Monday, March 5, 2018

The Bloody Massacre In King Street - Boston - On March 5th 1770 (aka The Boston Massacre) & the Events Leading Up to It

~This is not an in-depth,  encyclopedic look at what happened on the 5th of March in 1770.  Rather,  it is an overview from a variety of sources in hopes of maybe teaching those who are unaware or even unfamiliar of the story of the Boston Massacre and events leading up to it.  I thought it my turn to tell this story.
Numerous links are included for further study,  if the reader so desires ~

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On Friday the second Inst.  A Quarrel arose between some of the Soldiers of the XXIXth,  and the Ropemakers Journeymen and Apprentices,  which was carried on to that Length as to become dangerous to the Lives of each Party:  this contentious Disposition continued until the Monday Evening following,  when a Party of seven or eight Soldiers,  detached from the Main Guard under the Command of Capt.  Preston,  and by his Orders fired upon the Inhabitants promiscuously in King street without the least warning of their Intention,  and killed three on the spot,  another has since died of his wounds,  and others are dangerously not to say mortally wounded; 
Capt.  Preston and his Party are now in Goal.
The Essex Gazette
March 20,  1770
(taken from Todd Andrlik's magnificent book,  Reporting the Revolutionary War)

"Fire if you and be damned,  we know you dare not!"
My Lord,  how did we come to this?

Stamp Act symbol from 1765
Beginning in 1765 and continuing through the rest of the 1760s,  Britain's Parliament decided to levy taxes on its colonies to help pay for the recent French and Indian War.  The resistance and protests of the colonists against such acts as the Stamp Act  (1765)  and Townsend Acts  (1767)  proved to be a fateful move for both countries.  The Stamp Act required colonists to buy stamps from royal collectors and affix them to a wide variety of printed materials,  including legal documents,  playing cards,  newspapers,  and land titles.  The stamps were to be purchased with sterling rather than local paper. 
The Stamp Act galvanized colonial society and engendered widespread resistance,  serving as a unifying force among the individual colonies. 
John Dickenson's book from 1769
Due to this unexpected protest, the Stamp Act was nullified in March of 1766.  The following year saw another series of  'Acts'  placed upon the colonists:  the Townshend Acts placed an indirect tax on glass,  lead,  paints,  paper and tea imported into the colonies from Britain.  This form of generating revenue was Chancellor Charles Townshend's response to the failure of the Stamp Act.  However,  the import duties proved to be similarly controversial.  Colonial displeasure over the Townshend Acts was predominantly driven by John Dickinson’s anonymous publication of  Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania,  as well as the  Massachusetts Circular Letter,  which was a statement written by Samuel Adams and James Otis Jr.,  in response to and against the Townsend Acts and,  in part,  urging its sister colonies to resist as one.  Because of the protests,  the taxes were to be enforced by way of new customs officers,  many of which were corrupt. 
When these hated men appeared in Boston,  however,  resistance grew,  and more than one commissions officer was  "much abused"  by members of the Sons of Liberty.
The British government answered Boston's defiance with a massive show of force.  On September 30,  1768,  a British fleet sailed into Boston Harbor,  their decks cleared for action and cannon trained on the town. 
The coming of the regulars increased the violence in Boston.  The soldiers were sometimes aggressors,  but often they were also the victims of assaults by angry townsmen. 

