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[347] and they were sent as law-breakers to a prison rather
Chap XLIII.} 1770. March
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.’1


The questions that the inquirer, on examining the evidence, may raise, are three. I. Were the soldiers or the townsmen the aggressors? II. Did Preston give the order to fire? II. 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 I have seen many unpublished private letters of persons in the interest of the officers, as well as the official papers on the subject.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.

II. Did Preston give the order to fire? I think he did.

1. Disciplined men in the regular army were not likely to fire without orders. Preston 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.

1 E. Burke's Speech, Monday, 7 March, 1774.

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