On the Trial of the Inhuman Murderers, Of the 5th of March, 1770

On the Trial of the Inhuman Murderers, Of the 5th of March, 1770 Broadside
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[ This description is from the project: Coming of the American Revolution ]

Written seven months after the violent events of the Boston Massacre on 5 March 1770, this poem expresses the outrage felt by the Patriots that the British soldiers had still not been brought to trial. The anonymous author urges an impartial trial, recognizes the possibility that the soldiers may be "pardoned," and insists that if justice cannot be served by the judicial system, it will ultimately be served by "GOD's Righteous Laws".

An Eye for an Eye

Patriot leaders, hoping to take advantage of popular outrage, demand that the soldiers be tried as soon as possible, but Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson knows that an immediate trial will virtually guarantee a guilty verdict. A series of judicial illnesses and circuit court sessions delays the soldiers' trials until the fall of 1770. As time passes, townspeople begin to wonder whether a trial will ever take place. In iambic pentameter rhyming couplets, each punctuated with a four-beat endstop, this broadside alludes to the suspected reasons for the delay in setting a court date while calling for impartiality in meting out justice.

Questions to Consider

1. In what month does this broadside appear?

2. How does the author define justice?

3. What outcome does the author predict for the trial? Be sure to offer evidence for your conclusions.

4. What are some of the words and phrases used by the author to describe the soldiers? How does he/she describe the victims? How do you think these words and phrases influenced the townspeople reading this broadside?

Further Exploration

5. Compare "On the Trial of the Inhuman Murderers" to "A Verse Occasioned by the Late horrid Massacre." Which verse do you think is more effective? More poetically interesting? More dramatic? Be sure to give examples to support your opinions.


  • Trials
  • British soldiers
  • Boston Massacre