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Women and Freedmen's Aid after the Civil War

Document 2

Pittsburgh, Oct 30 65.

General:

       I am constrained to write you in regard to Mrs. Griffing, & the local organization, which she represents.

       They have recently issued an appeal which has been already widely published, but which is simply disgraceful, & will work serious mischief for the Bureau & for the American Freedmen's Aid Commission.*

       Mrs. Griffing is simply irrepressible: & yet she must be repressed, so far as you & I have to do with her, or else we must bear the odium of her folly. She still represents the "20,000 utterly destitute" as needing outright support from northern charity. Located as she is, & endorsed by the head of the Bureau, she sends her appeal everywhere, to the glee of the copperheads, who want no better reading to confirm their "I told you so!" but to the sore annoyance of all sensible men.  I write now, & from this point, because I find this recent appeal, together with the late visit of Mrs. Rix, has so prejudiced the press & clergy of this city, that nothing short of an unqualified disclaimer will persuade them to listen to me, or to hear about any Freedman's Aid Commission . . .

       I have found a similar impression in their track wherever I have crossed it: both these women are making grievous blunders. I have hoped for some quiet relief: but cannot wait much longer. If it is necessary to define the American Freedmen's Aid Commission as entirely distinct from the Association at Washington**, it must be done: but I certainly cannot like to do this until the Bureau modifies its endorsement of the Washington Commissioner.  

       The invitation to furnish food, clothing, shelter, & all other material comforts for 20,000 idle negroes--it is useless to pretend that the most of these are infirm--at the National Capitol, is such a blunder as only the Washington Association, I think, could be capable of. Neither the Bureau nor the Commission can afford to endorse such an appeal, I am sure.  

       The case is, in my judgment, extreme, and calls for the most effective measures. Mrs. Griffing is hopelessly unfit for the responsible position she fills, & cannot be too permanently separated from it.  

              Very respectfully,

              Jacob R. Shipherd.

*Three organizations supplied aid to freedmen and freedwomen: The Freedmen's Bureau, the American Freedmen's Aid Commission, and the National Freedmen's Relief Association.

**Shipherd is referring to the National Freedmen's Relief Association of the District of Columbia, for which Griffing was a paid agent.  He encouraged the Freedmen's Bureau to withdraw their support for Griffing.

-- Letter from Jacob R. Shipherd to O.O. Howard, 30 October 1865


4. What is Shipherd’s view of direct government relief to freedmen and freedwomen?

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5.  Why does Shipherd want Griffing removed from her position at the Freedmen's Bureau?

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