Review of Friendship: A David Pesci Novel
This great book david fish it remains essential reading for understanding the transatlantic slave trade.
The story begins with bowhas Mende slave, awakening to the icy touch of a child’s corpse. From the very first words of the book, the reader’s nightmare begins as Singbe’s ordeal and the story of slavery is told with chilling clarity and skill.
Tea Friendship (what does friendship mean), has Spanish slave ship, makes its way across the Atlantic bound for the coast of Cuba with its human cargo. The snatching of slaves from Africa, although prohibited by the British and the Americans in 1809, continued for many years as the Spanish and Portuguese governments were not bound by these laws.
Transporting Singbe and his group must have been a routine trip for Captain Ramón Ferrer and his men. After all, he and his crew had been handling slaves for over twenty years. But against all odds, Singbe and his men took control of the Friendship. The cook and the captain were killed in the skirmish. But the slaves had no intention of sacrificing the entire crew as retribution. All they wanted was to go home.
Since they didn’t know anything about seamanship, they had to trust one of the sailors, Climbing, to steer the ship back to Africa. But through cunning, Climbing maneuver the wheels to the other side and the ship ended up skirting the coast of America, unleashing a political conflict weather from Shakespearean dimensions.
Thus, the book is primarily about the tribulations of captured slaves as their fate was decided by the American justice system. Interestingly, only the Africans had to face the courts to establish their innocence, and not their Spanish captors. They have to secure their own attorney while the United States Secretary of State instructs the New York Federal District Attorney to extend to the Spanish, Ruiz Y Climbing‘all courtesy and measure of legal assistance”.
Thus, although, to the credit of the United States, the battle was to be fought in court, the Africans were going against entrenched sentiment regarding the black race and a system that has legally tolerated slavery for over two hundred years.’
The legal arguments on both sides were fierce, intricate and seductive. Were Africans owned by Spanish merchants? Ruiz Y Climbing? If this were the case, they would have to be returned to the control of the Spanish authorities and to be tried by the Spanish courts. Or were they free men stolen from the coast of Africa? If this were the case, then the US government, under its own laws, would have to ensure their safe return to Africa.
Did they commit murder when they seized control of the ship, or were their actions to be considered self-defense and a justifiable attempt to free themselves from illegal slavery? Judge Judson found in favor of Africans to the detriment of his aspirations to be a Supreme Court Justice. The case was appealed by the US government and taken to the Supreme Court where the judge’s conclusions Judson they were confirmed.
The author introduces us to some of the historical figures of the time. The president of the United States Van Bouuren takes a personal interest in the case. Court documents show how he tried to use his office to manipulate the case and cooperated with Spanish authorities while showing little respect for due process.
He seemed to be a man who valued the results of the upcoming election above principle. He did not realize the importance of the plight of Africans for his presidency. Like the sailor in the Coleridge’s The rhyme of the old sailor, he could see but he did not understand what he saw. The Amistad Africans were the albatross to his leadership who fired gratuitously.
There are the Tappan brothers, Luis Y Arthur, who risked life and limb fighting not only for the cause of Africans, but were also vociferous abolitionists. Judge Judson he had an outstanding legal mind with aspirations to higher office. He, however, upholds the law and releases bow and his men despite warnings that such a decision could jeopardize his career.
Then there was also John Quincy Adamsa former president of the United States, described by the author ‘as a man of great intelligence’ with a ‘reputation as a passionate speaker’. John Adams he lends his formidable intellect and eloquence to the cause of Amistad Africans and secures freedom and passage for all of them back to Africa. Far from being an essay Bow and his men, it was the American nation that was in the dock.
Singbe was not the only hero to emerge from this journey of darkness. His legal team had to overcome impossible odds. They were assisted by the US constitution, which was an almost impassable moat against injustice.
There is no finesse in the way the author tells his story, and the harshness of slavery is cleverly represented in the book with words like handcuffs, chains, musket, hit, lifeless, hunting, blood, knife, whipping, freighter, smuggling, tribesmen, light-skinned, black-skinned, and of course death.. She wrote it so that readers do not need an explanation from the author.
Amistad is a wonderfully told and well documented book. the movie of Steven Spielberg with Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, Y Djimon Hounsou does justice to this story of a slave who embarrassed some of the most powerful players in the slave trade.
However, this grotesque and heroic saga of slavery is likely to remain in the reader’s mind, long after reading the book.