Contract between a Georgia Planter and Georgia Freedpeople

State of Georgia  Decatur County  [July 8, 1865]

This contract and agreement of hiring made entered into and subscribed in duplicate this eigth day of July AD 1865 between McQueen McIntosh of the one part and the following named freedmen and freedwomen to wit, Jack, Jerry, Cudjoe, Toby, Bob, Ben, Dave, Judge, Jim, Charles, Joe, Daniel, Robert, Frank, Dinny, Jack, Sam, Dave, Ned, Prince– Old Silas, Young Silas, Manuel, Jim William, Pleasant, Young Dave, Jake, Caesar, Edgar, Patience, Amy, Maria, Lucinda, Lucy, Violet, Betsey, Malvina, Ann, Eliza, Elisabeth, Phillis, Eliza, Sophy, Sarah, Louisa and Esther parties of the second part   Witnesseth– That the said parties of the second part do hereby covenant promise and agree to remain as laborers on the plantation of the said McIntosh from this time henceforward continuously until the first day of January next ensuing and to subscribe to and abide by the following stipulations and conditions and to perform faithfully the same to the best of their ability–  That is to say that the said parties of the second part do consent to the classification of themselves in the schedule hereunto attached as a part of this agreement and shall receive their compensation “pro rata” at the end of the year according to said schedule and shall live under, abide by and perform the following rules, regulations and requirements viz

1st Each person shall and will be obedient to orders and respectful civil and polite in his or her language and manner.

2d The work on the plantation shall be superintended by the superintendent or foreman called Jack (freedman) who shall have the necessary authority to keep and maintain good order peace and discipline at all times on the plantation and shall have rendered to him the prompt assistance of those he may call upon to assist him

3d The superintendent shall turn out the hands at daylight in the morning and each one is expected to come out promptly when the signal is given

4th The work shall commence so soon as the hands reach the place of work and shall continue until the usual breakfast hour, when all shall stop one half hour for breakfast– at the end of which time the work shall be resumed and continue until 12 Oclock noon when the hands shall again stop for two hours in summer and one hour in winter for dinner, and after dinner the work shall be continued until the sun has set.– before which time no one shall leave his or her work except for sickness or he or she has permission to do so; ploughers and waggoners are required to bring the mules to the stable after the days work is over and feed them–

5th The old and young who are unable to work will be clothed, fed, nursed in sickness, and provided with medical attendance and medicine at the expense of the laborers; and these expenses will be deducted from the wages, before they are paid–

6th No strangers will be permitted at any time to come on the place or to remain on it, without reporting themselves and obtaining permission so to do from the said proprietor or foreman

7th No dogs will be kept on the plantation except by the consent of the said proprietor.

8th Every one using a tool, implement– waggon, or plough gear or harness is expected and required to take care of the same and if lost injured or destroyed by his or her carelessness, the same will be supplied anew, or repaired, and the cost thereof charged to him or her, and deducted from his or her wages

9th All stock provisions and other things stolen on the plantation unless immediately reported to the said proprietor with the name of the thief will be charged against the wages of the laborers and in every case where a thief is caught a reward of ten dollars will be paid by the said proprietor to the person reporting and apprehending such thief–

10th The sick will be properly nursed, and furnished with medicine and a physician will be called in when necessary, for all which no charge will be made against the laborers except in the case of non-workers as hereinbefore stated–  No deduction will be made for sick time where the sickness does not exceed one day in duration– but if any one feigns sickness to avoid work and the plantation physician certifies in writing to that fact such person will be immediately discharged and sent off the plantation without any wages whatever–  The laborers are entitled to select a plantation physician, who will be sent for by the said proprietor when necessary

