Opinion of the Supreme Court in United States v. the Amistad, 3/9/1841
Senior Justice Joseph Story wrote and read the decision of the Court. The Supreme Court ruled that the Africans onboard the Amistad were free individuals. Kidnapped and transported illegally, they had never been slaves. The decision affirmed that “…it was the ultimate right of all human beings in extreme cases to resist oppression and to apply force against ruinous injustice.” The Court ordered the immediate release of the Amistad Africans.
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Abducted from Africa and then shipped from Cuba aboard the schooner Amistad as slaves, fifty-three Africans overcame their captors and gained control of the ship. However, the Amistad would be seized by the Navy off Long Island, New York, and the Africans imprisoned, charged with murder and facing extradition to Cuba. Dated January 7, 1840, this document was submitted on their behalf by a group of American attorneys representing them before the Federal District Court in Connecticut.
Answer of S. Staples, R. Baldwin, and T. Sedgewick, Proctors for the Amistad Africans, to the several libels of Lt. Gedney, et. al. and Pedro Montes and Jose Ruiz, January 7, 1840; Records of the District Courts of the United States; Record Group 21; National Archives.