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The American Revolution
British Reforms and Colonial Resistance
An Account of the Late Military Massacre at Boston, March 1770

After the French and Indian War, the British decided to maintain a standing army in the colonies. One of the reasons they did so was their concern about Indian warfare on the frontier. Many colonists, however, viewed the redcoats less as protectors than as potential enslavers. What ongoing sources of friction between British soldiers and Boston citizens does the following account suggest led to the so-called Boston Massacre?

View an extensive account of the massacre in the original document from An American Time Capsule. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.

An Account of a late Military Massacre at Boston, or the Consequences of Quartering Troops in a populous Town.

BOSTON March 12, 1770.

THE Town of Boston affords a recent and melancholy Demonstration of the destructive consequences of quartering troops among citizens in time of Peace, under a pretence of supporting the laws and aiding civil authority; every considerate and unprejudic'd Person among us was deeply imprest with the apprehension of these consequences when it was known that a number of regiments were ordered to this town under such apretext, but in reality to inforce oppressive measures; to awe and controul the legslative as well as executive power of the province, and to quell a spirit of liberty, which however it may have been basely {Omitted text, 1w} and even ridicul'd by some, would do honour to any age or country. A few persons among us had determin'd to use all their influence to procure so destructive a measure, with a view to their securely enjoying the profits of an American revenue, and unhappily both for Britain and this country, they found means to effect it.

It is to Governor Bernard, the commissioners, their confidents and coadjutors, that we are indebted as the procuring cause of a military power in this capital.--The Boston Journal of Occurrences printed in Mr. Holt's York Journal, from time to time, afforded many striking instances of the distresses brought upon the inhabitants by this measure; and since those Journals have been discontinued, our troubles from that quarter have been growing upon us: We have known a party of soldiers in the face of day fire off a loaded musket upon the inhabitants, others have been prick'd with bayonets, and even our magistrate assaulted and put in danger of their lives, where offenders brought before them have been rescued and why those and other bold and base criminals have as yet escaped the punishment due to their crimes, may be soon matter of enquiry by the representative body of this people.--It is natural to suppose that when the inhabitants {Omitted text, 3w} saw those laws which had been enacted for their security, and which they were ambitious of holding up to the soldiery, eluded, they should most commonly resent for themselves--and accordingly if so has happened; many have been the squabbles between them and the soldiery; but it seems their being often worsted by our youth in those ren counters, has only serv'd to irritate the former.--What passed at Mr. Gray's rope walk, has already been given the public, and may be said to have led the way to the late catastrophe.--That the rope walk lads when attacked by superior numbers should defend themselves with so much spirit and success in the club-way, was too mortifying, and perhaps it may hereafter appear, that even some of their officers, were unnappily affected with this circumstance: Divers stories were propagated among the soldiery, that serv'd to agitate their spirits particularly on the Sabbath, that one Chambers, a serjeant, represented as a sober man, had been missing the preceding day, and must therefore have been murdered by the townsmen; an officer of distinction so far credited this report, that he enter'd Mr. Gray's rope-walk that Sabbath; and when enquired of by that gentleman as soon as he could meet him, the occasion of his so doing, the officer reply'd, that it was to look if the serjeant said to be murdered had not been hid there; this sober serjeant was found on the Monday unhurt in a house of pleasure.--The evidences already collected shew, that many threatnings had been thrown out by the soldiery, but we do not pretend to say there was any preconcerted plan; when the evidences are published, the world will judge.--We may however venture to declare, that it appears too probable from their conduct, that some of the soldiery aimed to draw and provoke the townsmen into squabbles, and that they then intended to make use of other weapons than canes, clubs or bludgeons. . . .

Our readers will doubtless expect a circumstantial account of the tragical affair on Monday night last; but we hope they will excuse our being so particular as we should have been, had we not seen that the town was intending an inquiry and full representation thereof.

On the evening of Monday, being the 5th current, several soldiers of the 29th regiment were seen parading the streets with their drawn cutlasses and abusing and wounding numbers of the [town?].

[Description of the massacre]

The people were immediately alarmed with the report of this horrid massacre, the bells were set a ringing, and great numbers soon assembled at the place where this tragical scene had been acted; their feelings may be better conceived than expressed; and while some were taking care of the dead and wounded, the rest were in consultation what to do in these dreadful circumstances. . . .

Tuesday morning presented a most shocking scene, the blood of our fellow-citizens running like water thro' King-street, and the Merchant's Exchange, the principal spot of the military parade for about 18 months past. Our blood might also be track'd up to the head of Long-Lane, and thro' divers other streets and passages.

At eleven o'clock, the inhabitants met at Faneuil-Hall, and after some animated speeches, becoming the occasion, they chose a Committee of 15 respectable Gentlemen, to wait upon the Lieut. Governor in Council, to request of him to issue his orders for the immediate removal of the troops.

The Message was in these Words:

"THAT it is the unanimous opinion of this meeting that the inhabitants and soldiery can no longer live together in safety; that nothing can rationally be expected to restore the peace of the town and prevent further blood and carnage, but the immediate removal of the troops; and that we therefore most servently pray his Honour, that his power and influence may be exerted for their instant removal."

His Honour's Reply, which was laid before the Town then adjourn'd to the Old South Meeting House, was as follows;


"I AM extremely sorry for the unhappy differences between the inhabitants and troops and especially for the action of the last evening, and I have exerted myself upon that occasion, that a due inquiry may be made, and that the law may have its course. I have in council consulted with the commanding officers of the two regiments who are in the town. They have their orders from the General at New-York. It is not in my power to countermand those orders. The council have desired that the two regiments may be removed to the Castle. From the particular concern which the 20th regiment has had in your differences, Col. Dalrymple, who is the commanding officer of the troops, has signified that that regiment shall, with out delay, be placed in the barracks at the Castle until he can send to the General and receive his further orders concerning both the regiments; and that the main guard shall be removed, and the 14th regiment so disposed and laid under such restraint that all occasion of future disturbances may be prevented."

The foregoing reply having been read and fully considered--the question was put, Whether there report be satisfactory? Passed in the negative, only 1 dissentient out of upwards of 4000 voters.

It was then moved and voted John Hancock, Esq; Mr. Samuel Adams, Mr. William Molineux, William Phillips, Esq; Dr. Joseph Warren. Joshua Henshaw, Esq; and Samuel Pemberton, Esq; be a Committee to wait on his Honour the Lieut. Governor, and inform him, that it is the unanimous Opinion of this Meeting, that the Reply made to a Vote of the Inhabitants presented his Honour in the Morning is by no means satisfactory; and that nothing less will satisfy, than a total and immediate removal of all the Troops.
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View an extensive account of the massacre in the original document from An American Time Capsule.