Who was at fault for the Boston massacre?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Boston Massacre involved the killing of five people by British soldiers on March 5, 1770. Before the incident, tension had escalated between colonists and the British soldiers sent to Boston to enforce British laws. One of these laws was the the Townshend Acts (which placed tariffs on imported goods).

Before the incident, a mob had collected around a British soldier, who was harassed with insults as he served as a sentry outside the Custom House. Eight other soldiers gathered to protect him, and they were also harassed and pelted with snowballs. The British soldiers fired into the crowd, killing three people instantly and wounding two others who eventually died of their wounds. One of the immediate victims was Crispus Attucks, a former slave of Wampanoag and African heritage who is regarded as the first person to have died in the American Revolution.

Paul Revere's engraving of the event did much to inflame the colonists, but the fault for the incident likely lies on both sides. The British precipitated the event by stationing hated troops in Boston and arming them, while the colonists involved in the event wanted to taunt the soldiers. While the British were armed with muskets (the colonists only had clubs and snowballs), both sides were impulsive and showed a willingness to resort to violence. 

mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several groups at fault for the Boston Massacre. Each group shared in the responsibility for what happened on the night of March 5, 1770.

The British government was at fault for sending more soldiers to Boston. They should have known how much the colonists resented their presence in the colony. Yet the British continued to send soldiers there. They also sent very young, inexperienced, and brash soldiers to Boston. The soldiers didn’t have the life experience and knowledge to de-escalate a tense situation. The British could have sent more experienced soldiers to such a volatile area.

The soldiers were at fault also. They acted very brashly and rudely toward the colonists. They acted like this because they had the weapons to back them up if needed. They also were young and cocky and may not have realized how they were inflaming a very tense situation.

The colonists were also at fault. They acted rudely toward the soldiers. They pressed closer to the Custom’s House the British were guarding. They were throwing things at the soldiers. They should not have been surprised that the soldiers responded to the threat they presented. Blame goes to many groups for the Boston Massacre.

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