“We are fallen into the most unhappy times when even innocence itself is nowhere safe!” The Boston Gazette published this quote about the British Occupation of Boston in February 1770. The people of Boston were quite unhappy with the constant view of British soldiers sent to Boston to enforce the Townsend Acts passed by the British Parliament in order to recover money lost fighting the Seven Years War (French & Indian War) to protect British interests in the American Colonies.
On the evening of March 5, 1770, Bostonians began to throw snowballs, ice, and rocks at a sentry outside the British 29th Regiment Garrison near the State House building. Captain Preston, the troop’s commander ordered 3 more soldiers to go an reinforce the sentry post. The reinforcement soldiers were then attacked much the same as the sentry had been, causing Preston to send several more soldiers to assist, and he himself joined the line. The crowd of Bostonians began to chant “fire and be damned,” Prompting Captain Preston to tell the troops to hold their fire multiple times. In the confusion and loud chanting for the crowd, the soldiers shot and killed two Bostonians immediately, three more would die of their injuries a short time later, six others sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
Bostonians gathered and demanded the removal of British troops from Boston, They also demanded that Preston and the soldiers be placed on trial in Boston. Captain Preston and the soldiers were granted attorneys John Adams (who would become the second President of the United States) and Josiah Quincy II, the two would defend and guarantee a fair trial for the British Soldiers. Preston and the soldiers would all be acquitted, raising the ire of the colonists despite the fact that the Preston and the soldiers had been proven innocent. The Boston Massacre would become a rallying cry for the revolutionary cause. John Adams who was a supporter of the Revolutionary case would receive threats and distrust from Bostonians for some time after the incident.
“On that night the formation of American independence was laid… Not the battle of Lexington or Bunker Hill, not the surrender of Burgoyne or Cornwallis were more important events in American history than the battle of King Street on March 5th 1770.” – John Adams (speaking of the massacre)