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As noted in the 2008 HBO mini-series chronicling the life and career of John Adams (1735-1826), as a young lawyer the future president served as counsel for the defense in the trial of eight British soldiers accused of murder during a riot in Boston on March 5, 1770.  William Wemms, James Hartegan, William McCauley, Hugh White, Matthew Killroy, William Warren, John Carrol, and Hugh Montgomery, soldiers in the English 29th regiment of foot, were accused of murdering Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, and Patrick Carr.  The case was heard at the Superior Court of Judicature, Court of Assize, and General Goal Delivery, on November 27, 1770, by adjournment, before justices Benjamin Lynde, John Cushing, Peter Oliver, and Edmund Troweridge.  The Law Library of Congress has copies of reports and transcripts of the court proceedings published in 1770, 1807, and 1824, as well as a history of the Boston Massacre “consisting of the narrative of the town, the trial of the soldiers, and a historical introduction, containing unpublished documents of John Adams, and explanatory notes,” published one hundred years later in 1870. Adams’s impassioned speech in defense of the soldiers resulted in their acquittal: it was reprinted in a “character sketch” by John Willard published in 1903.  Details about the publications follow. Where possible, full texts of the documents are provided as PDF documents and the images can be clicked to enlarge.

The trial of William Wemms,  James Hartegan, William McCauley, Hugh White, Matthew Killroy, William Warren,  John Carrol, and Hugh Montgomery1. The trial of William Wemms, James Hartegan, William McCauley,
Hugh White, Matthew Killroy, William Warren, John Carrol, and Hugh Montgomery, soldiers in His Majesty’s 29th regiment of foot, for the murder of Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, and Patrick Carr, on Monday-evening, the 5th of March, 1770, at the Superior Court of Judicature, Court of Assize, and General Goal Delivery, held at Boston, the 27th day of November, 1770, by adjournment.  Before the Hon. Benjamin Lynde, John Cushing, Peter Oliver, and Edmund Troweridge, Esquires, justices of said court.  Published by permission of the Court.  Taken in short-hand by John Hodgson.  Boston : Printed by J. Fleeming … 1770.
Library of Congress Catalog Permalink

The trial of the British soldiers, of the  29th regiment of foot, for the murder of Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, Samuel  Maverick, James Caldwell, and Patrick Carr. Printed and Published by Belcher and Armstrong,  1807.2. The trial of the British soldiers, of the 29th regiment of foot, for the murder of Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, and Patrick Carr, on Monday-evening, the 5th of March, 1770, before the Honorable Benjamin Lynde, John Cushing, Peter Oliver, and Edmund Troweridge, Esquires, justices of the Superior Court of Judicature, Court of Assize, and General Goal Delivery, held at Boston, by adjournment, November 27, 1770.  Boston : Printed and Published by Belcher and Armstrong, 1807. Library of Congress Catalog Permalink

The trial of the British soldiers, of the  29th regiment of foot, for the murder of Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, Samuel  Maverick, James Caldwell, and Patrick Carr. Published by William Emmons, 1824.3.  The trial of the British soldiers, of the 29th regiment of foot, for the murder of Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, and Patrick Carr, on Monday-evening, the 5th of March, 1770, before the Honorable Benjamin Lynde, John Cushing, Peter Oliver, and Edmund Troweridge, Esquires, justices of the Superior Court of Judicature, Court of Assize, and General Goal Delivery, held at Boston, by adjournment, November 27, 1770.  Boston : Published by William Emmons, 1824.  (PDF / 5,903Kb) Library of Congress Catalog Permalink

Kidder, Frederic.  History of the Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770 4. Kidder, Frederic.  History of the Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770 : consisting of the narrative of the town, the trial of the soldiers, and a historical introduction, containing unpublished documents of John Adams, and explanatory notes.  Albany, N.Y. : J. Munsell, 1870. (PDF / 8,365Kb) Library of Congress Catalog Permalink

John Adams : a character sketch, by Samuel  Willard5. John Adams : a character sketch, by Samuel Willard, with supplementary essay, by G. Mercer Adam, including anecdotes, characteristics, and chronology, and John Adams’ Speech on the Boston Massacre.  Milwaukee: H.G. Campbell Publishing Co., 1903 (p. 133-159). (PDF / 8,440KB) Library of Congress Catalog Permalink

According to the Boston Massacre Historical Society, “this controversial event was the culmination of civilian-military tensions that had been growing since royal troops first appeared in Massachusetts in October 1768.”  To learn more, visit their website (external link).

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Last Updated: 02/28/2014