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Freedmen's Bureau Records: Thomas P. Jackson to Orlando Brown, September 30, 1867

One of the issues Jackson discusses in his monthly report concerns the ease with which white employers defraud free blacks, because blacks are not yet sufficiently educated to keep records pertaining to their employment. Jackson also notes a rise in complaints related to physical assaults against women. The letter also discusses relief for the poor, the ineffectiveness of the judicial system, and the need for religious and moral education among former slaves.

Bureau Ref Fmen & Aband Lands
Office 4 Div 9th Sub Dist Va Brev Brig Genl O. Brown
Asst. Comr District of Va
Richmond (Thru HdQrs 9 S.Dist Va)

Sept 30/67



In compliance with the requirements of Cir Order No. 6 Series 1866 (B.R.F.&A.L.) I have the honor to report a condition of Bureau affairs in this Division (counties of Augusta & Highland) that Freedpeople are peaceable and generally industrious, while employment is readily procured at fair wages. While this is the rule there are of course exceptions - some Freedmen are restless or indolent and many employers are not disposed to treat with entire fairness the laborers that hire. This is becoming more apparent as engagements for the crop season or year come to a close, and disputes arise (now frequent) on the settlement. The system of long open accounts with Freedmen is a door wide open to admit cheating. The laborer cannot get his money from the employer but his family must eat and he takes Bacon, Flour &c for which he is charged store prices, while for Sugar &c or clothing he must accept [illeg.] on some storekeeper who charges his own price & quantity and even if these are fairly charged he is not able to keep an account and without knowing it he spends all his earnings. During the past month

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complaints of this kind have been numerous, but as the Freedman has no check account of his own he cannot substantiate his side of the transaction while the employer has books to verify his side and the complaint falls to the ground. When I ask the question, why did you take all these goods or orders when your contract calls for money, the common answer is "I could not get money and my family had to eat and be clothed." If the Freedman had eduction sufficient to keep an account of quantity & price of all they receive in lieu of money wages it would be no disadvantage to them to take pay in the way but as it is now with them such a custom which is rapidly becoming the system will give opportunity for endless fraud. Where the facts in the case are clear I still find no difficulty in securing payment [added: of wages] where there is doubt I can do nothing. There is a general disinclination to come to the Bureau agent to have contracts drawn some employers will not hire a man who wishes it. The circumstances of a majority of Freedmen here are comfortable but those who have to [unclear: incumbrance] are prone to frequent change and do not, while those with large families cannot accumulate. The Aged and helpless will be reasonably cared for by the Overseers of the Poor, but medical aid for the sick in the absence of any Dispensary in the county is out of reach of the poor or if availed of in many cases involves the sick person in debt he cannot pay.

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I regret the Department is unable to furnish some Medicines for the indigent Freedpeople here, the Social relations between white and colored though in the main unchanged present no sign of improvement, in fact more complaints than usual have been made during this month of both Freedmen and women being beaten by whites on trivial or no provocation. I refer such cases promptly to the District Magistrate but redress is so slow, uncertain & expensive that the result practically increases, not remedies the injury. Nothing can set this right but having at least a majority of Magistrates selected from the non slaveholding class.

The Political relations of the White and colored are as friendly as can be expected between parties whose principles are diametrically opposite. That Freedmen will cast their votes for Republican candidates is certain and it is equally certain that their doing so will give great offense to many employers. Already men are being punished in advance in the various ways, so easy for proprietors or employers to resist to without infringing the letter of the law.

The moral condition of the Freedmen admits of infinite change for the better and such changes must be brought about before they can advance in the social scale. Even yet the marriage relation is considered more a legal than moral bond

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and nothing but religious education of the young can obliterate the demoralizing effect of generations of promiscuous intercourse between the sexes, but consent if not encouragement of their masters. I regret I must again report that no Division has yet been organized in Augusta or Highland in connection with the "Lincoln Temperance Association" I have tried publicly and privately to form such Divisions but the apathy of those who should lead neutralizes my efforts for the present. There has been less intoxication among freedmen here, during this month than the past. Numerous enquiries continue to be made for relatives sold & separated from each other, but in the large majority of cases the clue is too indistinct to render successful enquiry [added: probable] and I do not forward them.

The general aspect of the Freedmens future is favorable compared with their former position. Still they have much to do and much to learn to enable them to advance in the march of progress in a corresponding degree with white men and of this fact the Thinking men among them are becoming rapidly convinced and the disposition is not to act aggressively against white men's rights but to be most severely careful of their own rights so suddenly accorded to them.

Respectfully submitted
Yr obt servt

Thos P. Jackson

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