"A New Bureau"
Harper's Weekly, December 26, 1863, page 818 (Editorial)
Now that the policy of the Government is maturely settled, it is clear that one of the chief questions of the immediate future will be the care of the freedmen. In ordinary times, when emancipation is enforced by law, as in the case of the British colonies, and especially in Jamaica, the rage and pride of the planters prevent a fair trial of the experiment. They refuse to treat honorably as paid laborers those whom they have been used to drive as cattle, and the inevitable consequence is that the great plantations fall into ruin, and the laborers take to the bush. Nothing is surer than that if the planters of Jamaica had been as equal to the new condition introduced by emancipation as the slaves were, the prosperity of the island would never have been disturbed.

The condition of our emancipated slaves is such as to require the most faithful and intelligent care. The operation of the act is to attract them to our lines. They come in groups of utterly destitute men, women, and children. The most unfortunate of human beings, they yet do not find corresponding sympathy. Even the Government which has freed them, and which invites them to enlist as soldiers, does not treat them honorably, and pays them not the wages of the white soldiers, with whom they bravely fight and nobly fall, but only the ten dollars a month allowed by the law for the general employment of contrabands. Homeless, almost houseless, utterly destitute and dependent, this rapidly-increasing class of our population demand a peculiar care. It is idle to say that no particular class of persons can be provided for, but they must all take their chance, because we recognize that common-sense is the basis of statesmanship when we establish a Bureau of Indian Affairs and a Department of Agriculture. Indians and farmers are the two classes directly interested; but does any body quarrel with the bureaus for that reason?

The sagacity of the President will undoubtedly lead him to make some proposition to Congress for the establishment of a Freedman's Bureau, charged with the care of this exceptional class. Davis says in his Message, with a sly leer at Europe, "By the Northern man, on whose deep-rooted prejudices no kindly restraining influence is exercised, they [the negroes] are treated with aversion and neglect." But the reluctance to touch the subject, the stupid prejudice against the word Abolitionism, the dull slang about "one idea," must give way to plain practical common-sense, or the country will be dishonored.
Harper's Weekly, December 2, 1863, page 818 (Editorial)

Note:

In February 1862 George William Curtis wrote Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase suggesting the creation of a federal agency to assist the former slaves crossing into Union territory. The March 1, 1862, issue of Harperís Weekly carried Curtisís endorsement of the same idea in his "Lounger" column. He placed such importance on the issue that he addresses it here in the first issue in which he assumed responsibility for writing the Harperís Weekly editorials. Curtis and his father-in-law, Francis Shaw, president of the philanthropic Freedmenís Relief Association, helped Senator Charles Sumner draft the Freedmenís Bill to establish the Freedmenís Bureau. It passed Congress in 1865.

 

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