Some five hundred years ago, ships began transporting millions of enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas. This massive population movement helped create the African Diaspora in the New World. Many did not survive the horrible ocean journey. Enslaved Africans represented many different peoples, each with distinct cultures, religions, and languages. Most originated from the coast or the interior of West Africa, between present-day Senegal and Angola. Other enslaved peoples originally came from Madagascar and Tanzania in East Africa In February of 1839, Portuguese slave hunters abducted a large group of Africans from Sierra Leone and shipped them to Havana, Cuba, a center for the slave trade.
This abduction violated all of the treaties then in existence. Fifty-three Africans were purchased by two Spanish planters and put aboard the Cuban schooner Amistad for shipment to a Caribbean plantation. The Africans seized the ship, killed the captain and the cook, and ordered the planters to sail to Africa. In August 1839, the Amistad was seized off Long Island, NY, by the U. S.
brig Washington. The planters were freed and the Africans were imprisoned in New Haven, CT, on charges of murder. Although the murder charges were dismissed, the Africans continued to be held in confinement as the focus of the case turned to salvage claims and property rights. President Van Buren was in favor of extraditing the Africans to Cuba. However, abolitionists in the North opposed extradition and raised money to defend the Africans. Claims to the Africans by the planters, the government of Spain, and the captain of the brig led the case to trial in the Federal District Court in Connecticut.
In 1839, Seng be Pie, who later became known as Cinque, was captured and taken as a slave. He his sold several times until eventually he comes into the hands of Spanish slave traders. Even though at that time, every European nation had signed treaties declaring slaves were no longer to be taken from Africa, the profits were so large that many Europeans flouted the laws. Cinque and the rest of the ...
The court ruled that the case fell within Federal jurisdiction and that the claims to the Africans as property were not legitimate because they were illegally held as slaves. The case went to the Supreme Court in January 1841, and former President John Quincy Adams argued the defendants’ case. Adams defended the right of the accused to fight to regain their freedom. The Supreme Court decided in favor of the Africans, and 35 of them were returned to their homeland. The others died at sea or in prison while awaiting trial.
web classroom / lessons /amis tad case / amis tad case. html In a special document display in Washington, the National Archives and Records Administration is featuring two documents from its holdings that relate to the Amistad affair. The materials include John Quincy Adams’ request, in his own hand, for papers relating to the lower court trials of the Amistad, January 23, 1841, and the Supreme Court decision United States v. the Amistad, March 9, 1841. The documents are incorporated into ‘American Originals: Part III,’ the major exhibition featuring milestone documents.
The dramatic story of the Amistad, which was featured in a major motion picture that opened in December, is found among the court records at the National Archives – Northeast Region at Waltham, MA, and in the Supreme Court records at the National Archives in Washington, DC. In 1839, 53 African natives were kidnapped. from an area now known as Sierra Leone and illegally sold into the Spanish slave trade. They were transported to Havana, Cuba and sold at auction as native Cuban slaves to two ‘Spanish gentlemen.’ The Spaniards were transporting the Africans and other cargo to another part of Cuba on board the Spanish schooner Amistad when the Africans staged a revolt, seizing control of the schooner, killing the captain and the cook, and driving off the rest of the crew. The two ‘Spanish gentlemen’ were ordered to sail back to Africa. By day, the Spaniards sailed eastward and by night they surreptitiously sailed westward, hoping to land back in Cuba or the southern United States.
The first thing that needs to be established is just how many slaves were brought to the Americas. This has proven to be quite difficult at best. There have been many scholars debate just this subject alone. As you will see, many well known scholars have problems justifying their own estimations or guesses. A quick study of Philip D. Curtin's work: From Guesses to Calculations: Shows his writings ...
