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Lot 111: 1770, THE GENTLEMANS MAGAZINE, BOSTON MASSACRE TRIAL News

Presidential Election Auction - Early American History Auctions

by Early American

29 October 2016

Rancho Santa Fe, CA, USA

Live Auction
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  • 1770, THE GENTLEMANS MAGAZINE, BOSTON MASSACRE TRIAL News
  • 1770, THE GENTLEMANS MAGAZINE, BOSTON MASSACRE TRIAL News
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Description: Colonial America
December 1770 "BOSTON MASSACRE" TRIAL Report
December 1770, "GENTLEMANS MAGAZINE," Monthly News Magazine, London, England, with historic "BOSTON MASSACRE" TRIAL News, Choice Extremely Fine.


The historic first inside page headline reads: "American Affairs" and includes a long, quite detailed report on the Trial of Captain Thomas Preston, the British Commander tried for the BOSTON MASSACRE in Colonial Massachusetts. The Boston Massacre was one of the events leading up to the American Revolution. This magazine has approximately 48 pages and the page size is 8.25" x 5.25".

This timely magazine was issued with several blank-back engraved illustrated plates, relating to various subjects in that particular issue. Illustrated in this issue is the title page, an engraving of St. John's Gate, plus a full page copper plate Illustration "A striking portrait of the late Lord Chancellorr Camden". Another article of interest is the Dreadful Effects of Gaming among the Mallay Indians, plus much more.

Gentlemans Magazine was in essence the "Time" or "Newsweek" news magazine of the 18th and 19th Centuries. It was also the first general-interest magazine, and the most influential periodical of its time. This issue having coverage of the trial of Captain Thomas Preston, held in Boston from October 24-30, 1770. Capt. Preston, accused of ordering the soldier to fire during the Boston Massacre, was defended by John Adams and was ultimately found not guilty.


The "Boston Massacre" refers to an incident involving the deaths of five civilians at the hands of British troops on March 5, 1770. The aftermath of which helped spark the rebellion in some of the British Colonies in America, which culminated in the American Revolution.

A tense situation because of a heavy British military presence in Boston boiled over to incite brawls between soldiers and civilians, and eventually led to troops discharging their muskets after being attacked by a rioting crowd. Three civilians were killed at the scene of the shooting, and two died after the incident.

Thomas Preston was an officer of the 29th Regiment of Foot who was present at the Boston Massacre March 5, 1770. [1]He was acquitted of all charges in a trial held in Boston, Massachusetts. Future US President John Adams was his attorney. Two of his men, Hugh Montgomery and Mathew Kilroy, were found guilty of manslaughter and branded on the thumb with a hot iron. After his trial, Preston retired from the army and reportedly settled in Ireland, though Adams recalled seeing him in London in the 1780s.

Captain Preston and the soldiers were arrested and scheduled for trial in a Suffolk County court. The government was determined to give the soldiers a fair trial so there could be no grounds for retaliation from the British and so that moderates would not be alienated from the Patriot cause. A problem was that no lawyers in the Boston area wanted to defend the soldiers, as they believed it would be a huge career mistake. A desperate request was sent to John Adams from Preston, pleading for his work on the case. Adams, who was already a leading Patriot and who was contemplating a run for public office, nevertheless agreed to help, in the interest of ensuring a fair trial. Adams, Josiah Quincy II, and Robert Auchmuty acted as the defense attorneys, with Sampson Salter Blowers helping by investigating the jury pool. It is not known whether Paul Revere was present at the Massacre, though he drew a detailed map of the bodies to be used in the trial of the British soldiers held responsible. Massachusetts Solicitor General Samuel Quincy and private attorney Robert Treat Paine, hired by the town of Boston, handled the prosecution. To let passions settle, the trial was delayed for months, unusual in that period, and the jurymen were all chosen from towns outside Boston. Tried on his own, Preston was acquitted after the jury was not convinced that he had ordered the troops to fire. His trial lasted from October 24, 1770 to October 30, 1770.


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