Media: Slideshow

Anthony Burns in Boston

The Boston Slave Riot, and Trial of Anthony Burns

The cover of a pamphlet titled The Boston Slave Riot and Trial of Anthony Burns features an image of Anthony Burns, the runaway slave from Virginia who was prosecuted in the spring of 1854 under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act (1850). The presiding judge, Edward Greely Loring, ruled in favor of the slave owner and ordered Burns back to Virginia. This eighty-six-page pamphlet covered the trial and the surrounding events in detail—the protest at Faneuil Hall, the death of a guard in the midst of a failed attempt to rescue Burns, the legal arguments on both sides, the decison rendered by the judge, and the forced "embarkation" of Burns to Virginia. Thousands watched as Burns, under heavy guard, was marched through the streets of Boston to the wharf. The procession was greeted with "cries of Shame! shame! … hisses, groans"; at one point there was "a shower of cayenne pepper … or some other noxious substance" and "a bottle, containing a liquid, believed to be vitriol," was hurled from a building like a "missile." Despite the protests, Burns was delivered to the ship "and taken to the cabin out of sight of the crowd." About an hour later the steamer departed.

Created: 1854

Medium: Title page

Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society

Church of the Fugitive Slaves in Boston.

An engraving from Charles Emery Stevens's book Anthony Burns: A History (1856) depicts the exterior of the church in Boston established to minister to fugitive slaves from the South. "The church is a neat and commodious brick structure, two stories in height, and handsomely finished in the interior," Stevens wrote. The land and building cost $13,000, funds for it being collected from wealthy abolitionists. The church was dedicated on the first day of the trial of the runaway slave Anthony Burns, who had been arrested under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The author described the coincidence of these events occurring in Boston on the same day "as if for an omen of good."

Original Author: D. L. Smith, engraver

Created: 1856

Medium: Engraving

Courtesy of Internet Archive

Night Attack on the Court House.

A group of abolitionists attack the courthouse in Boston under cover of night on May 26, 1854, in an unsuccessful attempt to free Anthony Burns, an escaped slave from Virginia who had been arrested under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This illustration appeared in Anthony Burns: A History (1856), by Charles Emery Stevens. Stevens, who was an eyewitness to the event, described the mob's response as the door to the courthouse where Burns was being held prisoner was forced open with a battering ram and axes:

As the quick, heavy blows resounded through the Square, the crowd, every moment rapidly increasing, sent up their wild shouts of encouragement, while some hurled missiles against the windows, and others discharged their pistols in the same direction.

Original Author: D. L. Smith, engraver

Created: 1856

Medium: Engraving

Courtesy of Internet Archive

Marshal's Posse With Burns Moving Down State Street

A contingent of armed guards escorts the fugitive slave Anthony Burns to Boston Harbor, where he will be placed on a ship and transported back to Virginia. On June 2, 1854, after a trial presided over by federal slave commissioner Edward G. Loring, it was determined that Burns, who had arrived in Boston several months earlier, would have to return to slavery. This illustration was the frontispiece for Anthony Burns: A History, published in Boston in 1856. The author, Charles Emery Stevens, was an eyewitness to the court proceedings and other events surrounding the controversial case, including this scene of Burns being led to the dock. In the preface to his book Stevens wrote, "I stood upon the steps of the Custom House, when the Marshal with his posse and prisoner passed on his way to the wharf, and witnessed the assault of the soldiers, with sabres and bayonets, on the defenceless and unoffending multitude." The illustrator also witnessed the event, and Stevens wrote, "Adequately to depict that scene—presenting to view, as it did, tens of thousands of spectators—was impossible on a page of this size; but the picture here given will greatly assist the reader in forming a distinct conception of it."

Original Author: D. L. Smith, engraver

Created: 1856

Medium: Engraving

Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society

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  • The Boston Slave Riot, and Trial of Anthony Burns

    The cover of a pamphlet titled The Boston Slave Riot and Trial of Anthony Burns features an image of Anthony Burns, the runaway slave from Virginia who was prosecuted in the spring of 1854 under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act (1850). The presiding judge, Edward Greely Loring, ruled in favor of the slave owner and ordered Burns back to Virginia. This eighty-six-page pamphlet covered the trial and the surrounding events in detail—the protest at Faneuil Hall, the death of a guard in the midst of a failed attempt to rescue Burns, the legal arguments on both sides, the decison rendered by the judge, and the forced "embarkation" of Burns to Virginia. Thousands watched as Burns, under heavy guard, was marched through the streets of Boston to the wharf. The procession was greeted with "cries of Shame! shame! … hisses, groans"; at one point there was "a shower of cayenne pepper … or some other noxious substance" and "a bottle, containing a liquid, believed to be vitriol," was hurled from a building like a "missile." Despite the protests, Burns was delivered to the ship "and taken to the cabin out of sight of the crowd." About an hour later the steamer departed.

    Created: 1854

    Medium: Title page

    Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society

  • Church of the Fugitive Slaves in Boston.

    An engraving from Charles Emery Stevens's book Anthony Burns: A History (1856) depicts the exterior of the church in Boston established to minister to fugitive slaves from the South. "The church is a neat and commodious brick structure, two stories in height, and handsomely finished in the interior," Stevens wrote. The land and building cost $13,000, funds for it being collected from wealthy abolitionists. The church was dedicated on the first day of the trial of the runaway slave Anthony Burns, who had been arrested under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The author described the coincidence of these events occurring in Boston on the same day "as if for an omen of good."

    Original Author: D. L. Smith, engraver

    Created: 1856

    Medium: Engraving

    Courtesy of Internet Archive

  • Night Attack on the Court House.

    A group of abolitionists attack the courthouse in Boston under cover of night on May 26, 1854, in an unsuccessful attempt to free Anthony Burns, an escaped slave from Virginia who had been arrested under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This illustration appeared in Anthony Burns: A History (1856), by Charles Emery Stevens. Stevens, who was an eyewitness to the event, described the mob's response as the door to the courthouse where Burns was being held prisoner was forced open with a battering ram and axes:

    As the quick, heavy blows resounded through the Square, the crowd, every moment rapidly increasing, sent up their wild shouts of encouragement, while some hurled missiles against the windows, and others discharged their pistols in the same direction.

    Original Author: D. L. Smith, engraver

    Created: 1856

    Medium: Engraving

    Courtesy of Internet Archive

  • Marshal's Posse With Burns Moving Down State Street

    A contingent of armed guards escorts the fugitive slave Anthony Burns to Boston Harbor, where he will be placed on a ship and transported back to Virginia. On June 2, 1854, after a trial presided over by federal slave commissioner Edward G. Loring, it was determined that Burns, who had arrived in Boston several months earlier, would have to return to slavery. This illustration was the frontispiece for Anthony Burns: A History, published in Boston in 1856. The author, Charles Emery Stevens, was an eyewitness to the court proceedings and other events surrounding the controversial case, including this scene of Burns being led to the dock. In the preface to his book Stevens wrote, "I stood upon the steps of the Custom House, when the Marshal with his posse and prisoner passed on his way to the wharf, and witnessed the assault of the soldiers, with sabres and bayonets, on the defenceless and unoffending multitude." The illustrator also witnessed the event, and Stevens wrote, "Adequately to depict that scene—presenting to view, as it did, tens of thousands of spectators—was impossible on a page of this size; but the picture here given will greatly assist the reader in forming a distinct conception of it."

    Original Author: D. L. Smith, engraver

    Created: 1856

    Medium: Engraving

    Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society