America in the 1850s


What eventually happened to Anthony Burns and his defenders?

A tragedy occurred when several dozen Bostonians attempted to break in to the lockup and free Burns. In the excitement of the moment, they killed a man who was serving as a volunteer for those who defended the jail. He quickly became a martyr for the cause of law and order, and Burns’ defenders began losing their popularity. Even so, three regiments of Boston militia and Regular U.S. Army soldiers were required to get Burns down the street to a steamer that took him to a Virginia ship off the coast. Days later, Burns was back in slavery in Virginia, and the affair, as it was called, appeared to be over.

Burns’ slavemaster soon found that a man who had tasted freedom made a rather poor worker on being returned to slavery, and he put him up for sale. The $1,300 price was soon raised by a group of Bostonians, and Burns became a free man. While he showed gratitude to those who had released him, Burns was not eager to return to Boston; he found both its climate and its people rather chilly. He moved to Ohio and studied at Oberlin College before moving to Canada just before the Civil War began. Burns died in Ontario in 1863.


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