Read Dark Places of the Earth: The Voyage of the Slave Ship Antelope by Jonathan M. Bryant Online

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In 1820, a suspicious vessel was spotted lingering off the coast of northern Florida, the Spanish slave ship Antelope. Since the United States had outlawed its own participation in the international slave trade more than a decade before, the ship's almost 300 African captives were considered illegal cargo under American laws. But with slavery still a critical part of the AIn 1820, a suspicious vessel was spotted lingering off the coast of northern Florida, the Spanish slave ship Antelope. Since the United States had outlawed its own participation in the international slave trade more than a decade before, the ship's almost 300 African captives were considered illegal cargo under American laws. But with slavery still a critical part of the American economy, it would eventually fall to the Supreme Court to determine whether or not they were slaves at all, and if so, what should be done with them.Bryant describes the captives' harrowing voyage through waters rife with pirates and governed by an array of international treaties. By the time the Antelope arrived in Savannah, Georgia, the puzzle of how to determine the captives' fates was inextricably knotted. Set against the backdrop of a city in the grip of both the financial panic of 1819 and the lingering effects of an outbreak of yellow fever, Dark Places of the Earth vividly recounts the eight-year legal conflict that followed, during which time the Antelope's human cargo were mercilessly put to work on the plantations of Georgia, even as their freedom remained in limbo.When at long last the Supreme Court heard the case, Francis Scott Key, the legendary Georgetown lawyer and author of "The Star Spangled Banner," represented the Antelope captives in an epic courtroom battle that identified the moral and legal implications of slavery for a generation. Four of the six justices who heard the case, including Chief Justice John Marshall, owned slaves. Despite this, Key insisted that "by the law of nature all men are free," and that the captives should by natural law be given their freedom. This argument was rejected. The court failed Key, the captives, and decades of American history, siding with the rights of property over liberty and setting the course of American jurisprudence on these issues for the next thirty-five years. The institution of slavery was given new legal cover, and another brick was laid on the road to the Civil War.The stakes of the Antelope case hinged on nothing less than the central American conflict of the nineteenth century. Both disquieting and enlightening, Dark Places of the Earth restores the Antelope to its rightful place as one of the most tragic, influential, and unjustly forgotten episodes in American legal history....

Title : Dark Places of the Earth: The Voyage of the Slave Ship Antelope
Author :
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ISBN : 9780871406750
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 400 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Dark Places of the Earth: The Voyage of the Slave Ship Antelope Reviews

  • Bob Schnell
    2019-03-22 14:28

    Jonathan Bryant is a history professor who specializes in slavery and constitutional law. That sums up his book "Dark Places of the Earth" pretty well. It is the story of the slave ship Antelope and how the captive Africans aboard her got caught up in the American legal system of the 1820's. It is the case that was the precedent for the more famous Amistad trials. It is the struggle between nature's law that says all men are free and positive law that says national laws supersede natural law. The African captives in question are left in a hellish limbo for years while the case plays out in politics and court.While the story is certainly fascinating and would make for a great historical legal drama screenplay, the author speaks a bit too much legalese for the average reader and it is too easy to zone out until the more interesting parts. Lawyers and law students may have a different opinion. For me the most interesting parts were learning more about lesser known early Americans like Francis Scott Key and John Quincy Adams. Also, the stories of the African captives while they await their declaration as slaves or free men is tragic in many ways. The thought I came away with was how little jurisprudence in America has changed and how politics and ego too often trumps the people caught in the middle, even back then.

