|Rufus Saxton Testimony
Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction (Washington, 1866)
|Rufus Saxton, Testimony Before Congress, 1866
Major General Rufus Saxton was the military governor for the Department of the South and later
became the Freedmen's Bureau's assistant commissioner for Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.
[Question] What is [the freedmen's] disposition in regard to purchasing land, and what is the
disposition of the landowners in reference to selling land to Negroes?
[Answer] The object which the freedman has most at heart is the purchase of land. They all desire
to get small homesteads and to locate themselves upon them, and there is scarcely any sacrifice
too great for them to make to accomplish this object. I believe it is the policy of the majority of the
farm owners to prevent Negroes from becoming landholders. They desire to keep the Negroes
landless, and as nearly in a condition of slavery as it is possible for them to do. I think that the
former slaveholders know really less about the freedmen than any other class of people. The
system of slavery has been one of concealment on the part of the Negro of all his feelings and
impulses; and that feeling of concealment is so ingrained with the very constitution of the Negro
that he deceives his former master on almost every point. The freedman has no faith in his former
master, nor has his former owner any faith in the capacity of the freedman. A mutual distrust exists
between them. But the freedman is ready and willing to contract to work for any northern man. One
man from the North, a man of capital, who employed large numbers of freedmen, and paid them
regularly, told me, as others have, that he desired no better laborers; that he considered them fully
as easy to manage as Irish laborers. That was my own experience in employing several thousands
of them in cultivating the soil. I have also had considerable experience in employing white labor,
having, as quartermaster, frequently had large numbers of laborers under my control.
[Question] If the Negro is put in possession of all his rights as a man, do you apprehend any
danger of insurrection among them?
[Answer] I do not; and I think that is the only thing which will prevent difficulty. I think if the Negro is
put in possession of all his rights as a citizen and as a man, he will be peaceful, orderly, and self-
sustaining as any other man or class of men, and that he will rapidly advance....
[Question] It has been suggested that, if the Negro is allowed to vote, he will be likely to vote on the
side of his former master, and be inveigled in the support of a policy hostile to the government of
the United States; do you share in that apprehension?
[Answer] I have positive information from Negroes, from the most intelligent freedmen in those
States, those who are leaders among them, that they are thoroughly loyal, and know their friends,
and they will never be found voting on the side of oppression....I think it vital to the safety and
prosperity of the two races in the south that the Negro should immediately be put in possession of
all his rights as a man; and that the word "color" should be left out of all laws, constitutions, and
regulations for the people; I think it vital to the safety of the Union that this should be done.
Washington, February 21, 1866. General Rufus Saxton sworn and examined.
By Mr. Howard :
Question. You were in command in South Carolina?
Answer. I was assistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau there.
Question. How long did you occupy that position there?
Answer. I was assistant commissioner from the time of the organization of the bureau in June last
until the 15th of January, when I was removed.
Question. Who removed youâ€”the President of the United States'
Answer. I do not know, sir; 1 was removed by order of Major General Howard, the Commissioner.
Question. Who was appointed in your place?
Answer. General E. K. Scott, of Ohio.
Question. At whose request:have you reason to believe you were removed?
Answer. I have reason to believe that I was removed through the influence of the late rebels in
Question. What leading rebels among them do you refer to?
Answer. I cannot answer that question from positive knowledge; I only can give my general
impression that I was removed through the influence of William Whaley, Governor Aiken, of South
Carolina, and others. Governor Aiken, claiming to be elected the member of Congress from the
Charleston district, tame to my office and desired me to restore to his possession tin- lands
formerly belonging to him, on the ground that they were not abandoned. He abandoned his lands
to cast his fortunes with the confederacy shortly after the arrival of the expeditionary corps,
commanded by General Sherman, in 1861. General Sherman, upon his arrival in South Carolina.,
issued a proclamation promising all persons who should remain quietly in their homes ample
protection for life and property. There was .nothing to prevent Governor Aiken from casting his
fortunes with the Union. I was informed, in addition, by authority which I deem reliable, that
Governor Aiken was largely interested in blockade-running, profiting more largely by it than almost
any other. I had located a number of freedmen, who had always been loyal, in forty-acre tracts
upon these lands in accordance with my orders from Major General Sherman, (Special Field Order
No. 15.) For these reasons I declined to return to Governor Aiken the property claimed by him,
without positive orders to do so from the War Department. I was, shortly afterwards, and after the
visit of the lieutenant general to South Carolina, mustered out of the service und relieved from duty
as the Slate commissioner. I have no positive information upon the subject, but it is my strong
belief that it is to the misrepresentations .of such men as Governor Aiken, William Whaley, and
others who have beeu disloyal, to the authorities, that I owe my removal. If their statements could
have been met by the real Union men and of the intelligent freedmen, the case might have been
Question. Do you know whether Governor Aiken took any part in the rebellion ?
