Scene 1: The Africans Revolt [Scene runs from
00:02:00 to 00:05:20. For those with DVDs, it occurs two minutes
into chapter 1.]
In this scene, we see Cinque lead the African revolt on the
slave ship, the Amistad. Cinque displays strength both of mind and
body. He frees himself, and then others, and together they kill
their captors and take over the ship. They leave the two Spaniards,
Ruiz and Montes, alive to sail them back to Africa. Deceiving the
Africans, Ruiz and Montes sail west, toward the US. Later, we learn
that Cinque and the others had been captured by fellow Africans
and sold to white men at the infamous slave fortress in Sierra Leone.
The slave traders then took them to Cuba, where they were sold to
Ruiz and Montes. The Amistad was the ship that these Spaniards were
sailing from Cuba.
Scene 2: Legal Claims [Scene runs from 23:24
to 28:00. For those with DVDs, it begins forty seconds into chapter
In this scene, the first court scene, the various parties present
their claims to the court. District Attorney Holabird, the prosecuting
attorney, represents the government; Mr. Forsyth, Secretary of State
for United States, appears in Court as representative of President
Martin Van Buren, who supports the claims of Queen Isabella of Spain;
the Spanish Ambassador also presents the claims of Queen Isabella.
Sailors from the U.S. naval ship which overtook the Amistad claim
a right to the cargo of the ship (including the Africans) which
they salvaged on the high seas. Finally, the Spanish sailors, Ruiz
and Montes, who purchased the slaves in Cuba, claim legal ownership
of the Africans. Mr. Tappan, an abolitionist, also appears in court
attempting to help the Africans.
Court Officer: Hear ye, hear ye, in the matter
of the District Court of the United States of America, in this,
the year of our Lord, 1839, the honorable Andrew T. Judson presiding.
District Attorney Holabird: If it please your
Judge Judson: The bench recognizes the District
Holabird: I would like to present the Court, Your
Honor, with the charges of piracy and murder against--
Tappan: Your Honor, I have a petition for a writ
of habeas corpus
Holabird: Your Honor, I was speaking.
Tappan: Yes, I know, Mr. Holabird. You were reading
charges which, whatever they might be, will be rendered moot by
Holabird: That petition for a writ, Mr. Tappan--if
indeed that's what it is--is moot, unless and until an actual writ
by some higher court, by some miracle, is granted.
Judge: Mr. Holabird is correct.
Holabird: And if you would sir, while I know it
is your custom, please kindly refrain from impersonating a lawyer,
which you patently are not.
Tappan: As I was saying, Your Honor--
Secretary of State Forsythe: Your Honor.
Judge: Mr. Secretary.
Forsyth: Your Honor, I am here on behalf of the
President, representing the claims of Her Majesty, Queen Isabella
of Spain, as concerns our mutual treaty on the high seas of 1795.
Judge: You have my attention, sir.
Forsyth: Thank you. These slaves, Your Honor,
are the property of Spain, and as such, under Article 9 of said
treaty, are to be returned posthaste. Said treaty taking precedence
over all other claims and jurisdictions.
U.S. Sailor: Them slaves belong to me and my mate,
Your Majesty. Your Honor, I--
Judge: Who be you two gentlemen?
U.S. Sailor: (reading) We, Thomas R.
Gedney and Richard W. Meade, whilst commissioned U.S. Naval officers,
stand before this court as private citizens, and do hereby claim
salvage on the high seas of the Spanish ship, La Amistad, and all
her cargo. Here you go, sir.
Forsythe: Your Honor--
Judge: Do you wish to make this claim above that
of Queen of Spain?
U.S. Sailor: Where was she, pray, when we was
fightin' the winds to bring this vessel in, Your Excellent-- uh,
Spanish Ambassador Calderon: Her Majesty, the
queen of Spain, was busy ruling a country. Your Honor, these officers'
claims are just--
Lawyer: Your honor, here are the true owners of
these slaves. (Camera zooms in on Ruiz and Montes.)
Judge: Order! Order in this court!
