Mar 052013
 
Boston Massacre as depicted by Paul Revere

James Caldwell, Samuel Gray, and Crispus Attucks were gunned down in what authorities referred to as the “Incident on King Street” on March 5, 1770. Samuel Maverick died the next day, and Patrick Carr died two weeks later as a result of the same incident. The incident began when a crowd formed around John Goldfinch and a young man, Edward Garrick, accused Goldfinch of not paying a bill. The situation quickly escalated, and Hugh Montgomery fired the first shots into the crowd.

Why am I writing about these people 243 years after this “Incident on King Street”? That would be the name that the British used to describe the event. You might know it better as the “Boston Massacre.” John Goldfinch was actually Captain John Goldfinch and Hugh Montgomery was Private Montgomery. The Boston Massacre is widely viewed as an accelerant to the anger which ultimately ignited into the American Revolution.

One fascinating aspect of the Boston Massacre that you might not be aware of is the different depictions of the incident by British officials and the growing body of disgruntled colonists. I have posted accounts of the massacre on http://www.bingoforpatriots.com/american-history/american-revolution/boston-masssacre/ that are vastly different portrayals of what occurred. Official accounts published in “A Fair Account of the Late Unhappy Difturbance at Boston” implied that it was a planned ambush by hoodlums rather than an angry crowd sparked by Edward Garrick (who was listed as Edward Archibald in the Boston Gazette’s report). However, discontented colonists were unwilling to allow the British government’s recount of the event be left unchallenged. The Boston Gazette suggested it was an effort to “quell a Spirit of Liberty.” Other anonymous pamphlets, including “A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre” described the event as if the British soldiers savagely attacked a group of peaceful law abiding colonists. Many of these pamphlets were sent to London in hopes of influencing public opinion.

The attached photo is an engraving made by Paul Revere. Revere based his engraving on a Henry Pelham’s drawing. There are factual inaccuracies in the engraving, and its true purpose may have been to fan the flames of colonial anger rather than to simply describe the event. It has been suggested that Samuel Adams motivated Revere’s engraving. The raw emotion of the time can also be felt in the poem that accompanied the picture:

Unhappy Boston! see thy Sons deplore

Thy hallow’d walks besmear’d with guiltless gore

While faithless P____n and his savage bands

With murd’rous rancour stretch their bloody hands

Like fierce barbarians grinning o’er their prey

Approve the carnage and enjoy the day.

 

If scalding drops from rage, from anguish wrung

If speechless sorrow, lab’ring for a tongue

Or if a weeping world can ought appease

The plaintive ghosts of victims such as these

The patriot’s copious tears for each are shed

A glorious tribute which embalms the dead.

 

But know, Fate summons to that awful goal

Where Justice strips the murd’rer of his soul,

Should venal C___ts, the scandal of the land,

Snatch the relentless villain from her Hand

Keen execrations on this plate inscrib’d

Shall reach a Judge who never can be brib’d.

 

Despite the diametrically opposed versions the incident that we know of as the Boston Massacre, the soldiers involved in the incident were given a fair hearing. John Adams, member of the Sons of Liberty, actually represented the soldiers and was paid eighteen guineas for his work. Several of the soldiers were acquitted, and two were convicted of manslaughter rather than murder. You can also read John Adams’ speech to the jury by clicking on the above link.    

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