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Belief 3 - Reading 6 of 31
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Harper's Weekly, May 14, 1864, page 306 (Editorial)
If our conduct toward the colored race in this country during the war has been harsh, unkind, uncertain, and most tardily just, how noble and generous theirs has been! Despised and insulted as an inferior race, as less than human, as properly enslaved and degraded, the history of these three years if full of stories of their heroism, humanity, and unfailing fidelity. And while their bearing as soldiers is now beyond question there is a point hardly less interesting and important, and that is their temper and capacity as freemen. This point is touched in a most timely and able paper in the North American Review for April upon the present aspect of the cotton question. We commend its clear and conclusive summary to the most careful attention of every reader who wishes to understand the prospects of the cotton supply hereafter, and the capacity of the freedmen as successful cultivators.
We may add to the testimony of the article that of a gentleman who for a year past has had several hundred freedmen in his employ on the Mississippi River. He affirms that they are in every respect superior as a working class to the "mean whites" of the South; that they are faithful, industrious, and comparatively provident; that they display the utmost eagerness to acquire useful information; and that they are in every instinct loyal to the Government and solicitous for its success. On the two plantations worked by this gentleman nearly every laborer has grouped about his cabin—in addition to a little garden—a variety of improvements, exhibiting at once an appreciation of his home, and a sentiment of taste suggestive of a deeper nature than we have been generally willing to allow to his race. In the cultivation of his "patch" of ground, and the raising of poultry and pigs, he takes the greatest delight, giving every moment of time not otherwise employed to this pleasing work. Ina word, the freedman, whenever an opportunity is afforded him, is demonstrating that he is a man, with the instincts, feelings, and yearnings of a man, and anxious most of all to qualify himself for the responsibilities and duties to which he has been at last restored.
The manifest desire of very many of the freedmen in Government service and the employ of planters on the Mississippi to save the proceeds of their toil has suggested to General Thomas and others, as we are trustworthily informed, the propriety of establishing savings-banks on the various plantations, in which the laborers may deposit their earnings, and so provide for future contingencies. Plantation hands of the first class under the present regulations receive twenty-five dollars a month with rations; and as they for the most part support their old and infirm, as well as their small children, from the sale of the products of their henneries and gardens, they are able to put by the greater portion of this amount, and with proper encouragement would immediately do so. It is to be hoped that General Thomas, who has so far exhibited a most benevolent interest in the welfare of this unfortunate class, will at the earliest moment establish some system by which this spirit of providence and thrift my be developed into practical results, and the freedmen set on the high road to that prosperity which they have already demonstrated their capacity properly to appreciate and employ.
Harper's Weekly, May 14, 1864 page 306 (Editorial)

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