Mar 21, 2013 - Sale 2308

Sale 2308 - Lot 45

Price Realized: $ 7,800
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 8,000 - $ 12,000
(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) folding hand-colored frontispiece, small map and additional illustrations, including 38 engraved profiles of the captives. 32 pages. 8vo, original plain pink wrappers, very lightly worn. an exceptionally tall, untrimmed copy New Haven: E.L. & J.W. Barber, 1840

Additional Details

the exceedingly rare first edition of this account with a fine example of the large folding frontispiece. In July of 1839, a group of West African Mende captives, aboard a schooner bound for Cuba, overcame the crew and took possession of the ship in what would be the most famous slave-ship uprising in American history. The Africans, under the leadership of Cinque and Grabeau, ordered the first mate to turn the schooner around for Africa. But instead the mate took the schooner on a meandering course that wound them up off the coast of Long Island, where they were seized by a U.S. brig. The captives were immediately accused of 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 with Connecticut attorney Roger Baldwin. The basis of the defense was; that the Africans had been illegally taken from Africa after the 1807 ban on the slave trade. The Spanish owners of the schooner, Montez and Ruiz, claimed that the Africans were already slaves and were simply being moved from one part of the island of Cuba to another. The only problem with that explanation was that not one of the 39 captives spoke a word of Spanish, or English---as one would assume 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 captives and so the full story came out. On January 13, 1840, the lower court declared the captives had been "born free," and kidnapped. However, the administration of President Van Buren, to appease the Spanish government, sent the case up to the Supreme Court, where Adams and Baldwin again prevailed. On March 9, 1841, Justice Story, speaking for the majority declared again that the Africans had been kidnapped. An so, after nearly two years, the Amistad captives were free.