Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy

Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy

Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy

Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy

Synopsis

This book is the first full-scale treatment of the only instance in history in which African blacks, seized by slave dealers, won their freedom and returned home. In 1839, Joseph Cinque led other blacks in a revolt on the Spanish slave ship Amistad in the Caribbean. They steered the ship northward to Montauk, Long Island, where it was seized by an American naval vessel. With the Africans jailed in Connecticut and the Spaniards claiming violoation of their porperty rights, an international controversy erupted. The Amistad affair united abolotionists in the U.S. and England, drove the White house into almost any means to quiet the issue, and placed the U.S. and Spain in a confrontation that threatened to involve England and Cuba. The abolitionists, led by Lewis Tappan, Joshua Leavitt and others argued that equal justice was the central issue in the case. Appealing to natural law, evangelical arguments, and "moral suasion" in proclaiming slavery a sin, they sought to establish that all persons, black and white, has an inherent right of liberty and thereby hoped to erase the color line that formed the racial foundation of slavery. In their eyes, the mutiny on the &IAmistad offered an ideal opportunity to awaken Americans to the injustice of slavery. In this book, Howard Jones shows how the abolotionist argument put the "laws of nature" on trial in the U.S., as Tappan and the others refused to accept a legal system claiming to dispense justice while permitting artificial distinctions based on race or color. Jones vividly captures the compelling drama that climaxed in a U.S. Supreme court ruling that freed the captivces and allowed them to return to Africa. He notes that many of the abolitionists were nonetheless dissatisfied with the decision because it had not rested on the law of nature; yet, he obseves, even they failed to grasp the central importance of the affair: that America's legal system had fulfilled its function of securing justice. About the Author: Howard Jones, is Professor of History at the University of Alabama and author of The Course of American Diplomacy and To the Webster-Ashburton Treaty.

Excerpt

A book is almost always a product of many people's labors, and in this case the generalization holds especially true. Without the assistance of friends and colleagues, any merit that the following work might have would be considerably less.

I was particularly fortunate to have sound advice and encouragement throughout the various stages of this project. Tony A. Freyer shared with me his deep knowledge of American constitutional law and saved me from a number of pitfalls and errors. His continual exhortations were also vital to my completing the manuscript earlier than expected. Maurice G. Baxter carefully read the manuscript and offered many recommendations on style, analysis, and the legal aspects of the Amistad and related court cases. Robert E. May also gave the manuscript a close reading and made many helpful suggestions. Forrest and Ellen McDonald provided more assistance than anyone is entitled to receive. Twice they set aside their own work and read my manuscript, making countless recommendations on every aspect of the making of a book. Others who read part of the manuscript or helped in some way included Robert H. Ferrell, Suzanne Freeman, R. Kent Newmyer, David M. Pletcher, Kenneth E. Shewmaker, and Randall B. Woods. Tim Johnson provided invaluable assistance in translating Spanish materials from Madrid and Havana. And, as ever, Guy Swanson repeatedly expressed friendly encouragement and sincere interest in my work.

Archivists in four countries furnished the kind of assistance that helps to make research and writing a pleasure. In the United States, Clifton H. Johnson and his staff at the Amistad Research Center provided expert guidance into the rich collection of Amistad mate-

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