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 Amistad Slave Revolt Case Documents

FREE - Cuba - United States Secret Diplomacy Documents (1961-1977)

Amistad Slave Revolt Case Documents

260 pages of printed text and documents related to the Amistad slave revolt case,.

In 1839 a Portuguese slave trader purchased a cargo of about 50 kidnapped African natives from a Spaniard involved in the slave trade on the Guinea Coast of West Africa. The trade was prohibited by a treaty between Spain, Portugal and Great Britain. Transported to the Caribbean aboard the Portuguese vessel, Tecora, the captives, from the Mendi tribe on the northern border of Nigeria, were not slaves but legally free men who had been illegally enslaved. The Tecora landed in Havana, where the captives were marched to a slave market. Two Cubans, Ruiz and Montes, purchased them and planned to take them by the coastal schooner, Amistad, to Puerto Prìncipe, a Cuban plantation area.

The Amistad, a Spanish vessel, set sail June 28, 1839. A few days later, the Africans rebelled, killed the captain and the cook, and ordered Ruiz, Montes and the cabin boy to transport them back to Africa. During the day, the pilots steered the vessel eastward, but at night they headed north, ultimately arriving in August 1839 off Long Island, N.Y. There the ship was seized by U.S. government authorities and the Africans were imprisoned after Ruiz and Montes denounced them as rebellious slaves, pirates and murderers.

Almost overnight the incident became a cause célèbre. The Africans, led by the Mende warrior Singbe-Piéh, named Cinquè by the slave traders, insisted that they be freed and returned to their continent. President Martin Van Buren (1782-1862) and the Spanish administrators of Cuba claimed that they should be extradited to Cuba to stand trial for mutiny.

A series of complex legal maneuvers then ensued, involving the federal district court in Connecticut and the court of appeals. As a result, it was ruled that the Africans had been illegally captured, illegally transported and illegally enslaved, and that the United States should not become involved in such proceedings. Unwilling to accept the judge's decision, the United States appealed the case to the Supreme Court, where former President John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) defended the Africans. In his lengthy argument he stated that all the sympathy seemed to be for the Spaniards rather than for the Africans. He argued it was the Africans who should be treated sympathetically because they were free people who had been kidnapped and illegally enslaved and "were entitled to all the kindness and good offices due from a humane and Christian nation." His argument prevailed, and the surviving Africans were sent home as free men. Wrote Adams in the brief that was to help undermine the Van Buren administration: "... The charge I make against the present Executive Administration is that in all their proceedings relating to these unfortunate men, instead of that Justice to which they were bound not less than this honorable court itself to observe, they have substituted Sympathy: -- Sympathy with one of the parties in this conflict of justice and Antipathy to the other. Sympathy with the white. Antipathy to the black."


CD includes

63 pages of  Amistad orignal documents. Including: John Quincy Adams' legal papers; Cinqué and Kimbo affidavids; The Supreme Court opinion by Justice Joseph Story on the Amistad Case; Congressional record of Amistad developments; and witness statements.

A History of the Amistad Captives: Being a Circumstantial Account of the Capture of the Spanish Schooner Amistad.

A digitaly reprouduced copy of the book, "A History of the Amistad Captives: Being a Circumstantial Account of the Capture of the Spanish Schooner Amistad." This book "compiled from authentic sources" by John W. Barber (1798-1885) , was published in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1840, and reports the trials in the lower courts, but not the Supreme Court decision that freed the captives. The book contains biographical statements for each of  the surviving Africans, with illustrations, including profile portraits of each captive. This history also provides information on the location of the Africans' homes, their occupations, family, local government, involvement with slavery and the slave trade, and details of their capture and sale.

Argument of John Quincy Adams, before the Supreme Court of the United States

A ditigal copy of the publication: Argument of John Quincy Adams, before the Supreme Court of the United States : in the case of the United States, appellants, vs. Cinque, and others, Africans, captured in the schooner Amistad, by Lieut. Gedney, delivered on the 24th of February and 1st of March, 1841 : with a review of the case of the Antelope, reported in the 10th, 11th, and 12th volumes of Wheaton's Reports. Publised in 1841.

Argument of Roger S. Baldwin, of New Haven, before the Supreme Court

A ditigal copy of the publication:Argument of Roger S. Baldwin, of New Haven, before the Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of the United States, appellants, vs. Cinque, and others, Africans of the Amistad. Baldwin, Roger S. 1793-1863. (Roger Sherman). Published New York : S. W. Benedict, 1841.

Included in addition to the material above is a ditigal copy of  William E. Channing's The Duty of the Free States or Remarks Suggested by the Case of the Creole.Boston: William Crosby & Company, 1842. In November 1841 the 135 enslaved African Americans on board the ship Creole overpowered the crew, murdering one man, while sailing from Hampton Roads, Virginia, to New Orleans, Louisiana. Led by Madison Washington, they sailed the vessel to Nassau, Bahamas, where the British declared most of them free. This pamphlet's author, William Channing, refutes the American claims that the property of U.S. slave owners should be protected in foreign ports. In the diplomatic controversy that followed, Ohio Congressman Joshua Giddings argued that once the ship was outside of U.S. territorial waters, the African Americans were entitled to their liberty and that any attempt to reenslave them would be unconstitutional. Censured by the House of Representatives, he resigned, but his constituents quickly reelected him and sent him back to Congress.
 

Amistad1

A page of  John Quincy Adams' draft of a brief delivered before the U.S. Supreme Court
 

Amistad2
Amistad3