Massachusetts Historical Society
America's oldest historical society, founded 1791.

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"In our last we mentioned that at the Superior Court held here, on Wednesday began the Trial of Capt. Thomas Preston ..."

In our last we mentioned that at the Superior Court held here, on Wednesday began the Trial of Capt. Thomas Preston ...

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A Surprise Verdict?
After many delays, the trial of Captain Thomas Preston begins on 24 October 1770. Preston's lawyers know that their best defense is to prove that the soldiers fired into the crowd on the evening of 5 March without Preston's permission. Boston loyalists ask Robert Auchmuty and Josiah Quincy to defend the captain and his men. Both attorneys refuse to commit themselves unless John Adams agrees to participate as co-counsel. Patriots are confident that even with the assistance of such fine attorneys, a jury will never reach a verdict other than "guilty."

To examine all four pages of this newspaper, please see the online display of The Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal, 5 November 1770.

Questions to Consider

1. With what crime is Thomas Preston charged?

2. How long does it take the jury to reach a verdict? What is their decision?

Further Exploration

3. Imagine that you are living in Boston in 1770. How do you react to the verdict in Preston's trial? How do you think other townspeople feel?