Lessons Learned: The Boston Massacre

I was watching Fox & Friends this morning. They had on Nidal Malik Hasan’s lawyer and they were giving him a hard time. While I don’t like lawyers in general, I was somewhat appalled by their questioning. I would think John Adams might be as well.

Shortly after the Boston Massacre, Captain Preston and his soldiers were arrested and a trial was set in Suffolk County. Officials wanted a fair trail to prevent retaliation from the British and from Moderates who haven’t chosen sides in the growing conflict between the UK and the Thirteen Colonies. However no one would step up to defend the soldiers. Desperate, Captain Preston wrote a pleading letter to John Adams. Adams, who would later become our Second President of the United States, could have said no and none would batted an eye. A leader in the Patriot movement and a newly elected member of the Massachusetts General Court, he did however agreed to defend the soldiers*.

John Adams later wrote about his involvement in his diary three years after the Massacre:

“I. . .devoted myself to endless labour and Anxiety if not to infamy and death, and that for nothing, except, what indeed was and ought to be all in all, sense of duty. In the Evening I expressed to Mrs. Adams all my Apprehensions: That excellent Lady, who has always encouraged me, burst into a flood of Tears, but said she was very sensible of all the Danger to her and to our Children as well as to me, but she thought I had done as I ought, she was very willing to share in all that was to come and place her trust in Providence.

“Before or after the Tryal, Preston sent me ten Guineas and at the Tryal of the Soldiers afterwards Eight Guineas more, which were… all the pecuniary Reward I ever had for fourteen or fifteen days labour, in the most exhausting and fatiguing Causes I ever tried: for hazarding a Popularity very general and very hardly earned: and for incurring a Clamour and popular Suspicions and prejudices, which are not yet worn out and never will be forgotten as long as History of this Period is read… It was immediately bruited abroad that I had engaged for Preston and the Soldiers, and occasioned a great clamour…

“The Part I took in Defence of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right.

“This however is no Reason why the Town should not call the Action of that Night a Massacre, nor is it any Argument in favour of the Governor or Minister, who caused them to be sent here.” -March 5, 1773

Q: What do you call 5000 dead lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?
A: A good start!

We all have a lawyer joke or two. You may even hate or dislike lawyers, or be one yourself. However when you are in legal trouble, you too will find yourself calling on a lawyer. Even someone as evil as Nidal Malik Hasan should get a fair shake before a Jury of his peers and that also means having good representation. If the evidence is clear, there is no doubt in my mind that he will be found guilty and that punishment will be equal to his crime.

We cannot guess their motives. So I plead with you that we do not demonize Hasan’s lawyers. It may not be happening here, but do not let people elsewhere go unchallenged. They are only following a honorable tradition set forth by John Adams and honoring all those who died to make this a great country.


*Back in the day, public office was consider a part-time job. In fact, US Constitution forces congress to meet at least once a year, because the founders didn’t think they would showed up unless forced to do so. Back in John Adams’ day, it was not unusual for them to work their profession while at the same time they had state or even federal office.