Freedmen's Bureau Superintendent of the District of Mobile, Alabama, to the Headquarters of the Alabama Freedmen's Bureau Assistant Commissioner

Mobile Ala  Jany 22" 1866

Colonel:  I learn from Mayor Withers that he is to go to day to Montgomery to have an interview with the General in reference to matters connected with the Bureau in this Dist

I would respectfully call the attention of the General to an ordinance recently passed by the Common Council of this city which requires all persons owning Hacks. cabs or drays to give a bond in the Sum of five hundred dollars before they can obtain a license to run the same1

This ordinance is a very oppressive one upon the Freedmen–many of whom are unable to give the Bond as it is required that the bondsman shall be a property owner and a resident of the city.  In some cases the bondsman requires that he shall have an interest in the carriage or dray thus reducing the profits of the real owner

I cannot determine whether I have a right to interfere in this matter or not.  But it seems to me that in accordance with the provisions of Gen Orders No 3 Dated war Dept. Adjt Genls Office Washington Jany 12" 1866, the General might do so or give me orders to that Effect.2  This ordinance is equally oppressive to discharged officers of our army some of whom wish to run Hacks but Cannot get resident property owners to become their sureties.  Please send me instructions in regard to this.  I have exhausted every argument to have this law repealed but without Success   I have the honor to be Colonel Your Obdt Servant

Geo D Robinson

Col. Geo D Robinson to Brevet Colonel C. Cadle, 22 Jan. 1866, Unregistered Letters Received, series 9, AL Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. The assistant commissioner, General Wager Swayne, had already learned of the ordinance from an article in the Mobile Nationalist, a black-owned newspaper. “[T]he Draymen's Association, (colored,),” the paper reported, had appealed to the Freedmen's Bureau in the hope of obtaining “relief . . . against [the ordinance's] taking effect for the year 1866.” Following “some conference between the City Fathers and the military authorities,” the required bond had been reduced from $1,000 to $500,” [b]ut it is still represented by the colored draymen that it will be impossible for the greatest number of them to give even this amount of bond, unless their drays will be taken as such security on bonds.” The result, the Nationalist predicted, “will be to give a monopoly of the [dray] interest to the white man, and the colored man will be reduced to the necessity of compromising his interest and liberty by giving down a lien on his dray, in order to effect the bond.” Already, the paper claimed, “as many as thirty industrious colored draymen are by this scheme thrown out of employment.” Meanwhile, “the poorest white man, if a Southerner,” was permitted to run a dray “after giving an irresponsible bond.” (The Nationalist, 18 Jan. 1866.) On January 20, in a letter that Colonel Robinson had not yet received when he wrote his of January 22, Swayne's adjutant conveyed the general's annoyance at having to rely on “the public prints” to learn of developments in Robinson's district and instructed Robinson to confer with the military authorities and the mayor to obtain relief from the ordinance. On January 23, in response to that letter, Robinson reported that he and the military commander at Mobile had “used every argument to have this ordinance repealed but without success.” “Nothing but Military interference can revoke it,” he declared. Five days later, Robinson again requested instructions, and on February 2, Swayne's adjutant reported that “[t]he General has had an interview with the Governor and the Mayor of Mobile on the ‘Cab & Dray Ordinance’ and at present he does not wish to take action.” (Brvt. Col [Cornelius Cadle, Jr.] to Col. G. D. Robinson, 20 Jan. 1866, and Brvt. Col [Cornelius Cadle, Jr.] to Col. G. D. Robinson, 2 Feb. 1866, vol. 4, pp. 183–85, 225–26, Letters Sent, series 3, AL Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives; Col. Geo D Robinson to Brevet Colonel C. Cadle Jr, 23 Jan. 1866, Unregistered Letters Received, series 9, AL Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives; Col Geo D Robinson to Brevet Colonel C. Cadle Jr., 28 Jan. 1866, Reports of Operations from the Subdistricts, series 17, AL Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.)

1. The ordinance, which was adopted on December 14, 1865, required the owner of “each and every dray, cart or wagon kept for hire or employed in hauling, or used for any purpose within the limits of the city” to obtain a license from the mayor and to “give such bond, and pay such sum for said license per annum as the corporate authorities may from time to time determine.” (An Ordinance Respecting Carts, Drays, Wagons, &c., [14 Dec. 1865], The Charter and Code of Ordinances of the City of Mobile [Mobile, Ala., 1866], pp. 99–102.)

2. General Order 3, issued by General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant, instructed those division and department commanders in the former Confederate states who had not already done so to “at once issue and enforce orders. . . . protecting colored persons from prosecutions in any of said States charged with offenses for which white persons are not prosecuted or punished in the same manner and degree.” (GENERAL ORDERS, No. 3, WAR DEPARTMENT, ADJUTANT GENERAL'S OFFICE, 12 Jan. 1866, Orders & Circulars, series 44, Adjutant General's Office, Record Group 94, National Archives.)

Published in Land and Labor, 1866–1867, pp. 510–11.