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to consummate legislation which they deemed essential to the
interests of the nation.

So fully convinced were the majority that some effective legisla
tion for the freedmen should be consummated, that two days after
the final vote in which the former bill failed to pass over the veto,
Senator Wilson introduced a bill " to continue in force the Bu



THE FREEDMEN.

reau for the relief of Freedmen and Refugees," which was read
twice and referred to the Committee on Military Affairs.

The bill, however, which subsequently became a law, origi
nated in the House of Representatives. In that branch of Con
gress was a Special Committee on the Freedmen, who were able
to give more immediate and continuous attention to that class of
people than could committees such as those of the Judiciary and
Military Affairs, having many other subjects to consider.

The Committee on the Freedmen, having given much time
and attention to the perfection of a measure to meet the neces
sities of the case, on the 22d of May reported through their
chairman, Mr. Eliot, " A bill to continue in force and amend an
act entitled an act to establish a Bureau for the relief of Freed
men and Refugees, and for other purposes.

This bill provided for keeping in force the Freedmen s Bureau
then in existence for two years longer. Some of the features to
which the President had objected in his veto of the former bill
had been modified and in part removed. In providing for the
education of freedmen, the commissioner was restricted to co
operating so far with the charitable people of the country as to
furnish rooms for school-houses and protection to teachers. The
freedmen s courts were to be kept in existence till State legisla
tion should conform itself to the Civil Rights Bill, and the dis
turbed relations of the States to the Union were restored. The
President was required to reserve from sale public lands, not ex
ceeding in all one million of acres, in Arkansas, Mississippi,
Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana, to be assigned in parcels of
forty acres and less to loyal refugees and freedmen.

One week after the introduction of the bill, its consideration
was resumed. The question was taken without debate, and the
bill passed by a vote of ninety-six in favor and thirty-two
against the measure. Fifty-five members failed to vote.

On the day following, May 30th, the clerk of the House con
veyed the bill to the Senate. It was there referred to the Com
mittee on Military Affairs, as that committee already had before
them seven bills relating to the same subject. Nearly a fortnight
subsequently, the committee reported back to the Senate the
House bill with certain amendments. The report of the com
mittee, and the amendments proposed therein, could not be con
sidered in the Senate until the lapse of another fortnight. On



296 TEE THIRTY-NINTH CONGRESS.

the 26th of Junej the amendments devised by the committee
were read in the Senate and adopted. Mr. Davis made a number
of attempts to have the bill laid on the table or deferred to a
subsequent day, but without success. Mr. Hendricks and Mr.
Buckalew made ineffectual attempts to amend the bill by pro
posing to strike out important sections.

The Senate indulged in but little discussion of the bill or the
amendments. The bill as amended finally passed the Senate by
a vote of twenty-six for and six against the measure. The bill
then went to the House for the concurrence of that body in the
amendments passed by the Senate.

The Committee on the Freedmen made a report, which was
adopted by the House, to non-concur in the amendments of the
Senate. A Committee of Conference was appointed on the part
of the Senate and the House. They, after consultation, made a
report by which the Senate amendments, with some modifications,
were adopted.

Mr. Eliot, Chairman of the Committee on the Freedmen, and
of the Committee of Conference on the part of the House, at the
request of a member, thus explained the amendments proposed by
the Senate : " The first amendment which the Senate made to the
bill, as it was passed by the House, was simply an enlargement
of one of the sections of the House bill, which provided that the
volunteer medical officers engaged in the medical department of
the bureau might be continued, inasmuch as it was expected that
the medical force of the regular army would be speedily reduced
to the minimum, and in that case all the regular officers would
be wanted in the service. It was therefore thought right that
there should be some force connected with the Bureau of Refu
gees and Freedmen. The Senate enlarged the provisions of the
House bill by providing that officers of the volunteer service now
on duty might be continued as assistant commissioners and other
officers, and that the Secretary of War might fill vacancies until
other officers could be detailed from the regular army. That is
the substance of the first material amendment.

