Author: Staff writer

Letters from John Adams to Abigail Smith

Source: Massachusetts Historical Society


Letters during courtship and early legal career, 1762 – 1774

Letters during Continental Congress, 1774 – 1777

Letters during diplomatic mission to France, 1778 – 1779

Letters during diplomatic mission to Europe, 1779 – 1789

Letters during vice presidency, 1789 – 1796

Letters during presidency, 1796 – 1801

List of correspondence written by Abigail Adams (to John Adams)

List of correspondence written by John Adams (to Abigail Adams)


Letter from John Adams to Abigail Smith, 4 October 1762


Miss Adorable

By the same Token that the Bearer hereof satt up with you last night I hereby order you to give him, as many Kisses, and as many Hours of your Company after 9 O’Clock as he shall please to Demand and charge them to my Account: This Order, or Requisition call it which you will is in Consideration of a similar order Upon Aurelia for the like favour, and I presume I have good Right to draw upon you for the Kisses as I have given two or three Millions at least, when one has been received, and of Consequence the Account between us is immensely in favour of yours,

John Adams

Octr. 4th. 1762



Letter from John Adams to Abigail Smith, 14 February 1763

Dear Madam

Accidents are often more Friendly to us, than our own Prudence. I intended to have been at Weymouth Yesterday, but a storm prevented. — Cruel, Yet perhaps blessed storm! — Cruel for detaining me from so much friendly, social Company, and perhaps blessed to you, or me or both, for keeping me at my Distance. For every experimental Phylosopher knows, that the steel and the Magnet or the Glass and feather will not fly together with more Celerity, than somebody And somebody, when brought within the striking Distance — and, Itches, Aches, Agues, and Repentance might be the Consequences of a Contact in present Circumstances. Even the Divines pronounce casuistically, I hear, “unfit to be touched these three Weeks.”

I mount this moment for that noisy, dirty Town of Boston, where Parade, Pomp, Nonsense, Frippery, Folly, Foppery, Luxury, Polliticks, and the soul — Confounding Wrangles of the Law will give me the Higher Relish for Spirit, Taste and Sense, at Weymouth, next Sunday.

My Duty, were owing! My Love to Mr. Cranch And Lady, tell them I love them, I love them better than any Mortals who have no other Title to my Love than Friendship gives, and that I hope he is in perfect Health and she in all the Qualms that necessarily attend a beginning Pregnancy, and in all other Respects very happy.

Your — (all the rest is inexpressible)

John Adams

Braintree Feby. 14th. 1763





Letter from John Adams to Abigail Smith, 20 April 1763


Love sweetens Life, and Life sometimes destroys Love. Beauty is desirable and Deformity detestible; Therefore Beauty is not Deformity nor Deformity, Beauty. Hope springs eternal in the human Breast, I hope to be happyer next Fall than I am at present, and this Hope makes me happyer now than I should be without it. — I am at Braintree but I wish I was at Weymouth! What strange Revolutions take Place in our Breasts, and what curious Vicissitudes in every Part of human Life. This summer I shall like Weymouth better than Braintree but something prompts me to believe I shall like Braintree next Winter better than Weymouth. Writers who procure Reputation by flattering human Nature, tell us that Mankind grows wiser and wiser: whether they lie, or speak the Truth, I know I like it, better and better. — I would feign make an original, an Exemplar, of this Letter but I fear I have not an original Genius.

Ned. Brooks is gone to Ordination, I know. I have not seen him, nor heard of him, but I am sure that nothing less than the Inspiration of his Daemon, that I suppose revolted from him somewhere, near the foot of Pens-Hill, could have given me Understanding to write this Letter. This is better Reasoning than any I learned at Colledge.

Patience my Dear! Learn to conquer your Appetites and Passions! Know thyself, came down from Heaven, and the Government of ones own soul requires greater Parts and Virtues than the Management of Kingdoms, and the Conquest of the disorderly rebellious Principles in our Nature, is more glorious than the Acquisition of Universal Dominion. Did you ever read Epictetus? He was a sensible Man. I advise you to read him: and indeed I should have given this Advice, before you undertook to read this.

It is a silly Affectation for modern statesmen to Act or descant upon Ancient Principles of Morals and Civility. The Beauty of Virtue, The Love of ones Country, a sense of Liberty, a Feeling for our Fellow Men, are Ideas that the Brains of Men now a Days can not contemplate: It is a better Way to substitute in the Place of them, The Beauty of a Girl Lady, the Love of Cards and Horse Races, a Taste in Dress, Musick, and Dancing, The Feeling of a pretty Girl or Fellow and a genteel Delicacy and Complaisance to all who have Power to abuse us.

