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War Department, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, &c.,
Washington, June 14, 1865

In receiving as transmitted, the orders of the President, of the Secretary of War, and of this Bureau, and other laws and books for your information and guidance, the authority and duties committed to you as its officer for the specified territory, you will not fail to see how exactly their spirit comports with the genius of our free institutions. As a government of the people, from the people, and for the people, and the whole people, [[it relieves?]] the [[? desolations?]] that have raged, by making a special provision for the two great classes of the people, the Refugee and those so lately slaves.

A great Rebellion crushed, an unparalleled war closed, every citizen and officer has his special duties in establishing peace and securing prosperity.

The general government, under the direction of its wise head and his able advisors, will indicate from time to time, as events advance, the duties of its officers, military and civil. You will readily apprehend your [[peculiar?]] relations to all other officials and citizens as one to whom is committed a special, an onerous, and delicate trust, and seek to harmonize your action with theirs. You will naturally remember your subordination to commanding officers in all matters purely military, and not otherwise determined by law, or proclamation, or orders of the President or secretary of War, or this Bureau, and seek in all ways to facilitate their wishes and aid them in the discharge of their official duties. It is confidently believed that everywhere in accordance with orders, they will render you the fullest co-operation of that mighty arm of the government which, by the blessing of God, has overcome the internal foes of constitutional liberty, and will, by the same blessing, assure that liberty to every one not tainted with treason or other crimes, irrespective of color or rank.

The practical adjudication is committed to you of the question which has divided parties in church, and state, and family, and for these several years arrayed brother against brother.

You must not only promote the elevation of the degraded and onpressed whites: you must do all that behoves the government in answering the question, "What shall we do with the negro?"

All the disturbing elements of the old system of industry and society are around you. Passions may sometimes be excited as old prejudices give way. But the Almighty cares for the nation, and the nation will care for you. Do your duty wisely, faithfully, conscientiously, fearlessly. Endeavor not to overdo nor come short of duty. Do not forget, in the discharge of your governmental duties, that the less government, consistent with assured security of life and liberty and property, the better.

The constraints and exactions of military law are neither normal nor congenial to the American spirit, and your exercise of them must be only to assure to all the liberty for which they were evoked.

Assure yourself and be able to inform others how much better than the old things of slavery will be the new things of equal liberty to all.

Russia frees its serfs; shall America perpetuate any form of slavery? An absolute monarchy appropriates its treasure to educate its freed serfs; shall our noble republic do less for its emancipated slaves?

Virtuous intelligence an industry assure the stability and prosperity of a people. Your work has especially to do with these fundamental principles. The possibility is, with good faith on all hands in accepting these changes, that there will be greater prosperity for the southern States in five years hence than her warmest advocates of slavery ever believed possible. Calculate the difference between a slave and a free man in the family, in society, in the church, in the State, his increased skill in all the industrial pursuits, his greater value as a producer and consumer in commerce, and multiply that difference by four millions, and you have an idea of the enhanced prosperity. Seek to combine all the forces which may promote the ends of the government.

Do not start ill advised schemes; consult frequently. You will be necessitated to employ superintendents of subdistricts for the present; you will secure them by requisition from department commanders, if not already in the field. It is absolutely necessary to have officers above corruption and prejudice, who propose to do simple justice.

Very respectfully,
Major General, Commissioner of Bureau.


Transcription Notes:
SI staff directs to include Archives stamp (3-29-21)