The Survivors Of The Amistad Mutiny Are Freed
The Supreme Court issued a ruling on March 9, 1841, freeing the remaining thirty-five survivors of the Amistad mutiny.
Although seven of the nine justices on the court hailed from Southern states, only one dissented from Justice Joseph Story's majority opinion. Private donations ensured the Africans' safe return to Sierra Leone in January 1842.
The events leading up to the decision began on July 2, 1839, when Joseph Cinqué led fifty-two fellow captive Africans, recently abducted from the British protectorate of Sierra Leone by Portuguese slave traders, in a revolt aboard the Spanish schooner Amistad. The ship's navigator, who was spared in order to direct the ship back to western Africa, managed, instead, to steer it northward. When the Amistad was discovered off the coast of Long Island, New York, it was hauled into New London, Connecticut by the U.S. Navy.
On March 9, Associate Justice Joseph Story delivered the Court's decision. Article IX of Pinckney's Treaty was ruled off topic since the Africans in question were never legal property. They were not criminals, as the U.S. Attorney's Office argued, but, rather, "unlawfully kidnapped, and forcibly and wrongfully carried on board a certain vessel". The documents submitted by Attorney General Gilpin were not evidence of property, but, rather of fraud on the part of the Spanish government. Lt. Gedney and the USS Washington were to be awarded salvage from the vessel for having performed "a highly meritorious and useful service to the proprietors of the ship and cargo".
Brothers, we have done that which we proposed…I am resolved it is better to die than be a white man's slave. ”— Joseph Cinque