Local Heart, Global Soul

December 26, 2009

Boston And The Memory Of A Massacre…

(photo © kiwidutch)

Boston Massacre occurred on March 5th 1770 after a rioting crowd on King Street ( now known as State Street) and a tense situation boiled over and British Army Troops opens fire on civilians outside the balcony of the Old State House.

Three people were killed immediately and another two died later of their wounds and the entire incident sparked off the American Revolution.

The original site is marked today by a cobblestone circle set into the ground in the square.

Engraver Paul Revere closely copied Pelham’s image, and thus often gets credit for it. Pelham and Revere added several inflammatory details, such as Captain Preston ordering his men to fire and another musket shooting out of the window of the customs office, labeled “Butcher’s Hall.”

Another discrepancy arose because of how artist Christian Remick hand-colored some prints: the bright blue sky does not accord with the quarter moon or dark shadows on the left side of the image. Some copies of the print show a man with two chest wounds and a somewhat darker face, matching descriptions of Attucks; others show no victim as a person of color. The inflammatory, bright red, “lobster backs” and glowing red blood now hung in farmhouses across New England. Revere had accomplished his goal of widely circulating an effective piece of anti-British propaganda.

The actors in this dreadful tragedy were a party of soldiers commanded by Capt. Preston of the 29th regiment. This party, including the Captain, consisted of eight, who are all committed to jail.
Captain Preston and the soldiers were arrested and scheduled for trial in a Suffolk County, Massachusetts court. The government was determined to give the soldiers a “Fair trial” so there could be no grounds for retaliation from the British and so that moderates would not be alienated from the Patriot cause.

(photo © kiwidutch)

A problem was that no lawyers in the Boston area wanted to defend the soldiers, as they believed it would be a huge career mistake. A desperate request was sent to John Adams from Preston, pleading for him to work on the case. Adams, who was already a leading Patriot and who was contemplating a run for public office, nevertheless agreed to help, in the interest of ensuring a fair trial. Adams, “Josiah Quincy II” and Robert Auchmuty acted as the defense attorneys with Sampson Salter Blowers helping by investigating the jury pool.

(photo © kiwidutch)

It is not known whether Paul Revere was present at the Massacre, though he drew a detailed map of the bodies to be used in the trial of the British soldiers held responsible. Solicitor General Samuel Quincy and private attorney Robert Treat Paine, hired by the town of Boston, handled the prosecution. To let passions settle, the trial was delayed for months, unusual in that period, and the Jury were all chosen from towns outside Boston. Tried on his own, Preston was acquitted after the jury was not convinced that he had ordered the troops to fire. His trial lasted from October 24, 1770 to October 30, 1770.

(photo © kiwidutch)

In the trial of the soldiers, which opened November 27, 1770, Adams argued that if the soldiers were endangered by the mob they had the legal right to fight back, and so were innocent. If they were provoked but not endangered, he argued, they were at most guilty of manslaughter. The jury agreed with Adams and acquitted six of the soldiers. Two of the soldiers were found guilty of murder because there was overwhelming evidence that they fired directly into the crowd. However, John Adams used a loophole in British common law: by proving to the judge that they could read by having them read aloud from the Bible, he had their crimes reduced to manslaughter “Benefit of clergy” . The two privates were thus found guilty of manslaughter and punished by branding on their thumbs. The jury’s decisions suggest that they believed the soldiers had felt threatened by the crowd. Patrick Carr, the fifth victim, corroborated this with a deathbed testimony delivered to his doctor.

The Boston Massacre is one of most important events that turned colonial sentiment against King George III and British acts and taxes. Each of these events followed a pattern of Britain asserting its control, and the colonists chafing under the increased regulation. Events such as the “Tea Act” and the ensuing “Boston Tea Party” were further examples of the crumbling relationship between Britain and the colonies. While it took five years from the Massacre to outright revolution, it foreshadowed the violent rebellion to come. It also demonstrated how British authority galvanized colonial opposition and protest.

Other beautiful buildings in the vicinity also drew my photographic attention:

(photo © kiwidutch)

(photo © kiwidutch)

(photo © kiwidutch)

(photo © kiwidutch)

This little statue is gorgeous…

(photo © kiwidutch)

(photo © kiwidutch)

(photo © kiwidutch)

(photo © kiwidutch)

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