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What Really Happened in the Boston Massacre? The Trial of Captain Thomas Preston

What Really Happened in the Boston Massacre? The Trial of Captain Thomas Preston



My US History Presentation. It took me 5 days to complete this. The assignment is to lecture my class for one hour on the chapter of our book titled "What Really Happened at the Boston Massacre? ...

My US History Presentation. It took me 5 days to complete this. The assignment is to lecture my class for one hour on the chapter of our book titled "What Really Happened at the Boston Massacre? The Trial of Captain Thomas Preston." Instead of boring them to death, I have decided to turn our classroom into the a courtroom. I will present all the evidence, and then we will deliberate on the fate of CTP. I have my Colonial Wig and my 3 Corner Hat ready... let\'s do this thing ;)



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    What Really Happened in the Boston Massacre? The Trial of Captain Thomas Preston What Really Happened in the Boston Massacre? The Trial of Captain Thomas Preston Presentation Transcript

    • What Really Happened in the Boston Massacre? The Trial of Captain Thomas Preston
    • You Be The Jury
    • 1760-1770 Bostonians vs. Redcoats
      • What we know:
      • The strong presence of soldiers had created tensions with the Bostonians. The Stamp Act and new taxes had created fresh resentment against the British government, and soldiers had been sent to Boston to “restore order”.
      • Several instances of fights, riots, deaths--- caused by tensions between the two groups.
      • 2/22/1770: 8 year old Christopher Seider is killed when Brit sympathizer Ebenezer Richardson is confronted by a mob at his home and fires his musket into the crowd , killing Seider.
      • To put it in 2011 terms… “All hell broke loose”. And then came March 5, 1770….
    • The events of that Day
      • A British Sentry (Sentinal) stands in front of the
      • Boston Custom house.
      • A group of boys approaches and begin tormenting him.
      • Pushed to his limit, he strikes one of the boys with his
      • musket.
      • A crowd of 50-60 gather, surrounding the Sentinal .
      • Captain Thomas Preston hurries to the scene with
      • seven other British Soldiers , in order to protect the
      • Sentry.
      • By the time Preston reaches the Custom House, the crowd
      • has swelled to more than 100, and envelops Preston
      • and his men .
    • What happened next?!
    • The cold hard facts:
      • One of the British soldiers fired his musket into the crowd (sound familiar?)
      • The other British soldiers then followed suit.
      • The colonists scattered.
      • Preston and his men were placed under house arrest. Later, they would be taken to the jail and charged with
      • murder .
    • The tally: 5 Dead, 6 Wounded .
      • Crispus Attucks, part African part Native American seaman – DEAD
      • James Caldwell, a sailor – DEAD
      • Patrick Carr, an immigrant from Ireland who worked as a leather maker – DEAD
      • Samuel Gray, a ropemaker – DEAD
      • Samuel Maverick, a 17 year old apprentice - DEAD
      Actual Obituary
    • Defense Team:
      • John Adams
      • Josiah Quincy
      • Robert Auchmuty
      • -Adams and Quincy were actually staunch Patriots , but believed that Preston was entitled to a fair trial and did their best to defend him.
    • Witnesses:
      • 81 people came forward as witnesses to give depositions. Of those 81, only 15 are called during trial by the crown. Witnesses discarded said Brits “seemed bent on a further massacre of the inhabitants.” OR “Colonists had planned the incident and were preparing to attack the main barracks.”
      • Jury Instructions:
      You have been selected as jurors in the trial of Captain Thomas Preston . Before hearing the evidence, there are some things you must consider in able to render a fair verdict. Witness statements: Pay attention to witness statements that sound similar , as these are probably more credible. This is called “corroborating testimony” As we know very little about the witnesses themselves (i.e. political views, personal backgrounds, where they were standing, etc.), it will be up to you to decide which witnesses are telling the truth, which are lying, and which are mistaken. Key questions to consider: What really happened at the Boston Massacre? Was an order to fire actually given , and if so, was it given by commanding officer Captain Thomas Preston ? If not, why would shots have been fired?