The ship was seized and towed to New London, Connecticut, where the imprisoned Africans began a lengthy legal battle to win back their freedom. Early documents from the National Archives – Northeast Region contain testimony and depositions relating to the first sightings of the Amistad off Long Island, New York. Lt. R. W. Meade, USN, testified on August 29, 1839, that ‘said schooner was manned by forty-five Negroes some of whom had landed near said (Montauk) Point…
Also on board [were] two Spanish Gentlemen who represented and were part owners of the cargo and of the Negroes on board who were slaves belonging to said Spanish Gentlemen… .’ while on said voyage from Havana to Principe the said slaves rose upon the captain and crew of said schooner and killed and murdered the captain and one of said crew and two more of said crew escaped and got away from said schooner… .’ Abolitionists seized upon the case as a vehicle to publicly display the cruelties of slavery and the slave trade. The freedom of the Africans became entangled in the conflicting claims of the Spaniards who had brought the ‘human cargo’ and the Americans who had salvaged the ship.
The case captured national and international attention as it made its way through the lower courts to the US Supreme Court, where the cause of prisoners was argued by former US President John Quincy Adams. On March 9, 1841, the Supreme Court ruled that all of the Africans were legally free-that they had never been slaves because the African slave trade was illegal and that they should be released and allowed to return to Africa. The Court also affirmed that ‘… it was the ultimate right of all human beings in extreme cases to resist oppression, and to apply force against ruinous injustice.’ Three years after they were kidnapped, in January 1842, the 35 surviving Africans finally returned to their homeland where they established a mission colony which formed the basis for the eventual independence of Sierra Leone from Great Britain.
And this was all because of the demands of European consumers for New World crops and goods helped fuel the slave trade. Following a triangular route between Africa, the Caribbean and North America, and Europe, slave traders from Holland, Portugal, France, and England delivered Africans in exchange for products such as colonial rum, sugar, and tobacco. Eventually the trading route also distributed Virginia tobacco, New England rum and indigo and rice crops from South Carolina and Georgia. A strong family and community life helped sustain African Americans in slavery. People often chose their own partners, lived under the same roof, raised children together, and protected each other. Brutal treatment at the hands of slaveholders, however, threatened black fam ily life.
The Slave Trade Slavery is the holding of a human being as property. This practice is thousands of years old. The Egyptians used slaves to build their pyramids two thousand years ago. The practice of capturing Blacks from Africa, to use as slaves began with the Portuguese, who introduced African slaves to Europe in the 16 th century. European countries, such as Spain and England, introduced ...
Enslaved women experienced sexual exploitation at the hands of slaveholders and overseers. Bonds people lived with the constant fear of being sold away from their loved ones, with no chance of reunion. Historians estimate that most bonds people were sold at least once in their lives. No event was more traumatic in the lives of enslaved individuals than that of forcible separation from their families.
People sometimes fled when they heard of an impending sale. By 1860 some 4 million enslaved African Americans lived throughout the South. Whether on a small farm or a large plantation, most enslaved people were agricultural laborers. They toiled literally from sunrise to sunset in the fields or at other jobs, such as refining sugar. Some bonds people held specialized jobs as artisans, skilled laborers, or factory workers.
A smaller number worked as cooks, butlers, or maids. To meet the growing demands of sugar and cotton, slaveholders developed an active domestic slave trade to move surplus workers to the Deep South. New Orleans, Louisiana, became the largest slave mart, followed by Richmond, Virginia; Natchez, Mississippi; and Charleston, South Carolina. Between 1820 and 1860 more than 60 percent of the Upper South’s enslaved population was ‘sold south.’ They fastened the men first with chains around their necks and then handcuffed them in pairs. The traders removed the restraints when the coffle neared the market.
This small plant made slavery economically viable in the American South. Ginned cotton, shipped to the textile mills of the North and Great Britain was turned into millions of yards of cloth that, at an extremely cheap price, clothed the rapidly growing populations of Europe and North America. Back to the story of Amistad Ruiz and Montez in U. S. District Court, stating that the slaves were their private property.
As with the accounts by Nichols (1863), when people think of the slavery period in American history, it is normally assumed that the slave owner was white and the slave black. This was true in many cases but the number of free black slave owners was actually higher than most people realize. Black slave owner usually treated family members and friends much better than the other slaves they might ...
