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This Day in Boston History

May 24th, 1855

Anthony Burns

On this day, federal marshals in Boston arrested Anthony Burns under the Fugitive Slave Act. Yet, Boston's abolitionists had a history of breaking the law to free persons being returned to slavery.

A massive rally was called at Faneuil Hall, and a plans were made to end the meeting early and lead the crowd to raid the jail and free Burns. Unfortunately, Faneuil Hall had only a single exit. The crowd was slowed in departing, which gave time for the Marshals to react. The rioters were repelled, and Burns was returned to Virginia.

This incident made it impossible for Northerners to ignore slavery as a practice somewhere far away. Burns' supporters in Boston eventually secured his freedom through a slave broker. He attended Oberlin College before immigrating to Canada, where he served as a Baptist minister the rest of his life.


England's Prime Minister never expected this tea tax to cause an outcry, let alone revolution. In 1767, England reduced its property taxes at home. To balance the national budget they needed to find a mechanism for the American colonies to pay for the expense of stationing officials in them. The officials would generate their own revenue by collecting taxes on all imported goods, and once paid affixing stamps on them. This Stamp Tax generated more in the way of protests and smuggling than added revenue.

Religion. Politics. Rebellion. Boston’s pedigree was forged back in England in the midst of religious dissension, where Puritans and Pilgrims sought religious reform, and Cavaliers and Roundheads vied for political power. The question isn't where did Boston get its name – but how.

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