The Role of the Boston Massacre in the American Revolution

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The Boston Massacre took place on March 5, 1770 and contributed significantly towards the American Revolution (Linder 191). In particular, the events of the Boston Massacre took place along the King Street in Boston with American colonists attacking a British soldier. It is important to note that what followed afterwards was characterized by bloodshed. Therefore, the Boston Massacre paved the way for the Revolutionary War that saw American colonists achieve a number of milestones. On the other hand, there are contradicting accounts of the Boston Massacre as there was a myriad of eye witnesses that helped explain the events that occurred ( However, it is evident that British soldiers had arrived in Boston from 1968 and had the responsibility of ensuring the crown-appointed personnel were in a position to bring into law the parliamentary legislation.

The relationship between the soldiers and the population in Boston was tense and this led to the British troops using force. At one point, three individuals were shot by the soldiers whereas more others sustained injuries. Therefore, there was the need for withdrawal of some troops and as time went by, there were depictions, propaganda, and reports surrounding the occurrence (Zobel 67). It is important to note that the spread of information regarding the death of Americans by British soldiers heightened tension in the entire America. Moreover, there were important personalities whose contributions in the events surrounding the Boston Massacre eventually led to the American Revolution. They include Captain Thomas Preston, Paul Revere, John Hancock, Samuel Adams among others. Thus, the events of the Boston Massacre contributed significantly in changing the minds of the American Colonists and further the American Revolution.


The events of the French and Indian War (1754-1763) meant that Britain had to increase the number of its American colonies to be in a better place (Adams 28). Moreover, the British had to adopt the Parliamentary system as it would make their revenue collection more effective. Therefore, four acts referred to as the Townshend Acts came in handy in enforcing the British authority over the Americans. In particular, the British introduced new duties on products such as tea, lead, paint, glass, and paper. The response from the colonists was characterized by increased opposition and anger that was dominant mainly in Massachusetts. On the other hand, the colonists also organized boycotts that would serve as a way to paralyze the British policies. The British authorities retaliated by sending troops to Boston that included the 14th and the 29th regiments in 1768 (Linder 188). Despite the high presence of British soldiers in Boston, the rejection of the colonialists heightened.

In 1770, the harassment of British officials by the colonists led to the British troops clashing with some of the businesses that took part in the boycott. Moreover, the colonists extended their attacks on businesses that violated the boycott plans and even harshly dealt with their customers. The colonial radicals placed signs in these businesses labelling them as “importers”. It is important to note that on February 22nd, Ebenezer Richardson was confronted by 2 boys after he took away a sign placed by the colonial radicals from his neighbor’s outlet. The events that followed afterwards saw the boys leaving and later went to Richardson’s home and cause some damage. While they were there, Christopher Seider showed up with Richardson and were in position of muskets (Allison 54). In the process, they shot one of the boys who succumbed to the injuries later on but since the community believed justice would be served, they did not lynch Richardson. However, the case was different and this heightened the tensions between the colonists and the British troops.

March 5, 1770

During this day, Private Hugh White who served in the British Army was on duty along King Street (Linder 201). In particular, the soldier had been posted in the Custom House. Angry colonists arrived in the evening and it was at this moment that they threatened and insulted him. It is important to note that Hugh responded by hitting one of the colonists which irritated them and, in the process, they threw stones, snowballs, and ice towards his direction. In a move to draw attention, bells all over the city rung and colonists showed up on the streets ( The high presence of colonists insulting Hugh White forced him to request for reinforcement as he did not have the option of firing his weapon. Besides, taking such a measure would lead to more adverse outcomes.

Captain Thomas Preston sent reinforcement to rescue Hugh White as the mass riots were escalating. In particular, he ordered the soldiers to adopt a defensive strategy upon arriving at the Custom House. Whereas some of the colonists requested the soldiers not to fire, others were daring and were ready for any outcome. Captain Thomas received information that the colonists were planning to leave with Hugh White and this would result in his death (Zobel 73). The daring colonists reached a point where they became violent than expected as they hit the British soldiers with sticks and clubs. Therefore, the soldiers decided to fire their muskets in a move to disperse the rioting colonists. It is important to note that five colonists lost their lives and among them was Crispus Attucks who was had a mixed-race background (Adams 41). On the other hand, six colonists sustained serious injuries.

Effects on A Small Scale

After the shoot-out, Captain Preston was arrested and this was after investigation into the occurrence begun. The governor’s council organized consultations after the shootings had occurred and this meant that there would be a withdrawal of officers from the town. It is important to note that the participants in the governor’s council were undecided on whether to withdraw the soldiers or not but to avoid the possibility of another riot, the decision to move the soldiers was made. The individuals who were indicted for murder included Captain Preston and four others who had fired during the riots (Sanchez 266). Moreover, the decision passed revealed that the soldiers posed harm and were not up to any good intentions. While in detention, Preston gave his account of the occurrences during the riot while Sons of Liberty leaders who included Samuel Adams and John Hancock were responsible for inciting the American colonists.

Paul Revere, one of the Sons of Liberty, was charged for perpetrating anti-British attitudes which subsequently led to the British troops firing shots that killed the colonists. Eventually, it was established that Revere used engravings that had been authored by Henry Pelham to push for anti-British attitudes ( Concerning the involvement of John Adams, he played a significant role in defending Captain Preston and his counterparts indicted for murder. It is important to note the John Adams later rose to the Presidency of the United States. Therefore, the defense he offered to Captain Preston did not serve to show his support for the British Colonialists but rather wanted the case to be a fair trial.

