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The Boston Massacre

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The Boston Massacre is an event that occurred on March 5, 1770 whereby five men were killed by British soldiers. This event was the peak of the rising tension between the military and civilians since 1768, when the Royal troops arrived in Massachusetts. The soldiers had been brought into Boston to keep law and order due to the growing disgruntlement with the Townshend acts that had imposed heavy taxation. However, the people of Boston viewed the soldiers as oppressors who threatened independence. This paper, therefore, seeks to give a description of the occurrences of the Boston Massacre.

In 1768, the Commissioners in charge of Customs faced great resistance from the Boston residents to the extent that they asked for military protection. With a population of about fifteen thousand, Boston residents were rated as the worst malcontents in North America. General Thomas Gage agreed to their request and ordered that the “29th Worcestershire”, as well as the “14th West Yorkshire Fuseliers”, be sent to Boston. Six weeks later, a total of about 700 men arrived in Boston to protect the commissioners. Boston residents were offended by the arrival of the troops since they had been fighting against the oppression by the British government.

However, Governor Bernard believed that dispersing the troops to the malcontents’ homes would put pressure upon them. The council, much to the frustration of the Governor who designated all the empty buildings in Boston to the troops, rejected the move. The imposition of troops in the city made bloodshed inevitable. By 1770, the city was full of soldiers. The residents had been forced to accept the fact that the British regulars were in the city. The troops treated the inhabitants very inhumanly. They engaged the town boys in street fights and even went as far as using ordinary residents for battering unruly soldiers.

Events of March 5, 1770

It all began when Edward Garrick, a young barber’s apprentice, allegedly insulted one of the 29th Regiment solders on the sentry duty working at the Customs House by the name Hugh Whites. Soldiers working in the building were considered as the symbol of Royal authority in the city. An attack on one of them was, therefore, considered as an attack on the Britons. In reaction to the insult, White knocked the apprentice on the ear using his rifle’s butt. Suddenly, the boy began crying for help thus attracting the attention of other people around. He returned with a crowd of young men who were full of furry. The boy then pointed at White and referred to him as the ‘son of a bitch’ who had knocked him down. Coincidentally, the sound of a bell was heard from a nearby church. More people were drawn into the street because of the sound, because it was unusual for the church bell ring at that time. Soon, an angry mob was all over the sentry. Nonetheless, White stood tough and called for support from the main guards on the ground. Within no time, a corporal arrived with six soldiers followed by another officer on duty. This was just but an indication that things were not alright. The crowd swelled to about 400 people. When the crowed grew angrier, it began throwing snowballs together with chunks of ice at the soldiers. Led by Crispus Attucks, they surged closer to the soldiers and dared them to fire. This provoked the soldiers, prompting them to load their guns. However, their actions did not scare the mob who kept surging forward.

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To the crowd’s surprise, the soldiers fired killing three men instantly and wounded two others. This scared the mob, which then fled. When the gun smoke cleared, it was realized that Crispus Attucks was among the five dead men. There were six other men seriously wounded but survived. Consequently, the soldiers, Captain Preston and other four men from the Custom House who were accused of firing at the mob were arrested and held in prison for murder. The Massachusetts Superior Court prudently postponed the trail of the accused till the fall. This was meant to allow the people of Boston to cool off before a jury could be drawn from them. However, all the troops were withdrawn from the city.

The trials ended quietly. The first one took place eight months after the day of the incident. Preston was defended by John Adams who won the case and was acquitted. In the second trial, judge found two soldiers guilty but instead of being sent to prison, they were released. This meant that anyone could identify them for their actions. The outcome of the trail was accepted in a calm manner mainly because of the fact that it was the mob that provoked the soldiers to fire. Additionally, the immediate withdrawal of the soldiers from Boston was a good gesture that cooled down the people of Boston.

Most history books describe this incident as the main cause of the Revolutionary War. This is mainly because of the five lives that were lost on that day. As much as there were many other historical events that occurred in the country, the massacre moved Boston towards the revolution. As the paper has demonstrated, the occurrences of the fateful day were the result of the hatred that had developed between the British Soldiers and the Boston residents for quite some time. The residents, therefore, took advantage of the situation to let out their anger on the soldiers. Nonetheless, the soldiers were provoked to shoot.

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