I begin to find that an increasing Affection for a certain Lady, (you know who my Dear) quickens my Affections for every Body Else, that does not deserve my Hatred. A Wonder if the Fires of Patriotism, do not soon begin to burn!

And now I think of it, there is no possible Way of diminishing the Misery of Man kind so effectually as by printing this Letter.

It is an intolerable Grievance and Oppression upon poor literary Mortals, to set wasting their Spirits And wearing out that great Gland the Brain, in the study of order and Connection, in [fixing] every Part of their Compositions to [ . . . ] certain scope. This keeps them besides [from] the joys of seeing their Productions in Print, several days longer than they is needful, (not nine years indeed, according to those fools the Ancients): We are to our Honor grown a good deal wiser than they.

Now I can demonstrate that a Man [might] write three score Years and ten, after the Model of this Letter, without the least Necessity of Revisal, Emendation or Correction, and all that he should write in that time would be worth Printing too. — I find the Torrent Hurries me down, but I will make a great Effort to swim ashore to the Name of


To the great Goddess Diana

April 20th. 1763

Abigail Adams Biography

Who was Abigail Adams?

Abigail Adams was the wife of second president John Adams and mother of the sixth president, John Quincy Adams. She is mostly remembered for the letters she wrote to her husband while he was away during the Continental Congress and while he served as a diplomat in Europe. The letters were filled with discussions and advice on government matters, she played an important role in her husband’s success as a young lawyer and a politician.

Abigail Adams née Abigail Smith was born on November 11, 1744 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. His father was Reverend William Smith from the Congregational Church and her mother Elizabeth Quincy. The Quincy family was a well-know political family in Massachusetts. Abigail was the second born and often in poor health. She had an older sister Mary, a younger brother and sister, William and Elizabeth. She was 5’1”, had brown hair and brown eyes.


At the time girls did not attend school, her mother home-schooled Abigail and her sisters, teaching them reading and writing. Even though the girls did not receive a formal education, they had access to extensive libraries belonging to their father and maternal grandfather. This enabled them to study French and English literature as well as history, philosophy, theology, law and government. Abigail read avidly becoming an intellectual open minded woman, not common in those days. Her curiosity and intellect attracted John Adams, an aspiring lawyer, who she married after three years of courtship.

Marriage to John Adams

On October 25, 1764, when Abigail was 19, she married John Adams and moved into a house in Braintree he inherited from his late father.  This house stands 75 feet away from the house he was born and raised. There was much happiness in the marriage; Abigail was an attractive and intelligent woman who John admired and considered her equal.

The following year she gave birth to their first daughter, Abigail, who they called Nabby and in 1767, their first son, John Quincy, was born. At this time John Adams decided to move the family to Boston as most of his practice was located in the city. They lived in a series of rental houses as their need for space increased. In the following years the couple had four more children and moved back and forth from Braintree to Boston. In 1768 Susanna was born, in 1770 Charles, 1772 Thomas Boylston and 1777 Elizabeth, a stillborn. In 10 years the couple had six children.

John Adams absences

Abigail adjusted to her husband’s work and frequent absences. She was responsible for the children’s education, the house, farm and finances. As Adams’ political career climbed so did his time away from home. Longer absences from home started in 1774 when John left Braintree for Philadelphia to attend the Continental Congress. Letters were exchanged often. While in the process of drafting the constitution Abigail wrote a letter to her husband and the congress requesting for the new government to grant women equal rights.

In 1777 he was assigned a post in Paris where he was accompanied by John Quincy.  He was separated from the rest of his family for more than eighteen months. Other international assignments followed by longer periods of separation. During this time she kept him informed of domestic politics and occurrences while he of international affairs.

By 1784 and since they married in 1764 the couple had lived separately almost half of the time. Years of separation ended in the summer of 1785 when Abigail joined John in Europe starting a new journey in her life. That year John was appointed Minister to England where they resided until 1788. That year they returned to Massachusetts and as the family became more affluent they moved to a large house known as the Old House or Peacefield in Quincy, Massachusetts. Here is where the John and Abigail lived the rest of their lives and the next three generations also called it home.

