The Boston Massacre is a term for the events that occurred on March 5th, 1770 as part of the larger American Revolution. In general, the Boston Massacre saw British soldiers shoot and kill five people that were part of a mob protesting the British government. At the time, there had been an ongoing protest in the city from a group of American patriot protesters. The protesters had been heckling a British sentry who was guarding the Customs House in Boston. The British troops had been posted in Boston in October 1768 after requests from the British customs officials, because they had been struggling to contain the growing protests from the American patriots. Therefore, the reason of the protest was because of the taxation that was being imposed on the patriots. The colonists had grown frustrated with the British soldiers who were there to enforce the taxation, which caused riots around the city. On March 5th, the riot had increased to a point that the British guard on duty was uncertain that he could contain it. British soldiers came to the sentries’ aid to try and calm the situation. When the protest escalated further, the soldiers unleashed shots into the crowd, killing three people on the spot while two more died from their wounds at a later time (along with three more who were injured).
The protests began after the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townshend Acts of 1767, which were acts forcing the taxation of American by the British Parliament. After the protests started to escalate in the years that followed, 2,000 British soldiers were sent to Boston to keep the peace. This had the reverse effect on the Patriots. Not only were they still being forced to pay taxes to Britain, but the burden of finding accommodation for the soldiers, who made up over 10% of the total population, fell on the local people as well.
By the time 1770 came around, tensions were at an all-time high, and the simple act of thrown snowballs at a protest was all it took for British Captain Thomas Preston to start unleashing shots into the crowd at Customs House. Swiftly after the first shots were fired, the other soldiers followed suit, and when the dust settled, Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, Patrick Carr and James Caldwell all died, becoming what many think to be the first casualties of the American Revolutionary War.
The soldiers were put on trial, and were defended by John Adams and Josiah Quincy, whom wanted to properly represent the colonial’s justice system. The Trial ended in December of 1770, with two of the soldiers being convicted of manslaughter and having an “M” branded on their thumbs representing murder. The Boston Massacre became a symbol for the Patriot Revolt and reason for why the troops were removed. Paul Revere, the famous American Revolutionary, headed the continuance of the event as a symbolic nature by creating provocative images and spreading them throughout the colonies.
Although this was a minor event on the whole based on casualty numbers or significant figures involved, the Boston Massacre is significant because of the impact it had. The events of the Boston Massacre was the first outbreak of tensions in the colonists’ major city. It occurred during a time when many American citizens were calling for independence and this event lead to more support for the patriots in their claims that it was time for the British to leave America. Although the Revolutionary War didn’t take place for another five years, the massacre is considered to be a spark of the conflict in the eyes of many historians. As well, it is a pivotal event in the history of the American Thirteen Colonies.