extends also to those classes of society which, although not composed of planters, were always in close business connection with the planting interest, and there was hardly a branch of commerce or industry in the South which was not directly or indirectly so connected. Besides, the Southern soldiers, when returning from the war, did not, like the Northern soldiers, find a prosperous community which merely waited for their arrival to give them remunerative employment. They found, many of them, their homesteads destroyed, their farms devastated, their families in distress; and those that were less unfortunate found, at all events, an impoverished and exhausted community which had but little to offer them. Thus a great many have been thrown upon the world to shift as best they can. They must do something honest or dishonest, and must do it soon, to make a living, and their prospects are, at present, not very bright. Thus that nervous anxiety to hastily repair broken fortunes, and to prevent still greater ruin and distress, embraces nearly all classes, and imprints upon all the movements of the social body a morbid character.

In which direction will these people be most apt to turn their eyes? Leaving the prejudice of race out of the question, from early youth they have been acquainted with but one system of labor, and with that one system they have been in the habit of identifying all their interests. They know of no way to help themselves but the one they are accustomed to. Another system of labor is presented to them, which, however, owing to circumstances which they do not appreciate, appears at first in an improvising light. To try it they consider an experiment which they cannot afford to make while their wants are urgent. They have not reasoned calmly enough to convince themselves that the trial must be made. It is, indeed, not wonderful that, under such circumstances, they should study, not how to introduce and develop free labor, but how to avoid its introduction, and how to return as much and as quickly as possible to something like the old order of things. Nor is it wonderful that such studies should find an expression in their attempts at legislation. But the circumstance that this tendency is natural does not render it less dangerous and objectionable. The practical question presents itself: Is the immediate restoration of the late rebel States to absolute self-control so necessary that it must be done even at the risk of endangering one of the great results of the war, and of bringing on in those States insurrection or anarchy, or would it not be better to postpone that restoration until such dangers are passed? If, as long as the change from slavery to free labor is known to the Southern people only by its destructive results, these people must be expected to throw obstacles in its way, would it not seem necessary that the movement of social “reconstruction” be kept in the right channel by the hand of the power which originated the change, until that change can have disclosed some of its beneficial effects?

It is certain that every success of free negro labor will augment the number of its friends, and disarm some of the prejudices and assumptions of its opponents. I am convinced one good harvest made by unadulterated free labor in the South would have a far better effect than all the oaths that have been taken, and all the ordinances that have as yet been passed by Southern conventions. But how can such a result be attained? The facts enumerated in this report, as well as the news we receive from the South from day to day, must make it evident to every unbiased observer that unadulterated free labor cannot be had at present, unless the National Government holds its protective and controlling hand over it. It appears, also, that the more efficient this protection of free labor against all disturbing and reactionary influences, the sooner may such a satisfactory result be looked for. One reason why the Southern people are so slow in accommodating themselves to the new order of things is, that they confidently expect soon to be permitted to regulate matters according to their own notions. Every concession made to them by the Government has been taken as an encouragement to persevere in this hope, and, unfortunately for them, this hope is nourished by influences from other parts of the country. Hence their anxiety to have their State governments restored at once, to have the troops withdrawn, and the Freedmen's Bureau abolished, although a good many discerning men know well that, in view of the lawless spirit still prevailing, it would be far better for them to have the general order of society firmly maintained by the Federal power until things have arrived at a final settlement. Had, from the beginning, the conviction been forced upon them that the adulteration of the new order of things by the admixture of elements belonging to the system of slavery would under no circumstances be permitted, a much larger number would have launched their energies into the new channel, and, seeing that they could do no “better,” faithfully cooperated with the Government. It is hope which fixes them in their perverse notions. That hope nourished or fully gratified, they will persevere in the same direction. That hope destroyed, a great many will, by the force of necessity, at once accommodate themselves to the logic of the change. If, therefore, the National Government firmly and unequivocally announces its policy not to give up the control of the free-labor reform until it is finally accomplished, the progress of that reform will undoubtedly be far more rapid and far less difficult than it will be if the attitude of the Government is such as to permit contrary hopes to be indulged in.