Answer. I have understood that he was engaged in blockade-running, and that he profited largely
by that; I can only say this from report. That is the general rumor and impression.
Question. Did this report como to you from such authentic sources as to lead you to believe it.'
Answer. It came to me from a gentleman who stated to me that he had seen the dividend on
account of stock of those engaged in blockade-running, and that a large share was given to
Governor Aiken as one of the stockholders. He told me that he had had this paper in his own
possession ; he had it not then, but he informed me that he knew where it was. I understood that
he had seen it himself.
Question. Was that a truthful man who gave you this information?
Answer. I believe him to be so; he was u minister.
Question. Have you any objection to giving his name ?
Answer. No, sir; I refer to Mansfield French, of Charleston.
Question. Can you state whether any report of the fact of his having been engaged in blockade-
running was ever made to the government of the United States?
Answer. No, sir; I cannot. I can state that it was generally believed in Charleston by every person
whom I heard speak of it.
Question. Did Governor Aiken reside in Charleston during the war?
Answer. He resided in that vicinity, I understood.
Question. Did this reverend gentleman state to you the amount Governor Aiken made by blockade-
Answer. No, sir; he did not. He only stated that he had profited much larger than any other person
in the firm.
Question. Do you know Governor Orr?
Answer. I do not.
Question. What is the general impression down there about the late election between Governor
Orr and Wade Hampton?
Answer. It is the general impression that General Wade Hampton was elected by a considerable
majority. I have beard that fact asserted positively.
Question. How did it happen that he was not declared governor?
Answer. It was understood that the votes were thrown out, perhaps as a matter of policy.
Question:. Thrown out by whom?
Answer. I cannot say.
Question. Are you able to state who composed the board of canvassers who declared the result of
Answer. I cannot say at present. ,.
Question. Were they officers of the State?
Auswer. I cannot say, but I would recommend a full investigation into the election of Governor Orr.
Question. Was or was not that board composed of State officers of South Carolina ?
Answer. I do not know how the votes were counted or how the election was conducted.
Question. Is Governor Orr esteemed to be a loyal mau in South Carolina?
Answer. I think he is as loyal as the average of South Carolinians.
Question. Describe the kind of loyalty of which that average of South Carolinians, in your opinion,
Answer. I believe that Governor Orr belongs to the best class of so-called loyal men in South
Carolina. I believe there is a small portion of people in South Carolina who desire earnestly to fulfill
their obligations to the United States government. I believe that a large majority, probably nine-
tenths, of the people of South Carolina are opposed to the government, and look to their conection
with it as the greatest calamity which could befall South Carolina, and desire a separate
organization. I believe that a Union man holding and advocating Union sentiments cannot be
elected to any office in the gift of the whites of South Carolina. It is my belief that Governor Orr's
great popularity in the State in former days influenced a large vote in his favor: and it is my further
conviction that bis popularity was weakened by the less prominent part he seemed to have taken
during the rebellion. Had he been as active as Wade Hampton, his popularity would have been
increased in proportion. I mention this as the indication that there is no real reformation j that, in
their own words, they are overpowered, not conquered, aud that they regard their treason as a
virtue, and loyalty as dishonorable. General Wade Hampton positively declined to be a candidate
for the office of governor. Had the white people of South Carolina thought that he would accept, in
my opinion his majority would have been far greater than it was.
Question. How are secessionists there in the habit of speaking of the government of the United
States ; what is their tone and style in speaking ot it?
