Boston Slave Riot

SLAVERY   |   Anthony BURNS

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Item#: 126684 price:$3,000.00

Boston Slave Riot
Boston Slave Riot

THE BURNS CASE HELPED FOSTER "LINCOLN’S PRESIDENCY, THE SOUTH'S SECESSION AND THE CIVIL WAR": FIRST EDITION OF THE BOSTON SLAVE TRIAL OF ANTHONY BURNS, 1854

(SLAVERY) (BURNS, Anthony). Boston Slave Riot, and Trial of Anthony Burns. Boston: Fetridge, 1854. Slim octavo, modern half calf and marbled boards. $3000.

First edition of a seminal pre-Civil War pamphlet on the 1854 arrest and Boston trial of fugitive slave Anthony Burns, whose return to his Virginia slave owner at the order of the Boston court sparked public fury and "set Boston on its ear in the spring of 1854," inspiring Whitman to write his Boston Ballad and Thoreau to deliver his speech, Slavery in Massachusetts, to a July 4, 1854 antislavery rally.

The trial of fugitive slave Anthony Burns, which "set Boston on its ear in the spring of 1854….[was] nothing less than a pocket revolution" (Von Frank, Trials of Anthony Burns, xii). The arrest and trial in Boston of Burns, whose Virginia slave-owner Suttle followed him there, was "one of the most dramatic and famous incidents in the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act." When Boston Commissioner Loring signed Burns' arrest warrant, Richard Henry Dana, Jr. and Charles Ellis immediately volunteered to defend Burns. On "May 26 there was a mass meeting in Faneuil Hall to protest Burns' arrest. This meeting was followed by a poorly planned and disastrously executed… attempt to rescue Burns… Despite conflicting testimony and imperfect evidence provided by Suttle, Loring declared Burns was indeed Suttle's slave." With that Burns was taken from the courtroom and through streets crowded with his supporters, then placed aboard a ship "for return to Virginia. The trial and removal of Burns from Boston created one of the great spectacles of the late antebellum period" (Finkelman, 107-112).

"The Burns case made slavery appear to Northerners as an immediate threat… Walt Whitman was impelled to write an ironic piece, A Boston Ballad, soon to be incorporated into his revolutionary volume Leaves of Grass… At an antislavery rally in Framingham, Massachusetts, on July 4… William Lloyd Garrison burned copies of the Fugitive Slave Law and the Constitution as the large crowd chanted, 'Amen!' Thoreau delivered his speech, Slavery in Massachusetts, declaring that the American system had lost its integrity and purity… The antislavery sentiment bred by the case helped give birth to the Republican Party, which in turn fostered Lincoln's Presidency, the South's secession and the Civil War" (New York Times). Containing "valuable primary source material about the trial and the events surrounding it," including testimony, legal documents," as well as the full texts of the speeches of the counsel and the opinion of Commissioner Loring." Bound without rear advertisements: "some have advertisements at the back of the pamphlet while others do not," no priority established (Finkelman, 113). Sabin 6505. Harvard Law Catalogue II:1030.

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