Why were so many abolitionists involved in the case of Anthony Burns?

Expert Answers
georgegs eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Abolitionists were largely interested in Anthony Burns because of his connection to the Fugitive Slave Act (1850), which stated that all slaves must be returned to their masters irrespective of where they were found.  When Burns became a fugitive himself (he fled from Richmond to Boston in 1853 only to be caught in 1854) abolitionists tried to free Burns. President Franklin Pierce, who wanted to show that he intended to enforce the law with Burns, ended up galvanizing many New Englanders who were were rather passive about slavery. Basically, New Englanders previously indifferent to slavery became enraged at the mock trial and excessive force used to ship Burns back to Virginia. In short, the abolitionists were interested in Burns because he represented a literal face to the problems of slavery and more specifically the legisltation that condoned it. Abolitionists publicized what was happending to Burns all over New England and especially Boston fueling anti-slavery sentiments that prompted the type of reactions abolitionists felt were necessary to promote change: the removal of the judge who tried Burns, and the burning of the Constitution, Fugitive Slave Law, and Burns's court decision by William Lloyd Garrison are just a few immediate reactions.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question