In my report I will be discussing the Boston Massacre. I will be looking at the
Boston Massacre from three different perspectives. These perspectives are the Boston
colonists and Samuel Adams, Tom Hutchinson, Lieutenant Governor and Acting
Governor in 1770, and Captain Preston and his troops. I will also hold some depositions
from people who were actually close or at the massacre. I will be show the differences
on how all three felt about the situation.
Due to great burden from the different acts that brought many unwanted taxes
from the British government, the minds of the Boston citizens were greatly irritated.
Some individuals were so irritated that they were abusive in their language towards the
military. The colonists felt like they were in a prison. Everywhere they turned they saw
guards. These guards would frequently question and harass people just passing by.
Parents were even getting worried for their daughters, because the soldiers would make
sexual remarks towards them. Many red-coats were in search of different off-duty jobs,
which meant they would be taking away jobs from the Boston laborers. Many times
when the soldiers left their barracks and were walking about the town, carried large
clubs, for the purpose of assaulting the people.
Many would say that the colonists had every right to be mad and irritated. But
what about the soldiers. They were just taking commands from the country that they are
defending and fighting for. To them they were just doing the right thing. But we all
know that they went to extremes by the frequent wounding of persons by their bayonets
and cutlasses, and the numerous instances of bad behavior in the soldiery. This also led
the colonists to figure out the England did not send those troops over for their well-being,
but were there just for the benefit of England. But once again, they were only taking
orders from England.
Early on the evening of March 5, 1770, a crowd of laborers began throwing hard
packed snowballs at soldiers guarding the Customs House. Goaded beyond endurance
the sentries acted against express orders and fired on the crowd, killing four and
wounding eight, one of whom dies a few days later.1 Here are the names of the people
who were wounded or killed.
Mr. Samuel Gray, killed on the spot by a ball entering his head.
Crispus Attucks, a mulatto, killed on the spot, by two balls entering his breast.
Mr. James Caldwell, killed on the spot, by two balls entering his back.
Mr. Samuel Maverick, a 17 year old, mortally wounded, he died the next morning.
Mr. Patrick Carr mortally wounded; he died the 14th instant.
Chris Monk and John Clark, youths about 17, dangerously wounded. Apprehended
they would die.
Mr. Edward Payne, merchant, standing at his door, wounded.
Messrs. John Green, Robert Paterson, and David Parker; all dangerously wounded.2
There were depositions in this affair which mention that several guns were fired
at the same time from the Custom House:
Benjamin Frizell, on the evening if the 5th of March, having taken his station
near the west corner of the Custom House in King St., before and at the time of the
soldiers firing their guns, declares that the first discharge was only of one gun, the next
of two guns, upon which he the deponent thinks he saw a man stumble. The third
discharge was of three guns, upon which he saw two men fall. Immediately afterward
five guns were discharged from the balcony, or the chamber window on the balcony. 3
Gillam Bass, being on King St. at the same time declares that the posted
themselves between the Custom house door and the west corner of it. In a few minutes
started to fire upon the people. 2 or 3 were really high which he believes must of came
from the balcony windows. 4
A few more men also declared the same thing. The most important factor there is
that they all testified that the y saw some of the shots coming from the higher balcony
windows. This proves that those soldiers were at no danger, but still took it upon
themselves to shoot at the citizens who were not harming them in any way.
The morning after the massacre, a town meeting was held; at which attended a
very great number of freeholders and inhabitants of the town. It was now time for the
town to speak up. They were deeply impressed and affected by the tragedy of the
preceding night, and were unanimously of opinion, it was incompatible with their safety
that the troops should remain any longer in the town. In consequence thereof they chose
a committee of fifteen gentlemen to wait upon his Honor the Lieutenant-Governor on
Council, to request of him to issue his orders for the immediate removal of the troops.
