My friends, I am very glad to have it to say, have it to feel, that I am once more in the land of liberty; that I am with those who are my friends. Until my tenth year I did not care what became of me; but soon after I began to learn that there is a Christ who came to make us free; I began to hear about a North, and to feel the necessity for freedom of soul and body. I heard of a North where men of my color could live without any man daring to say to them, "You are my property;" and I determined by the blessing of God, one day to find my way there. My inclination grew on me, and I found my way to Boston.
You see, I didn't want to make myself known, so I didn't tell who I was; but as I came to work, I got employment, and I worked hard; but I kept my own counsel, and didn't tell anybody that I was a slave, but I strove for myself as I never had an opportunity to do before. When I was going home one night I heard some one running behind me; presently a hand was put on my shoulder, and somebody said: "Stop, stop; you are the fellow who broke into a silversmith's shop the other night." I assured the man that it was a mistake, but almost before I could speak, I was lifted from off my feet by six or seven others, and it was no use to resist. In the Court House I waited some time, and as the silversmith did not come, I told them I wanted to go home for supper. A man then come to the door; he didn't open it like an honest man would, but kind of slowly opened it, and looked in. He said, "How do you do, Mr. Burns?" and I called him as we do in Virginia, "master!"
He asked me if there would be any trouble in taking me back to Virginia, and I was brought right to a stand, and didn't know what to say. He wanted to know if I remembered the money that he used to give me, and I said, "Yes, I do recollect that you used to give me twelve and a half cents at the end of every year I worked for you." He went out and came back next morning. I got no supper nor sleep that night. The next morning they told me that my master said that he had the right to me, and as I had called him "master," having the fear of God before my eyes, I could not go from it. Next morning I was taken down, with the bracelets on my wrists -- not such as you wear, ladies, of gold and silver -- but iron and steel, that wore into the bone.
N.Y. Tribune, n.d., in the Liberator, March 9, 1855