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AfriGeneas Genealogy and History Forum

Legal and Historical Irony

(I found this snippet while browsing antebellum Georgia newspapers online.)
Southern editors in January 1841 sneeringly reprinted reports on the travels of Kentucky-born abolitionist newspaper editor, James G. Birney (who had been the 1840 presidential candidate for the anti-slavery Liberty Party). With the trial of the captives who had siezed La Amistad in 1839 was still fresh in Americans' minds -- the pro-slavery Richmond Whig paper deemed Cinque and his fellow Africans "murderers" -- Birney told an audience in Ireland that, although the trial judge supported the murder prosecution, a more favorable reception awaited the Africans on appeal to the Supreme Court:

"Mr. Birney said . . . The Chief Justice of America, an Irishman and a Roman Catholic, who resided in the slave city of Baltimore had, years ago, manumitted his slaves and was universally known as the friend of the man of colour; his name was Roger B. Taney; and those negroes would yet be tried before him (cheers)."

Lnk (article is in column 5)

Of course, we know that the Taney court would rule in favor of freedom for the self-freed Amistad Africans; but, sixteen years later Taney would erase that benign legacy with his infamous Dred Scott decision.

Taney's rulings on these slavery issues are discussed in this online article:
"Amistad, Dred Scott and the court," by Nicholas Varga
http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1998-02-13/news/1998044039_1_amistad-slavery-dred-scott


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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