At the close of the Civil War, the Freedmen's Bureau was created and charged by Congress with responsibility for all matters concerning the ex-slaves. General O.O. Howard, with remarkable unanimity, was thought to be the "very one" for the job of carrying out that assignment. The purpose of this study is to inquire into the quality of the national commitment to the freedmen by an examination of this man and his aims and deeds as Commissioner of the Bureau. The Bureau was engaged in the effort to unify the work of the churches and other private groups in providing relief for the freedmen. More important was the matter of awarding farm lands to the ex-slaves. Congress had stated that lands abandoned to the Union armies were to be used for the Negroes and the Freedmen's Bureau played a crucial role in the competition between the freedmen and pardoned white Southerners who sought the restoration of these lands. Faced with the Black Codes and other repressive acts, the freedmen at the end of 1865 lacked protection. The Bureau, apprehensive of that might result from this repression, looked to Congress to extend the life of the agency and enlarge its powers. Not all the Freedmen's troubles were caused by the war or by their lives as slaves. Crop failures made starvation a real threat and a conflict existed over whether freemen could best earn a living under contracts regulated by the Freedmen's Bureau or as workers dealing with their employers directly. In the 1866 legislation continuing the Bureau, Howard's agency was charged with responsibilities in enforcing the Civil Rights Bill of 1866 but successful efforts to frustrate justice for the freedmen continued. Two riots in Southern cities provided a test of the effectiveness of the Bureau in meeting basic needs of the freedmen.