JOSEPH CINQUé Biography - Royalty, Rulers & leaders


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Joseph Cinque (ca. 1813-ca. 1879) was a West African who led a slave mutiny on           
the Cuban Amistad ship in 1839. It led to a celebrated trial in United States           
courts, which held that slaves escaping from illegal bondage should be treated           
as free men.                                                                             
Joseph Cinque was born the son of a Mende headman in the village of Mani, in             
modern Sierra Leone. A rice farmer and trader, he was enslaved for debt and sold         
to the notorious Spanish slaver Pedro Blanco, on Lomboko Island at the mouth of         
the Gallinas River, in April 1839. Cinque was then carried to Havana, where he           
was resold with 51 others, many of them Mendians, and shipped aboard the                 
coasting schooner Amistad bound for the Cuban sugar plantations near the port of         
Guanaja, Puerto Principe.                                                               
On June 30 Cinque incited the slaves to revolt at sea, killing the captain and           
cook and taking prisoner their owners, two merchants named Ruiz and Montez.             
Cinque tried to force Montez to pilot the vessel to Africa, but Montez reversed         
the course repeatedly, zigzagging up the North American coast. They were                 
captured off Montauk Point, Long Island, by the U.S. Coast Guard vessel                 
Washington and were brought to New London, where the ship, cargo, and rebellious         
slaves were claimed for salvage money, while Ruiz and Montez sought to regain           
possession of them.                                                                     
President Van Buren and Secretary of State John Forsyth, sympathetic to the             
slaveholders' claims and pressured by the Spanish government, tried to remove           
the case from the courts and transport the Africans to Cuba. But the Connecticut         
courts would not release them, and the plight of Cinque and his companions,             
jailed in New Haven, aroused abolitionist forces led by the New York merchant           
Lewis Tappan.                                                                           
Cinque's heroic figure and commanding personality lent itself to the drama, and         
he was widely lionized as a symbol of the abolitionist cause. The abolitionists         
argued that the Africans, illegally enslaved, were justified in revolting to             
regain freedom and were innocent of any true crime in killing their captors to           
achieve freedom. In a dramatic appeal before the Supreme Court in 1841, the 73-year-old 
former president John Quincy Adams charged the Federal government with wrongful         
interference in the courts and obstruction of justice through partiality for             
slaveholders and antipathy toward blacks. The Court's decision, given on March 9,       
1841, went for the abolitionists and set the Africans free.                             
Tappan and his associates then intended to found an African mission, using               
Cinque's party as a nucleus. Once in Sierra Leone, however, the not ungrateful           
but independent-minded Africans clashed with their mentors and soon deserted the         
enterprise. Cinque established himself as an independent power and became,               
according to rumors, a successful slave trader himself. Years later, in 1879, he         
was reported to have reappeared, to die and be buried at the old mission on             
Sherbro Island.