Letter from John Quincy Adams to Simeon S. Jocelyn Joshua Leavitt and Lewis Tappan
A letter from John Quincy Adams acknowledging a letter from March 24 from the Amistad Committee (Tappan, Leavitt, and Jocelyn). In his letter, Adams writes that he has considered the Committee's proposal that he write to Lord Palmerston regarding the Amistad Case and address "the abusive collusions of the Colonial Authorities with the Slave traders in the Island of Cuba," a statement by Antonio G. Vega, Spanish Vice Consul at Boston, the bearing of the Amistad Case on the interests of Great Britain. Adams states that there has been ongoing negotiations between the United States and Great Britain about the slave trade and that any correspondence by Adams to Palmerston may be regarded as interference in those negotiations. Adams directs the Committee to "the voluminous correspondence relating to the Slave trade" published by the British Parliament and says that "the slightest glance over almost any part of that correspondence would convince you, that there have long been floods of evidence before the British government, of the practices not only of the Colonial authorities in Cuba, but of all Spanish and Portuguese to say nothing of other authorities to uphold, while professing to put down the African Slave Trade." Adams would rejoice at the institution of suits for the unlawful arrest and false imprisonment of the Africans, which could lead to a review of the District, Circuit, and Supreme Courts "so as to harmonize with that final decision of the highest Court which pronounced the Africans free." He discusses the question of allowance of salvage to Lt. Thomas R. Gedney upon the Amistad and its cargo and writes that the "arrest upon the soil of the State of New York" of the Africans "and the transportation of them by sea to another State" is a grievous affliction to him but "it has been sanctioned by the whole judicial authority of the Union." The decision of the District Court regarding Antonio "appeared the most exceptionable" to Adams and he considers it fortunate that the decree concerning Antonio has not been executed. Adams further states that he has not been without apprehension "that you might have trouble with some of your 33 freeman when in full possession of their liberty" and discusses the question of whether the Africans should be returned home or allowed to stay in the United States if they wish. In considering whether the Africans might be re-enslaved, he recalls John Barber's account of one of the girls (Margru or Kagne) being pawned by her father for a debt and sold for default of payment: "If she should get home, and be claimable by her purchaser there, it would not better her condition." He reiterates his confidence in the "justice, prudence and humanity" of the Committee and its measures for the Africans.