The George and Susan Hillard House, located at 62 Pinckney Street,
was built circa 1835. The Hillards lived
there from the early 1840s until the 1870s.
George Hillard was a law partner of Charles Sumner, until Sumner was
elected to the U.S. Senate. However,
these men’s political views grew more divergent over time. Sumner became the most forceful abolitionist
in the Senate, but Hillard remained a more conservative Whig. While Hillard believed that slavery was wrong,
he sided politically with Senator Daniel Webster and was not willing to risk
the dissolution of the nation to end slavery.
In addition, George Hillard was a federal commissioner and
in 1850 this meant that he had to uphold the new Fugitive Slave Law by giving
out arrest warrants to slave catcher.
This law, which did not allow the accused to speak in their own defense,
put all African American in Boston
in jeopardy. Anyone, it seemed, could be
kidnapped and taken down into southern slavery.
However, Susan Hillard was hiding known fugitive slaves in their home
during these very same years, and in full knowledge and plain view of her
husband. Whatever his position on
national politics, George Hillard was sympathetic to self-emancipated slaves
and was a proponent of racial equality, especially in education. Ellen Craft was in the protection of the
Hillards in 1850 when slave catchers came to Boston in search of her and her husband. At least five fugitive slaves resided in the
Hillard home between 1855 and 1858.
Note: The George and Susan Hillard House is a private
residence and is not open to the public.
Still, William. Underground
Railroad. 1871. Reprint. Chicago:
Johnson Publishing Company, 1970.
Taylor, Anne-Marie. Young Charles Sumner and the Legacy of the
1811-1851. Amherst: University of Massachusetts
“Historic Resource Study Boston African American
National Historic Site” by Kathryn Grover and Janine V. da Silva