The Joseph Story House, 26 Winter Street, Salem, Massachusetts, is significant to the history of the Underground Railroad. This home was built for Joseph Story in 1811, the same year Story was appointed to the United States Supreme Court by President James Madison. Story spoke out forcefully and passionately, on and off the bench, against slavery and the slave trade as a moral and political evil.
In the pivotal case of the U.S. v. The Amistad, Story ruled for the majority in 1841. By considering the slaves to be kidnapped Africans, illegally detained and restrained, Justice Story held they were not considered as pirates or the lawful property of a slaveholder. Because the slaves had been illegally seized and transported, their actions to regain their freedom by taking control of the ship were justified as self-defense in spite of the resulting death of the captain. Justice Story ordered the Africans to be freed and allowed to return to their homeland.
Justice Story's later 1822 decision in the complex case of the U.S. v. La Jeune Eugenie, upheld the 1808 law forbidding U.S ships and citizens from importing slaves and went on to order the slaves to be freed.
Visitor Information: Currently not open to public.
Location: 26 Winter Street, Salem, Essex, 01970
National Park Unit: No
Ownership: Neil and Martha Chayet
Location Type: Site