At the close of this first session of the Thirty-ninth Congress, which showed the great divergence between the executive and legislative branches of the government, and which also included the beginning of a darker and more revengeful period of reconstruction for the South, it is necessary to take a retrospective view of certain conditions not already considered. When Congress met in December, 1865, the president accompanied his message with a report of a tour which General Grant had made through the South during the latter part of November preceding the assembling of Congress. This, report, coming from the highest possible authority, confirmed the president as to the correctness of his message in regard to the feeling of the people of the South. It was to this effect:
With the approval of the president and secretary of war, I left Washington on the 27th of last month for the purpose of making a tour of inspection in the Southern States …. I am satisfied that the mass of thinking men of the South accept the present situation of affairs in good faith …. There is universal acquiescence in the authority of the general government …. My observations lead to the conclusion that they [the citizens of the Southern States]are anxious to return to self-government within the Union as soon as possible; that they are in earnest in wishing to do what they think is required by the government, not humiliating to them as citizens, and if such a course was pointed out they would pursue it in good faith.
General Grant could not have given a more correct or accurate statement as to the animus of the people of the South in the winter of 1865. His testimony in reference to the Freedmen’s bureau, obtained during that same trip, is of most valuable character, showing the estimate of its workings as noted by a man not a politician, but a great soldier, and one who was most instrumental in attaining success to the Union armies. From conscientious agents administering the workings of the bureau, he learned that the "belief widely spread among the freedmen of the Southern States that the lands of their former owners will at least in part be divided among them, came from agents of this bureau. This belief is seriously interfering with the willingness of the freedmen to make contracts for the coming year…. Many, perhaps the majority of the agents of the bureau, advise the freedmen that by their own industry they must expect to live ….
In some instances, I am sorry to say, the freedman’s mind does not seem to be disabused of the idea that he had a right to live without care or provision for the future. The effect of this belief in the division of lands is idleness and accumulation in camps, towns and cities." This is as General Grant saw it in the winter of 1865, and under the act extending and enlarging the scope and powers of the bureau, it was ten times worse afterward. He evidently then saw the drift of the work of the bureau and the aim and object of the agents. Nearly every agent became a politician in the near future and was a candidate for office. Under the congressional reconstruction they were elected to nearly all of the Federal, State and county offices by virtue of their influence over the ignorant negroes, and in effecting the organization of "Union League" clubs.
It was to the interest of the agents to create distrust and suspicion on the part of the negroes toward all Southern whites, and to cause them to look only to themselves (the agents) for justice and their rights. So long as they could cause friction, encourage idleness by raising false hopes of support and obtaining lands from the government, and create the impression that their rights could only be obtained through them, it would prolong the necessity of their offices being continued. All this unsettling work was done through men nearly all of whom were not born in the South and had never been citizens of the South, but who had all the prejudices and bad blood of the times toward the South.
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