was a struggle for the soul of Boston. ``Must I go back?''
Burns asked abolitionist Wendell Phillips, who blamed
Boston: ``Burns, there isn't humanity, there isn't Christianity,
there isn't justice enough here to save you; you must
go back.'' -- from The
Trials of Anthony Burns by Albert J. Von Frank.
attemted to free Burns by storming the Court Square
jail. They were unsuccessful.
Henry Dana, the most prominent lawyer of Boston's Vigilance
Committee, made an eloquent 4 1/2-hour plea for Burns's
freedom. Afterwards, Dana was assaulted on the street
by pro-slavery rioters. He was unsuccessful.
tried to buy Burns back from his Virginia owner - they
were unsuccessful as well.
June 2, when the decision to return Burns was announced,
Boston was under martial law. Abolitionists made Boston
a place of mourning. Bells tolled in the city's churches.
Black bunting appeared on buildings on Court, State,
and Commercial Streets as Burns was led to the docks
by Marines and federal marshals. Fifty thousand people
lined Boston’s streets to protest the return of
Anthony Burns to slavery. But Burns boarded the ship
that took him to Virginia, a slave state.
indicent galvanized Boston and turned politics upside
down. The transcendentalists became abolitionists. They
honored a higher law than the Constitution, which William
Lloyd Garrison called a ``covenant with death and an
agreement with hell.'' Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ``Ask
not, Is it constitutional? Ask, Is it right?'' Henry
David Thoreau urged civil disobedience against ``a government
which imprisons any unjustly." Both Thoreau and
Emerson wrote and lectured against slavery after the
parties were destroyed or weakened. Out of the chaos
a new party was formed, the Republicans. By 1860, the
Republican candidate for President, Abraham Lincoln,
carried the state with 63% of the vote.
was never the same. It became a place of active rather
than passive abolitionism. Emerson expressed the feelings
of many when he said about the Fugitive
Slave Law ``I will not obey it, by God.''