Answer. They speak of it as ' your government," or as the " United States government;" I have yet
to hear a single one, even though he had taken the oath of allegiance, call it "our" government.
They speak of it as the government of a foreign nation. I think their hatred of the Yankee, as they
call him, is thoroughly intense.
Question. Have your opportunities been good to learn the state of popular feeling in South
Carolina towards the government of the United States ?
Answer. They have been peculiarly favorable; I have travelled over portions of the State and have
conversed with large numbers of people in my office; I have talked with the freedmen, and I have
studied the reports of my agents throughout the State. I think I have had better opportunities of
discovering the real state of feeling there than any other person, from my position.
Question. Suppose the United States should be engaged in a war with any other powerful nation,
such as England or France, and suppose in the progress of the strife it should become apparent
to the South Carolinians that they had a reasonable chance, by connecting themselves with the
common enemy, to achieve their independence and shake off the government
Question. Does this feeling, in your judgment, more particularly pervade the higher classes, or the
middle classes, or the lower classes of the whites, or does it pervade them all ?
Answer. I think it pervades throughout. I think there are exceptions to it among the educated, but
they are few, and I think that the vast number of the ignorant are still guided by the same counsels
which guided them in seceding.
Question How do the leading politicians in South Carolina feel in regard to a republican
govenment, as you and I understand it; I do not speak of universal suffrage or negro sufferage out
of a democratic republican government, such as is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United
States, and such as exists in other States of the Union ?
Answer. I think they are opposed to it.
Question. State whether you have heard expressions on the part of persons of standing and
moderation in South Carolina, or whether you know from any reliable sources, that such is the
Answer. That such is their feeling is so apparent to me from all my intercourse with them on my
conversations with them, that I cannot, at present, specify any individual case in which this subject
has come up: but it is my belief that it is the burden of nearly all their discussions on government. If
I had supposed that my attention would have been called to that subject on this examination, I
would have been more particular on this point, and would have been able to furnish many
instances corroborative of this view.
Question. Do you think that, to use a common, plain expression, the great masses of the people of
South Carolina hate the government of the United States?
Answer. I do, sir.
Question. What is their feeling towards northern men,* and particularly those who havÂ» been
hearty and earnest in the prosecution of the war to put down the rebellion?
Answer. Their feeling is hostile to northern men. As a general thing the United Stales uniform is
more likely to expose a person to insult than to respect; and a man in full rebel gray uniform can go
from one end of the State to the other without receiving the slightest disrespect.
Question. How are Union men, whether officers or civilians, treated by the secessionists of South
Answer. They are treated with entire neglect, and, so far as my experience goes, with discourtesy.
My wife has seldom walked the streets of Charleston without being insulted. I, myself, have seldom
passed through the streets without receiving, from man or woman, indignities.
Question. In what form would these indignities be exhibited?
Answer. By contortions of the countenance, making up faces, and perhaps claiming the whole of
the sidewalk, and in other ways. I speak in that connection of women. I have been informed that
other officers' wives have been subjected to the same discourtesies by southern women, who
represent in more direct and more unmistakable terms the true state .of feeling than the men do,
from the fact that they are less politic. I believe that if the army was removed, the situation of
northern men, if they expressed Union sentiments, would be perilous; they could not remain there.
Teachers of colored schools throughout the State give it as their opinion that they would be unable
to remain there for a day but for the protection of the United States troops.
Question. And particularly of the Freedmen's Bureau?
Answer. And particularly of the Freedmen's Bureau.
Question. What military force has the United States in South Carolina?
Answer. I cannot answer positively. I should say about 5,000 men; perhaps not so many. They
have been mustering out lately.
Question. Where are they principally stationed ?
Answer. Scattered over different portions of the State. If it were not for the protection afforded by
those troops the officers of the Freedmen's Bureau could not remain there.
Question. Do you think they would be driven out by violence ?
Answer. Yes, sir; it is my belief they would be assassinated.
Question. What chance do Unionists, especially Unionists from the north, stand for protection and
security in the State courts of South Carolina ?
