Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Causes of the American Revolution: Part 6 – more on Boston, the Boston Massacre

Massacre is a very ominous word.

Some of history’s most notorious events have this term attached to them. It certainly doesn’t fit what happened in icy Boston on March 1770.

We know relations in Boston and the “British Garrison” had deteriorated rapidly since 1768, when British troops were posted in the city after a serious smuggling incident.

Much of Boston’s volatile street rabble had practically declared open warfare on the British soldiers. This rabble was manipulated by radicals (including Sam Adams) to further their agenda. This was basically “get the British out of Boston, Massachusetts and the rest of colonies”.

In March 1770, the situation in Boston came to a head, with predictable results.

A street mob, many after heavy drinking, was itching for a fight. So they harassed a lone sentry, pelting him with snowballs and chunks of ice. Ten British reinforcements were no match for the menacing crowd.

This was a typical schoolyard bully situation. Pick on someone weaker, taunt them, the victim is outnumbered anyway. Then start the attack.

This was a very, very unfair fight. The results came soon enough. Captain Preston, the British commander, no rookie, was very nervous. The situation was out of control.

A British shot was fired, whether by accident or panic, who knows? Then there were a few more shots. Five Bostonians lay dead.

“Massacre” was the roar of the mob. The British had fired without provocation, wantonly. They will pay for their dastardly deed. Of course, radicals had now just the situation they could exploit, which they began immediately.

For me, the real story starts now. Even today, when a dreadful crime has been committed, and the criminal awaits trial, even with our Constitution and legal safeguards, who would want to defend the obviously guilty person? Forget the process, let the trial begin, pass judgment now.

Fortunately, this doesn’t happen. Of course, the quality of the defense can vary widely. A good lawyer can literally make the difference between life and death. The British soldiers got a very lucky break.

They got the best defense, John Adams, with Josiah Quincy. Adams had no love for the street crowd. He was always very suspicious of the opinion and motivation of any mob. That wasn’t law, that was anarchy.

He did feel that anyone should be defended for a criminal charge, certainly the British. After all, it was a long-held principle of justice.

I don’t feel that the verdict of acquittal for all but two of the soldiers is so amazing. The stories of the witnesses fluctuated widely. Even the jurors must have realized evidence must have some validity, not vary from person to person. Can you imagine the grilling the witnesses got from the defense team?

However, the “Massacre” incident’s notoriety did not subside. Other colonies took up the alleged outrage. The familiar story persists to this day.

However, it does show that even if all you face is an expensive speeding ticket, it will probably pay you to hire a good lawyer! – Renata Breisacher Mulry

Causes of the American Revolution: Part 5 – Boston

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