United States of America
To the honorable Andrew T. Judson. Esqr. judge of the District Court of the United States for the District of Connecticut.
The several pleas of Cinque, Burnah 1, Capree, Dammah, Fourrie 1st, Shumah, Fowlick, Conoma, Choolay, Burnah 2nd, Bach, Cabbah, Poomah, Kimbo, Piea [?], Bang ye ah, Saah, Carlee, Parle, Morrah, Yahome, Nahquoi, Quato, Sesse, Con, Fourri 2, Kennah, Lammane, Fajanah, Faah, Yahboy, Laguanuah, Berrie, Fawnci, Chockanaw, Gabbo, Carre, Teme, Kene, Mahpra – Africans now in the custody of the Marshall of said District under color of process issued from this Honorable Court on the 29th day of August 1839, against the Schooner Armistad and the articles of personal property on board of her then lying in the harbor of New London in said district, on the libel of Thomas R. Gedney, a Lieut in the United States Navy, commanding the United States Brig Washington, in the service of the United States in the coast survey, & on behalf of Richard W. Meade, a Lieut on board said Brig & the officers and crew thereof & all others interested or credited claiming salvage to be awarded them by this Honorable Court as for a meritorious service in searching and securing the respondents & holding them as slaves to certain Spaniards belonging to the Island of Cuba, named in said Libel;
And also under process of this Honorable Court issued and served at Hartford on the 18th day of September 1839, while the respondents were in custody of the Marshall of said District as aforesaid, & within the body of the County of Hartford & within said District & State of Connecticut – and that this libel & claim of Wm S Hollabird Esq. District attorney of the United States for the District of Connecticut and on the libels respectively of Pedro Montez & Jose Ruis:
The said Respondents severally, by protestations not confessing or acknowledging any of the matters & things in said several (inserted) libels to be true, as therein alleged, for plea thereto respectively say -
That they are severally natives of Africa and were born free, and ever since have been, and still of right are and ought to be free, and not slaves, as in said several libels pretended, or surmised
– that they were never domiciled in the Island of Cuba, or the dominion of the Queen of Spain, or subject to the laws thereof; – that on or about the 15th day of April 1839 they and each of them were, in the land of their nativity, unlawfully kidnapped & forcibly and wrongfully carried on board of a certain vessel, near the coast of Africa then & there unlawfully engaged in the slave trade, by certain persons to them unknown, and were thence in said vessel contrary to the will of these respondents, unlawfully transported to the Island of Cuba for the unlawful purpose of being there sold as slaves, and were then illegally landed for the purpose aforesaid: -
That Jose Ruis, one of said Libellants, well knowing all the premises, and confederating with the persons by whom the Respondents were unlawfully held as aforesaid and intending to deprive them of their liberty made a pretended purchase of the said respondents, except (illegible) Carre, Teme, Kemi, and Mahgra [?], and that the said Pedro Montez , well knowing the premises and confederating in like manner with the said persons for the purpose aforesaid, made a pretended purchase the said: Carre, Teme, Kemi, and Mahgra [?]; - that said pretended purchases were made from fr persons who had no right whatever to the Respondents or any of them, and were null and void, and conferred no title on the said Ruis or Montez. or right of control over the Respondents or either of them.
That afterward on or about the 28th day of June 1839, the said Ruis and Montez, confederating with each other, and with one Raymon Ferrer, now deceased, Capt of said Schooner Armistad, caused the Respondents severally without law or right to be placed by force on board of said Schooner, to be transported with said Ruis & Montez to service place unknown to these Respondents, and there severally enslaved for life.
That the respondents, being treated on board said vessel by said Ruis & Montez, & the Capt, & crew thereof with great cruelty and oppression, and being of right free as aforesaid, were incited by the love of liberty natural to all men, and by the desire of returning to their families and kindred, to take possession of said vessel, while navigating the high seas as aforesaid near the Island of Cuba, as they had right to do, with the intent to return therein to their native country, or to seek an asylum in some free State where Slavery did not exist, in order that they might enjoy their liberty under the protection of its government.
That this said Schooner, on or about the 26h day August, 1839, arrived in the possession of the Respondents at Culloden point near Montauk & was there Anchored within about ¾ths of a mile of the shore and within the Territorial jurisdiction of the State of New York; - that the Respondents Jingua, Camferi, Carlee, Dammah, Baboo, Shumah [?], Nabguoi, Inalte, Con, Fajanah, Berrie, Gabbo, Foola & Teme, while said Schooner lay at anchor as aforesaid, went on shore within said State of New York to procure provisions and other necessaries, and while there, within the jurisdiction of a free state where slavery does not exist, and under the protection of its laws, the respondents were severally seized, as well those who were on shore as aforesaid, as those who were on board of & in possession of said schooner, and were by the said Lieutenant Gedney, his officers & crew of said United States Brig Washington, forcibly & unlawfully taken at the instance of said Spaniards, Ruis & Montez with intent to keep & secure them as slaves for the said Ruis & Montez respectively & to obtain an award of salvage therefore from this Honorable Court, as for a meritorious act; - that for that purpose the said Respondents, were by said Lieut Gedney and his crew forcibly & unlawfully withdrawn from the jurisdiction [illegible] limits of the State & District of New York where they were seized as aforesaid, & brought to the port of New London in the District of Connecticut, where they were taken into the custody of the Marshall on process issuing on the Libel of Lieut. Gedney as aforesaid, & were by said Marshal confined in the gaol [jail?] in the city of New Haven in said District, & subsequently in the gaol [jail?] in the city of Hartford and were while so confined within this body of said District & State of Connecticut, subjected to the further process of this Honorable Court on the several libels & claims subsequently filed as aforesaid.
Wherefore the Respondents severally say that neither by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or any Treaty pursuant thereto, nor by the law of nations doth it pertain to this Honorable Court to exercise any jurisdiction over the persons of these respondents or any of them by reason of any of the proceedings aforesaid – and they severally pray to be hence disrupted, and suffered to be and remain as they of right ought to be free & at liberty from this process of this Honorable Court aforesaid under which, or under color of which they are holders as aforesaid.
By Staples & Baldwin
[Court information written on the back]
Thomas R. Gedney [illegible]
Thomas Armistad [illegible]
File in [illegible].