The murder of Christopher Seider
February 22,  1770 was a cold dreary winter day.  Christopher Seider,  along with a dozen other school  “Liberty”  boys,  were among an angry mob throwing rocks at the shop of a Loyalist merchant,  Theophilus Lillie.  Anti-British sentiment was high.  Another Loyalist,  Ebenezer Richardson,  who worked as a confidential informant to the Attorney General and Customs service,  had tried to disperse the protest in front of Lillie's shop,  but had rocks also thrown at him.  He went back to his house for his musket,  and then climbed up to the second floor of the two story building.  The crowd continued to throw stones,  which broke Richardson's windows and struck his wife.  Richardson tried to scare them by firing a gun into the crowd,  but instead,  the ball had hit young Christopher Seider in the arm and the chest.  The eleven year old died that evening,  around nine o’clock.
After Christopher was shot,  the angry mob dragged Ebenezer to jail while Seider's body was taken to Faneuil Hall.  (Faneuil Hall was a large market building that served as a meeting place for Patriots on the eve of the American Revolution.  Meetings to discuss the Stamp Act,  the Boston Massacre,  the  “tea crisis,”  and other grievances with Britain were all held at Faneuil Hall between 1764 and 1775.) 
With Seider's death,  the leaders of the Sons of Liberty,  most notably Samuel Adams,  attempted to rally the people of Boston to their cause.  A funeral procession of five thousand Bostonians took place for the young boy four days later,  on February 26.  His casket,  inscribed with  "innocence itself is not safe"  and  “the serpent is lurking in the grass,”  was carried from Faneuil Hall,  past the Town House where the governor and council met,  down to the Liberty Tree,  and to the Granary Burying Ground.  His body was laid to rest there.  People left flowers as a tribute.  Sam Adams called Christopher  "the first martyr to American liberty."  As for Ebenezer Richardson,  the loyalist judges found him guilty of murder but his sentence was delayed because they felt he would receive a pardon from London,  which did occur a number of years later.
Christopher Seider's death united the citizens of Boston against the British.  Governor Hutchinson wrote,  “If it had been in their power to have brought  (Christopher Seider)  to life again,  (they)  would not have done it but would have chosen the grand funeral,  which brought many thousands together,  and the solemn procession from Liberty Tree.”  One British officer said that  “The insolence as well as utter hatred of the inhabitants to the troops increased daily.”

