Edward G. Loring

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Edward Greely Loring (January 28, 1802 – 1890) was a Massachusetts judge who ignited controversy in Massachusetts and the North by ordering escaped slaves Thomas Sims and Anthony Burns to be returned to slavery under the federal Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Because of public opposition to his decisions, confirmed by a Bill of Address passed by the state legislature, in 1857 Loring was removed from office by Governor Nathaniel Prentice Banks. In 1858 President James Buchanan appointed Loring to the United States Court of Claims, where he served until retiring in 1877.

Early life and education[edit]

A descendant of New England pioneer Thomas Loring, Edward Greely Loring was born in Boston in 1802. He was educated in common schools and at Harvard University, where he graduated in 1821. He studied law afterward, and was admitted to the Suffolk County bar.


Loring served as the probate judge of Suffolk County, Massachusetts. He was also the U.S. commissioner of the Circuit Court in Massachusetts. As commissioner, he was responsible for issuing warrants for arrest and ruling in cases under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which widely opposed in Boston and the North. In 1851 an escaped slave named Thomas Sims was captured in Boston. When Loring ordered his return to slavery in the South, as required by the new law, Boston abolitionists were outraged. In 1854, Loring ordered another escaped slave, Anthony Burns, to be returned to slavery in Virginia. This case prompted an attack on the courthouse, in which a US Marshal was killed, and widespread protests after Loring ruled Burns had to be returned to slavery. President Franklin Pierce sent in US troops to ensure the ruling was carried out.

Following the Burns decision, abolitionists led by William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips agitated for Loring to be removed from his office as probate judge. Forming a Vigilance Committee to monitor judges' activities under the law, they circulated petitions[1] and lobbied against Loring with the Massachusetts legislature. Although having assisted Burns in his court case, the attorney Richard Henry Dana, Jr. defended Loring before the legislature. Under pressure from an increasingly antislavery public, the legislature made two unsuccessful attempts to remove Loring from office by passing a Bill of Address in 1855 and 1856. Governor Henry J. Gardner, elected as a candidate of the Know-Nothing Party, declined to remove him.

In 1857, after the Republican Nathaniel Prentice Banks was elected governor of Massachusetts, the legislature passed another Bill of Address against Loring. The new governor complied and removed Loring from office.[2]

In May 1858, President James Buchanan appointed Loring to the United States Court of Claims to replace the late John J. Gilchrist. The Senate approved the nomination by a vote of 27-13 on May 6, 1858. Judge Loring served until he retired December 14, 1877.


  1. ^ Massachusetts Anti-Slavery and Anti-Segregation Petitions; House Unpassed Legislation 1858, Senate laid on the table, SC1/series 230. Massachusetts Archives. Boston, Mass.
  2. ^ "History of the Bill of Address", Article 8 Alliance
  • William E. Cain (1995), William Lloyd Garrison and the Fight against Slavery: Selections from The Liberator. Boston: Bedford Books. 150, note.
  • Charles Emery Stevens (1855), Anthony Burns: A History.
  • Henry David Thoreau (July 4, 1854): "Slavery in Massachusetts"
  • The United States Court of Claims : a history / pt. 1. The judges, 1855-1976 / by Marion T. Bennett / pt. 2. Origin, development, jurisdiction, 1855-1978 / W. Cowen, P. Nichols, M.T. Bennett. Washington, D.C.: Committee on the Bicentennial of Independence and the Constitution of the Judicial Conference of the United States. 1976.