Item of the Day: The Boston Massacre (1770)

Full Title:

A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in BOSTON, perpetrated in the Evening of the Fifth Day of March 1770, by Soldiers of the XXIXth Regiment, Which, with the XIVth Regiment, Were Then Quartered There. With Some Observations on the State of Things Prior to that Catastrophe.

At a town meeting March 12, 1770, James Bowdoin, Joseph Warren and Samuel Pemberton were appointed a committee to prepare a particular account of the massacre. The “Short narrative” was prepared, accepted at a town meeting held March 19, and ordered immediately printed. Pages 34-162, Appendix, containing several depositions referred to in the preceding narrative; and also other depositions relative to the subject of it. Pages 163-166, Index to the appendix. Re-printed in London for E. and C. Dilly, and J. Almon, 1770.

From the Introduction:

IT may be a proper introduction to this narrative, briefly to represent the state of things for some time previous to the said massacre; and this seems necessary in order to the forming a just idea of the causes of it.

At the end of the late war, in which this Province bore so distinguished a part, a happy union subsisted between Great-Britain and the Colonies. This was unfortunately interrupted by the Stamp Act; but it was in some measure restored by the Repeal of it. It was again interrupted by other acts of parliament for taxing America; and by the appointment of a Board of Commissioners, in pursuance of an act, which by the face of it was made for the relief and encouragement of commerce, but which in its operation, it was apprehended, would have, and it has in fact had, a contrary effect. By the said act the said Commissioners were “to be resident in some convenient part of his Majesty’s dominions in America.”—This must be understood to be in some part convenient for the whole.—But it does not appear, that in fixing the place of their residence, the convenience of the whole was at all consulted; for Boston being very far from the center of the colonies, could not be the place most convenient for the whole. — Judging by the act, it may seem this town was intended to be favoured, by the Commissioners being appointed to reside here; and that the consequence of that residence would be the relief and encouragement of commerce: but the reverse has been the constant and uniform effect of it; so that the commerce of the town, from the embarrassments in which it has been lately involved, is greatly reduced. For the particulars on this head, see the state of the trade not long since drawn up and transmitted to England by a committee of the merchants of Boston.

The residence of the Commissioners here has been detrimental not only to the commerce, but to the political interests of the town and province; and not only so, but we can trace from it the causes of the late horrid massacre.

Soon after their arrival here in November 1767, instead of confining themselves to the proper business of their office, they became partizans of Governor Bernard in his political schemes, and had the weakness and temerity to infringe upon one of the most essential rights of the house of commons of this province—that of giving their votes with freedom, and not being accountable therefor but to their constituents. One of the members of the house, Captain Timothy Folgier, having voted in some affair contrary to the mind of the said Commissioners, was for so doing dismissed from the office he held under them.

These proceedings of theirs, the difficulty of access to them on office-business, and a supercilious behaviour, rendered them disgustful to people in general, who in consequence thereof treated them with neglect. This probably stimulated them to resent it: and to make their resentment felt, they and their coadjutor Governor Bernard made such representations to his Majesty’s ministers, as they thought best calculated to bring the displeasure of the nation upon the town and province: and in order that those representations might have the more weight, they are said to have contrived and executed plans for exciting disturbances and tumults, which otherwise would probably never have existed; and when excited, to have transmitted to the ministry the most exaggerated accounts of them.

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Filed under 1770's, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Revolution

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