Roger Baldwin was a Yale-educated forty-six-year old New Haven lawyer with a reputation for defending the unfortunate when he was asked to represent the Africans of the Amistad. He first became associated with abolitionist causes in 1831 when he confronted a mob seeking to block construction of a training school for negroes in New Haven.
Baldwin was joined on the Amistad defense team by Theodore Sedgwick and Seth Staples, who would later found the Yale Law School. Baldwin's principal legal goal was to win the freedom of the Africans, and the arguments he stressed were those he thought most likely to produce success. Often these were narrow, property-law based arguments rather than moralistic, broad-based attacks on slavery itself. Baldwin, however, did argue that Ruiz and Montes were the criminals, not the Africans who fought for their freedom, and that the two Cubans "deserve the penalty of death for piracy."
Baldwin and John Quincy Adams both argued the Africans' cause before the U. S. Supreme Court, but it was Baldwin's arguments that the Court found convincing. Upon learning of the Court's 7 to 1 vote to recognize the status of the Africans as free persons, Baldwin expressed pleasure at "the glorious result of our cause."
Baldwin, whose mother was the daughter of Roger Sherman, a signer
of the Declaration of Independence and a key player in the Constitutional
Convention of 1787, went on to an illustrious political career of his own.
Baldwin was elected Governor of Connecticut, and later represented his
state in the United States Senate.
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