In 1854 an escaped Virginia slave, Anthony Burns, was captured and brought to trial in Boston and Northerners were unable to ignore the unpleasantness of slavery anymore. This is the story of Burns' trial and of how, arising in abolitionist Boston just as the Kansas-Nebraska Act took effect, it revolutionized the moral and political climate in Massachusettes and sent waves through the nation. In a cultural analysis the author introduces the individuals who contended over the fate of the 20-year-old runaway slave, including Richard Henry Dana Jr., Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Bronson Alcott and Moncure Conway. The story is not only of desparate acts, but how ideas react to social change. The author links the Burns case to New England Transcendentalism, principally that of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Situated at a time when the Whig party was declining and the Republican arising, this book shows how the case of the fugitive slave brought the nation that much closer to the Civil War.
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Number of pages: 444
Weight: 619 g
Dimensions: 234 x 156 x 22 mm
Edition: New edition
Von Frank writes what is almost a nonfiction novel, letting us feel the confusion, often muddled idealism, and bolts of surprisingly violent activity. Since many of the actors in this drama were men and women of intellect, their ideas influenced their action as much as their action influenced their ideas.--Barbara Packer, author of Emerson's Fall
Albert von Frank's The Trials of Anthony Burns is a brilliant recreation of one of the most memorable episodes in the antislavery crusade. Offering insightful and original portraits of such men as Theodore Parker, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., and, most notably, Ralph Waldo Emerson, von Frank shows how the rendition of the runaway slave, Anthony Burns, led to what he aptly calls a 'pocket revolution' in Northern thought. After this brutal display of the power of the slavocracy, intellectuals came to understand that it was no longer possible to compromise with the South.--David Herbert Donald, Charles Warren Professor of American History Emeritus, Harvard University