The following is a letter to the editor responding to the publication of Dr. Thomas Knox's article, "Startling Revelations from the Department of South Carolina." It was written by an African-American minister, Rev. James Lynch. How does Lynch counter Knox's arguments? How can you judge the accuracy of the two men's claims and counterclaims? How does Lynch's description of Knox influence your reading of the documents?
From the Anglo-African
Your issue of the 2d inst. contains a lengthy article, to which is affixed an affidavit, emanating from Dr. Knox, which I take the opportunity of noticing, for the purpose of correcting some statements so manifestly untrue, as to warrant the charge of absolute ignorance or maliciousness.
1st. "Moneys obtained from these sales of the Association are paid into the hands of Gen, Saxton." Now, that Gen. Saxton has never received a cent from the sales of this or any other Association, is a fact as well known by every intelligent man in the Department of the South, as that the sun shines. The consignment to him consists only in a direction to his "care," to better provide for prompt and sure delivery, just as dozens of us have had letters and boxes directed to his "care."
2d. "They have (the N.F.R. Asso.) introduced the odious Northern system of caste, by establishing separate schools for the negro children." The fact is that the National Freedmen's Relief Association have established and sustained no schools in the Department of the South, except those for the education of freedmen, which schools the children of the white Union refugees have attended with the colored. Very recently, a school was established exclusively for white children, but it owed its existence to private enterprise alone, the Association having no more to do with it than I have with the domestic affairs of the Doctor's family. A young lady, whose connection with the Association was severed for some reason unknown to me, got up this school for her own support. Thus is this circumstance (we trust ignorantly) used to cast odium on our Association, which is maintaining nearly seventy schools in South Carolina, and has been the means of teaching over a thousand children (who before the war had never seen a book) to read and write.
3d. Speaking of laborers on plantations, he says, "They were not allowed the $8 per month secured to them by act of Congress." Now, every one knows there never was Congressional legislation about pay for plantation labor. There never was a cent appropriated. The pay of the laborers was the result of an organized system of labor, instituted by Gen. Saxton, for to meet the immediate wants of the people, the cotton gathered being sold, and the cotton fund paying laborers, superintendents, and all other expenses--no price for labor was fixed by law of Congress. Certainly the most ignorant know this.
Having noticed three statements which are totally false, a few words on the remainder of this solemnly affirmed article will suffice. What he says about laborers in the Quartermaster's Department is, doubtless, true; the responsibility, however, is on the government, and not its executive officer, or the National Freedmen's Relief Association.
In regard to the giving away clothing and rations, the best friends of the freedmen of the South would never advise that it be done indiscriminately. When these people were freed, the masses of them had to learn the responsibilities of freedom--to be self-reliant--hence their friends divided them into two classes--those who were self-sustaining and those who were paupers. The paupers who were such from circumstances beyond their control, were cared for, while the only solicitude for the others was to put the means of getting a living into their hands. But my patience becomes exhausted in the refutation of this ill-tempered article of the Doctor's. Either one of two things is certain--that every abolitionist, white and colored, from the North, laboring in the Department of the South, is wrong, and Knox is right, or he is wrong and they are right in the unanimous testimony they give concerning the improvement of the people, as the result of the judicious and zealous labors on the part of those who were foremost to interest themselves in their behalf.
That some men betray their trusts--that some men who are unprincipled oftentimes have the interests of these people confided to them, is by no means surprising. Imperfections exists everywhere this side of heaven.
We beg the reader to consider the source from whence these "startling revelations" come. However zealous the Doctor may be as an Abolitionist, his friends will testify that he is visionary, irritable, impulsive, of great bias, and so little reflective power of mind, that unfortunately, he is just one of those capability of being inflicted with mania in a given direction. My experience in South Carolina is that he did the colored people more harm than good. Unable to dewise anything himself--never giving them practical advice, but forever haranguing and abusing others.
The colored people of South Carolina have accumulated more property since the war commenced, than an equal number of any class of emigrants to this country have ever accumulated in the same space of time.
Yours, ........ James Lynch,