The Boston Massacre

by Janelle Pavao

Many of you know the Boston Massacre to be an awful event in which the English soldiers slaughtered a large crowd of people for no apparent reason. This picture is very warped.

Allow me to set the record straight ...

Background

The French and Indian war had left Britain in terrible straits. With money-making colonies at their disposal, Parliament established import duties on the colonies, called the Townshend Acts.

The colonists were upset by these taxes, and Britain sent soldiers to maintain the peace and enforce the Acts in October 1768. Their presence was not well accepted.

Why Did the Boston Massacre Occur?

On March 5, 1770 there was a party in Boston.  Many people got drunk at this party so a British soldier was doing his duty on patrol, ensuring no one got violent.

As he was walking around a building, a man came out and began harassing him. The soldier tried to defend himself and pushed the man off.  The man began throwing snowballs at him and calling him names, while the soldier did nothing. Many other people came and joined in the mockery. The soldier soon became afraid of what they might do, so he fled for help.

He came back with a group of soldiers. The people just grew more angry and kept throwing snowballs and taunting the soldiers.

The soldiers did nothing until they began throwing their clubs and chanting, "Fire, fire; damn you, fire."

Then something happened that would echo, incorrectly, through the annals of history forever. One of the soldiers was hit in the head with a club, and, as he fell, his weapon discharged. The soldiers thought there had been a command to fire, and they began firing on the crowd.

Five men were killed in the riotous crowd that night, and one died two weeks later from the wounds. The British soldiers were then taken to court in Boston, with none other than John Adams as their lawyer!

They were found innocent, then taken to a court in England, found guilty, and severely punished.

The event was then publicized as a terrible massacre.

Boston Massacre, engraved and probably plagiarized by Paul Revere

Engraving of the "massacre" by Paul Revere, either plagiarized or borrowed with permission from a design by Henry Pelham. It was published under the title, "The Fruits of Arbitrary Power, or the Bloody Massacre."

The engraving reads ...

"Unhappy Boston! See thy sons deplore,
Thy Hallow'd Walks, besmear'd with guiltless Gore:
While faithless P&mdash—n and his savage Bands,
With murd'rous Rancour stretch their bloody Hands;
Like fierce Barbarians grinning o'er their Prey,
Approve the Carnage, and enjoy the Day.
If scalding drops from Rage from Anguish Wrung
If speechless Sorrows lab'ring for a Tongue,
Or if a weeping World can aught appease
The plaintive Ghosts of Victims such as these;
The Patriot's copious Tears for each are shed,
A glorious Tribute which embalms the Dead
But know, Fate summons to that awful Goal
Where Justice strips the Murderer of his Soul:
Should Venal C——ts the scandal of the Land,
Snatch the relentless Villain from her Hand,
Keen Execrations on this Plate inscrib'd,
Shall reach a Judge who never shall be brib'd."

From there the story was blown up, stretched out, exaggerated, and warped so that the colonists could have one more thing to blame the king for. The picture above, painted (and probably plagiarized) by Paul Revere, was shown to the nation. It was completely inaccurate.

Why did the Boston Tea Party Occur? Who was involved? We cover these facts and more on this page on one of the most momentous events of the American Revolution.

Boston Tea Party

Intolerable Acts

Return to Causes of the American Revolution

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