The death penalty for those charged was looming and the colonists were not willing to allow the British to issue lighter sentences. The fact that there were no impartial jurors in Boston, John Adams proposed that there was the need to have non-Bostonians form a separate juror. During the trial of British soldiers, Joh Adams claims that the outcome of the event was inevitable owing to the confusion at the time. On the other hand, the eyewitnesses presented before the court gave accounts that were different to those of Adams as they insisted that Captain Preston gave the command that made the soldiers to shoot the rioting colonists. One of the witnesses, Richard Palmes, asserted that he was with Captain Preston when the order to fire was issued by an unknown individual (Sanchez 268). Hence, the judge issued a ruling that Captain Preston was not guilty. Similarly, the other soldiers claimed their move to shoot was to safeguard their lives from the angry colonists. However, there were two soldiers who were convicted to murder and they included Matthew Kilroy and Hugh Montgomery. Specifically, the two soldiers were guilty of manslaughter.

Lasting Effects and the Effect on the Revolution

The Boston Tea Party

The aftermath of the Boston massacre was mainly dominated by increased hatred toward the British colonialists. In particular, the American colonists displayed their rebellion by establishing the Boston Tea Party. It is important to note that the Boston Tea party was formed at the Griffin’s Wharf in Boston in 1773 and the primary reason was because the British had introduced new taxes on tea products (Allison 61). The colonists used the party as one way to stage their defiance against the colonialists. In the 1760s, the British imposed taxes on the colonists to assist in clearing the debs that had accumulated. One of the acts brought into law to enforce taxes was the Stamp Act. At the time the colonists did not resist the taxes but after the introduction of the Tea Act angered them. In a move to display their anger, the colonists decided to engage in tea smuggling. Some of the personalities that assisted in smuggling included Samuel Adams and John Hancock and this served as a way through which the colonists rejected the tea tax. Moreover, the formation of the Boston Tea Party indicated that the colonists were tired of the British control when it came to their interests.

Continental Congress

The increased rejection of the British authority by the colonists was evidenced by the formation of the Continental Congress between 1774 and 1789 (Sanchez 268). In particular, the Continental Congress acted as the parallel government to the British authorities that ruled the thirteen colonies. Moreover, the members of the Continental Congress organized a meeting in 1774 to address the harsh effects of the acts brought into law by the British authorities (Allison 77). The following year saw the members of the Continental Congress holding a second meeting. It is important to note that the British Crown was responsible for uniting the thirteen colonies. However, the occurrence of the Boston massacre resulted in increased resistance from the colonists. The imperial crisis led to the formation of a convention by the colonists and show the unity that existed among them. It was during the Continental Congress that the Articles of Association were prepared that limited the quantity of goods brought into America by the British. Moreover, the Continental Congress made it clear that there was the need for British to address issues that affected the colonists else there would be another convention.

The other lasting effect of the Boston Massacre stemmed from the use of propaganda. In particular, Paul Revere and Benjamin Franklin came up with pieces of art that played a significant role toward the fight for independence. It is important to note that the pieces of propaganda spread throughout the different colonies given that they were printed in in pamphlets and papers. The propaganda pieces significantly influenced other wartime pieces after the Boston massacre. On the other hand, the depictions of the Boston massacre by the media contributed to the negative thoughts of the colonists about the media. In particular, the media portrayed the British reinforcements to be on the wrong as they were responsible for opening fire to the colonists who attacked the Customs House. The Boston Massacre had an impact on the American Revolution as the colonists were no longer willing to embrace Coercive Acts. The delegates who formed the Continental Congress were opposed to the British oppression since without resisting, it would be difficult to attain independence. Hence, the Boston Massacre assisted in uniting the colonists to fight against the British authorities that failed to address their grievances.


The Boston Massacre which occurred on March 5, 1770 played a significant role in the American Revolution. The British soldiers were deployed in Boston in a move to enforce the Parliamentary legislation that would see effective collection of revenues. The colonists showed resistance to the British soldiers by taking part in boycotts as a way of rejecting the British policies. It is important to note that in 1770, there were clashes between the colonists and the British troops. At the time, Hugh White was the officer in charge of guarding the Customs House. The colonists who entered the building insulted Hugh White but instead of using his weapon, he resorted to requesting for reinforcement. Captain Preston arrived with the reinforcement which saw the riots by colonists escalate and later resulted in a shootout that caused death and injuries on the rioters.

After the shootout, there was the arrest of individuals responsible for the clash and Captain Preston was one of those involved. On the other hand, other soldiers were also arrested. It is important to note that Captain Preston and the five soldiers arrested were not found guilty by the judge. However, two soldiers were convicted. The outcome of the Boston Massacre saw John Adams offer defense to the British soldiers in a move to ensure the trial was fair. Despite the release of Captain Preston and his counterparts, it became evident that the Boston Massacre had lasting effects that contributed to the Revolution. In particular there was increased hatred between the colonists and the British authorities.  Hence, the events of the Boston Massacre contributed significantly in changing the minds of the American Colonists that led to the Revolution.

Works Cited

Adams, Randolph Greenfield. New Light on the Boston Massacre. Vol. 47. The Society, 1938.

Allison, Robert J. The Boston Massacre. Applewood Books, 2006. “The Boston Massacre.” The Boston Massacre,

Linder, Douglas. "The Boston Massacre Trials: An Account." (2007).

Sanchez, Tony. "The story of the Boston massacre: A storytelling opportunity for character education." The Social Studies 96.6 (2005): 265-269.

Zobel, Hiller B. The Boston Massacre. WW Norton & Company, 1996.

November 13, 2023


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