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Title: The Freedmen's Bureau in reconstruction North Carolina
Author: Brown, Daniel
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2012
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The Freedmen's Bureau was the neither a 'guardian' nor a 'friend' of the freedpeople. The federal agency was a conservative and restraining influence upon the South that bolstered the status quo. During Reconstruction it pushed those recently emancipated back onto the plantations where they labored as slaves. After the Civil War the national debt had spiraled and Washington was anxious to restart the economy. The Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau, Oliver Otis Howard therefore directed a conservative labor policy with the intention of setting in motion the 'wheels of industry.' Prior to the Civil War the national government was unconcerned with the future of the former slaves. Washington was slow to change, and proved reluctant to incorporate the manpower of those in bondage into the Union war effort during the four years of fighting. This impacted upon the course of Reconstruction and determined the conservative nature of the Freedmen's Bureau. The potential of the federal agency was huge and southerners (both black and white) expected the body to effect radical social transformation. This was not forthcoming. The first head of the Bureau in North Carolina, Eli Whittlesey, promised a 'great social revolution' but restrained opportunities for change. The agency's commitment to laissez-faire individualism ensured that when the freedpeople met the hostility of planters and employers the former slaves were exposed. Furthermore the Bureau's rigid commitment to reducing 'reliance' upon government provision as soon as possible after the war, demonstrated that the agency was more concerned with saving costs than saving lives. Individual agents could show a greater degree of concern for the welfare of the former slaves, but ultimately the conservative bent of the Freedmen's Bureau entrenched a restrained federal agency in the postwar South.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available