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CHAPTER V.

DEFENSE OF THE SOLDIERS--ELECTED TO THE ASSEMBLY-CONTROVERSY WITH

BOWDOIN

W"

(HEN had passed the first excitement aroused by the “ Boston

massacre," came the demand for the trial of the captain and soldiers who had been engaged in the affaií. All surrendered themselves, and were promptly indicted for murder. At this point began Adams' connection with the case, best told in the language of his autobiography. “The next morning, I think it was, sitting in my office near the steps of the townhouse stairs, Mr. Forrest came in, who was then called the Irish infant.' I had some acquaintance with him. With tears streaming from his eyes, he said, 'I am come with a very solemn message from a very unfortunate man,—Captain Preston,-in prison. He wishes for counsel, and can get none.

I have waited on Mr. Quincy, who says he will engage if you will give him your assistance; without it, he positively will not. Even Mr. Auchmuty declines, unless you will engage.' I had no hesitation in answering that counsel ought to be the very last thing that an accused person should want, in a free country; that the bar ought, in my opinion, to be independent and impartial, at all times and in every circumstance, and that persons whose lives were at stake ought to have the counsel they preferred. But he must be sensible this would be as important a cause as was ever tried in any court or country of the world, and that every lawyer must hold himself responsible, not only to his country, but to the highest and most infallible of all tribunals, for the part he should act. He must, therefore, expect from me no art or address, no sophistry or prevarication, in such a cause, nor anything more than fact, evidence, and law would justify. • Captain Preston,' he said, “requested and desired no more; and that he had such an opinion, from all he had heard from all parties, of me, that he could cheerfully trust his life with me, upon those principles. And,' said Forrest, as God Almighty is my judge, I believe him an innocent man.' I replied: That must be ascertained by his trial, and, if he believes he can

14th, a circular was addressed to the selectmen of other towns within the province, requesting them to send delegates to a convention to be held in Boston on the 22nd. The reasons assigned for holding this convention were those obviously suggested by the presence of the army, and, very unwisely, the evidently false one of “prospect of a war with France." This ostrichlike effort to conceal the aim of the selectmen, by hiding the head, while the body remained exposed, laid a very just, dignified and respectable movement open to unmerited contempt, and very considerably detracted from its weight. In spite, however, of this mistake, and of the short notice given, more than one hundred towns were represented in the convention.

The proceedings were mainly in the nature of protests against the military occupation and the billeting act; the convention expressly disavowed the possession of legislative powers, and its importance was principally in the indication it gave of a determination on the part of the people to protect their rights to extremities.

The arrival of the soldiers aroused the people to fury; they refused to provide for the accommodation of the troops, and demanded that they be quartered at the castle, without the city proper; this request might have been granted, but for the meeting of the convention, which the Governor and General Gage chose to regard as so nearly approaching an act of treason, as to absolve them from considering the feelings of the people. Hence, Faneuil hall and other public buildings were converted into barracks, pending an effort to enforce the billeting act, and, this quite failing, it eventually became necessary to hire houses for the purpose. Even this was only accomplished with great difficulty, and at exorbitant cost.

There were not lacking persons ready enough to inflame the people against the soldiers; the latter could not go abroad singly or in small parties without being taunted, insulted, and sometimes assailed by mobs of citizens "of the baser sort,” and so the rancor and hatred of the people were returned most heartily by the troops. Finally, on the night of the 5th of March, 1770, a crowd larger than usual being upon the streets, a sentry, on guard, was insulted by a passer-by; a brawl ensued; a corporal's guard came to the assistance of the imperiled soldier, and, gathering about him, faced the citizens, not more than twenty-five or thirty of whom were gathered. The latter proceeded from abuse to violence, hurling clubs, stones, and other missiles, at the red-coats, until the position of the latter became really perilous; then the guard—some say of their own accord, and others under the orders of their commander, Captain Preston-fired upon the crowd, killing five of the bystanders, more or less active participants in the riot. The people were aroused to the point of madness by this occurrence. The British commander drew in his force to a defensible part of the town, planted cannon to sweep the streets, and only by these precautions were prevented general riot and fearful bloodshed, which seemed inevitable.

CHAPTER V.

DEFENSE OF THE SOLDIERS-ELECTED TO THE ASSEMBLY-CONTROVERSY WITH

BOWDOIN.

W"

HEN had passed the first excitement aroused by the “ Boston

massacre, came the demand for the trial of the captain and soldiers who had been engaged in the affaií. All surrendered themselves, and were promptly indicted for murder. At this point began Adams' connection with the case, best told in the language of his autobiography. “The next morning, I think it was, sitting in my office near the steps of the townhouse stairs, Mr. Forrest came in, who was then called the Irish infant.' I had some acquaintance with him. With tears streaming from his eyes, he said, 'I am come with a very solemn message from a very unfortunate man,-Captain Preston,-in prison. He wishes for counsel, and can get none. I have waited on Mr. Quincy, who says he will engage if you will give him your assistance; without it, he positively will not. Even Mr. Auchmuty declines, unless you will engage.' I had no hesitation in answer. ing that counsel ought to be the very last thing that an accused person should want, in a free country; that the bar ought, in my opinion, to be independent and impartial, at all times and in every circumstance, and that persons whose lives were at stake ought to have the counsel they preferred. But he must be sensible this would be as important a cause as was ever tried in any court or country of the world, and that every lawyer must hold himself responsible, not only to his country, but to the highest and most infallible of all tribunals, for the part he should act. He must, therefore, expect from me no art or address, no sophistry or prevarication, in such a cause, nor anything more than fact, evidence, and law would justify. • Captain Preston,' he said, 'requested and desired no more; and that he had such an opinion, from all he had heard from all parties, of me, that he could cheerfully trust his life with me, upon those principles. And,' said Forrest, ‘as God Almighty is my judge, I believe him an innocent man.' I replied: That must be ascertained by his trial, and, if he believes he can

not have a fair trial of that issue without my assistance, without hesitation he shall have it.

