This period in American history is one that is labeled as a time of change.
Change for the American people as a whole and a change in the control of
the British government. From the time of the first voyages across the
Atlantic to the beginning of the quest for independence, people in this
land were, even sometimes unconsciously, beginning to gain a sense of self-
motivation and loyalty to those around them that had accompanied them into
this New World. The people had gained almost a new identity; one that
strayed drastically from the places in which they had came from. This
feeling is one that could be labeled as American Patriotism. This
patriotism would make these people eventually stand up for what they
believed to be an injustice done unto them by a higher power and make them
fight for their right to live freely in the way that best suited them. Not
in a way that best suited the King of England some thousand miles away.
The events that led up to the American Revolution are all said to have
sparked the Colonists into battle in one way or another. Many events had
greater significance than others; one such event would be the Boston
Massacre. The Boston Massacre was in some ways a turning point in the minds
of the American colonists in their thoughts on the British. But why was the
Boston Massacre such a turning point for the Colonists? To answer this
question one must look at the events that lead to the Boston Massacre to
fully understand the state of mind that the colonists were in.
Since the end of the Seven Years War against the French, the British had
gone into a great burden of debt. England finally confronted the matter
when it appointed George Greenville to Prime Minister in 1763. Facing a
debt that had nearly doubled since 1754, from 73 million pounds to 137
million pounds, Greenville had to find new ways to gain funds without
taxing the already heavily taxed English people.1 Greenville assessed the
situation and determined that since the colonists had been a major
beneficiary of the war time expenditures that the Americans should be the
ones to pay a greater share of the cost for running the empire.2 The
question did not dawn on Greenville to think about the justice of taxing
the Colonists. Greenville created and proposed a couple of different laws
that were designed to tax the Colonists in order for Parliament to gain
The first act that was passed by the British Government was the Sugar Act.
This act, passed by parliament in 1764, laid down tariffs on certain
imports such as molasses and sugar. This alarmed the Colonists. It was the
first act that was specifically designed to raise taxes, not just to
channel trade through Britain. The Sugar Act was imposed on the colonists
during a time of postwar depression.3 This made the Colonist even more
worried and aware of Britain’s impending power over them.
The next act that Britain imposed over the Colonist was the Stamp Act. This
act required stamp taxes to be put on most legal documents and printed
material. Colonists had to pay the tax if they wanted to buy a newspaper or
even needed a will drawn up. Taxes were even charged to those who bought
things such as playing cards and paper. This act hurt many colonists. The
heaviest burden though fell on businessmen who used more legal documents
than most ordinary people. “Never before had a revenue measure of such
scope been proposed for the colonies. The act also required that tax stamps
be paid in sterling, which was scarce.”4 The Stamp Act immediately fell
under close scrutiny of the Colonists. One of the more notable pamphlets
protesting the Stamp Act was, The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted
and Proved, written by James Otis Jr., an attorney from Massachusetts. This
pamphlet looked at the ideas of James Otis Jr. and stated his thoughts that
Americans were “entitled to all the natural, essential, inherent, and
inseparable rights” that the British people had, including the right not to
be taxed without consent. Otis also stated along with many other people in
the colonies during that time that Parliament should not be allowed to tax
the Colonies because they were not represented in Parliament.5 Another
protester of the Stamp act was Patrick Henry who stated to the American
people, “No taxation without representation.” This put Parliament under
extreme pressure. Colonial legislature petitioned Parliament to repeal the
act along with The Stamp Act Congress and the Sons of Liberty. Mass meeting
were held in order to gain favorable movement against the act and delegates
were sent an intercolonial congress.6 Under so much opposition, Parliament
repealed the Stamp Act in 1766.