" The next amendment strikes out a portion of one of the sec
tions of the House bill, which related to the officers who serve as
medical officers of the bureau, because it was provided for in the
amendment to which I have just referred.

"The next amendment strikes out from the House bill the



THE FREEDMEN. 297

section which set apart, reserved from sale, a million acres of land
in the Gulf States. It may perhaps be recollected that when the
bill was reported from the committee, I stated that, in case the bill
which the House had then passed, and which was known as the
Homestead Bill, and which was then before the Senate, should
become a law, this section of the bill would not be wanted. The
bill referred to has become a law, and this section five, providing
for that reservation, has, therefore, been stricken from the bill.

" The next amendment made by the Senate was to strike out a
section of the House bill which simply provided that upon appli
cation for restoration by the former owners of the land assigned
under General Sherman s field order, the application should not
be complied with. That section is stricken out and another sub
stituted for it, which provides that certain lands which are now
owned by the United States, having been purchased by the United
States under tax commissioners sales, shall be assigned in lots of
twenty acres to freedmen who have had allotments under General
Sherman s field order, at the price for which the lands were pur
chased by the United States ; and not only that those freedmen
should have such allotments, but that other freedmen who had
had lots assigned to them under General Sherman s field order,
and who may have become dispossessed of their land, should have
assignments made to them of these lands belonging to the United
States. I think the justice of that provision will strike every one.
And it will be perhaps a merit in the eyes of many that it does
not call upon the Treasury for the expenditure of any money.
In the bill which was passed by the House, it will be recollected
that there was a provision under which there should be purchased
by the commissioner of the bureau enough public lands to be sub
stituted for the lands at first assigned to freedmen. Instead of that,
provision is made by which they can have property belonging to
the United States which has come into its possession under tax
sales, and where the titles have been made perfect by lapse of time.

" The next amendment of the Senate provides that certain lands
which were purchased by the United States at tax sales, and which
are now held by the United States, should be sold at prices not
less than ten dollars an acre, and that the proceeds should be
invested for the support of schools, without distinction of color
or race, on the islands in the parishes of St. Helena and St. Luke.
That is all the provision which was made for education.



298 THE THIRTY-NINTH CONGRESS.

" The only other material amendment made by the Senate gives
to the commissioner of the bureau power to take property of the
late Confederate States, held by them or in trust for them, and
which is now in charge of the commissioner of the bureau, to
take that property and devote it to educational purposes. The
amendment further provides that when the bureau shall cease to
exist, such of the late so-called Confederate States as shall have
made provision for education, without regard to color, should
have the balance of money remaining on hand, to be divided
among them in proportion to their population."

The vote followed soon after the remarks of Mr. Eliot, and
the bill, as amended, passed the House of Representatives.

The following is the bill as it went to the President for his
approval :

"Ax ACT to continue in force and to amend An Act to establish a Bureau
for the relief of Freedmen and Refugees, and for other purposes.

" Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States
of America in Congress assembled, That the act to establish a bureau for the
relief of fre.edmen and refugees, approved March third, eighteen hundred
and sixty-five, shall continue in force for the term of two years from and
after the passage of this act.

"SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That the supervision and care of said
bureau shall extend to all loyal refugees and freedmen, so far as the same
shall be necessary, to enable them, as speedily as practicable, to become
self-supporting citizens of the United States, and to aid them in making the
freedom conferred by proclamation of the commander-in-chief, by emanci
pation under the laws of States, and by constitutional amendment, availa
ble to them and beneficial to the republic.