The machinery by which the Government has so far exercised its protection of the negro and of free labor in the South—the Freedmen's Bureau—is very unpopular in that part of the country, as every institution placed there as a barrier to reactionary aspirations would be. That abuses were committed with the management of freedmen's affairs; that some of the officers of the bureau were men of more enthusiasm than discretion, and in many cases went beyond their authority: all this is certainly true. But, while the Southern people are always ready to expatiate upon the shortcomings of the Freedmen's Bureau, they are not so ready to recognize the services it has rendered. I feel warranted in saying that not half of the labor that has been done in the South this year, or will be done there next year, would have been or would be done but for the exertions of the Freedmen's Bureau. The confusion and disorder of the transition period would have been infinitely greater had not an agency interfered which possessed the confidence of the emancipated slaves; which could disabuse them of any extravagant notions and expectations and be trusted; which could administer to them good advice and be voluntarily obeyed. No other agency, except one placed there by the National Government, could have wielded that moral power whose interposition was so necessary to prevent Southern society from falling at once into the chaos of a general collision between its different elements. That the success achieved by the Freedmen's Bureau is as yet very incomplete cannot be disputed. A more perfect organization and a more carefully selected personnel may be desirable; but it is doubtful whether a more suitable machinery can be devised to secure to free labor in the South that protection against disturbing influences which the nature of the situation still imperatively demands.


A temporary continuation of National control in the Southern States would also have a most beneficial effect as regards the immigration of Northern people and Europeans into that country; and such immigration would, in its turn, contribute much to the solution of the labor problem. Nothing is more desirable for the South than the importation of new men and new ideas. One of the greatest drawbacks under which the Southern people are laboring is, that for fifty years they have been in no sympathetic communion with the progressive ideas of the times. While professing to be in favor of free trade, they adopted and enforced a system of prohibition, as far as those ideas were concerned, which was in conflict with their cherished institution of slavery; and, as almost all the progressive ideas of our days were in conflict with slavery, the prohibition was sweeping. It had one peculiar effect, which we also notice with some Asiatic nations which follow a similar course. The Southern people honestly maintained and believed, not only that as a people they were highly civilized, but that their civilization was the highest that could be attained, and ought to serve as a model to other nations the world over. The more enlightened individuals among them felt sometimes a vague impression of the barrenness of their mental life, and the barbarous peculiarities of their social organization; but very few ever dared to investigate and to expose the true cause of these evils. Thus the people were so wrapt up in self-admiration as to be inaccessible to the voice even of the best-intentioned criticism. Hence the delusion they indulged in as to the absolute superiority of their race—a delusion which, in spite of the severe test it has lately undergone, is not yet given up; and will, as every traveller in the South can testify from experience, some times express itself in singular manifestations. This spirit, which for so long a time has kept the Southern people back while the world besides was moving, is even at this moment still standing as a serious obstacle in the way of progress.

Nothing can, therefore, be more desirable than that the contact between the Southern people and the outside world should be as strong and intimate as possible; and in no better way can this end be subserved than by immigration in mass. Of the economic benefits which such immigration would confer upon the owners of the soil, it is hardly necessary to speak.

Immigration wants encouragement. As far as this encouragement consists in the promise of material advantage, it is already given. There are large districts in the South in which an industrious and enterprising man, with some capital, and acting upon correct principles, cannot fail to accumulate large gains in a comparatively short time, as long as the prices of the staples do not fall below what they may reasonably be expected to be for some time to come. A Northern man has, besides, the advantage of being served by the laboring population of that region with greater willingness.

