Georgia Planter to the Freedmen's Bureau Acting Assistant Commissioner for Georgia

Snow Hill near Thomson Georgia  April 17th 1866

Dear Sir–  Allow me to call your attention to the fact that most of the Freedwomen who have husbands are not at work–never having made any contracts at all–  Their husbands are at work–while they are as nearly idle as it is possible for them to be,–pretending to spin–knit or something that really amounts to nothing for their husbands have to buy ther clothing I find from my own hands wishing to buy of me–

Now these women have always been used to working out–& it would be far better for them to go to work for reasonable wages & their rations–both in regard to health & in furtherance of their family wellbeing–  Say their husbands get–10 to 12– or 13$ per month and out of that–feed their wives and from 1 to 3 or 4 children–& clothe the family–  It is impossible for one man to do this & maintain his wife in idleness without stealing more or less of their support–whereas if their wives (where they are able) were at work for rations & fair wages–which they can all get, the family could live in some comfort & more happily–besides their labor is a very important percent of the entire labor of the South–& if not made avaible, must affect to some extent–the present crop–  Now is a very important time in the crop–& the weather being good & to continue so for the remainder of the year, I think it would be a good thing to put the women to work and all that is necessary to do this in most cases is an order from you directing the agents to require the women to make contracts for the balance of the year–  I have several that are working well–while others and generally younger ones who have husbands & from 1 to 3 or 4 children are idle–indeed refuse to work & say their husbands must support them.  Now & then there is a woman who is not able to work in the field–or who has 3 or 4 children at work & can afford to live on her childrens labobor–with that of her husband–  Even in such a case it would be better she should be at work–  Generally however most of them should be in the field–  Could not this matter be referred to your agents   They are generally very clever men and would do right   I would suggest that you give this matter your favorable consideration & if you can do so to use your influence to make these idle women go to work.  You would do them & the country a service besides gaining favor & the good opinion of the people generally

I beg you will not consider this matter lightly for it is a very great evil & one that the Bureau ought to correct= if they wish the Freedmen & women to do well–  I have 4 or 5 good women hands now idle that ought to be at work becase their families cannot really be supported honestly without it   This should not be so–& you will readily see how important it is to change it at once–  I am very respectfully Your obt servant

M. C. Fulton

I am very willing to carry my idle women to the Bureau agency & give them such wages as the Agent may think, fair–& I will further garanty that they shall be treated kindly & not over worked–  I find a general complaint on this subject every where I go–and I have seen it myself and experienced its bad effects among my own hands–  These idle women are bad examples to those at work & they are often mischief makers–having no employment their brain becomes more or less the Devil's work shop as is always the case with idle people–black or white & quarrels & Musses among the colored people generally can be traced to these idle folks that are neither serving God– Man or their country–

Are they not in some sort vagrants–they are living without employment–and mainly without any visible means of support–and if so are they not amenable to vagrant act–?  They certainly should be–  I may be in error in this matter but I have no patience with idleness or idlers   Such people are generally a nuisance–& ought to be reformed if possible or forced to work for a support–  Poor white women (and [ri]ch too have [cares?] & business)1 have to work–so should all poor people–or else stealing must be legalized–or tolerated for it is the twin sister of idleness–

M. C. Fulton to Brig Genl Davis Tilson, 17 Apr. 1866, Unregistered Letters Received, series 632, GA Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. No reply has been found in the acting assistant commissioner's letters-sent volumes.

1. The parenthetical addition is an interlineation.

Published in Land and Labor, 1866–1867, pp. 594–95, and in Families and Freedom, pp. 185–87.