The Boston Massacre.—Hillsborough's Administration of the Colonies continued.
‘the troops must move to the castle,’ said Samuel Adams
‘it must be the first business of the General Court to move them out of town.’2 Otis
went about declaiming that ‘the Governor
had power to do it by the Constitution
‘We consider this metropolis, and indeed the whole Province under duress,’ wrote Cooper
, the minister.
‘The troops greatly corrupt our morals, and are in every sense an oppression;’ and his New Year's prayer to Heaven asked deliverance from their presence.4
The Massachusetts Assembly was to meet on the tenth of January, and distant members were already on their journey;5
most unwisely for himself, and still more so for England
it to the middle of March.
The delay prevented
any support to its Petition against Bernard
; and any Representation during the session of Parliament in which the last revenue Act was to be modified or repealed.
The reason assigned for the prorogation was neither the good of the Colony, nor the judgment of the Lieutenant Governor
, but an arbitrary instruction6
, and of such an instruction Samuel Adams
denied the validity.7
The spirit of non-importation rather rose than abated.
Yet as tea had advanced one hundred per cent.,8 Hutchinson
, who was himself a very large importer of it,9
could no longer restrain his covetousness.
His two oldest sons, therefore, who were his agents, violating their engagement, broke open the lock, of which they had given the key to the Committee
of merchants, and secretly made sales.10
‘Do they imagine,’ cried Samuel Adams
, ‘they can still weary the patience of an injured country with impunity?’
and avowing that in the present case, the will of society was not declared in its laws, he called not on the merchants only, but on every individual of every class in city and country, to compel the strictest adherence to the agreement.11
in pursuance of a vote at a very full meeting, went in a body to the house of the
None of them were allowed to enter;
the Lieutenant Governor
himself threw up a window and pretended to charge them with a tumultuous and menacing application to him as Chief Magistrate
. ‘We come,’ they answered, ‘to treat with your sons, who have dishonorably violated their own contract, to which they had pledged their honor.’
‘A contract,’ answered Hutchinson
from the window, ‘without a valuable consideration is not valid in law.’
But he remained in great perplexity, fearing loss of property by riot.
Early the next morning, he sent for the upright William Phillips
, the moderator of the meeting, and engaged for his sons, that a sum of money should be deposited in the room of the tea that had been sold, and that the rest should be returned.
The capitulation was immediately reported to the meeting and accepted.14
‘This,’ said Bernard
's friends, ‘was as good a time as any to have called out the troops;’ and they thought it best to bring matters ‘to extremities.’15 Dalrymple
was ready; and ordered his men to equip themselves with twelve rounds for an attack.16
‘He has now thrown down the reins into the hands of the people,’ cried the Customs' Commissioners
, ‘and he can never recover them.’17
‘I am a ruined man,’ said he despondingly to Phillips
‘I humbly hope,’ thus he wrote to those who dealt out offices in London
, ‘that a single error in judgment
will not cancel more than thirty years laborious
and disinterested services in support of government.’
He looked to his Council; and they would take no part in breaking up the system of non-importation.
He called in all the justices who lived within fifteen miles; and they thought it not incumbent on them to interrupt the proceedings.
He sent the sheriff into the adjourned meeting of the merchants with a letter to the moderator, requiring them in his Majesty's name to disperse; and the meeting, of which justices of peace, selectmen, representatives
, constables and other officers made a part, sent him an answer, that their Assembly was warranted by law. He saw that the answer was in Hancock
and he treasured up the autograph to be produced one day, when Hancock
should be put on trial.
The news from Boston
spread through the country.
‘It is hard,’ said Trumbull
, now Governor
, ‘to break connections with our mother country; but when she strives to enslave us, the strictest union must be dissolved.’19
And as he looked through the world, he exclaimed: ‘The Lord
reigneth, let the earth rejoice, and the multitude of the isles be glad thereof; the accomplishment of some notable prophecies is at hand.’20
‘If the people of New-York
are more restrained,’ wrote Hutchinson
, ‘it is owing to the form of government of their city.’21
Their Liberty Pole had stood safely in the Park
for nearly three years. The
soldiery who had become, as at Boston
against the citizens, resolved to cut it down, and after three repulses, they succeeded.