    • An excerpt of Captain Thomas Preston’s Deposition (2011 style)
      • The mob was absolutely going insane. They were yelling at us, holding up their weapons. They called us names like Lobster Scoundrels and Bloody Backs. They were literally daring us to shoot at them. “God damn you, fire! We know you won’t! Go ahead, Fire”, stuff like that, but with more cussing. So I went and stood between my soldiers and this crazy mob, and I was begging the citizens to calm down, just go home… let’s call a truce. I did everything in my power, but they just wouldn’t chill out. Some of them pushed past me and were right up against the guns of my men. Some of the more well behaved rioters asked me if our guns were charged, and I told them they were. Then they asked me if I was going to order my men to fire. I told them, “No! By no means!” I explained to them that if I were to do that, under these circumstances, I would definitely not be fit to be a soldier. I pointed out to them that if I was intending to have my men fire, I surely wouldn’t be standing in between this mob and the guns of my men! As soon as those words came out of my mouth, a rioter hit one of my men extremely hard on the head with a stick. My soldier instantly fired. At this point, the rioters became even more brutal. They started hitting my soldiers and I with heavy clubs and throwing snowballs at us. We knew our lives were in great danger. The mob began once again to DARE us to fire our guns. In response to this, three or four of my men did just that… they fired their guns into the crowd. Later, I asked them why they fired without orders. They said they heard the word “Fire!” and in all the chaos, they thought it had come from me. I definitely believe their reasoning because the mob was yelling at us to “Fire! Fire! Fire!” several times. I assured my men that I did NOT give any such order. My words in fact were “Don’t fire, stop your firing”.
    • Witnesses for the King (Prosecution) 2011 Style
    • Edward Garrick
      • I heard some noises around 8:00, and so I went down to Royal Exchange Lane. I saw people with sticks coming up Quaker Lane. They were running toward a Sentry standing outside the custom house. I saw the Sentry standing there and told him “Captain Goldsmith owes my friend some money!” the Sentry said “Captain Goldsmith is a gentleman and he will pay him back”. I told the Sentry “There ARE no gentlemen in the regiment!”, insulting Captain Goldsmith. Just then, the Sentry told me to come closer, so I did. As soon as I stepped closer, he hit me! I cried. My friend and another young man who saw all this happened walked up to the Sentry and called him a Bloody Back. The Sentry then decided to call for backup. There weren’t even a dozen people there at the time that he called for backup.
      What can we assume? Garrick dislikes British Sentinals.
    • William Wyat
      • I arrived at the scene. People were yelling and some were crying. 8 or 10 soldiers came out. I saw the Captain standing there and someone was telling him “For God’s sake, calm your men down, keep them in order! That’s your job!” The soldiers drew their guns and the Captain told them to load them. About 100 people were shouting and yelling “Fire!” from the crowd. Just then I heard someone else yell “Fire” and I just assumed it was Captain Preston. Preston stood behind the soldiers as they fired. I heard him say “Damn your blood, fire. Let the consequence be what it will”. As they fired, everyone scattered. When they were done, Preston took their guns and yelled at the soldiers for firing, even though he was the one who told them to do it.
      What can we assume? Wyat was standing closely enough to hear a conversation that occurred before shots were fired.
    • John Cox
      • I saw Preston after the killings and I spoke to those soldiers. I told them that it was cowardly of them to kill those men. They had been pushing at people who were just trying to walk by all that chaos. I heard Preston say “Damn their bloods fire again and let ‘em take the consequence.” I was four feet away from him. I was just trying to carry away the dead and I told him “Don’t kill me too! I’m just doing my job!” I didn’t hear any threats.
      What can we assume? Cox’s word that he was close enough to hear Preston yell.
    • Benjamin Burdick
      • At 9 o’clock I showed up at the mob and I asked one of the soldiers if the guns were loaded. He said they were. I asked if he would shoot, and he said yes and pushed his bayonet at me. After the shooting was done with, I heard the Captain tell his soldiers to stop firing. Before the firing I saw a stick thrown at one of the officers. I heard someone say “FIRE” and I took it to be from the person in command. After the firing I confronted the soldiers and they seemed pretty melancholy.
      What can we assume? Burdick did not actually see who yelled “Fire!”
    • Daniel Calef
      • I was there when the firing happened. I heard Preston give the word to fire…twice! I looked him in the face and heard and saw it come out of his mouth. I saw what he was wearing (Calef continued to describe exactly what Preston was wearing, accurately). I knew which one he was when he walked into court yesterday. It was him.
      What can we assume? Calef can identify Preston exclusively.
    • Robert Goddard
      • When the soldiers came to help the Centinal, Preston told them to place themselves around him and they did. Then I heard Preston tell the boys who had been harassing the Sentinal to go home before someone got hurt. The boys threw more snowballs instead. Preston was placed behind the soldiers. He then told them to fire. One gun went off. Two people from the crowd hit Preston and then I heard him say “Damn your bloods, fire!” and the soldiers fired some more. I heard someone call him Captain Preston, so I knew his name. The next day I went in to swear my testimony. I looked him in the eye when he told them to fire.
      What can we assume? Goddard’s testimony of what he heard Preston say matches Cox’s.