  • Doug Dillon
    2019-02-28 15:34

    Johnathan Bryant does a masterful job of shedding a bright light on a little known but extremely important event in American History. Meticulously researched, the author’s efforts show in graphic detail the plight of over 300 Africans brought to the shores of the United States by the slave ship Antelope. And in the process, he lays before readers the intricate legal wrangling that ended in Supreme Court rulings solidifying the rights of property over the natural rights of human beings, rulings that lasted for thirty-five years.As the book title indicates, this is a dark tale, one that throws readers directly into the horrors of the slave trade and the institution of slavery as practiced during the early years of the republic. Author Bryant’s simple statistics of what remained of the Antelope’s starving and diseased human cargo when it finally arrived in Savannah, Georgia during the year 1820 give stark and concise testimony to the brutality of such transatlantic profit seeking voyages:• Out of 331 people originally captured and put aboard the Antelope, only 258 remained alive – a 22% loss of life.• 83% of the captives were under the age of 20.• The average age of all the captives was 14.• 106 were between the ages of 5 and 10.• 8 were between the ages of 2 and 5. 2 and 5 (that is an intentional factual repeat)For almost eight years after landing in the United States, the captives languished in servitude on Savannah plantations as if they had been bought and sold as slaves, which they were not. And after those eight years, most of those people who actually survived were legally enslaved and sent to Florida by Supreme Court rulings. Only a small group ended up being sent back to Africa where they faced severe hardships, disease and attack by the nearby native population.Jonathan Bryant’s story of the multiple legal battles that caused the captives to wait nearly eight years is fascinating and so full of detail as to almost be overwhelming. But true to presenting the facts as he found them, the author offers readers these historical events in step-by-step fashion so as to leave no doubt about what happened. His 47 pages of notes at the end of the book speak to the incredible depth of his research.One of the most telling scenes is when the Antelope case finally arrives at the Supreme Court of the United States in 1825, five years after the captives set foot in Georgia. The legendary John Marshall was Chief Justice and four of the justices were slave owners. The attorney for the supposed owners of the captives, Spanish and Portuguese citizens, was a slave owner as well. Enter the attorney for the government of United States trying to free the captives, Francis Scott Key. The same F.S. Key of the Star-Spangled Banner fame had slaves of his own. Slave ownership stood out on that day as a vivid yet unofficial finger pressing on the scales of justice.This author’s work is beautifully organized, well written and thoroughly documented. It is an important scholarly work and should be read by those deeply interested in slavery, the slave trade, constitutional law, international law, and American politics during the first quarter of the 19th century.

  • Marti
    2019-03-24 17:07

    This might not be the sort of thing I would read unless it were given to me for free, but I certainly learned a lot about maritime law and the early history of the Supreme Court. The fact that it was accessible to someone like me who does not have a law background must say a lot about the skills of the author as this is a very convoluted case. However, there were enough other stories intertwined in it to make it interesting for someone who prefers social history (and perhaps some background on how small groups of pirates could take over a whole ship).I also knew almost nothing about John Quincy Adams (like his father John Adams, he too was obnoxious and disliked), or Francis Scott Key (who did more than write the "Star Spangled Banner"). Not much was known about the individual captives aboard the slave ship antelope because no one bothered to record their real names (they were given anglicized nicknames). However, what is known is that they were forced work as slaves while the courts dithered for seven years to decide if they were free. Though it was a very complicated mess to sort through, it boiled down to a lottery to determine the "lucky" few who would get shipped "home" to Liberia, the colony established to solve the "free blacks" problem which was hundreds of miles from the place where the original captives were taken (and the fact that some who were sent there were not even from Africa, but the Caribbean was not considered to be a hinderance).What you do come away with is the sense that the law is written by and for the wealthy, who can make up any rules they want as long as it benefits them. Nobody really wanted to rule against the rights of southern slave owners as the country was already becoming agitated over the slavery question. Thus, all but a few, wanted this case to go away.

  • Ware
    2019-02-22 14:11

    The international slave trade was outlawed in the United States on January 1, 1808. It had been outlawed in England six months yearly, but the U.S. Constitution forbade the implementation for twenty years of any law restricting the trade.This is the story of the Antelope, a mysterious vessel which transported over three hundred West Africans across the Atlantic in 1821 only to be seized by a Revenue cutter off the coast of north Florida and taken into Savannah where a five year journey through the legal process began. It is the true story of the great lawyers of Georgia and the United States who struggled to find the bright line dividing law and morality.The Antelope decision, authored by the great Chief Justice John Marshall, problematic. On one hand it set forth rules that led to freedom for some of the original captives and to the later decision of the Court in the Amistad case, popularized by Steven Spielberg.The account of the case of the Antelope is likely to be incomprehensible to non-lawyers. The simple holding that slavery was antagonistic to natural law but not to the law of nations was the lynchpin of the Chief Justice's reasoning. Marshall did find a means within the facts of the case to free many of the captives, but as Bryant points out he could have gone further.I am a lawyer. I was a history major. I practice civil rights law. For me this is a perfect book. It may take a bit for others to get into the jurisprudence of what was referred to by my slave-owning great-great grandparents as "our peculiar institution." It was both peculiar and an institution which deserved to be eradicated from the face of the earth. The Antelope offered that opportunity and sadly turned away.

  • Darlene
    2019-03-09 13:26

    Extensively researched and densely packed with information, this disturbing tale of the fate of slaves when the ship they're on is captured by pirates will appeal most to serious historians, legal scholars, and researchers. Unlike the better-known tale of the Amistad, this earlier court case has little in the way of testimony from the Africans themselves. In addition, the ordeal of the Africans aboard the Antelope is a tale of children, many little more than toddlers, thrust into a legal morass where they became property to be used and their fate tossed about like a shuttlecock. If it's ever turned into a film, it would be a horror story.It's also a tale of the legalities of piracy and privateering in the early 19th c., and how the Atlantic slave trade and the ban on importing slaves into the U.S. contributed to crime at sea, and in the Territory of Florida south of the United States. I recommend it to students of Florida history as well as of U.S. history.

