In 1839, Africans held captive by slavers revolted and ordered the Amistad's crew to return to Africa. However, the ship was captured in Long Island and the slaves were put on trial -- but that's not the end of the story. Tune in to learn more.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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The view on said probably brings to mind that nineteen eighty seven Steven Spielberg movie, I think, just that everybody thought has Anthony Hopkins in it- he's got them off. The mutton show because he's playing John Quincy Adams has Matthew Car, it has to manhood few playing be flavors who are obviously going to talk about in great detail, but I was about an hour member, the movie very well, it's Taliban. Since ninety ninety seven than I thought the same here, it was a long time ago. I was thinking. Oh, there is one scene, though that really stands out, and I'm not sure if it is just because it was so marble or, if, because I thought later, probably in in high school, as I ever demonstration the middle passage might have looked like, but that scene really. And out in my mind, it's horrific. The slaves are beaten, their starved their murdered. All on that massive trip across the Atlantic, but
The interesting thing here is that, even though the movie turns out to be kind of a court room drama that c in the middle passage is really crucial, it's really crucial in the story of the honesty in general, because they, against the mutineers third, the slave uprising, hinged, the lie that they never experienced the middle passage. Yet that lie was that they were in fact Cuban born Ladino are slaves were born in Latin America and crucially, that they were slaves before Spain had vanished trafficking in its empire, the other they had kind of been grandfathered in to the whole slaves system. In reality, of course, the eventual Amistad mutineers were born in Africa, though its Africa, where we will start story and, of course there are lots of meat near, for they have lots of different. Story than we have varying degrees of information on different members of the mutiny,
Fortunately, a lot of the back stories are pretty similar to the leader Joseph Thing K, who was amended tribesmen from what is today, Sierra Leone and large, their mostly men, young man, They were usually absurd when they were walking along a road or in their village, essentially jumped and kidnapped and fold into slavery. Yes, in particular, who was born sang rape. Here he was a twenty five year old, married father of three and a rice farmer when he was captured and his father head man in the village of money. Now his capture sources believe. We may have had something to do with a debt that he owed but we do know is that, after a three day march to the portuguese sleigh, factory on the island of Lumbago sinking was sold to a Spanish labour and loaded aboard the slave ship to quarrel with hundreds of others bound for Havana. Ye not trip from Africa to Vienna is, of course, the middle path edge, but one
the two Cora land at arrived in Havana, thing, K and fifty two others were soul to to cuban sugar planters and Jose Ruth and Pedro monitors and they were packed aboard a second ship and that is on the stud, but there a catch with this story, and you probably guest had already with our little introduction there. But the year was In thirty, nine and the slave trade had been illegal in the spanish empire for years, tenth. Eighteen, twenty, in fact, due to this eighteen, seventeen treaty with Great Britain, but the spam I don't really try very hard to follow their own ban again slavery. They sort of enforced that haphazard Lee and cuban officials could really easily be bribed to falsify slave document, so they would make them out
Ladino instead of Africans, and this is exactly what Ruiz and Monitor said they had fake passports made for the Africans and then set sail from Hannah here and they went to all that trouble, making fake passports for their new players, because they were concerned that if a british petroleum stopped them their slaves might be confiscated, cause when the Spanish weren't very invested in enforcing their laws. The british definitely were, though they like, you, said set sail from Havana and they were headed to port AU, Prince Pay, which was the northwestern cuban port in its there, where they would have ultimately settled on the sugar planting. And they laughed in trying to be all secret before dawn gin, twenty eighth, eighteen, thirty, nine on board. Just to give you a picture of what the ship looked like before the mutiny went down. There are fifty three slave, the two slavers in Monterrey, Captain Ramon, fairer
Ladino cabin boy and a mixed Rafe slave Cook, also from later accounts. There are two ship hands on deck two sailors Sometimes you see him sometimes with the IMF and home video and accept their conspicuously missing, after they rebellion. You would have normally had two and a half to three days at sea to make this trap, but storms the delay, which means they have to start rationing food, the slaves on board only get one banana to potatoes and one cup of water per day. There also flogged by Creasy, Molly, abusive crew, so very bad conditions for the slaves on board. Here there also natural if you're being informed every day, really scared about what waits them when they arrive at their destination. Think gay, Shelly use assigns to communicate with the cook cell Astina, who indicates that the slaves will be killed, cut up. Salted
