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in person the trials of all criminal cases within their jurisdiction, including criminal trials or preliminary hearings before justices of the peace or other magistrates, to which a colored person may be a party, or in which, according to the law above quoted, the testimony of a colored person may be taken.
IV. When present at such trials or hearings, the assistant superintendents will not interfere at the time with the action of the court or magistrate, but will confine themselves to such friendly suggestions, made to a colored party concerned, or the counsel for the same, as may be necessary. They will not act as attorneys in such cases, or argue with the court or magistrate. They will, however, make immediate report of any instance of oppression or injustice against a colored party, whether prosecutor or defendant, and also in case the evidence of colored persons should be improperly rejected or neglected. In such cases all details possible will be forwarded.
V. They will also carefully examine and report if in any instance a justice of the peace, attorney for the commonwealth, grand jury, or other authority vested with the power of allowing or regulating the institution of criminal proceedings, has refused justice to a colored person by improperly neglecting a complaint, or declining to receive on oath or sworn information tendered by such person, whereby a trial or prosecution might be prevented through par.. tiality or prejudice.
VI. All superintendents and assistant superintendents will, on the last day of each month, make a detailed report of the manner in which this order, by restoring to the State authorities jurisdiction in criminal cases over colored persons, has resulted, with reference to the interests of the latter, within their respective districts and sub-districts; whether they have been treated with impartiality and fairness, and the law respecting their testimony carried out in good faith or otherwise.
O. BROWN Colonel and Assistant Commissioner.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA,
Richmond, Va., March 12, 1866. The foregoing order is approved, but no person of color will be examined or brought to trial on a criminal charge until he shall have had sufficient time and opportunity to notify the assistant superintendent of the Freedmen’s Bureau for the sub-district of the time when, and place where, such examination or trial is to take place. By command of Major General A. H. Ferry :
ED. W SMITH,
Assistant Adjutant General. Upon examination of the whole code as amended it was considered that the letter of the criminal law was not unfavorable to colored persons, and the above order was issued to determine whether its execution would be equally fair.
The amended provisions for colored testimony in civil cases is applicable only when “a colored person is a party, or may be directly benefited or injured by the result," and is bound by the following restriction :
“ The testimony of colored persons shall, in all cases and proceedings, both at law and in equity, be given ore tenus, and not by deposition, and in suits in equity, and in all other cases in which the deposition of the witness would be regularly a part of the record, the court shall, if desired by any party, or if deemed proper by itself, certify the facts proved by such witness, or the evidence given by him, as far as credited by the court, as the one or the other may be proper under the rules of law applicable to the case; and such certificate shall be inade part of the record.”
In order that the operations of the State tribunals, in civil as well as criminal
justice, should become tested while there was an opportunity for the observa- . tions and report of local officers, all the bureau courts in the State of Virginia were, on the 10th of May, closed, and the whole jurisdiction resigned to the civil authorities.
The latter therefore have, through the department in general, had charge over criminal matters for eight, and over civil cases for six, months, during
vhich time a large number of stated and special reports have been furnished to these headquarters, and, in turn, forwarded to the headquarters of the bureau. In various instances these have been accompanied with transcripts from the records, or authenticated by signatures of magistrates and other civil officials. The result. as shown by these reports, is that, in civil cases, the higher courts and the juries in the more populous centres have generally given justice to the freedmen.
In rural districts, where the justices of the peace have jurisdiction in disputes about wages, there has been, in some cases, an undue partiality toward the whites. Many freedmen, unjustly turned away, whose contracts have been broken by the white party hiring them, are thus left without remedy, and in numerous instances are unable to collect wages due which are not disputed.
In regard to criminal jurisdiction the result is, that while, in probably the majority of instances, the freedmen have not suffered injustice in consequence of the above transfer to the State authorities, it is unfortunately true that in many cases injustice has been done them. Justices of the peace have frequently refused to entertain complaints made by the freedmen, and also have iu some cases given decisions manifestly partial.