    • Diman Morton
      • I was in my house when I heard someone yell “Fire!”. At that point there weren’t gunshots, just fighting. I went to the scene and heard the boys daring the soldiers to fire. I know who Captain Preston is already, I had seen him before. I heard him tell his men to load.
      What can we assume? Morton can positively identify Preston.
    • Nathaniel Fosdick
      • I heard the bells ring, which I figured meant fire. I arrived to the mob. The soldiers were yelling and cursing at all of us, including me. I saw the Captain standing there though and felt better knowing he could calm his men down. I heard no orders given to load. The Captain stepped away from the soldiers, talked briefly to two men, and then went back behind the soldiers. Then I heard someone order fire. The first shot rang out, two minutes later another, and then several more. I hadn’t seen anyone hit the soldiers. I didn’t see who said the word fire but I assumed it was the Captain. I am positive no one hit those soldiers and that someone said “Fire”.
      What can we assume? Fosdick cannot say for sure who ordered fire.
    • Issac Pierce & John Belknap
      • Pierce- I heard the Lieut Governor say to Preston “Don’t you know you don’t have the power to tell your men to fire at civilians?!” to which Preston replied “I had to, to save my Sentry”.
      • Belknap- I heard the same conversation between the Lieut Governor and Preston.
      What can we assume? Pierce and Belknap have cooberating testimony.
    • Witnesses for the Prisoner ( Preston’s Defense )
    • Edward Hill
      • After the firing was over, Preston took the gun of a Soldier who was going to fire again and said “Stop firing! You’ve done enough damage”.
      What can we assume? Hill was close enough to hear a conversation between Preston and the soldiers.
    • Richard Palmes
      • When I got to the mob I saw the Captain and his men standing there. Their guns were not drawn. I heard someone ask Preston why he wouldn’t fire. Preston said he had no reason to, and the people began to dare him and his men to fire. I walked up to Preston and put my hand on his shoulder to talk to him, when someone asked him if the soldier’s guns were loaded. He answered that they were. Then they asked if he planned to use them. He told them “By no means!” At that moment, I saw ice thrown at one of the soldiers. Immediately following, he fired his gun. I still had my hand on the Captain’s shoulder. I then heard the word fire, but I don’t know who it came from. The command was loud…it could have come from the Captain but if it did, I didn’t hear it.
      What can we assume? Palmes was close enough to touch Preston. If Preston had ordered fire, Palmes would have certainly heard it.
    • Matthew Murray
      • I did not hear anyone order fire. I was very close to Preston. I was looking at Preston when the gun was fired.
      What can we assume? Murray would have seen or heard the order come from Preston.
    • Andrew, Servant of Oliver Wendell
      • I heard someone cry fire, and then a gun fire. It didn’t seem to come from Preston. I am certain the voice came from beyond him. Preston stood in front of the soldiers, a little off to the side.
      What can we assume? Andrew supports part of Preston’s testimony.
    • Daniel Cornwell
      • Preston was very close to me and standing in front of his men, to the right. I was looking at him. I did not hear or see any order. He faced me, so I would have heard him. I heard someone dare the soldiers to fire, and then Preston tell them “Don’t fire!” I am sure of it.
      What can we assume? Cornwell supports Preston’s testimony.
    • Jane Whitehouse
      • A man was circling the soldiers, daring them to fire. Preston stood in front of them. The man hit one of the soldiers on the back and cursed at him to fire. He was not an officer. The soldier fired as soon as he was hit on the back by this man. I am positive this man was NOT Preston. This man is who gave the orders. I saw people throwing chunks of wood at the soldiers before the firing started.
      What can we assume? Whitehouse backs up Preston’s Deposition and introduces a man other than Preston who she says gave the orders to shoot.
    • Newton Prince
      • I ran to the fight. The Towns People were going crazy. Some of them had clubs and other weapons. I saw the Soldiers coming out of the Guard House. I heard people conspiring to attack the Guards and the Sentinel. I saw the Soldiers standing in front. The people were cussing at them and calling them names. They were daring them to fire. I saw Preston in front of the soldiers, to the right. I walked to the west of the Soldiers and heard the guns go off and saw the dead being carried away. I heard the drums signaling the soldiers to arm themselves. The only people I heard ordering fire were the rioters themselves.
      What can we assume? Newton cooberates Preston’s deposition.
    • James Woodall
      • I saw a soldier knocked down and his gun fell away from him. The rioters were throwing a ton of sticks and pieces of ice at the Soldiers. The Soldier who got knocked fired his gun directly as soon as he stood back up. After the first gun shot, I saw a man pat the backs of the Soldiers and tell them to fire. Afterwards, I saw Preston in shock, staring at the soldiers. I am positive that he was not the same man who ordered them to fire. If an Officer had ordered them to fire, then they would have all fired together. That is not what happened.