Lawyer: On their behalf, I am in possession of
a receipt for purchase (camera zooms in on Baldwin) executed
in Havana, Cuba, June 26, 1839, I do hereby call upon this Court
to immediately surrender these goods, (gavel) and that
ship out there to my clients, Jose Ruiz--
Ruiz: Yo soy Ruiz.
Lawyer: Yosoy Ruiz, and--?
Montes: Pedro Montes.
Lawyer: Pedro Montes.
Camera cuts from the confusion of the courtroom to outside,
where Mr. Tappan is approached by Mr. Baldwin, a real estate attorney
who offers him his services on behalf of the Africans.
Baldwin: Ah, Mr. Tappan, how do you do, sir? My
name is Roger S. Baldwin, attorney at law.
Tappan: Real estate attorney?
Baldwin: Real estate, inventories and other contestable
Tappan: Can I help you with something?
Baldwin: Well I don't know. What is it that you
Tappan: Well, I own various businesses and banks.
Baldwin: Well, as a matter of fact, you probably
could help me, Mr. Tappan. But, that's not why I'm here. You see,
I'd like to help you.
Baldwin: Yes. I deal with property, Mr. Tappan.
And sometimes I get people's property back, other times I get it
taken away; as in this case which is clearly a property issue. You
see, all of the claims here, every single one of them, speaks to
the issue of ownership.
Tappan: Thank you very much, Mr. Baldwin.
Baldwin: Baldwin, Roger S., attorney-at-law.
Tappan: But I am afraid what is needed here is
a criminal attorney. A trial lawyer. But thanks for your interest.
Baldwin: Yes, well, intending no disrespect, Mr.
Tappan, but if that were the way to go, well, then, well, quite
frankly, I wouldn't have bothered coming down here, would I have?
Baldwin: Goodbye. I bid you gentlemen a good afternoon.
Scene 3: "One Task Undone" [Scene
runs from 00:31:00 to 00:32:50. For those with DVDs, it begins three
minutes into ch. 5.]
The scene occurs outside the Capitol, just after a discussion
in the House of Mr. Adams proposal for the establishment of the
Smithsonian. Outside the Capitol, Mr. Adams meets Mr. Tappan and
Mr. Joadson. Mr. Tappan and his fellow abolitionist, the ex-slave,
Mr. Joadson, have come to Washington to solicit Mr. Adams assistance
in the case of the Amistad They consider Mr. Adams an abolitionist
and hope he is sympathetic to their cause. Mr. Adams, though, seems
to have become cynical about politics and uninterested in getting
involved in what seem to be lost causes.
Tappan: Will you help us sir?
Adams: Let go of my arm. Take my stick. (Adams
bends down to pick a flower.)
Tappan: Mr. Adams?
Adams: Yeah? What?
Tappan: As an advocate for the abolition of slavery,
will you help us?
Adams: I'm neither friend nor foe to the abolitionist
cause. No, I won't help you.
Joadson: I know you, Mr. President. I know you
and your presidency as well as any man. And your father's. You were
a child at his side when he helped invent America. And you in turn
have devoted your life to refining that noble invention. (Music)
There remains but one task undone, one vital task, the founding
fathers left to their sons, before their thirteen colonies could
precisely be called United States. And that task, sir, as you well
know, is crushing slavery. Your record confirms you're an abolitionist,
sir, even if you won't. And whether or not you admit it–
Tappan: Mr. Joadson.
Joadson: you belong with us.
Adams: You're quite the scholar, Mr. Joadson,
aren't ya? Quite the historian. Let me tell you something about
that quality, if I might. Without an accompanying mastery of at
least one-tenth its measure of grace, such erudition is worthless,
sir. Now you take it from one who knows. Now, if you gentlemen will
Tappan: We know we aimed high coming to see you,
Adams: Well aim lower! Find yourselves someone
whose inspiration blossoms the more you lose.
Scene 4: "What Are They Worth?" [Scene
runs from 00:32:50 to 00:35:33. For those with DVDs, it begins four
and a half minutes into ch. 5, and follows the previous scene..]
