The Website of Carlos Whitlock Porter




With the rise of Political Correctness, marginal (and deservedly forgotten) phenomena are routinely disinterred (or invented) and assigned a transcendental significance and prominence which they never remotely possessed (for example: black, gay, and/or bisexual cowboys; lesbians among the pioneers, etc. etc. ad nauseam ad infinitum).

In the 1980s, for example, everybody was talking about "Chief Seattle"; but in the 1950s and 60s, nobody ever heard of him. The reason, of course, was that "Seattle", in his modern form, was invented in 1971 by a white man in California ("Ted Speaks").

More recently, in connection with other matters, I acquired a fair-sized collection of standard texts on international law, published between 1866 and 1948. To my surprise, I found that they contained no mention whatsoever of the Amistad. None. Nor had I ever heard of this incident when I was growing up.

The principal slave trading cases mentioned in most texts on international law are the Antelope, Le Louis, La Jeune Eugenie, the Amedie, the Amelia, the Africa, the Fortuna, and the Diana. The Amistad, so far as I know, is never mentioned. John Quincy Adams is mentioned solely in connection with the Monroe Doctrine, and his role in the negotiation of various international treaties in 1822 and 1842; never, so far as I know, in connection with the Amistad.

Cases on International Law by Chas. G. Fenwick, National Case Book Series, Chicago Callaghan and Company, 1935, contains an Index of Cases on p. xvii. Cases involving ships beginning with the letter A include the Adula, Alabama, Amelia, Anna, Anne, Annette, Antelope, and the Appam, etc. There is no mention of the Amistad. Slavery is discussed on pp. 7-10 and pp. 369-274.

The Antelope case, quoted on pp 7-10, lays the blame for the existence of slavery squarely where it belongs: on the Africans. The decision, written by Chief Justice John Marshall, says, more or less, that slavery is legal in Africa because the Africans want it that way, and that we have no right to force our legal and moral standards upon them. The only thing we can do is forbid our own nationals from engaging in the slave trade. We have no right to enforce our laws on the citizens of other countries.
Slaves belonging to the citizens of nations permitting the slave trade must therefore be returned to their owners, because of the "absolute equality of nations".

The decision reads, in part:

United States, Supreme Court, 1825.
10 Wheaton, 66 [6 L. ed. 268]

"… The Consuls of Spain and Portugal, respectively, demand these Africans as slaves, who have, in the regular course of legitimate commerce, been acquired as property by the subjects of their respective sovereigns, and claim their restitution under the laws of the United States.

"…this court must not yield to feelings which might seduce it from the path of duty, and must obey the mandate of the law.

"That the course of opinion on the slave trade should be unsettled, ought to excite no surprise. The Christian and civilized nations of the world, with whom we have most intercourse, have all been engaged in it. However abhorrent this traffic may be to a mind whose original feelings are not blunted by familiarity with the practice, it has been sanctioned in modern times by the laws of all nations who possess distant colonies, each of whom has engaged in it as a common commercial business which no other could rightfully interrupt. It has claimed all the sanction which could be derived from long usage and general acquiescence. That trade could not be considered as contrary to the law of nations which was authorized and protected by the laws of all commercial nations, the right to carry on which was claimed by each, and allowed by each.

"… The question of whether the slave trade is prohibited by the law of nations has been seriously propounded, and both the affirmative and negative of the proposition have been maintained with equal earnestness. That it is contrary to the law of nature will scarcely be denied. That every man has an equal right to the fruits of his own labour, is generally admitted; and that no other person can rightfully deprive him of those fruits, and appropriate them against his will, seems to be the necessary result of this admission. But from the earliest times war has existed, and war confers rights in which all have acquiesced. Among the most enlightened nations of antiquity, one of these was that the victor might enslave the vanquished. This, which was the usage of all, could not be pronounced repugnant to the law of nations, which is certainly to be tried by the test of general usage. That which has received the assent of all, must be the law of all.

