|Boston Herald, 30 Oct 1777|
Hallet was a staunch abolitionist, and a militant protector of minorities such as the native Mashpee Indians of Cape Cod, whom he defended in court in 1833 against 'whites' stealing their property in their own land... The various slanderous epithets with which he was labeled come from an episode that drew great attention, both from the public and the press - the trial of Anthony Burns, a fugitive slave escaped from the estate of Charles F. Suttle in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1854, and arrested in Boston. The trial became one of the most controversial episodes involving slavery in the years leading to the Civil War. As an abolitionist, Hallett openly despised everything the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 stood for; as a man of law, he was forced to use “reasonable force or restraint as may be necessary under the circumstances of the case” (Fugitive Slave Law, 1850; Section 6) to return fugitives to the claimants. Predictably, northern Democrats, fiercely opposed to slavery, heavily criticized him. He was described as a political machine, and was accused of turning his back to the cause. (added 2-1-2020)Aside from his nominal abolitionism, Hallett was seen in Massachusetts as often sided politically with Southern Whigs (ancestors of slavery proponents known as Southern Democrats) in the nationalist and anti-immigrant Know-Nothing party. He incurred northern wrath for this distinctly un-Massachusettian political position.
Even for a "hardcore abolitionist," B. F. Hallet suffered terribly from this political misunderstanding, re: perceived sympathy for slavery, conservative slavers, or Southern Democrats, as Roberto Poli writes:
It's not difficult to see why Hallett would be completely character-assassinated simply for being forced to apply the law [- return a slave to his owner]. The Burns [Anthony Burns, a fugitive slave escaped from the estate of Charles F. Suttle in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1854, and arrested in Boston] case was at the very early stages of his position as US DA, and once riots began on the streets of Boston (thousands of people gathered in front of the courthouse, shouting, spitting at and insulting the guards), Hallett's fate was sealed. He received specific directives via telegraph from the White House to increase the number of guards protecting the courthouse and Burns himself as he left the building, which was of course interpreted as an affront to liberty and dignity. At the end of the trial, thousands of people marched in protest on the streets; business owners hang black drapes outside their shops. Hallett was insulted publicly, and even assaulted in front of his home.