The Case of La Amistad, and Its Effect on The United States

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About this sample


Words: 1686 |

Pages: 4|

9 min read

Published: Nov 5, 2020

Words: 1686|Pages: 4|9 min read

Published: Nov 5, 2020

“Slavery is a human invention and not found in nature. Indeed, it was that other human invention, war, which provided the bulk of slaves, but they were also the bounty of piracy... or the product of breeding.”It was very popular around 790 AD where Vikings traded humans, for working purposes to countries such as England, Ireland and Scandinavia, and it was an important factor in the lives of the romans. However, one of the largest slave trade events started in the 1600s and continued all the way up to the 1900s. It was called the Atlantic slave trade, as hundreds of ships would sail their cargo over from across the Atlantic, from Africa to America, where buyers would pay around $40’000 for each, healthy slave.

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According to how Olaudah Equiano described in his autobiography, life on a vessel as a slave was horrific, 'The closeness of the place and the heat of the climate added to the number in the ship, which was so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn himself, almost suffocated us. This produced copious perspirations, so that the air soon became unfit for respiration, from a variety of loathsome smells, and brought on a sickness among the slaves, of which many died -- thus falling victims to the improvident avarice, as I may call it, of their purchasers.' He was just 11 years old and had been separated from his family. The quote by Olaudah Equiano describes how the humans were treated upon slave ships, and it was only a matter of time until other nations would start to look at how they were treated. That time started in the 1800s, was slavery was banned in countries such as Great Britain and North America. Slave traders tried to escape this new law by shipping slaves to less developed countries, with humans that were born into the trade. This would cause one of the largest upsets in America’s slave history. The reason for this was a Spanish ship called La Amistad which was traveling from Lomboko harbor, Sierra Leone, to Havana, Cuba was it was still legal to buy and sell slaves. Due to the further actions of the slaves on board, La Amistad grew to be pivotal in changing people’s minds on slavery.

In January 1839, 53 people from West Africa, namely Sierra Leone, were captured from their homes by Spanish slave sellers. Their aim was to try to transport them over to Cuba where it was still lawful to offload and sell their cargo. The humans captured were mostly the hunters and farmers from the Mende tribe, the larger of the two in that area. One man, in particular, became very well known, his name was Sengbe Pieh, though it was changed to Joseph Cinqué later on by the Spanish. In 1839, he was captured at the age of 25 to be taken into the slave trade. His wife and three children were left fatherless and would not see him for a couple of years. He and the others who were captured were held in small prisons for sometime in the port Lomboko before the slave traders snuck they're captured onto the boats as to evade British anti-slave ships. During the harsh trips, Sengbe Pieh gathered some of the men who could speak Mende and managed to persuade them to join forces and rebel against the Spanish holding them captives. They managed to escape from the chains and kill all the crew except Pedro Montes and Jose Ruiz who would be able to navigate back to there home in Africa. Pedro and Jose secretly sailed up the coast of America to eventually be discovered by an American ship off the coast of the long island. The Spanish demanded the slaves and accused them of murder, however slavery was already banned in America and so the slaves had the right to go away free.

Before the Supreme Court case, (the United States vs La Amistad), slavery had been abolished in the United States. However, civilians still hadnʼt gotten used to the fact that slavery is immoral and it didn’t help was still happening in smaller forms. The United States president at the time was Van Buren, who at first was very supportive of the idea of giving back the slaves to Spain. According to the National Archives, “President Van Buren was in favor of extraditing the Africans to Cuba.” This meant he wanted them to go back to being working slaves. Van Buren wanted to maintain peace with the Spanish and believed that setting the slaves free would cause disruption in international relations with the Spanish government. However, on the other side were supporters of the slaves such as abolitionists who believed the Spanish did not own these people and they should be set free. Thus, the case had to go to trial, and little did president Van Buren know that if he had chosen not to pass the case up to the Supreme Court, and that if he let the Spanish get away with it, there may have been many more disruptions in the years to come. “Claims to the Africans by the planters, then in existence. The government of Spain and the captain of the brig led the case to trial in the Federal District Court in Connecticut.” This quote from the court described that different people had different beliefs on this subject and it needed to try and decided in a court of law.

