American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"Amistad" (1997)


Senior Justice Joseph Story Reads the Decision of the U.S. Supreme Court

Audio mp3 delivered by former USSC Associate Justice, The Honorable Harry A. Blackmun


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

Further Reading: National Archives and Records Administration Materials on the Amistad Case

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