What Was the Boston Massacre?

The site of the Boston Massacre in Boston, Massachusetts. Editorial credit: Marcio Jose Bastos Silva / Shutterstock.com.
The site of the Boston Massacre in Boston, Massachusetts. Editorial credit: Marcio Jose Bastos Silva / Shutterstock.com.

The Boston Massacre was a major event that happened in Boston in the 1700s, when it was under British Rule. British soldiers caused the deaths of five people when they fired into an unruly crowd. The event led to a distrust of the British crown on behalf of the colonists, which eventually led to the American Revolution. The Boston Massacre was the perfect example of how a low-level conflict can blow up to bloody chaos in only a short time frame.

Events Leading Up to the Massacre

The stage was set in March 1770, when colonists living in Boston and the British who ruled them weren’t exactly getting along. The streets of Boston, at that time, were filled by the British army’s strong presence, which was not something the colonists were happy about. This sentiment was fueled by the fact that they were there to collect the taxes imposed by the British rule which the colonists found to be unfair and overwhelming.

But the tensions were rising between the American colonists, called the patriot colonists, and those still loyal to the British crown - the loyalists. The protests against the taxation system manifested in frequent vandalization directed towards merchants who were selling British goods. One of those acts of vandalism happened on February 22, 1770, resulting in a gunfire that took a young boy’s life. As can be expected, this only added fuel to the already large blazing fire.

Early Events

On March 5th, a single soldier who was in charge of guarding the King’s money was met with an unruly, angry bunch of colonists. The threats of violence that he was showered with soon became reality and Private Hugh White was forced to call for backup, fearing he might end up losing his life and the King’s treasure. Sure enough, his fellow soldiers appeared to aid him, led by Captain Thomas Preston. The conflict further escalated to the point of gunshots being fired. It’s not clear if the first gunshot was fired intentionally or it was an accident. Regardless of vague circumstances, the fact stands that five colonists were killed in the bloody event and the Captain and his soldiers were arrested by the colonists and put in jail. This is the date we now refer to as when the Boston Massacre occurred.

The British troops were ultimately driven out of Boston to Fort William. Anti-crown propaganda was strong after the event but the British matched it pretty well with their own. There was no going back from that point. Although both sides were equally to blame for the unfortunate ordeal, it did make the colonists aware of their need to fight for independence.

Aftermath of the Massacre

What happened as a direct result of the Boston Massacre was the famous Boston Tea Party and subsequently the American Revolution. Not only that but since John Adams carried the defence of the soldiers put to trial after the event, he gained a great reputation that carried him all the way to his presidency. His work was celebrated as a total of eight soldiers escaped the death penalty at the end of the Boston Massacre Trials.


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