On the seventeenth, the indignant people assembled in the fields to the number of three thousand, and without planning retaliation, expressed abhorrence and contempt of the soldiers as enemies to the Constitution
, and to the peace of the city.22
The soldiers replied by an insulting placard; and on two successive days engaged in an affray with the citizens, in which wounds and bruises were received on both sides,23
but the latter had the advantage.
The newspapers loudly celebrated the victory; and the Sons of Liberty, purchasing a piece of land near the junction of Broadway
and the high road to Boston
erected a pole, strongly guarded by iron bands and bars, deeply sunk into the earth, and inscribed ‘Liberty and Property.’
At the same time, the brave MacDougall
, son of a devout Presbyterian of the Scottish isle
of Ila, a man who had made a fortune as a sailor, and had himself carefully cultivated his mind, courageous and fiery, yet methodical and self-possessed,24
was persecuted by the Government
In consequence of his appeal to the people against the concessions of the Assembly, which voted supplies to the troops, he was indicted for a libel; and refusing to give bail, this ‘first Son of Liberty in bonds for the glorious cause’ was visited by such throngs in his prison, that he was obliged to appoint hours for their reception.25
Intelligence of these events, especially of the con-
flict of the citizens with the soldiers, was transmitted to Boston
where the townsmen emulously applauded the spirit of the ‘Yorkers.’
The determination to keep clear of paying the Parliament
's taxes spread into every social circle.
One week three hundred wives of Boston
, the next a hundred and ten more, with one hundred and twenty-six of the young and unmarried of their sex, renounced the use of tea till the Revenue Acts
should be repealed.27
How could the troops interfere?
Every body knew, that it was against the law for them to fire without the special authority of a civil magistrate; and the more they paraded with their muskets and twelve rounds of ball, the more they were despised, as men who desired to terrify and had no power to harm.
, too, was taunted with wishing to destroy town meetings, through which he himself had risen; and the Press, calling to mind his days of shop-keeping, was cruel enough to jeer him for his old frauds, as a notorious smuggler.28
, who had begun to sell contrary to the agreement, found a post planted before his door, with a hand pointed towards his house in derision.
One of his neighbors, Richardson
, an informer, asked a countryman to break the post down by driving the wheel of his cart against it. A crowd interposed; a number of boys chased Richardson
to his own house and threw stones.
Provoked but not endangered, he fired among them, and killed one of
eleven years old, the son of a poor German.
funeral five hundred children walked in front of the bier; six of his school-fellows held the pall; and men of all ranks moved in procession from Liberty Tree
to the Town House
, and thence to the ‘burying place.’
Soldiers and officers looked on, with wounded pride.
was impatient to be set to work29
, or to be ordered elsewhere.30
The common soldiers of the twenty-ninth regiment were notoriously bad fellows;31
licentious and overbearing.
‘I never will miss an opportunity of firing upon the inhabitants,’ said one of them, Kilroi by name; ‘I have wanted such an opportunity ever since I have been in the country;’32
and he repeated the threat several times.
It was a common feeling in the regiment.
On the other hand, a year and a half's training had perfected the people in their part.
It was no breach of the law for them to express contempt for the soldiery; they were ready enough to confront them; but they were taught never to do it, except to repel an attack.
If any of the soldiers broke the law, which they often did, complaints were made to the local magistrates, who were ready to afford redress.33
On the other hand, the officers screened their men from legal punishment, and sometimes even rescued them from the constables.
On Friday the second day of March, a soldier of
the twenty-ninth, asked to be employed at Gray
's Ropewalk, and was repulsed in the coarsest words.
He then defied the ropemakers to a boxing match;
and, one of them accepting his challenge, he was beaten off. Returning with several of his companions, they too were driven away.
A larger number came down to renew the fight with clubs and cutlasses, and in their turn encountered defeat.
By this time Gray
and others interposed, and for that day prevented further disturbance.34
There was an end of the affair at the Ropewalk, but not at the barracks, where the soldiers inflamed each other's passions, as if the honor of the regiment were tarnished.35
On Saturday they prepared bludgeons;36
and being resolved to brave the citizens on Monday night,37
they forewarned their particular acquaintance not to be abroad.
