Martin van Buren photo

Special Message

March 31, 1840

To the House of Representatives of the United States:

I communicate to the House of Representatives a report** from the Secretary of State, with documents, containing the information called for by their resolution of the 23d instant.


**Relating to the demand of the minister of Spain for the surrender of the schooner Amistad , with Africans on board, detained by the American brig of war Washington . etc.

APP Note:  The Report forwarded by President Van Buren was published as House Document 185, 26th Cong., 1st Sess.  The Amistad case involved an instance when 53 Africans captured from Sierra Leone by slavers, seized control of the ship Amistad, killing crew members and demanding to be sailed back to Africa. This was in June 1839.  Instead, they were sailed north and eventually captured by the US Navy off of Long Island in August 1839.  A lengthy legal process ensued about whether to extradite the Africans to Cuba, where they had been put on board the Amistad.  There was eventually a trial in the US Supreme Court with the case being decided in January 1841.

Martin van Buren, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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