"Slavery, then, has its origin in force, but as the world has agreed that it is a legitimate result of force, the state of things which is thus produced by general consent, cannot be pronounced unlawful.
Throughout Christendom, this harsh rule has been exploded, and war is no longer considered as giving a right to enslave captives. But this triumph of humanity has not been universal. The parties to the modern law of nations do not propagate their principles by force, and Africa has not yet adopted them. Through the whole extent of that immense continent, so far as we know its history, it is still the law of nations that prisoners are slaves. Can those who have themselves renounced this law, be permitted to participate in its effects by purchasing the beings who are its victims?

"Whatever might be the answer of a moralist to this question, a jurist must search for its legal solution in those principles of action which are sanctioned by the usage, the national acts, and the general assent, of that portion of the world of which he considers himself a part, and to whose law the appeal is made. If we resort to this standard of the test of international law, the question, as has already been observed, must be decided in favour of the legality of the trade. Both Europe and America embarked in it; and for nearly two centuries, it was carried on without opposition and without censure. A jurist could not say that a practice thus supported was illegal, and that those engaged in it might be punished, either personally, or by deprivation of property.

"In this commerce, thus sanctioned by universal assent, every nation has an equal right to engage. How is this right to be lost? Each may renounce it for its own people; but can this renunciation affect others?

"No principle of general law is more universally acknowledged, than the perfect equality of nations. Russia and Geneva have equal rights. It results from this equality, that no one can rightfully impose a rule on another. Each legislates for itself, but its legislation can operate on itself alone. A right, then, which is vested in all by the consent of all, can divested only by consent; and this trade, in which all have participated, must remain lawful to those who cannot be induced to relinquish it. As no nation can prescribe for others, none can make a law of nations; and this traffic remains lawful to those whose governments have not forbidden it."

The "Le Louis" decision of 1817, quoted on p. 374 of same book [Fenwick, 1935] [?], says, flatly:

"It is pressed as a difficulty, what is to be done, if a French ship laden with slaves for a French port is brought in: I answer, without hesitation, restore the possession which has been unlawfully divested: rescind the illegal act done by your own subject; and leave the foreigner to the justice of his own country…" (Great Britain, High Court of Admiralty, 1817, 2 Dodson, 210.

The "La Jeune Eugenie" decision of 1822, mentioned beginning on p. 1 of the same book [Fenwick, 1935], concluded that slavery was illegal under the laws of France -- a highly dubious assertion, contradicted below, in a lengthy footnote by Richard Henry Dana continuing onto p. 177 of Wheaton, 1866 edition, with footnotes by Richard Henry Dana [*] -- and ordered the slaves in question, not freed, but turned over to the King of France.

Since slavery was not, in fact, illegal under the laws of France at all, it is highly unlikely that the slaves in question were ever freed. By contrast, the slaves on the Amistad were allegedly transported to Sierra Leone at the expense of the United States government, and freed, regardless of Spanish law, the rights or claims of Spanish slave owners, and the "absolute equality of nations"at time when slavery was still legal in the United States! Such a Supreme Court decision would not only have overruled the Antelope, but would have been absolutely revolutionary in its implications, and would necessarily have been perceived as a direct threat to slaveholding interests in the United States. Nobody noticed. I do not see how this is possible.

Henry Wheaton's Elements of International Law, 1866 edition, number 19 in "The Classics of International Law" by Clarendon Press, Oxford, England, with notes by Richard Henry Dana, is an extremely complex and complete classical work of international law, with numerous, exceedingly lengthy footnotes, in small print, often occupying an entire page; indeed, 20% of the book is given over to footnotes. The 1936 commemorative edition (photographically reproduced from the original), is edited, with notes, by George Grafton Wilson, with a preface by James Brown Scott, General Editor. Both men were internationally known authorities on international law, authors and editors of many textbooks on the subject.