Without duly restraining his men, Carr
, the Lieutenant Colonel
of the twenty-ninth, made complaint to the Lieutenant Governor
of the insult they had received.38
The Council, deliberating on Monday, seemed of opinion, that the town would never be safe from quarrels between the people and the soldiers, as long as soldiers should be quartered among them.
In the present case the owner of the Ropewalk gave satisfaction by dismissing the workman complained of.
The officers should, on their part, have kept their men within the barracks after night-fall.
Instead of it they left them to roam the streets.
should have insisted on measures of precaution;39
he too much wished the favor of all who had influ-
Chap. XLIII.} 1770.
ence at Westminster
Evening came on. The young moon was shining brightly in a cloudless winter sky, and its light was increased by a new fallen snow.40
Parties of soldiers were driving about the streets,41
making a parade of valor, challenging resistance, and striking the inhabitants indiscriminately with sticks or sheathed cutlasses.
A band which rushed out from Murray's Barracks,42
in Brattle Street, armed with clubs, cutlasses and bayonets, provoked resistance, and an affray ensued.
, at the gate of the barrack-yard, cried to the soldiers, ‘Turn out, and I will stand by you; kill them; stick them; knock them down; run your bayonets through them;’43
and one soldier after another levelled a firelock and threatened to ‘make a lane’ through the crowd.
Just before nine, as an officer crossed King Street, now State Street, a barber's lad cried after him, ‘There goes a mean fellow who hath not paid my master for dressing his hair;’ on which the sentinel stationed at the westerly end of the Custom House
, on the corner of King Street and Exchange Lane, left his post, and with his musket gave the boy a stroke on the head, which made him stagger and cry for pain.44
The street soon became clear,45
and nobody troubled
the sentry, when a party of soldiers issued violently
Chap. XLIII.} 1770.
from the main guard,46
their arms glittering in the moonlight, and passed on hallooing, ‘Where are they?
where are they?
let them come.’
Presently twelve or fifteen47
more, uttering the same cries, rushed from the South
into King Street, and so by way of Cornhill
, towards Murray's Barracks. ‘Pray, soldiers, spare my life,’ cried a boy of twelve, whom they met; ‘No, no, I'll kill you all,’ answered one of them, and knocked him down with his cutlass.
They abused and insulted several persons at their doors and others in the street, ‘running about like madmen in a fury,’48
crying, ‘Fire,’ which seemed their watchword, and, ‘Where are they?
knock them down.’
Their outrageous behavior occasioned the ringing of the bell at the head of King Street.
The citizens whom the alarm set in motion, came out with canes and clubs; and partly by the interference of well-disposed officers, partly by the courage of Crispus Attucks
, a mulatto, and some others, the fray at the Barracks
was soon over.
Of the citizens, the prudent shouted ‘Home, Home;’ others, it was said, called out, ‘Huzza for the main guard, there is the nest;’ but the main guard was not molested the whole evening.
A body of soldiers came up Royal Exchange Lane, crying ‘Where are the cowards?’
and brandishing their arms, passed through King Street.
From ten to twenty boys came after them, asking,
‘Where are they, where are they?’
‘There is the soldier who knocked me down,’ said the barber's boy,49
and they began pushing one another towards the sentinel.50
He primed and loaded his musket.51
is going to fire,’ cried a boy. Waving his piece about, the sentinel pulled the trigger.53
‘If you fire you must die for it,’ said Henry Knox
, who was passing by. ‘I don't care,’ replied the sentry; ‘damn them, if they touch me I'll fire.’
‘Fire and be damned,’ shouted the boys, for they were persuaded he could not do it without leave from a civil officer; and a young fellow spoke out, ‘We will knock him down for snapping;’ while they whistled through their fingers and huzzaed.54
‘Stand off,’ said the sentry, and shouted aloud, ‘Turn out, main guard.’55
‘They are killing the sentinel,’ reported a servant from the Custom House
, running to the main guard.
‘Turn out, why don't you turn out?’
who was Captain
of the day, to the guard.
‘He appeared in a great flutter of spirits,’ and ‘spoke to them roughly.’
