The Boston Massacre was an incident that paved the way for the American Revolution. On March 5, 1770, a riot occurred on King Street in Boston which quickly escalated into a bloody slaughter. Now it was not as simple as it sounds but it is an incident that ignited the fire and anti-British sentiments in the hearts of Americans. Before we get to the incident, let us understand all the factors that led to it.
In the 17th century, England sent out ships to colonize America but so did the Dutch, Swedish, and the French who made claims on the continent. In the 18th century, England was forced to fight a series of war to protect their overseas colonies and colonists, but doing so cost a lot of money, something the British were not able to afford. So, the British decided that the colonists should bear the cost of their defense, something that infuriated the American colonists.
All 13 colonies had different lifestyles and ideologies but they all hated paying taxes, the source of their displeasure at the British. The British had to think up another way to get their money, then in 1765, they passed the Stamps Act. According to the act, all paper goods in the colonies was to be printed on sheets made in London and marked with a special stamp. This included things like newspapers, playing cards, and legal documents, or in other words, the most influential people in the colonies. On top of this, the act bypassed the Parliament and directly levied “Taxes” on the people. This violated the 1689 English Bill of Rights which stated that taxes cannot be put without the Parliament’s approval and also as stated before, the Americans hated giving taxes.
The colonists did not have a representation in the British Parliament either as they could never reach a satisfactory agreement. So “No Representation No Taxes” protests occurred throughout the colonies. The British were infuriated, though they had levied quite a few taxes, it was still much lesser than the amount paid by the Englishmen back in Britain. Resentment between the colonists and the British kept on increasing and in late February, a mob gathered and started stones at a customs official house. He fired a pistol at the mob which killed an 11-year-old boy, his funeral was attended by over 2000 people.
On the 5th of March, 1770, a wig maker’s apprentice taunts a British officer, they exchange insults and then the officer hits the apprentice on the head with his musket stock. This draws a crowd who surrounds the soldier, he calls for help and then 7 soldiers come to aid led by Captain Thomas Preston. They form a semi-circle, muskets loaded and bayonets aimed. Some of the people in the crowd are armed with clubs and some with even swords, the mob started throwing snowballs, sharp oyster shells and whatnot at the soldiers while shouting “Fire”. Preston stood in front of the formation, he had no intention to order his men to fire. Suddenly from behind the soldiers, someone shouted fire, the soldiers fired. 3 civilians laid dead in the know.
All the soldiers were arrested, the people were furious and the British were forced to conduct a trial. No one was willing to take the soldier’s case but finally, one man did, John Adams. Though he was against taxes too, he believed himself to stand for justice and was impartial. He argued that the soldiers were provoked and what they did was in self-defense. He called countless witnesses which proved that the mob carried fatal weapons and the order of fire was not intentional since Captain Preston was standing in front of the formation, why would he order a fire when he is in the firing field? The soldiers were found innocent though 2 of them were charged with manslaughter.
Despite the fair trial, the people were not happy, this strained British-American relations and was one of the reasons for the start of the American Revolution.