First Lady

Abigail always supported and showed active interest in her husband’s political career, more so during his two presidential campaigns in 1796 and 1800. She became First Lady in March 1801, at 52 years of age, she was conscious that her live would change with new challenges and duties ahead. Her residence for the four years was in the temporary capital of Philadelphia and Washington for the last eighteen months of her husband’s term. She was the first First Lady to live in the Presidential House, later called White House.

During Adams’ term as president she assumed an active role as an informal adviser to the president and as the First Lady. She remained an advocate for women’s rights and equal public education for women as well as the emancipation of slaves which she considered a threat to democracy.

Abigail Adams by Jane Stuart, C. 1800

Abigail Adams by Jane Stuart, C. 1800. This portrait is located in the Old House in the Adams National Park.


John and Abigail exchanged over 1,100 letters from 1762 until 1801. The correspondence began during their courtship in 1762 and provides a vivid account of their lives through the critical moments of America’s fight for independence. The letters show the hardship of their daily lives and Abigail’s strength in taking the role of head of the family during her husband’s long absences. Her determination in raising a family, dealing with childbirth, the loss of a child, smallpox and wartime shortages. They also show her support to her husband’s career and her own political views.

They exchanged numerous letters during his time away from home during the Continental Congress and diplomatic assignments in Europe. Writing letters during the war was challenging and some were intercepted. They wrote letters when they were in Europe in a couple of occasions in 1786 and 1789 when they were apart. During Adams’ vice-presidency and presidency they exchange many letters when Adam’s was away or Abigail was in their house in Quincy.

Most of the couple’s life and insights are known from their collection of letters which is part of the Adams Family Papers of the Massachusetts Historical Society.   Their website features 1,160 letters.


Abigail suffered of poor health during her final years. She died of typhoid fever in her home in Quincy, Massachusetts on October 28, 1818 when she was 73 years old. She is buried in the First Unitarian Church in Quincy, Massachusetts beside John Adams, John Quincy and his wife Catherine Adams.

The John Adams Presidential $1 Coin

The United States Mint started issuing Presidential $1 coins in 2007 until 2011. As a result of a large stockpile of unused $1 coins the US Mint stopped minting them in 2011. Today the Presidential coins are being minted for collectors. They feature the image of one president, in the order that they served. The first issue was in 2007 with Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison.

On the obverse of the coin is the image of President John Adams and “John Adams”  inscripted on top and at the bottom “Second President 1797-1801”. At the reverse is a design of the Statue of Liberty with the inscription “$1” and “United States of America”. The coins also feature an edge-incused inscription of the year of minting or issuance, E PLURIBUS UNUM and the mint mark.



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The John Adams Library at the Boston Public Library

In 1822 when John Adams was 86 years old he deeded his extensive collection of books of nearly 3,000 volumes to the Town of Quincy, Massachusetts. The library had six different locations before it found its final site at the Boston Public Library.

In 1822 the collection was stored in an outbuilding near the Old House awaiting the construction of the Adams Academy.  In 1844 the new Quincy Town Hall was built and the Adams Library was transferred to the second floor. In 1851 a fire destroyed part of the City Hall but the books were saved as they were wrapped with plastic covers. The collection had to be moved to a different room within the building.

The Adams Academy once housed the Adams Library

In 1870 the library moved to a building within the Adams Academy where it was available to all students. The collection became the foundation of the Quincy Public Library. Unfortunately school boys had no respect for the books, many of them were damaged, signatures cut out and others disappeared. As the Adams Academy grew so did its demand for space and in 1873 the collection had to be moved again to the Quincy Town Hall.

In 1875 the Quincy Public Library along with the Adams collection moved to the Evangelical Congregational Church and again in 1882 to the Thomas Crane Memorial Hall.

In 1894 the Adams Library found its final home in the newly built Boston Public Library in Copley Square.

Boston Public Library in Copley Square houses the Adams Library. 

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John Adams Birthplace and Homes in Quincy, Massachusetts

John Adams birthplace and homes are located in the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy, Massachusetts. Click here for directions to the park. The Adams National Park offers guided tours that leave form the Visitor Center every quarter past and quarter to the hours. The last tour departs at 3:15 pm. Visitors are taken by trolley to the presidential birthplaces of John Adams and John Quincy Adams as well as Peacefield.

Daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
April 19-November 10.

$5 for adults, children 16 and under are free.