Answer. The State courts have been so merged in the military courts that I cannot answer that
question positively. It is my opinion they would stand a very poor chance. They have what they call
provost courts, composed of citizens and one officer. It has been my habit to requite reports of
outrages in different parts of the district to be sent to me while I was commissioner, and I have a
large pile of them. At the end of the month I have been in the habit of making an abstract of these
reports touching on the different cases brought to my attention. These reports will cover but a
small portion of what actually happen. Northern men would probably fare just as bad in the courts
as the freedmeu, and it is my belief that there are large numbers in South Carolina who would
consider it no greater crime to kill an agent of the Freedmen's Bureau, who claims justice for those
committed to his charge, than to kill a negro.
Question. Have you any statement in writing going to illustrate the treatment of the whites toward
Answer. I have briefs of the reports that reached me of many aggravated cases occurring within
the several districts. I have the original reports in my possession. (Witness presents the briefs,
referred to and which are annexed to his testimony.)
Question. How do the whites in South Carolina feel about the education of the freedmen?
Answer. I believe it to be the desire of a large majority of the white people that they shall not be
educated. Some intelligent planters, however, have assured me that they would m< oppose the
education of the freedmen.
Question. Do they generally appear to want the black people to remain among them?
Answer. If they could manage them in their way they desire them to remain.
Question. How do you think they will manage them if the federal troops are withdrawn, and the
Freedmen's Bureau is withdrawn ?
Answer. I think it will be the purpose of their former masters to reduce them as near to a condition
of slaves as it will be possible to do; that they would deprive them by severe legislation of most of
the rights of freedmen. I think that the black codes that have passed the legislature of the State
are a sufficient indication of the truth of what I say; and the unjust contracts which they try to force
upon the freedraen, and which they ask the aid of the military authorities to enforce.
Question. If the State should have its own way in regard to the freedmen, what, in your iudgment,
would be the result in the course of time ?
Answer. I believe it will lead to insurrection and a war of races, in which the United States troops will
be called upon to aid in the extermination of the black race. I think it is the belief of a great majority
of the former masters that the freedom of the black race is a failure, and that slavery is his best
condition, and that they desire to pursue such a policy as to prove that they are correct in that
belief. I can see no hope for the freedmen except through the care of the United States government
Question. State whether that doctrine is inculcated by persons of condition in South Carolina, from
the pulpit, in lectures, discourses or essays, that slavery is the best condition for the black race.
Answer. I believe it is ; I have seen it in their papers. I think they go as far in that direction in the
pulpit and press as it is possible for them to do without being subjected to the restraint of martial
Question. Are you aware that the blacks have arms to any considerable extent in South Carolina?
Answer. I believe that a great many of them have arms, and I know it to be their earnest desire to
Question. While you were in command there has any request been made to you to disarm the
Answer. I cannot say that any direct request has been made to me to disarm them; it would not be
my duty to disarm them, as I was not the military commander, but I have had men some to my office
and complain that the negroes had arms, and I also heard that bauds of men called Regulators,
consisting of those who were lately in the rebel service, were going around the country disarming
negroes. I can further state that they desired me to sanction a form of contract which would deprive
the colored men of their anus, which I refused to do. The subject was so important, as I thought, to
the welfare of the freedmen that I issued a circular on tins subject, which circular not having been
approved by the military commander was not published, as I was required by my instructions to get
his approval to all my circulars before I issued them. (Witness furnishes copy of circular referred to,
which is annexed to his testimony.) I will further add, that I believe it to be the settled purpose of the
white people of South Carolina to be armed and thoroughly organized, and to have the whole black
population thoroughly disarmed and defenceless; I believe that is the settled policy
Question. What would be the probable effect of such an effort to disarm the blacks ?
Answer. It would subject them to the severest oppression, and leave their condition no better than
before they were emancipated, and in many respects worse than it was before.
Question. Have you any reason to suppose that they would submit to be disarmed quietly ?
Answer. I do not believe that they would, provided the United States troops were withdrawn and the
State relieved entirely from the presence of martial law.
Question. Do you think they would resist by violence such an attempt to disarm them ?
