253rd Anniversary of the Boston Massacre

In 1620, a small group of English “refugees” arrived in Massachusetts Bay. They were fleeing religious persecution in England. Their ship was called the Mayflower, and there were 102 pilgrims and 30 crew members aboard that ship.

One hundred and fifty years later, those original pilgrim colonists had grown in numbers, and, though they still had strong and direct ties to England, they had begun to see themselves differently. The relationship between the British and the Colonialists had become tense, with England treating the colonies as a valuable source of income. By 1770, the Crown was attempting to increase that income through a series of new taxes on the Colonies. Among these new taxes were the Stamp Act and the Townsend Act. The colonists in New England in particular saw these taxes as excessive and unfair. The phrase “No taxation without representation” had become a clarion call among those who began to call themselves “patriots.”

Photo: YouTube/Daily Dose Documentary

Tensions were high by 1770, especially in Boston. By this time, the city of Boston had a population of some 16,000. British troops had been brought into Boston to keep order. Many verbal and often violent events had begun cropping up between Patriots and Loyalists, those who remained loyal to the British crown. Things were coming to a head and would break into open violence on March 5th, 1770.

On that day, there was a single British soldier on guard at the Customs House on King Street in Boston. A loud and intimidating crowd of colonialists had gathered before the Customs House, and that lone and frightened British soldier called for reinforcements. Capt. Thomas Preston led a small company of British troops of the 29th Regiment to the area, and the tensions grew higher by the minute.

Photo: YouTube/Daily Dose Documentary

At some point, a single shot rang out — then it is said that someone shouted “Fire!” and the British troops opened up on the crowd. In a matter of seconds, five colonialist “patriots” were killed, and another six were wounded. One of the ironies of this event is that some of the British soldiers were arrested after the event and would be put on trial for murder. Who would defend them? None other than John Adams, one of the Founding Fathers of our country. He defended these soldiers in court to get them a fair and unbiased trial. He argued the case well enough to have all but two of those arrested found not guilty. The other two were found guilty of manslaughter, but they merely had their thumbs tattooed.

One of the ironic facts of this event is that one of the men killed that day was Crispus Attucks, who is described as a sailer/whaler of mixed African and Native American ancestry. He was born in Framingham, MA, in 1723. The name Attucks is of indigenous origin, from the Natick word for “deer.” The name Crispus reflects the trend in colonial times to give slaves ancient Roman names. Crispus was the name of the Roman Emperor Constantine. Crispus Attucks was hit by two musket balls in the chest. He was 47 years old. The irony is clear, of course. One of the first to die in the cause of freedom on the part of the American colonies was a man who knew slavery, who was both African and Native American, representing the two kinds of Americans who would find that freedom most elusive after the American Revolution gained America its freedom from Britain and for much of the subsequent history of our country.

Photo: YouTube/Daily Dose Documentary

The events that occurred on that early March day in 1770 in Boston would start a smoldering wick that would eventually explode into the Revolutionary War some five years later. It would be the catalyst behind the ever-quickening impetus to the full-blown revolution that would finally break out in full force in the village commons of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. These events would be followed by the writing of the Declaration of Independence in July of 1776. The rest of this living story is the still-unfolding history of our country.

To know our history is to know who we are. It is to recognize the reality that our history, like all of human history, is full of moments of human greatness and of great human failings. Sometimes those two realities are tied up together. The Boston Massacre is one of those times. It takes great courage to distinguish the good from the bad and to take on the even more noble task of learning and growing from our errors. This nation has proven in the past that it has that kind of courage. May we continue to dip into that deep well of courage and continue the journey toward the great ideals set forth in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.

Support Veterans

Provide food and supplies to veterans at The Veterans Site for free!