Joseph Cinquez, leader of the Amistad rebellion. Lithograph from 1839, created by Moses Yale Beach, from a
drawing ascribed to either James or Isaac Sheffield. This portrait appeared in
The New York Sun, which described Cinquez as a "brave Congolese chief . . . who
now lies in jail in arms at New Haven, Conn., awaiting his trial for daring for
freedom." The text quotes Cinquez saying, "Brothers, we have done that which we
proposed . . . I am resolved it is better to die than be a white man's slave."
Library of Congress.
Two other legal events involving the rights of black
rebels—the Amistad case in 1839 and the mutiny on the slave
ship Creole in 1842—garnered far more public attention than Jesup’s proclamation. But the emancipated status of the
Black Seminoles remained a bitter topic of debate in
Congress through the 1840s and early 1850s. Minutiae from
these debates appeared in The North Star and other
important abolitionist publications. Antislavery newspapers
even went so far as to print detailed transcripts of
Congressional debates on Black Seminole-related topics like the status of Louis Pacheco,
an ally of the maroons accused of betraying the Dade party in
A common theme to all of these debates was the right to emancipate slaves under the war powers.
In 1848, members of the House Committee on Claims took up
the war powers argument in discussions over Seminole war
claims for lost slaves. The question surfaced again in 1848
when the U.S. Attorney General ruled on the Black Seminoles’
status out west—the ruling that precipitated John Horse’s
flight to Mexico.
Sources: The National Era March 9, 1848 2.62: 37, The North Star February 2,
1849, Sprague Origin 309. Giddings Exiles 209,
243-44, 326-27, The National Era March 9, 1848 2.62: 37,
December 28, 1848 2.104: 207, April 22, 1852 6.277: 66, The
North Star, February 2, 1849.
Part 4, Freedom: l