[1770] - Boston Massacre

Throughout the 1760s Boston had been a centre of resistance to British rule in the American colonies. Tensions in the city had grown rapidly since 1767, when the British parliament passed the Townshend Acts, a body of legislation that sought to establish a precedent for the right of parliament to tax the colonies. Furthermore, on 22 February 1770, an 11-year-old Bostonian boy named Christopher Seider was killed by a customs official. Two weeks later, after a weekend of growing tension between British soldiers and Boston rope workers, a riot broke out on the evening of 5 March 1770. It began in Dock Square, and spilled out into King Street (known today as State Street). During the disturbances British soldiers fired into the crowd: five men were killed and eleven injured. After several months of delay, the soldiers were tried in the autumn. Seven soldiers, including their captain, were acquitted. Two others were convicted of manslaughter. Although they could have faced the death sentence, the jury elected to have the men’s thumbs branded in court. They were then released.

The Boston Massacre was a pivotal moment in turning colonial sentiment against the British monarchy and parliament. Although it was another five years before the American Revolutionary Wars began, the massacre fomented resistance to colonial rule and galvanized dissident opinion. The event was commemorated annually from 1858 and became integral to the history of American independence.

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