The results of the case were that more civilians ended up favoring the slaves and so they won the court case and were involved in illegal international slave trade. According to, there would be many more cases such as these to come, and Amistad was one of the first in the domino effect of slave rebellions, “Though unusual in the amount of attention it received, the Amistad was just one of hundreds of slave vessels on which uprisings occurred.” Abolitionist supporters took the survivors – 36 men and boys and three girls – to Farmington, Connecticut, on the Underground Railroad. Their residents had agreed to have the Africans stay there, though the former slaves did not feel at home in an attic over a grocery store, and soon decided to head home. With help from the Abolitionist, they eventually created a plan for the return of the 39 Africans to return to Africa. They were taught English and Christianity, so they traveled back on a Missionary Boat that was sponsored by donations from the church. Many Americans wanted to help and donate money and time for the Africans to have a chance to return home and start a new life. Just that some of the native civilians gave up the time and money to help the Africans return was a turning point, however, that they managed to return all of them and also create a Missionary in Africa was one of the reasons for it being such a large and important win for America. In all, the long visit from the Mende men, women and children had taught America a lot of information and really opened their eyes to the Africans. America and other people around the world were hearing about the Amistad case and were starting to realize that the Africans were not as different as themselves.

According to the book, people from around the world would often come and pay to see them perform their own traditions and skills, along with teaching classes and painting pictures about them. While in America, Sengbe Pieh disapproved of the Americans classifying, and acting like that they, the Africans, were different. Sengbe, who was a Mende, was thought of being the leader, though did not himself think of being any different from the local Americans. This may also have been a factor in him what leaving America after years living with the abolitionists. He just wanted to be part of the human civilization without being called a savage. Though the acts of the researchers and people coming to see the Africans would introduce them to the new ‘kind’ and show them that they are the same. This problem is still being faced with slavery would be able 24 years later but they would still be suffering discrimination in the years up to now. In later years this event has created a light for American people as they have got to understand who the Africans are as they could study and paint them.

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The Amistad case was a huge part of the United States, (and in some ways West Africa’s) history. It was the start of the turning point, were the lost kingdom of Africa would start to let go of some of its mysteries. The modern discrimination (at that time) about Africans and black people had started to loosen, and though it was still clearly difficult being a former slave or a person having witnessed, it was a massive beginning of the total abolition of slaves, were rebellions and uprisings were larger important. Who knows what would have happened to the history on slavery if the Spanish government received their slaves back as then three major nations would have shown a sign on slavery being allowed, America, Spain, and Britain. The La Amistad was significant in the abolition of slavery around the world especially in America as it were humans who received rights by nature allowed and felt empathy for slaves to also live a life.


  1. “The Amistad Case: 'Outright Plagiarism' or 'Who Owns History?'.” Law Cornell, 12 Feb. 1998,
  2. Earl, Diana. “The Abolition Project.” Gallery.nen.Government, 5 Jan. 2009,
  4. Greenspan, Jesse. “The Amistad Slave Rebellion, 175 Years Ago.”, A&E Television Networks, 2 July 2014,
  5. History Alive! The United States Through Industrialism. TCi. TCi. McConnell, Eleanor H. “Amistad Case.” Expansion and Reform, Third Edition,Facts On File, 2017. American History, Amistad. Accessed 30 Nov. 2017.
  6. 'Middle Passage.' Smithsonian, National Museum of American History,
  7. Myers, Walter Dean. Amistad: A Long Road to Freedom. New York, Dutton Children's Books, 1998.
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The Case of La Amistad, And Its Effect On The United States. (2020, October 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from
“The Case of La Amistad, And Its Effect On The United States.” GradesFixer, 31 Oct. 2020,
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