On Cinques

The Colored American

Citation Information:

“On Cinques,” The Colored American. October 19, 1839.

We are inclined to call the noble African by this name, although he is called by as many different titles as our republicanism offers reasons for enslaving his people. We have seen a wood-cut representation of the royal fellow. It looks as we think it would. It answers well to his lion-like character.— The head has the towering front of Webster, and though some shades darker than our great country-man, we are struck at first sight, with his resemblance to him. He has Webster’s lion aspect. — his majestic, quiet, uninterested cast of expression, looking, when at rest, as if there was nobody and nothing about him to care about or look at. His eye is deep, heavy - the cloudy iris extending up behind the brow almost inexpressive, and yet as if volcanoes of action might be asleep behind it. It looks like the black sea or the ocean in a calm — an unenlightened eye, as Webster’s would have looked, had he been bred in the desert, among the lions, as Cinguea [sic] was, and if instead of pouring upon Homer and Shakespeare, and Coke and the Bible (for Webster read the Bible when he was young, and got his regal style there) it had rested, from savage boyhood, on the sands and sky of Africa. It looks like a wilderness, a grand, but uninhabited land, or, if peopled, the abode of aboriginal man. Webster’s eye like a civilized and cultivated country — country rather than city — more on the whole like woods and wilderness than fields or villages. For after all, nature predominates greatly in the eye of our majestic countryman.

The nose and mouth of Cingues are African. We discover the expanded and powerful nostrils mentioned in the description, and can fancy readily its contractions and dilations, as he made those addresses to his countrymen and called upon them to rush, with a greater than Spartan spirit, upon the countless white people, who he apprehended would doom them to a life of slavery. He has none of the look of an Indian — nothing of the savage. It is a gentle, magnanimous, generous look, not so much of the warrior as the sage — a sparing and not a destructive look, like the lion’s when unaroused by hunger or the spear of the huntsman. It must have flashed terribly upon that midnight deck, when he was dealing with the wretched Ramonflues.

We bid pro-slavery look upon Cingues and behold in him the race we are enslaving. He is a sample. Every Congolese or Mandingan is not, be sure, a Cingues. Nor was every Corsican a Napolian [sic], or every Yankee a Webster. ‘Giants are rare,’ said Ames, ‘and it is forbidden that there should be races of them.’ But call not the race inferior, which in now and then an age produces such men.

Our shameless people have made merchandise of the likeness of Cingues - as they have of the originals of his (and their own) countrymen. They had the effrontery to look him in the face long enough to delineate it, and at his eye long enough to copy its wonderful expression.

By the way, Webster ought to come home to defend Cingues. He ought to have no counsel short of his twin spirit. His defence were a nobler subject for Webster’s giant intellect, than the Foote resolutions or Calhoun’s nullification. There is indeed no defence to make. It would give Webster occasion to strike at the slave trade and at our people for imprisoning and trying a man admitted to have risen only against the worst of pirates, and for more than life - for liberty, for country and for home.

Webster should vindicate him if he must be tried. Old Marshall would be the man to try him. And after his most honorable acquittal and triumph, a ship should be sent to convey him to his country - not an American ship. They are all too near a kin to the “low, long, black schooner.” A British ship - old Nelson’s line of battle, if it is yet afloat, the one he had at Trafalgar; and Hardy, Nelson’s captain, were a worthy sailor to command it to Africa. He would steer more honestly than the treacherous old Spaniard. He would steer them toward the sunrise, by night as well as by day. An old British sea captain would have scorned to betray the noble Cinques. He would have been as faithful as the compass.

We wait to see the fate of the African hero. We feel no anxiety for him. The country can’t reach him. He is above their reach and above death. He has conquered death. But his wife and children - they who

“Weep beside the cocoa tree —”

And we wait to see the bearings of this providential event upon American Slavery.

—Herald of Freedom