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Freedmen's Bureau Records: Thomas P. Jackson to Orlando Brown, February 29, 1868

Jackson's report to Brown describes the ongoing problems with contract negotiations, relief efforts, the rise in drinking, and the political views of whites and blacks in Augusta County.

Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands,
Office 4th Division, 9th Sub-District, Virginia. Brig Genl O. Brown
Asst Comr District of Va.Richmond (Through HdQrs 9th Sub Dist Va)

Feb 29, 1868

Staunton, Va.


In compliance with Circular Order No. 6 S. 1866 B.R.F.&A.L. I have the honor to forward the following report of condition of Bureau Affairs in this 4th Div. of 9th Sub Dist. Va comprizing the counties of Augusta and Highland. This office is still visited by many Freedmen asking assistance in making settlements or seeking redress for grievances. Most of the crop accounts of 1864 are now adjusted and the unsettled claims for wages are generally against men who cannot pay and where no written contract exists. Contracts to labor for the year are not so common as could be wished. Two reasons for this are assigned by freedmen. Some say their employers will not make contracts for the year as they intend to discharge them if they do not vote to suit them but most say they can do much better when their agreements are by the month as they can have monthly settlements and know how they stand.

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I encourage written contracts by the year as much as possible because my experience shows men so employed prove best off at the end of the year, provided they refuse to open store accounts with their employers. The great drawback to Freedmen not employed by the year, is the outrageous rents demanded for Tenements in which to live. As a class freedmen here are not making much progress in material prosperity, the long hard winter eats up the surplus earnings of the harvest season and the sick & widowed and deserted women experience much suffering. The distribution of clothing at this office has done much good, enabling many to go out to labor who otherwise from want of clothing would have been prevented. The corporation and county officers relieve such cases of distress, as have been presented, and no complaints can now be made, except perhaps about the regulations in some county districts, which disallow out [deleted: ] relief and present to the poor only the option of poorhouse or nothing. This month there has been less than usual number of complaints by freedmen of ill usage at the hands of white citizens.

Little is now said on political questions it appears

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to be conceded useless to "fish" for the colored vote with the "base hook," and not worth while to offer anything, as the conservatives are confident they will reject the Constitution whatever it may be, either by remaining at home on election day, or dragging every white man to the polls to vote it down. The freedmen are uneasy but hopeful, and will generally cast their votes, but not near so unanimously as at the last election a large proportion of the white men will stay at home anyway.

No prospect has been made in organizing Temperance organizations in this Division and I regret that since the distillers here have resumed operations whiskey drinking has become too common among freedmen in country districts where it can be procurred from the still houses.

I have the honor to be, General
Your obt servt

Thos P Jackson
Asst Sub Asst Comr

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