The Taney Court (1836–64)


What was the ruling in The Amistad case?

In a unanimous ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court determined in an opinion written by Justice Joseph Story that “these negroes never were the lawful slaves of Ruiz or Montes, or of any other Spanish subjects.” The government attorney argued that the Amistads should still be returned to Spain pursuant to the obligations of a treaty between the two nations. Story rejected that argument, noting that the Africans were aboard the ship on a fraud in violation of even Spanish law. He added that the Africans have just as much rights as the Spanish subjects.


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