This scene follows the previous scene. Since Adams was not
willing to help, Tappan and Joadson seem to have decided to turn
to Baldwin, the real estate lawyer who volunteered his services
after the first court scene. Baldwin, Joadson, and Tappan are discussing
the merits of the case over a meal. We see something of the various
ways of eliminating slavery and the various sides of the anti-slavery
positions. We are confronted with the issue of principle versus
practice, or the opposition to slavery versus the best way to win
Joadson: If the court awards them to Spain, they'll
be taken to Cuba and executed. If the two lieutenants prevail, they're
most likely to sell them to Spain, and they'll be executed. If Montes
and Ruiz are successful in their campaign, they'll certainly--
Baldwin: I'm a little confused. What are they
worth to you?
Tappan: We're discussing the case, not its expense.
Baldwin: Oh, the case, of course. Well, the case
is much simpler than you think, Mr. Tappan. It's like anything--land,
livestock, heirlooms, what have you.
Baldwin: Yes, sir. Consider. The only way one
may sell or purchase slaves is if they are born slaves, as on the
plantation. I'm right, aren't I?
Baldwin: So are they?
Tappan: "Are they"?
Baldwin: Yes. Born slaves, as on a plantation?
Joadson: No. We're not certain, but we very much
Baldwin: Well, let's say they are, and if they
are, then they are possessions, and no more deserving of a criminal
trial than a bookcase or a plow. Then we can all go home, can't
we? On the other hand, let's say they aren't slaves. Well if they
aren't slaves, then they were illegally acquired, weren't they?
Forget mutiny, forget piracy, forget murder, and all the rest. Those
are subsequent, irrelevant occurrences. Ignore everything but the
preeminent issue at hand. The wrongful transfer of stolen goods.
Either way, we win.
Tappan: Sir, this war must be waged on the battlefield
Baldwin: The what?
Tappan: It would be against everything I stand
for to let this deteriorate into an exercise in the vagaries of
Baldwin: Well I don't know what you're talking
about, Mr. Tappan, but I'm talking about the heart of the matter.
Tappan: As am I. It is our destiny, as abolitionists
and as Christians, to save these people. These are people, Mr. Baldwin,
not livestock. Did Christ hire a lawyer to get him off on technicalities?
He went to the cross, nobly. You know why? To make a statement.
To make a statement, as must we.
Baldwin: But Christ lost. You, I think--
Tappan: No, sir, he did not.
Baldwin: Or at least you, Mr. Joadson, want to
win, don't you?
Baldwin: I certainly do. Hell, sometimes I don't
get paid unless I do. Which brings us back to the earlier question
of worth. Now, in order to do a better job than the attorney who
represented the Son of God, I'll require two and a half dollars
Scene 5: "Who They Are" [Scene runs
from 01:00:22 to 01:04:41. fifteen seconds into ch. 9.]
In this scene, Mr. Joadson goes to Mr. Adams' home in Massachusetts.
The circumstances have changed since the first time they requested
Mr. Adams' advice. Mr. Baldwin has taken the case and the arguments
have been made. Forsythe believes that the jury and the judge were
convinced by Baldwin that the captives of the Amistad were from
Africa and so should be freed. Fearing that they would rule in favor
of the Africans, Forsythe persuades Van Buren to remove the jury
and replace the judge. The new judge, recommended by Forsythe, is
selected by Van Buren in order to make a favorable ruling more likely.
The case will have to be re-argued in front of the new judge. Thus,
Mr. Joadson again asks Mr. Adams for advice, this time more desperately
and more humbly.
Adams: I've been reading in the papers, the continuing
saga of the, uh, Amistad. Real papers.
Joadson: Real papers. Yes, sir.
Adams: Yeah, bad luck, this last unfolding chapter.
What do you do now, eh?
Joadson: Which is precisely why I came to Massachusetts
and imposed on you, sir.
Adams: No imposition, really. Yeah. How did that,
uh, how did that young lawyer take the news?
Joadson: Oh, in stride, sir, in stride. The thing
is, sir, he did everything right. He proved the case.
Adams: Did he?
Joadson: Oh, yes, sir, surprisingly, he did.