"SEC. 3. -And be it further enacted, That the President shall, by and with
the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint two assistant commissioners,
in addition to those authorized by the act to which this is an amendment,
who shall give like bonds and receive the same annual salaries provided in
said act; and each of the assistant commissioners of the bureau shall have
charge of one district containing such refugees or freedmen, to be assigned
him by the commissioner, with the approval of the President. And the
commissioner shall, under the direction of the President, and so far as the
same shall be, in his judgment, necessary for the efficient and economical
administration of the affairs of the bureau, appoint such agents, clerks, and
assistants as may be required for the proper conduct of the bureau. Mili
tary officers or enlisted men may be detailed for service and assigned to
duty under this act; and the President may, -if, in his judgment, safe and
judicious so to do, detail from the army all the officers and agents of this
bureau ; but no officer so assigned shall have increase of pay or allowances.
Each agent or clerk, not heretofore authorized by law, not being a military



THE FREEDMEN. 299

officer, shall have an annual salary of not less than five hundred dollars, nor
more than twelve hundred dollars, according to the service required of him.
And it shall be the duty of the commissioner, when it can be done consist
ently with public interest, to appoint, as assistant commissioners, agents,
and clerks, such men as have proved their loyalty by faithful service in the
armies of the Union during the rebellion. And all persons appointed to
service under this act, and the act to which this is an amendment, shall be
so far deemed in the military service of the United States as to be under
the military jurisdiction and entitled to the military protection of the Gov
ernment while in discharge of the duties of their office.

"SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That officers of the Veteran Keserve
Corps or of the volunteer service, now on duty in the Freedmen s Bureau
as assistant commissioners, agents, medical officers, or in other capacities,
whose regiments or corps have been or may hereafter be mustered out of
service, may be retained upon such duty as officers of said bureau, with the
same compensation as is now provided by law for their respective grades ;
and the Secretary of War shall have power to fill vacancies until other of
ficers can be detailed in their places without detriment to the public service.^

" SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That the second section of the act to
which this is an amendment shall be deemed to authorize the Secretary of
War to issue such medical stores or other supplies, and transportation, and
afford such medical or other aid as may be needful for the purposes named
in said section: Provided, That no person shall be deemed destitute, suf
fering, or dependent upon the Government for support, within the mean
ing of this act, who is able to find employment, and could, by proper industry
or exertion, avoid such destitution, suffering, or dependence.

"SEC. 6. Whereas, by the provisions of an act approved February sixth,
eighteen hundred and sixty-three, entitled An act to amend an act entitled
"An act for the collection of direct taxes in insurrectionary districts within
the United States, and for other purposes," approved June seventh, eighteen
hundred and sixty-two, 1 certain lands in the parishes of Saint Helena and
Saint Luke, South Carolina, were bid in by the United States at public tax
sales, and, by the limitation of said act, the time of redemption of said
lands has expired; and whereas, in accordance with instructions issued by
President Lincoln on the sixteenth day of September, eighteen hundred and
sixty-three, to the United States direct tax commissioners for South Caro
lina, certain lands bid in by the United States in the parish of Saint Hel
ena, in said State, were in part sold by the said tax commissioners to heads
of families of the African race, in parcels of not more than twenty acres
to each purchaser; and whereas, under the said instructions, the said tax
commissioners did also set apart as school-farms certain parcels of land in
said parish, numbered in their plats from one to sixty-three inclusive, mak
ing an aggregate of six thousand acres, more or less: Therefore, be it further
enacted, That the sales made to heads of families of the African race, un
der the instructions of President Lincoln to the United States direct tax
commissioners for South Carolina, of date of September sixteenth, eighteen
hundred and sixty -three, are hereby confirmed and established; and all
leases which have been made to such heads of families by said direct



300 THE THIRTY-NINTH CONGRESS.

tax commissioners shall be changed into certificates of sale in all cases
wherein the lease provides for such substitution; and all the lands now re
maining unsold, which come within the same designation, being eight thou
sand acres, more or less, shall be disposed of according to said instructions.

