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I. Overview

The Boston Massacre was an incident involving the deaths of five colonists by British solders on March 5, 1770. The incident surfaced due to tensions in the American colonies that had been growing ever since British troops first appeared in Massachusetts on October 1768 to help enforce the large tax set in place by the Townshend Acts.
II. Background

Parliament passed the Townshend Acts in 1767. These laws placed taxes on glass, lead paint, paper, and tea. In response the colonists protested by banding together and refusing to pay these taxes which they felt violated their natural charter and their constitutional rights as British subjects. Outraged by these taxes the colonists boycotted all British goods. In 1768, Britain sent more soldiers to the colonioes to enforce the Townshend Acts. Parliment told the soldiers to protect the British workers who collected the taxes. Many of these soldiers landed in Boston where theu tried to keep order. The King thought that British soldiers could control the unruly colonists but he was very wrong. Once arriving in Boston most people would refuse to quarter the soldiers and at first the soldiers had to sleep outdoors. Eventually the Massachussetts governor had to quarter the soldiers in empty warehouses and stores.Bostonians made life difficult for the soldiers. they pushed the soldiers and called them names. Feeling unwanted, the soldiers found ways to make the bostonians dislike them even more. For example they practiced drills loudly while the people of Boston sat in church on Sundays. From there relations between the colonists and the British soldiers on continued to get worse. The soldiers took jobs away from the colonists. Britain didn't pay the soldiers much money, so many soldiers wanted to work at other jobs when they were off duty. Also the soldiers were willing to work for less money than Boston workers did. Daily the relations between the soldiers and the colonists got worse and worse. Even when Britain finally moved most of the soldiers out of boston, only leaving 400-700 soldiers, the people of Boston were still furious. It was only a matter of time before the tense relations would come to a boiling point. This day came on March 5, 1770 when a snowball fight turned into a massacreresulting in 5 dead colonists.

III. Causes

September 30, 1768, British troops landed at Boston to help with the discipline of the unruly Boston colonists. With no acceptance from the Boston colonist the troops were forced to stay in the Boston commons due to lack of place to stay. The relations between the colonists and soldiers were very bad. The British troops, who were underpaid and probably frightened, were rude and sometimes violent towards the Boston people. Fights were common and women were molested. Young boys teased the troops and often received beatings in return. A prelude to the Massacre came in 1769 when customs men and soldiers savagely attacked James Otis, who had continued to protest against the British tax laws. It started when a Bostonian started a one-sided snowball fight. Eventually a crowd joined in throwing other things besides snowballs such as ice and clubs. The crowd gathered after a British soldier hit a young boy with the butt of his rifle.

IV. Incident

March 5, 1770, near the customs house of Boston, Massachusetts a young boy yelled insults and through snowballs at a British officer. The British officers retaliated by thumped the little defenseless boy with the butt of his rifle. The boy screamed and a large crowd or mob gathered. The mob was forming as a handful of British soldiers approached, led by Captain Thomas Preston. The mob began to throw snowballs, clubs and ice at the British soldiers. The mob then began to dare the soldiers to shoot. Finally, a soldier who was knocked to the ground twice by a thrown club disharged his rifle. In the chaos that followed other soldiers fired at the crowd. The brawl ended and 5 colonists lay dead in the snow with several others wounded. One of the men killed during the massacre was Crispus Attucks, although he went by the name of Michael Johnson. This man may have been the first man
shot during the Boston Massacre. He was an escaped slave who had spent many years at sea as a sailor.

V. Trial of the soldiers

The murder trial of Captain Preston began in October 1770. John Adams and Josiah Quincy Jr. were his lawyers. These two did not support the actions taken by Preston and his soldiers but they did believe strong the in the right everyman has to concial. During Preston's Trial, witnesses gave different stories about what had happened on the night of March 5, 1770. Several said that Preston never shouted, "Fire!" Other witnesses remembered Preston saying, "Not to fire!" They thought that the noise of the crowd drowned out all but the last of his words. After all the witnesses spoke, the jury found Preston not guilty. Adams and Quincy also defended the eight soldiers in their November trial. Once again, stories differed. Many witnesses remembered no throwing of rocks or ice, and no shouting or pushing. Others admitted that the crowd had become a mob. they said the soldiers had fired because they feared for their lives. The Jury found six soldiers not guilty. It found the other two guilty of manslaughter or killing without meaning to do so. One of the two men was Hugh Montgomery, who may have fired the first shot. The two guilty men were branded on their thumbs.

VI. Results

Following the massacre the people of Boston and the surrounding towns were outraged, and began to prepare themselves to battle the British troops. However, the leaders of the angry citizens were fearful that more blood might be spilled and were able to calm things but they demanded that British troops be withdrawn from the city and stationed in Fort William, on an island in Boston Harbor. governor Hutchinson saw that he had to accept this demand. When the British left Boston the citizens considered that they had won a great victory. Years later John Adams would say, "On that night the foundations of American Independence were laid." Yet despite the Boston Massacre, things returned to normal for a while. With the repeal of the Townshend duties, the boycott of British goods slowly dropped away, although not without a good deal of protest from some who thought it ought to continue as long as there was still even a token duty on tea. However, most merchants decided they needed the business more than the principle, and gradually trade with England started up again-even tea was imported and the despised duty on it was paid.
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VII. Remembrance

The Boston Massacre is reenacted on March 5. The reenactment is organized by the Bostonian Society and takes place directly in front of the Old state house. Link to video of reenactment-

VIII. References

1. Boston Massacre Historical Society. Web. 26 Oct. 2010. <>.
2. Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: the American Revolution, 1763-1789. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.
3. Ready, Dee. The Boston Massacre. Mankato, MN: Bridgestone, 2002. Print.
4. Weber, Michael. "The Boston Massacre." The American Revolution. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 2000. Print.
5. YouTube - Boston Massacre 2007. Dir. NorthernPlatoon. YouTube - Broadcast Yourself.19 Mar. 2007. Web. 26 Oct. 2010. <>.