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Tappan, Lewis (1788-1873) to Theodore Sedgwick

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC05799 Author/Creator: Tappan, Lewis (1788-1873) Place Written: New York, New York Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 3 September 1840 Pagination: 2 p. : address : docket : free frank ; 24.2 x 19.6 cm.

Summary of Content: Tappan, an abolitionist supporting the freedom of the Amistad Africans, discusses a letter from Roger Sherman Baldwin to Sedgwick. States that Mr. B. (Baldwin) requests the advice of Sedgwick and Seth Staples regarding the trial. Refers to Judge T. (possibly Smith Thompson, Judge of the Amistad trial at the Circuit Court level). Writes "We ought to make a powerful onset on the 17th to obtain the liberation of the Africans- and to let the Judge understand explicitly that we expect to carry the point..." Expresses astonishment that President Martin Van Buren has not yet upheld a promise to give instructions to the District Attorney, William S. Holabird, to admit the authenticity of treaties (pertaining to restriction of the Spanish slave trade). States that his brother, United States Senator Benjamin Tappan, will see that Van Buren's promise is redeemed. Relates that Van Buren had written a directive to John Forsyth, Secretary of State, on the back of Lewis's letter to Benjamin. Instructs Sedgwick to read an article in the paper Emancipator signed by "Quere." Writes "I feel a strong desire to try the writ of Habeas Corpus with reference to the Africans. It is a monstrous perversion of justice to retain these poor men for political considerations- monstrous!"

Background Information: Roger Baldwin, Seth Staples, and Theodore Sedgwick comprised the Amistad Africans' defense team.

Full Transcript: N. York, 3d Sept. '40
Theodore Sedgwick, Esq.
Saratoga Springs,
Dear Sir,
Mr. Staples sent me a letter from R. S. Baldwin, esq. to you, dated Sept. 1st about the ...Amistad Africans. I went over to yr office & learned you were at the Springs, & Mr. Staples probably has hardly looked at the letter as he is in the midst of a cause in the court of Chancery.
Mr. B. makes several valuable suggestions - wants advice from you & Mr. Staple, &c - but your clerk promises me that he would send you a copy or abstract of the letter. It appears to me that we ought to make a powerful onset [sic] on the 17th to obtain the liberation of the Africans - and to let the Judge understand explicitly that we expect to carry to point. There is often so much idolatrous reverence of Judges on the part of counsel that a Judge is tempted to swerve from the line of duty if his inclination leads that way. Do not let Judge T[hompson] take such lurches anymore.
Mr. B. writes, to my astonishment, that the directions promised by the President to the Dis[trict] Att[orne]y to admit the authenticity of the Treaties has not been given! I have written to my brother in Ohio on the subject, & if there is any virtue in Locofocoism he will see that the promise is redeemed. Mr. Van Buren wrote [2] a direction to the Sec. of State on the back of my letter to my brother, to write to Mr. Holabird to admit the authenticity &c.
If you receive an Emancipator from me please read an article on the 1st page signed Quere, & see whether the point is sustained. I feel a strange desire to try the writ of Habeas Corpus with reference to the Africans. It is a monstrous perversion of justice to retain these poor men for political considerations - monstrous!

Resp[ectfull]y & truly yours
Lewis Tappan
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People: Tappan, Lewis, 1788-1873
Sedgwick, Theodore, 1811-1859
Staples, Seth Perkins, 1776-1861
Baldwin, Roger Sherman, 1793-1863
Tappan, Benjamin, 1773-1857
Van Buren, Martin, 1782-1862
Holabird, William S., 1794-1855
Forsyth, John, 1780-1841

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Subjects: American Anti-Slavery Society MemberReform MovementAbolitionSlaverySlave TradeAfrican American HistoryAmistadMaritimePresidentGovernment and CivicsLawGlobal History and CivicsForeign AffairsTreatyPoliticsHabeas CorpusPrisonerAfrica

Sub Era: Slavery & Anti-slavery

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