Trade in slaves was abolished shortly after the formation of the United States, by Act of Congress on March 2, 1807. Many states took steps to abolish slavery within their borders even before the formation of the federal government, and several states even routinely emancipated slaves who came within their borders.
At the time of the Amistad case, then, slave trade was illegal
throughout the United States, but the legality of slave ownership varied
from state to state. In New York and Connecticut, the primary states involved
in the Amistad case, slavery was illegal.
the event involved a ship and its cargo, or
things committed to and lost at sea or other public, navigable waterways;
the ship or its cargo have been found or rescued;
the service performed by claimant must have been of benefit to the property involved in the rescue.
A salvor (one who salvages) must have the intent and capacity of committing
a salvage, but need not have the intention of
keeping the property. The salvor need not have even given physical assistance to the rescue of the ship or property: in a recent
New York case, a ship's captain's decision to keep his ship nearby in case a distressed ship needed help was considered
sufficient to support a claim of salvage. See Reynolds Leasing Corp. v. The Tug Patrice McAllister, 572 F.Supp. 1131 (1984
Various types of "peril" are allowed. The most common cases involve
abandoned ships or ships in danger of sinking. However,
as argued by claimants in the first Amistad case, the death or disability of the crew, or the seizing of the ship by pirates, can also
support a claim for salvage.
Typically, a salvage must occur on the seas. As such, the salvage claim
by Messrs. Green and Fordham is peculiar, in that it
involved activity committed entirely inland.
Since the Thirteenth Amendment, Congress has abolished peonage (42 U.S.C.
§ 1894), , kidnapping persons into slavery (18
U.S.C. § 1583), selling of persons into slavery (18 U.S.C. § 1584), service on slave ships (18 U.S.C. § 1586), and
transportation of or trafficking in slaves (18 U.S.C. § 1585).