A runaway slave who believed fiercely in freedom commanded the people of Boston “do not be afraid,” as he struck out against the redcoats and became the first hero to die in an attack that spurred the American Revolution.
On the night of March 5, 1770, five citizens of Boston died when eight British soldiers fired on a large and unruly crowd that was menacing them. Boston’s patriots, led by Sam Adams, immediately labeled the affray the Boston Massacre and hailed its victims as martyrs for liberty. The troops had been sent to Boston in late 1768 to support the civil authorities and were themselves subject to the jurisdiction of the local courts.Â
. All 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 acquitted on grounds of self defense. The patriots used the trial to demonstrate that law rather than mob rule had been maintained in Boston, and that even the hated redcoats could receive a fair trial.