Debating the Issues in Colonial Newspapers: Primary Documents on Events of the Period

By David A. Copeland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 21
The Boston Massacre, 1770

The crisis created by the Stamp Act in America (see Chapter 16) never really subsided, at least not in Boston. The riots that accompanied that act were remembered annually. The British government added to the resentment in 1767 with the passage of the Townshend Acts, which placed duties on lead, tea, paint, paper, and glass; Americans would have to pay tax on any of these items imported from the mother country. During the month-long August 1768 anniversary of the Stamp Act riots, some Boston merchants proposed an agreement among all Boston merchants not to import any goods from England (see Chapter 20). Anti- British sentiment in Boston was so high that Governor Francis Bernard secretly requested that British troops be stationed in the city.

British troops had been living in New York since 1766 as part of the Quartering Act, which authorized the housing of troops in a town instead of in barracks, but in the year and a half before the Boston Massacre, on March 5, 1770, the troops stationed in Boston became the butt of the jokes and jeers of Americans. Adolescents and adults often taunted the soldiers, and the soldiers, likewise, resented their assignments and the "inferior" Americans. Newspaper articles reacted to the quartering of troops in Boston, and intimated that mob violence was the probable end of such an action. "Among a certain Set of People," a writer to the Boston Gazette warned, "I have observed that Mobs are represented as most hideous Things. I confess they ought not to be encouraged; but they have been sometimes useful. In a free Country I am afraid a standing Army rather occasions than prevent them."1

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