Answer. They would, provided the United States troops were not present; their respect to the
United States government is very great. The whole teachings of the agents of the Freedmen's
Bureau have been to them that they must never lift their hands against the United States
government, and they have seen the effect of the late rebellion, so that whatever the United States
government says they will observe to a very great extent. But if the government protection were
withdrawn, and they were left entirely to their formor owners, and this attempt to disarm them were
curried out, I believe there would be an insurrection.
Question. Have you an apprehension that that state of feeling among the blacks which you have
now described generally prevails throughout the cotton, sugar, and rice-growing States?
Answer. So far as I am informed, I believe it does ; I believe there is a feeling of a mutual want of
confidence between the former owner and the slave. The former owner has no knowledge of the
freeman, he does not understand him; his whole teaching as a slave has been to conceal his
feelings from his master, and the late master knows less of the negro's character than any other
person; he has no faith in the negro's capacity for freedom, no will in his capacity to take care of
himself, and believes that slavery is his best condition. The negro believes that his former master
wishes to make him a slave again, and has no confidence in his promises. He desires particularly
not to make any contract or to work for his old master, preferring to work for northern men.
Northern men can get all the labor they require, with capital; but not so with the former
slaveholders; the only way this feeling can he broken down and a mutual confidence restored is to
give the negro all his rights, and for the old master to show him that he has given up the idea of
making him a slave and is willing to recognize his rights. This, I think, will restore mutual
confidence, peace, and harmony, and thus there will be a thorough reconstruction, and not before.
Question. What extent of intelligence did you discover among the freedmen of South Carolina?
Answer. I found many of the leading men very intelligent; I found some men as intelligent as any
other men of a different color. Of course.tbe large mass of them is ignorant and degraded. They
have all the vices which slavery has entailed npon them.
Question. Have they any knowledge of military drill and discipline?
Answer. Large numbers of them have been in our army, are well drilled and understand the use of
arms. I suppose that in South Carolina there are four or five thousand blacks who have been in our
Question. Have any of them held military grades ?
Answer. They have been sergeants and corporals. There is one instance of a colored man being a
surgeon in our army; there are several instances where colored men have been officers; one
colored man has been major, another captain, and several have occupied the position of
Question. Do they seem to show an aptitude to acquire a knowledge of military-matters?
Answer. I think they do. I think they are the easiest troops to leam military drill that I have had any
experience with. They take to it naturally. They have a great idea of time, and, so far as my
experience goes, they make good soldiers.
Question. Have you ever seen them engaged in actual operations in the field against the enemy ?
Answer. Yes, sir; I have been in battle with them myself.
Question. On more occasions than once?
Answer. I have never sent in a regiment but once. I sent in one regiment on John's island, and they
fought as bravely as any regiment I ever saw. Out of 800 men they left 90 on the field. They made
separate and distinct charges, and rallied and carried the point.
Question. What force were they fighting?
Answer. They were fighting a battery of rebel artillery and a regiment of infantryâ€”a superior
force, I believe. They were ordered to drive the regiment out from behind some temporary works
which concealed them, and they succeeded in driving them out. I have the testimony of rebel
officers whom they fought against, and they said they fought well. I have known of their fighting
bravely in Florida. I sent a regiment under my command into Florida, and the testimony of every
one was that they did their duty bravely, thoroughly, and well. They did well in Fort Wagner. I sent
a detachment of the 33rd regiment in the vicinity of Pocotaligo. They went up for a particular
purpose, and one company, under a captain, accomplished the object for which I sent them up. On
their return they were pursued by a large body of cavalryâ€”probably a regiment. They took
different roads, but one company came down npon this company of colored troops. They fought
them, emptied a good many saddles, and drove them back. They brought off the prisoners which
they captured and got away themselves. For a small party it was a very creditable fight, and so well
did they do their part that, in a flag of truce the next day from the rebels, they told me that they
thought we had a tbousand negroes there. My entire experience with them in Florida and South
Carolina was that they make excellent soldiers, and that was the verdict of every officer with whom I
Question. Are they as steady and self-possessed under actual fire as white troops ?