Adams: Hmm. Well, he'll just have to do it again,
then, now won't he? But like most things, it should be easier the
second time around.
Joadson: Well, I'm afraid it doesn't matter what
he does now, sir. Rumor has it our next judge was handpicked by
Van Buren himself.
Joadson: Well, I'm embarrassed to admit that I
was under the misconception that our executive and judicial branches
Adams: No more so than these, Mr. Joadson. No
more so than these. (Indicating the plants) So now you
Joadson: Yes. Sir?
Joadson: Mr. President, if it was you handling
Adams: Well it isn't me, and thank God for that.
Joadson: But if it was, sir,
Joadson: What would you do?
Adams: (Taking care to put a plant in the
light) Well, when I was an attorney, uh, a long time ago, young
man, I, uh, realized after much trial and error that in a courtroom,
whoever tells the best story wins. In unlawyer-like fashion, I give
you that scrap of wisdom free of charge.
Joadson: I'm much obliged for your time, sir.
Adams: What is their story, by the way?
Adams: What is their story?
Joadson: Why, they're, um, from West Africa. .
Adams: No. What is their story?
Joadson: Uh. . .
Adams: Mr. Joadson, you're from where originally?
Joadson: Why, Georgia, sir.
Joadson: Yes, sir.
Adams: Does that pretty much sum up what you are?
A Georgian? Is that you're story? No. You're an ex-slave who's devoted
his life to the abolition of slavery, and overcoming great obstacles
and hardships along the way, I should imagine. That's your story,
[Joadson blinks and nods in agreement and understanding.]
Adams: You and this young so-called lawyer have
proven you know what they are. They're Africans. Congratulations.
What you don't know--and as far as I can tell--haven't bothered
in the least to discover, is who they are.
(Joadson looks down.)
Adams: Right? [Moves plant into light again]
Scene 6: Two Brave and Excellent Men [Scene
runs from 01:54:17 to 01:56:05. For those with DVDs, it begins chapter
Baldwin has won the case, in spite of the fact that the case
was decided by a judge picked by Van Buren and expected to rule
against the Africans. Following Adams' advice, Baldwin and Joadson
are able to "tell the story" of the Africans. They managed
to find an African who speaks Mende, Covey. Covey translates between
Cinque and Baldwin. At the same time, Cinque as well as other of
the Mende are beginning to better understand English. There is much
celebration when the case is won; however, all is not over. The
government has appealed the case to the Supreme Court. In light
of this, Baldwin writes a letter, another appeal for help, to Mr.
Baldwin: "To His Excellency, John Quincy
Adams, Massachusetts member, House of Representatives,
"I have understood from Mr. Joadson that you are acquainted
with the plight of the Amistad Africans. If that is true then you
are aware that we have been at every step successful in our presentation
of their case. Yet despite this, and despite the unlikelihood of
President Van Buren's reelection, he has appealed our most recent
favorable decision to the highest court in the land. As I am sure
you are well aware, seven of nine of these Supreme Court Justices
are themselves Southern slave owners.
[Camera cuts to John Quincy Adams in his greenhouse, with Baldwin
reading the letter as voice over.]
"Sir, we need you. If ever there was a time for a man to cast
aside his daily trappings and array himself for battle, that time
has come. Cicero once said, appealing to Claudius in defense of
the Republic, that the whole result of this entire war depends on
the life of one most brave and excellent man. In our time, in this
instance, I believe it depends on two. A courageous man, at present
in irons in New Haven, named Cinque, and you, sir.
[Adams crumbles the letter that we saw Baldwin begin to write
at the beginning of this scene.]
"Sincerely, Roger S. Baldwin, Attorney-at-Law."
Scene 7: Cinque Wants to Know [Scene runs from
1:59:47 to 2:07:50. For those with DVDs, it begins twenty seconds
into ch. 18 and runs until the end of ch. 19.]
Adams has agreed to help the Africans when their case goes
to the Supreme Court. In a brief scene, several of Van Buren's advisors
discuss the upcoming case. They clearly regard Adams' participation
in a comic light, for he is "a pathetic ex-President,"
who will be remembered, if at all, only for his middle name. In
this next scene, Adams and Baldwin are preparing the case, and Covey
comes with questions from Cinque.
