The Trial of Ebenezer Richardson

    575. To Lord Hillsborough, 21 April 1770

    576. To Thomas Gage, 22 April 1770

    The trial of Ebenezer Richardson for the murder of Christopher Seider, originally scheduled for 23 March, was delayed for nearly a month in order to arrange for counsel and to procure witnesses. The court finally heard the case on 20 April. After reviewing the evidence, the judges instructed the jury that Richardson was guilty of no more than manslaughter. Nevertheless, the jury, which deliberated through the night, found him guilty of murder the next day. Not willing to order the execution of a man they believed innocent, the judges postponed sentencing until 29 May (Zobel, Boston Massacre, pp. 223–24).

    575. To Lord Hillsborough

    Boston 21 April 1770

    My Lord, One Richardson, who I mentioned to your Lordship in a former letter as charged with the murder of a Boy, was yesterday brought upon his Trial. The Court upon summing up the Evidence to the Jury were all, of opinion that, if what the Witnesses on both sides had sworn was believed the fact could amount to no more than Manslaughter. Justice Oliver doubted whether it could amount to that and with great spirit charged the death of the Boy upon the promoters of the Effigies and other Exhibitions which had drawn the people together and caused unlawful and tumultuous Assemblies and he did not excuse such as had neglected suppressing those Assemblies, as the Civil Magistrate had done or such as justified them in public as some of the Religious Order had done.1 Notwithstanding this unanimous opinion of the Court the Jury who were up all night brought in their Verdict this morning, Guilty.

    I have not yet heard whether the Jury did not believe the Witnesses for the Prisoner or whether they thought themselves better Judges of the Law than the Court or whether they were intimidated by the clamour of the Inhabitants of Boston but the last is the most probable. The Court did not proceed to Sentence but adjourned to the 29th of May. Their Terms are no other way limited than this, that, as they are twice a year one must expire when the other begins.

    I trouble your Lordship with this Narrative to confirm what I have so often observed, that in all matters which relate to the Controversy between the Kingdom and the Colonies, popular error and prejudice prevail against Law and Justice in spight of the Efforts of the few who have firmness to with stand the former and to attempt maintaining the latter.

    The meeting of the Merchants as it [called], which was intended yesterday was put off because the same persons who constitute such sort of meetings were attending the capital Trial and their determinations are not yet known.2 I wish we may hear of the Resolves & Determinations of Parliament relative to such combinations before they have any further Effect. I have the honour to be with the greatest respect My Lord Your Lordships most humble and most obedient Servant,

    RC (National Archives UK, CO 5/759, ff. 154–55); at foot of letter, “The Right Honorable the Earl of Hillsborough”; docketed, “Boston 21st April 1770. Lieut. Govr. Hutchinson Rx 11. June (No. 8) C:17.” SC (National Archives UK, CO 5/768, ff. 114–16); docketed, “Boston 21st. April 1770 Lieut. Govr. Hutchinson (No. 8.) Rx 11 June.” AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:463); in the margin, “Copy to Lord Hillsborough 19t & 21 April 27 March 1770— & to General Gage 13 April.”

    576. To Thomas Gage

    Boston 22 April 1770

    Sir, Yesterday one Richardson was found Guilty of Murder, by a Jury influenced by popular clamour to give a Verdict directly against the Opinion of the Court. This trial was for the death of the Boy shot in one of the late Riots.1 The Court adjourned the same day to the 29th of May when I suppose the Trial of Preston & the soldiers must come on.

    I have letters by our London Ships down to the 20 February. My Letters by the Packet went from Lord Hillsborough’s Office the 20th January. I doubt not she must have arrived before this can reach you otherwise I should transmit to you a very particular account of Affairs which my friends have furnished me with. A series of such remarkable Events has seldom hap’ned in so short a time as from the 16. of January, when Mr York refused the Seal, to the 2d of February when the friends of the Ministry who had been in doubt whether it could stand were satisfied that Lord North could keep the ground, although there was a majority only of forty in a full House, and before the 20th of February upon another interesting point the majority had rose to 78.2 It seems few persons expected the Duty upon Tea would be taken off. The other three Articles there seems to be no great doubt of.

