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|Boston Massacre (5th March 1770) - The official Account|
The following pages contain the original official account of the BOSTON MASSACRE of the 5th of March,
1770. It was drawn up by a committee appointed by the town, consisting of the Honorable JAMES BOWDOIN, Dr. JOSEPH WARREN, and SAMUEL PEMBERTON, Esq. The report was submitted to a town meeting held at Faneuil Hall, by adjournment, on the 10th of March, and was ordered to be printed. It was intended principally for circulation in England, and a vessel was chartered by the town to take out copies to London. To the copies circulated in America, were added a Circular Letter, addressed by the Committee to the Duke of Richmond, and other distinguished personages in England.
The frontispiece representing the massacre, is a fac-simile of an original engraving in the library of the New York Historical Society, engraved and published in Boston immediately after the event, by Paul Revene. It is supposed to give a somewhat exaggerated idea, however, of the scene it purports to represent. The sign of "Butcher's Hall," affixed to the custom-house, is, of course, a fancy title.
The plan of the town of Boston, copied front one published in the "Gentleman's and London Magazine," for 1774, may be useful to those unacquainted with the changes in the streets, their names, &c., since that period.
The present edition, with the exception of the subjoined "Additional Observations," which are obtained from a copy of this work in the library of Harvard College, is an exact reprint from an original in the library of the New York Historical Society, containing the full appendix, certificates, and circular of the Committee. To which is prefixed an account of the events of the few days, preceding the massacre, drawn up by the late Hon. ALDEN BRADFORD; and the Report made by JOHN HANCOCK, SAMUEL ADAMS, JOSEPH WARREN, and others, presented at the meeting of the citizens on the 12th of March. The whole presenting, it is believed, the most complete and authentic account which has been published of the massacre.
Such additional explanatory notes us have been deemed necessary for the convenience of the reader, are distinguished from the original notes by the initial-D.
EVENTS OP THE FEW DAYS PRECEDING THE
[From Bradford's History of Massachusetts]
The conduct of the citizens of Boston, notwithstanding some statements of a different import, it is believed, may be well vindicated from the charge of having rashly occasioned the awful catastrophe of the 5th of March, 1770. It is true, that the minds of the people were greatly irritated, and that some individuals were abusive in their language towards the military. But whenever examination was carefully made, it appeared that the soldiers were the first to assault, to threaten, and to apply contemptuous epithets to the inhabitants.
Every circumstance connected with this wanton and sanguinary event is important in be noticed. The people were provoked beyond endurance; and they can be justly accused only of resisting a fierce and vindictive soldiery, at the hazard of life. On the 22nd of February, a few boys appeared in one of the streets, bearing some coarse paper paintings, with the figures of the importers of British goods. They were met by one R——, who was known to be an informer to the custom-house officers, against the citizens suspected of attempts to evade the laws. He endeavored to prevail with a countryman, then passing, to destroy the pageantry. But the man declined; and he attempted himself to mutilate and deface them. This occasioned a collection of people who were in the vicinity of the spot. R— was very abusive in his language, and charged some of the citizens who had assembled, with perjury, and threatened to prosecute them. But they seemed to have considered him too insignificant to be noticed. The boys, however, who were quite young, and who had brought the pictures into the street, followed the man to his house, and gave him some opprobrious and reproachful language, which were the only means of redress in their power, for his attack. The moment he entered his dwelling, he seized a gun; this rather irritated than terrified the lads, and they began to pelt the house with snow-balls and stones. He fired from one of the windows, and killed a boy of eleven years of age. A great excitement was produced among the people, by this unnecessary and most wanton conduct. The funeral of the lad was attended by an immense concourse of the inhabitants; and he was considered a martyr in the cause of liberty.
The soldiers, when they left their barracks and strolled about the town, frequently carried large clubs, for the purpose, no doubt, of assaulting the people, though with a pretence for their own safety.
On the second of March, two of them rudely insulted and assaulted a workman at a ropewalk, not far from their barracks; being bravely resisted and beaten off, they soon made another attack, in greater numbers, probably ten or twelve. They were again overpowered by the people at the ropewalk; and a third time came, with about fifty of their fellows, to renew the assault. But they were still vanquished and received some wounds and bruises in the affray which they had thus wantonly provoked. They appeared yet again with large re¬cruits, and threatened vengeance on the defenceless workmen. But the owner or conductor of the ropewalk met them and prevailed on them to retire, without making the meditated assault. Perhaps the more discreet among them were satisfied of the impropriety of their conduct, or were fearful of the consequences of another attack. On the third, in the afternoon, several of the soldiers, armed with large clubs, went again to the ropewalk; and after much insolent and threatening language, struck some of the workmen.