"SEC. 7. And be it further enacted, That all other lands bid in by the
United States at tax sales, being thirty-eight thousand acres, more or less,
and now in the hands of the said tax commissioners as the property of the
United States, in the parishes of Saint Helena and Saint Luke, excepting
the school-farms, as specified in the preceding section, and so much as
may be necessary for military and naval purposes at Hilton Head, Bay
Point, and Land s End, and excepting also the city of Port Royal, on Saint
Helena island, and the town of Beaufort, shall be disposed of in parcels of
twenty acres, at one dollar and fifty cents per acre, to such persons, and to
such only, as have acquired and are now occupying lands under and agree
ably to the provisions of General Sherman s special field order, dated at Sa
vannah, Georgia, January sixteenth, eighteen hundred and sixty-five; and the
remaining lands, if any, shall be disposed of, in like manner, to such per
sons as had acquired lands agreeably to the said order of General Sherman,
"but who have been dispossessed by the restoration of the same to former
owners: Provided, That the lands sold in compliance with the provision s
of this and the preceding section shall not be alienated by their purchasers
within six years from and after the passage of this act.

"SEC. 8. And be it further enacted, That the school-farms in the parish
of Saint Helena, South Carolina, shall be sold, subject to any leases of the
same, by the said tax commissioners, at public auction, on or before the
first day of January, eighteen hundred and sixty-seven, at not less than ten
dollars per acre; and the lots in the city of Port Royal, as laid down by
the said tax commissioners, and the lots and houses in the town of Beau
fort, which are still held in like manner, shall be sold at public auction;
and the proceeds of said sales, after paying expenses of the surveys and
sales, shall be invested in United States bonds, the Interest of which shall
be appropriated, under the direction of the commissioner, to the support of
schools, without distinction of color or race, on the islands in the parishes
of Saint Helena and Saint Luke.

"SEC. 9. And be it further enacted, That the assistant commissioners for
South Carolina and Georgia are hereby authorized to examine the claims to
lands in their respective States which are claimed under the provisions of
General Sherman s special field order, and to give each person having a
valid claim a warrant upon the direct tax commissioners for South Caro
lina for twenty acres of land; and the said direct tax commissioners shall
issue to every person, or to his or her heirs, but in no case to any assigns,
presenting such warrant, a lease of twenty acres of land, as provided for
in section seven, for the term of six years ; but, at any time thereafter, upon
the payment of a sum not exceeding one dollar and fifty cents per acre, the
person holding such lease shall be entitled to a certificate of sale of said
tract of twenty acres from the direct tax commissioner or such officer as
may be authorized to issue the same; but no warrant shall be held valid
longer than two years after the issue of the same.



THE FREEDMEN. 301

"SEC. 10. And be it further enacted, That the direct tax commissioners for
South Carolina are hereby authorized and required, at the earliest day prac
ticable, to survey the lands designated in section seven into lots of twenty
acres each, with proper metes and bounds distinctly marked, so that the sev
eral tracts shall be convenient in form, and, as near as practicable, have
an average of fertility and woodland ; and the expense of such surveys shall
be paid from the proceeds of sales of said lands, or, if sooner required, out
of any moneys received for other lands on these islands, sold by the United
States for taxes, and now in the hands of the direct tax commissioners.

"SEC. 11. And be it further enacted, That restoration of the lands now oc
cupied by persons under General Sherman s special field order, dated at
Savannah, Georgia, January sixteenth, eighteen hundred and sixty-five, shall
not be made until after the crops of the present year shall have been gath
ered by the occupants of said lands, nor until a fair compensation shall
have been made to them by the former owners of said lands, or their legal
representatives, for all improvements or betterments erected or constructed
thereon, and after due notice of the same being done shall have been given
by the assistant commissioner.

