Friday, February 10, 2017


In February 1840, former President John Quincy Adams began his oral arguments in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Amistad.

Adams spoke to the court highlighting that it was a part of the judicial branch and not part of the executive. He introduced copies of correspondence between the Spanish government and the Secretary of State and criticized President Martin Van Buren for his assumption of unconstitutional powers in the case: 

"This review of all the proceedings of the Executive I have made with utmost pain, because it was necessary to bring it fully before your Honors, to show that the course of that department had been dictated, throughout, not by justice but by sympathy – and a sympathy the most partial and injust. And this sympathy prevailed to such a degree, among all the persons concerned in this business, as to have perverted their minds with regard to all the most sacred principles of law and right, on which the liberties of the United States are founded; and a course was pursued, from the beginning to the end, which was not only an outrage upon the persons whose lives and liberties were at stake, but hostile to the power and independence of the judiciary itself"

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