John Adams Thoughts After the Trial of the British Soldiers
In defense of the nine soldiers that were indicted for the Boston Massacre, John Adams considered this his greatest contribution to his country.
The Boston Massacre trials (3), were a great moment for America. It displayed Boston’s legal competence and provided the world with one additional benchmark for independence. It was a contrarian position for John Adams and his joint counsel Josiah Quincy. They were Sons of Liberty pleading on behalf of British soldiers that arrived October 1, 1768, to occupy and subjugate Boston to Parliamentary rule. Clearly, Adams and Quincy preferred to be on the other side of the table. Personally, Adams remarked that soldiers parading outside his Brattle Street home had a significant negative impact on his children.
Below is John Adams quote, made three years later on the anniversary of the event, as he reflected on his part in the British Soldiers defense.
“The Part I took in Defence of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right.” –John Adams[i]
The last paragraph, in his own hand below, speaks against a standing army among a civilian population. Despite his defense of the British Soldiers, he concluded in court that Parliament and the local politicians were responsible for the events of March 5, 1770, by creating an environment that lead to violence.
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Overall credit to Zobel, Hiller B. The Boston massacre. New York: W.W. Norton, 1970.
In his own hand from The Massachusetts Historical Society. John Adams Diary.
[i] Massachusetts Historical Society, Digital Adams Archives 3/5/1773 FRYDAY, page 16.
[ii] Massachusetts Historical Society, Digital Adams Archives 3/5/1773 FRYDAY, page 16.
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