Reactions to Emancipation in Virginia, 1865

A. From the Staunton Spectator, December 26, 1865.

The Freedmen and Freedwomen had a Fair on yesterday, in Mr. Hardy's shop, in this place for the purpose of raising money to build a church for the colored people.

  B. From the Staunton Vindicator, November 17, 1865.

[by "Bill Arp," a penname for Mr. Charles H. Smith of Rome, Georgia. According to the Staunton Vindicator, "He is a prominent man in his section, and is a candidate for the Georgia State Senate."]

Then there is another thing I am waiting for. Why don't they rekonstrukt the niggers if they are ever goin to? They've give 'em a powerful site of freedom, and very little else. Nere's the big freedmen's buro, and the little buros all over the country, and the papers are full of grand orders, and special orders, and paragrafs, but I'll bet a possum some 'em steal my wood this winter or freezes to death. Freedman's buro! freedman's humbug. I say. Jest when the corn neede plowin the worst the buro rung the bell and and tolled all the niggers to town, and the farmers lost the crops; and now the freedman is gettin cold and hungry, and wants to go back, and there aint nothin for 'em to go to. But freedom is a big thing-Hurraw for freedom's buro! Sweet land of liberty of thee I don't sing! But it's all right.

      I'm for freedom myself. Nobody wants any more slavery. If the abolishunists had let us alone we would have fixed it up right a long time ago, and we can fix it up now. The buro aint fixed it and it aint goin to. It don't know anything about it. Our people have got a heap more feeling for the poor nigger than any abolishunist. We are as poor as Job, but I'll bet a dollar we can raise more money in Rome to build a nigger church than they did in Bostown. The papers say that after goin round for 3 weeks, The Bostown christians raised thirty-seven dollars to build a nigger church in Savannah. They are powerful in theory, but mighty [weak] in practice. . . .

  C. From the Staunton Vindicator, December 12, 1865.

      "Colonel Brown, Assistant Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau for the State of Virginia, has just submitted to General Howard a proposition for the removal of all negroes, residents of that State, to the unoccupied lands of Florida. This would necessarily involve Congressional action, but General Howard has not yet fully determined what course to pursue in the matter."

  D. From the Staunton Vindicator, December 22, 1865.

      The Freedmen's Court in Richmond has authorized its Clerk to issue marriage licenses to negroes and fixed the fee for each license at 20 cents. It has also designated two colored preachers to tie the hymenial knot for the Dinahs and Sambos of the city.

  E. From the Staunton Spectator, October 31, 1865.

      There is no problem more difficult than the future of the "freedmen." half a million of ignorant and helpless people, have been turned loose in Virginia, with no capital to begin business, no skill in mechanic arts, and no means of providing for themselves and families. . . .

      No observing man can have failed to notice the traces of care and anxiety on the faces of the once happy negro. We no longer hear the "loud laugh that speak the vacant mind." A moody and anxious expression marks their countenances. It is not surprising it should be so, for a gloomy time is before them in the coming winter.

      The fate of the poor negro is a hard one. Their professed frends in the North have cut loose the ties which bound them to their masters and secured for them comfortable homes and ample provision for all their wants in sickness and in health. . . .

      The negro now seems now destined to be crushed between the upper and the nether millstone. The South does not want him, and the North will not have him. What is the poor darkey to do? He must live in some way. He will not willingly starve. If he cannot get work, he mut steal.

      This brings before us the question: "What is the policy and duty of the South in regard to him?"

      We are inclined to think that if the legislature will pass a system of wise laws to fulfill the system of labor contracts, similar in its general features to the regulations prescribed for the freedmen of Tennessee, it will be best for Southern people to employ negroes. They are among us--they are accustomed to the cultivation of our staples--they suit our climate--and they delight in corn bread and bacon, the peculiar diet of Virginia. When the intoxication of freedom passes, and the pressure of want come, they can be made to work. . . .

      We pray for people not to take counsel from their prejudices, but to consider this suggestion calmly and carefully. . . .

  F. From the Staunton Spectator, September 26, 1865.

      Hiring of Negroes on Farms in Tennessee Colonel Davis, in charge of the Freedmen's Bureau, at Clarksville, Tennessee, has adopted the following rule:

1. One half of the wages the employee will be retained by the employer, until the end of the contract for its faithful performance.

2. the employees will be required to rise at daybreak, each one to feed and take care of the stock allotted to him; to eat their breakfast and be ready for work at the sinal, which will be given when the sun is half hour high. All time lost after the signal is given will be deducted.

3. No general conversation will be allowed during working hours.

4. Bad work will be assigned at its proper value.

5. For disobedience one dollar will be deducted.

6. Neglect of duty and leaving without permission will be considered disobedience.

7. No live stock will be permitted to be raised by the employees, without special contract.

8. Apples, peaches and melons, or any other product of the farm taken by the emloyee, will be charged for.

9. The employee shall receive no visitors during working hours.

10. Three quarters of an hour will be allowed during the winter months for dinner, and one hour and a half during the months of June, July, and August.

11. Impudence, swearing, or indecent and unseemly language, or in the presence of the employer or his family, or agent, or quarelling or fighting, so as to disturb the peace of the farm, will be fined one dollar for the first offence, and if repeated, will be followed by dismissal and loss of such pay as shall be adjudged against him by proper authority.

12. All difficulties that may arise between the employees shall be adjusted by the employer, and, if not satisfactory, an appeal may be taken to an agent of the US Government or a magistrate.

13. All abuse of stock, or willfull breaking of tools, or throwing away gear, &c., will be charged against the employee.

14. Good and sufficient rations will be furnished by the employer, not, however, to exceed six pounds of bacon, and one peck of meal per week for each adult.

15. House rent and fuel will be furnished, free, by the employer.

16. No night work will be required by the employee, but such as the necessities of the farm absolutely demand--such as tying up fodder, firing tobacco, setting plant beds afire, securing a crop from the frost....

18. Stock must be fed and attended to on Sunday.

19. The women will be required to do the cooking in rotation on Sunday.

20. The employee will be expected to look after and study the interest of his employer; to inform him of anything that is going amiss; to be peaceable, orderly and pleasant; to discourage theft, and endeavor by this conduct to establish a character for honesty, industry and thrift.

21. In case of any controversy in regard to the contract or its regulations, between the employer and the employee, the agent of the Bureau for the county shall be the common arbiter to whom the difficulty shall be referred.

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