The Age of George III

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The Boston Massacre: 5 March 1770

The first British troops arrived in Boston in October 1768 and from then onwards there was continuous antagonism between the people of Boston and the soldiers. The local people did all they could to prevent quarters being found for the troops and the newspapers printed accounts of the 'atrocities' committed by the soldiers on the Bostonians. British officers made every effort to prevent trouble but minor conflicts were unavoidable.

The clashes came to a head in the spring of 1770. For several days, fighting between groups of Bostonians and soldiers had been almost continuous, then on 5 March the 'massacre' occurred. The evidence as to exactly what happened is completely contradictory: the only thing that the various accounts agree on is that the event took place on 5 March 1770 and several people were killed.

The danger of open warfare was averted by the Governor Thomas Hutchinson. Captain Preston and some of the soldiers were arrested and held for trial; the two regiments were removed to Castle William - an old fort on an island in Boston harbour. The popular leaders demanded that the soldiers be tried immediately but Hutchinson delayed the trials until October. John Adams acted as defence counsel for the British troops. Captain Preston and six of the soldiers were acquitted; two were convicted of manslaughter.

Two separate accounts of the events of 5 March are given: the first is from the Boston Gazett and Country Journal of 12 March; the second is Captain Preston's account of the events of that night. Readers will note that the accounts bear little resemblance to each other.

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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