A party of six, two of whom, Kilroi and Montgomery
, had been worsted at the Ropewalk,57
formed with a corporal in front, and Preston
With bayonets fixed, they haughtily ‘rushed through the people,’59
upon the trot, cursing them, and pushing them as they went
They found about ten persons round the sentry,
while about fifty or sixty came down with them.
‘For God's sake,’ said Knox
, holding Preston
by the coat, ‘take your men back again; if they fire, your life must answer for the consequences.’
‘I know what I am about,’ said he, hastily, and much agitated.
None pressed on them or provoked them, till they began loading, when a party of about twelve in number, with sticks in their hands, moved from the middle of the street where they had been standing, gave three cheers, and passed along the front of the soldiers, whose muskets some of them struck as they went by. ‘You are cowardly rascals,’ they said, ‘for bringing arms against naked men;’ ‘lay aside your guns,60
and we are ready for you.’
‘Are the soldiers loaded?’
inquired Palmes of Preston
‘Yes,’ he answered, ‘with powder and ball.’61
‘Are they going to fire upon the inhabitants?’
asked Theodore Bliss
‘They cannot, without my orders;’ replied Preston
while ‘the town-born’ called out, ‘Come on, you rascals, you bloody backs, you lobster scoundrels, fire if you dare.
We know you dare not.’63
Just then Montgomery
received a blow from a stick thrown which hit his musket; and the word ‘Fire,’ being given, he stepped a little on one side, and shot Attucks
, who at the time was quietly leaning on a long stick.
The people immediately began to move off. ‘Don't fire,’ said Langford
, the watchman, to Kilroi, looking him full in the face; but yet he did so, and Samuel Gray
, who was standing next Langford
his hands in his bosom, fell lifeless.
The rest fired
Chap. XLIII.} 1770.
slowly and in succession on the people, who were dispersing.
One aimed deliberately at a boy, who was running for safety.
then pushed at Palmes to stab him; on which the latter knocked his gun out of his hand, and levelling a blow at him hit Preston
Three persons were killed, among them Attucks
the mulatto; eight were wounded, two of them mortally.
Of all the eleven not more than one had had any share in the disturbance.
So infuriated were the soldiers, that, when the men returned to take up the dead, they prepared to fire again, but were checked by Preston
, while the Twenty-Ninth Regiment appeared under arms in King Street, as if bent on a further massacre.
‘This is our time,’65
cried soldiers of the Fourteenth; and dogs were never seen more greedy for their prey.66
The bells rung in all the churches; the town drums beat.
‘To arms, to arms,’ was the cry. And now was to be tested the true character of Boston
All its sons came forth, excited almost to madness; many were absolutely distracted by the sight of the dead bodies, and of the blood, which ran plentifully in the street, and was imprinted in all directions by the foot-tracks on the snow.
‘Our hearts,’ says Warren
, ‘beat to arms; almost resolved by one stroke to avenge the death of our slaughtered brethren.’67
But they stood self-possessed and irresistible, demanding justice according to the law. ‘Did you not know,
that you should not have fired without the order of a civil Magistrate
on meeting Preston
‘I did it,’ answered Preston
, ‘to save my men.’68
The people would not be pacified, till the regiment was confined to the guard-room and the barracks; and Hutchinson
himself gave assurances that instant inquiries should be made by the County
The body of them then retired, leaving about one hundred persons to keep watch on the examination, which lasted till three hours after midnight.69
A warrant was issued against Preston
, who surrendered himself to the Sheriff
; and the soldiers who composed the party were delivered up and committed to prison.70
The next morning the Selectmen
of the Town
and the Justices
of the County
spoke with Hutchinson
at the Council Chamber
. ‘The inhabitants,’ said the former, ‘will presently meet, and cannot be appeased while the troops are among them.’
Quincy of Braintree
, on behalf of the Justices
, pointed out the danger of ‘the most terrible consequences.’
‘I have no power to remove the troops,’ said Hutchinson
, ‘nor to direct where they shall be placed;’ but he sent to invite Dalrymple
, the Commanding Officers
, to be present in Council.
They attended, and the subject was ‘largely discussed.’
