One of the few movies that made an impression on me, was the ” Amistad “.
The Amistad is a true story of a ship by the same name that arrived on American soil, carrying with it Africans to be sold as slaves. These particular Africans were kidnapped and kept at a slave fortress on the coast of Sierra Leone, before being sold into slavery. On reaching American soil, they managed to fight a legal battle for their freedom, and the courts ruled in their favour thus :
“If the contest were about any goods on board of this ship, to which American citizens asserted a title, which was denied by the Spanish claimants, there could be no doubt of the right of such American citizens to litigate their claims before any competent American tribunal, notwithstanding the treaty with Spain. A fortiori, the doctrine must apply where human life and human liberty are in issue; and constitute the very essence of the controversy. The treaty with Spain never could have intended to take away the equal rights of all foreigners, who should contest their claims before any of our Courts, to equal justice; or to deprive such foreigners of the protection given them by other treaties, or by the general law of nations.”
But surprisingly, the Defence counsel for the ‘slave-owners’ claimed that there was no systematic abduction of these Africans, and the slave-fortress in Sierra Leone was a myth , and did not exist, despite the witness account of several American naval officers, who had been to the coast of Sierra Leone and seen the fortress. Therefore, Defence Counsel claimed, these people should be treated as illegal immigrants and thus owed the ‘slave-owners’ their livelihood and benefited from the arrangement.
This appalling statement was provided an appropriate answer by a Naval Captain , who later sailed to Sierra Leone, attacked the slave-fortress using cannons and destroyed it.
After reducing the slave-fortress to rubble , His closing statement to one of his sailors is one of the best examples of the metaphorical slap-in-the-face :
“Private”, he said , “Write a letter to the Defence Counsel – “Dear Sir, You are correct. As of this date, the slave-fortress at Sierra Leone, indeed , does not exist.” (wicked smile).
Beautifully done… I say.