On the evening of March 5, 1770, a throng of several hundred people converged on the Custom House in Boston where nine British soldiers stood sentry under the command of their Captain.
A riot broke out. In the chaos the soldiers opened fire and five men were killed. This incident would become known as the Boston Massacre.
The following day John Adams, a young lawyer, was asked to defend the soldiers and their captain when they came to trial.
No one else would take the case.
Arguing that "facts were stubborn things", Adams stood for the defence in two trials. The first of Captain Thomas Preston ended in a not guilty verdict.
The second trial was of the soldiers. Six were acquitted and two were found guilty of manslaughter and were branded on their thumbs.
John Adams was vilified by many because of his decision to defend the British. But Adams, who would become one of the framers of the Constitution, was more interested in doing the right thing than in appeasing the mob.
He would write :
"Government is nothing more than the combined force of society, or the united power of the multitude, for the peace, order, safety, good and happiness of the people..... There is no king and queen bee distinguished from all others, by size or figure or beauty of variety of colors, in the human hive. No man has yet produced any revelation from heaven in his favor, any divine communications to govern his fellow men. Nature throws us all into the world equal and alike....
The preservation of liberty depends on the intellectual and moral character of the people. As long as knowledge and virtue are diffused generally among the body of a nation, it is impossible they should be enslaved.
Ambition is one of the more ungovernable passions of the human heart. The love of power is insatiable and uncontrollable...
There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty."
Perhaps it was fear of ambition of a certain class that led Bush to choose Miers, a practicing attorney, to sit on the bench. Would John Adams make the cut today?
I doubt it.
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