The Colonists were joyous that the Stamp Act was repealed but knew that the
British were still going to tax them. They saw that the British had passed
other acts that raised taxes, such as the Townshend, Declaratory, and
Coercive Acts. Another act that outraged the Colonists was the Quartering
act. This act gave the right for British troops to be quartered in the
homes of the colonists against their consent. All of these acts along had
made the feelings in the colonist grow more towards hostility and rebellion
more than ever before. This assumption makes it easy to understand why the
colonist acted in such ways as they did. It led to such events as the
Boston Tea Party and The Boston Massacre.
The Boston Massacre, as it was labeled, took place on the fifth day of
March in 1770. Fire bells rang out and alerted the townspeople of a fire.
Many people fled to see exactly where the fire had taken place. This
brought many people into the streets along with many British soldiers.
Soldiers of the 29th Regiment, commanded by Captain Preston, who were
stationed at the Customs House, began to get taunted by the numbering
people amongst them. A crowd emerged among them and solid snowball began to
fly through the air. Soldiers began to dodge snowballs and throw their
bayonets.7 Several snowballs pelted the officers and among the hustle a
single shot was fired. This shot led to a number of shots that were
released into the crowed. When the smoke cleared three people lay dead with
two more to die, one on the following day, and eight more wounded.8 The men
who lay wounded:
Samuel Gray, killed on the spot by a( ball entering his head.
Crispus Attucks, a mulatto, killed on the spot, two( balls entering his
James Caldwell, killed on the spot, two balls( entering his back.
Samuel Maverick, 17 years old, mortally wounded, he died( the next day.
Patrick Carr, mortally wounded, died on the 14 day of( march.
Christopher Monk, 17 years old, dangerously wounded.(
John( Clark, 17 years old, dangerously wounded.
Mr. Edward Payne, merchant,( standing at his door, wounded.
John Green, dangerously wounded.(
Robert( Patterson, dangerously wounded.
David Parker, dangerously wounded.9(
Captain Preston and seven of his soldiers were then arrested and tried for
Why did the fire bells ring out without there bring a fire? Why did so many
people commune at the Customs House? These questions were looked at during
Captain Preston’s trial and since to determine the actual guilt of these
soldiers. Loyal Britons concluded that the fire bells rang as a signal to
inform the towns’ people to attack the guards. Captain Preston stated in
his trial that “the towns people, in order to carry matters to the utmost
length, broke into two meeting houses, and rang the alarm bells, which I
supposed was for fire as usual, but was soon undeceived. About nine some of
the guard came to and informed me, the town inhabitants were assembling to
attack the troops, and that the and that the bells were ringing as a symbol
for that purpose, and not for fire.”10 This assumption by Preston is that
his Regiment was forced to fire on the crowd. Other testimonies though gave
opposition to this theory. A black servant, known as Andrew, gave his
account at the trial. “I met my acquaintance at the bottom of school street
holding his arm. He said the soldiers had begun to fight and were killing
everybody. One had struck him with a cutlass and almost cut off his
arm…..I went to the corner and seven or eight men came out. We were in
line with an officer before ’em, with a sword in his hand, a laced hat on,
and a red coat, and I remember silver on his shoulder. They then filed and
went to the Customs House. The men seemed to be in great rage……I went
from hence to try to get to the Customs House and get through the
people…..I heard the grenadier who stood next the corner say damn your
blood stand off, or back…..I saw the Grenadier attempt to stick him with
his bayonet. There was a bustle. The stout man had still hold of the
bayonet. After the mulatto was killed I took him to be that man.”11 Andrew
gets the point across that it was the soldiers that were to be at fault.
In the end only two of the soldiers that were tried were committed. The two
that were found guilt only received a slap on the wrist.12
The Boston Massacre was an unjust act in the eyes of the Colonists. They
viewed this as one more atrocity that the ruthless British parliament
passed off. This was one of the many things that made the Colonists look
towards a revolution to make their lives better. The Americans were truly
gaining a sense of national being and patriotism. This American Patriotism
would be considered one of the major advantages associated with the
Americans in their win over the British in the American Revolution.