In consequence of these various quarrels, and of the violent threats of the soldiers, that they would be avenged, when in truth they had been the rude aggressors, the minds of the citizens were greatly alarmed on the fourth and fifth; and so apprehensive were many of an attack from the military, as threatened, that in some instances they required their children and the female part of their families to remain at home during the evening. [The subsequent events are detailed in the Report and Narrative, which follow.]
REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF THE TOWN OF BOSTON
The town of Boston now legally convened at Faneuil Hall, have directed us, their committee, to acquaint you of their present miserable situation, occasioned by the exorbitancy or the military power, which, in consequence of the intrigues of wicked and designing men to bring us into a state of bondage and ruin, in direct repugnance to those rights which belong to us as men, and as British subjects, have long since been stationed among us.
The soldiers, ever since the fatal day of their arrival, have treated us with an insolence which discovered in them an early prejudice against us, as being that rebellious people which our implacable enemies had maliciously represented us to be. They landed in the town with all the appearance of hostility! They marched through the town with all the ensigns of triumph! and evidently designed to subject the inhabitants to the severe discipline of a garrison! They have been continuing their enormities by abusing the people, rescuing prisoners out of the hands of justice, and even thing upon the inhabitants in the street, when in the peace of God and the King; and when we have applied for redress in the course of the law of the land, our magistrates and courts of justice have appeared to be overawed by them; and such a degree of mean submission has been shown to them, as has given the greatest disgust, even to the coolest and most judicious persons in the community. Such has been the general state of the town.
On Friday the 2nd instant, a quarrel arose between some soldiers of the 29th, and the rope-makers journeymen and apprentices, which was carried to that length, as to become dangerous to the lives of each party, many of them being much wounded. This contentious disposition continued until the Monday evening following, when a party of seven or eight, soldier; were detached from the main guard, under the command of Captain Preston, and by his orders fired upon the inhabitants promiscuously in King street, without the least warning of their intention, and killed three on the spot; another has since died of his wounds, and others are dangerously, some it is feared mortally, wounded. Captain Preston and his party now are in jail. An inquiry is now making into this unhappy affair; and by some of the evidence, there is reason to apprehend that the soldiers have been made use of by others as instruments in executing a settled plot to massacre the inhabitants. There had been but a little time before a murder committed in the street by two persons of infamous characters, who had been employed by the commissioners and customhouse officers. In the present instance there are witnesses who swear that when the soldiers fired, several muskets were discharged from the house, where the commissioners' board is kept, before which this shocking tragedy was acted; and a boy, servant of one Manwaring, a petty officer in the customs, has upon oath accused his master of firing a gun upon the people out of a window of the same house, a number of persons being at the same time in the room; and confesses that himself, being threatened with death if he refused, discharged a gun twice by the orders of that company. But as it has been impossible for any person to collect a state of facts hitherto, we are directed by the town to give you this short intimation of the matter for the present, and to entreat your friendship to prevent any ill impressions from being made upon the minds of his Majesty's ministers, and others against the town, by the accounts which the commissioners of the customs and our other enemies may send, until the town shall be able to make a full representation of it, which will be addressed to you by the next conveyance.
This horrid transaction has occasioned the greatest anxiety and distress in the minds of the inhabitants, who have ever since been necessitated to keep their own military watch; and his Majesty's council were so convinced of the imminent danger of the troops being any longer in town, that upon application made by the inhabitants, they immediately and unanimously advised the lieutenant-governor to effect their removal; and Lieutenant-Colonel Dalrymple, the present commanding officer, is now removing all the troops to Castle William.
We are, with strict truth, Sir,
Your most faithful and obedient servants,
JOHN HANCOCK, WM. PHILLIPS,
SAM. ADAMS, JOS. WARREN,
W. MOLINEUX, SAM. PEMBERTON, JOSHUA HENSHAW,
Committee of the Town of Boston.
To THOMAS POWNALL, ESQ.
Boston, March 12, 1770.
STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION MORE TO BE ADDED