Boston Massacre Historical Society


What Made the Boston Massacre a Massacre

King George III took reigns of the British Government in 1760 at age twenty-two. He was a stubborn man and quickly wanted to become powerful and well-known. Of his charades many turned into disputes and fights, but in 1770 one of the most well known occurred in Boston. This was called the Boston Massacre. If you’ve heard of it you probably may wonder why it is called a massacre, well, throughout this report I will answer that question and hopefully many others you may have.

In 1768, Britain stationed military troops in Boston to maintain control among colonists and help to enforce the Townshend Acts of 1767. After Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, they wanted no more trouble like that. It still needed to pay for the army in America, though. So, the king’s finance minister, Charles Townshend, came up with a way to tax the colonies “without offense,” as he put it. This way was the Townshend Acts. These placed import taxes on glass, paint, paper, lead, and tea. The colonists were forced to pay in coins. The money would pay for the salaries of governors and other British officers. To enforce these acts and stop smuggling, the British were forced to use blank search warrants, or writs of assistance. These were used to give officers the right to search any building for ANY reason.

With the troops stationed in Boston the colonists became very uneasy and scared. All troops were resented there, which is shown by the many outbreaks that led up to the Boston Massacre.

It was March 5, 1770, a snowy night, when a couple of young boys began throwing snowballs at soldiers. As the crowd grew larger people continued to throw ice and taunt them. Soon, approximately sixty men and dock workers complained about soldiers taking their jobs and impressment--taking men’s property or forcing them to fight in the service--in front of a customhouse. It was chaos.

Captain Thomas Preston was in command of these soldiers. All could tell the soldiers were nervous and the crowd began chanting. Above the chants and yelling someone rang the church bell, which meant to come outside because of a fire. The crowd then was huge. A soldier shot and then others followed his act. Other weapons such as clubs, knives, swords, and bare hands were also used to fight. The smoke cleared and five innocent Americans, fighting for freedom, died.

The most known of the dead was Crispus Attucks, an African-American sailor and escaped slave. Others were: Samuel Gray, worked at a rope walk; James Caldwell, mate on an American ship; Samuel Maverick, seventeen-year old boy; and Patrick Carr, feather maker.

Soon after, lawyers John Adams and Josiah Quincy Jr defended the British soldiers against a crime of murder. Adams said, “ the clamors of the populace,” when speaking of the law. The defense was, for the most part, successful. Six men, including Captain Preston were acquitted. Two others, however, were convicted of manslaughter and as a penalty had their thumbs branded.

The Sons of Liberty were a citizens’ group that was organized in all cities in the American colonies to protest the Stamp Act in the 1760’s. Members of this secret society were mainly lawyers, merchants, and artisans, who had the most to lose. They discovered their best weapon was to boycott the goods, which in fact forced Britain to repeal the Stamp Act. However, the British passed the Declaratory Act that allowed Parliament to still pass laws for the colonies. In 1767, King George issued the Townshend Acts, in an act to keep Americans listening to him.

These same Sons of Liberty then used this event in Boston as a way to spread its beliefs and views by exaggerating the truth at some points. Though it was no more than a riot, Americans named it the Boston Massacre to show everyone the dangers of having troops stationed among colonists. This was done mostly for freedom, and so the lives of colonial citizens would no longer be harmed.

Before learning about the Boston Massacre, I, like many believed it was a horrifying event, but when learning about it I saw how Americans gained their freedom. Patriots used it to awake the public and to show them how cruel the British Government can be. By insinuating that all troops stationed acted as the ones in Boston did, Americans gained citizens from not only the colonies, but worldwide. The deaths of these five men didn’t prove costly for their own country, but for the opposing.



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