BUREAU OF FEEEDMEX's AFFAIRS. 8
important interests of the country would suffer by leaving the bill with its
originators until they shall have matured an intelligent and well-defined system.
With the return of peace, the subject for which the bill is introduced loses,
in the opinion of your committee, all affinity to the War Department, and
should be turned over to the Department of the Interior, or some other co-ordi¬
nate branch of the government. Unless, therefore, the framers of the bill look
to this war as the permanent and normal condition of the country, the powers
intended to be granted should be attached to some other department.
The system of government for freedmen proposed in the bill embraces the
essential features of the administration of justice over a large portion of the.
resident population, and affects directly the rights and interests of all in subjects
now protected bv judicial action, the administration of which is secured Ijy con¬
stitutional enactments. Yet it is destitute of the machinery necessary to secure
the regular administration of justice, while the system is most likely to fall
under the control of political retainers aud partisans.
If these freedmen of African descent are still slaves, and the government
have inherited or taken by conquest the position of their masters, the}' are of
course liable to be separated from the free population, have their tasks assigned
them, and their wages controlled and established by the representatives of their
masters; but if the Presidential proclamation has had any effect, and if they
are freedmen in .anything else but in name, in the opinion of your committee,
the < .institutions of the United States and of the several States prescribes that
jurisdiction over most of the subjects mentioned in the bill shall be vested in
The- onlv well-defined portion of the bill is that which limits the appointment
to one principal commissioner, his immediate assistant, and a single assistant for
each of the several Slates, Besides these, clerks are to be appointed at the
head of the bureau in the city of Washington, without any limitation as to
number, except that they are restricted to two in a class, but without any limit¬
ation as to the number of classes. In the several States there is to be one
commissioner to each State, but as many superintendents and clerks as are neces¬
sary, which necessity, of course, depends entirely upon the opinion of the head
of the department, and their compensation is to be lixed by the same authority.
It appears also depending entirely upon the necessity existing in his mind
whether the number of such local clerks or superintendents shall equal or exceed
the number of overseers formerly in use upon slave plantations, aud whether the
power of disposing and directing these freedmen, organizing and controlling
their labor, assigning them lands, adjusting their wages, and receiving the pro¬
ceeds therefrom, aud of arbitrating and settling their difficulties, as provided by
the bill, may not revive most of the odious features of shivery without its name.
Under the provisions of the hill, the freedman may be as effectually stripped
of the proceeds of his labor to build up the fortunes of an avaricious superin¬
tendent, as though he were under the control of a masier, without enjoying the
benefits of the protection and support the system of slavery affords.
Large sections of rebel slave territory have been brought within the military
power of our government, and it is highly probable that still larger portions of
such t aritorv will be added thereto. Your committee cannot conceive of any
reason whv this vast domain, paid for by the blood of white men, should be set
apart for the sole benefit of the freedmen of African descent, to the exclusion
of all others, and leased for an unlimited time, thereby preventing its occupation,
except by them, at least for a long time to come. It seems to your committee
incomprehensible, nay extremely unjust.
The bill proposes to give- to each petty superintendent the determination of
all questions relating to the disposition and direction of all persons of African
descent becoming free under any proclamation, military rule or order, or by tiny
act of the State governments, with power to establish and enforce regulations