40 U.S. 518 (1841), The Amistad

Citation:40 U.S. 518, 10 L.Ed. 826
Party Name:The AMISTAD. UNITED STATES, Appellants, v. The LIBELLANTS AND CLAIMANTS of the SCHOONER AMISTAD, her tackle, apparel and furniture, together with her cargo, and the AFRICANS mentioned and described in the several libels and claims, Appellees.
Case Date:March 09, 1841
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 518

40 U.S. 518 (1841)

10 L.Ed. 826


UNITED STATES, Appellants,


The LIBELLANTS AND CLAIMANTS of the SCHOONER AMISTAD, her tackle, apparel and furniture, together with her cargo, and the AFRICANS mentioned and described in the several libels and claims, Appellees.

United States Supreme Court.

March 09, 1841


APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Connecticut. On the 23d day of January 1840, Thomas R. Gedney and Richard W. Meade, officers of the United States surveying brig Washington, on behalf of themselves and the officers and crew of the brig Washington, and of others interested and entitled, filed a libel in the District Court of the United States for the District of Connecticut, stating, that off Culloden Point, near Montauk Point, they took possession of a vessel which proved to be a Spanish schooner, called the Amistad, of Havana, in the Island of Cuba, of about 120 tons burden; and the said libellants found said schooner was manned by forty-five negroes, some of whom had landed near the said point for water,

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and there were also on board, two Spanish gentlemen, who represented themselves to be, and as the libellants verily believed were part owners of the cargo, and of the negroes on board, who were slaves belonging to said Spanish gentlemen; that the schooner Amistad sailed, on the 28th day of June, A. D. 1839 from the port of Havana, bound to a port in the province of Principe, both in the island of Cuba, under the command of Raymon Ferrer as captain thereof: that the schooner had on board and was laden with a large and valuable cargo, and provisions, to the amount, in all, of $40,000, and also money to the sum and amount of about $250; and also fifty-four slaves, to wit, fifty-one male slaves, and three young female slaves, who were worth $25,000; and while on the voyage from Havana to Principe, the slaves rose upon the captain and crew of the schooner, and killed and murdered the captain and one of the crew, and two more of the crew escaped and got away from the schooner; that the two Spaniards on board, to wit, Pedro Montez and Jose Ruiz, remained alive on board the schooner, after the murder of the captain,and after the negroes had taken possession of the vessel and cargo; that their lives were spared to assist in the sailing of the vessel; and it was directed by the negroes, that the schooner should be navigated for the coast of Africa; and Pedro Montez and Jose Ruiz did, accordingly, steer as thus directed and compelled by the negroes, at the peril of their lives, in the daytime, and in the night altered their course and steered for the American shore; but after two months on the ocean, they succeeded in coming round Montauk Point, then they were discovered and boarded by the libellants, and the two Spanish gentlemen begged for and claimed the aid and protection of the libellants. That the schooner was accordingly taken possession of, and recaptured from the hands and possession of the negroes who had taken the same; that the schooner was brought into the port of New London, where she now is; and the schooner would, with great difficulty, exposure, and danger have been taken by the libellants, but for the surprise upon the blacks who had possession thereof, a part of whom were on shore; and but for the aid and assistance and services of the libellants, the vessel and cargo would have been wholly lost to the respective owners thereof. That the cargo

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belonged to divers Spanish merchants and others, resident in the island of Cuba, and to Pedro Montez and Jose Ruiz, the latter owning most of the slaves.

The libellants stated, that having saved the schooner Amistad and cargo, and the slaves, with considerable danger, they prayed that process should be issued against the same, and that the usual proceedings might be had by the Court, by which a reasonable salvage should be decreed out of the property so saved.

Afterwards, Henry Green and Pelatiah Fordham and others, filed a petition and answer to the libel, claiming salvage out of the property proceeded against by Thomas R. Gedney and others, and stating that before the Amistad was seen or boarded by the officers and crew of the Washington, they had secured a portion of the negroes who had come on shore, and had thus aided in saving the vessel and cargo.

On the 29th of August 1839, Jose Ruiz and Pedro Montez, of Cuba, filed claims to all the negroes on board of the Amistad, except Antonio, as their slaves. A part of the merchandise on board the vessel was also claimed by them. They alleged, that the negroes had risen on the captain of the schooner, and had murdered him; and that afterwards they, Ruiz and Montez, had brought her into the United States. They claimed that the negroes and merchandise ought to be restored to them, under the treaty with Spain; and denied salvage to lieutenant Gedney, and to all other persons claiming slavage.

