Main article: United States v. The Amistad
Text of the Amistad Supreme Court decision
A widely publicized court case ensued in New Haven, Connecticut, about the ship and the legalstatus of the African captives, which became a cause célèbre among abolitionists in the United States. At the time, the transport of slaves from Africa to the Americas was illegal, so the ship'sowners fraudulently described the Africans as having been born in Cuba. The court had to decide if the Africans were to be considered salvage and the property of Naval officers who had taken custody of theship, decide whether they were the property of the Cuban buyers, or decide if they were the property of Spain as Queen Isabella II of Spain claimed, or decide if the circumstances of their captureand transportation meant they were free.
On appeal, United States v. The Amistad case reached the US Supreme Court, which in 1841 ruled in that the Africans had been illegally transported and held asslaves, and ordered them freed. The La Amistad survivors returned to Africa in 1842.
La Amistad was a 19th-century two-masted schooner of about 120 feet (37 m). Built in the UnitedStates, La Amistad was originally named Friendship but she was renamed after being purchased by a Spaniard. Strictly speaking, La Amistad was not a slave ship; she was not designed to transport largecargoes of slaves, nor did she engage in the Middle Passage of Africans to the Americas. The crew of La Amistad, lacking purpose-built slave quarters, placed half the captives in the main hold, and theother half on deck. The captives were relatively free to move about, which aided their revolt and commandeering of the vessel.
La Amistad engaged in shorter, coastal trade. The primary cargo carriedby La Amistad was sugar-industry products, and her normal route ran from Havana to her home port of Guanaja. She also took on passengers and, on occasion, slaves for transport. The captives who...