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higher interests of civilization and humanity, it is for us to provide a substitute. A few months' experience with a few thousand 66 contrabands suggests the enormous difficulties that may be met, when it comes to dealing with millions.


We do not pretend, by any gift of prophecy, or by the faith which removes mountains, to see through those difficulties. We know nothing of any conditions of meeting them, except the conditions under which all the great tasks of humanity must be done, courage, wisdom, patience love. It is never worth while to disguise a difficulty, but it is never right to be frightened at it. There is only one way to make difficulties disappear; and that is, to deal with them one by one, always taking the nearest first. We consider that a great debt of gratitude is due from the nation at large to the President and Cabinet, for not thrusting on us all at once this problem, in the proportions it may have one of these days. We have the precise opportunity we could have wished, of trying our hand at it on a modest scale, and training ourselves by little tasks for the great task in which we shall presently want a hundred thousand helpers. Let us consider then, briefly, in what spirit and with what success the guardianship of these enfans perdus of our civilization has been undertaken. Let us see, if we can, how hopefully they are getting initiated into the duties of their new position, as acolytes of a new and higher stage of being.

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We make no account, for the present, of those many fugitives from slavery who trust themselves to their own courage and shifts, and only care to be out of the reach of Southern law. Neither do we stop now to consider tasks of simple charity, such as that undertaken by the "Freedmen's Relief Association of the District of Columbia," whose task is done when it has aided in transferring liberated slaves to new fields of self-supporting industry, or has relieved the temporary distress they must encounter on the way. There is a work, partly of instruction, partly of discipline, which must be undertaken on a larger scale. To quote the admirable Address of the Educational Commission:

"The people of the North owe at least thus much to the subjectpeople of the South,—that their condition shall not be the worse for

our invasion. The care and control formerly exercised by masters, (and sometimes conscientiously and benevolently exercised,) we must, therefore, assume, not simply as a charity, but as a matter of the plainest obligation. And if we would not fall below those of whose disregard of human rights many of us are accustomed to speak in strong terms, if we would not stand convicted before them and before God of that spurious philanthropy of which we have been accused, we must see to it that these slaves gain something by exchanging servitude for liberty. We must actually receive these black men into the great human family, to which we allow they belong; we must teach them how to live in that freedom which, up to this time, we have not been willing to concede, or, if willing to concede, not able to secure them. Their right to property, both in their persons and in the products of their labor, and also the rights of family, may be considered as already recognized. We are now called upon to provide for their education, and that in the widest sense; not such an education as makes them safe and profitable servants, but such as is required by other moral beings living in human society; an education which shall make them industrious, thrifty, self-supporting, orderly, temperate, self-respecting; which shall excite the unquenchable thirst for improvement, and unfold their now almost undeveloped mental and spiritual faculties. Proceeding thus, with due regard to their circumstances and capacities, not ignoring their present unfitness, but honestly striving to remove their disabilities, we must do our best to prepare them or their posterity to enter into all the privileges and blessings of an advanced civilization."

We may assume, by a rough estimate, that at least thirty thousand refugees have sought the shelter of our camps and forts; and that not far from twenty thousand are at this time receiving systematic discipline and instruction under the authority and protection of the United States. They not only crave that protection; they require it. To use the language of General Sherman's Order (No. 9), which well enough expresses the average feeling about them, "hordes of totally ignorant and improvident blacks have been abandoned by their constitutional guardians, not only to all the future chances of anarchy and starvation, but in such a state of abject ignorance and mental stolidity as to preclude all possibility of self-government and self-maintenance in their present condition."

To meet the exigency so presented, the "Educational Com

mission" was organized, last winter, in Boston, and shortly after, the "Relief Associations" of New York and Philadelphia. The task they assumed was wholly an experiment. The right way must be felt out, as it were, in the dark, step by step. Under the circumstances, we should have no right to be surprised at very serious mistakes at starting. As sometimes in our military hospitals, the charge was likely to be undertaken from sentimental impulse, and by incompetent persons. It was likely to be embarrassed by ignorance of the population it had to deal with; still more, perhaps, by the vague and extravagant hopes with which they would welcome their newgotten liberty; by passions suddenly set loose; by the dazzle and glare of a light so suddenly let in on their darkness; by differences of judgment, feeling, and prejudice among those volunteering to the work; possibly by mean and bad motives in a few of them. We have read with attention a good deal of the private correspondence on this subject, as well as the Reports of the Special Agent, and consider ourselves justified in saying that, with a narrow margin of allowance for the circumstances we have named, the enterprise has been conducted with singular good sense and judgment, as well as from the most generous and disinterested motive in most of those who have undertaken it. We do not think it at all worth while to notice the sneers and petty scandals which have been aimed at the agents in this good work. As long as bad men haunt camps, and correspondents reckless of truth will turn a point to spice the columns of a newspaper, those sneers and petty scandals must be looked for. Besides, as Mr. Forbes says, in his interesting letter on this subject:

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"When the agents of the commission came down to take charge of the plantations, they were looked upon as interlopers, and in most cases every obstacle short of absolute disobedience to the orders of the commanding generals was thrown in their way. All the little mistakes of the new-comers were magnified; all the good they did ignored; and a local public opinion thus created against them, which many of our own people who ought to have known better gave in to.". Boston Daily Advertiser of June 10.

What we think very noticeable is the sober and thoughtful appreciation we find, from the very outset, both of the magni


tude of the work, and of the double condition on which its success must rest, as a system of free labor, combined with instruction." Its founders have fully comprehended that practical training and the discipline of labor must come first; school-training, even of the simplest sort, can only follow. A population self-supporting, industrious, and useful must be had, at any rate; any higher and finer culture must come of their honest earning. First the duties, then the privileges, of freedom. The chief duty of the teachers, say the Commission, "is to direct and organize the regular labor of the negroes on the plantations, and to look after their general welfare. Instruction (excepting to young children) is given chiefly on Sundays, and in the intervals of labor." And so we have the principal danger met in advance,—that of making liberty a synonyme of idleness, or vanity, or self-indulgence. These pupils of ours are invited to an industrious, sober, self-supporting freedom.

As long ago as July of last year, a considerable number of contrabands at Hampton, near Fortress Monroe, were drilled in industrial regiments, and made to work systematically for wages in service of the camp, under the direction of one of our Massachusetts volunteers in the ranks, a lawyer by profession. The very encouraging results of this experiment were related in the "Atlantic Monthly" for November. Newbern, in North Carolina, has been in like manner the headquarters of a large free colored population, whose schools were so abruptly dispersed by the late action of Governor Stanley. But much the largest and most interesting experiment has been that on the island-plantations near Port Royal. A considerable territory, including about two hundred estates, was left vacant by the flight of the proprietors, and has been held in undisturbed possession by the forces of the United States since last November. The number of freed negroes thus thrown upon our military protection was reckoned, in February, at twelve thousand, including many refugees from the mainland. Those belonging to the estates were, in round numbers, ten thousand, and made a working population equivalent to four thousand "full hands." Three thousand, in all, have received some degree of school instruction. These fig

ures represent, as nearly as possible, the scale on which the experiment of free labor has been made.

The first care of the government was to send agents to gather the cotton-crop, which was perishing in the fields. A considerable amount of it was saved, at a profit to the treasury of some three hundred thousand dollars. This sum, we trust, may be reserved as a fund to guarantee the successful following up of the experiment. It would have been very easy to continue it by simply renting the grounds to tenants who should farm them to their own advantage. But it quickly appeared that such a system would prove more cruel and ruinous than slavery itself to the negroes, harder service, with scantier and more uncertain pay. The four months' trial of it made one of the worst difficulties with which the Commission had to deal. The oversight of the negroes belonged to nobody in particular. Their work was claimed as wanted, irregularly paid, in some cases not paid at all. Some of them were hangers-on of the camp, spending their "forty dollars a day" on sutlers. Some herded in their cabins, where they had thriftily secreted their stores of corn, instead of burning it as ordered, adding to their scanty comforts a little from the spoils of their masters' forsaken habitations. Then the harvest-work, done so at hazard, dragged on far into the seed-time. There was danger, not only of a vagrant and lawless population to harbor there; but of letting the season of early planting pass, and so incurring great risks and losses in the plantation-year. Nearly two months, in fact, were lost. Meanwhile, "all the ploughing-mules and horses had been stripped from the plantations, either by the rebels or our own quartermaster"; and the spring work must be "done with old wornout hoes, with bare feet," by such of the slaves as might volunteer to the task. These were a few of the difficulties with which the experiment had to contend at starting.

Happily, the action of the Treasury Department, to which the responsibility was intrusted, was both enlightened and humane. Early in the year it commissioned Mr. Edward L. Pierce, the same gentleman who had conducted and reported the earlier experiment near Fortress Monroe, as Special Agent, to superintend the cultivation of the estates, and co

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