  • Tom
    2019-03-25 16:24

    This book does an excellent job of shedding light onto the murky depths of 19th Century jurisprudence. It also, like many books discussing, 18th and 19th Century America, really makes you loathe the perverse hypocrisy of early America. I caught wind of this book listening to the radio.The case of the Antelope dealt with the fate of African captives. These people had been captured on slave ships of Spanish and alleged Portuguese provenance, but were then captured by a ship manned by Americans. These Americans claimed to be commissioned privateers for South American republics attempting to break away from their European colonial overseers. This case delves into the strange world of admiralty and maritime law. Oddly, if the Americans were declared pirates, the Africans would be returned to the Spanish and Portuguese as chattel, but if they were deemed legitimate privateers, there was a far better chance that the Africans could be free.While all the legal machinations were being deliberated, however, American authorities treated these captives, most of whom were children, as slaves and farmed out their labor. The U.S. Marshal in Savannah, GA, John Henry Morel, exploited these people with a ruthless efficiency, while still having gall to charge for providing for these people.Of all the Americans in this tale, only Richard Wylly Habersham comes through looking like a just man. His efforts and strategies on behalf of the captives were rather dogged, although sometimes that meant he sandbagged other cases, such as the initial piracy trial. Whenever he asked for advice from the Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, he received no response. In many ways, Habersham jeopardized his own career aspirations with this trial. It was odd how Adams ignored or avoided the case at the time for political expediency. Yet the case of the Antelope was so instrumental in freeing the captives of the Amistad which Adams was successfully involved in representing 15 years later at the Supreme Court.In the Supreme Court, the people arguing for the freedom of the Antelope captives included Francis Scott Key, which was an interesting side note.After the near decade of legal battles, the majority of the surviving captives were liberated. However, some remained enslaved, and all of the captives in the interim had been treated as slaves. While the liberated captives were taken back to Africa, they were settled in Liberia, over 1000 miles from their homeland. Between the passage on slave ships, yellow fever in Savannah, fatal exhaustion at the hands of slave drivers, and resettlement in malarial Liberia, the mortality for the captives was extraordinarily high. Their lives was one of seemingly endless tragedy and horror, and so much of their experience is lost to history. America goddam...

  • Jonathan
    2019-03-21 12:22

    I had no idea the US had banned the importation of slaves as early as 1819. This book explains in great detail the complex web of trade in slaves and goods in the maritime world of the early 19thC. The book focuses on the Antelope a Spanish owned Portuguese ship crewed by many Americans (pretending not to be Americans who got, captured, recaptured, escaped, caught, prosecuted.....it is an incredibly complicated tail and it is all drawn in great detail from the records of the a Supreme Court case where the fate of the ships prisoners was decided. It is vastly more complicated than I've described but just discovering this explains so much about the period and how difficult to solve the issue of slavery appeared to Europeans at the time even if they thought the trade despicable. This book shows just how much money was tied up in the business and how the Byzantine rules of international shipping made prosecuting slavers. It all just seemed too difficult to most Europeans, a similar set of issues apply today to the maltreatment of internationally crewed boats today. The basic issue the Supreme Court had to decide was whether the rights of owners of the Slave "property" outweighed the rights to freedom as human being of the slaves themselves. It's shocking to hear the SC justices blandly arguing such despicable concepts as if they are somehow equivalent. It's one of the reasons I love history like this: things that seemed too complicated or "natural" are now looked on as abhorrent and immoral.

  • Megargee
    2019-02-22 19:18

    Despite its title, Dark Places of the Earth is not a book about caves or geology but instead a treatise on maritime and international law as it pertained to the slave trade in the 1820s. The author is a Southern historian and legal scholar whose specialty is slavery and the events leading up to the Civil War. Two decades before the more celebrated Amistad case, a US cutter seized the brig Antelope illegally attempting to import 280 Africans into the US. What should be done with the cargo? Should they be sold, freed, returned to their Spanish and Portuguese owners, or simply put to work by the local officials entrusted with their care? There is little suspense because Bryant discloses the outcome early on. Instead the book focuses on the maritime and international laws and precedents governing the case and the legal reasoning of those involved including Francis Scott Key, John Quincy Adams and John Marshal. Not being especially interested in these topics (the book was a selection of my history reading club) I found much of the material tedious. No doubt a legal scholar would be fascinated.