Answer. I believe they can be trained to be so with good officers. It very much depends upon the
officers. I could discover no difference in their conduct upon the battle-field. I think that as sentinels
and for picket duty they are peculiarly adapted. They are better for that than white soldiers on
account of the peculiarity of the negro. The negro can see better at night than the white man, and
he is peculiarly excellent as a sentinol or out on picket duty, and skirmishing.
Question. Is he as shrewd and cunning as the white man in that kind of service
Answer. Yes, sir; I think he is, fully.
Question. How do you find the black in regard to truthfulness?
Answer. The vices of slavery have been shared by them and others. Their whole life has been one
of concealment, and they had to lie to avoid punishment. I do not consider them any more
untruthful than any other people, or any more truthful. I think they share all the vices and all the
virtues of our common humanity. Perhaps under the condition of slavery they are not so truthful.
But I think they are as truthful as any other people in the same circumstances. I am aware of all
their vices and all their faults, but I think they have no more vices or faults than are shared by any
Question. Do they evince a love of education, generally?
Answer. Their desire of learning is intense. They feel that is one of the means by which they are
going to be elevated; and they have a particular avidity and desire to learn. All the schools
established there by northern benevolence are crowded by children, and the teachers have
assured me that their progress is as great as that which they have seen among white people at the
north, owing, probably, to their great desire to learn. I have been surprised at the progress of the
colored people at the schools.
Question. What is your opinion of the capacity of the negro for sustaining himself; is he industrious
aud thrifty in a state of freedom ?
Answer. I think he shares with other races of men a natural disinclination to work, but in no greater
degree. Ihave employed large numbers of them in the cultivation of cotton for the government,
and, by paying them regular wages, I have had no difficulty in inducing them to work, while in
slavery the only stimulus to industry was the lash. The stimulus of the free laborer, necessities, will
be all that is required to make him industrious and thrifty. Before I was assigned to duty as
assistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau, and while in command of a military district in
South Carolina, I endeavored to test, as far as was in my power, the industrial, intellectual, and
moral capacities and aptitudes of the negro. I established regulations for the cultivation of two or
three of the abandoned sea islands in South Carolina, (St. Helena, Ladies', and-Port Royal,) and
appointed local superintendents to oversee and direct their labors. By the payment of moderate
wages, and just and fair dealing with them, I produced for the government over half a million
dollars' worth of cotton, besides a large amount of food beyond the needs of the laborers. These
island lands were cultivated in this way for two years, 1862 and 1863, under my supervision, and
during that time I had about 15,000 colored freedmen of all ages in my charge. About 9,000. of
these were engaged on productive labor, which relieved the government of the support of all
except newly-arrived refugees from the enemy's lines and old and infirm who had no relations to
depend upon. The increase of industry and thrift of the freed men was illustrated bv their conduct
in South Carolina before the organization of the Freedmen's Buieau by the decreasing government
expenditure for their support. The expense in the department of the south in was $41,544, but the
monthly expense of that year was steadily reduced, until in December it was less than $1,100, and
this has always, I believe, been the case since the close of the war. The causes which have led to
an interruption of labor since the war are easily explained. Previous to the termination of the war
the negroes heard from those in rebellion that it was the purpose of our government to divide up
the southern plantations among them, and that was one of the reasons the rebels urged among
their own people to excite them to greater activity in the rebellion. Our own acts of Congress, and
particularly the one creating the Freedmen's Bureau, which was extensively circulated among
them, further strengthened them in this dearest wish of their heartâ€”that they were to have
homesteadsâ€”and General Sherman's Special Field Order No. 15, which ordered their
colonization on forty-acre tracts, and in accordance with which it is estimated some forty thousand
were provided with homes. Public meetings wore, held, and every exertion used by those whose
duty it was to execute this order to encourage emigration to the sea islands, and the faith of the
government was solemnly pledged to maintain them in possession. The greatest success attended
the experiment, and although the planting season was very far advanced before the transportation
to carry the colonists to the sea islands could be obtained, aud the people were destitute of
animals and hud but few agricultural implements and the greatest difficulty in procuring seeds, yet
they went to work with energy and diligence to clear up the ground run to waste by three years'
neglect; and thousands of acres were planted and provisions enough were raised to provide for
those who were locate in season to plant, besides a large amount of sea-island cotton for market.