and eaten once they have landed, which I'm just imagining like the signals that they're using and how he would have signalled, cut up, salted and eaten I'm sure it wasn't, plus I think he poured pointed at barrel than one could assume. He is the universal hand across the neck here, but in its This'Ll Philistine, ours is playing a prank I think I essentially trying to put him on it has a pretty terrible consequences, especially for cell astina, because this new plus the already bad conditions on board the ship make think I decide to act. You know he's afraid that, time is running shore in what he seen so far has been so horrific though four dawn on July. Second, he uses hidden nail that his the way to break out of his iron collar, and then he goes on to free some of the other African on board. They arm themselves with Kane which are really big scary, knives
they immediately kill. The captain and the cook so dont make practical, jokes and a dire situation guys if the two sailors were on board. As we mentioned before, they D, here they weren't on board the ship later probably drown right exactly and that the US they end up sparing the Ladino cabin boy and they decide to keep Montedison Ruiz alive as well, so that they can help the slaves navigate back to Africa. But the slavers are pretty tricky. They actually sell east during the day, but then turn northward at night. So there thinking be the British will spot them and stop the ship, maybe we'll head. They had North african coast and ok and the other, the other African on board see that their heading towards the fine. You know heading east. During the war in eight they think they're on their way to Africa, but it just goes on and on and on like that, for eventually
two month. They ran out of food there. no water. The sales are in tatters. The rigging is in tatters, can Africans dive? drinking some unknown liquid aboard the ship, which proved to be poison ass, an finally, think I realise is that he's out alive two in allows money has to land and they anchor on Long Island and think a to shore, with a few other guys to use the spanish money on Board by provision, but meanwhile enough, small ships have had seen what is essentially a ghost ship at this in a scary, tottered stale than all these knife wheels. people on board. They seen it in the waters. They ve been too afraid to go close to themselves, but they reported back to thee It states revenue cutter service about this mystery shop. So, while thinking
is going to shore there. You have cut her service, finally catches up with them, yeah and the? U S S Washington in fact, catches up with them and they board the Amistad commanding off for here is Lieutenant Thomas Gedney and he seizes the ship, Margo and the Africans on August. Twenty seventh an Africans on August. Twenty seventh in Connecticut where slavery happens, to be late at the time, once there there, he alerts. U S. Federal district justice Andrew T Judson, but Judson, can't get the whole story because the Africans don't speak English, so he decides to refer the case to the: U S: Circuit Court and Hartford, which is meeting September. Meanwhile, the Africans are sent to jail and New Haven, so their stuck in Connecticut yeah in this epic legal battles starts from this point. The circuit court trial comes first and it largely centred on murder and piracy charges against the Africans, because in spanish
as they have killed crew members and stolen a spanish ship, but this trial A court shall only laughed the few days the judge dismissive those charged of murder and piracy and says well. Africans are under any: U S, jurisdiction for crimes committed against the Cubans, though he refers the case to the: U S, district court and by this when the story is really started. Get alot of national attention and abolitionists have sort of taken it up as a great way to fight slavery in the United States as well. Draw attention to some of the abolitionist involved tapping Joshua, love it and Simeon job when form that staff committee and even raised defence funds for the Africans, and this lets them
sleep higher. An attorney led attorney, Roger Sherman Baldwin to defend them and they get a whole, isn't translators tooth and finally, the african side of the story can be told: yeah, that's key, because once the slaves have a voice, the sides become quite clear: The Africans argue that they're not slaves, their freeman, who were born in Africa, traded illegally and ruin On the other hand, they argue that the slaves are actually ladino and murderers to boot, and what s interesting is that they is the people that they have on their side. They are supported by the Spanish a man and by U S, President Martin Van Buren, and he's up for real soon he's not necessarily a supporter of slavery, but he wants to impress Son slaveowners, and so he arranged for a Navy ship to come up and be right to return the slaves to Cuba immediately after the trial before a possible what can be made? Yes, I have planners is he's.
