Excerpt from Freedmen's Bureau: Speech of Hon. Thomas D. Eliot, of Massachusetts, in the House of Representatives, May 23, 1866
But now a new condition of things is cre ated by our own act. Every man is made free. There is no longer ownership of labor. Every fair man admits that these four hundred thou sand freedmen, declared free first by military order and then by sacred enactment, must be for a. Season protected by the Government which released them from bondage. Would our duty be discharged; would the President who has felt through his whole life the Oppress ive power of southern capital; would he be lieve that we had discharged our duty if we say to the Commissioner of this bureau we will not give you any lands to work with but take care ofthese freedmen see that the gulfwhich sep arates servitude from freedom is bridged over somewhat, and aid their unaccustomed steps until they stand firmly upon that land of prom ise which we have Opened to them? Find employment for them all, and see to it they have fair play; but especially see to it that the Government incurs no cost. Would that do? Where could you find employment at fair wages, and how could your Commissioner secure it to them? If you compel them to work upon the old plantations, under the old owners, in the old homes, giving them no hope in life and no choice of labor but to work there or to expatriate themselves and seek homes in other States, do you not see that the price of wages must be at the discretion of the owner of the land? If you compel the freedman to work there, what wages they will give he must take, or you must support him, or he must starve. But give to your Commissioner the power to pro cure lands for them; the freedmen will pay fair rent and will from their labor defray the ex penses of your bureau, and will thankfully pay full price for the lands which you may sell them. And when such Opportunities are given them you will yourselves make that golden rule of labor operative, and a fair day's pay for a fair day's work will be secured. My friends, is not this very plain? And I say to you now.
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