Here lies those who were slain...
including Christopher Seider
(Picture courtesy of Atlas Obscura)
Monday,  the 5th of March,  1770,  was snowy and cold at first,  but gradually clearing and warmer.  It's said that it was on this day that a wigmaker's apprentice,  Edward Garrick,  publicly accused British officer,  John Goldfinch,  of failing to pay a bill.  The officer did not respond,  but a lone sentry,  Hugh White,  who was a guard at the customhouse,  did by stating that the Captain was a gentleman,  and if he owed anything,  that he would pay it.
The apprentice replied that there were no gentlemen left in the regiment,  causing the sentry to stand up for the honor of his troops.  Garrick was struck with the butt of White's musket,  knocking him to the ground.  As the apprentice cried in pain,  one of his companions began to argue with the sentry,  which quickly attracted a crowd.  Some of them started hurling pieces of ice at the guard,  who retreated to the safety of the courthouse.  As the evening progressed,  the crowd grew larger and more boisterous.  John Adams,  during his defense of the soldiers,  described the crowd as  "a motley rabble of saucy boys,  negroes and mulattoes,  Irish teagues,  and outlandish Jack tars  (sailors)."
British captain Thomas Preston led twelve men and a non-commissioned officer to the courthouse  "to protect both the sentry and the King's money." 
About a hundred colonists armed with clubs and other weapons had gathered in front of the building,  and,  as Preston stated during the trial,  were threatening  "to execute their vengeance"  on White. 
According to eyewitnesses,  Preston lined his men by twos in a column and,  with empty muskets but fixed bayonets,  moved across King street to protect their sentry.
The evening of March 5th, 1770.
Not lined up by twos,  but I believe you get the picture.
And now,  close on nine o'clock the bell of the Old Meeting began to ring as though for fire.  All over Boston doors flew open and windows went up.
"Where is the fire?"
"The regulars are cutting and slashing everyone."
"They are cutting down the Liberty Tree."
"The regulars are massacring the people."
And that other cry from the gates on the Neck to Copp's Hill,  "Town-born,  turn,  turn out."  (Esther Forbes)
Many thought the town was on fire and rushed into the streets carrying their fire-buckets.
When Preston and his men reached Private White on the custom house stairs,  the soldiers loaded their muskets,  and arrayed themselves in a semicircular formation.  Preston shouted at the crowd,  which, by now was estimated to be a number between three and four hundred,  to disperse
After White fell into the ranks,  Preston attempted to march the men back to the barracks,  but the mob blocked their way.  The crowd screamed threats and bombarded the troops with snowballs,  ice chunks,  oyster shells,  rocks,  and sticks.
The Boston Gazette,  a week later, printed this account:
"Capt.  Preston with a party of men and charged bayonets,  came from the main guard to the commissioner's house,  the soldiers pushing their bayonets,  crying  'make way!'  They took place by the custom house and, continuing to push to drive the people off,  pricked some in several places,  on which they were clamorous and,  it is said,  threw snow balls.
According to Preston,  "The mob still increased and were more outrageous...calling out,  'come on you rascals,  you bloody if you dare G-damn you,  fire and be damned,  we know you dare not.'"
Now,  according to the Boston Gazette,  as the crowd pressed closer,  "the Captain commanded  (his men)  to fire;  and as more snow and ice balls were thrown he again said,  Damn you fire,  be the consequences what it will.'  One soldier then fired,  and a townsmen with a cudgel  (club)  struck him over the hands with such force that he dropped his firelock;  and, rushing forward aimed a blow at the captain's head..."
A 1901 image by Francis Luis Mora,  published
in Harper’s Magazine, retains Revere’s menacing
Redcoats  (made more menacing by t he perspective) 
and even the dog which he placed in
the middle of the event.
Back to Preston:  "One of the soldiers having received a severe blow with a stick,  stepped a little on one side and instantly fired,  and on turning to and asking him why he fired without orders,  I was struck with a club on my arm...a general attack was made on the men by a great number of heavy which all our lives were in imminent danger,  some persons at the same time from behind calling out,  'Damn your bloods---why don't you fire?'  Instantly three or four of the soldiers fired,  one after another,  and directly after three more in the same confusion and hurry.  On my asking the soldiers why they fired without orders,  they said they heard the word fire and supposed it came from me.  This might be the case as many of the mob called out fire,  fire."
Three from the crowd were killed on the spot:  sailor Crispus Attucks,  ropemaker Samuel Gray,  and a mariner named James Caldwell,  and eight others were wounded,  two of which died later  (Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr).
Some accounts have said that Crispus Attucks,  a forty-seven year old escaped slave and now sailor,  grabbed the musket held by a soldier and knocked the man to the ground.  The soldier scrambled to his feet and shouted,  "Damn you, fire!"  and triggered a blast into Attucks,  and the other soldiers,  following suit,  fired into the crowd.  Other reports claim the soldier was  "jostled"  and,  in panic,  fixed his musket aimlessly with the other troops,  hearing that shot and thinking they heard a command to fire, began shooting.
Unbiased witnesses,  close to Preston at the moment,  agreed that he did not shout  "fire."
An obituary for four of the five
A town meeting was called demanding the removal of the British and for the trial of Captain Preston and his troops for murder,  and before sunrise,  Prescott and eight men were under arrest.  They were to be tried immediately and the feeling was so high that no jury could possibly be found in Boston who would not have them convicted.
It would not be until October of that year that the trial for Preston and his men would occur.
In an effort to demonstrate the impartiality of colonial courts,  two Patriot leaders,  John Adams and Josiah Quincy,  volunteered to defend the accused.  The prosecution produced little evidence, and Preston and six of the soldiers were acquitted;  two others were found guilty of manslaughter,  branded on the hand,  and released.  Although many Patriots criticized the verdicts and the anniversary of the Boston Massacre became a patriotic holiday,  the removal of troops from Boston and the repeal of all but one of the contested import duties resulted in a lowering of tension in the years following the incident.  Nevertheless,  Governor Hutchinson’s reluctant removal of troops from Boston under threat of insurrection dramatized the weakening of imperial power as it was then constituted when faced with organized local resistance.
Ben Franklin had warned the British earlier that they were  "putting young soldiers,  who are by nature insolent,  in the midst of a people who consider themselves threatened and oppressed.  It's like setting up a blacksmith's forge in a magazine of gunpowder."
And now the gunpowder has exploded.  Local engraver  (and silversmith)  Paul Revere copied a sensationalized depiction of what became known as the Bloody Massacre of Boston,  unabashedly taking as his own,  almost in complete detail,  from an original print by Henry Pelham,  who was understandably upset.
Not long after the incident,  Henry Pelham,  an 
established artist and engraver in Boston,  showed 
his drawing to Paul Revere.
It didn't take long for Revere to make his own version of Pelham's engraving.
In fact,  before Pelham's could be printed,  Revere liberally borrowed  (shall we say)  from Pelham's work to create,  print,  and distribute his own remarkably similar version of the scene.  As fate would dictate,  it was Revere's print ― entitled  "The Bloody Massacre"  and bearing the mark  "Engrav'd Printed & Sold by PAUL REVERE Boston" ― that would gain widespread circulation.  The Revere print is today recognized as having been one of the most important pieces of political propaganda in America's early history,  helping to instigate the anti-British feeling in the Colonies that a few years later would lead to all-out revolt. 
(This is a photograph of an original Paul Revere print located in the Henry Ford Museum exhibit)
Pelham's response?
Thursday Morng.  Boston,  March 29,  1770.
When I heard that you were cutting a plate of the late Murder,  I thought it impossible,  as I knew you was not capable of doing it unless you coppied it from mine and as I thought I had entrusted it in the hands of a person who had more regard to the dictates of Honour and Justice than to take the undue advantage you have done of the confidence and Trust I reposed in you.
But I find I was mistaken,  and after being at the great Trouble and Expence of making a design paying for paper, printing &c, find myself in the most ungenerous Manner deprived,  not only of any proposed Advantage,  but even of the expence I have been at,  as truly as if you had plundered me on the highway.
If you are insensible of the Dishonour you have brought on yourself by this Act,  the World will not be so.  However,  I leave you to reflect upon and consider of one of the most dishonorable Actions you could well be guilty of.
H. Pelham.
P S.  I send by the Bearer the prints I borrowed of you.  My Mother desired you would send the hinges and part of the press,  that you had from her.