At eleven, the Town
Meeting was opened in Faneuil Hall by prayer from Cooper
; then Samuel Adams
and fourteen others, among them, Hancock
, were chosen to proceed to the Council
Chap. XLIII.} 1770.
Chamber, where in the name of the Town
they delivered this message:‘The inhabitants and soldiery can no longer live together in safety; nothing can restore peace and prevent further carnage, but the immediate removal of the troops.’71
To effect this, they asked the exertion of his power and influence.
desired to parley with them.72
‘The people,’ they answered, ‘not only in this town, but in all the neighboring towns, are determined that the troops shall be removed.’
‘An attack on the King
's troops,’ replied Hutchinson
, ‘would be High Treason, and every man concerned would forfeit his life and estate.’
The Committee unmoved, recalled his attention to their peremptory demand and withdrew.
My readers will remember, that the instructions from the King
which placed the army above the civil power in America
, contained a clause, that where there was no officer of the rank of Brigadier, the Governor
of the Colony or Province might give the word.
, accordingly, offered to obey the Lieutenant Governor
, who, on his part, neither dared to bid the troops remain, nor order their withdrawal.
So the opinion which had been expressed by Bernard
during the last summer, and at the time had been approved by Dalrymple
, was called to mind as the
rule for the occasion.
The Lieutenant Governor
Chap. XLIII.} 1770.
therefore, acquainted the Town
's Committee, that the Twenty-Ninth Regiment, which was particularly concerned in the late differences, should without delay be placed at the Castle
, and the Fourteenth only be retained in town under efficient restraint.73
Saying this, he adjourned the Council to the afternoon.
The vigorous will of Samuel Adams
now burst forth in its majesty.
As Faneuil Hall could not hold the throng from the surrounding country, the Town
had adjourned to the Old South Meeting House
The street between the State House
and that church was filled with people.
‘Make way for the Committee
,’ was the shout of the multitude, as Adams
came out from the Council Chamber
, and baring his head, which was already becoming gray, moved through their ranks, inspiring heroic confidence.
To the people who crowded even the gallery and aisles of the spacious Meeting House
, he made his report, and pronounced the answer insufficient.
On ordinary occasions he seemed like ordinary men; but in moments of crisis, he rose naturally and unaffectedly into the attitude of highest dignity, and spoke as if the hopes of humanity were dependent on his words.
, after deliberation, raised a new and smaller Committee, composed of Samuel Adams
, William Phillips
, to bear their final message.
They found the Lieutenant Governor
surrounded by the Council
and by the highest officers of the British Army
Chap. XLIII.} 1770.
Navy on the Station
had done his utmost to get Samuel Adams
shipped to England
as a traitor; at this most important moment in their lives, the patriot and the courtier stood face to face.
‘It is the unanimous opinion of the Meeting,’ said Samuel Adams
to him in the name of all, ‘that the reply made to the vote of the inhabitants in the morning, is unsatisfactory; nothing less will satisfy than a total and immediate removal of all the troops.’
‘The troops are not subject to my authority,’ repeated Hutchinson
; ‘I have no power to remove them.’
Stretching forth his arm which slightly shook as if ‘his frame trembled at the energy of his soul,’74
in tones not loud, but clear and distinctly audible, Adams
rejoined: ‘If you have power to remove one regiment, you have power to remove both.75
It is at your peril if you do not.76
The meeting is composed of three thousand people.
They are become very impatient.
A thousand men are already arrived from the neighborhood, and the country is in general motion.
Night is approaching; an immediate answer is expected.’
As he spoke, he gazed intently on his irresolute adversary.
‘Then,’ said Adams
who not long afterwards described the scene, ‘at the appearance of the de-77
termined citizens, peremptorily demanding the re-
Chap. XLIII.} 1770.
dress of grievances, I observed his knees to tremble; I saw his face grow pale; and I enjoyed the sight.’78
As the Committee
left the Council Chamber
's memory was going back in his reverie to the days of the Revolution of 1688.79
He saw in his mind, Andros
seized and imprisoned, and the people instituting a new government; he reflected that the citizens of Boston
and the country about it were become four times as numerous as in those days, and their ‘spirit full as high.’
He fancied them insurgent, and himself their captive; and he turned to the Council for advice.