The introductory essay, Henry Wheaton and International Law, by George Grafton Wilson, says, in part,

"The period of the middle of the nineteenth century afforded new material for Dana's notes. The Monroe Doctrine had been somewhat tested and Dana gives it along note and takes up the related matter of intervention in Mexico under the convention of 1861 to which France, Great Britain, and Spain were parties. The questions of slavery, recognition of belligerency, contraband, blockade, continuous voyage, convoy, the Trent Affairs, and other questions arising during the American Civil War, 1861-5, offer Dana much new material for notes, and many of these topics receive elaborate treatment. The same is true of matters arising during the period from 1840 to 1860 and involving naturalization, extradition, and recent practice in civil and criminal legislation… Dana's notes constitute about one-fifth of the volume called the eighth edition…"

The Subject Index states: Adams, J.Q.: responsibility for the germ of the Monroe Doctrine, 82 n.; argument of, on fisheries, 287; on "free ships, free goods", 485 et seq. There is no mention whatsoever of Adams in connection with the Amistad.

The Table of Cases, starting on p. xxxiii, mentions, under the letter A, the following ships, among others: the Abby, the Abigail, the Acteon, the Actif, the Adeline, the Admiral, the Adventure, the Africa, the Alabama, the Alerta, the Alexander, the Alexandra, the Alfred, the Amedie, La Amistad de Rue (an unrelated case having nothing to do with the slave trade), the Amy Warwick, the Anna, the Anna Catharina, the Anne, the Antelope, the Antonia Johanna, the Apollo, the Ariadne, the Arrogante Barcelones, the Arthur, the Atrea, the Atalanta, the Athol, and the Aurora.

There is no mention of the Amistad.

(Note: In the following, the terms "prize law", and "prize courts" refer to the wartime crime of blockade running or the recognized legal seizure of enemy vessels and maritime cargoes during wartime.)

"The Amedie and subsequent cases: A careful examination leads to the belief that the case of the Amedie, and those following it, have been misunderstood by the author [i.e., Wheaton], as well as by others. The proceeding [The Amedie], from beginning to end, was one of prize of war solely; and her condemnation had nothing to do with her being engaged in the slave trade… The explanation of the fact, that this case has so almost universally been cited as one of condemnation of a foreign vessel for being engaged in the slave trade, may be found in the peculiarity of the rules which govern courts of prize…The Africa (Acton, ii, i), the Nancy (Ib.2), [1] and the Anne (Ib. 6), were all likewise prize causes; and the capture and condemnation in each were jure belli, and not for being engaged in the slave trade….

"The Fortuna (Dodson, i.81).- This was exclusively a prize cause. The vessel was captured and condemned as a prize of war… the Diana (Dodson, i. 95)… the vessel was held to be Swedish, engaged in the slave trade to a Swedish island; and the court decided that the law of Sweden permitted the trade. The claim was, therefore, one that the court could entertain, within the rule of the Amedie. The court treated the case as one of civil forfeiture only; and, no ground, for that appearing, the property was restored.

"Le Louis (Dodson, ii. 210). This is the case which is treated by Mr. Wheaton and most others as having overruled The Amedie. It was a civil cause for forfeiture, and has no relation to prize law or its presumptions or rules. The grounds taken by the counsel for the captors were, that the vessel was French, and engaged in the slave trade, which was prohibited by French law, and, as argued, by the law of nations; and, further, that the crew had resisted the boarding and search by the king's ship, and killed some of the crew, and were therefore guilty of piracy, and out of the protection of the law of nations.

The court held, that the boarding and search, by the king's cruiser, of a vessel in time of peace, and not on suspicion of piracy jure gentium, but of being engaged in the slave trade, were unjustifiable, and consequently that resistance to them was not piratical; and that the slave trade was not piracy jure gentium, [*] nor prohibited by the law of France [p. 177, Wheaton, 1866 edition, with footnotes by Richard Henry Dana, see above] . Therefore it was clear that the vessel not only could not be decreed forfeited by any British tribunal, but was illegally seized and brought before the court. The original taking was illegal.

