United States v. The Amistad
40 U.S. 518

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. The Amistad, 40 U.S. 15 Pet. 518 518 (1841)

United States v. The Amistad

40 U.S. (15 Pet.) 518




The Spanish schooner Amistad, on the 27th day of June, 1839, cleared out from Havana, in Cuba, for Puerto Principe, in the same island, having on board Captain Ferrer, and Ruiz and Montez, Spanish subjects. Captain Ferrer had on board Antonio, a slave; Ruiz had forty-nine negroes; Montez had four negroes, which were claimed by them as slaves, and stated to be their property in passports or documents signed by the Governor General of Cuba. In fact, these African negroes had been, a very short time before they were put on board the Amistad, brought into Cuba by Spanish slave traders in direct contravention of the treaties between Spain and Great Britain and in violation of the laws of Spain. On the voyage of the Amistad, the negroes rose, killed the captain, and took possession of the vessel. They spared the lives of Ruiz and Montez on condition that they would aid in steering the Amistad for the coast of Africa, or to some place where negro slavery was not permitted by the laws of the country. Ruiz and Montez deceived the negroes, who were totally ignorant of navigation, and steered the Amistad for the United States, and she arrived off Long Island, in the state of New York, on the 26th of August, and anchored within half a mile of the shore. Some of the negroes went on shore to procure supplies of water and provisions, and the vessel was then discovered by the United States brig Washington. Lieutenant Gedney, commanding the Washington, assisted by his officers and crew, took possession of the Amistad, and of the negroes on shore and in the vessel, brought them into the District of Connecticut, and there libelled the vessel, the cargo, and the negroes for salvage. Libels for salvage were also presented in the District Court of the United States for the District of Connecticut by persons who had aided, as they alleged, in capturing the negroes on shore on Long Island, and contributed to the vessel, cargo, and negroes being taken into possession by the brig Washington. Ruiz and Montez filed claims to the negroes as their slaves, and prayed that they, and parts of the cargo of the Amistad, might be delivered to them, or to the representatives of the crown of Spain. The attorney of the District of Connecticut filed an information stating that the Minister of Spain had claimed of the government of the United States that the vessel, cargo, and slaves should be restored, under the provisions of the treaty between the United States and Spain, the same having arrived within the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, and had been taken possession of by a public armed vessel of the United States, under such circumstances as made it the duty of the United States to cause them to be restored to the true owners thereof. The information asked that the Court would make such order as would enable the United States to comply with the treaty, or, if it should appear that the negroes had been

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