Boston Massacre Term Paper

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Boston Massacre

Brutal Murder or Self-Defense?

Boston Massacre is known as the cornerstone of Revolutionary war which resulted into a series of events causing changes in the world's map. On face value, it can be perceived as an incident in which the innocent citizens were murdered by the tyrant government but a careful analysis would reveal that basic reasons of the Boston Massacre are rooted in the years of tension and strain that existed between the British government and colonists. Boston Massacre is a controversial event reflected differently in British and American history.

It is evident after careful unbiased analysis that Boston Massacre was a result of self-defense by the British army troop instead of an unprovoked gunfire, in response to attacks by Bostonian colonists.

In order to understand the Boston massacre, it is important that the events leading to this incident and aftermaths are critically evaluated. On the other hand, the series of actions that took place before the event would be an indicative factor in this regard. In historical events where one of the parties to the incident has to proven guilty, it is difficult yet important to separate myths from the facts. Boston Massacre is an event which was followed by an aggressive campaign from the British government as well as the local citizens, both portraying extremely opposite stories. However, an unbiased analysis based only on the course of events would help in reaching a conclusion.

Boston was the capital city of Massachusetts and it was an important port where the major trade took place. Due to its important location, the city was responsible for the economic development in the region. However, when the British parliament decided to levy taxes on the merchants in Boston in 1760s, the overall response was nothing but resistance[footnoteRef:1]. This resistance on economic reforms was instigated by the placement of a huge mass of soldiers (approximately 4000 in numbers) which was comparatively unreasonably highly as the overall population of Boston was merely twenty thousand heads. Furthermore, the heavy taxation on gross income was further worsened by the Townshend Act resulting into heavy import tariffs[footnoteRef:2]. The resultant was a complete boycott of the affected items by the colonists. In the meanwhile, attempts were made to negotiate with the then King George III and also with other colonial regions so that more strength can be gained[footnoteRef:3]. [1: Allison, Robert. "The Boston Massacre." ( Beverly, MA: Applewood Books, 2006): 1-23.] [2: Knollenberg, Bernhard. "Growth of the American Revolution, 1766 -- 1775." (New York: Free Press, 1975).] [3: Linder, Doug. "The Boston Massacre Trials: An Account." UMKC School of Law. (2001).]

Attempts were made by Lord Hillsborough to deal with the activities of the Massachusetts House which further worsened the situation. Following the course of events taking place, Charles Paxton, Boston's chief customer officer called for additional troops as the colonists were getting stronger[footnoteRef:4]. The event itself began with a small argument between the private White who was appointed at the Custom House and an apprentice of a local wigmaker. The wigmaker accused of the Captain Lieutenant not to pay for the bill of the wig whereas the truth is the bill was paid a day before the event. The private White demanded young wigmaker to be more respectful which turned into a heated argument during which the wigmaker was hit in the head by a musket. [4: Allison, "The Boston Massacre":1-14.]

As a result of this fisted argument, the crowd gathered and supported the wig maker. With progression of the argument, the crowd became more aggressive and grew in number which forced the White to ask for assistance which was provided by Captain Thomas Preston[footnoteRef:5]. According to the eye witnesses, the private White was provided an assistance of six armed Whites[footnoteRef:6]. In the meanwhile, the crowd kept on provoking the troop to fire on them whereas Captain Thomas did mentioned that the bayonets were loaded but they are not intending to open a fire on the public and in reality he gave no such orders. In the meanwhile, a local inn maker tried to hit the soldiers and Captain with his club[footnoteRef:7]. When one of the private Whites was hit by a stick, he opened the fire on the public anticipating more attacks. The gun shot was followed by more shots by his fellows for which no orders were given. [5: Ibid.] [6: Woods, Thomas, " Exploring American History: From Colonial Times to 1877." ( New York: Associated University Press, 2008)] [7: Allison, "The Boston Massacre": 12.]

When the smoke cleared, it turned out that eleven people were hit in the gun fire and five of them died on the spot; one of whom was an African-American. Few days later, two more casualties took place[footnoteRef:8]. The crowd gathered on that day and the next day demanded governor for the fair trials which were later on guaranteed by the governor. However, six of the soldiers were released whereas two were given minor sentences[footnoteRef:9]. The following events were full of propaganda and depiction where British government as well as the colonists tried to gain public approval. Resultant was American Revolutionary war five years later[footnoteRef:10]. [8: Ibid: 17.] [9: Ibid: 50.] [10: Ibid: 60.]

In order to evaluate the role of Boston Massacre in initiating the revolutionary war, it is important that the factors causing rage of the public should be evaluated. Bostonians were highly frustrated because of the economic reforms introduced in the region which restricted their trade liberty and also reduced the earned capital. When the British governments introduced its troops into the region, casual harassments from general public to the soldiers and vice versa were considered as a norm[footnoteRef:11]. Where one can criticize the just nature of reforms introduced by British government, the Boston Massacre was not a planned display of power. [11: Young, Alfred, F. "Revolution in Boston? Eight Propositions for Public History on the Freedom Trail," The Public Historian 25, no. 2 (2003):17 -- 41. ]

It can be viewed that efforts were made by the British army men to ensure that argument doesn't exceeds in nature. Appearance of the young wigmaker and demanding the amount which was already paid a day before, can be perceived as boisterous and an intentional attempt to instigate the public. The concerned Captain who was the leading authority ignored the insult which assures once all over again that there was no such intent of harassing the public or causing any physical harm to them. Furthermore, the supporters who gathered for the supported of wigmaker made the situation since till that time, the private White was all alone and had no assistance which endangered his life.

As the number grew and he was being attacked by petty items, he was forced to ask for assistance from the nearby regiment. Careful analysis would reveal that up till now, British government representatives had shown no interest or intent in causing any harm to the mob gathered. Even after, the mob gathered, the authority officer on duty stated clearly that he has no intent of opening the fires but the weapons were loaded and any aggressive action by the mob would meet its repercussion. Another important factor in the whole scenario was ringing the church bell which was only meant for fire signals[footnoteRef:12]. As a result, more people gathered which obviously endangered the well-being of soldiers in numbers. Now, the mob itself outnumbered the armed officers in a greater number. It is clear that using church bell was an attempt to harass the officers on duty with more strength. Here, a doubt arises if wigmaker demanding already paid amount, was a colonists' attempt of creating a heat between the general public and British government. Although, this notion is not supported by any historical evidence but it cannot be ignored considering the course of events. [12: Allison, "The Boston Massacre": 12.]

It is also important to note that the fire didn't took place even after several warning counts made by Captain Thomas who restated time and again that causing harm to general public is not an intent here[footnoteRef:13]. The fire was a result of one of the mob members hitting a private White with a club which nearly missed his head[footnoteRef:14]. It was the anticipation of more severe attacks which made the young white open the fire. Most importantly, the act of violence was initiated by the mob in the first place whereas the British Captain only gave verbal warnings only. The fire made in self-defense was followed by several fires by the fellowmen. According to witnesses, no orders for opening the fire were given[footnoteRef:15]. If the Captain is considered as the character representing British government, it is clear from his actions that introduction of British troops was an attempt to control the area but actually causing any casualties was not an option[footnoteRef:16]. [13: Ibid:14] [14: Ibid: 12.] [15: Ibid.] [16: Ibid:14]

It was not the Boston Massacre but the outcomes of this event which changed the course of history. If…

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