Return to Assorted Documents of the Freedmen's Bureau
General Rufus Saxton
General Orders No. 5
August 9, 1865
Freedmen Bureau Records
General Orders No. 5.

     Headquarters Assistant Commissioner, Bureau Refugees, Freedmen, And Abandoned Lands,
South Carolina, Georgia And Florida,

Beaufort, & C, August 9, 1865. The following circular from Bureau Refugees, Frecdmen, and
abandoned Lands is hereby published for the guidance of all assistant and sub-commissioners,
and all others whom it may concern, in the States of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida:

[Circular No. 11.]

          War Department, Bureau Refugees, Freedmen, And Abandoned Lands, Washington, D.
C, July 12, 18C5.

Instructions to assistant commissioners and other officers.—Each assistant commissioner will be
careful, in the establishment of sub-districts, to have the office of his agent at some point easy of
access for the people of the sub-district.

He will have at least one agent, either a citizen, military officer or enlisted man, in each sub-
district. This agent must be thoroughly instructed in his duties. He will be furnished with the proper
blanks for contracts, and will institute methods adequate to meet the wants of his district, in
accordance with the rules of this bureau. No fixed rates of wages will be prescribed for a district,
but in order to regulate fair wages in given individual cases, the agent should have in mind
minimum rates for his own guidance. By careful inquiries as to the hire of an able-bodied man,
when the pay went to the master, he will have an approximate test of the value of labor. He must,
of course, consider the entire change of circumstances, and be sure that the laborer has due
protection against avarice and extortion. Wages had better be secured by a lien on the crops or
land. Employers are desired to enter into written agreements with the employes, setting forth the
stated wages, or securing an interest in the crop, or land, or both. All such agreements will be
approved by the nearest agent, and a duplicate filed in his office. In case there should be no
agent within reach, the nearest postmaster will forward the duplicate of contracts direct to the
assistant commissioner for the State.

Attention is especially called to section IV of the law establishing the bureau with regard to setting
apart land to every male citizen, whether refugee or freedmen, &c, and the same arrangement is
recommended when it can be effected between private parties. Already many farmers have
rented land to freedmen and refugees. This course is a recognition of the general principle in the

In order to enforce the fulfilment of contracts on both contracting parties, the Commissioner of the
bureau lays down no general rule. The assistant commissioner must use the privileges and
authority he already has. Provost courts, military commissions, local courts, when the freedmnn
and refugees have equal rights with other people, are open to his use. In the great majority of
cases, his own abitrament, or that of his agent, or the settlement by referees, will be sufficient.

No assistant commissioner or agent is authorized to tolerate compulsory or unpaid labor, except
for the legal punishment of crime. Suffering may result to some extent, but suffering is preferred
to slavery, and is, to some degree, the necessary consequence of events.

In all actions the officer should never forget that no substitute for slavery, like apprenticeship,
without proper consent, or peonage, i. e., either holding the people by debt, or confining them
without consent to the land, by any system, will be tolerated.

General Superintendent of Schools)
The assistant commissioner will designate one or mnre of his agents to ac; as the general
superintendent of schools (one for each State) for refugees and freedmen. This officer will work
as much as possible in conjunction with State officers who may have school matters in charge. If a
general system can be adopted for a State, it is well; but if not, he will at least take cognizance of
all that is being done to educate refugees and freedmen; secure proper protection to schools and
teachers, promote method and efficiency, correspond with the benevolent agencies which are
supplying his field, and aid the assistant commissioner in making his required reports.

Surgeon C. W. Horner, chief medical officer of the bureau, will have the general supervision of
medical matters connected with refugees and freedmen.

The assistant commissioners will instruct their medical officers, as they have instructed other
officers, to make the medical department self-supporting as far as possible.

All public addresses of a character calculated to create discontent arc reprehensible; but the
assistant commissioner and his agents must explain, by constant recapitulation, the principles,
laws and regulations of this bureau to all parties concerned. It is recommended to the assistant
commissioners to drawup, in writing, a careful summary, to be publicly and privately read by
agents throughout their respective districts.

O. O. HOWARD, Major General, Commissioner.

By order of Brevet Major General Saxton, assistant commissioner.


Assistant Adjutant General.
General O. O. Howard
General Rufus Saxton