"Upon this Forrest offered me a single guinea as a retaining fee, and I readily accepted it. From first to last I never said a word about fees, in any of those cases, and I should have said nothing about them here, if calumnies and insinuations had not been propagated that I was tempted by great fees and enormous sums of money. Before or after the trial, Preston sent me ten guineas, and, at the trial of the soldiers afterward, eight guineas more, which were all the fees I ever received or were offered to me, and I should not have said anything on the subject to my clients, if they had never offered me anything. This was all the pecuniary reward I ever had for fourteen or fifteen days' labor, in the most exhausting and fatiguing cases I ever tried, for hazarding a popularity very general and very hardly earned, and for incurring a clamor, popular suspicions and prejudices, which are not yet worn out, and never will be forgotten as long as the history of this period is read. It was immediately bruited about that I was engaged for Preston and the soldiers, and occasioned a great clamor, which the friends of government delighted to hear and slyly and secretly foment with all their art."

The trial of the soldiers was postponed to a later term of court. The account of the trial, when it was called, survives very briefly in the autobiography, and may be again quoted: “Not long after the adjournment of the general court, came on the trial of Captain Preston and the soldiers. I shall say little of these cases. Preston's trial was taken down in shorthand and sent to England, but was never printed here. I told the court and jury in both cases that, as I was no authority, I would propose to them no law from my own memory, but would read to them all I had to say of that nature from books, which the court knew, and the counsel on the other side must acknowledge, to be indisputable authorities. The rule was carefully observed, but the authorities were so clear and full that no question of law was made. The juries in both cases, in my opinion, gave correct verdicts. It appeared to me that the greatest service which could be rendered to the people of the town, was to lay before them the law as it stood, that they might be fully apprised of the dangers of various kinds, which must arise from intemperate heats and irregular commotions. Although the clamor was very loud, among some sorts of people, it has been a great consolation to me through life, that I acted, in this business, with steady impartiality, and conducted it to so happy an issue.”

Six of the eight soldiers were acquitted on this trial; the others were convicted of manslaughter, and, pleading a benefit of clergy, were branded on the hand and released. In the continuation, by Charles Francis Adams, of the memoir of his grandfather, begun by John Quincy Adams, is given a considerable extract from the speech of the illustrious counsel for the

defense. It was simple, scholarly, and, in every sentence, to the question. It opened as follows: "May it please your honors, and you gentlemen of the jury, I am for the prisoners at the bar, and shall apologize for it only in the language of the Marquis Beccaria : 'If I can but be the instrument of preserving one life, his blessing and tears of transport shall be sufficient consolation to me for the contempt of mankind.'” This was, in reality, the view of the case taken by Mr. Adams. It is easier now to undervalue than to appreciate the real strength of character necessary to the assumption and performance of what he felt to be his duty. The defense of Charles I., against the charges of the commonwealth ; of Louis XVI., against the fury of the revolutionists; of Wilkes Booth, had his death not anticipated trial, against the charge of murder--these, while the right may have lain on different side of the case, will convey some faint idea of the hazard of Mr. Adams' decision. All the respect in which he was held ; all the reputation gained by years of conscientious uprightness; all the hope of future success and preferment, which exists in the breast of every generous man,—all these were placed in the balance, and weighed not at all against his persuasion of justice and duty. Quincy, who was associated with him in the trial, received from his father a letter, remonstrating against any connection with the matter. He answered bravely and manfully, as would Adams, had he been put to the test : “To inquire my duty, and do it, is

I dare affirm that you and this whole people will one day rejoice that I became an advocate for the aforesaid criminals, charged with the murder of our fellow-citizens.”

As a matter of fact, however, Adams lost nothing of popularity by his action. The best element of the people came to recognize, in the soberness of afterthought, the fact that he was right in his judgment, and that the killing of the five citizens, which, even to this day, is miscalled the “Boston massacre,” was, in fact, the simplest act of self-defense on the part of the soldiers. Pending the trial, James Bowdoin, a member of the house of representatives, had been advanced to the council, leaving a vacancy in the former body. A special election was held on the 6th of June, and Mr. Adams was elected successor of Bowdoin, by a vote of four hundred and eighteen out of a total poll of five hundred and thirty-six votes. He thus gives an account of the event in his autobiography:

“I had never been to Boston town meeting, and was not at this until messengers came to inform me that I was chosen. I went down to Faneuil hall, and, in a few words, expressive of my sense of the difficulty and danger of the times, of the importance of the trust, and of my own insufficiency to fulfil the expectations of the people, I accepted the choice. Many congratulations were offered, which I received civilly, but they gave no joy

I considered the step a devotion of my family to ruin, and myself to death; for I could scarce perceive a possibility that I should ever go

my aim.

to me.

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