Skip to main content

Communipaw (James McCune Smith) to Frederick Douglass, July 31, 1852


A Flagrant Prostitute.

"A constant reader" of the Daily Tribune gets accustomed to plain language, and is like to become plain spoken. Honied phrases and cunning euphemisms are as foreign to his vocabulary as silk gloves and pumps to the plough share and the furrow; and, by stringent association, when speaking of the responsible editor, will he be apt to use just the word that fits, never saying "yours respectfully," when he means "yours with disgust."

Hence, when I (reader of the Tribune) see that the Hon. Horace Greeley has gone a wandering after strange Gods, the phrase, "flagrant prostitute" leaps from the nib of my pen; and it is some comfort in this matter, to pinions long confined to the special wrongs of negrodom, to stretch abroad and soar on the broader atmosphere of Human Brotherhood: mankind of the present and the coming time, mankind panting for its higher destinies—such is the bar before which I appear, and charge this "learned editor" with a delinquency, for which the worst term, the languages and the experiences of society affords, is far too lenient and honorable. The street-walker, deserted, an outcast from society, hires herself for pay, most frequently to earn her bread; and is ever the victim of some deep laid villainy, on the part of another. But, the Honorable Horace Greeley, with more than enough and to spare, cherished, honored, respected, not only by the respectable, but also by the more thoughtful part of the American people.—The Honorable Horace Greeley exerting an intellectual influence, such as no man living wields, preaching six days in the week to a hundred thousand hearers, and bearing captive their morning thoughts on the vigorous pinions of his "winged words"—when such a man, with malice aforethought, devotes his thirty thousand [illegible] editions, and the enormous power of his splendid printing press, to the deliberate purpose of making this nation

"dazzled and drunk"

with the human butcheries at Chippewa and Lundy's Lane, his offence against, not society, for that would be only a crime, but against Humanity, is so rank, that the frailty of the street-walker is like a virtue in the comparing. For, no sane man doubts that the recent war with Mexico was the natural result of the Old Hickory and Hard Cider campaigns in '28, '32, and '40, when, from lisping children to grey-beard men, the whole nation went wild with hurrah for Jackson, or,

"Tippecanoe and Tyler too!"

and now, years afterwards, when that destructive murder poison had deeply penetrated the national current, and fermented, and worked itself off in a blaze of fire and sword and butchery, streaming through the peaceful valleys of a sister republic - now, with earnest and eloquent protests, uttered with superhuman energy, against that war, still warm upon his lips, with his sagacious forebodings about the corruption of the public heart, which would follow such unnatural and perfidious warfare, still ringing in the air, this very honorable Horace Greeley prostitutes his noble faculties, to the carefully preparing, and insidiously distilling, and even to surcharging the public heart anew with this murder poison.


Weeks past, day in and day out with short intervals, the leading editorial of the Tribune, in headed type, has solicited, for the CAMPAIGN LIFE OF SCOTT, also for SCENES IN THE LIFE [illegible] OF GENERAL SCOTT, customers by the tens, by the hundreds, by the thousands; State Committees, County Committees, and Town Committees are earnestly besought, by this pious advocate of all the [illegible], to aid him in disseminating these wild tales of blood and slaughter, broad cast through the land. He wishes a million copies distributed before the end of July, for there are a [illegible] of voters, says he, who know nothing of [Lundy's] Lane and Chippewa.

He gets up a battle celebration at Niagara, [rushes] to the platform and [beseeches] the multitude to take [home] some full dose of his murder poison, done up in pamphlet form, with directions how to administer.—The [Temperance] [illegible] Liquor Law Reformer, Horace Greeley, prepares by the hundred thousand, "[Scenes in the life of] General Scott." [...]

[...] with a will and [illegible] that [indicate] him born for it: the philosophical [illegible] lurking in each man's depths [illegible] in him; he seeks out and [illegible] bloody [illegible], (and the bloodier the better,[)] and [illegible] fights, where brother [illegible], mutually bayonetted, [illegible] of the New York Tribune already [illegible], in which the [illegible], and the still woods, and silvery streams, and peaceful hamlets, and the lowing cattle, and the hum of industry, and the voice of birds, are suddenly exchanged for the dark desolation of the battle-field.


