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Communipaw [James McCune Smith] to Frederick Douglass, November 21, 1853


From our New York Correspondent.

NEW YORK, Nov. 21, 1853.

MR. EDITOR:—My short, but most delight-
ful visit to Rochester, ended, as you know,
by a hearty shake of your hand; which set
me thinking of the terrible earnestness with
which you have embarked yourself, and your
all in the cause of the emancipation and af-
franchisement of the down-trodden. I cer-
tainly wish that our purse-proud brethren,
who lazily sigh for the ease of England or
Germany, or the oblivion of the steppes of
Russia, in order to escape the duties which
God has imposed on colored men in this land,
could visit your home and your office for an
hour, and witness the devotion of all your
family to the success of your paper—which
is the success of the cause also—one lad set-
ting type, then folding, another feeding your
new press, and Miss R. D. just budding into
womanhood, laboring with pen in hand, by
the side of our earnest and most efficient
English benefactress—and the editor him-
self so selfishly proud and so superbly am-
bitious, in his shirt-sleeves, driving the press!
I say it out, right in your teeth, and dare


any man to gainsay it, that there is no man
in America so terribly in earnest in this
question of emancipation, as Frederick
Douglass. Our ease-seeking, prejudice-feel-
ing brethren would see more than your ear-
nestness in Rochester; they would see you
surrounded by society as highly cultivated,
as free from caste, as any upon the face of
the globe, and witness that you are a respect-
ed, almost venerated ornament thereof.

But the cars are going, and by quarter be-
fore 6 A. M., here am I, in the Delavan
House, Albany. My old friend Stephen My-
ers kindly affords me a cold bath and break-
fast. But, "what is the matter, Myers, you
look ill? have you passed through a severe
illness?" "No, we had a severe time at the
election, on Tuesday; the people would have
me run against Wm. H. Topp, and the whole
city was alive as it seldom has been, with the
contest. I didn't want to beat Topp; could
have done it; let him win by two votes."—Mr. Editor, there was a warm time in Albany,
in the election for the State Council. The
following, clipped from the Knickerbocker of
the 16th, conveys a faint idea of the "good

exciting times, yesterday, among the colored
population of the city, growing out of the
election of a delegate to the National Coun-
cil—an institution lately organized for the
purpose of devising means to benefit colored
people generally. Mr. W. H. Topp, Mer-
chant Tailor, Broadway, was the regularly


nominated candidate, and was the choice of
the aristocratic 'colored pussins.' The bone
and sinew—the underground democracy—set up STEPHEN MYERS, who, everybody
knows, is the People's candidate. The polls
opened at an early hour, yesterday morning,
and the greatest possible excitement prevail-
ed about the City Hall all day. The contest
was carried on with great spirit and enthusi-
asm by the friends of both parties. Every
nook and corner in town was dragged for
voters. Even the basin and river crafts were
raked, and patriotic colored men who never
before enjoyed the privilege of expressing
their sentiments through the ballot-box, were
marched up to the polls flanked by the
friends of the candidates. The pulling, haul-
ing, coaxing and threatening were excellent
imitations of the scenes witnessed at the
polls on a general election among white peo-
ple. Every voter had to pay ten cents for
the privilege of voting, which goes into a
common school fund for colored people.—The fun and excitement attracted the atten-
tion of a large crowd of people. The elec-
tion was conducted in good nature, and pass-
ed off quietly. The election resulted in the
choice of Mr. TOPP. It was close work, how-
ever, as he beat Mr. MYERS by only 2 votes.
Mr. TOPP'S friends fired a salute last evening
in honor of the victory."

Voters were caught up and carried in on
the shoulders of the mixed populace. Grave
functionaries of the State and city aided and
abetted to the best of their ability; and more
than one gentleman, not far removed from
the highest office, wrung their hands because


they could not vote. I suppose they felt just
like colored men have often felt, under like

At the close of the poll, it was found that
there were eleven more ballots, than names
registered. The city Marshall was called in,
and "pulled" eleven ballots; the excitement
was intense, as the knowing ones saw eleven
"Topp" votes pulled; yet honor to Wm. H.
Topp, he still beat by two votes.

It is whispered, and loudly, that Myers and
Randolph did organize, very secretly, the op-

In Tracy some 65 votes were cast; in Ge-
neva 20; in New York city and Brooklyn, I
know not how many. But Philadelphia is
the BANNER CITY; she cast twelve hundred votes! So says our friend Dr. J. J. Bias.

It is a settled fact, Mr. Editor, for future
use, that the political element in our people
is capable of large and most useful develop-
ment for their own advancement. This is
the second fact brought out by the Rochester
Convention. And I have the best authority
for saying that Wm. Whipper, Esq., of Penn-
sylvania, introduced this feature into the
Constitution of the Council.

It will rejoice you and a million of others
to learn that the HON. GERRIT SMITH, is now
in our city in greatly improved health; there
is no reason to doubt that on the 1st Prox.
he will be "on hand" in that particular part


of Washington to which the voice of the
people has so worthily called him.



Communipaw [James McCune Smith]




Communipaw [James McCune Smith] to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: Frederick DouglassP, 25 November 1853. Reports that William H. Topp won the “Colored People’s Election” in New York City, defeating Stephen Meyers.


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