Slavery and the U.S. Supreme Court: The Amistad Case

Description

On June 28, 1839, the schooner La Amistad set sail from Havana, Cuba, setting off a series of events that would have international and historical consequences. On board the schooner were 53 Africans who had been abducted from West Africa and sold in violation of international law. Their intended fate was enslavement on plantations down coast from Havana. On the third day out, the Africans revolted and ordered that the ship be guided toward the rising sun back to Africa, but each night the Cuban plantation owners who had purchased them from Havana’s slave market and survived the uprising changed course. Zigzagging for two months, the ship eventually was brought by northerly winds and currents to Long Island. Intercepted by the United States Navy, the Africans were jailed and charged with piracy and murder. In New York City, a group of Christian abolitionists, headed by Lewis Tappan, formed a defense committee. Attorney Roger Sherman Baldwin, with help from former President John Quincy Adams, took the case to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled in March 1841 that the Africans were free. This digital collection is comprised of correspondence, dating from 1839-1841, by abolitionists, pro-slavery advocates, governmental officials, and the Amistad Africans themselves, related to the development of efforts to provide legal assistance to the Africans. The resulting trials in the U.S. court system; the political interests on the part of the United States, Cuba, and Spain; and the personal experiences of the imprisoned Africans are detailed in these letters, which are housed in the archives of the American Missionary Association, an abolitionist missionary organization that grew out of the Amistad Committee’s efforts.

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Note regarding a visit by William Hunt
A note written in an unknown hand stating that William Hunt, a reporter from the Washington Globe, called in the morning. The message notes that should the Amistad Committee require a full verbatim report of the case to be argued before the Supreme Court, he will furnish it. Should Lewis Tappan wish to communicate with Hunt, he should contact him., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Receipt for passage of Amistad Captives from New Haven to New York
A receipt made out to Austin F. Williams for payment for the "passage of 17 Africans from N. Haven to N. York.", reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Receipt from New York Commercial Advertiser to Lewis Tappan
A receipt to Lewis Tappan from the New York Commercial Advertiser for "Appeal for Armistead [sic] to Friends.", reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Receipt from New York Commercial Advertiser to Lewis Tappan
A receipt to Lewis Tappan from the New York Commercial Advertiser for "Appeal for Armistead [sic] to Friends.", reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Receipt on behalf of the Female Anti-Slavery Society
Receipt signed by W. Johnston stating, "Recd from Lewis Tappan five dollars a donation for the Utica Female Anti-Slavery society for the [illegible] Committee. Recd from Samuel Lightbody Esq.", reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Receipt to Dr. John P. Turney from the Committee on behalf of the Amistad Africans
A receipt from the Committee on behalf of the Amistad Africans to Dr. John P. Turney for services from May 3 to May 24, 1841., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Receipt to Rev. Daniel Thomas for donation to Amistad captives
A receipt to Rev. Daniel Thomas of Abington, Massachusetts, for a donation "from a friend" to the Amistad Captives., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Receipt to S.M. Booth from Arthur Tappan & Co.
A receipt to S.M. Booth from Arthur Tappan & Co. regarding payment for goods, reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Receipts for Amistad Fund - acknowled [sic] in the Emancipator at sundry times
A list of receipts for individuals and their donations received for support of the Amistad Captives from March, 1840 through around September, 1840., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Receipts for appointments of guardianship for Kale, Teme, Kagne, and Margru
Receipts to Lewis Tappan for appointments of guardianship for Kale, Teme, Kagne, and Margru issued by Nathanial R. Clark of the Court of Probate, District of New Haven., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Second Day vis May 13/41 booklet
A bound booklet labeled, Second Day vis May, 13/41, regarding ticket sales for an exhibition of the former Amistad Captives in New York on May 13, 1841., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Testimony of Richard Robert Madden regarding his conversation with Senor de la Vega, Spanish Consul at Boston
Madden's testimony with Spanish Consul de la Vega concerning the status and legality of treaties between Spain and the United States and Great Britain and their effects on the slave trade, slavery in Cuba, and the status of the Amistad Captives., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org

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