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Rollin, Frank [Frances] A.
Life and Public Services of Martin R. Delany



Of the military gentlemen stationed at the post of Hilton Head, the major writes thus: "In addition to these high-tones military gentlemen, already named as aiding me, and making easy as well as pleasant the duties of my office in the bureau, I with pleasure acknowledge my indebtedness to Lieutenant Colonel Thompson, Assistant Provost Marshal General, Lieutenant Colonel Bennett, 21st United States Colored Troops, and Lieutenant Colonel O. Morre, who expelled John Morgan from Ohio, Colonel Dougalss Frazer, of the 104th United States Colored Troops, and Brevet Brigadier General Nye, of the 29th Maine Volunteers, all commanding at the post. Captain Henry Sharpe, of the 21st United States Colored Troops, Lieutenant Hermon, Lieutenant Tracy, 29th Maine Volunteers, and Provost Major H.E. Whitefield 128th United States Colored Troops, Assistant Provost Judges, and Lieutenant C.F. Richards, 21st United States colored Troops, Assistant Adjutant General Lieutenant Jones, and Lieutenant Blanchard, 21st United States Colored Troops, and that excellent gentleman, now President of Florida Land and Lumber Company, Dr. J. M. Hawkes, Surgeon 21st United States Colored

Troops. It is due, as a military courtesy, that I should make this record of the names of gentlemen who came forward at a time when most required, and aided in measures so important to the new life upon which a large portion of the political and social element of the nation was just entering.

As bearing a close relation to his official duties, we give in this connection the subjoined correspondence, being a letter of thanks from that distinguished philanthropist, the Rev. George Whipple, formerly professor of mathematics in Oberlin College, in behalf of the American Missionary Association. This, coming from such an Association, is deemed of sufficient importance to show the general character of the major in whatever position he is placed,--ever untiring in his efforts to aid the cause of humanity, and unselfish in his aim.

New York , July 5, 1867.

Major M.R. Delany , Bureau of R.F. & A.L. Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Dear Major: Several of our teachers have reported your attention to their interests, and many acts of kindness in ministering to their comfort.

In their behalf and at their request, and in the behalf and at the request of my associates in these rooms, I beg of you to accept our and their thanks for your off-repeated kindnesses to them, and your continued interest in our great work. As you have given them more--"a cup of cold water" in the name of a disciple, may you receive a disciple's reward.

Permit me to add the assurance that I take great pleasure in being the agent of our friends in this matter. My cordial thanks accompany theirs.

Yours in behalf of the poor and needy.

George Whipple,

Corresponding Secretary.


The graceful reply to the letter of the Association is worthy of admiration, replete with loyalty and gratitude to the noble band, who for long years have labored without faltering for the well being of his race.

Headquarters Prov. Dist., Hilton Head ,
Port Royal, S.C., July 18, 1867.

Professor George Whipple. Cor. Sec. AM.A., 53 John St. New York. .

My dear Sir: Your very kind letter in behalf of the teachers and your Christian associates in the rooms of your great institution was received by the last mail here.

Permit me to state that I have done nothing more, in my attentions to the excellent self-sacrificing and intelligent ladies and gentlemen continually sent to this district, to labor for the moral elevation of my once oppressed and degraded, but now, thank God, disinthralled brethren, in the new social relations which this wonderful dispensation of divine Providence has brought about in fulfilment of his promise, and the promotion of his own glory, than my simple duty. If I have done that, I shall feel satisfied and thankful.

If my acts have been worthy of their and your acceptance, I feel that I may have done something feebly in return towards; I repaying the long years of untiring labor, anxiety, hazard, and pecuniary loss of the Phillipses, Garrisons, Whipples, Browns, Motts, McKims, Burleighs, Wrights, Pillsburys, Fosters, Leavitts, Wilsons, Sumners, Stevenses, Hales, Wades, Giddingses, Whittiers, Parkers, Lovejoys, the Chases, Pinneys, Collinses, Cheevers, Bellows, Beechers, Stowes, Elders Mahans, Phinneys and Tappans, Rankins, Joselyns, Smiths, Goodells, and Adamses, and others of your race, for the outraged and down-trodden of mine. For this I deserve no thanks. But in my heart of hearts. I not only thank you for tender, Christian-like expressions in conveying to me their sentiments, but in return for the patient endurance of yourself and such as those named, for your incessant labors for the overthrow of American slavery, the superstition and lengthen regeneration and civilization of foreign lands,

all of which are peopled by the colored races, your continued efforts in their behalf, and the elevation of man.

Please convey to the teachers and your Association my heart-felt gratitude for their expressions of kindness towards me, and accept for yourself, dear Professor, my highest personal regards and esteem.

M.R. Delany.

In his report to the Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau concerning the school system, the reform which he advocated was not without deliberation, as demonstrated by a circumstance in his own experience. After his failures in authorship, the Central American expedition project, and railroad improvement, in consequence of all being attempted at the same time, as if to redeem that unsuccessful period of his singularly active life of its appearance of uselessness, a position entirely new in his role presented itself.

