Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995 Page: 96
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
prospects were favorable for "making a good crop." Although Webster mentioned no
names, several of his neighbors told him the freedmen worked well; and "one extensive
planter" claimed he had been lately convinced that free labor was "more profitable to him
than the former system." Another wealthy planter complained, however, that he had
trouble hiring laborers. But Webster contended the reason was his previous "ill-treatment
towards his slaves." Unfortunately, Webster wrote, there were other cases of blacks
being abused "all over this part of the country" and, among some, the hostility towards
the Union men and freedmen knew "no bounds." He believed that if it were not for the
few Union men engaged in planting in Colorado County, the blacks would leave the
region. If the government withdrew the military, the few unionists themselves would be
forced to leave. Webster often heard remarks such as, "When the military power is
withdrawn, we will see if we cant put them niggers where they belong." The spirit of
these remarks, he said, was just as bitter as "when it first vented itself in war." Although
he knew that time might bring these unrepentant individuals into subjection to the new
order, it did not disappoint Webster in the least when some of them talked of moving
to Brazil. He declared that "it would be a happy thing for the country should they go."
He was also dismayed at the ignorance of the people in general. Not even one family in
ten subscribed to any kind of newspaper, and they were not well informed on any of the
general topics of the day. Moreover, they had but few books and those were of "great
antiquity." The only topic of conversation among them according to Webster was the
"hated Yankees invading their country trying to raise cotton, which they mean to prevent
if possible." What they meant, of course, was that blacks were laboring under a contract
Meanwhile, in neighboring Fayette County, the bureau was having difficul-
ties establishing a permanent sub-assistant commissionership. There, County Judge
William B. Price had been importuned daily to draft contracts between whites and blacks.
He wrote Gregory in December 1865 to request his permission to supervise in some
respect the contracts and interests of, as he put it, a "people incapable of guarding their
own interest." Though both employer and employee took it "for granted" that Price "had
something to do with the matter," and the freedmen especially seemed to regard the chief
justice "as some sort of an agent to guard their interest in making" agreements, and
though almost daily he saw instances where, in his judgment, the freedmen were "not
justly dealt" within Price felt disinclined to interfere for two reasons: first, he had no
authority; and second, he was "unadvised" as to what the Freedmen's Bureau deemed
"a sufficient and equitable contract.""85
A few days after Price drafted his letter to Gregory, James L. Davis, a doctor
in High Hill, Fayette County, applied to become an agent. Modestly, he stated that he
could not "claim to be more philanthropic than most men," but thought himself "naturally
84 P. H. Webster (Eagle Lake) to Edgar M. Gregory (assistant commissioner, Texas), February 5,
1866, UL, 1865-1866, BRFAL, Texas, RG 105, National Archives, M821, Reel 17.
85 William B. Price (county judge of Fayette County, La Grange) to Edgar M. Gregory (assistant com-
missioner, Texas), December 9, 1865, Assistant Commissioner, Unregistered Letters, 1865-1866, M821,
Reel 17. This is a disingenuous argument. If Price had actually felt this strongly about injustices done to blacks,
he would have realized he had a moral responsibility to tell them that they were being unfairly treated.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995, periodical, May 1995; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151394/m1/28/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed October 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.