But among the principal requisites for the success of the immigrant are personal security and a settled condition of things. Personal security is honestly promised by the thinking men of the South; but another question is, whether the promise and good intentions of the thinking men will be sufficient to restrain and control the populace, whose animosity against “Yankee interlopers” is only second to their hostile feeling against the negro. If the military forces of the Government should be soon and completely withdrawn, I see reasons to fear that in many localities immigrants would enjoy the necessary security only when settling down together in numbers strong enough to provide for their own protection. On the whole, no better encouragement can be given to immigration, as far as individual security is concerned, than the assurance that the National Government will be near to protect them until such protection is no longer needed.

The South needs capital. But capital is notoriously timid and averse to risk itself, not only where there actually is trouble, but where there is serious and continual danger of trouble. Capitalists will be apt to consider—and they are by no means wrong in doing so—that no safe investments can be made in the South as long as Southern society is liable to be convulsed by anarchical disorders. No greater encouragement can, therefore, be given to capital to transfer itself to the South than the assurance that the Government will continue to control the development of the new social system in the late rebel States until such dangers are averted by a final settlement of things upon a thorough free-labor basis.

How long the National Government should continue that control depends upon contingencies. It ought to cease as soon as its objects are attained; and its objects will be attained sooner and with less difficulty if nobody is permitted to indulge in the delusion that it will cease before they are attained. This is one of the cases in which a determined policy can accomplish much, while a halfway policy is liable to spoil things already accomplished. The continuance of the National control in the South, although it may be for a short period only, will cause some inconvenience and expense; but if thereby destructive collisions and anarchical disorders can be prevented, justice secured to all men, and the return of peace and prosperity to all parts of this country hastened, it will be a paying investment. For the future of the Republic, it is far less important that this business of reconstruction be done quickly than that it be well done. The matter well taken in hand, there is reason for hope that it will be well done, and quickly too. In days like these great changes are apt to operate themselves rapidly. At present the Southern people assume that free negro labor will not work, and therefore they are not inclined to give it a fair trial. As soon as they find out that they must give it a fair trial, and that their whole future power and prosperity depend upon its success, they will also find out that it will work, at least far better than they have anticipated. Then their hostility to it will gradually disappear. This great result accomplished, posterity will not find fault with this Administration for having delayed complete “reconstruction” one, two, or more years.

Although I am not called upon to discuss in this report the Constitutional aspects of this question, I may be pardoned for one remark. The interference of the National Government in the local concerns of the States lately in rebellion is argued against by many as inconsistent with the spirit of our Federal institutions. Nothing is more foreign to my ways of thinking in political matters than a fondness for centralization of military government. Nobody can value the blessings of local self-government more highly than I do. But we are living under exceptional circumstances which require us, above all, to look at things from a practical point of view; and I believe it will prove far more dangerous for the integrity of local self-government if the National control in the South be discontinued—while by discontinuing it too soon, it may be rendered necessary again in the future—than if it be continued, when by continuing it but a limited time all such future necessity may be obviated. At present these acts of interference are but a part of that exceptional policy brought forth by the necessities into which the rebellion has plunged us. Although there will be some modifications in the relations between the States and the National Government, yet these acts of direct interference in the details of State concerns will pass away with the exceptional circumstances which called them forth. But if the social revolution in the South be now abandoned in an unfinished state, and at some future period produce events provoking new and repeated acts of direct practical interference,—and the contingency would by no means be unlikely to arise,—such new and repeated acts would not pass over without most seriously affecting the political organism of the Republic.


It would seem that the interference of the National authority in the home concerns of the Southern States would be rendered less necessary, and the whole problem of political and social reconstruction be much simplified, if, while the masses lately arrayed against the Government are permitted to vote, the large majority of those who were always loyal, and are naturally anxious to see the free-labor problem successfully solved, were not excluded from all influence upon legislation. In all questions concerning the Union, the National debt, and the future social organization of the South, the feelings of the colored man are naturally in sympathy with the views and aims of the National Government. While the Southern white fought against the Union, the negro did all he could to aid it; while the Southern white sees in the National Government his conqueror, the negro sees in it his protector; while the white owes to the National debt his defeat, the negro owes to it his deliverance; while the white considers himself robbed and ruined by the emancipation of the slaves, the negro finds in it the assurance of future prosperity and happiness. In all the important issues the negro would be led by natural impulse to forward the ends of the Government, and by making his influence, as part of the voting body, tell upon the legislation of the States, render the interference of the National authority less necessary.