Adams National Historical Park Visitor Center  (view map)
1250 Hancock Street Quincy, MA 02169



John Adams Birthplace and homes

John Adams birthplace home is located in the Adams National Historical Park on Franklin Street. It was built in 1681 and purchased by Deacon John Adams, John Adams’ father, in 1720.  Standing in its original location, the house is a saltbox American colonial style home and was originally surrounded by six acres of land. Here is where the second president was born on October 30, 1735 and where he and his family lived until he married Abigail Smith.  In 1744 Deacon Adams purchased a second saltbox style house located 75 feet away with a large amount of land. His two properties, including the houses and land would amount to 188 acres. During the summer Deacon Adams worked as a farmer in his land with the help of his sons and in the winter as a shoemaker.


The House where John Adams was born on October 30, 1735.


When Deacon Adams died in 1761, John inherited the house and land his father had purchased in 1744 and his younger brother Peter the house where John was born. John married Abigail in 1764 and moved into the home he had inherited from his father. Here is where John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, was born. Adams spent most of his early career as an aspiring lawyer in this home.


John Adams inherited this house from his father. John Quincy was born here.


Both houses were small and humble but kept in tidy condition. Furniture was scarce and plain. In 1788 and as the Adams became more affluent they moved to a larger house known as the Old House or Peacefield. Built in 1731 by Leonard Vassall, it originally had seven rooms and rooms for servants. Furniture was more elaborate and in display are objects collected from his trips in Europe as a diplomat.


Four generations of the Adams family lived in the Old House or Peacefield.


Peacefield was John Adam’s home during his presidency and where he lived during retirement. It became the residence of the Adams family for four generations from 1788 to 1927. President John Adams, President John Quincy Adams, Minister to Great Britain Charles Francis Adams and historians Henry and Brooks Adams called Peacefield home.

Next to the Old House is the Stone Library. John Quincy requested in his will that his books and papers be placed in a separated fire proof building which was built in 1870.


Interior of the Stone Library

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Summation of John Adams in Rex v Wemms

The following is a transcript of the summation of John Adams in Rex v Wemms, The Soldiers Trial.


Tuesday, NINE o’Clock, the Court met according to adjournment, and Mr. ADAMS proceeded:

May it please your Honours, and you Gentlemen of the Jury,

I yesterday afternoon produced from the best authorities, those rules of law which must govern all cases of homicide, particularly that which is now before you; it now remains to consider the evidence, and see whether any thing has occurred, that may be compared to the rules read to you; and I will not trouble myself nor you with laboured endeavours to be methodical, I shall endeavour to make some few observations, on the testimonies of the witnesses, such as will place the facts in a true point of light, with as much brevity as possible; but I suppose it would take me four hours to read to you, (if I did nothing else but read) the minutes of evidence that I have taken in this trial. In the first place the Gentleman who opened this cause, has stated to you, with candour and precision, the evidence of the identity of the persons.

The witnesses are confident that they know the prisoners at the barr, and that they were present that night, and of the party; however, it is apparent, that witnesses are liable to make mistakes, by a single example before you. Mr. Bass, who is a very honest man, and of good character, swears positively that the tall man, Warren, stood on the right that night, and was the first that fired; and I am sure you are satisfied by this time, by many circumstances, that he is totally mistaken in this matter; this you will consider at your leisure. The witnesses in general did not know the faces of these persons before; very few of them knew the names of them before, they only took notice of their faces that night. How much certainty there is in this evidence, I leave you to determine.

There does not seem to me to be any thing very material in the testimony of Mr. Aston except to the identity of McCauley, and he is the only witness to that. If you can be satisfied in your own minds, without a doubt, that he knew McCauley so well as to be sure, you will believe he was there.

