On February 24, 1841, an aged John Quincy Adams began arguing the case of the Amistad before the United States Supreme Court. Adams had thought himself too old to argue the case on behalf of 53 African slaves who seized the Amistad. Spain had demanded the return of their "property (the kidnapped captives)" and President Martin van Buren had agreed. The captives, led by Cinque, insisted they were not property at all, but human beings who had been kidnapped. Adams argued that, "The moment you come to the Declaration of Independence, that every man has a right to lfe and liberty, as an inalienable right, this case is decided. I ask nothing more on behalf of these unfortunate men than this Declaration."
Adams won the case. The court ruled that since the transatlantci slave trade had been banned, the Africans were free men. A blow had been struck for liberty!