Fugitive Slave Act

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Antebellum Stafford

Fugitive Slave Act

President Franklin Pierce sent a force  of 2,000 militia and U.S. Marines to enforce law and order in Boston. A special federal judge ordered Burns’s return to slavery. In addition to the people who streamed onto the downtown Boston streets, bells tolled in protest at churches. Anthony Burns, who had turned 20 years old while imprisoned, marched in chains through the city to an awaiting boat at Long Wharf. Boston’s merchants took their first stand with abolitionism.  This caused economic pressures as they dealt with Southern slave-holder cotton growers. Now engaged in the protest, they reportedly hanged pictures of President Pierce upside down.  Outraged Bostonians draped their city in mourning and lined the route as Federal and state troops proceeded with Burns through the streets . The crowds were estimated between 20,000 and 50,000.  Thereafter, the Fugitive Slave Act was not enforced in Boston.  New England never returned another fugitive slave.  (Getty Image)