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Why John Adams Defended British Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials

April 2, 2020 in History

By Christopher Klein

The future American president represented Redcoats accused of murdering American patriots in an incident that helped spark the Revolution.

The blood remained fresh on the snow outside Boston’s Custom House on the morning of March 6, 1770. Hours earlier, rising tensions between British troops and colonists had exploded into violence when a band of Redcoats opened fire on a crowd that had pelted them with not just taunts, but ice, oyster shells and broken glass. Although the soldiers claimed to have acted in self-defense, patriot propaganda referred to the incident as the Boston Massacre. Eight British soldiers and their officer in charge, Captain Thomas Preston, faced charges for murdering five colonists.

Not far from the Custom House, a 34-year-old Boston attorney sat in his office and made a difficult decision. Although a devout patriot, John Adams agreed to risk his family’s livelihood and defend the British soldiers and their commander in a Boston courtroom. At stake was not just the fate of nine men, but the relationship between the motherland and her colonies on the eve of American Revolution.

In the new book John Adams Under Fire: The Founding Father’s Fight for Justice in the Boston Massacre Murder Trial, Dan Abrams and coauthor David Fisher detail what they call the “most important case in colonial American history” and an important landmark in the development of American jurisprudence. Abrams, who is also the chief legal affairs correspondent for ABC News and host of “Live PD” on A&E, recently talked about the case with

READ MORE: Did a Snowball Fight Start the Revolution?

HISTORY: At the time of the Boston Massacre, John Adams was a patriot grieving the loss of a child with a new baby on the way. Why did he risk his family’s livelihood to represent the British soldiers?

Dan Abrams: The main reason was that he felt everyone was entitled to a defense. But I also think he learned a little about the case and thought there was a legitimate defense—because the events were not as clear cut as some patriots wanted to make them out to be. He also knew there were a couple of attorneys who said they would take the case as long as he was part of the team.

The Boston Massacre, in which British redcoats killed five American civilians.

Adams defended the British officer Thomas Preston and his soldiers in …read more


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How the Union Pulled Off a Presidential Election During the Civil War

April 2, 2020 in History

By Becky Little

Fearing Lincoln would lose, some wondered if the country should delay the election.

The United States has never delayed a .

“[Lincoln thought] if you suspend democracy in the middle of the war, you are basically undercutting the whole purpose of the war,” he continues. “So even when he thought he was going to lose, he never really contemplated suspending the presidential election.” (Lincoln did, however, suspend the writ of habeas corpus and ignore a ruling by the Supreme Court’s chief justice that he didn’t have the authority to do so.)

Abraham Lincoln’s Wartime Run

Lincoln and Johnson’s 1864 campaign banner.

When Lincoln first ran for president in 1860, it was his Republican Party that had a stronghold in the north, and the Democratic Party that had found popularity in the south. When 11 southern states seceded to join the Confederacy, the Republican Party became the Union’s dominant political party. Even so, for the 1864 election, the Republican Party decided to join forces with some Democrats to form the National Union Party.

Despite concerns about Lincoln’s electability, the National Union backed him as its presidential candidate. Yet notably, Lincoln ditched his current Republican vice president to run with Andrew Johnson, a Democrat who had previously supported slavery, in an attempt to “balance the ticket.”

Meanwhile, a divided Democratic Party nominated George McClellan, a popular general who’d served in the Union Army. Lincoln’s campaign position was that there would be no ceasefire until the south rejoined the north and ended slavery. In contrast, McClellan said his only condition for ending the war would be that the Confederate states rejoined the Union.

Lincoln’s Opponents Launched Racist Campaign

A racist political cartoon depicting a fictional “Miscegenation Ball” at the Headquarters of the Lincoln Central Campaign Club, circa 1864.

Whether or not slavery continued—as well as the fate of black Americans—was not a priority for McClellan or the Democratic Party. And in the party’s attempt to win the votes of war-weary white northerners, it launched “probably the most racist presidential campaign in American history,” says David Goldfield, a history professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and author of America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation.

For example, one Democratic political cartoon exploited white Americans’ fears about interracial sex by depicting a fictional “Miscegenation Ball at the Headquarters of the Lincoln …read more


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What Went Wrong on Apollo 13?

April 2, 2020 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

It was supposed to be the third-ever moon landing. It turned into a rescue mission.

For nearly 56 hours after the Apollo 13 mission launched on April 11, 1970, it looked to be the smoothest flight of NASA’s Apollo program so far.

The spacecraft ferrying astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise to their planned lunar landing had traveled just over 200,000 miles from Earth, and was approaching the moon’s orbit.

Just before 9 pm on April 13, the crew wrapped up a TV broadcast in which they had given a tour of the spacecraft and talked about how they were managing weightlessness. “This is the crew of Apollo 13 wishing everybody there a nice evening,” signed off Mission Commander Lovell, a captain in the U.S. Navy with three other missions (including Apollo 8) under his belt.

Less than 10 minutes later, after a routine maintenance task went awry and caused the spacecraft’s oxygen tanks to explode, what was supposed to be the U.S. space program’s third landing on the moon turned into a desperate race to save three astronauts’ lives. Working around the clock from Mission Control at the Manned Spacecraft Center (now Johnson Space Center) in Houston, Texas, NASA flight controllers and engineers improvised a series of innovative procedures to bring Lovell, Swigert and Haise safely home on April 17, marking a successful conclusion to one of the most dramatic episodes in the history of the U.S. space program.

READ MORE: See Photos of How Astronauts Trained for the Apollo Moon Missions

Missed Warning Signs

Apollo 13 lifts off for the moon on April 11, 1970 with Commander Jim Lovell, Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert and Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise aboard. Two days later, with the spacecraft well on its way to the moon, an oxygen tank exploded, scrubbing the lunar landing and putting the crew in jeopardy.

View the 15 images of this gallery on the original article

In order to power the fuel cells that provided most of the electricity used during the flight, the Apollo spacecraft carried two tanks of liquid hydrogen and two tanks of liquid oxygen. NASA’s subsequent investigation revealed that the No. 2 oxygen tank onboard Apollo 13 had been accidentally dropped during maintenance before the Apollo 10 mission in 1969, causing slight internal damage that didn’t show up in later inspections.

During …read more