Covey (translator): Sir?
Covey: Cinque has asked me to ask you whether
you have thought about the question of jurisdiction.
Covey: That since they took over the ship far
out to sea, and since neither Spain nor America owns the sea, how
is it that the treaty applies?
Adams: Tell him the treaty recognizes no jurisdictional
limitations. (Adams turns back to his work, but Covey remains
standing. Adams, aware of his presence, looks up.) Well?
Covey: He will ask me why.
Adams: Because I said so.
[Camera cuts to Cinque's cell, and we see Cinque and Covey
talking in Mende. Covey returns to Adams.]
Covey: Excuse me, sir.
Covey: Cinque would like to know that if he is
the legal property of Ruiz and Montes, then how does the treaty
apply, since it is between America and Spain?
Adams: Or their citizens. "Or their citizens"
is included in the language, if he must know.
Covey: Thank you, sir. (Covey leaves.)
Adams: (to Baldwin) Good point, though.
(Again, in Cinque's cell, Cinque and Covey talk in Mende. Covey
returns to Adams.)
Covey: Does Great Britain have any treaties with
West Africa, which may override those between Spain and America?
Covey: Does Great Britain have any treaties with
America, which might override those between Spain and--
Covey: Does the American government have any treaties
with West Africa?
Covey: Does Spain have any treaties with West
Covey: Does the Commonwealth of Connecticut have
any treaties with West Africa?
Adams: No, no, no, no! Now stop this!
(Cinque, in chains, is brought to Adams.)
Adams: Unshackle him.
Guard: I'm sorry, sir. I'm under strict orders
to insure the--
Adams: Unshackle him. Please.
Guard: Yes, Mr. President.
(They walk into an adjoining greenhouse.)
Adams: This is a phalaenopsis, a moth orchid,
I brought over from China. And this is a primrose from an English
garden. And, uh, this spear lily, from the south of France.
(Cinque speaks softly in Mende.)
Adams: This is my rose Blush Noisette. This came
all the way from, uh, Washington, D.C., but don't tell anyone.
(Cinque spies a plant under glass and goes to lift the glass.)
Adams: Go on, go on.
(Cinque speaks in Mende.)
Adams: African violet. I can't tell you how difficult
that was to come by.
(Cinque sniffs the plant)
(In the house)
Adams: Now, you understand, you're going to the
Supreme Court. Do you know why?
(Cinque speaks in Mende.)
Covey (translating for Adams): It is the
place where they finally kill us.
Adams: No. (Chuckling)Well, yes, that
may be true, too. (Laughing, coughing.) That's not what
I meant. No, there is another reason, and a more important reason;
although I'll admit that, uh, perhaps more so to us than you.
(Covey begins to translate.)
Adams: (to Covey) All right, don't--
(indicating "do not translate") Cinque, do you
know who I am? Has anyone told you about me?
Covey (translating Cinque in Mende):
Adams: What have they told you.
Covey: (translating Cinque in Mende)
That you are a chief.
Adams: I was a chief, yes.
Covey: (translating Cinque in Mende)
A chief cannot become anything less than a chief, even in death.
Adams: Oh, how I wish such were true here, Cinque.
You've no idea. One tries to govern wisely, strongly. One tries
to govern in a way that betters the lives of one's villagers. One
tries to kill the lion. Unfortunately, one isn't always wise enough
or strong enough. Time passes, and the moment is gone. Now, listen,
Cinque. Listen. We're about-- We're about to bring your case before
the highest Court in our land. We're about to do battle with a lion
that is threatening to rip our country in two. Eh? And all we have
on our side is a rock. Of course, you didn't ask to be at the center
of this, uh, historic conflagration any more than I did, but we
find ourselves here nonetheless, by some, uh, mysterious mix of
circumstances, and, uh, all the world watching. So, uh, what are
we to do, huh?
Cinque (in Mende): Is he going
to help? He has far many more questions than answers.
Adams: What'd he just say?
Covey: I-I-I-- Sorry, I didn't catch it.
