- The Creole Incident -
November 7, 1841
About the time the Amistad case was being resolved by the Supreme Court, the Creole incident occured. This time it was a group of slaves who, being transported to New Orleans from Hamptom Roads, killed the CREOLE's captain and took control of the ship.
Unlike the men aboard the AMISTAD, those on the CREOLE set sail for Nassau in the British Bahamas. Under British law they were immediately set free and their freedom restored. All except those arrested for mutiny and the death of the ships captain.
Secretary of State Daniel Webster, representing the U.S. government, pressed the British government for the return of the slaves arguing that the slaves were aboard a United States registered ship and not subject to British law. As such, the slaves were the “property” of U.S. citizens and must therefore be returned. Representative Joshua Giddings countered by introducing a resolution in the House of Representatives which said in fact that the slaves had not violated any U.S. laws in the act of regaining their freedom.
Giggings argued that the institution of slavery was legally enacted by the States and not the federal government. Therefore, slavery, technically and from his legal point of view of federal law, did not exist and was not therefore the province of the federal government.
For his efforts, representative Giddings was censured by the House of Representatives from which he subsuquently resigned. Fortunately he was reelected to office.
The British never returned the former slaves, and the dispute faded into history after the Anglo-American commission payed an indemnity to the U.S. government. In effect paying the former “owners” for the looss of their, “property.”
source: Twain Times