It has an interesting structure, as the story moves from the most well-known parts of this history (the Amistad case
in popular history), and the most central actors in it (the abolitionists and captives), to its less-known but equally relevant aspects (the slavers, Africa, and Cuba).
Although not discussed by Helmholz, John Quincy Adams's argument at the bar of the Supreme Court in the Amistad case
(1841) provides one high-profile example of a prominent American attorney and politician tying together these various threads during the course of litigation.
The Amistad case
of 1839 afforded Northern abolitionists an opportunity to put a chink in the armor of slavery.
Interestingly, Chief Justice Roger Taney--who later ruled in the Dred Scott case that a black man, even a free black man, can never have access to federal courts--signed on to Story's opinion in the Amistad case
granting the Africans their day in court, a court that included full jury trial.
Lindsley's Love and Friendship (1809), a farce that features an impassioned complaint against the Middle Passage delivered by a cross-dressing white female actor in blackface, to The Black Schooner (1839), a hugely popular melodrama inspired by the Amistad case
, to Harry Seymour's Aunt Dinah's Pledge (1850), an adaptation of a temperance novel that emphasized its African American heroine's refined sensibility and capacity for moral commitment even as it also invoked the rhetoric of antislavery reformers who associated the slaveholder's unchecked authority with the carnal excess of the inebriate.
The discussion of the Amistad case
and slavery makes for interesting reading.
Davis opens with a discussion of the Amistad case
as a quintessential example of the multinational character of slavery in the New World.
In the case of Amistad, the dramatic altering of the Adams and Baldwin characters solely to add drama takes power away from the deeply-rooted and organized abolitionist movement that existed during the period of the Amistad case
Supreme Courtin the Amistad case
on February 24, 1841, capturing the moral high ground on behalf of the African prisoners seeking their freedom.
Supreme Court cases both before and after his presidency--including the famed Amistad case
He was, however, a powerful voice against slavery when he returned to public life as a congressman, and he argued the Amistad case
before the Supreme Court on behalf of African captives in 1841.
The movie exaggerates the impact of the Amistad case
on the ending of slavery in the United States and on the course of the South to secession, but historians can hardly be said to have ignored the event.