Adams: Cinque, look. I'm being honest with you.
Anything less would be disrespectful. I'm telling you, I'm preparing
you, I suppose I'm explaining to you that the test ahead of us is
an exceptionally difficult one.
Covey: (translating Cinque in Mende)
We won't be going in there alone.
Adams: Alone? Indeed not. No. We have right at
our side. We have righteousness at our side. We have Mr. Baldwin
Covey: (translating Cinque in Mende)
I meant my ancestors. I will call into the past, far back to the
beginning of time, and beg them to come and help me at the judgment.
I will reach back and draw them into me. And they must come, for
at this moment, I am the whole reason they have existed at all.
Scene 8: Who We Are [Scene runs from 02:07:51
to 02:18:31. For those with DVDs, it begins ch. 20 and ends ch.
Adams speaks before the nine Justices of the Supreme Court.
Adams: Your Honors. I derive much consternation
from the fact that my colleague, Mr. Baldwin, here, has argued the
case in so able and so complete a manner, as to leave me scarcely
anything to say.
However, why are we here? How is it that a simple, plain, property
issue should now find itself so ennobled as to be argued before
the Supreme Court of the United States of America? I mean, do we
fear the lower courts, which found for us easily, somehow missed
the truth? Is that it? Or is it, rather, our great and consuming
fear of civil war that has allowed us to heap symbolism upon a simple
case that never asked for it? And now would have us disregard truth,
even as it stands before us, tall and proud as a mountain.
The truth, in truth, has been driven from this case like a slave,
flogged from court to court, wretched and destitute. And not by
any great legal acumen on the part of the opposition, I might add.
But through the long, powerful arm of the executive office. Yea,
this is no mere property case, gentlemen. I put it to you thus,
this is the most important case ever to come before this Court.
Because what it in fact concerns is the very nature of man.
(Walks over to desk and picks up some papers) Uh, these
are, um, these are transcriptions of letters written between our
Secretary of State, John Forsyth, and the Queen of Spain, Isabella
the Second. Now I ask that you accept their perusal as part of your
deliberations. (Hands the papers to a court clerk) Thank
you, sir. I would not touch on them now, except to notice a curious
phrase which is much repeated. The queen again and again refers
to our incompetent courts. Now what, I wonder, would be more to
her liking? Eh? A court that finds against the Africans? Well, I
think not. And here is the fine point of it. What Her Majesty wants
is a court that behaves just like her courts, the courts this eleven-year-old
child plays with in her magical kingdom called Spain. A court that
will do what it is told. A court that can be toyed with like a doll.
A court, as it happens, of which our own president, Martin Van Buren,
would be most proud. (Walks back to his desk, where Baldwin
hands him some papers; to Baldwin) Thank you.
Uh, this is a publication of the office of the president. It's
called the "Executive Review," and I'm sure you all read
it; at least I'm sure the president hopes you all read it. This
is a recent issue, and there's, uh, an article in here written by
"a keen mind of the South," who (my former Vice President,
John Calhoun, perhaps? Could it be?) who asserts that "there
has never existed a civilized society in which one segment did not
thrive upon the labor of another. As far back as one chooses to
look, to ancient times, to Biblical times, history bears this out.
In Eden, where only two were created, even there, one was pronounced
subordinate to the other. Slavery has always been with us, and is
neither sinful nor immoral. Rather, as war and antagonism are the
natural states of man, so, too, slavery, as natural as it is inevitable."
Well, gentlemen, I must say I differ with the keen minds of the
South, and with our president, who apparently shares their views,
offering that the natural state of mankind is instead--and I know
this is a controversial idea--is freedom. Is freedom. (Camera
focuses on Joadson.)And the proof is the length to which a
man, woman, or child will go to regain it, once taken. He will break
loose his chains. He will decimate his enemies. He will try, and
try, and try, against all odds, against all prejudices, to get home.
[chapter 21] Cinque, would you, stand up, if you would,
so everyone can see you. This man is black. We can all see that.
