Marshal's Posse With Burns Moving Down State Street
Original Author: D. L. Smith, engraver
Created: 1856
Medium: Engraving
Publisher: Boston: John P. Jewett and Company

Marshal’s Posse With Burns Moving Down State Street

A contingent of armed guards escorts the fugitive slave Anthony Burns to Boston Harbor, where he will be placed on a ship and transported back to Virginia. On June 2, 1854, after a trial presided over by federal slave commissioner Edward G. Loring, it was determined that Burns, who had arrived in Boston several months earlier, would have to return to slavery. This illustration was the frontispiece for Anthony Burns: A History, published in Boston in 1856. The author, Charles Emery Stevens, was an eyewitness to the court proceedings and other events surrounding the controversial case, including this scene of Burns being led to the dock. In the preface to his book Stevens wrote, "I stood upon the steps of the Custom House, when the Marshal with his posse and prisoner passed on his way to the wharf, and witnessed the assault of the soldiers, with sabres and bayonets, on the defenceless and unoffending multitude." The illustrator also witnessed the event, and Stevens wrote, "Adequately to depict that scene—presenting to view, as it did, tens of thousands of spectators—was impossible on a page of this size; but the picture here given will greatly assist the reader in forming a distinct conception of it."