The Reasons Riots Occur and the History of the Boston Massacre
“This is a horrific day in Boston. My thoughts and prayers are with those who have been injured”. This is a quote from Deval Patrick about the Boston Massacre. This was certainly a horrific day and a day that would go down in history. The grim details will never be forgotten, as John Adams fights for justice in court, supporting the British soldiers. The Boston Massacre ended in, 5 dead civilians, 3 died on the scene and 2 died later. Yes, other events such as wars kill much more people, but justice had to be brought to this case since British soldiers had fired into a crowd of people, a controversy that erupted in the town of Boston.
Riots are an unlawful way to express how individuals feel. Riots happen for multiple reasons. One reason is large numbers of people have no or little faith in the current legal system. When people do not have faith in their legal system, they will think they know best on how to run the government and that causes rebellions. A second reason riots occur is usually they occur when groups of congregate, after scheduled gatherings, descend into unfocused action. It is easy to get a group of people to fight against authority when they are already riled up about it. Lastly, riots occur when there is damage to the social and economic stability of urban communities.
Riots did not just occur when America started out, when it was just a couple of colonies. A recent riot happened in Baltimore, after days of peaceful protest, rioting and looting began on Monday, April 27, 2015 following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. This started the same controversy that the Boston Massacre did, that people who are supposed to protect you actually kill you. The Boston Massacre started lots of controversy in how the British soldiers were “protecting” the citizens of Boston and this made the colonists not trust the soldiers causing them to hate them more.
The Boston Massacre occurred on March 5, 1770 when a crowd began to harass a British sentry, and when eight soldiers came to his aid, the crowd began throwing rocks and snowballs at them. The soldier’s response was firing into the crowd and, unintentionally, killing five men. The crowd shouted malicious sayings such as, “Come on you rascals, you bloody backs, you lobster scoundrels, fire if you dare, God damn you, fire and be damned, we know you dare not.” It occurred because it was the culmination of civilian-military tensions that has been growing since the royal troops first appeared in Massachusetts in October 1768. With all that was going on, it was hard to identify who was guilty and who was innocent of the attacks and since there was a lot of talk about what occurred, this had to go to court. This is where John Adams comes into play.
John Adams was asked to represent the British soldiers, despite that it would decrease Adams’ popularity. The emotion in his speech that John Adams ultimately beat was fear, and he fought that with logic during the trial in Boston. Emotions alone would not have been enough to prove to guilty innocent. During his final argument, he told the jury that, “Our wishes, our inclinations cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” John Adams used reasoning to convince the jury and townspeople that they British soldiers were innocent and that it was not their fault that the soldiers shot into the crowd. He pointed out solid facts that happened, such as the throwing of the snowballs, ice and oyster shells and how Captain Preston did not shout “Fire” into the crowd. He proves to the court that it was not entirely the soldiers fault for the shooting. This is the extent he had to go to, in order to win this case.
John Adams had different arguments to win this case. One argument he used was when in the crowd some else shouted “Fire”, and it was not Captain Preston and the second argument was the crowd assaulted the soldiers, causing the soldiers to fire. Newton Prince had been the witness that revealed this information of the crowd shouting “Fire” in court. In his testimony, he said, “Yes, they say fire, fire damn you fire, fire you lobsters, fire, you dare not fire”. Prince was quoting what he heard on the day of the riot. This was very valuable information used in court because this proved that Captain Preston did not intend to have his soldier’s fire, therefore shows that it was not Preston’s fault for the shooting of the soldiers.
Previous to Prince’s testimony, one of the townsman had accused Preston of telling his soldiers to fire, and he swore by this fact. When the information was found false, this made his seem unreliable because he lied about who shouted fire. The other argument he used was the crowd has assaulted the soldiers and they had acted on defense. Newton Prince also commented on what was being thrown at the soldiers, “Nothing but snow balls, flung by some youngsters”. John Adams also questioned Richard Palms and Palms said they crowd had clubs, snowballs and ice, all were being launched at the soldiers. John Adams say in court, “To attack a British post is illegal and they may defend themselves to the death of the people”. John Adams makes it seem that it is okay for the soldiers to defend themselves, even if they have to kill a couple of people. Those arguments changed how the town thought about the riot and the actions of the people and the soldiers.
The arguments relate to each other because they make the crowd seem at fault for the Boston Massacre. No matter how John Adams stats his facts, it kept coming back to the same point of the soldiers being innocent. The crowd throwing ice and snowballs, and the accusation of who cried out “Fire”, were similar because it tries to make the soldiers seem like the “bad guys”, when in reality, it was the other way around. This was easily proved by John Adams.
In John Adams speech using logic beat emotion when he was presenting his case by presenting all his facts he learned from the witnesses. John Adams really stressed certain parts of his arguments that justified the reason they fired into the crowd. He stressed the fact that Captain Preston did not shout “Fire” and proves that the witnesses lied in the court. He beat logic by proving Preston did not shout “Fire” with Newton Prince’s testimony, when he confirmed it true. Not only was he proving one of his points, but he showed that those witnesses were unreliable, which means their testimonies did not mean anything.
Everyone assumed anything they said was false, so that worked in John Adams’ favor. He also points out that the crowd has assaulted the British soldier and the shooting was just a form of self-defense and to get the attention of the crowd members. This beat emotion because no matter how it may be said, the facts, they are still there, and as truthful as ever. John Adams, as a part of his final argument, stats, “Our wishes, our inclinations cannot alter the state of facts and evidence”. This rendered true as no one looked at the pathos and they all focused on the logos in his arguments. John Adams spoke to defend the British soldiers and with the use of his persuasion skills and logic helped him win the case and prove the soldiers not guilty.
Using evidence such as, the throwing of ice, snowball and clubs and the false accusation of Preston calling out “Fire” to his men, he was able to bring justice to the case. Logos showed to be more relevant and a better way for Adams to win his case, rather than pathos. Even though the emotion of his speech was fear, he figured out of to use logic and facts to prove the Patriots wrong. And this kind of persuasion power is only within select people, such as John Adams.
- Hooper, Tom. “John Adams.” John Adams. HBO films. 16 Mar. 2008. Television.
- “Speech by John Adams at the Boston Massacre Trial.” 5 March 1770. Web. 27 October 2015.