    The people of this Town are acting a foolish part over again, and are attempting to Prevent any Importers from selling their goods. If we had the Naval and Land force which was here this time Twelve month they would not dare to go the length they now do.

    I had just now, a note from Colo. Dalrymple informing me he had heard of Letters which spake of additional forces being intended to America early in the Spring. There has been such a rumor for some days Past but I know not the grounds of it. Some people are of opinion that government here will never recover its vigour without additional force3 and Possibly a conjecture of what may happen gave rise to a Report that it is really intended.

    I spent two or three days, lately, at the Castle and was much pleased to find so little complaint from Officers or Soldiers. The greatest difficulty4 is caused by the multitude of women & children belonging to the 29.

    I had the honour of your Letter of the 6th by the Post before the last. I am very respectfully Sr Your most Obedient Humble Servant

    Tho Hutchinson

    RC (Clements Library, Thomas Gage Papers); at foot of letter, “His Excellency General Gage.” AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 25:387–88); sideways at foot of letter, “Copy to General Gage April 22d 1770.”

    577. From Thomas Gage

    New York April 23 1770.

    Sir, Your last Letter for England came in time for the Packet. The January and February Mails arrived together, so that we have at present two Packets in Port, one Sails it’s said on the 26th, the other the Second Saturday in May, or perhaps soon.

    I have no news but what the Papers relate, where you will see some Resignations of Places and Employments. The American Duties, the Teas excepted, will be repealed, therefore Grievances will still remain, and I suppose occasion fresh Associations not to import Goods a few Months hence when a large Stock of Goods shall be first provided.

    No particular Orders relative to America has been transmitted to me, if you receive none, that should require the keeping two Regiments at Castle-William, I would order the 29th Regiment from thence.1 The Weather begins to be warm, and it will be dangerous to keep the Troops crowded as they now are, much longer. The 14th Regiment may remain till further Advices are received from home.

    The delaying the Tryal of Capt Preston and the Soldiers is the only good that can be done at present, tho I fear the minds of People are so Soured, that they will scarcely divest themselves of Resentment and a thirst of Revenge, were the Tryals postponed even to a longer Term. I have the honor to be with perfect Regard & Esteem Sir, &c,

    Thomas Gage

    RC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 25:389–90). AC (Clements Library, Thomas Gage Papers); at foot of letter, “Hutchinson [torn].” The RC, while listed as being in the Massachusetts Archives, is apparently now missing from there and does not appear on the archives’ microfilm or digital versions of the collection. The transcription above is taken from the AC.

    578. To Thomas Gage

    Boston 25. April 1770

    Sir, I have a Letter from the Secretary of State by the January and another by the February Mail. The first takes notice of the Reports of the Commanding Officer at Boston containing many Facts & Apprehensions relative to the Insults offered the Troops which are very alarming and that although none of my Letters contained Intelligence of that nature yet His Majesty had thought fit to recommend to Major General Gage to reinforce Colo Dalrymple in case it should appear to be necessary. The second has nothing upon this subject.1 By our Merchant Vessels I have letters from Mr Jno Pownall and from Gov. Bernard the latest date March 8. when my advices of the extravagant doings of the Boston People who assembled for several days together had been Received but that day,2 and the Sentiments of the Ministry were not communicated. The passengers report that Parliament would rise the 12. of April. Parties in the City grew every day more violent. The ministerial interest in Parliament increased and upon the last Trial in the House of Commons the majority was 98.3 I have the honour to be Sir Your most obedient humble Servant

    Tho Hutchinson

    RC (Clements Library, Thomas Gage Papers); at foot of letter, “His Excell General Gage.”