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Freedmen's Bureau Records: Thomas P. Jackson to Orlando Brown, March 24, 1868

In this montly report, Jackson relates many of the problems in the black communitites to the lack of education and the "vices engendered by slavery." He also reports on the diverse employment opportunities in his Division, as well as the tense relationship between whites and blacks over the issue of the State Constitution.

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)

March 24, 1868

Staunton, Va.


In compliance with C.O. No. 6 S. 1866 B.R.F.&A.L. I have the honor to make the following report of condition of Bureau Affairs in 4 Div. 9 S. Dist Va. comprizing the counties of Augusta & Highland.

Settlements of wages for labor in 1867 are generally concluded, still this office is much sought by freedpeople asking aid and advice on the many questions of account which ever arise between employer and employed. With some exceptions, more than is desirable, but less than could be expected, considering their recent condition of ignorant servitude, freedmen in this Division are industrious and orderly. Surplus earnings of last year have been largely expended in bridging over the long winter, but save in cases of sickness or desertion there has not been much actual suffering. There is much diversity of employment in this Division - farming, coaling, in connection with iron mining, rail road repairs,

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and supplies of fuel, &c, preparing material for building, such as brick, lumber &c and this causes more regular demand for labor than in a purely agricultural district. If freedmen could but better understand the value of time and short intelligent money reckonings, they would advance much more rapidly in material prosperity. The desire to own a homestead is general, but the plan pursued by many freedmen is fraught with great danger, if by any disaster present system kind officers should retain power. Purchases are made with agreement to make so many annual payments and when purchase money is all paid then a deed to be received. Unless where I can influence them, most take but a simple receipt and may have to sue for title, but I advise all to have a legal contract drawn executed and recorded, but many do not. Written contracts for labor by the year for 1868 are not so general as usual. As I have before reported I think the change to casual hire will in the end prove a disadvantage to the laborer and have advised permanent contracts through this office.

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The social and moral condition of freedmen is not what it should be. The vices engendered by slavery are too deeply rooted to be easily eradicated and I fear until the community at large realize that the freedman is a citizen and seek to elevate him by example and precept, he will in many respects disappoint his friends. The relations of freedmen and whites to each other is in an unsatisfactory condition. The pernicious teachings of the conservative leaders and press have unbounded effect on ignorant whites, who look upon the freedmen with contempt and hate and do not hesitate to use violence where their leaders use abusive language. Assaults on freedmen during this month have been trifling except attack on Jefferson Davison (c) by William Hite and Joseph Trimble. The wounds caused by a stone, the pistol though drawn not fired. This case is referred to Mr. Joseph Wilson J.P. for investigation. The political relations of white and colored to each other are directly antagonistic. The conservative leaders have through District Superintendents, Chiefs of 50 & Captains of 10 fully

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organized themselves to defeat the Constitution about to be submitted to the people of Va. I do not anticipate there will be any armed and organized public demonstration to drive voters to or from the polls but every effort short of what would necessitate military interference will be used to secure the defeat of the Constitution no matter what its provisions. No progress has been made by me in organizing Temperance Associations in this Division. I have striven earnestly to establish such societies but without any success. There is not much drunkeness among freedmen here but there is more spirits drank than is good for them even were their circumstances better than they are.

I have the honor to be, General
Your obt servt

Thos P Jackson
Asst Sub Asst Comr

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