Boston Massacre

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Taxation and other issues continued to build tension between Britain and the colonies. This tension showed between the colonists and the British soldiers posted in Boston. The townspeople resented the soldiers and treated them poorly, often harassing them verbally and physically. On the night of March 5, 1770, the tension burst.

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The Boston Massacre

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The Boston Massacre Customs House
Customs House on King Street in Boston (Source: Library of Congress)
On the evening of March 5, 1770, Private Hugh White was on guard in front of the Customs House on King Street in Boston. A crowd of people had gathered and began harassing the soldier. His calls for help brought nine soldiers led by Captain Thomas Preston. The crowd continued to harass the soldiers with insults, and were throwing snowballs at them.

In the commotion, someone yelled, "Fire!" and soldiers began shooting. Three townspeople were killed and eight more were wounded, two of which died later. No one knew who gave the order to fire.

After the shooting, the people of Boston were demanding the soldiers be tried and executed for the shootings. The governor ordered Captain Preston and eight soldiers be put in prison pending a trial. In order to ensure a fair trial the lawyer John Adams defended the soldiers. John Adams convinced the jury that the soldiers fired in self defense. As a result of the trial, Captain Preston and six soldiers were set free. Two of the soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter. They were branded as convicts and then released. Interestingly, John Adams would later become Vice President of the United States under President George Washington, and then the second President of the United States of America.


The Boston Massacre Monument

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Boston Massacre Monument
The Boston Massacre Monument
(Source: Library of Congress)
A monument stands in Boston in memory of those that died in the Boston Massacre. They were the first to died for the cause later to be called the American Revolution.


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