La Amistad: the Theme of Slavery and the Slave Trade in America

Published: 2021-09-22 06:15:08
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“La Amistad” Essay
“La Amistad”, is based on a true story of America’s slave trade. Amistad was the name of a slave ship that was traveling from Cuba to the U.S 1839. It carried a large cargo of Africans who had been sold into slavery in Cuba. As the ship is crossing from Cuba to the U.S, Clinque, who was a tribal leader in Africa, leads a mutiny and takes over the ship. They continue to sail in hope of finding help when they land but instead, when they reach the United States, they are improisoned as runaway slaves. Just as it seems like they are doomed to die for killing their captors, a lawyer decides to take their case, arguing that they were free citizens of another country.
Slavery in America began in the early 17th Century and continued to be practiced for the next 250 years by the colonies and states. Slaves, mostly from Africa, worked in the production of tobacco crops and later on, cotton. In the late 18th century, the Missouri Compromise banned slavery in all new western territories, which southern states saw as a threat to the institution of slavery itself. In the southern states the soil was rich and fertilized allowing for mass production of cash crops. In 1857, the Supreme court decision known as the Dred Scott Decision said that Negroes (the term then used to describe the African race) were not citizens and had no rights of citizenship therefore, slaves that escaped to free states were not free but remained the property of their owners and were to be returned to them.On the Amistad after the slaves were captured by the U.S Navy, they were imprisoned because they were considered runaway slaves. Afterwards, the Africans find themselves in a legal battle, and a lawyer named Roger Sherman Baldwin and he decides to defend the Americans. Baldwin’s argument was that the African’s were captured in Africa and sold to the Americas illegally. Baldwin proves through documents found hidden on Amistad that the African people were initially cargo belonging to a Portuguese slave ship. Therefore, the Africans would be citizens of a free country. The judge ends up ruling in favor of the Africans. After pressure from Senator Calhoun on President Van Buren, the case is appealed to the Supreme Court. Despite refusing to help when the case was initially presented, Adams agrees to assist with the case. At the Supreme Court, he makes an impassioned plea for their release, and is successful.
In light of the evidence (The documents found on the African slave cargo ship.), the staff of President Van Buren has the judge presiding over the case replaced by Judge Coglin, who is younger and believed to be impressionable and easily influenced. During an argument that spanned over several hours, Adams argues that the president committed the “utter injustice of interfering in a suit between parties for their individual rights.” In a dramatic moment, Adams faced the judges, pointed to a copy of the Declaration of Independence hanging on the courtroom wall, and said “I know no law, statute or constitution, no code, no treaty, except that law…which is forever before the eyes of your Honors.”
Adams, after expositing Calhoun’s theory of slavery and the American nation, asks the court, “What, then, are we to do with this document?” and walks over to a copy of the Declaration hanging on the wall of the court room. Adams explains that the Africans case has taken on national and international significance. Cinque replies deliberately that he will pray to his ancestors that night to summon their strength for his cause, and they must come to his aid, for he is the reason they existed.

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