Under a U. S. treaty with Spain Ruiz and Montez claimed that the slaves could not be included in the salvage sale of the ship. The Spanish government also made a request. Spain argued that, since the Amistad was rescued by a U. S.
government-owned armed ship, the United States was obligated under international treaty to return the ship and its cargo to the Spanish owners. This attorney also argued that, if the Africans could not legally be returned to Ruiz and Montez, the court should order them sent back to Africa. The Africans also responded to the claim. They argued that, since they were free men in their native Africa, and since they had been kidnapped from Africa by the Spanish slave traders, and since slave trade was illegal in New York (where the Amistad had landed), they should be released from custody and set free. The district court judge ruled that the slaves were free men, and ordered them released from prison. He also ordered that the United States government transport them back to Africa.
He then ordered that the salvage claims of Ged ney and Meade be taken from the remaining cargo of the Amistad, and rejected all other salvage claims. The United States attorney appealed the court’s decision, demanding that the United States be free to return the slaves to Spain, under its treaty obligations. The Circuit Court — the next highest court — affirmed the district court’s decision and rejected the United States arguments. The United States then appealed the decision to the U. S.
Supreme Court. The Supreme Court hears the case The United States argued that its treaty with Spain required it to return ships and property seized by U. S. government vessels to their Spanish owners.
The Supreme Court called the case ‘peculiar and embarrassing.’ It ruled for the Africans, accepting the argument that they were never citizens of Spain, and was illegally taken from Africa, where they were free men under the law. The Supreme Court accepted that the United States had obligations to Spain under the treaty, but said that that treaty ‘never could have been intended to take away the equal rights of the Africans.’ The Supreme Court also rejected a fairly novel argument by the United States. The U. S. argued that the Africans should not be freed because, in commanding a slave ship and piloting it into the United States, the Africans violated the laws of the United States forbidding slave trade. The Supreme Court stated that the slaves could not ‘possibly intend to import themselves into the United States as slaves or for sale as slaves.’ Once the Supreme Court finally affirmed the freedom of the slaves, they sailed back to Africa on the ship Gentleman.
The United States is at the forefront of modern democracy. Its unique three branched system allows the government to operate under a quasi-idealistic form of checks and balances. As outlined by the U.S. Constitution, the judicial branch of government serves as the interpreter of the law and is “one of the most sophisticated judicial systems in the world.”1 This complexity is a product of balance ...
During both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries enslaved African Americans in the Upper South mostly raised tobacco. In coastal South Carolina and Georgia, they harvested indigo for dye and grew rice, using agricultural expertise brought with them from Africa. By the 1800 s rice, sugar, and cotton became the South’s leading cash crops. The patenting of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1793 made it possible for workers to gin-separate the seeds from the fiber-some 600 to 700 pounds daily, or ten times more cotton than permitted by hand. The Industrial Revolution, centered in Great Britain, quadrupled the demand for cotton, which soon became America’s leading export.
Planters’ acute need for more cotton workers helped expand southern slavery. By the Civil War the South exported more than a million tons of cotton annually to textile manufactories in Great Britain and the North. Short-staple, or upland cotton, dominated the market. An area still called the Black Belt, which stretched across Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, grew some 80 percent of the nation’s crop. Simultaneously cotton expanded into the new states of Arkansas and Texas. In parts of the Black Belt enslaved African Americans made up more than three-fourths of the total population.
Even though slavery existed throughout the original thirteen colonies, nearly all the northern states, inspired by American independence, abolished slavery by 1804. As a matter of conscience some southern slaveholders also freed their slaves or permitted them to purchase their freedom. Until the early 1800 s, many southern states allowed these manumissions to legally take place. Although the Federal Government outlawed the overseas slave trade in 1808, the southern enslaved African-American population continued to grow. Cotton made slavery economically viable in the American South. Ginned cotton, shipped to the textile mills of the North and Great Britain was turned into millions of yards of cloth that, at an extremely cheap price, clothed the rapidly growing populations of Europe and North America..
By the year 1845 there were many contentious problems already coming between the Northern and Southern USA that were to remain at issue until the start of the Civil War. These included the issues of the continued Southern maintenance of slavery, the growing economic divide between the Northern and Southern states, and the effects of the influence of the newer Western states. Perhaps the most ...