"In the Amedie, the visit, search, capture, and bringing in were in the exercise of belligerent right. In The Louis, they were in time of peace, and solely for the purpose of suppressing the slave trade. In The Amedie, the proceedings were in prize, before a prize court, and governed by the law and rules of prize. In The Louis, they were civil, and governed by the law and rules of civil forfeiture. In the Amedie, the condemnation was as prize of war. In The Louis, if the vessel had been condemned, it could have been only for being engaged in the slave trade. In the Amedie, the capture and bringing in were justifiable, and the court had clear jurisdiction. In The Louis, the capture and bringing in were unjustifiable. And the general duty of the court was to restore, if a proper claimant appeared. In the Amedie, the burden on the claimant was to show legal title and a right to receive the property. In The Louis, the burden was on the seizor to show cause for [211] forfeiture. In The Amedie, the claim was rejected because the slave trade, though not universally illegal or privacy jure gentium, was illegal by the law of the claimant's country. In The Louis, the claim was sustained, because the slave trade was neither illegal by the law of nations, * nor by the law of the claimant's country [i.e., France].

"It may be, and probably is, true, that British cruisers made use of the belligerent right of search to deliver slaves, and took advantage of the severe and summary rules of war tribunals to secure the condemnation of their prizes, but this is only saying that they made an undue use of opportunities which the criminality of their antagonists put in their power, and does not touch the law decided.

"The result is, that the precedents, from The Amedie to The Louis, will be found consistent with each other, and with the rules of prize courts, and with the law of nations as to the slave trade." [

The index, under "Slave trade": reads: piracy and, 165; 169ff n.; treaties for abolition of, 169; prohibited by various nations, 169, 170 n.; the treaty of Paris of 1814, 168, 170 n.; course of the United States as to the right of search, 170 n.; the Quintuple Treaty of 1814, conceding the right of search, 170 n.; the Ashburton Treaty, 170 n.; treaty between the United States and Great Britain, 1862, conceding a limited right of search, 170 n.; case of the Amedie, 171, 175 n.; case of the Fortuna, 172, 176 n.; case of the Diana, 173, 176 n.; case of The Antelope, 177, 178; juridical aspects of, 179 n;. opinion of statesmen and jurists on, 180 n.; conventions and practice of nations in regard to, 182 n.

Under "Slaves", the index states: on brig Creole, in British port, 139 n.; extradition of, 157; emancipation of, in United States Civil War, 369, n.; status of captured, during civil war, 370.

The Amistad is not mentioned.

The Sources of Modern International Law, by George A. Finch, published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1937, mentions the Antelope on pp. 26-28. The Amistad is not mentioned.

Fenwick's International Law, 3rd edition, Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc. 1948, mentions Le Louis and the Antelope on pp. 327-8. The Amistad is not mentioned.

International Law, W.E. Hall, 7th edition, Oxford, 1917. No mention.

A Handbook on International Law, T.J. Lawrence, 11 edition, 1938. No mention.

International Law, Oppenheim-Lauterpacht, 5th edition, Longman and Green, 1935. No mention.

Wheaton's International Law, A. Barriedale Keith, vol 2, War, Stevens & Sons, 1944. No mention.

Handbook on International Law, George Grafton Wilson (see above), 3rd edition, Hornbook Series, West Publishing Co., 1939, mentions the Antelope on p. 74, note. 3, and p. 344, note. 1. There is no mention of the Amistad.

QUESTION: Slavery and the slave trade, like piracy, are classic topics of international law. Is it conceivable – can one imagine for an instant -- that a "landmark case", argued before the "Supreme Court of the United States", by a "former President of the United States", and also involving -- or so we are told -- an incumbent President, Martin A. Van Buren, as well as John C. Calhoun, and many other famous people; a case overturning, or at least modifying, the Antelope case – even the nationality of the slave owners is identical -- could be ignored in Richar Henry Dana's extremely detailed notes, in a classic text on international law, written in the United States, in 1866, only 25 years later? Is it conceivable that a "landmark" case at international law could be ignored by all succeeding works on the subject, so far as I know, for over one hundred years, only to become, in retrospect, one hundred and fifty years later, one of the most sensational events of the nineteenth century?

Question: If the Amistad was not deemed worthy of mention in 1911, or in the 1930s, why should the same case be of earth-shaking importance in the 1990s?

