Although John Adams defended the British redcoats at the end of 1770, the Boston Massacre actually happened March 5, 1770. Furthermore, events that led to the culmination of that night dated back to 1767 (Timeline). Many factors went into the decision, by John Adams, to defend the British soldiers. The atmosphere of the times dictated much of that evening and of that trial. For the time it was a radical thing for a man such as John Adams to defend the British troops, however his respect of the law led to his defense of the British troops.
John Adams was right in defending the redcoat in the Boston Massacre trial because he saw the actions of the redcoats as nothing more than men defending their lives. In 1767, with the passing of the Townshend Acts, the civilians began their resentment towards the British Parliament as well as the British troops stationed in Boston. The Townshend Acts were a series of Acts passed by congress on June 29, 1767 to increase taxes of commonly imported products on the Colonies.
Having new taxes imposed by the British as well as their military presence in Boston angered the civilians. During this time John Adams was a local lawyer in Boston working case to case (Miller Center). In late 1768 more British troops came to reestablish order in Boston per order of the Crown. The climate of this time was a hostile one on the part of the civilians. “The civilians reacted to the redcoats like they were invaders by taunting them through name calling, spitting, and fighting” (Timeline). By the time March 5, 1770 occurred, an incident had been bound to happen.
With the distress of the townspeople and the presence of British soldiers, a disaster like this was waiting to happen. When the dust settled, and the day was done, 5 civilians were killed at the hands of the redcoats. John Adams, a local lawyer in the Boston area and graduate of Harvard, defended in court the men accused of the Boston Massacre. With all of the social pressure, living in Boston, it would have been easy to give up but John Adams saw the law for what the law was. He did not look at it as redcoat against Boston, but as man against man.
In his closing argument for the defense of the British soldiers he questioned the jury; “Would it have been a prudent resolution in them, or in any body in their situation, to have stood still, to see if the sailors would knock their brains out, or not? ” (Miss, 5). As a defense lawyer it is their responsibility to make a case for the accused party as reasonable doubt. With that quote John Adams did just that. He posed a question to the jury basically saying “what were they supposed to do, roll over and die? ” He saw the redcoats’ behavior as defense.
The entire time the British troops had been stationed in Boston they had not once had an incident such as the Boston Massacre; the only time they opened fire on the Bostonians was when the civilians came at them in a combative manner. John Adams had every right to defend the redcoats with the plausible “it was in self defense” defense. He was a Harvard Law graduate with a law firm to run and clients he believed were only acting in self defense. His action to defend the redcoats was the just thing to do. The British soldiers were put in a position where there were either going to die or they were going to fight back.
The redcoats’ job was to be soldiers for the Crown. The Crown implemented more troops in Boston on October 1, 1768 to reestablish order in that area of the country. At that time the people of Boston were growing increasingly hostile and combative. By the time the Boston Massacre had occurred there was much history between the redcoats and the civilians of Boston. John Adams knew that history and did not choose sides based on loyalty. He interpreted the situation as a “do or die” situation on the part of the soldiers and defended them as such. He used his knowledge of the law in his closing statement for the defense of the redcoats.
Ultimately his position on the Boston Massacre impacted the lives of the British soldiers in a positive way. His actions were noble because he pushed aside his personal history with the city and defended his clients according to the law rather than letting the atmosphere of Boston dictate his defense and his closing argument. Works Cited “American President: A Reference Resource. ” Miller Center. University of Virginia. Web. 30 Oct 2012. . “Historic Timeline. ” Boston Massacre Historical Society. Boston Massacre Historical Society, n. d. Web. 30 Oct 2012. . Miss, Angela. Boston Massacre Defense. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. 4-5. Print.
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