The next witness is Bridgham, he says he saw the tall man Warren, but saw another man belonging to the same regiment soon after, so like him, as to make him doubt whether it was Warren or not; he thinks he saw the Corporal, but is not certain, he says he was at the corner of the Custom house, this you will take notice of, other witnesses swear, he was the remotest man of all from him who fired first, and there are other evidences who swear the left man did not fire at all; if Wemms did not discharge his gun at all, he could not kill any of the persons, therefore he must be acquitted on the fact of killing; for an intention to kill, is not murder nor manslaughter, if not carried into execution: The witness saw numbers of things thrown, and he saw plainly sticks strike the guns, about a dozen persons with sticks, gave three cheers, and surrounded the party, and struck the guns with their sticks several blows: This is a witness for the crown, and his testimony is of great weight for the prisoners; he gives his testimony very sensibly and impartially. He swears positively, that he not only saw ice or snow thrown, but saw the guns struck several times; if you believe this witness, of whose credibility you are wholly the judges, as you are of every other; if you do not believe him, there are many others who swear to circumstances in favour of the prisoners; it should seem impossible you should disbelieve so great a number, and of crown witnesses too, who swear to such variety of circumstances that fall in with one another so naturally to form our defence; this witness swears positively, there were a dozen of persons with clubs, surrounded the party; twelve sailors with clubs, were by much an overmatch to eight soldiers, chained there by the order and command of their officer, to stand in defence of the Sentry, not only so, but under an oath to stand there, i.e. to obey the lawful command of their officer, as much, Gentlemen of the jury, as you are under oath to determine this cause by law and evidence; clubs they had not, and they could not defend themselves with their bayonets against so many people; it was in the power of the sailors to kill one half or the whole of the party, if they had been so disposed; what had the soldiers to expect, when twelve persons armed with clubs, (sailors too, between whom and soldiers, there is such an antipathy, that they fight as naturally when they meet, as the elephant and Rhinoceros) were daring enough, even at the time when they were loading their guns, to come up with their clubs, and smite on their guns; what had eight soldiers to expect from such a set of people? Would it have been a prudent resolution in them, or in any body in their situation, to have stood still, to see if the sailors would knock their brains out, or not? Had they not all the reason in the world to think, that as they had done so much, they would proceed farther? Their clubs were as capable of killing as a ball, an hedge stake is known in the law books as a weapon of death, as much as a sword, bayonet, or musket. He says, the soldiers were loading their guns, when the twelve surrounded them, the people went up to them within the length of their guns, and before the firing; besides all this he swears, they were called cowardly rascals, and dared to fire; he says these people were all dressed like sailors; and I believe, that by and bye you will find evidence enough to satisfy you, these were some of the persons that came out of Dock-square, after making the attack on Murray’s barracks, and who had been arming themselves with sticks from the butchers stalls and cord wood piles, and marched up round Corn-hill under the command of Attucks. All the bells in town were ringing, the ratling of the blows upon the guns he heard, and swears it was violent; this corroborates the testimony of James Bailey, which will be considered presently. Some witnesses swear a club struck a soldier’s gun, Bailey swears a man struck a soldier and knocked him down, before he fired, “the last man that fired, levelled at a lad, and moved his gun as the lad ran.”

You will consider, that an intention to kill is not murder; if a man lays poison in the way of another, and with an express intention that be should take it up and die of it, it is not murder: Suppose that soldier had malice in his heart, and was determined to murder that boy if he could, yet the evidence clears him of killing the boy, I say admit he had malice in his heart, yet it is plain be did not kill him or any body else, and if you believe one part of the evidence, you must believe the other, and if he had malice, that malice was ineffectual; I do not recollect any evidence that assertains who it was that stood the last man but one upon the left, admitting he discovered a temper ever so wicked, cruel and malicious, you are to consider his ill temper is not imputable to another, no other had any intention of this deliberate kind, the whole transaction was sudden, there was but a very short space of time between the first gun and the last, when the first gun was fired the people fell in upon the soldiers and laid on with their weapons with more violence, and this served to encrease the provocation, and raised such a violent spirit of revenge in the soldiers, as the law takes notice of, and makes some allowance for, and in that fit of fury and madness, I suppose he aimed at the boy.

The next witness is Dodge, he says, there were fifty people near the soldiers pushing at them; now the witness before says, there were twelve sailors with clubs, but now here are fifty more aiding and abetting of them, ready to relieve them in case of need; now what could the people expect? It was their business to have taken themselves out of the way; some prudent people by the Town-house, told them not to meddle with the guard, but you bear nothing of this from these fifty people; no, instead of that, they were huzzaing and whistling, crying damn you, fire! why don’t you fire? So that they were actually assisting these twelve sailors that made the attack; he says the soldiers were pushing at the people to keep them off, ice and snow-balls were thrown, and I heard ice rattle on their guns, there were some clubs thrown from a considerable distance across the street. This witness swears he saw snow-balls thrown close before the party, and he took them to be thrown on purpose, be saw oyster-shells likewise thrown.-Mr. Langford the watchman, is more particular in his testimony, and deserves a very particular consideration, because it is intended by the council for the crown, that his testimony shall distinguish Killroy from the rest of the prisoners, and exempt him from those pleas of justification, excuse or extenuation, which we rely upon for the whole party, because he had previous malice, and they would from hence conclude, he aimed at a particular person; you will consider all the evidence with regard to that, by itself.

