A History of the Boston Massacre from March 1770

Table of Content

The Boston Massacre occurred on March fifth 1770, when a group of British soldiers fired into a crowd of civilians. Beyond this there has been much dispute to what happened or if the British soldiers were justified in their actions. Some say the civilians were armed with bats and hitting the soldiers, some say the soldiers were provoked by snowballs being thrown at them, some even claim that the captain of the soldiers ordered them to fire unprovoked. All that’s known for sure is British soldiers fired on a crowd of people, besides this there are several conflicting accounts of what happened, influenced by the opinions of people at the time of the events. The main issue directly after the Boston Massacre occurred was the trial and the differing accounts of what happened. These can be broken down into two different stories. The one that was more popular among the civilians was the British soldiers were unprovoked, and fired upon the crowd when the captain Thomas Preston ordered them to. This is popular with the citizens because it puts the soldiers obviously in the wrong and the soldiers are not very well liked by the residents of Boston at the time.

Many residents believed the soldiers in Boston had ill intentions towards the citizens, and wanted to believe that this was them lashing out at the citizens. The other story, told by some citizens, especially those still loyal to the crown, is that the soldiers were provoked by people throwing snowballs. Some people claim that some of the citizens were beating the soldiers with clubs. This account also says that the civilians shouting was daring the soldiers to fire on them, and that the soldiers started firing on their own and were not ordered to do so. This account obviously puts the citizens more in the wrong than the soldiers, and obviously this made it less popular with the citizens. Though this account does not put the soldiers entirely in the right, it does allow the claim to be made that the soldiers acted in self defense, and that this was not a random act of violence against the citizens. Though it can’t really be known which account is accurate, the court seems to have leaned towards the idea that the soldiers acted in self defense. The Boston massacre was used by both the patriots and the loyalists to push their political agendas, and both had different arguments and different takes on what had happened. The patriots believed that there had been an order to fire given by Captain Thomas Preston, and that the soldiers had been more or less unprovoked in their attacks on the citizens. Though this event occurred before there was strong support for pushing independence, the patriots still used it as a reason that people should dislike the crown.

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The patriots wanted to use it as an example of how the British rule is an oppressive rule, and how the soldiers don’t care about the colonists, they only care about keeping people in line to prevent a revolution. The patriots very much wanted the British government to look as bad as possible because the more people that thought that the more people they had supporting their side. It was very good for the patriots if the British government looked bad. On the other side of the argument, the Loyalists also had a political agenda they wanted to push. The loyalists believed that the citizens had provoked the soldiers and that the soldiers had acted in self defense. They used this as a reason that we needed the crown. Because it showed that the citizens weren’t staying in line, and if they didn’t have the British government to rule over them then who knows what America would be like. They argued that this was just an uprising that was easily silenced by the swift action of the British soldiers, preventing it from growing into something worse. The two sides both had influence with their arguments, and both sides definitely did gain some traction in pushing their agendas using these events, but the support in the colonies leaned very heavily towards the colonists.

In the end, the British soldiers were acquitted, though no one was ever sure what really happened. Viewing the events without pressure to influence you to think one way or another does help you form an opinion of what you think happened. I personally believe that the soldiers acted in self defense judging by the general negative views the colonists had of the soldiers. It would not be surprising at all to me if the citizens attacked the soldiers and dared them to fire on them. Though today there are still many different opinions of what really happened, no one will ever know the truth for sure, but we can use the outcome of the case as an example of how the justice system should be unbiased, listening only to fact and not to popular opinion. Just as John Adams said in his speech, “the law is deaf, deaf as an adder to the clamors of the populace.” (Additional document 1)

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A History of the Boston Massacre from March 1770. (2022, Jun 10). Retrieved from


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