‘It is not such people as formerly pulled down your House
, who conduct the present measures;’ said Tyler
, ‘but they are people of the best characters among us, men of estates, and men of religion.
It is impossible for the troops to remain in town; there will be ten thousand men to effect their removal, be the consequence what it may.’
Russell of Charlestown
, and Dexter
, a man of admirable qualities, confirmed what was said.
They spoke truly; men were ready to come down from the hills of Worcester County
, and from the vale of the Connecticut
The Council unanimously advised sending the troops to the Castle
‘It is impossible for me,’ said Dalrymple
again and again, weakening the force of what he said by frequently repeating it, ‘to go any further lengths in this matter.
The information given of the intended rebellion is a
sufficient reason against the removal of his Majesty's
Chap. XLIII.} 1770.
‘You have asked the advice of the Council,’ said Gray
to the Lieutenant Governor
; ‘they have given it unanimously; you are bound to conform to it.’
‘If mischief should come, by means of your not joining with us,’ pursued Irving
, ‘the whole blame must fall upon you; but if you join with us, and the commanding officer
after that should refuse to remove the troops, the blame will then be at his door.’81 Hutchinson
finally agreed with the Council, and Dalrymple assured him of his obedience.
's Committee, being informed of this decision, left the State House
to make their welcome report to the Meeting.
The inhabitants listened with the highest satisfaction; but, ever vigilant, they provided measures for keeping up a strong military watch of their own, until the Regiments should leave the town.82
It was a humiliation to the officers and soldiers to witness the public funeral of the victims of the fifth of March; but they complained most of the watch set over them.
of the town militia had, however, taken good legal advice, and showed the old Province Law under which he kept it; and the Justices
of the Peace in their turns attended every night during its continuance.83
The British officers gnashed their teeth in anger at the contempt into which they had been brought.
The troops came to overawe the people, and maintain the laws;
and they were sent as law-breakers to a prison rather
than to a garrison.
‘There,’ said Edmund Burke
, ‘was an end of the spirited way we took, when the question was, whether Great Britain
should or should not govern America.’84
The questions that the inquirer, on examining the evidence, may raise, are three.
I. Were the soldiers or the townsmen the aggressors?
give the order to fire?
Were the soldiers pelted and struck before firing?
There would never have been any difficulty in answering these questions, but for the trials which followed.
The lawyers employed were skilful in constructing hypotheses to suit their purpose.
‘The Case’ of Preston
is confessedly false.
It was written by some royalist lawyer, and was published for purposes to be answered in England
The ex parte
affidavits secretly taken and sent to England
, are not trustworthy.
The Depositions published in the Boston Narrative
, were taken openly and in the presence of persons representing all parties.
The evidence taken on Preston
's trial, has, I believe, never been fairly or fully printed.
I have seen only parts of it. The report of the soldiers' trial is valuable though imperfect.
In using it, care must be taken to separate the evidence of known and responsible persons from that of the feebleminded, the biassed, and those who evidently spoke falsely.
I have seen many unpublished private letters of persons in the interest of the officers, as well as the official papers on the subject.
I. As to the first question, all the evidence agrees that the townspeople acted on the defensive, and made no resistance till attacked.
On this point we have also the emphatic statement of James Bowdoin
, Samuel Pemberton
, and Joseph Warren
, as well as the uncontroverted reasoning of Samuel Adams
give the order to fire?
I think he did.
1. Disciplined men in the regular army were not likely to fire without orders.
himself said to T. Bliss
, ‘They cannot fire without my orders.’
See the Testimony of T. Bliss
2. The men said positively they had his orders to fire.
3. There were many witnesses to his giving the word to fire.
4. He himself owned it to Hutchinson
when he said ‘I did it to save
Chap. XLIII.} 1770.
5. Afterwards he was obliged to confess he said Fire, yet pretending March that he preceded the word by Don't; but first, this is not the word an officer would give to men whose guns were levelled, and whom he wished to prevent firing.
Second, there was time between the first gun and the last to have stopped the procedure, which he did not do.
in his first report, does not clear him of the order to fire.
does not clear him of the order.
