Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Amy Murrell Taylor


As an agent of the Freedmen’s Bureau and military officer, James Beecher embodied Federal power in the South Carolina Lowcountry. During Presidential Reconstruction, Beecher became a key administrator of Order No.15 that promised formerly enslaved peoples’s “40 acres and a mule” that formerly belonged to white plantation owners. Beecher, despite his antebellum abolitionist politics, was remarkably unsympathetic to freedpeople’s desire for independent landholding. Beecher believed that freedpeople were unfit for immediate citizenship and should sign labor contracts to return to plantations where they might be inculcated with Northern free labor values. Amid epidemic disease, famine, and white paramilitary violence, James Beecher chose to exert the full force of the Federal government not to remedy the humanitarian crises, but to coerce freedpeople into the signing of labor contracts. In his year of service, Beecher clashed with other administrators and freedpeople, yet achieved his goal of defeating widespread Black land ownership.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

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