Mar 01, 2012 - Sale 2271

Sale 2271 - Lot 28

Price Realized: $ 20,400
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 5,000 - $ 7,500
A COMPLETE COPY WITH THE RARE FRONTISPIECE (SLAVERY AND ABOLITION.) BARBER, JOHN W. A History of the Amistad Captives: Being a Circumstantial Account of the Capture of the Spanish Schooner Amistad, the Africans on Board; Their Voyage, and Capture, near Long Island, New York; with Biographical Sketches of each of the Surviving Africans Also An Account of the Trials, had on their Case before the District and Circuit Courts of the United States, for the District of Connecticut. Large, 18-1/2 inch hand-colored fold-out frontispiece, small map and additional illustrations including 38 engraved profiles of the captives. 32 pages. 8vo, removed from a larger volume with signs of "bark" on the spine. New Haven: E. L. & J. W. Barber, 1840

Additional Details

exceedingly rare first edition of this account, with a fine example of the frontispiece, often found lacking. In July of 1839, a group of West African captives, on a Spanish schooner bound for Cuba, took control of the vessel in what would become the most famous slave-ship insurrection in American history. The Africans, under the leadership of Cinque and Grabeu, ordered the first mate to turn the ship around for Africa, but instead the mate took the schooner on a meandering course that finally brought them to the coast of Long Island where they were seized by a U.S. brig. The captives were charged with murdering the Captain and were jailed in New Haven. Word spread quickly among abolitionists and a defense committee was hastily assembled. President John Quincy Adams came out of retirement to lead the defense, together with Connecticut attorney Roger Baldwin. The basis of the defense was that the Africans had been illegally taken from Africa after the 1807 ban. The Spanish owners Montes and Ruiz, claimed that the Africans were already slaves and were simply being moved from one Spanish possession to another. The only trouble was that not one of the 39 captives spoke a word of Spanish or English---as one would presume if this were true. Adams and Baldwin managed to find a seaman who was a Mende tribesman from Sierra Leone who could translate for the Africans, and so the full story of their capture came out. On January 13, 1840, the lower court declared that the captives had been "born free," and kidnapped. However the administration of President Van Buren, to appease the Spanish, sent the case to the Supreme Court, where Adams and Baldwin again prevailed. On March 9, 1841, Justice Story, speaking for the Court declared again that the Africans had indeed been kidnapped. And so, after nearly two years, the Amistad Captives were free.