Wanted: A Lawyer of Stature

Wanted: A Lawyer of Stature

Who could they find to present the case before the Supreme Court?

Tappan and his colleagues wanted a lawyer of stature, for the court at the time included several pro-slavery justices.

They decided to ask John Quincy Adams in Boston, then 73, even though he had not argued a case before the court in 30 years.

Adams was sympathetic but reluctant, because of his age, health and the distance from Washington. But he finall y agreed.

“Justice,” said Adams in his address to the court, “as defined in the Institutes of Justini an, nearly two thousand years ago,

and as it is felt and understood by all who understand human ri ghts, is the constant and perpetual will to secure to everyone his own rights.”

He lamented that it was necessary for him to “arraign before this court and before the civilized world the course of the Administration in this case,”

 and that the entire proceedings of the United States from the beginning were “wrongful. “

A week later, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the distri ct and circuit courts except in regard to the Africans.

It reversed the decision to put them at the President’s disposal,

instead declaring them immedi ately free.

It remained now for the “Friends of the Arnistad” to raise money to charter the bark Gentleman,

to outfit her and to transpo1t the 35 Africans who were still alive to Sierra Leone.

The Mendi Mission was established and, in 1846, its sponsors formalized their organization as the American Missionary Association.

Cinque remained at the mission only a very short time. He was eager to return to his village of Mani and find his wife and children.

They were dead-killed by undetermined marauders-and the village wiped out. Cinque was inconsolable, but he could not leave the area.

In spite of his grief, he began to build an empire in place of the one that had been taken from him.

He eventuall y became one of the principal rulers of his people.

In 1879, as an old man, he made the hazardous trip back to the mission and, after announcing that he had come to die, he passed on.

Of him, it may be said that his truth goes marching on.

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