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Freedmen's Bureau Records: Circular - Instructions to Assistant Superintendents, December 14, 1865

How circulates his instructions to his agents in the field regarding their duties for the Bureau. The instructions urge vigilance and efficiency in the execution of their responsibilities, and also communicates an optimistic and paternalistic attitude toward free blacks.

Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands,
Head Quarters, Sixth District, Virginia,

Dec 14th 1865

Winchester, Va.,


In order to secure the utmost efficiency in promoting the welfare of the Freedmen, and in executing the designs of this Bureau all its officers and agents are expected to be earnest and assiduous in their efforts to render all possible assistance and give good counsel to every freedman whither the limits of their several jurisdictions and spheres of duty. They are also desired to [unclear: receive] and report all facts which may come to their knowledge relating to the present character, condition, capacity and needs of the freedmen, and the disposition, requirements and treatment of them by those who employ them, and among whom they now live as neighbors.

Remember that they are no longer to be driven, but encouraged to labor, and where the advantage of industry, skill, and

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knowledge are fairly set before them, as essential to true manhood it is hoped that they [added: will] exercise their freedom and become useful members of the community in which they live. Of course there are many dazed by the light suddenly shining upon their darkened minds, and others who have imbibed [unclear: vicious] tendencies, who can no more be expected to at once enter upon a course of good conduct, than could a band of outlaws, suprised by official pardon with the simple request of good behavior.

These are to be [unclear: warned] of the certain result of idleness and vice, and if need be, treated as other criminals.

The destitute helpless ones are to be sought out, by personal inspection so far as practicable, and if possible relieved. If the prescribed method is inapplicable, state the case, and recommend a way.

The recent organization of the Bureau

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renders it very probable, that all contingencies are not provided for, hence every officer should be prompt and careful in reporting every case not met by his instructions, and industrious in collecting and transmitting facts which may in any degree add to the information upon which instructions are based.

This circular is made suggestion for the purpose of stimulating each officer and agent to the exercise of industry and zeal in the work intrusted to him, a duty which should always be [unclear: in operation], and is now especially so in view of the near approach of the Christmas week in which many of the labor contracts terminate, and idleness generally prevails.

Instant attention will therefore be given to the subject of written contracts and their importance explained to and [unclear: urged] upon the employer and the employed, with the object of securing the interests of all parties.

W. Storer How
Capt. & AQM
Supt Sixth Dist. Va.

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