The seizure of some 540,000 acres of abandoned land, in accordance with the act of Congress
and orders from the head of the bureau for the rrecdmen and refugees, still further strengthened
these ignorant people in the conviction that they were to have the lands of their late masters; and,
with the other reasons before stated, caused a great unwillingness on tho part of the freedmen to
make any contracts whatever. But this refusal arises from no desire on their part to avoid labor, but
to the causes above stated. All officers and agents of( the Freedmen's Bureau were instructed to
correct these impressions among the freedmen that they were to have hinds ; but so dispersed a
conviction was difficult to eradicate. The entire want of confidence between the Bredinan and the
late master, neither of whom has any faith in the other, the absence of capital on the part of the
land-owners to pay for labor, may also be reckoned among the reasons why some of the freedmen
do not go willingly to work. They fear that they shall never be paid. For those who can gain their
confidence, and from whom they feel sure of receiving their pay, they will labor as faithfully as any
other race. To test the question of lheir forethought and prove that some of the race at least
thought of the future, I established in October, a savings bank for the freedmen of Beaufort district
and vicinity. More than $240,000 has been deposited in this bank by the freedmen since its
establishment. I consider that the industrial problem has been satisfactorily solved at Port Royal,
and that, in common with other races, the negro has industry, prudence, forethought, and ability to
calculate results. Many of them have managed plantations for themselves, and shown an industry
and sagacity that will compare favorably in their results â€”making due allowancesâ€” with those of
white men. There is nothing to tear for the future of the freedmen if the government, which has
made them free, protects them, by standing between them and those who sought to destroy this
nation and keep them in slavery, until such time as the State laws shall make all men equal in the
possession of civil and political rights irrespective of color.
Question. Is there anything further that you wish to state to the committee?
Answer. I desire to append two circulars, which express the principles which governed my
administration of the offices of the Freedmen's Bureau in South Carolina, aud to add a few of the
results of my experience, which may give more force to my testimony. I have aimed to be just to all,
irrespective of color or condition; have labored to break down all antagonism, encourage friendly
feeling between the freedmen and their former owners, by showing them that their interests were
identical; thut each should be just to the other and respect all the other's rights. I was fully
impressed with tho importance of maintaining friendly relations with former musters, and was
careful to be just to all parties, aud not to exercise any authority uot set forth in my instructions. I
only asked even-handed justice for those who were committed defenceless to my care, contented
oftentimes not even to secure this, always holding out the olive branch. I was not met in the same
spirit. The late slaveholders of South Carolina still believe that the loyal black man has no rights
that they need respect, aud have not been taught that hard lesson for them to learn: that they
must treat those they once owned as free men and deal justly with them ; that exact justice to all
men, of whatever color or condition, is the wisest expediency and the truest policy, and that
educated free labor is the most profitable. An experience of nearly four years has convinced rue
that the only safety for the republic is to give the black man the right of suffrage. With this in his
hands there would be little need for any special Freedmen's Bureau. Without it, and left to the
oppressive legislation of his late owner, the result would be fearful to contemplate. Another proof
that those lately in rebellion have not repented of their treason, is the determination, which almost
universally exists, to see that the national debt contracted to save the nation's life shall be
repudiated, aud it surely will be if they ever should get into power. This one fact is enough to show
the hollowness of their professed loyalty. The love of the freedmen of South Carolina for the
memory of Abraham Lincoln amounts to worship, and his loyalty and devotion to the Union cannot
be questioued. Give the freedman the ballot and he will take care that the vote of South Carolina is
always given for the Union, and he will never vote to repudiate the debt wliich was contracted to
save it and to give him his freedom. Nor will he ever permit the debt contracted to destroy the
nation and keep him in slavery to be assumed by the United States. There are numerous intelligent
leaders among the freedmen, who fully understand the meaning of suffrageâ€”enough of them to
guide the more ignorant; and, so far from there being any danger to the peace of the country and
to our institutions iu giving so many ignorant men the right of suffrage, I believe it to be the only
means of avoiding great and enminent dangers.
|General Rufus Saxton