feeling that the court will rule in favour of the Cubans and as soon as they do he's, gonna get the Africans right back to Cuba before anybody can make a fuss There is a third element to the story and in it also has to do with property, which is sort of the key here under maritime law. Compensation would go to the person who helped favours ship or the ship's cargo from laws, even if there are just doing the job that they respect to do for the US government lay Gedney Guinea has filed a claim to the ships cargo. You know he thing. I risk my life my crew, my crew, my two essentially to essentially rescue and rescue all of its cargo from this mutinous situation, and he the claim to not just the cargo within the material goods, but the flame as well, which he values the whole thing together. Forty
thousand dollars, twenty five thousand for the slaves, though he is in it for a very substantial profit. yeah and there are other people have things at stake here, as well or at least think they do long. Island seamen, for example, that Henry Green he files are competing salvage, claim and Someone tells, of course, with support from the queen of Spain are trying to get their money and property back. So there a lot of people who are vying here for the stuff. You evolves it's not just about the mutiny and the murders and what happened on the ship, it's about what the ship is worth, and that includes the people on it, though. Obviously this I'll turns into a sensation with with so many competing interest in so many high profile people involved and their try a trial, spectators, come they start filling up. The galleries newspaper cover it dairies gripping testimony from thing gay and from others
detailing their lives in Africa in other, lies before being captured their capture them passage the sale in Cuba and their revolt on the ship to just sort of lay the picture of we're not he knows we are from Africa, though their defence attorney, though Pretty crucially doesn't drift far into the more arguments I mean. He let think I and the others tell their own gripping stories that he doesn't get too much into the ethics of slavery, which of course, the long before slavery with abolished in the United States, though he keep that about property. Something that maybe people could think about a little more clearly and clearly, its everyone's focus in this trial. Yen strategy really works in January. Eighteen, forty, the court does several things dismiss green salvage claim they awards I'm salvage rights to guide me and
rule. Most importantly, the Africans were not legally enslaved, so the? U S, government must return them to Africa, so yeah, that's, probably a pretty unexpected version, for a lot of these high stakes, players involved include Martin Van Buren, I mean he's not accepting their, so he ordered media appeal and eventually, after a few, more stop along the way we're gonna skip along the bed. The case eventually gets to the Supreme Court and At that point, the abolitionists, who are supporting the Africans, knew that they might to bring in some new blood tick to keep up with the high profile. Nature of the trial power yeah exactly some celebrity lawyers to just keep public interest going and to make it so so high profile that Van Buren couldn't try any funny business like having the slaves suddenly disappear to Cuba, though the answer committee
after and none other than John Quincy Adams to defend the African, along with the original defence attorney Roger Baldwin yeah John Quincy Adams. At this point here pretty old. He. Seventy three visually impaired and out of practice he hasn't really acted as a lawyer and thirty plus years or so, but he still, as we said, really hyper he's a congressmen former president. And known as old man eloquent. So we're ready to hear him give some really compelling speeches here is a good speaker, though. He take the little can and saying, you know, if he's reluctant to get on board for such an intense commitment in something that is again, though high profile we keep using that word That's what it is, but eventually he decides to go for any kind of think. That might be his last great achievement as political man, and he starts
swinging right off the bat. He raises questions about Van Buren and his men duration and whether they falsified documents relating to the the incident and this ultimately serve rational inquiry, and then, by February eighteen forty one be supreme. trial. U S verses, Amistad begin Baldwin actually opens the cat. Surprisingly, I guess the fear of John Quincy Adams fan, but eventually does stand eight and a half, maybe seven hours, making his argument before a court, and in that he refers back to that. duration of independently, quite moving out of them as the fun of one of its seiners, definitely and in the end the court upheld. the previous rulings and found for the Africans yeah, and by this point I mean this is ok. It is it's a victory. It certainly l a victory for the abolition. As for the african thing to go home, but it's sad to at this point there only thirty five
