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Role of Boston Massacre in U.S. History

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    The Boston Massacre was an extremely important event in American History. Also, it a very controversial topic. To this day, no one can really give an accurate description of the events that transpired. The Boston Massacre was not a random event at all; many actions led up to the massacre. As a result of this disaster, America was changed forever and sent on a road towards revolution. The Boston Massacre was a defining moment in American history.

    Many people believe that the Boston Massacre was a spur of the moment event. This is totally untrue. The French and Indian war put England in debt making England look for other sources of income. The king of England believed that the colonists should help to pay for the war because it took place in America. For a few months prior to the massacre, British troops had been stationed in Boston.The soldiers were in Boston to help with the collection of money to pay for duties on imported goods (Hansen 11). Tensions were high between the townspeople and the soldiers. Colonists greatly resented the soldiers because they believed that there should not be military personnel amongst them. The Bostonians took out their anger on the soldiers. In turn, the British troops were extremely unfriendly towards the people too. On many occasions, physical conflicts between the townspeople and the soldiers.

    England tried to compensate for their debt by taxing the colonists in any way that they could. One way that the British attempted to raise money was through the Stamp and Townshend Acts. The Stamp Act taxed a great number of people and things. There was probably no one who did not have to pay out more than they would have liked because of this act. It taxed almost every single piece of paper. Merchant owners were obliged to buy stamps for ships papers and legal documents. Tavern owners, often the political leaders of their neighborhoods, were required to buy stamps for their licenses. Printers-the most influential group in distributing information and ideas in colonial society-had to buy stamps for their newspapers and other publications (Brinkley 131). Townshend introduced the Quartering Act, which allowed British troops to enter any colonists house and stay there. The colonists did not have the right to refuse the soldiers either. This greatly upset the residents of Boston. Also started by Townshend was what came to be known as the Townshend Duties. This act taxed paper, tea, lead, glass, and paint (Brinkley 134). The Townshend Acts were meant to replace the Stamp Act, which was repealed in 1766. These new acts greatly angered the Bostonians. To enforce the before mentioned acts, Townshend began to use the writs of assistance. The writs of assistance allowed British troops to search someones house for goods that were smuggled into America. Usually someone would have to obtain a warrant in order to search the house, but the writ allowed the house so be searched without a warrant and without even specifying what was being targeted in the inspection. The writs of assistance enraged the colonists more than any of the other acts. Before the laws would be enforced though, Townshend died (Hansen 141).

    One of the physical conflicts preceding the Boston Massacre happened at John Grays Ropewalk. On Friday Mr. John Gray told me to go to his Ropewalk to make some cables. I went and worked till about 12, and then I saw a soldier coming down the outside ropewalk, swearing, and saying he would have satisfaction. Before this there was one of our hands, while I was coiling a cable, said to a soldier: Do you want work? Yes, says the soldier, I do, faith; Well said he to the soldier, go clean my _____ privy. He the soldier damned us and made a blow at, and struck me. When I knocked up his neck his coat flew open and out popped a naked cutlass, which I took and carried off with me. The soldier left, rallied his fellows and returned with about a dozen and attacked some workers, who called for help. When they came to us, continued Ferreter, we came up; then we had several knocks amongst us; at last they went off. (Hansen 25)Nicholas Ferreter was a resident of Boston at the time of the massacre. This event took place on March 2, three days before the Boston Massacre. Another event took place on March 5, 1770, a couple of hours before the massacre. Quite a large fight broke out at Murrays Barracks between the townspeople and the British soldiers. No one was injured seriously, but it set the stage for the Boston Massacre. The Boston Massacre took place on March 5, 1770 late in the evening. A brawl started in King Street by a young man who worked in the barbershop. Apparently, a soldier got his hair cut earlier and refused to pay the boys boss. When the boy confronted the soldier, the soldier knocked him down. When the boy spotted the soldier, he called out to let the other inhabitants of Boston to let them know that the soldier had attacked him. People began to gather around the Custom House. Once the crowd became very large, people began to throw rocks, snow, and ice at the soldiers. There were eight soldiers, and Thomas Preston, their commanding officer. Someone, apparently Crispus Attucks, a half-black, half-Indian man, struck the gun of one of the soldiers. No one can really accurately tell what happened next, but apparently the soldier lifted his gun after it had been struck with the stick, by Attucks, and fired. After the first shot, the British soldiers fired five more shots. Five people were killed. After the shots were fired, the rioters fled the scene (Van Tyne 288).

    Crispus Attucks is always considered a very important part of the massacre. This is because he is believed to be the first death of the American Revolution. Not in the actual war, but in the ongoing fight for freedom in the colonies. He really was not all that important though. Four other people besides Crispus were killed that evening in front of the Custom House (Hansen 52)Later, Thomas Preston and his men were arrested. Preston and the soldiers were given different trial. John Adams and Josiah Quincy defended Preston. The trial lasted six days. When the trial was over, he was acquitted. There is no transcript of what transpired during the trial, so one can only speculate as to what took place (Hansen 76). It was never proven that Preston gave the order for his men to fire. Not many people believe that he did in fact give the order to fire. Preston held to his story that he did not give the order to fire (Department of Humanities 3). It is believed that some of Prestons friends were among the jury, and that is the reason why he was acquitted.

    The eight soldiers were also defended by John Adams and Josiah Quincy. There were so many different stories from witnesses as to what happened; a clear picture of the events could never be constructed. Six of the soldiers were acquitted of all the charges. Two of the soldiers, Hugh Montgomery and Matthew Killroy were convicted of manslaughter. For their punishment, they were given a choice between going to jail or being branded on their finger. Of course, they elected to take the branding and were set free (Hansen 102). The soldiers returned to Great Britain, as did Thomas Preston. The light punishment that the soldiers received as a whole greatly upset the colonists. In their eyes, it was just another insult that they had to endure at the hands of England. Many things happened in the future as a result of the Boston Massacre. One event was the Boston Tea Party which took place on December 6, 1773 (Hansen 163). A group of men dressed up as Mohawk Indians boarded the three ships in the Boston Harbor. The ships, owned by the East India Company were laden with tea. The disguised colonists proceeded to throw the entire tea cargo of the boats into the harbor (Hansen 166). The reason that this was done was because the colonists were tired of being taxed for items such as tea. Many did no mind being taxed for some things, but not tea. They believed that the money from the taxes was going to help England, and not back to the colonies as they thought that it should. Two years after the Boston Tea Party took place the American Revolution began.

    The Boston Massacre was an extremely influential event in U.S. History. It changed the complexion of our nation forever. No one was ever able to give an accurate description of what took place that night, but one thing that you can be sure of is the fact that America may have waited many years before revolting against Great Britain. The Boston Massacre should not only be remembered for the death of the five men, but also for the conflicts that brought on the shooting and for the events that it set off. The massacre was a culmination of tensions between the English and the Americans. The Boston Massacre set a fire under the colonists and drove them to freedom.Words/ Pages : 1,677 / 24

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