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The Boston Massacre

The Boston Massacre occurred on the evening of March 5, 1770. It began with a few colonists harassing a lone British Guard, and it quickly escalated. The conflict energized anti-British sentiment and surely contributed to the American Revolution.

Tensions were high in Boston in the 1770s. There were now over 2000 British soldiers in Boston, and they were there to enforce Britain’s Tax Laws, like the Stamp Act and the Townshend Act.

About two weeks earlier on February 22nd, a mob of Patriots looted and robbed a very well-known Loyalist’s store. Customs officer Ebenezer Richardson was close by and tried to break up the rock throwing crowd by firing his musket through his bedroom window into the crowd. He struck an 11 year old boy named Christopher Seider. The boy did not survive. He is the first causality of the American Revolution.

Now on the cold snowy evening of March 5th 1770, A British Private was the only soldier guarding the King’s money stored inside the Custom House on King Street. Wasn’t long when colonists started to harass the soldier. The soldier fought back and hit a colonist with his bayonet. The Colonists responded with rock and stick throwing. In response to the private’s plea and fearing a major riot and loss of the King’s money, Captain Preston arrived with several soldiers and took up defensive positions in front of the Custom House. Not all colonist wanted bloodshed and pleaded with the soldiers to hold their fire, while others dared them to shoot.

Violence erupted and the Colonist struck the soldiers with sticks, rocks and clubs. No one really knows, but witnesses say they heard someone yell “FIRE”, and it is not clear if it was intentional.

Once the first shot rang out, all the other British soldiers opened fire killing five colonists and wounding six.

Within hours Captain Preston and his soldiers were arrested and jailed. Preston wrote his version of events while sitting in a jail cell, while Sons of Liberty leaders, such as, John Hancock and Sam Adams incited the Colonist to keep fighting.

It took seven months for the trial to start. It was Sons of Liberty John Adams (our first Vice President and second President) that defended the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre.

Adams surely did not side with the Tories or was he a British sympathizer, but felt the soldiers deserved a fair trial. To help obtain an impartial jury, Adams convinced the judge to have only Non-Bostonians on the jury. Adams augured the confusion was rampant. Eye witnesses were contradictory on whether Preston gave the fire order. Adams argued reasonable doubt existed and he won. Preston and his soldiers were found not guilty, except two who were found guilty of manslaughter and branded on their thumbs.

Colonist continued to protest after this and was the road to the Boston Tea Party some three years later.

This was a major event that seriously impacted the relations between the British and the Colonist, and weary of British rule and unfair taxes lead to the fight for independence.

Preston wrote: “None of them are heroes. The victims were trouble makers and deserved what they got. The soldiers were professionals, who should not have panicked.

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