As the most difficult of the pending questions are intimately connected with the status of the negro in Southern society, it is obvious that a correct solution can be more easily obtained if he has a voice in the matter. In the right to vote he would find the best permanent protection against oppressive class-legislation, as well as against individual persecution. The relations between the white and black races, even if improved by the gradual wearing off of the present animosities, are likely to remain long under the troubling influence of prejudice. It is a notorious fact that the rights of a man of some political power are far less exposed to violation than those of one who is, in matters of public interest, completely subject to the will of others. A voter is a man of influence; small as that influence may be in the single individual, it becomes larger when that individual belongs to a numerous class of voters who are ready to make common cause with him for the protection of his rights. Such an individual is an object of interest to the political parties that desire to have the benefit of his ballot. It is true, the bringing face to face at the ballot-box of the white and black races may here and there lead to an outbreak of feeling, and the first trials ought certainly to be made while the National power is still there to prevent or repress disturbances; but the practice once successfully inaugurated under the protection of that power, it would probably be more apt than anything else to obliterate old antagonisms, especially if the colored people—which is probable, as soon as their own rights are sufficiently secured—divide their votes between the different political parties.

The effect of the extension of the franchise to the colored people upon the development of free labor and upon the security of human rights in the South being the principal object in view, the objections raised on the ground of the ignorance of the freedmen become unimportant. Practical liberty is a good school, and, besides, if any qualification can be found, applicable to both races, which does not interfere with the attainment of the main object, such qualification would in that respect be unobjectionable. But it is idle to say that it will be time to speak of negro suffrage when the whole colored race will be educated, for the ballot may be necessary to him to secure his education. It is also idle to say that ignorance is the principal ground upon which Southern men object to negro suffrage, for if it were, that numerous class of colored people in Louisiana who are as highly educated, as intelligent and as wealthy as any corresponding class of whites, would have been enfranchised long ago.

It has been asserted that the negro would be but a voting machine in the hand of his employer. On this point opinions seem to differ. I have heard it said in the South that the freedmen are more likely to be influenced by their schoolmasters and preachers. But even if we suppose the employer to control to a certain extent the negro laborer's vote, two things are to be taken into consideration: (1) The class of employers, of landed proprietors, will in a few years be very different from what it was heretofore; in consequence of the general breaking up, a great many of the old slaveholders will be obliged to give up their lands and new men will step into their places; and (2) the employer will hardly control the vote of the negro laborer so far as to make him vote against his own liberty. The beneficial effect of an extension of suffrage does not always depend upon the intelligence with which the newly admitted voters exercise their right, but sometimes upon the circumstances in which they are placed; and the circumstances in which the freedmen of the South are placed are such that, when they vote only for their own liberty and rights, they vote for the rights of free labor, for the success of an immediate important reform, for the prosperity of the country, and for the general interests of mankind. If, therefore, in order to control the colored vote, the employer, or whoever he may be, is first obliged to concede to the freedman the great point of his own rights as a man and a free laborer, the great social reform is completed, the most difficult problem is solved, and all other questions it will be comparatively easy to settle.

