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For more about the Amistad Case, check out "Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy" by Howard Jones, available here: amzn.to/2OhyMmM
In episode 37 of Supreme Court Briefs, a slave uprising on a ship called The Amistad leads it to the shores of the United States, where the Supreme Court eventually determines their fate.
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Produced by Matt Beat. All images and video used under fair use, original content, or found in the public domain. Music by Electric Needle Room (Matt Beat).
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June 27, 1839
A Spanish ship called The Amistad (ahmichad) leaves for the Province of Puerto Principe (prince e pay), another part of Cuba. On board, 53 illegally purchased African slaves. On July 2nd, one of the slaves broke free and freed others on the ship. Soon there was an uprising. After a big struggle that resulted in the deaths of the captain of the ship and at least three others, the slaves took over the ship, forcing two dudes named Jose Ruiz and Pedro Montez to redirect the ship across the Atlantic Ocean to Africa. Ruiz and Montez deceived the Africans, however, and ended up sailing the Amistad up the east coast of the United States, dropping anchor just off the coast of Long Island, New York, on August 26, 1839.
The United States Revenue Cutter Service...wait wait a second...What the heck is this organization? Well just think of them as the Coast Guard before the Coast Guard existed. Anyway, the United States Revenue Cutter Service, led by Americans Thomas Gedney and Richard Meade, arrested the Africans after they reached the shore and took custody of the Amistad. Gedney and Meade made sure the Africans were brought to Connecticut, since slavery was still technically legal in that state.
After President Martin Van Buren found out about them, he was like, send them back to Cuba to go on trial. Spain, who controlled Cuba at the time, was like “yeah, bring them here.” After all, the Amistad was a Spanish ship and Ruiz and Montez were Spanish citizens. Britain chimed in since they had a deal with Spain prohibiting the slave trade south of the equator and said that this slave uprising at sea fell under international law. But a bunch of abolitionists were ultimately able to pressure the United States government to keep the Africans in the country, and they got a trial in the District of Connecticut. Keep in mind that at the time, the slave trade was illegal in the United States. The Africans were charged with mutiny and murder.
In court, there were a lot of people involved and wanting stuff. First, Ruiz and Montez argued the Africans were slaves and their property. They also argued that since the slave trade was legal in Spain, they had a right to regain control of them. And then there was a lawyer representing Spain, who argued the the slaves rightfully be returned to Ruiz and Montez or sent back to Africa. The Africans, who were represented by an abolitionist group called the Amistad Committee, all argued that they were born free in their native Africa and unlawfully kidnapped to be sold as slaves. Plus, they landed in New York, where slavery was illegal. The Amistad Committee also accused Ruiz and Montez of assault, kidnapping, and false imprisonment. And then, Gedney, as well as several others who helped Ruiz and Montez “rescue” the “cargo,” aka Africans, argued they deserved a piece of the pie. They were like, we helped you get your slaves, so can we have a few? Another Spanish dude named Antonio Vega tried to get the captain’s personal slave, claiming he actually owned him. Whew. What a mess of a case.
The district court ruled that the Africans aboard the Amistad were unlawfully kidnapped, and ordered the U.S. government to return them to Africa. It was appealed by Martin Van Buren to the Circuit Court and then to the Supreme Court.
3 ago 2018