La Amistad

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LA Amistad is a movie depicting the tale of many Africans who were taken from their homes and sold into slavery. The Africans of “La Amistad” had been among five or six hundred Africans purchased by a Portuguese slave from Pedro Blanco, who operated a notorious slave factory on the island of Lomboko, south of Freetown. They had been brought from Africa on board the Portuguese slaver “Tecora” to Havana, where they were moved under cover of darkness to a prison outside the city and advertised for sale. Ruiz and Montes purchased the fifty-three slaves and transferred them to “La Amistad” before setting sail from Havana. The Africans, and the protagonist of the film, Cinque, was trying to free himself from his chains. He and his fellow slaves managed to get control of the ship by killing many of the cruise men living two of them alive to guide then back to Africa. They made the grueling voyage, known as the middle passage, from West Africa to Cuba. From Cuba, they boarded another ship known as “La Amistad,” but this time, Cinque was able to launch a revolt. After the Africans had taken over the boat, they ordered the Spanish sailors to bring them back to Africa. However, the sailors fooled them, and sailed towards the United States, where an American ship rescued the Spaniards and brought “La Amistad” back to Connecticut, where the Africans were tried for their revolts. They fought hard to stay alive, but unfortunately they found themselves in the strange waters of in America and charged with murder. Their fate lied in the hands of a real estate and property lawyer Roger Baldwin, who had to prove that these men are from Africa and were illegally stolen in to slavery. Many parties, including the American sailors, the Spanish crew of “La Amistad,” and the abolitionists were all attempting to sway the case in their favor. Perhaps the most important aspect of the plot was that it was illegal at the time to sell native Africans into slavery. This was the basis of the defendants’ case for freedom. This plot clearly demonstrated the American weaknesses of the early nineteenth century. The issue of slavery involved with these trials evidenced sectionalism and a large impact on American foreign policy, political institutions, and our judiciary system.

In the controversy surrounding the trial, sectionalism was extremely evident. This could be seen when John C. Calhoun was conversing with Martin Van Buren at a dinner. Calhoun emphasized the importance of slavery in the southern economy. He then went on to make a discrete threat towards civil war if Africans were freed. This shows the tensions between the north and south during the time period leading up to the civil war. The southern economy relied heavily on slavery and southern states contained a large African American population. For these reasons they greatly feared the abolition of slavery. This explains why John C. Calhoun reacted so harshly to the idea of the Africans being freed as a result of the Amistad trial. Such a ruling would be one step closer to the abolition of slavery.

At the time of the Amistad trial, trans-Atlantic slave trade was on the forefront of international politics. Since Spanish colonies still relied heavily on slavery, it was not uncommon for slaves to be smuggled illegally into Spanish plantations. During this time period, Great Britain was strongly opposed to slavery and viewed it as immoral and inhumane. This is shown when a British naval officer is called upon to testify in the trial. Everything he says is in favor of the Africans. When the Amistad case is underway in America, Queen Isabella II of Spain is arguing on behalf of the Spanish slave owners. Whichever way the case went in the United States, one foreign nation would be unhappy. This shows how slavery caused great tensions in international politics.

Not only did the issue of slavery display the enormity of sectionalism, but it also had a large impact on...
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