American Rhetoric: Movie Speech
Senior Justice Joseph Story Reads the Decision of the U.S. Supreme Court
Justice Story: In the case of the United States of America versus the Amistad Africans, it is the opinion of this Court that our treaty of 1795 with Spain, on which the prosecution has primarily based its arguments, is inapplicable.
While it is clearly stipulated in Article IX that -- and I quote -- "seized ships and cargo are to be returned entirely to their proprietary" -- the end of quote -- it has not been shown to the Court's satisfaction that these particular Africans fit that description.
We are then left with the alternative: that they are not slaves and therefore cannot be considered merchandise, but are, rather, free individuals with certain legal and moral rights, including the right to engage in insurrection against those who would deny them their freedom.
And therefore, over one dissent, it is the the court's judgment that the defendants are to be released from custody at once, and, if they so choose, to be returned to their homes in Africa.
Also in this database: John Quincy Adams (Anthony Hopkins) Addresses the U.S. Supreme Court
Further Reading: Full Text of the Actual Case