11th The laborers do hereby promise and agree to remain on the plantation as laborers as aforesaid and not to abandon their work without the consent of the said proprietor– and the said McQueen McIntosh hereby promises covenants and agrees to and with the said parties of the second part and every of them that he will furnish them houses to live in, comfortable raiment and wholesome food and that he will at the expiration of the year pay to the said laborers as their compensation from the 12th day of June last past except wherein specifically mentioned herein otherwise twelve hundred bushels of corn, five thousand pounds of pork and twenty barrels of syrup (sugar cane) to be divided amongst the said laborers according to the said classification–after deducting all the expenses, charges and costs hereinbefore provided–and the wages of the said Jack (foreman) to be paid in money (as he prefers the same) and the wages of the said Jerry (blacksmith) in money he prefering the same both at the rate of fifteen dollars per month.  And the said McQueen McIntosh for himself, his heirs executors administrators and assigns does hereby promise covenant and agree to and with the said parties of the second part and every of them that he will and that his said heirs executors administrators and assigns shall faithfully execute and perform all and singular the said covenants and undertakings

In witness whereof the said parties have hereunto set their hands severally, this contract being in duplicate form.

McQueen McIntosh 
Jack X mark 
Jerry X mark 
    &c &c &c
    &c &c &c.
including each person

Contract between McQueen McIntosh and Jack et al., 8 July 1865, Reports Sent to the Assistant Commissioner & Contracts, series 784, Bainbridge GA Agent, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. Witnessed. Both the body of the contract and the signatures are in McIntosh's handwriting. In the manuscript, the ordinal numbers designating contract provisions are in the left margin. Appended to the contract is a tabular “Classification of Freedmen and Freedwomen as agreed upon in the foregoing instrument and deemed a part of the same.” In addition to the foreman and the blacksmith, it listed thirteen first-class men, six second-class men, nine boys, thirteen first-class women, and four second-class women and girls. Twenty-five “Supernumeraries” constituted the remainder of the plantation population (seven individuals between the ages of fifty-five and sixty-four, and eighteen who were twelve or younger). Beneath the columns of names is the following statement: “The proportion in distribution is predicated upon the first order of the Freedmans Bureau published at the time of the execution of the contract–and I understand it as follows– 1st Cass men $800– 1 class women $600– 2d class men & boys = half hands $4,00 2d class women and girls $350– And the wages will be so distributed unless otherwise ordered.” The Freedmen's Bureau order in question was probably a circular issued on June 12, 1865, by Captain John E. Bryant, general superintendent of freedmen at Augusta, Georgia; it prescribed “rules . . . for the hiring and government of colored laborers.” “Laborers will be allowed and encouraged to make voluntary contracts,” the circular declared, “either with their former masters, or any other person wishing to employ them.” As general superintendent, Bryant would examine contracts and approve those “found to be fair and equitable,” but “owing to the extent of country over which his jurisdiction now extends, and the great importance to the people of making a good crop the present season,” contracts did not need to be submitted to him in order to be considered binding; they would be so regarded if they adopted the rates of compensation specified in the circular, i.e., $7 per month for “Male hands,” $6 for “Female hands,” $3.50 for male half hands, and $3 for female half hands. Employers were to supply food, clothing, quarters, fuel, and medical attendance to all the ex-slaves on their plantations–nonworkers as well as workers–and were then, at the end of the year, to “divide among the workers, pro rata what may be due them, if any thing, after deducting the expense of supporting the freedmen on the plantation.” For house servants, the circular prescribed wages ranging from $5 to $10 per month, depending on the worker's sex and “class.” No wage rates were specified for “[m]echanics and persons having trades”; they were “allowed and encouraged to make their own contracts.” (Macon [Ga.] Daily Telegraph, 16 June 1865, in Paul A. Cimbala, The Freedmen's Bureau: Reconstructing the American South after the Civil War [Malabar, Fla., 2005], pp. 149–52.) Bryant's circular was printed in newspapers across the state, and because there were so few bureau agents in Georgia at the time, its influence extended beyond his immediate jurisdiction.

Published in Land and Labor, 1865, pp. 362–65.