Notes from the Amistad Trial

Original content by: Kathleen Neumann

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About This Document

Andrew T. Judson (1784-1853) was the U.S. District Court judge who presided over the case of the Amistad schooner from 1839-1840.  This document is a copy of Judson's decision regarding the status of the Africans on board the ship; were they slaves from Cuba and therefore to be considered property, or were they freepersons from Africa?  More...

Historical Context

In 1807 and 1808 respectively, England and the United States outlawed the importation of slaves.  In the following decade — perhaps under pressure from the powerful British navy which equated slave trading with piracy — other countries followed suit, including Portugal, Sweden, and France.  More... 

Questions for Further Thought

  1. Andrew T. Judson was not a supporter of the abolitionist movement. Does it surprise you that he ruled the Africans were, in fact, free and should not be handed over to the Spanish?
  2. What do you think would have happened if the Amistad Africans had been extradited to Cuba?
  3. Why do you think Judge Judson's decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court?