The Boston Massacre




This period in American history is one that is labeled as a time of change. Change for the American people as a whole and a change in the control of the British government. From the time of the first voyages across the Atlantic to the beginning of the quest for independence, people in this land were, even sometimes unconsciously, beginning to gain a sense of self-motivation and loyalty to those around them that had accompanied them into this New World. The people had gained almost a new identity; one that strayed drastically from the places in which they had came from. This feeling is one that could be labeled as American Patriotism. This patriotism would make these people eventually stand up for what they believed to be an injustice done unto them by a higher power and make them fight for their right to live freely in the way that best suited them. Not in a way that best suited the King of England some thousand miles away.
The events that led up to the American Revolution are all said to have sparked the Colonists into battle in one way or another. Many events had greater significance than others; one such event would be the Boston Massacre. The Boston Massacre was in some ways a turning point in the minds of the American colonists in their thoughts on the British. But why was the Boston Massacre such a turning point for the Colonists? To answer this question one must look at the events that lead to the Boston Massacre to fully understand the state of mind that the colonists were in.
Since the end of the Seven Years War against the French, the British had gone into a great burden of debt. England finally confronted the matter when it appointed George Greenville to Prime Minister in 1763. Facing a debt that had nearly doubled since 1754, from 73 million pounds to 137 million pounds, Greenville had to find new ways to gain funds without taxing the already heavily taxed English people.1 Greenville assessed the situation and determined that since the colonists had been a major beneficiary of the war time expenditures that the Americans should be the ones to pay a greater share of the cost for running the empire.2 The question did not dawn on Greenville to think about the justice of taxing the Colonists. Greenville created and proposed a couple of different laws that were designed to tax the Colonists in order for Parliament to gain funds.
The first act that was passed by the British Government was the Sugar Act. This act, passed by parliament in 1764, laid down tariffs on certain imports such as molasses and sugar. This alarmed the Colonists. It was the first act that was specifically designed to raise taxes, not just to channel trade through Britain. The Sugar Act was imposed on the colonists during a time of postwar depression.3 This made the Colonist even more worried and aware of Britain's impending power over them.
The next act that Britain imposed over the Colonist was the Stamp Act. This act required stamp taxes to be put on most legal documents and printed material. Colonists had to pay the tax if they wanted to buy a newspaper or even needed a will drawn up. Taxes were even charged to those who bought things such as playing cards and paper. This act hurt many colonists. The heaviest burden though fell on businessmen who used more legal documents than most ordinary people. "Never before had a revenue measure of such scope been proposed for the colonies. The act also required that tax stamps be paid in sterling, which was scarce."4 The Stamp Act immediately fell under close scrutiny of the Colonists. One of the more notable pamphlets protesting the Stamp Act was, The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved, written by James Otis Jr., an attorney from Massachusetts. This pamphlet looked at the ideas of James Otis Jr. and stated his thoughts that Americans were "entitled to all the natural, essential, inherent, and inseparable rights" that the British people had, including the right not to be taxed without consent. Otis also stated along with many other people in the colonies during that time that Parliament should not be