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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the State Convention of Colored Men of the State of Tennessee, :with the addresses of the convention to the white loyal citizens of Tennessee, and the colored citizens of Tennessee. : Held at Nashville, Tenn., August 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th, 1865.
1865-NASHVILLE TN-STATE CONVENTION OF THE COLORED MEN OF TENNESSEE.7.pdf
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opportunities, and all will come right in time. In coming to the stand General Fisk was granted vehement cheers. When this subsided, the General remarking, "You make a noise like white folds," proceeded:
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen: My fellow citizens I didn't come to make a speech. I can hear to hear you talk. I came to hear what the col-ored people of the State of Tennessee had to say for themselves. The race to which I belong have been talking and talking for many years and you have had no opportunity to talk very much. It gave me great joy when I learned that the colored people of the State were about convene, that delegates were coming from different views. There was a time when this could not be done; but to use a common phrase, "Times ain't what they used to was." You could not do this four years ago, could you? A great change has taken place since that day. You are no longer slaves. I come before you as your friend--as a representative of the power of this great Government--standing here with authority to say to you that I am your friend, sent by the Government to aid you: and, by the blessing of God, I will never shrink from discharging my duty. The passing away of slavery had opened a new era and it becomes necessary that the Government should do something to aid you in passing from slavery to freedom, for the good of the white race as well as yours. And, therefore, the Freedmen's Bureau. Was established by an act of Congress of the 3d of last March.
Everything pertaining to the Freedmen of the States that had been in in-surrection was committed to this Bureau. Officers were chosen for it. General Howard, he one armed soldier, was placed at the head of it. There were subordinate officers for different States. I was chosen to look to the interests of Kentucky, Tennessee, Northern Alabama, and parts of Virginia and Mississippi.
After the organization in May, officers went to their different did-tricts. I came to Nashville. I found that such an institution was necessary. I felt sad as I looked out upon, and but little justice for the negro, though slavery no longer existed.
(General Fisk here read interesting extracts from the circular before him and made comments upon it. The circular has already been published.)
I have spent an hour in discussing this circular with an old slave master of Tennessee, who, after fighting against us for four years, refused to die in the last ditch. HE said the circular was just right and that he and other old slaveholders would hold and help. It was Gideon J. Pillow.8
We intent to establish in every county in the State an agent of the Freedmen's Bureau. He will either be an officer of the army or the right kind of citizen. We want just men, in whom you all confide. I will be glad if you will think over who will be proper men to place at your country seats. You will be, as it were, staff officers of mine to aid me in carrying out' this work. You are industrious. I don't know why you are not worth as much free as slave. Alluding to the change of circumstances he said: "Work land upon shares as much as possible. This is a popular mode of doing things. You must fulfill your contract and I will see that the landlord fulfills his. They must not only have freedom, but homes of their own--thirty of forty acres, with tools, mules, cottages and school houses, etc." That is the pic-ture for the future. I shall move in it just as quickly as possible. I would like to settle 10,000 before the first of next January. I ask fair play, and will be adjudicated by officers and agents of this Bureau except in places where civil court at my headquarters, where a poor man can obtain redress. I have volunteered to be attorney, myself, for the poor women who come before that court for justice. A poor woman came to my house, with a beautiful child. She had been driven from her home, where she had another child as beautiful as the one in her arms. They were her master's children. I had the pleasure of bringing that gentleman to my headquarters, and we there compelled
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