On March 5, 1770, British troops stationed in Boston to maintain order fired into a mob and killed 5 civilians. This event immediately served as propaganda for the American colonists – even as questions arose as to who was really responsible for the outbreak of violence.
Who rung the fire alarm bells that turned a small angry group of would-be brawlers in a verifiable mob of close to 400? Who was the mysterious figure at the waterfront, dressed in a wig and red cloak, who ran around encouraging the off-duty workers to go downtown in search of fights?
Eight soldiers and their captain, Thomas Preston, were put on trial several months later – once the passions died down a bit. And who was the lawyer who represented these accused killers? None other than our 1st VP and 2nd President, John Adams. Though he was extremely senstive to public criticism, he set aside his (enormous) ego because of his sense of duty to the law. Preston was acquitted, and in a separate trial, only 2 of the 8 soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter. Adams’ reputation was hurt in the short-term, but once the War was over and the job of building a country began, his defense of the hated British in the face of such adversity was eventually seen as a remarkable character trait.
For an ongoing discussion of the Boston Massacre, see the esteemed Boston 1775 blog.
And of course, YouTube is the perfect place to go for historical reenactments.
Recommended reading: John Adams and A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic