Protest of the Freedmen of Edisto Island to President Johnson, 1865

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Protest of the Freedmen of Edisto Island to President Johnson  (1865) 
by Henry Brown, Ishmael Moultrie, & Yates Sampson
Letter to President Andrew Johnson, asking him to protect their homesteads in the Sea Islands. October 28, 1865. NARA: B-53 1865 and P-27 1865, Letters Received (series 15), Washington Headquarters, RG 105. Transcribed at Freedmen & Southern Society Project.


Edisto Island S.C. Oct 28th 1865.

We the freedmen Of Edisto Island South Carolina have learned From you through Major General O O Howard commissioner of the Freedmans Bureau. with deep sorrow and Painful hearts of the possibility of goverment restoring These lands to the former owners. We are well aware Of the many perplexing and trying questions that burden Your mind. and do therefore pray to god (the preserver Of all. and who has through our Late and beloved President (Lincoln) proclamation and the war made Us A free people) that he may guide you in making Your decisions. and give you that wisdom that Cometh from above to settle these great and Important Questions for the best interests of the country and the Colored race: Here is where secession was born and Nurtured Here is were we have toiled nearly all Our lives as slaves and were treated like dumb Driven cattle, This is our home, we have made These lands what they are. we were the only true and Loyal people that were found in posession of these Lands. we have been always ready to strike for Liberty and humanity yea to fight if needs be To preserve this glorious union. Shall not we who Are freedman and have been always true to this Union have the same rights as are enjoyed by Others? Have we broken any Law of these United States? Have we forfieted our rights of property In Land?– If not then! are not our rights as A free people and good citizens of these United States To be considered before the rights of those who were Found in rebellion against this good and just Goverment (and now being conquered) come (as they Seem) with penitent hearts and beg forgiveness For past offences and also ask if thier lands Cannot be restored to them are these rebellious Spirits to be reinstated in thier possessions And we who have been abused and oppressed For many long years not to be allowed the Privilige of purchasing land But be subject To the will of these large Land owners? God fobid, Land monopoly is injurious to the advancement of the course of freedom, and if government Does not make some provision by which we as Freedmen can obtain A Homestead, we have Not bettered our condition.

We have been encouraged by government to take up these lands in small tracts, receiving Certificates of the same– we have thus far Taken Sixteen thousand (16000) acres of Land here on This Island. We are ready to pay for this land When Government calls for it. and now after What has been done will the good and just government take from us all this right and make us Subject to the will of those who have cheated and Oppressed us for many years God Forbid! We the freedmen of this Island and of the State of South Carolina–Do therefore petition to you as the President of these United States, that some provisions be made by which Every colored man can purchase land. and Hold it as his own. We wish to have A home if It be but A few acres. without some provision is Made our future is sad to look upon. yes our Situation is dangerous. we therefore look to you In this trying hour as A true friend of the poor and Neglected race. for protection and Equal Rights. with the privilege of purchasing A Homestead–A Homestead right here in the Heart of South Carolina.

We pray that god will direct your heart in Making such provision for us as freedmen which Will tend to unite these states together stronger Than ever before– May God bless you in the Administration of your duties as the President Of these United States is the humble prayer Of us all.–

In behalf of the Freedmen

Committee:

  • Henry Bram.
  • Ishmael. Moultrie.
  • yates. Sampson.