In discussing the matter of negro suffrage I deemed it my duty to confine myself strictly to the practical aspects of the subject. I have, therefore, not touched its moral merits nor discussed the question whether the National Government is competent to enlarge the elective franchise in the States lately in rebellion by its own act; I deem it proper, however, to offer a few remarks on the assertion frequently put forth, that the franchise is likely to be extended to the colored man by the voluntary action of the Southern whites themselves. My observation leads me to a contrary opinion. Aside from a very few enlightened men, I found but one class of people in favor of the enfranchisement of the blacks; it was the class of Unionists who found themselves politically ostracised and looked upon the enfranchisement of the loyal negroes as the salvation of the whole loyal element. But their numbers and influence are sadly insufficient to secure such a result. The masses are strongly opposed to colored suffrage; anybody that dares to advocate it is stigmatized as a dangerous fanatic; nor do I deem it probable that in the ordinary course of things prejudices will wear off to such an extent as to make it a popular measure. Outside of Louisiana only one gentleman who occupied a prominent political position in the South expressed to me an opinion favorable to it. He declared himself ready to vote for an amendment to the constitution of his State bestowing the right of suffrage upon all male citizens without distinction of color who could furnish evidence of their ability to read and write, without, however, disfranchising those who are now voters and are not able to fulfil that condition. This gentleman is now a member of one of the State conventions, but I presume he will not risk his political standing in the South by moving such an amendment in that body.

The only manner in which, in my opinion, the Southern people can be induced to grant to the freedman some measure of self-protecting power in the form of suffrage, is to make it a condition precedent to “readmission.”


I have to notice one pretended remedy for the disorders now agitating the South, which seems to have become the favorite plan of some prominent public men. It is that the whole colored population of the South should be transported to some place where they could live completely separated from the whites. It is hardly necessary to discuss not only the question of right and justice, but the difficulties and expense necessarily attending the deportation of nearly four millions of people. But it may be asked, what would become of the industry of the South for many years, if the bulk of its laboring population were taken away? The South stands in need of an increase and not of a diminution of its laboring force to repair the losses and disasters of the last four years. Much is said of importing European laborers and Northern men; this is the favorite idea of many planters who want such immigrants to work on their plantations. But they forget that European and Northern men will not come to the South to serve as hired hands on the plantations, but to acquire property for themselves, and that even if the whole European immigration at the rate of 200,000 a year were turned into the South, leaving not a single man for the North and West, it would require between fifteen and twenty years to fill the vacuum caused by the deportation of the freedmen. Aside from this, the influx of Northern men or Europeans will not diminish the demand for hired negro labor; it will, on the contrary, increase it. As Europeans and Northern people come in, not only vast quantities of land will pass from the hands of their former owners into those of the immigrants, but a large area of new land will be brought under cultivation, and as the area of cultivation expands, hired labor, such as furnished by the colored people, will be demanded in large quantities. The deportation of the labor so demanded would, therefore, be a very serious injury to the economical interests of the South, and if an attempt were made, this effect would soon be felt.

It is, however, a question worthy of consideration whether it would not be wise to offer attractive inducements and facilities for the voluntary migration of freedmen to some suitable district on the line of the Pacific railroad. It would answer a double object: (1) It would aid in the construction of that road, and (2) if this migration be effected on a large scale it would cause a drain upon the laboring force of the South; it would make the people affected by that drain feel the value of the freedmen's labor, and show them the necessity of keeping that labor at home by treating the laborer well, and by offering him inducements as fair as can be offered elsewhere.

But whatever the efficiency of such expedients may be, the true problem remains, not how to remove the colored man from his present field of labor, but how to make him, where he is, a true freeman and an intelligent and useful citizen. The means are simple: protection by the government until his political and social status enables him to protect himself, offering to his legitimate ambition the stimulant of a perfectly fair chance in life, and granting to him the rights which in every just organization of society are coupled with corresponding duties.


I may sum up all I have said in a few words. If nothing were necessary but to restore the machinery of government in the States lately in rebellion in point of form, the movements made to that end by the people of the South might be considered satisfactory. But if it is required that the Southern people should also accommodate themselves to the results of the war in point of spirit, those movements fall far short of what must be insisted upon.

The loyalty of the masses and of most of the leaders of the Southern people, consists in submission to necessity. There is, except in individual instances, an entire absence of that national spirit which forms the basis of true loyalty and patriotism.