8. His counsel, a determined royalist, was convinced he gave the order.
‘I am afraid poor Preston
has but little chance.
who is his counsel, tells me the evidence is very strong to prove, the firing upon the inhabitants was by his order, and he doubts whether the assault would be an excuse for it.’
to Sir Francis Bernard
, 30 March, 1770.
Considering the relations of the parties this is most significant language.
The opposite views were the hypothesis for the trial.
9. As Auchmuty
before the trial believed that Preston
gave the order, so Josiah Quincy, Jr.
has left on record his opinion that the verdict of the jury was an unjust one.
, in Boston Gazette, 28 Sept. 1772; 912, 3, 1; and again, Edward Sexby
, 12 Oct. 1772; Boston Gazette, 914, 1, 2.
But this is not so decisive as the opinion, at the time, of Auchmuty
10. The monstrously false insinuations in the ‘Case of Captain Preston
had given no orders, the offensive falsehoods would have been superfluous.
Were the soldiers pelted and struck while on duty before firing?
The necessities of the defence naturally exaggerated the provocation, and the statements respecting it are contradictory.
When were boys together after a newly fallen snow without throwing snowballs?
A little discrimination as to the character of the witnesses and the effect of the testimony on those best able to judge, will show whether the soldiers were endangered.
's opinion of the insufficiency of the assault to justify the soldiers has already been cited.
, whose testimony as given at the time, is of the highest importance, writes of the firing:—
‘I think, admitting every thing in favor of it, that the action was too hasty, though the great provocation may be some excuse.’
to Sir Francis Bernard
, 12 March, 1770. ‘How far the affronts and the abuse offered by the inhabitants may avail to excuse this action, is uncertain.’
to Lord Hillsborough, 12 March, 1770.
3. Rev. Dr. Cooper
's opinion is worthy of great attention.
‘Soldiers &c. fired without the least reason to justify so desperate a step.’
Dr. S. Cooper
to Gov. Pownall
, 26 March, 1770.
4. No one of the soldiers was hurt, nor was there any of the things.
Chap. XLIII.} 1770.
said to have been thrown at them, to be found on the place next morning.
Boston Gazette, 830, 2, 2.
5. Look at the testimony of trustworthy men. Edward Paine
, cited in Boston Gazette, of 7 Jan. 1771, ‘perceived nothing but the talk that he thought would have induced the sentry or any of the soldiers to fire.’
, afterwards General and Secretary at War
, was close by and saw nothing thrown.
His testimony is very strong.
Among others, Langford
the watchman, says, ‘The boys were swearing and using bad words, but they threw nothing.’
Trial, 11. ‘I saw nobody strike a blow, nor offer a blow.’
saw nothing thrown at the soldiers.
Testimony of Richard Palmes
He was standing close by Preston
Question. At the time the soldiers fired, did you see a number of things thrown at them?
Answer. I saw nothing thrown or touch them, except that which struck Montgomery
6. Compare on the other hand the testimony to prove the pelting.
The chief witness was Andrew
, a negro servant, famed for his ‘lively imagination.’
, a friend of the sentry, swore, ‘the boys were throwing pieces of ice at him.’
Q. Did you see the pieces of ice thrown?
A. Yes; they were hard and large enough to hurt any man. Q. Did you see any of the pieces of ice hit him?
A. There was nothing thrown after I went to him; if any thing was thrown, it was before.
This same witness was used to countenance the story, which Hutchinson
gives in his History, III. 272.
Q. Did you see any thing thrown before the firing?
A. Yes; Montgomery
was knocked down with a stick, and his gun flew out of his hand, and when he recovered he discharged his gun.
Against this, weigh the evidence of Bass
, and Palmes.
Q. Was you looking at Montgomery
all the time before he fired?
A. Yes. Q. Are you certain he did not fall before he fired?
A. Yes. Q. Are you sure if he had fallen, you must have seen him?
Yes. Nathaniel Fosdick
being asked when Montgomery
fell, answered, ‘It was after he had fired.’
Q. Are you sure Montgomery
did not fall just before he discharged his gun?
A. Yes. After the trial Palmes
persisted in his statement.
‘I assure the world upon the oath I then took, that Montgomery
did not fall, till he attempted to push his bayonet through my body; which was about the time the last gun went off.’