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Andrew Johnson, "Remarks to the First Colored Regiment of the District of Columbia," October 10, 1865, Washington D.C.

Andrew Johnson
President Johnson met with the enlisted men of the First Colored Regiment of the District of Columbia, about to be discharged from their service in the United States Army following the Civil War. After he had described and thanked them for their service in the conflict, his remarks turned to the future and the future of the men before him in particular. His remarks lay out quite clearly the immense problems facing the nation of absorbing the four million freed from slavery, as well as his own views on the subject. He lectured the troops on their responsibility to set an example of virtuous and hard-working family lives, saying that merit rather than race should be the measure of men in the new United States. He went on to warn that the "great experiment" of integration based on merit may fail, necessitating racial separation, and seemed to stress that it was their task to make sure this did not happen. (By John Osborne)