Primary Sources of Boston Massacre
The Boston Massacre- March, 5, 1770 Part One: Document| Author| Date| Purpose| Biases| The Legal Papers of John Adams, No. 64, Rex v Wemms| John Adams| 1755-1784| To record what he heard and saw during the trial and how he defended for the British soldiers. | Despite the fact that most eyewitnesses’ testimonies denounced Captain Thomas Pretson ordering his men to fire upon the citizens, he believed these people were biased and words aren’t 100% reliable.
Anonymous account of the Boston Massacre March 5 1770| Unknown| Unknown| To briefly explain what caused the people to rise up against the soldiers and how reluctant the citizens were. | He did not feel that the patriots were any faulty of the soldiers’ fire. He felt unfairly treated and thought the soldiers pushed way too far by abusing the locals with their power. | The Account of The Boston Massacre| The Boston Gazette and Country Journal| March 12, 1770| Reporting what happened on the day of massacre on the newspaper for locals to read. The article described the scenario as a massacre due to the anger of some upset British troops who felt being insulted. It obviously accused Captain Preston. | The Bloody Massacre (Photo)| Paul Revere| 1770| His painting depicted what happened on the day of March 5th 1770. | He exaggerated the scenario by painting the soldiers in cruelty that aimed into the innocent helpless unarmed white men. Truth is, the main victims in the massacre were black and they were throwing snowballs at the soldiers. He wanted to make it look as angry as it could be to make the audience think it as a deliberate murder. Captain Thomas Preston’s Account of the Boston Massacre| Captain Thomas Preston| October 24, 1770| To explain about what he perceived on March 5th and to swear he never intended for anyone to get hurt nor did he order the troops to fire. | He believed the townspeople were all mad and tried to bring up a riot to prevent themselves from being punished for insulting the troops. Although he did think the firing was a terrible thing the troops done, he thought it could have been necessary in order to guard the King’s vessel efficiently. The Deposition of Theodore Bliss| Theodore Bliss| Unknown| To be a witness defending Captain Preston, affirming that he did not order the men to fire. | He was at the sight because of the fire alarm. What he described as may have heard or seen may not be of words in favor of any side but he could have been so busy analyzing the situation or looking for the possible fire that struck the alarm and missed out when Captain Preston gave orders. He could have been too nervous to remember everything that happened that day. | Part 2: It’s a well-known event.
Everyone knows why it happened, who were involved, and where and when it happened, but does everyone know how it happened? The truth has sunk to the deepest point in the sea and remains as a mystery in history of the United States of America. What really caused the townspeople’s temper to explode that lead to the Boston Massacre? Different people from different aspects varied in their description of the event. An anonymous victim of the Boston Massacre wrote about what harsh environment the citizens were living in prior the event and what happened that day.
Typical high school history textbook mentions the high tax rate of all the products during the late 1700s, which has been explained as the reason why the citizens rise against the British government. However, although he did write about how the Stamp Act upset them and about the violation of Magna-Carta for the Commission to send troops over, something happened during one day of March that really boosted their anger level. He talked about a boxing match that the soldiers commanded the workers of Mr. Gray’s ropewalk to participate in. One soldier was defeated by Mr.
Gray’s worker and went back to recruit his army friends to come back and challenge. He also included Samuel Drowne’s testimony of him and some neighbors being abused by the British troops in the evening that seem to be an act of revenge for the embarrassment of the match early on before the massacre. This article has tons of information about what happened that day. It is a very useful source because his words and feelings were common with his neighbors who were angry at the troops too. Through his voice, one can hear the cries and complaints of the townspeople of Boston.
However, this is only one side of the story and putting all the faults on the British troops for firing doesn’t seem very convincing. Captain Thomas Preston, the commander of the soldiers who fired their muskets at the townspeople, talked about the different side of the story. He was aware that the residents and the soldiers didn’t get along but he said he never thought of using violence to solve the conflict. He declared that when his troops walked by Gray’s ropewalk on March 2nd, the rope-makers made fun of the soldiers and insulted them. After a moment of verbal fight (argument), they went into a nonverbal fight (action).
Although the soldiers went back to their units afterwards, he said the inhabitants become arrogant and have been continuously abusing the soldiers. He explains that he was informed that the townspeople were up in front of the city hall beating up the troops. He went up trying to pacify the crowd but didn’t succeed. He said he kept shouting to the troops to hold their fire and had never intended to hurt anyone and he did not want to take account for what may happen. It’s convincing that he was innocent about the fight on the 2nd and did not want to fire because then he’ll just lose his job.
However, his words aren’t accurate as well. It’s understandable how the townspeople thought of the troops as undesirable, but it’s hard to believe they had the power to abuse the armed soldiers. Preston is a commander, a soldier in a higher division; it is possible that he has not been reported with all the true words. No lower division personnel would tell his boss that he’s been abusing his powers. The troops beating the residents sounded more likely, the other way around seem very absurd. If he did command the fire, it would’ve been the most unwise decision in that situation.