Hemmingway, the sheriff’s coachman, swears he knew Killroy, and that he heard him say, he would never miss an opportunity of firing upon the inhabitants: this is to prove that Killroy had preconceived malice in his heart, not indeed against the unhappy persons who were killed, but against the inhabitants in general, that he had the spirit not only of a Turk or an Arab, but of the devil; but admitting that this testimony is litterally true, and that he had all the malice they would wish to prove, yet, if he was assaulted that night, and his life in danger, he had a right to defend himself as well as another man; if he had malice before, it does not take away from him the right of defending himself against any unjust aggressor. But it is not at all improbable, that there was some misunderstanding about these loose expressions; perhaps the man had no thoughts of what his words might import; many a man in his cups, or in anger, which is a short fit of madness, hath uttered the rashest expressions, who had no such savage disposition in general: so that there is but little weight in expressions uttered at a kitching fire, before a maid and a coachman, where he might think himself at liberty to talk as much like a bully, a fool, and a madman as he pleased, and that no evil would come of it. Strictly speaking, he might mean no more than this, that he would not miss an opportunity of firing on the inhabitants, if he was attacked by them in such a manner as to justify it: soldiers have sometimes avoided opportunities of firing, when they would have been justified, if they had fired. I would recommend to them, to be tender by all means, nay, let them be cautious at their peril; but still what he said, amounts in strictness, to no more than this, “If the inhabitants make an attack on me, I will not bear from them what I have done already;” or I will bear no more, than what I am obliged by law to bear. No doubt it was under the fret of his spirits, the indignation, mortification, grief and shame, that he had suffered a defeat at the Rope-walks; it was just after an account of an affray was published here, betwixt the soldiers and inhabitants at New York. There was a little before the 5th of March, much noise in this town, and a pompous account in the news-papers, of a victory obtained by the inhabitants there over the soldiers; which doubtless excited the resentment of the soldiers here, as well as exultations among some sorts of the inhabitants: and the ringing of the bells here, was probably copied from New York, a wretched example in this, and in two other instances at least: the defeat of the soldiers at the Rope-walks, was about that time too, and if he did, after that, use such expressions, it ought not to weigh too much in this case. It can scarcely amount to proof that he harboured any settled malice against the people in general. Other witnesses are introduced to show that Killroy had besides his general ill will against every body, particular malice against Mr. Gray, whom he killed, as Langford swears.

Some of the witnesses, have sworn that Gray was active in the battle at the Rope walks, and that Killroy was once there, from whence the Council for the Crown would infer, that Killroy, in King-street, on the 5th of March in the night, knew Gray whom he had seen at the Ropewalks before, and took that opportunity to gratify his preconceived malice; but if this is all true, it will not take away from him his justification, excuse, or extenuation, if he had any. The rule of the law is, if there has been malice between two, and at a distant time afterwards they met, and one of them assaults the other’s life, or only assaults him, and he kills in consequence of it, the law presumes the killing was in self defence, or upon the provocation, not on account of the antecedent malice. If therefore the assault upon Killroy was so violent as to endanger his life, he had as good a right to defend himself, as much as if he never had before conceived any malice against the people in general, or Mr. Gray in particular. If the assault upon him, was such as to amount only to a provocation, not to a justification, his crime will be manslaughter only. However, it does not appear, that he knew Mr. Gray; none of the witnesses pretend to say he knew him, or that he ever saw him. It is true they were both in the Rope-walks at one time, but there were so many combatants on each side, that it is not even probable that Killroy should know them all, and no witnesses says there was any encounter there between them two. Indeed, to return to Mr. Langford’s testimony, he says, he did not perceive Killroy to aim at Gray, more than at him, but he says expressly, he did not aim at Gray. Langford says, “Gray had no stick, was standing with his arms folded up.” This witness, is however most probably mistaken in this matter, and confounds one time with another, a mistake which has been made by many witnesses, in this case, and considering the confusion and terror of the scene, is not to be wondered at.

Witnesses have sworn to the condition of Killroy’s bayonet, that it was bloody the morning after the 5th of March. The blood they saw, if any, might be occasioned by a wound given by some of the bayonets in the affray, possibly in Mr. Fosdick’s arm, or it might happen, in the manner mentioned by my brother before. One bayonet at least was struck off and it might fall, where the blood of some person slain afterwards flowed. It would be doing violence to every rule of law and evidence, as well as to common sense and the feelings of humanity, to infer from the blood on the bayonet, that it had been stabbed into the brains of Mr. Gray after he was dead, and that by Killroy himself who had killed him.

