The Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770
The Boston Massacre occurred when British soldiers fired at a group of American colonists in King Street, Boston, killing five men and injuring several others. This paper examines two accounts given from a patriotic and a loyalist’s point of view in deciding which is believable.
Having read the two written accounts pertaining to the Boston Massacre, A short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston and A Fair Account of the Late Unhappy Disturbance at Boston in New England, I believe that the second account is more believable because of a number of reasons. Foremost, in the first account, incidences of harassment with little to no evidence backing them up are recorded. An example of these is, “the attack of a party of soldiers on some of the magistrates of the town – the repeated rescues of soldiers from peace officers – the firing of a loaded musket in a public street endangering a great number of peaceable inhabitants – the frequent wounding of persons by the soldiers’ bayonets and cutlasses, and the numerous instances of bad behavior in the soldiery” (Town of Boston, 5). According to the first account, civilians chose not to report. As such, it leaves unanswered questions, such as when, where, or to whom in particular such harassments were directed.
The account gives reasons for the inhabitants of Boston being unhappy with the British rule prior to the massacre. It states that after the war, there was a near to non-existent happy union between the British and its colonies and that the relationship worsened when the British introduced the Stamp Act and other acts of parliament for taxing America. The Town of Boston (3) argued that the presence of commissioners brought to ensure effective enactment of the customs only had a contrary effect to the main objective of promoting trade thus the inhabitants did not welcome them. This gives a clear intention that the inhabitants did not want the British Commissioners in Boston. The animosity thus increased upon the arrival of the King’s troops to maintain public peace as the account insists that this arrival was an infringement on the Bill of Rights and an act of parliament against the quartering of troops in America.
There are numerous depositions in the first account with time frames and the flow of events that conflict. For instance, The statements made by Jeremiah Allen and Benjamin Andrew about the gunshots fired by the British soldiers on March 5 are contrary to Benjamin Frizzell’s statement that flashes were seen coming from inside the Custom-house on the upper window. Jeremiah Allen declares in his deposition that on a fateful night, he was in the house of Col. Ingersoll, and upon hearing gunshots; he went to the balcony and saw flashes from outside the Custom House. Benjamin Andrew says that upon investigations, he found a bullet hole in the doorpost of Mr. Payne’s house just below the sill of the lowermost window. Moreover, Robert Polley’s statement that one lad proposed to ring the bell is contrary to the patriotic account that due to the soldier’s behavior and war cries was the bell rung to bring a number of inhabitants into King Street.
The second account presents incidences of British soldiers being harassed and subjected to provocations and abusive language by the inhabitants of Boston. The two main instances in this account that stand out as stated by White are; the confrontation between a soldier and Mr. Gray’s journeyman in his ropewalk (21) where the rope man insulted the soldier to clean his “necessary-house” upon which the soldier replied in the same foul manner and was descended upon by Mr. Nicholas Ferriter and the attack on the sentinel as supported by Edward Hill’s statement (23), “The sentry defended himself, as well as he could, with his bayonet, and desired them to keep off, saying, “He durst not quit his post; and that, if they did not desist, he must call the guard.” They did not however desist but pelted him with sticks and large pieces of ice picked up from the streets. This obliged him to retreat to the door of the custom-house…” This incident is further supported by statements made in the Boston Narrative; for example, Town of Boston (12) says that due to the outrageous behavior of the soldiers, a number of boys mistook the sentry as one of the soldiers and therefore confronted him using foul language with some throwing snowballs at him for pushing them away using his bayonet. It is therefore seen that the true cause for the massacre was due to defense by British soldiers in rescuing the sentry and not the soldiers revenging on inhabitants of Boston.
Exposure to the two narratives on the Boston Massacre and Paul Revere’s image of the incident would have had an influence on my decision to rebel against the crown. This is because; Paul Revere’s image portrays a defenseless group of colonists being fired at by soldiers upon command. The first account shows that despite attempts by the inhabitants to report on the malicious behaviors of the commissioners to higher authorities, they were unsuccessful as the commissioners had made counter-scheming allegations to the king’s officials. The evidence of the commissioners’ scheming conducts was laid open in the proceeding of the Majesty’s Council, in the inhabitant’s address to General Gage, in July and October 1768; and in their letter to Lord Hillsborough of the 15th of April, 1769. There is no mention of the action taken to address the said allegations in neither the first nor the second account. Moreover, the commissioners abused their power by suppressing the right to one’s opinion as is the case of Capt. Timothy Forglier was dismissed from the office he held in the House of Commons for having a different opinion from that of the commissioners.(Town of Boston, 3). These two scenarios would have made me conclude that the British rule did not care about its colonies.
The Order of Town of Boston. A Short Narrative of The horrid Massacre in Boston, Perpetrated in the Evening of the Fifth Day of March, 1770, by Soldiers of the XXIXth Regiment; which with the XIVth Regiment were then Quartered there with some Observations on the State of Things Prior to That Catastrophe. Queen-Street, Cornhill. 1770. Print.
White, B. A Fair Account of the Late Unhappy Disturbance at Boston in New England; Extracted From the Depositions that have been made concerning it by Persons of all Parties. With an Appendix Containing Some Affidavits and other Evidences Relating to This Affair, Not Mentioned in the Narrative of it that has been published at Boston. Fleet-Street, 1770. Print.