Orestes Brown, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, "To the Freedmen of Virginia," Richmond, Virginia, July 1, 1865

Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands.
Head Quarters Assit. Commissioner, State of Virginia

Richmond, VA., July 1st, 1865


Having been appointed Assistant Commissioner in the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands for the State of Virginia, it becomes my duty to look after all matters that pertain to your welfare, to endeavor to teach you how to use that freedom you have so earnestly desired, and to prevent the abuse of it by yourself or others.

The difference between your former and your present condition is this: formerly your labor was directed, and the proceeds of it taken by your masters, and you were cared for by them, now you are to direct and receive the proceeds of your own labor and care for yourselves.

Can you do this? is the question you must now answer to the world. Your friends believe you can and will. The Government and charity will aid you, but this assistance will be of little advantage unless you help yourselves. To do this you must be industrious and frugal. You have now every inducement to work, as you are to receive the payment for your labor, and you have every inducement to save your wages, as your rights in what you possess will be protected. You have now no maters to provide for you in sickness and old age, hence you must see the necessity of saving your wages while you ar able to work, for this purpose.

While it is believed that most of you will feel the responsibilities of your new condition, and will do all in your power to become independent of charity and of government aid, it is feared that some will act from the mistaken notion that Freedom means liberty to be idle.

This class of persons, known to the law as vagrants, must at once, correct this mistake. They will not be allowed to live in idleness when there is work to be had.

You are not to suppose that your former masters have become your enemies because you are free. All good men among them will recognize your new relations to them as free laborers; and as you prove yourselves honest, industrious and frugal, you will receive from them kindness and consideration. If others fail to recognize your right to equal freedom with white persons, you will find the Government, through the agents of this Bureau, as ready to secure to you, as to them, Liberty and Justice.

Schools, as far as possible, will be established among you, under the protection of the Government.

You will remember that in your condition as freedmen, education is of the highest importance, and it is hoped that you wil avail yourselves, to the utmost, of the opportunities offered you.

In the new career before you, each one must feel the great responsibility that rests upon himself, in shaping the destinies of his race. The special care that the Goverment now exercises over you as a people, will soon be withdrawn, and you will be left to work and provide for yourselves.

It is then of the greatest importance that you take immediate advantage of the protection and assistance now afforded you to place yourselves in a position in which you can do so. All officerws and employees of this Bureau will aid you in doing this. if you are in a location where work is to be obtained at fair wages, it is much better for you to remain than to be looking for something better. You must remember that, owing to the unsettled state of the country, work is scarce, and the chances areagainst finding constant emploument at high wages.

Be quiet, peaceable, law abiding citizens. Be industrious, be frugal, and the glory of passing successfuly from Slavery to Freedom, will, by the blessing of God, be yours.

Col. and Assistant Commissioner.


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