In general, for an outrage upon a freedman by a white person, if there is conviction, the maximum of evidence is required and the minimum of punishment awarded, and it is believed that many verdicts and sentences have been given which would have been different if the status of the complainant and defendant with regard to color had been reversed. This is more obvious outside of the large cities and towns, where there is less publicity and less military influence. It is exhibited in trials and sentences for all grades of crimes, from murder to petty larceny. One mode of punishing the latter offence is by whipping, which can, by the letter of the law, be inflicted upon white persons as well as colored; but from the unfrequency of its infliction upon white criminals, as well as the unequal style of application, it is evident that the show of impartiality in the law is evaded, and that practically the negroes are the only sufferers from this barbarous and demoralizing mode of punishment.
The magistrates of the counties of Elizabeth City, York, and Nansemond refused to administer justice, and those districts being left wholly without law or order, it was necessary to re-establish bureau courts within these localities. This was done in last July, upon the following plan: that the assistant superintendents should invite the senior magistrate of the county to sit upon the court, (in case of his refusal, the invitation to be extended to each magistrate of order of seniority,) who, with the assistant superintendent, should choose a third party, the three constituting the court.
The courts thus established have been successful in their working, and command the respect of the communities.
DIFFICULTIES AND RECOMMENDATIONS.
By your circular calling for this report, it is required that “difficulties in the way of success” and “recommendations for the future” should be submitted in addition to the statement of facts.
The bureau organization, including the division of the State into districts and sub-districts, with the plan of inspections and system of reports, has worked well, and no change can be suggested. It is, however, strongly recommended
• that officers of the bureau should, to the full proportion existing at the present time, be in the military service and clothed with military rank. Not only does the influence of such rank greatly increase their efficiency with all parties affected by their duties, but the higher degree of responsibility as well as proper pride and ambition tend to insure good conduct and energy. The spirit of the bureau is so wholly military, that to have any large proportion of its officers in civil life would seriously disturb its usefulness.
As regards rations, the present system of the modified Circular No. 10 from headquarters of the bureau, by which each case is reported as individual and exceptional, is considered to be now precisely what is required.
The refusal of some counties to attend to their colored paupers, and the attempt of others to evade that responsibility, as above set forth, call for the renewed recommendations of what has before been made to the headquarters of the bureau ; that is, that the freedmen in such localities be protected from the payment of taxes assessed for objects, the benefits of which are not extended to them.
While it is not believed that the supply of labor exceeds such demand as would exist under proper cultivation of the soil or due attention to other industrial interests, yet it is now in excess and is insufficiently remunerated.
A natural cure arising within the department itself would be effected by sev. eral successive years of agricultural and general prosperity, together with the introduction of foreign capital. The latter, however, is not likely to come during the present condition of public sentiment, and to wait for the former were hazardous as well as dilatory.
Emigration was resorted to in the State of Virginia before the late war, (about 20,000 slaves being annually sold to the more southern States,) and, from the reasons above set forth, is now still more necessary.
It is a question whether any modification of the proposition now made to freedmen under the homestead act, and the instructions from headquarters of the bureau, will accomplish the end.
It is, however, submitted whether the following plan would not obviate some of the difficulties heretofore mentioned :
1. That an officer be appointed by the commissioner to take charge of emigration, to have the necessary supervision and control of the emigrants under the commissioner, and to assist and instruct the freedmen in the location of lands.
2. That, in addition to transportation and subsistence during travel, the necessary farm stock, farming utensils, seed, medical supplies, rations, &c., should be provided by the government or by organized charity.
3. That an officer be appointed to superintend, say each ten thousand (10,000) of the emigrants, who shall be accountable to the government for all property furnished them, and hold control over the same.
4 That the government hold a lien on all crops raised by the freedmen, allowing them such share as may be necessary for their support until payment, at cost price, is made for all stock, farming utensils, rations, &c., furnished as above proposed.
