John Adam’s and the Boston Massacre Trials

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March 5, 1770 on Kings Street in Boston, Massachusetts a mob was fired into by British soldiers followed by the Boston Massacre trials including John Adams as one of the defending lawyers for the British soldiers.  This trial  benefited him in a way that will be discussed later. What led up to the massacre? Why would John Adams defend the soldiers?

What led up to the Massacre?

In the early 1700s in Boston, Massachusetts,  Boston was under military rule. It began to get very tense between Britain and the civilians living in Boston. It mainly started when citizens protested against British Taxation which established the Stamp Act and Townshend Acts . The Stamp Act is an act British Parliament established in 1765 that exacted revenue from Colonies by imposing a stamp duty on newspapers and legal and commercial documents. It was repealed in 1766. The Townshend Acts are laws passed by parliament Charles Townshend in 1767 to put additional taxes on common products imported to the colonies like glass, tea and paper.  Citizens began to get angry because they saw this as taxation without representation. Boston citizens began to cause riots protest as well as attacks on tax officials.

Also they began boycotts and smuggling which made matters worse. As a result of this on October 1768 Governor Francis Barnard sent troops in order to protect government officials from attacks and to restore order.  Two regiments (average 2,000-4,000 soldiers) were sent. In May 3, 1765 there where so many soldiers (around 2,000 British soldiers) the Quartering Act of 1765 was established by British Parliament to find suitable accommodations  for the soldiers.  This act stated that citizens must provide housing,  food,  and drink to British troops stationed in their town. Some of the citizens were removed from the Manufactory House so soldiers could be put there. People felt like their rights we're being violated. One day the Sons of Liberty (merchants) decided to boycott products affected by the Townshend Acts.  February 22nd a crowd gathered in front of the Merchants Office. The crowed shouted epithets at Ebenezer Richardson (an informer).  He shot into the crowd killing and 11 year-end.

March 5th 1770 a confrontation between British Private Hugh White escalated to at least 50 citizens  confronting eight armed soldiers in the twenty-ninth regiment led by Captain Preston Thomas in front of the Customs House.  The crowd began to get more aggravated and started daring the soldiers to fire. Captain Preston tried to calm the mob down but instead an object was thrown striking a soldier in the head.  Private Montgomery to be exact. Soldiers began to fire into the mob.  Three died immediately two died from wounds.

Three weeks after the Boston Massacre a grand jury indicated the soldiers of the twenty-ninth regiment accused of having fired from the Customs House. The soldiers accused of murder were William Weeks, James Hartigan, William McCauley, Hugh White, Matthew Gilroy, William Warren, John Carroll, and Hugh Montgomery.  The soldiers couldn't find a lawyer until John Adams agreed to be their head of defense . This case affected his reputation later on.  But why would he want to defend the soldiers who killed five citizens? 

It's not for sure why he did it but he strongly believed all men deserved a strong trial and equal justice.  He knew all the dangerous end results of taking this case . But he might have wanted by one be remembered as the man who put law before emotion.  John Adams was assisted by Josiah Quincy (Prosecutor & Samuel Quincy's brother). The trial started November 27th lasted till December 5th. Because the jurors would believe that the soldiers shot first the trial was mostly about the mob. John believed the soldiers were attacked by a lot of men so they shot to defend themselves. The Prosecutors built their case mainly on accusations and hatred toward the soldiers, but Josiah Quincy reminded the jury to judge the soldiers based on the evidence here in the Court produced against them,  and by nothing else.  The trial ended quietly. Preston's trial  there was a lot of confusion. Eyewitnesses presented opposing evidence on if Preston commanded his men to fire.   A man named Richard Palmer testified,  after the gun went off I heard the word fire! Adams argued Preston was found not guilty. The others claimed self-defense and found not guilty. The trial ended quietly.  Samuel Adams wrote several articles in the Boston Gazette about the soldiers escaping with blood on their hands.

 The Boston Massacre was a major impact. It mad the colonist angry who where worried about British rule and the unfair taxation and made them more motivated to fight for independence. The colonist continued to rebel and this led to the Boston Tea Party, formed Continental Congress, and effectively launched the American Revolution.

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John Adam's and the Boston Massacre Trials. (2019, Dec 18). Retrieved November 30, 2023 , from

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