Back to top

Anthony Burns (Notable Americans)

Reference

Rossiter Johnson, ed., The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans (Boston: The Biographical Society, 1904).

BURNS, Anthony, fugitive slave, was born in Virginia about 1830. When twenty years old he made his escape and reached Boston, where he worked during the years 1853-'54. The fugitive slave law which had recently been signed by President Fillmore made possible his arrest, May 24, 1854. Burns was confined in the court house and his trial was opened on the morning of May 25, Richard Ы. Dana, Jr., Charles M. Ellis, and Robert Morris volunteering as his counsel. The case was adjourned to the 27th, and on the 26th a mass meeting was held in Faneuil Hall, which was addressed by Judge Russell, Theodore Parker, and Wendell Phillips; when news that a mob had gathered around the court house reached Faneuil Hall the meeting dissolved and its excited members rushed there. A door was forced, and in the struggle that followed one Bachelder was killed, while others were wounded, among them Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Finding the court house garrisoned by marines and soldiers, the besiegers retreated. On the 27th overtures were made to Colonel Suttle for the purchase of Burns. The colonel agreed to part with him for the sum of twelve hundred dollars, provided the money was tendered before 12 o'clock, P.M., May 27. The money and pledges were provided by the exertions of L. A. Grimes, pastor of the church for colored people, and the deed of manumission needed only the signature of the marshal, which he was prevented from affixing by District-Attorney Hallett. A decision was given by the commissioners, June 2, in favor of the slaveowner, and Burns was marched to the wharf surrounded by soldiers. There were fifty thousand spectators, but no attempt at rescue was made, the streets being lined with soldiers. ' In State street the windows were draped with black, a coffin inscribed with the legend, " The Funeral of Liberty," was suspended from a window opposite the old state house, and a U. S. flag was hung across the street draped with black and with the Union down. Burns was placed on board a U. S. cutter and taken to Richmond, when he was fettered and confined in a slave pen for four months, and treated with loathsome cruelty. He was then sold to a Mr. McDaniel, of North Carolina, who is entitled to credit for the kindness with which he treated Burns, and the resolute help he gave in restoring him to his friends at the north. The twelfth Baptist church in Boston, of which Burns was a member, purchased his freedom through the contributions made by the citizens. He returned to Boston, and by the benevolence of a lady was given a scholarship at Oberlin in1855; from there he entered Fairmont institute. In 1860 he was put in charge of the colored Baptist church in Indianapolis, but under the threat of the enforcement of the Black laws; with penalty of fine and imprisonment, he remained there only three weeks. Not long after he found a field of labor at St. Catherine's, Canada, where he worked with commendable zeal until his death, July 27, 1862.

Tabs

How to Cite This Page: "Anthony Burns (Notable Americans)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/16373.