Women widowed, children orphaned, parents bereaved, poor brother men maimed at the bootless fights of Cerro Gordo and Cherubusco! Hold your crushed hearts, and fleshly healed agonies, while the Honorable Horace Greeley rides rough shod over them, he is a man of peace, on an electioneering spree!


Mothers! your little half-grown boys, and even the younger children have got hold of the 'Campaign Life of Scott,' issued by the great organ of HOME PROTECTION, (that is to say, the Home of the free whites of the North, what business have yellow Mexicans with any home,?) see your young lads? how their smooth faces redden, and their glowing hands clench, and their mild pulses bound with the fiery murder passion, calling aloud in their bosoms, and through their compressed lips, for another Cerro Gordo and Chapultepec, and a grand slice of Mexico.—


And by and by, when they grow a little larger, and this poison is ripened in their blood, and they rush to the arms, to go down to Mexico and leave your hearth-stones desolate by cannon shot or bullet, or the more dismal way of pestilence - then find mother, then, with this same horrible Horace Greeley, be found shouting with all that remains of his hypocritical voice, and doubly apostate soul, and crying out against war, and slaughter and bloodshed! How beautifully, too, he will stem the torrent, quell the storm which he is now, 'soul and body in the action,' striving to raise. He will quell it, oh yes, and he will turn the current of Niagara, and pass a High Tariff Bill, and then thank God that he is not bloody-minded, and a drunkard, as other men are! For a month past, I have striven to fathom out, and find an excuse for this conduct on the part of the Honorable Mr. Greeley, but cannot succeed. The poor excuse that General Scott negotiated a peace with a strong nation, is no set off against his cruel prosecution of a war against a weak one. Had he been the man worthy of the Tribune's Home Protection Peace-Making principles; had he possessed one element of humanity in advance of a murderer, he would have broken his sword in pieces, rather than have plunged it into the bosom of the Mexican people, whom he knew to be deeply wronged, and wantonly assaulted, in 1846.

It is with a sad, weary, and disappointed heart, that these things are written; when Webster fell beneath an October sun, "the human" in the American heart turned aside with a shuddering grief; and now when Greeley stands emasculated of 'beneficent reform,' the same agaony is renewed, there is a stronger man than Greeley ministering at the same bloody altar, Chief Priest, in the rites that consign our glorious country to the backward path of non-progress, and therefore decline—I mean WILLIAM H. SEWARD. These great Apostles 'do evil that good may come;' strive, through slimy and slippery pathways, to seize the helm of State, in the hope that they may guide it aright. Vain hope! They might as well put on the robes of Hell to serve God in.

True hearts, to whom liberty is more than a name, these things say, "Put not your trust in Princes," but rather rely upon the divinity which stirs within each one of you, and do your share for the progress of humanity.


Professor Allen overwhelms me. If the Jews of old were a mixed race, as he says, July 30, how are the modern Jews a "single race," as cited by him in the same paper?—That is, how can you mix wine, gin and water, and after a thousand years, the resultant be pure water? What does the Professor mean by a "single race?" when that is made out clearly that is a single race of mankind, in contradistinction to any other, or all other races of mankind, I will see if his dictum can hold water. By consulting Latham's "Man and his Migrations," p. 206 to 261, and Prichard's Phyz. Hist. of Mankind, vol. 4, p. 480, et seq. the Professor will find that the Chinese are a mixed race.

Ethiop will please excuse me, I nowhere accused him of dancing for clams; I said eels, and can prove it from pictures entitled "New York, as it is." Shall I copy the portrait?



New York, July 31, 1852.


Smith, James McCune (1813–1865)




Communipaw (James McCune Smith) to Frederick Douglass. PLeSr: Frederick Douglass' Paper, 6 August 1852. Criticizes Horace Greeley for supporting Whig presidential candidate Winfield Scott.


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


Frederick Douglass' Paper



Publication Status



Frederick Douglass' Paper