" SEC. 12. And be it further enacted, That the commissioner shall have
power to seize, hold, use, lease, or sell, all buildings and tenements, and
any lands appertaining to the same, or otherwise, held under claim or title
by the late so-called Confederate States, and any buildings or lands held in
trust for the same by any person or persons, and to use the same or appro
priate the proceeds derived therefrom to the education of the freed people;
and whenever the bureau shall cease to exist, such of the late so-called Con
federate States as shall have made provision for the education of their citi
zens, without distinction of color, shall receive the sum remaining unex
pended of such sales or rentals, which shall be distributed among said States
for educational purposes in proportion to their population.

"SEC. 13. And be it further enacted, That the commissioner of this bureau
shall at all times cooperate with private benevolent associations of citizens
in aid of freedmen, and with agents and teachers, duly accredited and ap
pointed by them, and shall hire or provide by lease buildings for purposes
of education whenever such associations shall, without cost to the Govern
ment, provide suitable teachers and means of instruction ; and he shall fur
nish protection as may be required for the safe conduct of such schools.

"SEC. 14. And be it further enacted, That in every State or district where
the ordinary course of judicial proceedings has been interrupted by the re
bellion, and until the same shall be fully restored, and in every State or dis
trict whose constitutional relations to the Government have been practically
discontinued by the rebellion, and until such State shall have been restored
in such relations, and shall be duly represented in the Congress of the United
States, the right to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give
evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and per
sonal property, and to have full and equal benefit of all laws and proceed
ings concerning personal liberty, personal security, and the acquisition,
enjoyment, and disposition of estate, real and personal, including the con
stitutional right to bear arms, shall be secured to and enjoyed by all the



3 02 THE THIRTY-NINTH CONGRESS.

citizens of such State or district, without respect to race or color, or previ
ous condition of slavery. And whenever in either of said States or districts
the ordinary course of judicial proceedings has been interrupted by the
rebellion, and until the same shall be fully restored, and until such State
shall have been restored in its constitutional relations to the Government,
and shall be duly represented in the Congress of the United States, the
President, shall, through the commissioner and the officers of the bureau,
and under such rules and regulations as the President, through the Secretary
of War, shall prescribe, extend military protection and have military juris
diction over all cases and questions concerning the free enjoyment of such
immunities and rights; and no penalty or punishment for any violation of
law shall be imposed or permitted because of race or color, or previous con
dition of slavery, other or greater than the penalty or punishment to which
white persons may be liable by law for the like offense. But the jurisdic
tion conferred by this section upon the officers of the bureau shall not ex
ist in any State where the ordinary course of judicial proceedings has not
been interrupted by the rebellion, and shall cease in every State when the
courts of the State and the United States are not disturbed in the peace
able course of justice, and after such State shall be fully restored in its con
stitutional relations to the Government, and shall be duly represented in the
Congress of the United States.

"SEC. 15. And be it further enacted, That the officers, agents, and employ
ees of this bureau, before entering upon the duties of their office, shall take
the oath prescribed in the first section of the act to which this is an amend
ment; and all acts or parts of acts inconsistent with the provisions of this
act are hereby repealed.

On the 16th of July the President returned the bill to the
House of Representatives, in which it originated, with his "ob
jections thereto" in writing. The following is

THE VETO MESSAGE.

<l To the House of Representatives :

" A careful examination of the bill passed by the two houses of Congress,
entitled An act to continue in force and to amend " An act to establish a
bureau for the relief of freedmen and refugees," and for other purposes, has
convinced me that the legislation which it proposes would not be consistent
with the welfare of the country, and that it falls clearly within the reasons
assigned in my message of the 19th of February last, returning without my
signature a similar measure which originated in the Senate. It is not my
purpose to repeat the objections which I then urged. They are yet fresh in
your recollection, and can be readily examined as a part of the records of
one branch of the National Legislature. Adhering to the principles set forth
in that message, I now reaffirm them, and the line of policy therein indi
cated. ,

"The only ground upon which this kind of legislation can be justified is
that of the war-making power. The act of which this bill was intended as



Online LibraryWilliam Horatio BarnesHistory of the Thirty-ninth Congress of the United States → online text (page 30 of 66)