The Boston Massacre: Who's to Blame

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On the evening of March 5, 1770, with a foot of snow on the ground, groups of Bostonians gathered around the Custom House on King Street. Some had buckets of water, after responding to a fire alarm. Others had clubs to defend themselves or perhaps to threaten the despised “lobsterbacks.” Private Hugh White was, in fact, being threatened by several wigmakers’ apprentices (Aron 24). When Captain Thomas Preston heard of Private White’s situation, he came with seven other soldiers to help. Words escalated into snowballs and stones, and the soldiers began to fight back with the butts of their guns. The crowd of Bostonians was growing and now numbered about 100 (24). Then, a huge chunk of ice came flying in from the mob and knocked Private Hugh Montgomery to the ground. He stood up and fired into the crowd and several other shots followed. The event is known today as the Boston Massacre. Clearly these happenings occurred so quickly that it is hard for historians to see which side was responsible. However, the Boston Massacre was the fault of the British because they made the decision to station troops in Boston, they failed to remove the troops despite the rising tensions between the soldiers and the colonists, they fired into the crowd of colonists, and two soldiers were convicted despite heavy British favor in the trial. The first reason that the British were at fault for the Boston Massacre was that the British made the decision to station the troops in Boston. In the winter of 1770, many Bostonians harbored deep resentment because of the presence of British military in their city (Linder). Two regiments of regulars had been quartered in Boston since September of 1768, when they had landed in response to a call by Governor Thomas Hutchinson to restore order and respect for British law. Trouble had arisen earlier that summer when Boston importers refused to pay required custom duties (Linder). This added to the anger in the colonies immensely. Now the colonists were further away from respecting British law than they were before. All of this information added to the obvious fact that if the troops were not in Boston, the Massacre could not have taken place, shows why stationing troops in Boston was a cause of the Boston Massacre. When the Redcoats were stationed in Boston, it also took work and pay away from Boston workers. Regulations made by the British allowed their soldiers to work part-time at civilian jobs (Aron 28). This only caused more problems between the soldiers and the colonists. Not only were the colonists required to pay taxes they did not support, but also some of them now had no income to pay the taxes. This unemployment caused tensions between colonists and soldiers to rise even more. Stationing the soldiers in Boston was one reason the British are to blame for the Massacre, but another reason the British are at fault for the Boston Massacre is that they failed to do anything about the rising tensions between the Bostonians and the redcoats. March 5 was not the first time soldiers and colonists fought (Aron 28). Fights between soldiers and civilians were on the rise in early March and by no means was March 5 the first time soldiers and workers clashed (28). On March 2, a fight broke out between soldiers and employees of John Gray's Ropewalk after one of the employees insulted a soldier (Linder). A cable-making employee reportedly asked a passing soldier, "Do you want work?" When the soldier replied that he did, the employee told the soldier, "Wee then, go and clean my shithouse." The angry soldier returned later with about a dozen fellow soldiers, and the fight ensued (qtd in Linder). It was only after the massacre that Governor Hutchinson removed the soldiers from Boston. Being the royal governor of Massachusetts, he should have noticed the growing tensions and done something about them earlier. If the troops had been removed earlier, the Massacre would not have happened....
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