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Communipaw (James McCune Smith) to Frederick Douglass and John Thomas, December 18, 1851


For Frederick Douglass' Paper.

New York, Dec. 18, 1851.

Messrs Editors:—As you 'outside barbarians' have little chance to see him, I will favor you with a word about KOSSUTH! - "the shock of whose oncoming feet now rocks every throne and altar in Christendom to their base." There is some divinity "stirs within him." There is grandeur in the very conception of him. He is a link between Islamism and Christianity, reflecting all that is bright in the one, and despicable in the other. And in this light, the international man, he outshines, if possible, his own intensity as a pro national man. Only think of the graceful and eloquent audacity with which this homeless, cowering exile erects his crest and challenges this soi disant great nation to build for itself a place among the powers of the earth? How Webster and Clay dwarf in his presence!

There is revealed to us a new relation of our humanity, so broad and grand that we almost entirely forget our special woes in the contemplation of it; or if we remember them, it is with the feeling of self-condemnation that we have not yet struck manfully to overcome them. What have we, three millions strong, a blow for freedom yet unstruck; what have we in common with this man who has crushed one tyrant and his millions, and with one knee bent and sword half broken, daringly beards the world's Autocrat and his untold millions? Our case needs the baptism of blood, before it can be placed upon the level of his sympathy. He had scarcely touched our shores when he thundered in our ears

'Hereditary bondsmen! know ye not
Who would be free, themselves must [strike] the blow!'

And yet you say he steers clear of the slavery question! Will that quotation fit any others than ourselves? The greatest marvel of this man is the left-handed way in which, by some subtle turn of expression, he reveals idiosyncracy, and - hammers it. I saw him "handle" half a dozen deputations - it was a King receiving and reprimanding half faithful stewards. Had he been acquainted intimately with each for years, he could not have hit them off any better. The tight-fisted of Hartford he called on for money. Slave Pen Baltimore, he told in her broad aspirations after Liberty, "not to forget the internal administration of the laws of humanity." And when Dr. Samuel Hanson Cox, ore-rotundo vomited fulsome fustian, interlarded with Latin, falsely pronounced, and volunteered HIS PRAYERS for Hungary, the Kite Kossuth pounced upon him, tore his tonsil to tatters, and bade him "WATCH, lest the secret workings of the government should tamper with the liberties of the American people!"

How happens all this? Can it be that Kossuth's broad contact with humanity, his almost universal sympathies with his kind in their higher hopes and intelligences, gives him perception keener than other men have? His presence is felt to be more than that of ordinary man, by all classes, as admitted from


Sumner's brilliant "tyba mirum spargeou gonuno," down to the exclamation of the Carman man reading the Municipal Banquet speech, "I'm d———d if he ain't the greatest man I ever hearn tell of."

Then look at the affinities of the man. Hangman Foote shrank like the toad touched with Ithuriel's spear: Seward, Sumner, Beecher, and such like warm up to and scintillate in his presence. Kossuth is all right, and you will find him so. American slavery is receiving and will receive telling blows from him. The giant Gregorie wraps a towel round his hand when he breaks granite blacks with a blow of his fist. The great [Sclave] will

"Sow the fiery sparks of freedom
Broadcast thro' the land"

in such style as will "shake the pillars of the common weal" so far as they rest upon the Patriarchal Institution. In ridiculing the idea that the Constitution of the United States is to be rocked in sempiternal lullabys, and in upholding that it may be bettered in enforcing that the Present owes duties to Liberty and Humanity, he has shaken the chain of slavery to its centre and opened up a new pathway to abolition effort.

There is nothing remarkable in the physique of Kossuth in ordinary, except that sort of universal or type of countenance which puzzles you with the conviction that he looks like several men whom you are well acquainted with but cannot recall. This is true of the physical appearance of many great men. But the fun of it is that Kossuth, the ideal of the American nation, is not a white man... He is not a Caucasian, and thank God, he is not an Anglo Saxon. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Confessedly the greatest man in Christendom is not a white man! His complexion is swarthy, between a mulatto and a quadroon. His form of skull is peculiar. His forehead is neither high nor perpendicular, but the perceptive faculties are full without projecting. The greatest height of skull is just before the ear: he hs not what Phrenologists


call concentration or self esteem. But the domestic and home-love faculties he has enormously developed, along with very great breadth of skull between the ears. His nose is so common as to accout for the fact, physiognomically, that he did not, nolens volens, take the dictatorship and free Hungary and Austria at a blow. Bonaparte or Jackson, in April 1849, would have done for Francis Joseph & Co. I said he is not a Caucasian. He is by blood a Mongol, and therefore according to Ethnography belongs to the second best race of mankind. Moreover, he is a Sclave, not a Magyar. And Sclaves are the race from whose condition the world Slave has been Anglicised.

You have mis-stated one things: colored persons, as such, did not call on Kossuth. The heading of the address, as read and printed twice over in the Herald was "The Committee of Thirteen organized for the legal defence of persons arrested as fugitive slaves."

There is little stirring hereabouts. The Committee of Thirteen are about getting up a Fred. Douglass Paper Soiree. They have begotten two offshoots, Committees of nine at Brooklyn and five of Williamsburgh. They have in all sent some $100 to aid the Christiana Patriots.

In my next, if I can write about anything else than Kossuth, I will send some account of the colored drinking saloons in New York. We are all very glad to hear from Samuel R. Ward; his tongue has been loosened since his migration, for he must have known that. Methodism in this City is quite as great a bulwark to Progress as Methodism in Canada.

Ever yours,


P.S. We hope that Ethiop is not a mulatto man trying to pass for black.


Smith, James McCune (1813–1865)




Communipaw (James McCune Smith) to Frederick Douglass and John Thomas. PLSr: Frederick Douglass' Paper, 25 December 1851. Defends Louis Kossuth’s moral standing as foe of tyranny.


This document was calendared in the published volume and has not been published in full before.


Frederick Douglass' Paper



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Frederick Douglass' Paper