Afterwards, Ruiz and Montez each filed in the District Court, a separate libel, stating more at large the circumstances of the voyage of the Amistad, the murder of the captain by the negroes, and that the negroes afterwards compelled them to steer the vessel towards Africa, but that they contrived to bring her to the coast of the United States, where she was captured by the United States brig Washington. Ruiz, in his libel, stated the negroes belonging to him to have been forty-nine in number, "named and known at Havana, as follows: Antonio, Simon, Jose, Pedro, Martin, Manuel, Andreo, Edwards, Celedonia, Burtolono, Ramia, Augustin, Evaristo, Casamero, Merchoi, Gabriel, Santorin, Escolastico, Rascual, Estanislao, Desidero, Nicholas, Estevan, Thomas, Cosme, Luis, Bartolo, Julian, Federico, Salustiano,

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Ladislao, Celestino, Epifanio, Eduardo, Benancico, Felepe, Francisco, Hipoleto, Berreto, Isidoro, Vecente, Deconisco, Apolonio, Esequies, Leon, Julio, Hipoleto, and Zenon; of whom several have died." Their present names, Ruiz stated, he had been informed, were, 'Cinque, Burnah 1st, Carpree, Dammah, Fourrie 1st, Shumah, Conomah, Choolay, Burnah 2d, Baah, Cabbah, Poomah, Kimbo, Peea, Bang-ye-ah, Saah, Carlee, Parale, Morrah, Yahome, Narquor, Quarto, Sesse, Con, Fourrie 2d, Kennah, Lammane, Fajanah, Faah, Yahboy, Faquannah, Berrie, Fawnu, Chockammaw and Gabbow."

The libel of Pedro Montez stated that the names of three negroes on board the Amistad, belonging to him, were Francisco, Juan and Josepha; the Spanish name of the fourth was not mentioned; and the four were now called Teme, Mahgra, Kene and Carria.

All these were stated to be slaves, and the property of the claimants, purchased by them at Havana; where slavery was tolerated and allowed by law; and they and the merchandise on board the vessel, the claimants alleged, by the laws and usages of nations, and of the United States of America, and according to the treaties between Spain and the United States, ought to be restored to the claimants, without diminution, and entire.

The vessel, negroes, and merchandise were taken into his possession, by the Marshal of the district of Connecticut, under process issued by order of the court.

On the 19th of September 1837, William S. Holabird, Esq., attorney of the United States for the district, filed a suggestion in the District Court, stating that, since the libel aforesaid of Thomas R. Gedney, Esq., was filed in this Court, viz. within the present month of September, in the year of our Lord 1839, the duly accredited minister to the United States, of her Catholic Majesty, the Queen of Spain, had officially presented to the proper department of the United States government, a claim, which is now pending, upon the United States, setting forth, that "the vessel aforesaid, called the Amistad, and her cargo aforesaid, together with certain slaves on board the said vessel, all being the same as described in the libel aforesaid, are the property of Spanish subjects, and that the said vessel, cargo, and slaves, while so being the property of the said Spanish subjects, arrived

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within the jurisdictional limits of the United States, and were taken possession of by the said public armed brig of the United States, under such circumstances as make it the duty of the United States to cause the same vessel, cargo, and slaves, being the property of said Spanish subjects, to be restored to the true proprietors and owners of the same, without further hindrance or detention, as required by the treaty now subsisting between the United States and Spain." The attorney of the United States, in behalf of the United States, prayed the Court, on its being made legally to appear that the claim of the Spanish minister was well founded, and was conformable to the treaty, that the Court make such order for the disposal of the said vessel, cargo, and slaves as may best enable the United States in all respect to comply with their treaty stipulations, and preserve the public faith inviolate. But if it should be made to appear that the persons described as slaves, are negroes and persons of colour, who had been transported from Africa, in violation of the laws of the United States, and brought within the United States, contrary to the same laws, the attorney, in behalf of the United States, claimed that, in such case, the Court will make such further order in the premises as would enable the United States, if deemed expedient, to remove such persons to the coast of Africa to be delivered there to such agent or agents as might be authorized to receive and provide for them, pursuant to the laws of the United States, in such case provided, or to make such other order as to the court may seem fit, right and proper in the premises."

On the same day, September 19th, 1839, the negroes, by their counsel, filed an answer to the libel of lieutenant Gedney...

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