Assorted Documents of the Freedmen's Bureau
Circular Letter - General O. O. Howard
More information on the Bureau and Marriage
March 2, 1866
Freedmen Bureau Records
[Circular letter.]

                War Department, Bureau Of Refugees, Freedmen, And Abandoned Lands, Washington, March 2, 1866.
Attention is called to paragraph VIII of circular 5, series of 1865, from this office, with regard to marriages. The
Commissioner deemed those regulations sufficient to enable the assistant commissioner to draw up more specific

The Commissioner directs that each assistant commissioner consult the State laws with regard to marriage and
divorce of white persons, and embody them for the benefit of freedmen, so far as this can be done, in a circular.

It is desirable to frame such a system of marriage rules as would be approved by the State authorities. It is,
therefore, advisable to procure the formal approval of the governor to your circular on this subject.

The Commissioner would simply suggest several points that require immediate settlement:

1. Parties eligible to marriage.

2. Who shall grant certificates of marriage.

3. Parties authorized to solemnize marriages.

4. Dissolving marriages.

5. Registry of marriages.

6. Regulations with reference to persons who had lived together without marriage.

The greatest care must be taken to instruct all the free people what the law demands of them in regard to
marriage, and all clergymen and magistrates who are authorized to give certificates, or solemnize marriage, must
be earnestly solicited to aid the bureau officers in rectifying existing evils on this subject.

The assistant commissioners will forward to these headquarters a copy of their regulations with reference to
marriage, as soon as they shall be drawn up, for file in this office.

O. O. HOWARD, Major General, Commissioner.

Official copy: MAX WOODHULL,
General O. O. Howard