Order by the Secretary of War

Washington [D.C.], July 25, 1865.


To secure equal justice and the same personal liberty to the freedmen as to other citizens and inhabitants, all orders issued by post, district, or other commanders, adopting any system of passes for them or subjecting them to any restraints or punishments not imposed on other classes, are declared void.

Neither whites nor blacks will be restrained from seeking employment elsewhere when they cannot obtain it at a just compensation at their homes, and when not bound by voluntary agreement; nor will they be hindered from traveling from place to place on proper and legitimate business.  BY ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR:

GENERAL ORDERS, NO. 129, WAR DEPARTMENT, ADJUTANT GENERAL'S OFFICE, 25 July 1865, Orders & Circulars, ser. 44, Adjutant General's Office, Record Group 94, National Archives. On July 18, General O. O. Howard, commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau, had submitted to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton a draft of the above order, recommending its issue as a general order of the War Department. “[S]everal military officers, doubtless yielding to what they deem a military necessity, have adopted a pass system for Freedmen that does not extend to other inhabitants of their districts,” Howard explained, “which is even worse than the old system of passes, because it is exercised more rigidly, and is more difficult to comply with and creates an unnecessary distinction, and keeps alive the old idea that the black man cannot be governed by the same law as others.” An undated endorsement by Stanton indicated his approval of the proposed order, which was issued without significant change. (Major General O. O. Howard to Hon. E. M. Stanton, 18 July 1865, filed as F-494 1865, Letters Received, series 12, Adjutant General's Office, Record Group 94, National Archives.) Much of the language appears to have been drawn from an order issued by General Alfred H. Terry, commander of the Department of Virginia, on June 23, 1865, which had itself been drafted in collaboration with Stanton. (See Land and Labor, 1865, pp. 339–41.)

Published in Land and Labor, 1865, p. 259.