The emancipation of the slaves is submitted to only in so far as chattel slavery in the old form could not be kept up. But although the freedman is no longer considered the property of the individual master, he is considered the slave of society, and all independent State legislation will share the tendency to make him such. The ordinances abolishing slavery, passed by the conventions under the pressure of circumstances, will not be looked upon as barring the establishment of a new form of servitude.

Practical attempts on the part of the Southern people to deprive the negro of his rights as a freeman may result in bloody collisions, and will certainly plunge Southern society into restless fluctuations and anarchical confusion. Such evils can be prevented only by continuing the control of the National Government in the States lately in rebellion until free labor is fully developed and firmly established, and the advantages and blessings of the new order of things have disclosed themselves. This desirable result will be hastened by a firm declaration on the part of the Government, that National control in the South will not cease until such results are secured. Only in this way can that security be established in the South which will render numerous immigration possible, and such immigration would materially aid a favorable development of things.

The solution of the problem would be very much facilitated by enabling all the loyal and free-labor elements in the South to exercise a healthy influence upon legislation. It will hardly be possible to secure the freed man against oppressive class legislation and private persecution, unless he be endowed with a certain measure of political power.

As to the future peace and harmony of the Union, it is of the highest importance that the people lately in rebellion be not permitted to build up another “peculiar institution” whose spirit is in conflict with the fundamental principles of our political system; for as long as they cherish interests peculiar to them in preference to those they have in common with the rest of the American people, their loyalty to the Union will always be uncertain.

I desire not to be understood as saying that there are no well-meaning men among those who were compromised in the rebellion. There are many, but neither their number nor their influence is strong enough to control the manifest tendency of the popular spirit. There are great reasons for hope that a determined policy on the part of the National Government will produce innumerable and valuable conversions. This consideration counsels lenity as to persons, such as is demanded by the humane and enlightened spirit of our times, and vigor and firmness in the carrying out of principles, such as is demanded by the national sense of justice and the exigencies of our situation.

In submitting this report I desire to say that I have conscientiously endeavored to see things as they were, and to represent them as I saw them. I have been careful not to use stronger language than was warranted by the thoughts I intended to express. A comparison of the tenor of the [originally] annexed documents with that of my report, will convince you that I have studiously avoided over statements. Certain legislative attempts at present made in the South, and especially in South Carolina, seem to be more than justifying the apprehensions I have expressed.

Conscious though I am of having used my best endeavors to draw, from what I saw and learned, correct general conclusions, yet I am far from placing too great a trust in my own judgment, when interests of such magnitude are at stake. I know that this report is incomplete, although as complete as an observation of a few months could enable me to make it. Additional facts might be elicited, calculated to throw new light upon the subject. Although I see no reason for believing that things have changed for the better since I left the South, yet such may be the case. Admitting all these possibilities, I would entreat you to take no irretraceable step towards relieving the States lately in rebellion from all National control, until such favorable changes are clearly and unmistakably ascertained.

To that end, and by virtue of the permission you honored me with when sending me out to communicate to you freely and unreservedly my views as to measures of policy proper to be adopted, I would now respectfully suggest that you advise Congress to send one or more “investigating committees” into the Southern States, to inquire for themselves into the actual condition of things, before final action is taken upon the readmission of such States to their representation in the legislative branch of the government, and the withdrawal of the National control from that section of the country.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Carl Schurz.
His Excellency Andrew Johnson,
President of the United States.

  1. This report accompanied President Johnson's message of Dec. 18, 1865, and is a part of Executive Document No. 11, House of Representatives, 39th Congress, 1st Session. The extensive and important documents that were printed with this report, and the direct references to those documents, have been omitted because the documents were so voluminous. In a few places the omission of these references has made it necessary for the Editor slightly to change the text, so that it will read smoothly; but, of course, the sense has been in no way altered. Whoever wishes to make a thorough study of this phase of reconstruction should consult the entire document.
  2. These quotation-marks were made in Mr. Schurz's copy, doubtless by himself.