Boston Massacre Historical Society


The Summary of the Boston Massacre Trial

Counsel for the Defense

John Adams, a Patriot, was the foremost Boston attorney of the time. Adams became instrumental in the cause for independence as a representative to the Continental Congress. He signed the Declaration of Independence, became a commissioner to France, the first Vice-President, and second President of the United States.

Robert Auchmuty, Jr., a Loyalist, was the judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court. He agreed to serve as attorney for Preston on the condition that John Adams be co-counsel. Auchmuty died in exile in London in 1788.

Josiah Quincy, Jr., a fervent Patriot and Samuel Quincy's younger brother. His efforts on behalf of the Patriot cause and his badly cocked eye earned him the nickname "Wilkes," after John Wilkes, a politically radical English lawyer with a crossed eye. Quincy died of tuberculosis returning from a mission to England in 1775.

Sampson Salter Blowers, a Loyalist, served as attorney only for Rex v. Wemms, et al. He was later exiled and became the Chief Justice of Nova Scotia.

"My dear Son,

"I am under great affliction, at hearing the bitterest reproaches uttered against you, for having become an advocate for those criminals who are charged with the murder of their fellow-citizens. Good God! Is it possible? I will not believe it..."

"Your anxious and distressed parent, Josiah Quincy."

"Honored Sir,

"...I refused all engagement, until advised and urged to undertake it, by an Adams, a Hancock, a Molineux, a Cushing, a Henshaw, a Pemberton, a Warren, a Cooper, and a Phillips...I dare affirm, that you, and this whole people will one day REJOICE, that I became an advocate for the aforesaid "criminals," charged with the murder of our fellow citizens."

"I am, truly and affectionately, your son, Josiah Quincy Jun."


British Captain Thomas Preston came to trial on October 24, 1770. He had been held in jail for seven months since the Massacre. His attorneys needed to prove that he had not issued the command to fire. The prosecution had to prove that he did, and was therefore responsible for the five deaths.

Jury List

William Frobisher, Foreman

Joseph Trescot

Neal McIntire

Thomas Mayo

Josiah Sprague

Joseph Guild

Jonathan Parker

Gilbert DeBlois

Phillip Dumaresque

William Hill

William Wait Wallis

James Barrick

The venire (jury pool) ran out before the jury was fully impaneled. Five talesmen (onlookers picked as jurors) were picked from among the court spectators. The talesmen DeBlois, Dumaresque, Hill, Wallis, and Barrick were merchants and strong Loyalists, certainly not about to convict one of the King's officers. Only two of the twelve jurors were from Boston. The jury was packed in Preston's favor.

Witness testimony for the Crown

William Wyat: "I saw about 100 People in the Street huzzaing, crying fire, damn you fire....The Officer then stamped and said Damn your bloods fire be the consequence what it will. Immediately the first Gun was fired."

Daniel Calef: "I looked the Officer in the face when he gave the word and saw his mouth. He had on a red Coat, yellow Jacket and Silver laced hat, no trimming on his Coat. The Prisoner is the Officer I mean."

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