This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for March 5, 2017: Anxiety

Mar. 5, 2017: on this day: Boston Massacre

It’s the anniversary of the Boston Massacre, which took place on a cold and snowy night in 1770. It was touched off by an argument between a young barber’s apprentice and a British officer about payment for a haircut. The barber’s apprentice claimed that the officer had not paid, and the soldier reportedly knocked the kid down in the street.

A crowd of young men who were watching shouted at the officer, and they began throwing snowballs and pieces of ice at him. The officer fled to the Customs House nearby, where a sentry stood guard with his musket. Other soldiers came out of the Customs House to help defend the men against the crowd, which was growing. Someone rang the fire bell, and more people flooded the streets to see what was happening. The crowd grew rowdier, throwing ice, oyster shells, and lumps of sea coal. The soldiers brandished their weapons, but the crowd dared them to shoot, calling them cowards.

Suddenly shots rang out. When the smoke cleared, five colonists were dead or dying — Crispus Attucks, Patrick Carr, Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, and Christopher Monk — and three more were injured. It was hardly a massacre, but the more revolutionary members of the colonies played it up as much as they could.

The soldiers were put on trial, and it turned out that the man chosen to represent them was the American patriot John Adams. He didn’t support the British by any means, but he was told that no one else would take the case, and he believed that all men deserve a good defense under the law. So he took the case, and he managed to get most of the soldiers acquitted.