The American slave trade had been outlawed for over a decade when the little-known Antelope incident--reconstructed here in...

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THE ANTELOPE: The Ordeal of the Recaptured Africans in the Administration of James Monroe and John Quincy Adams

The American slave trade had been outlawed for over a decade when the little-known Antelope incident--reconstructed here in a seamless chronology emphasizing litigation around the case--brought 258 captured Africans to Georgia in 1819. The Antelope was a slaver flying a Spanish flag but actually owned by Rhode Islanders. Seized after intricate dealings with other slavers and privateers whose various nationalities became juridically decisive, the Antelope's captain could have been executed under US law. Two years later, the Supreme Court upheld his acquittal by Georgia federal judges beholden to the illicit traders. For six more years, the question remained of what to do with the slaves, 140 of whom were finally deported as freedmen to Liberia--and 37 condemned to American slavery because they had come from foreign ships! Meanwhile, the federal marshal in Savannah had brutally worked all the blacks. President Monroe tried to stay out of this business; his successor, John Quincy Adams, later regretted not having insisted that the slaves be freed under existing legislation aimed at just such cases. The Colonization Society, represented by Francis Scott Key, argued that all the slaves in question should be dispatched to Africa, while the US Attorney General, according to Noonan, had at one point been bribed by the Portuguese ambassador but then fought Iberian claims to the slaves. Noonan, a law professor, has certainly provided legal connoisseurs with a dramatic series of clashes; in terms of history, the Africans' ordeal is secondary to the cross-section of political views.

Pub Date: July 11, 1977

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Univ. of California Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1977