Anthony Burns was a slave owned by Charles Suttle of Virginia; he had many privileges. He was allowed to hire himself out. He became a preacher and learned how to read and write. In 1854, he decided that he needed to find freedom. He boarded a ship heading north and arrived in Boston in March as a fugitive but free. He sent a letter to his brother, who was a slave of Charles Suttle but it landed in the hands of their master.
With the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act, Suttle was entitled to claim his “property.” He travelled to Boston and Burns was arrested. Abolitionists in Boston opposed the Slave Act and attempted to help Burns. A large group of about 2000 gathered outside of the courthouse where Burns was being held. A deputy was shot and killed in an effort to free Burns.
The Fugitive Slave Act was enforced by President Franklin Pierce. He ordered marines and artillery to assist the guards watching over Burns. Pierce also ordered a federal ship to return Burns to Virginia after the trial.
Burns was convicted of being a fugitive slave on June 2, 1854. That same day, an estimated 50,000 lined the streets of Boston, watching Anthony Burns walk in shackles toward the waterfront and the waiting ship.
Burns’ freedom was purchased after a black church raised $1300 and he returned to Boston in less than a year later.
Source: Anthony Burns captured
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