Young Mr. Davis swears, that he saw Gray that evening, a little before the firing, that he had a stick under his arm, and said he would go to the riot, “I am glad of it, (that is that there was a rumpus) I will go and have a slap at them, if I lose my life.” And when he was upon the spot, some witnesses swear, he did not act that peaceable inoffensive part, which Langford thinks he did. They swear, they thought him in liquor-that he run about clapping several people on the shoulders saying, “Dont run away”-“they dare not fire.” Langford goes on “I saw twenty or five and twenty boys about the Sentinal-and I spoke to him, and bid him not be afraid.”-How came the Watchman Langford to tell him not to be afraid. Does not this circumstance prove, that he thought there was danger, or at least that the Sentinel in fact, was terrified and did think himself in danger. Langford goes on “I saw about twenty or five and twenty boys that is young shavers.”-We have been entertained with a great variety of phrases, to avoid calling this sort of people a mob.-Some call them shavers, some call them genius’s. -The plain English is gentlemen, most probably a motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes and molattoes, Irish teagues and out landish jack tarrs.-And why we should scruple to call such a set of people a mob, I can’t conceive, unless the name is too respectable for them: The sun is not about to stand still or go out, nor the rivers to dry up because there was a mob in Boston on the 5th of March that attacked a party of soldiers.-Such things are not new in the world, nor in the British dominions, though they are comparatively, rareties and novelties in this town. Carr a native of Ireland had often been concerned in such attacks, and indeed, from the nature of things, soldiers quartered in a populous town, will always occasion two mobs, where they prevent one.-They are wretched conservators of the peace!

Langford “heard the rattling against the guns, but saw nothing thrown.”-This rattling must have been very remarkable, as so many witnesses heard it, who were not in a situation to see what caused it. These things which hit the guns made a noise, those which hit the soldiers persons, did not-But when so many things were thrown and so many hit their guns, to suppose that none struck their persons is incredible. Langford goes on “Gray struck me on the shoulder and asked me what is to pay? I answered, I don’t know but I believe something will come of it, by and bye.”-Whence could this apprehension of mischief arise, if Langford did not think the assault, the squabble, the affray was such as would provoke the soldiers to fire?-“a bayonet went through my great coat and jacket,” yet the soldier did not step out of his place. This looks as if Langford was nearer to the party than became a watchman. Forty or fifty people round the soldiers, and more coming from Quaker-lane, as well as the other lanes. The soldiers heard all the bells ringing and saw people coming from every point of the compass to the assistance of those who were insulting, assaulting, beating and abusing of them-what had they to expect but destruction, if they had not thus early taken measures to defend themselves?

Brewer saw Killroy, &c. saw Dr. Young, &c. “he said the people had better go home.” It was an excellent advice, happy for some of them had they followed it, but it seems all advice was lost on these persons, they would harken to none that was given them in Docksquare, Royal exchange-lane or King-street, they were bent on making this assault, and on their own destruction.

The next witness that knows any thing, was, James Bailey, he saw Carrol, Montgomery and White, he saw some round the Sentry, heaving pieces of ice, large and hard enough to hurt any man, as big as your fist: one question is whether the Sentinel was attacked or not.- If you want evidence of an attack upon him there is enough of it, here is a witness an inhabitant of the town, surely no friend to the soldiers, for he was engaged against them at the Rope-walks; he says he saw twenty or thirty round the Sentry, pelting with cakes of ice, as big as one’s fist; certainly cakes of ice of this size may kill a man, if they happen to hit some part of the head. So that, here was an attack on the Sentinel, the consequence of which he had reason to dread, and it was prudent in him to call for the Main-Guard: he retreated as far as he could, he attempted to get into the Custom-house, but could not; then he called to the Guard, and he had a good right to call for their assistance; “he did not know, he told the witness, what was the matter,” “but he was afraid there would be mischief by and bye;” and well he might, with so many shavers and genius’s round him-capable of throwing such dangerous things. Bailey swears, Montgomery fired the first gun, and that he stood at the right, “the next man to me, I stood behind him, &c.” This witness certainly is not prejudiced in favour of the soldiers, he swears, he saw a man come up to Montgomery with a club, and knock him down before he fired, and that he not only fell himself, but his gun flew out of his hand, and as soon as he rose he took it up and fired. If he was knocked down on his station, had he not reason to think his life in danger, or did it not raise his passions and put him off his guard; so that it cannot be more than manslaughter.

