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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Letter from Charles A. Ingersoll to Lewis Tappan
A letter in which Charles A. Ingersoll responds to Lewis Tappan's letter from March 8 where he requested a copy "of a certain Spanish document in my office." Ingersoll has had the document copied and encloses it [not present]., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Letter from Charles Hooker to Lewis Tappan
Charles Hooker reports that the "health and comfort of the Africans have been subjects of my attention ever since they were committed to my medical care." Due to complaints about clothing for the Amistad Captives, the Marshal has requested a statement from Dr. Hooker. Hooker reports that "at present they are comfortably supplied" and admits that there have been three cases of sickness among the Captives, but fails to attribute those to exposure., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Letter from Charles Kellogg to Lewis Tappan
A donation letter from Charles Kellogg on behalf of the faculty and students of Andover Theological Seminary pledging support for the Amistad Captives. In his letter, Kellogg states that the "pecuniary resources" of the students prevents him from sending more but "there is but one feeling among the Professors and students of this seminary & that is a feeling of warm sympathy with the captives & deep indignation at the course pursued by the government." It is mentioned that copies of the [American and Foreign] Anti-Slavery Reporter were received by the students and circulated. Kellogg writes that "any other documents" would be appreciated., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Letter from Charles T. Torrey to Lewis Tappan
Charles T. Torrey writes that he has received Lewis Tappan's letter and acknowledges the money that Tappan is referring to. Torrey will receive more in support of the Amistad Captives. Brother [Amos A.] Phelps has also received money and will transmit it via Joshua Leavitt. Torrey asks Tappan to insert a note in the Emancipator stating the amount of money needed and the amount used by the New Haven committee "to facilitate future donations, and satisfy many inquiries.", reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Letter from Charles Taylor to Lewis Tappan
A letter from Charles Taylor reporting that his wife and sister were cheated of the admission to visit "the meeting of the Africans in the afternoon" at the Tabernacle., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Letter from Christian Miller to Lewis Tappan
A donation letter from Christian Miller pledging support for the Amistad Africans. In his letter, Miller paraphrases Isaiah, Chapter 61, Verse 1, stating that the Redeemer "to give Liberty to the Captives and the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound, and that, "he loves to sing the hymn in the use of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church.", reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Letter from Cinque to Lewis Tappan
Transcription: Dear Sir -- Mr Tappan -- I will write you a few lines because I love you very much and I will tell you about mr pendleton keeper he will kill the Mendi people he says all Mendi people he want make all black people work for him and he tell lie he says all black people no good he whip them he says Mendi men steal he tell lie he is wicked very bad he says Mendi people drink rum he tell lie all pendleton children and his wife all do not love Mendi people he go to Westville he whip Mendi people he whip foolewa he whip kinna on sunday morning he whip them two men in New Heaven [Haven] He whip plenty of them in New Heaven, but we fear for people we fear for all good men in America country this keeper do bad to us. When he come from Washington he said he come from Havana. we shall sorry he say so, but we give you this letter pendleton and his wife and his children I think all bad, do not love God, when they come to Westville were [where] Mendi people were they say stink, all stink here, but we sit still and I tell you one thing this better for Mendi people to go into Mr Townsend house better a for wicked mans house when we live in wicked keepers house every day he whip Mendi people but we no love to whip pendleton he is bad keeper this wicked man I do not like him at all he is cruel we like all every body that want make Mendi people free we like to go to Townsend house and give us good keeper we like that better but we do not like those who whip us only we like the good man those do not whip us pendleton he tell lie I sorry for him he say he give us clothes, he say Mr Ludlow no good man for Mendi people, he say so he say I kill plenty Mendi men before he die, he say so My friend I want you to tell Mr Adams about pendleton he bad the Lord God want all men to be good and love him the Lord Jesus Christ came down to make us turn from sins he sent the Bible to do good on earth my friend I want you to pray to the great God to make us free and go our home and see our friend in Mendi country we want to see our friends in African country and we shall pray to God to Make our friends very good and we want the great God to have mercy on our friend -- Your Dear friends -- Cinque., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Letter from Clarinda T. Bancroft to "Sir"
A donation letter from Clarinda T. Bancroft pledging support for the Amistad Captives on behalf of the Reading Female Benevolent Society., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Letter from D. Burgess to Joshua Leavitt
A letter from D. Burgess regarding Connecticut Governor, William W. Ellsworth's interest in the Amistad Captives and their behalf., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Letter from Daniel Webster to Lewis Tappan
Daniel Webster declines to act as counsel in the Amistad Case. He states that "the Gentlemen already retained are very eminent, & I should suppose would hardly stand in need of assistance.", reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Letter from Dennis Kimberly to Lewis Tappan
A letter from Dennis Kimberly acknowledging the receipt of Lewis Tappan's check for twenty dollars sent via Roger S. Baldwin for Kimberly's fees in the case of Amos Townsend v. Stanton Pendleton., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Letter from Dwight P. Janes to Joshua Leavitt
Dwight P. Janes reports that John Jay Hyde, editor of the New London Gazette, claims "the young Spaniard" told him that the Amistad Captives were newly arrived from Africa. Dwight P. Janes suggests that Hyde be summoned, however, since he is not an abolitionist, Savilion Haley should also be summoned., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Letter from Dwight P. Janes to Joshua Leavitt
Correspondence regarding a copy of a letter from Janes to Roger S. Baldwin requesting his engagement as an attorney., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Letter from Dwight P. Janes to Joshua Leavitt
Correspondence regarding a copy of a letter from Dwight P. Janes to Roger S. Baldwin requesting his engagement as an attorney., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Letter from Dwight P. Janes to Lewis Tappan
A letter from Dwight P. Janes to Lewis Tappan regarding an interpreter for the Amistad Captives, including a description of the schooner La Amistad. The letter mentions a man named Owen who knew Jose Ruiz and Pedro Montes in Principe, Cuba., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Letter from E. Wright Jr. to Lewis Tappan
A letter from E. Wright, Jr. to Lewis Tappan about his interview with Dr. Richard Robert Madden of the Court of Mixed Commission and the importance of his testimony. Wright reports that the agent of the barracoon sold the Amistad Captives as "bozal or African negroes" and suggests obtaining his testimony., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Letter from Edwards & Stoddard to Lewis Tappan
A donation letter from Edwards & Stoddard on behalf of other individuals pledging support for the Amistad Captives., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Letter from Edwin Willcox to Lewis Tappan
A donation letter from Edwin Willcox to Lewis Tappan pledging support for the Amistad Captives., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org

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