I suppose by our time in the 21st century there is no matter which one was the most famous,  for the point was to utilize propaganda as best as could be done in that time,  and the outcome worked exactly as was hoped for,  even though both prints showed an incorrect version of what actually happened. 

And though it was not quite clear at the 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.
The Old State House - -
Do you see that circle right in front there?  That's the spot
where the bloody massacre took place.  And the State House
can be clearly seen in both Pelham and Revere's
engraving of the event. 

Old State House
And finally...
The things one can find on-line...
My favorite reason for wearing this shirt is because I am,  nearly every time,  asked why are there coffins on my shirt and what does the date signify.
It is a great American history teaching opportunity.
Yes,  I do wear it every March 5th.
I so enjoy our great American history and reading about the beginnings of our nation.  No,  it's not all happy and Disney and all that,  but it is our past,  and to learn what made us such a great nation - and I believe we are  a great nation,  through our good and bad,  through trials and tribulation of so many of the past citizens - helps me to appreciate even more so of my life today.  My simple life in a tiny wood-frame bungalow in a small suburban city is all due to those from the past.
And I certainly appreciate it!
Until next time,  see you in time.

To learn more about America's fight for liberty,  please click With Liberty and Justice for All

To learn about the historical details of Paul Revere's famous ride,  please click Listen My Children and You Shall Hear...

To learn about how the citizens of Salem stood up to the British army before the Revolutionary War actually begun,  click Preventing Tyranny: Patriotism at Salem 1775

To understand why we celebrate Independence Day on July 4th please click Declaring Independence: The Spirits of '76

And to have a better understanding of everyday life during the time of the Revolutionary War for the average citizens of the colonies  (including loads of pictures!),  please click  In the Good Old Colony Days: What Life Was Like in America in the Period That Produced the Declaration of Independence

To read my reviews of quality movies depicting early American history,  please click Movies in Time: Early American History From the Movies - A Listing of Ken's Favorites

Information for today's posting came from numerous sources,  including
Todd Andrlik's magnificent book,  Reporting the Revolutionary War
as well as the following books:
Paul Revere and the World He Lived In by Esther Forbes
Legend and Lies - The Patriots by Bill O'Reilly
Founding Fathers by K.M. Kostyal
Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer
And from HERE,  HERE,  and HERE  (web sites)
Some of the Christopher Seider information came directly from THIS site
The modern picture of the State House came from HERE
The modern pictures of the shooting scenes came from the DVD of Legends & Lies, The Patriots

~   ~   ~

1 comment:

Kathy said...

Great information, Ken. Clear, concise writing. Thanks for sharing.