Reproduction of the original in the Boston Public Library, Print Department.
Of the many fugitive slaves coming to Boston, one who received considerable publicity was Anthony Burns. Escaping slavery in Virginia, he ran away to Boston. In 1854, he was arrested and tried, under provisions of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Following a protest rally at Faneuil Hall and attempts to “rescue“ him, President Franklin Pierce sent Federal marshals to ensure order and a military escort for Burns' return to Virginia. Eventually, Boston sympathizers purchased his freedom.
The case stirred passions among those who had been indifferent. While the ultimate statement of slaves as property would come with the 1857 Dred Scott decision, the Burns case was one more step on the road to disunion.