One of the cases quoted by Dana, and mentioned in all texts on international law, the Anna (although not always mentioned by name) involved the question of whether the banks of the Mississippi, and therefore the national territory and three-mile limit, began at terra firma, or at the outer reaches of some insignificant mud banks. "… a question arose as to what was to be deemed the shore, since there are a number of little mud islands, composed of earth and trees, drifted down by the river, which form a kind of portico to the main land. It was contended that these were not to be considered as any part of the American territory – that they were a sort of 'no man's land' not of consistency enough to support the purposes of life, uninhabited, and resorted to only for shooting and taking birds' nests. It was argued that the line of territory was to have been taken only from the Balize, which is a fort raised on made-land by the former Spanish possessors. But the learned judge was of a different opinion…" (Wheaton/Dana, pp. 215-6.). The Anna case was, and is, considered to be of crucial importance to international law. But not the Amistad.

The Amistad, therefore, far from being a "landmark" case, was, quite literally a "non-event" until the 1990s.

Nor is the case mentioned in David L. Hoggan's DAS BLINDE JAHRHUNDERT [The Blind Century], although he discusses slavery and abolition at some considerable length. He mentions the Nat Turner Rebellion once, and John Quincy Adams repeatedly, but never the Amistad. DAS BLINDE JAHRHUNDERT is a typical Hoggan production, crammed full of obscure and astonishing information on nearly every topic under the sun, 600 pages long, with a 50-odd page annotated bibliography and hundreds of annotated and highly complicated footnotes and references, etc. etc., but no mention of the Amistad. (He does mention the Virginius, a famous case in maritime international law, involving, once again, Spain, Cuba and the United States; but not the Amistad.) The only reference I have ever seen to the case in a lifetime of reading is in Hugh Thomas's HISTORY OF THE TRANS-ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE, which was not published until 1997.

By my count, approximately 25 books have been written on the Amistad: one in 1840, one in 1941, one in 1942, two in 1953, and about 20 since the beginning of the "Civil Rights" Movement, 4 or 5 of them by Jews, including 4 or 5 admitted works of fiction, screenplays, or novels "based on the screenplay" of the film, produced by Zionist Steven Spielberg.

In actual fact, according to the records, the Amistad was a totally obscure and insignificant decision which changed nothing, and in no way threatened, condemned or advanced slavery in the United States; for that reason, it was hardly noticed for 150 years. Slavery was legal in Cuba until 1886 but the African slave trade was prohibited. Therefore the Africans involved did not have to be returned to their owners, but could be returned to Africa, where they reverted to savagery and where the lives of the missionaries sent to look after them became quite dangerous. Typical lawyer stuff, a technicality.

According to the index of the 1966 Collier's Encyclopedia, the Amistad is mentioned once, in two sentences only, in this 24-volume standard reference work -- not in any of the articles on slavery or abolition, or in any of the biographical articles or articles on the United States, but in the article on the "American Missionary Association", which it describes as "precipitated into action by a slave mutiny on the Amistad off the coast of Cuba in 1839. The Amistad Committee carried the case successfully through the United States Supreme Court, and sent the liberated slaves to a Connecticut school before expatriating and assisting them in opening the first antislavery mission in Africa." Period. Nor does it tell us that Joseph Sinko (aka Cinque) set himself up as a slave trader after he got back to Africa.

Whatever happened on the Amistad in 1839 and/or later, no one thought it worth mentioning for over one hundred years – including the legal writers and specialists, experts on the subject. In view of the intrinsic interest of the case both legally and historically, this seems very strange. Perhaps the moral of the story is that an incident which might arguably be said to illustrate the essential humanitarianism of Christian white Americans, both North and South, will be ignored -- or at least kept within reasonable proportions -- until it can be blown up into earth-shaking proportions in a "Hate Whitey" screen epic produced by a Hoaxoco$t con-artist.

I am waiting for a Hollywood screen epic depicting the Africans slaughtering whole families of missionaries; necklacing, mutilating and torturing each other, raping nurses, nuns, and children; wrecking everything the white humanitarians were ever idiot enough to give them for centuries; and/or Zionists murdering, maiming and crippling the children of Gaza while lecturing the rest of us on "hatred" and "tolerance". Whatever "hatred" is, Jews are the world's foremost practitioners and experts. While I'm waiting -- since it will be forever -- give me EWIGE JUDE.

2001, updated 2006