      What can we assume? Woodall saw the same man that Sarah Whitehouse saw, ordering fire.
    • Thomas Handaside Peck
      • I was at home when the firing happened. I went to the scene and asked Preston what he had done. He told me he did not tell them to fire, that they had fired on their own. He said that he was in the middle of it all and could have been shot himself. I know Preston and his character is admirable. He is a good man, better than any other I know in the Corps.
      What can we assume? Peck was not present during the shooting, so he serves as more of a character witness for Preston.
    • Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson
      • The crowd was going crazy. I was pushed almost into the guns of the Soldiers. The people were yelling at me to handle the situation. I approached Preston and asked him why he had fired without Orders from the Magistrate? I didn’t hear everything he said in the chaos, but he seemed as if he was in shock and was at a loss for words. I just remember feeling as if he felt offended at even being questioned over this. Belknap approached me and out of concern for my safety, told me to enter the Town House. I entered the Council Chamber after being pushed in there by the crowd. After a couple hours, Preston was brought there. He denied telling them to fire. Nothing he said at this point contradicted what he had begun telling me while were at the scene. He denied being responsible the entire time. I have no personal relationship with Preston, although I feel that his character is good. I would have and still do trust him as much as any other in the Regiment.
      What can we assume? Hutchinson rebutts the testimony by the King’s witnesses that Preston ever admitted guilt to him.
    • Closing Arguments
    • Defense
      • John Adams is up for the defense. He starts by citing other cases that ruled that it is always safer to acquit a guilty man than to convict an innocent one when there is doubt about the defendant’s guilt. He argues that Preston and his men were obviously provoked and were victims of self defense. Adams states that there is no real proof that Preston ordered his men to fire into the crowd. He calls into question the motives of the testimony of the Prosecution’s witnesses. He says that several witnesses were in error and calls other witness’ character into question.
    • Prosecution
      • The prosecution argues that it is Preston’s responsibility to justify or excuse committing murder. The defense has tried to tell us that the Soldiers acted out of fear for their lives, but in fact it was only a few snowballs and one stick that was thrown, and bodily injury to the Soldiers did not occur. The prosecution states that much of the crowd had gathered with good intentions to make peace of the situation after the incident had occurred with the young boys throwing snow at the Sentinal. Instead of peace, the Soldiers fired upon the crowd. The prosecution questions why Palmes would have placed himself next to the shoulders at the risk of his life if he expected that they would have to fire their guns to defend themselves because the situation was so dire. Can you believe his testimony in that case? If we can excuse this incident as justified, then what is the point in having any form of justice in the first place? If people are allowed to shoot one another under circumstances like these and be acquitted, then we might as well let society go uncontrolled.
      • Ask yourselves:
      • Where was Captain Preston standing?
      • Were any of the witnesses close enough to give an accurate description of what they saw or heard?
      • Remember that the event took place at 9pm, and it was dark outside.
      • Did you find Preston’s deposition in his defense plausible?
      • To what degree do the witness’ testimony on both sides agree or disagree?
      • What do you believe the crowd’s behavior was like before shots were fired? Do you believe the testimony of other witnesses who saw an unidentified man ordering the Soldiers to shoot? Most importantly:
      • Do you believe that Captain Thomas Preston gave the orders to his men to fire?
              • What REALLY happened in the Boston Massacre?
      Jury Instructions
    • Deliberate
    • T h e R e s u l t s
      • Three hours- How long it took the jury to deliberate. The verdict of Not Guilty was read the following morning.
      • February 1771- Thomas Preston has left Boston and settled in London.
      • 8 Soldiers- 6 were acquitted. 2 were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to branding on the thumb
    • Did You Know?
      • It all started from a wig! The Massacre started when young wigmaker's apprentice named Edward Gerrish called out to a British officer on duty, Captain Lieutenant John Goldfinch, that he had not paid his master's bill.
      • After the Massacre many believed that Captain Preston was the one who gave the order to fire on the crowd. The famous gravure by Paul Revere even shows him raising his hand in command. But the subsequent trial decided that Preston could not have ordered to fire, as he was standing in front of the guns, between his men and the crowd of protesters.
      • It is not certain that Paul Revere was present during the fatal accident, even though his engraved depiction of the event was used as the evidence in the B.M. trial to establish the locations of the bodies.
      • The trial of Captain Thomas Preston marks the first time the phrase “reasonable doubt” was used by a judge. (You criminal justice majors should find that interesting!)
    • Paul Revere’s famous engraving of The Boston Massacre as it appeared in the Boston Gazette , four days after the incident.