The people of Boston bore witness to violence. In the late 1760s, things heated up. People were divided in their support for the British government. Troops arrived to manage the conflict. Then it happened. Fighting began. Shots were fired. Bostonians were killed on 5 March, 1770. The troops were arrested. John Adams defended the British Captain and later the troops. The Captain was acquitted. Two soldiers received the death penalty but were freed with a brand of murder based on a special plea. You can read materials related to the trial online.
- In the midst of conflict, people wanted justice.
- Both sides wanted a fair trial—perhaps for different reasons.
- Justice prevailed.
My parents and I emigrated from England and arrived in the USA just a couple of weeks before the 4th of July. It seemed awkward for British citizens to celebrate independence from Britain. There were plenty of jokes about the redcoats and strange English ways—all in good fun with plenty of hot dogs and Coke. As a family we were fascinated by American history and the passionate patriotism of our good-hearted neighbors. When I was 17, I drove to the Cumberland County Court House in Bridgeton, NJ (pictured right) and took a citizenship test, swore an oath of allegiance, and went back to High School, an American. It seemed so easy then. Good thing the two countries reconciled their differences years ago.
Debates about how to handle immigration have been in the news for some time. I want to comment on the wisdom of John Adams and the fair trial. The Bostonians were right to seek justice. It is a serious matter when citizens lose their lives. People have inherent worth. When people are shot and killed, honorable people are shocked and demand justice. Passions run high—especially when the deaths were caused by people from elsewhere. But in all that turmoil, a rational process occurred. Laws were respected. Consideration was given to the facts and the context under which the troops fired those fatal shots. Surely this was a good example of people committed to fairness and justice.
Many of us are immigrants or children of immigrants. I was fortunate to have parents who followed the rules. Other children have lived in the shadows unable to do what I did because of the way their parent’s entered this great land. Where you live and connect with family and friends is your home. Americans have the right to expect people to follow the rules. When people break the rules, fair penalties can and should be applied. But how do you treat people fairly when they are law abiding strangers who make a contribution to your well-being but were brought here in deceptive ways?
- What about the abused and neglected?
- And what about the children?
We shall see what happens. For my part, I love living in a society where most people treat each other with respect. A place where there’s justice and mercy. The U S Senate found a way to create a path to citizenship. Can the U. S House leaders find their way to balance justice and mercy?
I hope so.
I hope so.
You can read more about the trial at the John Adams Historical Society (http://www.john-adams-heritage.com) or view the trial portrayed in the HBO miniseries, “John Adams.”
You can also find trial details, related background, and Adam’s speech at http://www.bostonmassacre.net/index.html