When the multitude was shouting and huzzaing, and threatening life, the bells all ringing, the mob whistle screaming and rending like an Indian yell, the people from all quarters throwing every species of rubbish they could pick up in the street, and some who were quite on the other side of the street throwing clubs at the whole party, Montgomery in particular, smote with a club and knocked down, and as soon as he could rise and take up his firelock, another club from a far struck his breast or shoulder, what could he do? Do you expect he should behave like a Stoick Philosopher lost in Apathy? Patient as Epictatus while his master was breaking his leggs with a cudgel? It is impossible you should find him guilty of murder. You must suppose him divested of all human passions, if you don’t think him at the least provoked, thrown off his guard, and into the furor brevis, by such treatment as this.

Bailey “Saw the Molatto seven or eight minutes before the firing, at the head of twenty or thirty sailors in Corn-hill, and he had a large cordwood stick.” So that this Attucks, by this testimony of Bailey compared with that of Andrew, and some others, appears to have undertaken to be the hero of the night; and to lead this army with banners, to form them in the first place in Dock square, and march them up to King-street, with their clubs; they passed through the mainstreet up to the Main-guard, in order to make the attack. If this was not an unlawful assembly, there never was one in the world. Attucks with his myrmidons comes round Jockson’s [Jackson’s] corner, and down to the party by the Sentry-box; when the soldiers pushed the people off, this man with his party cried, do not be afraid of them, they dare not fire, kill them! kill them! knock them over! And he tried to knock their brains out. It is plain the soldiers did not leave their station, but cried to the people, stand off: now to have this reinforcement coming down under the command of a stout Molatto fellow, whose very looks, was enough to terrify any person, what had not the soldiers then to fear? He had hardiness enough to fall in upon them, and with one hand took hold of a bayonet, and with the other knocked the man down: This was the behaviour of Attucks;-to whose mad behaviour, in all probability, the dreadful carnage of that night, is chiefly to be ascribed. And it is in this manner, this town has been often treated; a Carr from Ireland, and an Attucks from Framingham, happening to be here, shall sally out upon their thoughtless enterprizes, at the head of such a rabble of Negroes, &c. as they can collect together, and then there are not wanting, persons to ascribe all their doings to the good people of the town.

Mr. Adams proceeded to a minute consideration of every witness produced on the crown side; and endeavoured to shew, from the evidence on that side, which could not be contested by the council for the crown, that the assault upon the party, was sufficiently dangerous to justify the prisoners; at least, that it was sufficiently provoking, to reduce to manslaughter the crime, even of the two who were supposed to be proved to have killed. But it would swell this publication too much, to insert his observations at large, and there is the less necessity for it, as they will probably occur to every man who reads the evidence with attention. He then proceeded to consider the testimonies of the witnesses for the prisoners, which must also be omitted: And conc[l]uded,

I will enlarge no more on the evidence, but submit it to you.-Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence: nor is the law less stable than the fact; if an assault was made to endanger their lives, the law is clear, they had a right to kill in their own defence; if it was not so severe as to endanger their lives, yet if they were assaulted at all, struck and abused by blows of any sort, by snow-balls, oyster-shells, cinders, clubs, or sticks of any kind; this was a provocation, for which the law reduces the offence of killing, down to manslaughter, in consideration of those passions in our nature, which cannot be eradicated. To your candour and justice I submit the prisoners and their cause.

The law, in all vicissitudes of government, fluctuations of the passions, or flights of enthusiasm, will preserve a steady undeviating course; it will not bend to the uncertain wishes, imaginations, and wanton tempers of men. To use the words of a great and worthy man, a patriot, and an hero, and enlightned friend of mankind, and a martyr to liberty; I mean ALGERNON SIDNEY,who from his earliest infancy sought a tranquil retirement under the shadow of the tree of liberty, with his tongue, his pen, and his sword, “The law, (says he,) no passion can disturb. Tis void of desire and fear, lust and anger. ‘Tis mens sine affectu; written reason; retaining some measure of the divine perfection. It does not enjoin that which pleases a weak, frail man, but without any regard to persons, commands that which is good, and punishes evil in all, whether rich, or poor, high or low,’Tis deaf, inexorable, inflexible.  On the one hand it is inexorable to the cries and lamentations of the prisoners; on the other it is deaf, deaf as an adder to the clamours of the populace.


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