In order to carry out the above or any other plan, the extension of the time for free location of lands would, of course, be necessary, as the offer has hitherto not been accompanied with such additional aid as would alone allow it to be taken advantage of by the freedmen. The legislation on the subject is wholly inadequate to meet the exigency. In regard to the domestic relations of the freedmen, it is suggested that appli
: cation be made to the general assembly to take such action upon the official register of legislative marriages and legitimatized children, provided by officers of the bureau, as will allow of their being filed as perpetual records in the clerks' offices of the several county courts, so that the relations thus certified shall remain of public record and admitted force after the bureau shall have ceased its operations.
On the subject of lands held by the bureau, it is desirable that the small amount now held from necessity, as before explained, be still retained.
The officers of the bureau were not instructed to attend to “ the collection of bounty and pensions free of charge” until large numbers of the colored soldiers had been mustered out. In consequence of this, claim agents obtained possession of many of the discharge papers and claims; in many instances, it is feared, to the loss of the soldier or his family, and certainly at an unnecessary expenditure for fees. These agents have also offered inducements of advances which could not be made by the agents of the bureau.
In closing this report, I am happy to state that the condition of the freedmen has materially improved during the present year. This is exhibited by the greatly diminished number of those requiring aid from the government or charity; by the more satisfactory state of their domestic relations; by their progress in education, and by the increased spirit of self-reliance that has been gradually overcoming their former habits of dependence. I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
O. BROWN, Brevet Brig. Gen. Vol., Act. Ass't Commissioner, Major General 0. O. HOWARD, Commissioner.
LAWS IN RELATION TO FREEDMEN.
COMPILED BY COMMAND OF
MAJOR GENERAL 0. O. HOWARD, COMMISSIONER BUREAU OF REFCGEES,
FREEDMEN AND ABANDONED LANDS.
AN ACT to protect freedmen in their rights of person and property in this State. Section 1. Be it enacted by the senate and house of representatives of the State of Alabama in general assembly convened, That all freedmen, free negroes, and mulattoes shall have the right to sue and be sued, plead and be impleaded, in all the different and various courts of this State, to the same extent that white persons now have by law. And they shall be competent to testify only in open court, and only in cases in which freedmen, free negroes, and mulattoes are parties, either plaintiff or defendant; and in civil and criminal cases, for injuries in the persons and property of freedmen, free negroes, and mulattoes, and in all cases civil or criminal in which a freedman, free negro, or mulatto is a witness against a white person, or a white person against a freedman, free negro, or mulatto, the parties shall be competent witnesses, and neither interest in the question or suit, nor marriage, shall disqualify any witness from testifying in open court.
Approved December 9, 1865.
AN ACT concerning vagrants and vagrancy. Section 1. Be it enacted by the senate and house of representatives of the State of Alabama in general assembly convened, That the commissioner's court of any county in this State may purchase, rent, or provide such lands, buildings, and other property as may be necessary for a poor-house, or house of correction, for any such county, and may appoint suitable officers for the management thereof, and make all necessary by-laws, rules, and regulations for the government of the inmates thereof, and cause the same to be enforced; but in no case shall the punishment inflicted exceed hard labor, either in or out said house; the use of cbain-gangs, putting in stocks, if necessary to prevent escapes ; such reasonable correction as a parent may inflict on a stubborn, refractory child; and solitary confinement for not longer than one week on bread and water; and may cause to be hired out such as are vagrants, to work in chain-gangs, or other. wise, for the length of time for which they are sentenced, and the proceeds of such hiring must be paid into the county treasury for the benefit of the helpless in said poor-house, or house of correction.
Sec. 2. Be it further enacted, That the following persons are vagrants, in addition to those already declared to be vagrants by law, or that may hereafter be so declared by law : A stubborn or refractory servant; a laborer or servant who loiters away his time, or refuses to comply with any contract for any term of service without just cause; and any such person may be sent to the house of correction in the county in which such offence is committed; and for want of