  • Megargee
    2019-03-25 18:09

    Despite its title, Dark Places of the Earth is not a book about caves or geology but instead a treatise on maritime and international law as it pertained to the slave trade in the 1820s. The author is a Southern historian and legal scholar whose specialty is slavery and the events leading up to the Civil War. Two decades before the more celebrated Amistad case, a US cutter seized the brig Antelope illegally attempting to import 280 Africans into the US. What should be done with the cargo? Should they be sold, freed, returned to their Spanish and Portuguese owners, or simply put to work by the local officials entrusted with their care? There is little suspense because Bryant discloses the outcome early on. Instead the book focuses on the maritime and international laws and precedents governing the case and the legal reasoning of those involved including Francis Scott Key, John Quincy Adams and John Marshal. Not being especially interested in these topics (the book was a selection of my history reading club) I found much of the material tedious. No doubt a legal scholar would be fascinated. (less) [edit]

  • Cindy
    2019-03-17 19:30

    This had a lot of technical legal stuff about 19th century piracy vs privateering, which I am not 100% interested in. But I am interested in the evolution of attitudes toward slavery in the US. Some of the most passionate defenders of these poor people (captured slaves on a ship taken during the time when slavery was still legal, but the African slave trade was not) owned slaves themselves. It was a complicated time. Years of legal wrangling resulted in some success, but no real happy endings for anyone. One question to self: Why am I reading so many sad slavery-related books in a row? Just finished "King Leopold's Ghost" and am now reading "Uncle Tom's Cabin".

  • Judy
    2019-02-27 16:08

    Through the story of the slave ship Antelope, and its captive Africans, I learned how lucrative slavery and the slave trade was in the US in the first half of the 19th century. But also, how much control and influence rich and powerful slave owners had on all levels of government. Four of the six Supreme Court justices who heard one of the several cases concerning the ship and its captives were slave holders. The final ruling in the case allowed the slave trade to continue for many more years. So much about this part of our history is not widely known. The author takes the reader clearlythrough the trials and arguments of this case.

  • Colleen
    2019-03-10 12:12

    This is a very thorough book and gives a lot of detail about the supreme court case, the surrounding legal and political climate and even international maritime law.I wish there had been more of a human element. As with so many books involving slavery, the voices of most of the people involved were lost, as they were not yet literate in English and, even if they were, their writings were unlikely to be preserved.Still wish more letter and diary entries from the lawyers and judges involved had surfaced

  • Ava M.
    2019-03-14 17:32

    Basically at the time of what transpired during the Antelope case, the US government were making rules and laws up as new situations arose during the slavery period. Just goes to show you that if you think the American government is fucked up now, it was just as archaic and lacking common sense and reason way back then.

  • Jill
    2019-02-28 15:12

    This was required reading for a history book club. The book is divided into 5 parts: Prologue, Sea, Savannah, Washington DC and Legacies. The prologue and Part 4 (legacies and epilogue) were interesting. I read at least the first chapter of the other parts, but soon discovered that I was not really interested in that much detail.

  • Paul
    2019-03-18 12:20

    I think this book was just fine, probably closer to 3.5 stars, rounding up. I don't think I totally understood the legal situation here - I kept losing track of where slavery and slave trading was legal. I didn't realize that slave trading was illegal well before slavery itself was illegal. It's also crazy how little the slaves themselves seemed to be involved in the case.

  • Denise
    2019-02-23 13:25

    This book was more about everything else than about the Antelope. I had hoped for a little more in depth discussion about the victims of the slave ship, but they were touched on very lightly and the author digressed to things that caused my confusion. I was disappointed.

  • Brent
    2019-03-22 17:27

    What travails.This true story of the commerce in human lives, and the early American republic, especially Georgia, weaves together more than I can hint at in a brief review. You must read this.My highest recommendation.

  • Dennis Martin
    2019-03-18 13:27

    This book really sheds light on early 19th century America. Not very pretty. It is jamb-packed with detail that showcases the tremendous amount of research done by the author. I found out so many things about the formation of our young nation that I never knew before.

  • Carolyn Thomas
    2019-03-07 19:20

    A tragic tale, meticulously researched and well told, of a dark time in the history of the U.S when a few decent men endeavoured to do the right thing.

  • Ellen
    2019-03-24 11:34

    Read about this book in Shelf Awareness 7/28

  • Aaron Yoder
    2019-03-10 16:15

    Very good historical record and interesting; yet, for me it took a little effort to read. Simply, it wasn't an extraordinarily fun book to read but worthwhile all the same.

  • Sarah Gardner
    2019-03-04 12:24

    4.5-4.75. Compelling story. Bryant has firm command of narrative.