Friday, March 9

Taking a Cruise on a Friendly Ship

By Grant Davies

On this day in 1841, the Supreme Court of the US made a decision about the future of some people who had decided to change their passenger status on an ocean voyage, from cargo to crew.

The ship they sailed upon was the Amistad, a two masted schooner belonging to a Spaniard living in Cuba. The name Amistad is Spanish for friendship, but it seems it was anything but a "Friend Ship."

Anyway, it was sailing from one Cuban port, Havana (later famous for cigars you weren't supposed to buy) to another, Puerto Principe, and the cargo was beans. The human variety, human "beins." The beings were victims of kidnapping, also known as African captives. It seems they were to be shipped to America and sold into slavery, a plan they weren't very fond of, for obvious reasons.

So one of them, a certain Sengbe Pieh, who later changed his name to Joseph Cinqué (a better stage name for the star of a 1839 stage play and the 1997 Steven Spielberg movie), found an old file in the passenger stateroom (aka the cargo hold) where he and 56 other guests were being pampered by their hosts. He used it to break his chains and then convinced the other 52 adult passengers to join him in counter-kidnapping the crew. They grabbed some cane knives (aka machetes) and convinced the captain to change course and sail for their home port back in Africa so they could disembark where they had originally been "convinced" to embark.

Unfortunately, Cinqué was a better mutineer than he was a navigator and the actual navigator, Pedro Montez (nickname, Don) quickly tricked him into cutting out the middlemen at the first destination and sailing directly to the retail outlet in America. They were destined to be part of a door buster sale at the local "Slavemart." Even in those days there were a lot of foreign products being sold at the mega-stores.

Not long afterward, the ship and its new crew were re-kidnapped by the USS Washington, (a ship owned by a forerunner of the IRS) and taken to New Haven, Conn. where they stayed as guests of the state until a fellow named John Q. Adams became their court appointed, pro bono lawyer and won their freedom in the court case cited above.

So it all turned out happily. Adams, who had already been US President, was able to graduate to "Attorney Extraordinaire" and Cinqué was able to return to his homeland where, it was rumored, he decided to go into business, as a slaver.

With friends like that.....

Some of the info found in this article was taken from a post at recollectionbooks.com.

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