The Aftermath of the "Boston Massacre"

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The Fate of
the British soldiers responsible for
the "Boston Massacre"

The famous (and inaccurate) engraving of Paul Revere depicting the "massacre"

Everyone knows that in the tension preceding the American War for Independence, British soldiers fired on Colonists in Boston. This episode, of course, is known as the "Boston Massacre." What is less well known, however is the aftermath.

John Adams

After the Boston Massacre, the British Captain Preston and eight soldiers were jailed and tried for murder. They were defended by John Adams (who later became the second President of the United States) and all but two were acquitted on grounds of self defense. Those two were convicted of Manslaughter, but claimed benefit of clergy (the chance to make penance instead of being executed). To insure that they never could use benefit of clergy again they were both branded on the thumbs. America hoped to show that even these hated British soldiers could receive a fair trial, and a just punishment.

Recommended reading - David McCullough's pulitzer prize winning biography of John Adams sheds light on this and other aspects of the American Revolution. Available online at


For more information on the Boston Massacre, visit our American Revolution Exhibit or The Boston Massacre.