surviving Africans from the start and the committee of the Honesty Committee raises funds for their return. survivors actually gonna speaking tour to throw to help out with their own funds. Because I know English. Now they ve learned English. They ve had this several years in prison by this point to learn English and by January eighteen. Forty two they land in West Africa, but though the mystery or thought of a sketchy aspect of this story doesn't stop No, the mystery is, and what happens after right mean when sink ay returns. He finds wife and three children are missing, but supposedly he bounces back from this to become a slave trader himself. For that's what some people say and a wealthy one thought a wealthy slaver, obvious
This is a really contentious claim, one that actually got Spielberg some flak for not including intervention in it in the film, but isn't even true. Yes, though, you know, it is a pretty theory. Say about somebody, and there is a really interesting article. I read in the Journal of american history by Howard Jones. That suggests a lot of this story, a lot of the story, but thinking the slaver themes based in a work of historical fiction, very surprising, yeah kind of opposite of what you think would happen. Usually you think of history. Some private thirty years and whose primary sources in here influencing than the novel that instead it was the other way round and specifically the nineteen fifty three novel that that their referring to his slave mutiny by William a Owens, and it seems, well Owens identified his own work as fiction. He alluded to enough tantalizing sources in it that historian started to take it up. As fact in ninety
sixty nine, for example, historian see Van, would word even cited the story in his presentation before the organisers of american historians, which was something that really stirred up a lot of controversy here and in the article I mention Jones note that Owens himself did not start there. Marion his novel. It was mentioned, for instance, and in eighteen, forty six history of the american Missionary society, but with no thought but Owens now, definitely influenced opinions in part crucial ways the thinking flavour story. Even made answer three popular historical fervor. still got into enough staff that people started. Thinking that this? rumour might have had it. Surely it must have some basis. In fact, surely there some primary source out there that that references thinking becoming labour? That's what people started to think Yes, I guess at this point we can't really know what to think. I mean
rumours is there had never didn't. Owens talked about evidence being spirited away now during a move that you know yeah, I mean we are taking a load of a little bit about it before and it seems like doubtful that such a big thing wouldn't have somehow made it beyond its way back in Jones even mentions in the article that had think a decision into the slave trade, the missionaries and Who reported in pretty great detail about most what he was doing. What mentions that think I had not only become a flavor, but a wealthy one. I mean I'd I'd, say that's a pretty notable. yeah? You pray mentioning that around my letter, home though you know something to think about, but it is also may be thought of a good lesson and not to jump to huge conclusion
slowly, but regardless of what happened in sync days later life, the armistice decision was clearly somewhat ironic and that slavery was still much alive, and then you ass you. I mean it's the eighteen, forty, but it also set a standard for using the justice system to advance the cause of farming. We can't really fe It helped and slavery when it is so much so long before the civil war, but it is definitely helped using the justice system as as a way to get something done, yes, I am on the side stuck around in a lot of ways for many years in the Congress with debate the case from time to time for the next twenty years. Until the civil war started in eighteen, sixty one and Spain kept Canada They wanted a little bit of money, hardware erratic another, didn't wanna, let it go, they wanted to be paid for the the slaves and the ship and everything that they lost. So they had passed the yards from Times Times time about paying off or working out some deal, but you mention
before the start of the civil war in eighteen. Sixty one in that, actually, where were headed next or In a way out of here. It's not gonna be a straight up battle episode, although it is pretty bloody and violence so yeah until the next episode. If you have any comments on this one or if you have any ideas for future ideas, you'd like us to research feel free to ratify an email and history. Podcast house works, dot com or you can
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