The Rule of Law Prevails The Boston Massacre Trial Re-enactment

When a regiment of British soldiers was accused of murdering five colonists in the Boston Massacre of 1770, the attorneys who saved the soldiers’ lives at trial were staunch American patriots.

日本一本道最新高清无码It was not an easy decision to advocate for the enemy.

Josiah Quincy Jr.’s father wrote in a letter a few weeks after the Massacre: “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?”

Today, historians see the trial as an early test of the colonies’ legal system, laying the foundation for the United States as a nation ruled by laws rather than the arbitrary decisions of people in power.

日本一本道最新高清无码Quincy replied that he was convinced to defend the British by no less than his co-counsel, John Adams, a Founding Father and future president of the new nation. Adams worried that an unfair trial would do serious long-term damage to the patriots’ cause. He later wrote that defending the soldiers was “one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country.”

日本一本道最新高清无码“Judgment of death against those soldiers,” he wrote, “would have been as foul a stain upon this country as the executions of the quakers or witches, anciently.”

Ironically, the prosecuting attorney in that trial, charged with finding the British soldiers guilty, was a British official and loyalist to the King. Today, historians see the trial as an early test of the colonies’ legal system, laying the foundation for the United States as a nation ruled by laws rather than the arbitrary decisions of people in power.

日本一本道最新高清无码On Thursday, Notre Dame law student Nico Howard dressed in period costume at Boston’s Old South Meeting House and thundered about the rule of law in his role as John Adams.

Old South Meeting House, Boston, where colonists gathered to challenge British rule, including the Boston Massacre and the tea tax.

“Are we to be a people ruled by the tyranny of the mob?” Howard said. “Or are we to be a city shining on a hill … with a system that does what is right even when that decision is difficult or unpopular?”

日本一本道最新高清无码Howard delivered his argument in a mock trial competition with Stephen LaBrecque, a Boston College law student and Notre Dame graduate, in a modern reinterpretation of the Massacre trial’s closing arguments. The Notre Dame Law School sponsored Thursday’s event as a part of the University’s annual Shamrock Series. The weekend culminates with Saturday’s football game against Boston College at Fenway Park, but it also includes events meant to bring the Notre Dame experience on the road, including academic presentations, service projects, concerts and Masses.

Jack Blakey, U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Illinois, presided over the event attended by about 300 people. The reception afterwards was held at the Old State House, where a circle of cobblestones out front indicates the site of the Massacre.

Blakey, a graduate of Notre Dame and Notre Dame Law School, declined to pick a winner “because the rule of law continues to this day.” But he said the triumph of law over arbitrary power is something that should be cherished and that citizens must earn through participation in our democracy.

A student wearing a powdered wig and period clothing speaking at a podium

Law Students from the University of Notre Dame and Boston College re-enact the final arguments of the Boston Massacre Trial.

日本一本道最新高清无码, a Notre Dame law professor, introduced the re-enactment with a presentation on the history and context of the Boston Massacre and trial.

The incident started with a misunderstanding over a man’s honor. A wigmaker’s apprentice accused a British officer of not paying his bill, taunting a sentry outside the Customs House on what is now known as State Street. It was later discovered that the bill had been settled the previous day. The sentry responded by striking the young man with his musket, drawing a crowd of other colonists to the scene.

日本一本道最新高清无码Bellia said colonial resentment of British presence had been growing in Boston since the soldiers were stationed there two years earlier to enforce the Townshend Acts, which included revenue taxes on items such as wine, paper and glass.

日本一本道最新高清无码At first, no one wanted to represent the soldiers, Bellia said, until John Adams risked his law practice for his belief that everyone deserves a fair trial.

More British soldiers arrived at the scene to protect the sentry, and the crowd attacked the regiment with snowballs, rocks and coal. There are conflicting accounts of how the firing started, but five colonists ended up dead, including Crispus Attucks, an African-American. British Gov. Thomas Hutchinson finally dispersed the crowd by promising a full inquiry into the incident.

At first, no one wanted to represent the soldiers, Bellia said, until John Adams risked his law practice for his belief that everyone deserves a fair trial. The jury was asked to determine if the soldiers fired in self-defense; the regiment’s captain and six others were acquitted and two soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter. Their lives were spared but an “M” was branded on their thumbs — Bellia joked that this part would not be re-enacted in the interest of saving time.

An engraving of British soldiers firing on a crowdPaul Revere’s sensationalized engraving of the Boston Massacre helped motivate colonists’ resentment of British rule.

Zealous patriots used the Massacre to foment a rebellion six years later. Paul Revere produced an inaccurate engraving of the scene that circulated widely as anti-British propaganda. John Adams’ cousin Samuel Adams wrote critically of the soldiers and organized annual commemorations of the event to whip up resentment of King George III and British rule. The Boston Massacre is considered the first match that later exploded into the American Revolution.

日本一本道最新高清无码Yet John Adams saw the trial as an important test of the rule of law. “Even in a politically volatile situation, the law still prevailed,” Bellia said. In contrast, the aristocracy in many European societies at that time could easily use their power to subvert the law.

Bellia said a unique aspect of Notre Dame’s law school is its focus on constitutional structure — the role, power and limits of government — to ensure that laws are enforced in practice.

“Some places have laws, but they’re not worth the paper they’re written on,” he said. “We talk a lot about constitutional rights, but rights are meaningless unless you have a structure of government to enforce them.”