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Defense of the Boston Massacre Soldiers | Study Guide

John Adams

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Course Hero. "Defense of the Boston Massacre Soldiers Study Guide." Course Hero. 20 Dec. 2019. Web. 27 Jan. 2023. <>.

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Course Hero. "Defense of the Boston Massacre Soldiers Study Guide." December 20, 2019. Accessed January 27, 2023.


Course Hero, "Defense of the Boston Massacre Soldiers Study Guide," December 20, 2019, accessed January 27, 2023,



John Adams

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At a Glance

  • On March 5, 1770, an outraged mob of colonists swarmed through the streets of Boston. The colonists were angry about treatment by the British Crown, including the imposition of new taxes.
  • Fearing the angry mob, a group of British soldiers fired into a crowd, killing five and wounding several others.
  • This was one of several events that served as a prelude to the American Revolution (1775–83). Americans who protested British actions in Boston labeled this particular event the Boston Massacre.
  • The soldiers were charged with murder, a crime that carried the death penalty.
  • Massachusetts lawyer John Adams (1735–1826)—who was part of the anti-British movement—gave a spirited defense of the soldiers.
  • Adams argued that the situation leading to the shooting was chaotic and confusing, making a charge of murder unjust.
  • He emphasized the difference between murder and manslaughter, or killing without malicious forethought.
  • The jury acquitted Captain Thomas Preston and six of the eight soldiers, finding two guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
  • Adams's defense enhanced his reputation as a skilled lawyer and man of principle. The massacre, however, fueled further anti-British feeling and helped pave the way for the outbreak of the American Revolution five years later.


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