The principalship of a colored school was offered to him by a committee of the seventh ward. At first he declined, as he contemplated resuming the practice of medicine, his legitimate and choice profession. But the board insisting, as the school by law was compelled to open within a week, and no teacher had been secured, he accepted on conditions that he should be relieved in one month, or so soon as a teacher could be obtained.

He took charge at once, and organized what was then one of the most unmanageable schools, a great portion of the pupils being large boys, and girl's. The rules laid down by the board allowed whipping, while they forbade suspension or dismissal of the pupils from school. To flog a pupil, he alleged, was an evidence of

the incapacity for governing on the part of the teacher, and that when it was evident a pupil could not be restrained without resorting to such measures, he was unfit to be among the others.

He notified the directors of his objections to their rule. He regarded it as barbarous, rendering the school-house repulsive and objectionable, instead of being associated with pleasant and profitable memories. Therefore, if they desired him to take the school, he would conduct it in his own way.

They yielded to him in the manner of government. This resulted in binding the pupils to him by ties of sincere devotion, and he remained for thirteen months instead of the one month agreed upon at first. When he resigned, it was a source of regret among both pupils and directors. Teaching, though he loved it as a continual medium of imparting knowledge to the young, yet it was confining him to a sphere too limited for the grasp of his desires. In this capacity he will be remembered by some of the now adult inhabitants of Pittsburgh, and his excellent assistant, now the wife of one of the professors of the College of Liberia.

We here insert a portion of his report bearing upon his observation of the schools of his district, and an extract from his last annual report, made to headquarters of the assistant commissioner, for the year 1867, ending the last of August, the close of the planting season. The report is replete with suggestions, and equal to the demands of the time. If the suggestions made be carried out, there would accrue a vast amount of good, rendering the laborer less dependent on others, and

more frugal, whereas, in pursuing his former line of labor, he was kept at disadvantaged on account of the expenses to be kept up before the sale of cotton, the staple, in the cultivation of which the freedmen use all their time, money, and labor.

Even to make this an effective and self-sustaining measure, the local habits of the occupants must be essentially changed. Instead of the former old plantation people remaining on the places as a local preference, which generally allows but an average of five (5) acres to the family, the lands must be let in portions of not less than twenty (20) acres to each family before they can be made available to their support. This would necessitate a general scattering, or greater division of the people, causing at first quite a change of places with many. To do justice to the people as an available, sociable, or domestic element, on one hundred acres of farming land should be occupied by more than five (5) families, thus allowing twenty (20)acres to the family, which, in the light of domestic or political economy, is little enough. Less than this is to place them in a position of hazardous uncertainty and anxiety, and encourage idleness and improvidence, by inducing the thriftless to settle under circumstances which must make them burdensome to the thrifty and provident. By this course the aged and otherwise needy and deserving helpless could be easily aided by their neighbors, without, as now, being over-burdensome.

It is very evident that the entire system of cultivation will have to be changed, both in the method of doing it, and more especially the produce raised, to suit and meet the change in the social system and the demands and status of these new possessors and permanent residents of small farms or gardens. Every month in the year but one (December) may be made productive of some vegetable for provision, or family use, whereby the people may be independent in subsistence. It is a settled matter that in this country cotton can only be profitably produced by extensive cultivation and large capital, under favorable circumstances;

consequently it is a loss of time and labor for the freedmen to plant cotton with their limited means of land and materials, as the ground to them can be put to a much more useful and profitable purpose.

I am preparing the people in this sub-district to this end, and believe that against the approaching leasing year they will be quite willing and ready to enter into the new system of habitation and occupancy.

During the current year there have been no rations issued in this sub-district, except two hundred (200) bushels of corn from the Southern Relief Association, and five hundred (500) bushels of corn, and one thousand (1000) pounds of bacon, of the Congressional appropriation, assigned through the Commissary of subsistence Bureau, Charleston.

The example and precepts of the teachers have been such as to merit my most hearty approval. But there is one custom as yet common to schools, and almost regarded as an essential part of training, and which I most heartily desire should be done away with. I refer to whipping children as a correction in school. It is simply a relic of ignorance, and should not be tolerated by intelligence. And while this is tolerated, teachers will resort to it as the easiest and to them least troublesome mode of correction.

A teacher either is, or is not, adapted to teaching. If properly adapted, she could and should teach without whipping. If she cannot correct and control her pupils without whipping, then it only proves that she is not adapted to teaching, and all such should seek other employment. This is not a reflection on any particular teacher or teachers, but a condemnation of the general customs of schools. A school-house should be made a place of the most pleasurable resort and agreeable associations to children, but certain it is that in no wise can this be the case where the great hickory, thong, leather strap, or bridle rein meets, as it enters the school-house, the child's eye as it does the eye of the visitor, reminding one, as it must the other, of entering the presence of the old plantation overseer in waiting for his victim.