The message was in these words:
“That it is the unanimous opinion of the meeting that inhabitants and soldiery can
no longer live together in safety; that nothing can rationally be expected to restore the
peace of the town and prevent further blood carnage, but the immediate removal of the
troops; and that we therefore most fervently pray his Honor, that his Honor, that his
power and influences may be exerted for the instant removal.”5
His Honors reply, which was laid before the town then adjourned the old south
meting house, was as follows:
“I am extremely sorry for the unhappy differences between the inhabitants and the
troops, and especially for the action of last evening, and I have exerted myself upon the
occasion, that a due inquiry may be made, and that the law may have its course. I have
in council consulted with the commanding officers of the two regiments who are now in
town. They have their orders from the General at New York. It is not in my power to
countermand those orders. The Council have desired that the two regiments may be
removed to the Castle. From the particular concern which the 29th regiment has had in
your differences, Col. Dalrymple, who is the commanding officer of the troops, has
signified that the regiment shall without delay be placed in the barracks at the castle,
until he can send the General and receive his further orders concerning both the
regiments, and the main-guard shall be removed, and the 14th regiment so disposed, and
laid under such restraint that all occasions of future disturbances may be prevented”6
The committee took everything that he had said into consideration but was not to
sure if it was satisfactory. They voted and it came out that no it wasn’t satisfactory, so
they made a new committee to tell the Governor that it was unanimous and that they
thought what he said was not good enough and that they wanted all of the troops out.
His Honor laid before the Board a vote of the town of Boston, passed this
afternoon, and then addressed the Board as follows:
“Gentlemen of the Council,
“I lay before you a vote of the town of Boston, which I have just now received
from them, and now I ask your advice what you judge necessary to be done upon it.”
The Council then expressed themselves to be unanimously of opinion, “that was
absolutely necessary for his Majesty’s service, the good order of the town, and the peace
of the province, that the troops should be immediately removed out of the town of
Boston, and thereupon advised his Honor to communicate this advice of the Council to
Col. Dalrymple, and to pray that he would order troops down to Castle William.”7
Samuel Adams was the strongest antagonist Thomas Hutchinson had to face. He
was a complete democrat with great democratic will. He was a great “watchdog” of the
rights and privileges granted to the colonies. Samuel Adams observed that the removal
of the troops was in the slowest order, taking eleven days, when it had taken only
forty-eight hours to land them. Adams certainly believed the soldiers guilty of murder
without and extenuation, as his letters to the newspapers and other public activities
Captain Preston was the first of the accused to be placed on trial. He was
acquitted. He was questioned to see if he had told his troops to fire. He was seized with
panic. Many articles were being printed about him and his credibility to if he had said to
fire or not. After trying to find favor with the people of Boston , which did not go to
well, Preston tried to persuade the Britons at home that he was not responsible for the
tragedy. Preston said that he didn’t tell the soldiers to fire and ask them why they did.
They answered by saying they heard someone say fire and figured it was him. He also
said that he sent them there with unloaded pieces, and he gave no order of loading them.
Someone swore that they heard him say it, and yelled at them for not firing on the first
command. Preston responded with saying that people are so bitter that hey will say
anything to condemn him and his men so they will die. Preston was out in jail , awaiting
trial. according to testimony in the second trial, the first shot was fired by Montgomery
after he had his gun knocked out of his hands; he retrieved it and fired point blank. The
other shots followed erratically, and one gun flashed in the pan. Many believed Preston
to be a man of integrity , which later got him dismissed for the charge of murder.8.
The soldiers were also put on trial. Here was there great defense, “Instead of that
hospitality that the soldier thought himself entitled to, scorn, contempt, and silent
murmurs were his reception. Almost every countable lowered with a discontented
gloom, and scarce and eye but flashed with indignant fire. How stinging was it to be
stigmatized as the instrument of tyranny and oppression! How exasperating to be viewed
as aiding to enthrall his country! Could that spirit which had braved the shafts of foreign
battle endure the keener wounds of civic battle?”9 Quincy did a great job at trying to
defend the soldiers and trying to get them acquitted. Quincy made the colonists out to be
like the bad people. That they started everything and were responsible for the
consequences. That the colonists had stolen some guns and were ready to take the upper
hand on them. They were just reacting to it. 3 soldiers were found guilty and the rest
As you can see different people perceived the Boston Massacre in different ways.
We had Sam Adams and the colonists, who believe that the troops shouldn’t of been
harassing them, and that they had no right to shoot and kill any of those peoples. Then
we had the Lieutenant Governor, who represented Britain and with great persuation
came to means with the colonists and agreed with them and went in their favor of getting
rid of the troops. Then we have Preston and his troops, who testified that they were truly
not responsible for the killings of those people. Everyone had different views on the
event, but then again, doesn’t everyone????
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