Boston Massacre

Boston Massacre was an incident on March 5, 1770, in which British Army soldiers killed five male civilians and injured six others. British troops had been stationed in Boston, capital of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, since 1768 in order to protect and support crown-appointed colonial officials attempting to enforce unpopular Parliamentary legislation.


Amid ongoing tense relations between the population and the soldiers, a mob formed around a British sentry, who was subjected to verbal abuse and harassment. Boston, the capital of the Province of Massachusetts Bay and an important shipping town, was a major center of resistance to unpopular acts of taxation by the British Parliament in the 1760s.


In 1768, the Townshend Acts were placed upon the colonists, by which a variety of common items that were manufactured in Britain and exported to the colonies were subjected to import tariffs.


Colonists objected that the Townshend Acts were a violation of the natural, charter, and constitutional rights of British subjects in the colonies. The Massachusetts House of Representatives began a campaign against the Townshend Acts by sending a petition to King George III asking for the repeal of the Townshend Revenue Act.

It was not called the “The Boston Massacre” until many years after it occurred in 1773. The first popular name popularized by Paul Revere was The Bloody Massacre in King Street. In the early 1800’s it was also called the State Street Massacre. One of the most interesting myths is that the scuffle on King’s street started from the accusations thrown at one of the British officers that he did not pay the wigmaker’s bill.


This makes an interesting story and many of us may speculate that perhaps the most famous protest would not have occurred if the bill had been paid on time. The Boston Massacre was a signal event leading to the Revolutionary War. It led directly to the Royal Governor evacuating the occupying army from the town of Boston. It would soon bring the revolution to armed rebellion throughout the colonies.


Tories and patriots immediately blame each other for the confrontation, and both sides begin collecting depositions to support their points of view. The Tories strike first, and their account and depositions are sent to England on 16 March.


Not content to let military officials talk for him, Preston speaks out from his jail cell. Patriot leaders, meanwhile, stage their own propaganda attack. A town-appointed committee drafts a narrative implying that the incident was the result of a sinister plot.

Patriot leader’s call for an immediate trial, but Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson, knowing that townspeople are demanding an eye for an eye, hopes to push the trials into the summer. The trials are ultimately delayed until fall, but in the intervening months, Richardson is tried in the death of young Seider and found guilty of murder.


The massacre is reenacted annually on March 5 under the auspices of the Bostonian Society. The Old State House, the massacre site, and the Granary Burying Ground are all part of Boston’s Freedom Trail, connecting sites important in the city’s revolutionary-era history.