ANDERSON, JOHN (originally named Jack Burton), fugitive slave; b. c. 1831; fl. 1862.
Jack Burton was a slave of Moses Burton of Fayette, Mo. Jack’s father escaped from slavery shortly after Jack was born and his mother was sold to a slave trader when he was seven. On 25 Dec. 1850 he married Marie Tomlin, a slave who lived near the Burton property. Marie had two children from a previous marriage, and she and Jack were to have at least one child. In 1853 Jack Burton was sold to a farmer in Glasgow, Mo. Soon after, he illegally visited his wife; discovered and pursued by a local farmer, Seneca T. P. Diggs, Burton slew Diggs and escaped. With the aid of abolitionists, Burton made his way to Canada West and settled at Windsor in the home of the mother of Henry Bibb* in about September 1853. At this time he took the name John Anderson. He later worked as a plasterer and labourer in Hamilton and Caledonia.
In 1854 the United States government requested Anderson’s extradition but the governor general of British North America, Lord Elgin [Bruce], refused to issue the warrant; however, in April 1860 William Mathews, a Brantford magistrate, jailed Anderson on a charge of murder. Samuel B. Freeman, a Hamilton attorney, secured Anderson’s freedom. Formal charges were then made by James A. Gunning, a Detroit detective, and affidavits were received from witnesses in Missouri which led to Anderson’s reimprisonment in October 1860 on a warrant issued by a three-man magistrate’s court in Brantford charging that he did “wilfully, maliciously and feloniously stab and kill” the Missouri farmer. Freeman, supported by Canadian abolitionists, secured a writ of habeas corpus on 20 Nov. 1860 from the Court of Queen’s Bench in Toronto presided over by John Beverley Robinson [see Archibald McLean]. On 15 December the court ruled by two to one that Anderson had committed murder by Missouri law, and that he could be extradited under terms of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842. Anderson was, however, momentarily protected by a statement by the court that it would offer no opposition to an appeal to the Court of Error and Appeal.
Canadian and British opinion was almost universally hostile toward the decision of 15 December. Thomas Henning, secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada, appealed to the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in London and it applied to the Court of Queen’s Bench at Westminster in January 1861 for a writ of habeas corpus. The court granted this after accepting the applicant’s argument that the court’s writ could, on the basis of precedents, be made to extend to Canada. In Canada news of the writ was denounced by most elements of public opinion as interference in the constitutional powers of Canadian courts. Before the British writ could be served in Canada, however, Anderson’s attorneys appealed directly to the Court of Common Pleas in Toronto; in his decision on 16 Feb. 1861 Chief Justice William Henry Draper* discharged Anderson principally on the grounds that the warrant from the Brantford magistrate’s court did not actually accuse Anderson of murder. The case led directly to the British Habeas Corpus Act of 1862, which stated that a writ could not be sent to any dominion or possession where a concurrent legal jurisdiction existed. A Canadian act in 1861 took away from magistrates’ courts jurisdiction in extradition cases.
Anderson went to England in June 1861 at the invitation of a British anti-slavery organization. Between July and September 1861, he spoke to at least 25 anti-slavery meetings in London and southeastern England. After a short period of private instruction Anderson enrolled in December 1861 in the British Training Institution at Corby, Northhamptonshire. He remained there for one year; on 24 Dec. 1862 he sailed for Liberia and nothing more is known about him.
Can., Prov. of, Sessional papers, 1861, IV, no.22. G.B., Parl., Command paper, 1861, LXIV, , pp.293–345, Correspondence respecting the case of the fugitive slave, Anderson. The story of the life of John Anderson, the fugitive slave, ed. Harper Twelvetrees (London, 1863). Weekly Globe, 22 Feb. 1861. Fred Landon, “The Anderson fugitive case,” Journal of Negro History (Lancaster, Pa., and Washington), VII (1922), 233–42.
© 1976–2023 University of Toronto/Université Laval
Cite This Article
Robert C. Reinders, “ANDERSON, JOHN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 31, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/anderson_john_1831_62_9E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Robert C. Reinders|
|Title of Article:||ANDERSON, JOHN|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1976|
|Year of revision:||1976|
|Access Date:||May 31, 2023|