Boston Massacre Historical Society


Boston Massacre Trials

Summary: This is a more advanced essay that looks not at the Massacre itself but at the trial that followed the incident. The author does a good job setting the stage with a summary of the tragic event that lead to death of seven people. The acquittal and the guilty verdicts were the result of the evidence presented at the trial, which becomes the subject of analysis presented in the essay. In conclusion the author offers his personal view on the verdict stating that all British regulars should have been found not guilty.

Before the Boston Massacre, there was already a lot of rebelling and disagreements between the colonists and the government. People became angry and intended to destroy the tax revenues the government was charging them. On March 5, 1770 the tensions developed into bloodshed. Government Francis Bernard asked for British troops to maintain civil order within the colonies. The soldiers arrived at a crowd who attacked them with snowballs and insults. The eight soldiers finally formed a line and loaded their guns, warning the crowd to disperse. After, someone yelled "Fire!" and five men were assassinated on the spot. Two were wounded and later died. Captain Thomas Preston and six of his men were set free. Two others were found guilty of manslaughter, punished, and taken out of the army. Because the Americans attacked and the British fired, the different opinions vary because the evidence is not clear. For this reason my verdict will be decided by the person who said "Fire!," the conflicts between the British and the colonists before the Boston Massacre, and the issue that might have led to killing, self-defense.

In the 1770's to be a soldier was to be able to listen to their captain accurately and thoroughly or else they would be punished. In the entire riot the crowd was making and the insults they were yelling, the soldiers might have not heard their captain correctly and shot when they heard that bloody word, "Fire!" Perhaps with all the people throwing snowballs and dust at them they couldn't hear and did what first came, the only defense mechanism they had in mind, the gun. I mean, it seemed to work did it not? It stopped the insults and the throwing. What the British did was self-defense. This is much like our society today. Our soldiers are a representation for our country in Iraq. If terrorists are bombing us for what Bush is doing and what our soldiers are doing then we have a right to self-defense and the power of voice. Innocent people are being killed in Iraq even if we do not like it, much like the people who were insulting the British. Some might have disagreed with the action the British took, but maybe others agreed and might have thought that was the only way to stop the people from insulting.

Before the Boston Massacre the two rebels had problems that occurred before. The first problem that angered the colonists was the Proclamation of 1763, which did not allow colonists to move past the Appalachian Mountains. Next was the Stamp Act, which taxed most paper goods and materials. The main purpose of the Stamp Act was to raise money for colonial military expenses. The Townshend Acts was last, and taxed paint, paper, glass, tea and lead. People started to get angry with all of the taxes, which give the colonists more motive to attack the British. Who knows if maybe something would have happened to the British before they got to the Americans? Maybe the British just got to the Americans first.

Self-defense is the main issue in the Boston Massacre. If it were not for the colonists throwing snowballs and insults at the British everything would have been better than it was. Besides the tension they already had, the colonists broke the barrier by making it even worse. They brought murder upon their own people. Many taxes were being passed which made the colonists stressed and frustrated, but not to throw things at the people who were doing their job. What if the British did not do as they were told? The British would be punished either way, by their captain or their people. The colonists should not have been throwing things at the soldiers, but at the government who was enforcing the laws, the rules, and making them pay.

The verdict I chose was innocent to all charges. I believe the British were innocent and they shot because of self-defense and lack of communication within themselves due to the riot. As the crowd enlarged, the riot became bigger and caused the British to panic. Under extreme pressure by all people, everything the British heard was the people throwing their concentration off their mission. They closed their ears for a moment and when they came back they were still in the uproar. All they heard was their captain say "Fire!" which lead to 7 deaths. Although innocent deaths, the people who died were hateful and messed with the wrong people. The soldiers were only doing what they were told. The social climate in Boston would probably disagree with me because they only look at the deaths and not the other side of the perspective. They do not see what led the British to do such a thing. I think that is why they were let out innocent. Though they lacked evidence, the court made the right decision and gave the British a second chance.



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