But can we also see as easily that which is equally true? That he
is the only true hero in this room? Now if he were white, he wouldn't
be standing before this court, fighting for his life. If he were
white and his enslavers were British, he wouldn't be able to stand,
so heavy the weight of the medals and honors we would bestow upon
him. Songs would be written about him. The great authors of our
times would fill books about him. His story would be told, and retold
in our classrooms. Our children, because we would make sure of it,
would know his name as well as they know Patrick Henry's.
Yet, if the South is right, what are we to do with that embarrassing,
annoying document, the "Declaration of Independence"?
What of its conceits? (Walks over to a copy of the Declaration
on the wall, and "reads") "All men created equal,"
"inalienable rights," "life, liberty," and so
on and so forth? What on earth are we to do with this? I have a
modest suggestion. (Tears in half the paper--the "Executive
Review"--which he has been carrying around, and tosses the
torn paper on the desk of Mr. Holabird]
The other night I was talking with my friend, Cinque. He was over
at my place, and, uh, we were out in the greenhouse together. And
he was explaining to me how when a member of the Mende--that's his
people--how when a member of the Mende encounters a situation where
there appears no hope at all, he invokes his ancestors. Tradition.
See, the Mende believe that if one can summon the spirit of one's
ancestors, then they have never left, and the wisdom and strength
they fathered and inspired will come to his aid.
James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, (walking over to the busts
of the Founders, near the Declaration) Benjamin Franklin, Thomas
Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams. (Pauses) We have
long resisted asking you for guidance. Perhaps we have feared in
doing so, we might acknowledge that our individuality, which we
so, so revere, is not entirely our own. Perhaps we're feared an--
an appeal to you might be taken for weakness. Be we have come to
understand, finally, that this is not so. We understand now, (turns
toward where Cinque would be in the courtroom) we've been made
to understand, (camera focuses on Cinque), and to embrace
the understanding, that who we are is who we were. We desparately
need your strength and wisdom to triumph over our fears, our prejudices,
ourselves. Give us the courage to do what is right. And if it means
civil war, then let it come. And when it does, may it be, finally,
the last battle of the American Revolution. That's all I have to
Scene 9: The Ruling [Scene runs from 02:19:10
to 02:23:33. For those with DVDs, it begins ch. 22.]
In this scene, we hear the ruling of the Supreme Court, in
favor of the Africans. After the Chief Justice speaks, we see, not
the ecstatic celebrations of the Africans, as after the previous
favorable decision, but a touching scene involving the mutual deep
regard, gratefulness, and well-wishing between the Americans--Adams,
Joadson, and Baldwin--and Cinque.
Supreme Court Chief Justice: (Reading)
"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 9 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 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."
(Gavel; Cinque's hands are freed. Adams slowly rises and turns
Cinque (Covey translating, to Adams): What
did you say to them?
Cinque (Covey translating): What words
did you use to persuade them?
Adams: Hmm. Yours.
(Cinque takes Adams hand; they shake. Adams walks away. Joadson
approaches Cinque, and shakes his hand. )
Cinque (putting he piece of ivory from his
wife into Joadson's hand, with Covey translating): To keep
(Camera cuts to Baldwin's office. Baldwin is packing his papers,
when he notices Cinque behind him and turns. Cinque offers Baldwin
his hand. Baldwin puts his hand out to shake, and Cinque shakes
Cinque (in English, with accent): Thank
(Baldwin shakes Cinque's hand, Mende-style, putting it to his
Baldwin: (Speaks to Cinque in Mende)
Scene 10: The Return Home [Scene runs from 02:26:48
to 02:27:18. For those with DVDs, it begins just over three minutes
into ch. 23.]
A voice over tells us that Van Buren was defeated by William
henry Harrison. Camera cuts to the dynamiting of the slave fortress,
with a British captain reporting the event to the US Secretary of
State. Camera shows briefly fighting during the American Civil War.
A voice over tells us that Queen Isabella's hope of compensation
collapses with the Confederacy's defeat in Atalanta in 1864. We
see Cinque and the other Africans aboard ship sailing for home.
Voice over: Cinque returned to Sierra Leone to
find his own people engaged in civil war. His village was destroyed
and his family gone. It is believed that they were sold into slavery.