REPORT OP REV. CHARLES LOWE TO THE COMMITTEE ON
Somerville, Dec. 7th, 1863.
My dear Sir,—It gives me great pleasure to present, at your request, a statement
of the impression made upon my mind by a visit to the field of operations of the Edu¬
cational Commission for Freedmen, in the department of South Carolina. I had an
opportunity to visit many of the schools and plantations on Port Royal, St. Helena
and Ladies Islands^ and to ponverse with many who were familiar with the condition
of the freed population, and will state as briefly as I can the result of my observation.
First, As to the Schools.
In the immediate vicinity of Beaufort the teachers labor at great disadvantage. The
town is an aggregate of Government offices, hospitals and camps. An excessive popu¬
lation of freed people has congregated there, and they are exposed to all the bad influ¬
ences of such a community. The effect is seen in the Schools, in a want of punctuality
and in a restless spirit on the part of the children. . Yet even in these Schools the
success of the attempt was very gratifying. The children seemed bright and eager to
learn, and showed remarkable proficiency. Here, as indeed in all the schools I visited, I
was greatly struck by the excellence of the teachers employed. In one of the Schools
in Beaufort, there was acting as an assistant, a young colored man—formerly a member
of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, and disabled at Wagner. He was teaching some
of the classes, and as I watched him I thought he was teaching very successfully. Cer¬
tainly he had the perfect respect and attention of the pupils, and it seemed to me that
such men might be thus employed to advantage, more frequently than they are.
As you go away from Beaufort, the bad influences of that place gradually lessen, till,
on the plantations ten miles distant, the people are quite out of their reach, and the
consequences are very apparent. Here, with no better teachers (for where all are so
good I could not recognize any difference), the discipline of the Schools was greatly
superior, and their whole character compared favorably with that of any of our North¬
ern Schools of the same grade.
Second, As regards the ability of the freed people to support and govern themselves,
my impressions are equally favorable.
Here again, Beaufort and its immediate vicinity afford a most unfavorable condi¬
tion for the experiment. And many visitors, judging from what they see there, may
give unfair statements in regard to its success. The place, as I have already said, has
just the effect, on the people gathered there, that a prolonged muster-field would have
on a great mass of people who might crowd about it. Considering this, it was a mat¬
ter of surprise to me that things are no worse. There is no disorder, and a Quarter-
Muster, who has occasion to employ a very large number of the men, told me that he
never had so little difficulty with laborers. On Thanksgiving day they were all dis¬
charged for a holiday, and he said to me that, whereas, with white men, he should be
dreading trouble from their absence or disorderly conduct the next mornin^ after the
day's carousing, he was sure that these men would all be promptly at their work.
On the plantations removed from the camps the condition of things is most gratify¬
ing. The people labor well, and are easily managed, and the superintendents say are
always ready to do anything that you can persuade them is for their advantage.
I will not anticipate the statements which are being prepared by one gentleman there
(Mr. E. S. Philbrick), in which he will show conclusively the satisfactoriness of their
voluntary paid labor so far as the employers are concerned. My only purpose is to
testify, as a casual observer, to the good order, the respectful demeanor and thrifty ap¬
pearance of the colored population, and the general evidence which such a visit could
give of a good state of things.
One thing particularly impressed me. I saw the people everywhere, in their homes
and in the fields. 1 have seen the working classes in many countries of the world, and
1 never saw a peasantry so cleanly dressed, so respectable in their outward appearance
or apparently so happy. This is certain in regard to these people—that they are abun¬
dantly able to support themselves. If your organization has made any mistake, it has
been that you felt at first too little confident of that, and assumed that they must be
helped by donations in charity. Undoubtedly there was, for a while, much destitution,
and your relief was most timely; but the generosity of the supply encouraged a feelin^
that they could live without labor, which has been one of the great difficulties to over¬
come. They certainly need help no longer. I saw them at the stores kept on the
Islands, buying, with plenty of money, every variety of articles, and heard of no want.