Amistad Closing Argument

 

The closing argument in the Amistad case by John Quincy Adams as represented in the movie Amistad.  This is a greatly condensed version of course, as Adams spoke for eight and a half hours, not unusual for legal proceedings of that day.

The text of Adams’ argument may be read here.  The case involved the successful mutiny of slaves on board the Spanish ship Amistad.  The mutiny occurred on July 1, 1839.  The slaves killed the members of the crew except for two crewmen who were promised their lives if they would return the Africans to their home in Africa.  Instead, the crewmen steered the unsuspecting slaves to America, where they were taken into custody half a mile off eastern Long Island on August 24, 1839.

The case quickly became a cause celebre, with abolitionists filing a petition  in federal court in Connecticut to have the slaves freed and returned to Africa.  Pro-slavery forces in response rallied around the Spanish government which filed a petition for return of the slaves.  The abolitionists argued that Spain had signed a treaty with Great Britain in 1817 to abolish the Atlantic slave trade and that therefore the Africans could not be slaves, but were rather victims of kidnapping.  In January 1840, the District Court agreed. President Martin Van Buren, who did not want to anger slave holding sentiment in the Democrat party, ordered the US Attorney for Connecticut to appeal.  The District Court’s judgment was affirmed in April 1840. (more…)

Published in: on January 8, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Amistad Closing Argument  
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