It is clear that he did have the chance to run away from being guilty of the command but he submitted himself. Whether he did or not call it, the massacre still took place. It was very hard to be a soldier of British crown while being the towns’ guard. To protect the crown and his property were the soldiers’ duties and residents are a part of that duty. It was hard to decide whether to protect the city hall that the inhabitants were threatening or harm to prevent them from destroying it. After all, they’re both the King’s property.
He described the awful words and threats the residents were speaking and how hard it was for him to ignore them and try to prevent from getting hit by the snowballs flying around, thrown by the citizens. He swore that he never commanded his men to fire. This could be true, but like I mentioned, the death under musketry still happened. The massacre could have started due to the soldiers’ misconception of the command. This brought up some reconsideration upon Paul Revere’s painting The Bloody Massacre, where the violent British soldiers blew tons of musket balls at the strength less citizens.
The inhabitants were throwing snowballs at the troops and were clearly standing up for what they thought is right, not being beaten up like a bunch of farmed chickens. The troops did stop after a short while, possibly because of receiving the command of stop firing from Captain Preston. Bringing in a voice that sounded like a good-hearted soldier into the history textbook, like Captain Preston, would be nice because it can alter the stereotype of the fierce British soldiers, which heartlessly killed the townspeople, in a good way. The Boston Gazette and Journal about the massacre is another primary source of what happened on the event.
Its version of the story is more convincing to many people because it’s a newspaper article, a piece of work that’s been viewed, edited, and published. However, like media nowadays, its purpose isn’t just to report the local news to people but to drag their attention into reading the article. Before talking about what’s happened that night, it gave a short disclaimer, “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 enquiry and full representation thereof. This little paragraph, apart from the introduction and the story of the event, dragged everyone’s attention, including me. It’s like saying that they wrote about whatever happened as is with no masking and no biases. It is not so. It said on Monday evening, before the massacre took place, the troops were on the streets abusing the inhabitants. One young man, John Hicks, came up against that mean soldier and knocked him down. The soldiers went back and brought back about 12 men and said a witness named Samuel Atwood claimed the soldier answered him that they were about to murder someone.
The troop caught one young man and beaten him up, the lad fought back and ran towards Cornhill. The article mentions Captain Preston and his men pushing his way to the commissioner’s office with charged muskets. Then someone started throwing snowballs at the captain and he commanded to fire the bayonets. Neither the anonymous nor Preston himself claimed that he fired towards the townspeople. This article although described the event in detail does not seem very relevant. I am not sure why the 12 men beating the oung guy was not mentioned in either Preston’s account or the anonymous man’s, but it is likely that something similar to that may have happened. This newspaper article was published and surely was in great number of people’s hands. Its purpose was to gather people’s concern and sense of humanity towards the massacre. It wants people to feel hurt and abused and sense the evil of the power the government has in hand. No one knows for sure whether Captain Preston gave the command because there were testimonies both for and against him.
However, this article was straightforwardly accusing him of being insolent and ignorant. That’s the image the paper wants people to have in mind. Like Revere, it wants people to picture the brutal government’s units beating innocent citizens up. Although having its agenda parallel to Revere’s, it did prove something that was deliberately painted otherwise in The Bloody Massacre. Crispus Attucks, who was shot dead at the scene of the massacre, was a young black man, but his portrait in the painting was a white patriot.
It was probably because white men being injured seemed rather crueler than black workers being slain. Both the newspaper editor and Revere knew that the more severe something is, the more attention it attracts. Untruthful as it may sound, it’s still a very useful resource overall. Because it made the situation sound so critical, people united and brought up the idea of the American Revolution. Though different primary documents during that time period had slightly different stories about the Boston Massacre, they all pointed to one doubtless fact: it is one of the great events that drawn to the American Revolution.
It really is hard to tell which altered the story with their own words, who told the truth, or did all of them tell the truth due to their perception, they were all witnesses of the event and their words are very valuable. They all contributed to the American History. They all provided a reason for people to come together and think about their future and to decide whether they should do something to escape from that hopeless future.
It’s nearly impossible to dig out the truth since there was no surveillance available at the time so let it be and remain an endless discussable topic for people who are interested in wondering what really was going on during the period of the Boston Massacre. Part 3: Work Cited Adams, John. Summation of John Adams. University of Missouri-Kansas City. 1755-1784. 20 Feb. Web. 2013 Bliss, Theodore. “Deposition of Theodore Bliss”. Boston Massacre Historical Society. Boston Massacre Historical Society. nd. Web. Feb. 21 2013 np. “Anonymous account of the Boston Massacre March 5 1770”.
American History from Revolution to Reconstruction and Beyond. University of Groningen. nd. Web. 19 Feb. 2013 Preston, Thomas. “Captain Thomas Preston’s Account of the Boston Massacre”. Boston Massacre Historical Society. Boston Massacre Historical Society. 24 Oct. 1770. Web. Feb. 21 2013 Revere, Paul. “The Bloody Massacre”. History Matters. Library of Congress. nd. Web. Feb. 20 2013 The Boston Gazette and County Journal. The Boston Massacre, 5 March 1770: the Boston newspaper account. The Public Schools of North Carolina. 12 March 1970. Web. 19 Feb. 2013