Boston Massacre Historical Society


Summary of Events

The Massacre was the 1770, pre-Revolutionary incident growing out of the anger against the British troops sent to Boston to maintain order and to enforce the Townshend Acts. The troops, constantly tormented by irresponsible gangs, finally on Mar. 5, 1770, fired into a rioting crowd and killed five men: three on the spot, two of wounds later. The funeral of the victims was the occasion for a great patriot demonstration. The British captain, Thomas Preston, and his men were tried for murder, with Robert Treat Paine as prosecutor, John Adams and Josiah Quincy as lawyers for the defense. Preston and six of his men were acquitted; two others were found guilty of manslaughter, punished, and discharged from the army.

The Massacre became a legendary event of the American rebellion against the British with many controversies and myths surrounding the true facts. Even when the gun smoke faded away, the subsequent murder trial raised high emotions and the results were not considered fair by either side.

The impact of the incident on the cause of the American Revolution was profound. Despite the best efforts of the governing authorities to cool down anti-British sentiments, such as immediately removing the troops from Boston and postponing the trial by several months, the net result was the increase of support for the independence. The next five years preceding the start of the Revolution gave Patriots many chances to put in practice the lessons learned during the Boston Massacre.



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