Free Research Paper On Boston Massacre, 1770
Primary sources that offer information about an historical event are often treated with a degree of trust. However, even primary sources can be portrayed in a way that serves its intended purpose. More importantly, the theme of biasness prevails when these primary sources are exhaustively evaluated. The Boston Massacre is a significant event in the history of America. In the 1760s, tension was high between the colonist and British loyalists. The lack of representation in Parliament and the high taxes imposed on the colonists emerged as the source of the resentment. In fact, 4,000 British troops had been sent to Boston by 1768 against a population of 20,000 inhabitants. However, on March 5, 1770, the tension led to a tragic conformation between the colonists and the British soldiers. As result, three colonists died on the spot while two others succumbed to the fatal injuries (Avdellas, 2013). This event has had various conflicting accounts of what transpired on this night. In this discussion, the biasness portrayed by the primary sources will be addressed, as well as the purpose of the sources and their reliability.
1. “The Bloody Massacre in King-Street, March 5, 1770.” (Engraving)
Historians regard this engraving as one of the significant documents of the pre-revolutionary period. However, the purpose of the document was that it would be used as a propaganda piece (Holypark Media 2007). The event happened during the colonial period when the Americans were still under the British. Pressure was high on the American people to revolt the colonial imposition of the British in their bid to gain their independence. As such, Revere used this engraving as a channel through which the other Americans who were comfortable with the presence of the British in their land to have a negative view of the British. By depicting the Americans in Boston as the victims and the British soldiers as the oppressors, the engraving would achieve its intended purpose of rallying up the Americans against the British colony and the eventual independence. In essence, the engraving was created for the American public, big audience because it was featured in the ‘Boston Gazette’.
Revere is biased in depicting this event in several ways. First, he intentionally uses a dog in his engraving so that the event the colonist can be perceived as the victims in the event. The engraving depicts the British soldiers to be shooting their rifles towards the colonists while the dog is spared. As such, Revere is demonstrating that the British soldiers treated the colonist in a more devastating manner as compared to the treatment the dogs received. Also, Revere depicts the colonist to be full of horror and panic, which is often associated with those people who are innocent and calm. On the other hand, the soldiers are depicted o have determined and cold looks as they point their rifles to the crowd of colonists (Holypark Media 2007). This disparity intensifies Revere’s biasness in describing the innocence of the colonists against the cruel and inhumane characteristics of the British soldiers.
However, the source is reliable because it depicts three colonists in fatal conditions, which is in line with the information from other sources on the event. All the sources on the event concur that three civilians died on the spot while two others succumbed to the injuries. This significant information is the ground for justifying the reliability of this engraving.
2. “The Bloody Massacre in King-Street, March 5, 1770.” (Poem)
Besides, the engraving, Revere wrote a poem to emphasize his sentiments in the event further. Similar to the engraving, the poem would serve as a propaganda piece to enable the American public pool their efforts against the British colony. Given this, the poem was intended for a large audience, American Public, with the aim of creating a negative attitude towards the British. It was featured in the ‘Boston Gazette’ magazine, as well.
Revere is biased in the manner that he depicts the event through the poem. He says, “With murd'rous Rancor stretch their bloody Hands” (Kellogg, 1919, p. 383). This excerpt from the poem rounds up the biasness against the British soldiers as depicted by Revere in the sense that they are labeled as murderous. Besides, the use of the word “rancor” in his poem demonstrated that the British soldiers were up to no good; rather, they enjoyed oppressing the colonists. Furthermore, the phrase “bloody hands” meant that the British soldiers were brutal even in the past, and this tragic event was not in isolation. To laud the innocence of the colonists, Revere says that: “If speechless Sorrows lab'ring for a Tongue” (p. 383). In essence, he is portraying the colonists to be impeccant and that the British soldiers were capitalizing on their innocence. Furthermore, Revere recognizes the names of the colonists who were died as a consequence of this event, while he overlooks the saliency of naming the British soldiers who were hurt in the course of the event.
The poem is not reliable as a source of this event because of the conflicting assertions. Revere asserts that upon trial, Captain Preston will face the wrath of the law. However, the trials turned in favor of Captain Preston, who was acquitted of the allegation of giving orders for the killings and personally shooting from a window in the Customhouse. In fact, it was ascertained that he did not give the orders for the shooting (The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1954). As such, the reliability of this source is justified.
3. An excerpt from Diary and Autobiography of John Adams (Diary and Autobiography)
The Autobiography of John Adams represents a respective narration of his past life. His experiences as a youth and while serving in the purview of law are highlighted in the autobiography. However, Adams is specific in his autobiography on his intended audience. He says that rather than writing for a broad public audience, he purposes to have his children as his sole audience (The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1954).
Being a defense attorney for the British soldiers and Captain Preston, Adams’s excerpt on the event is biased. Adams argues that if the British soldiers were to be issued with death sentences following the incident, the barbaric nature of the ancient America time would be portrayed. He likens the British soldiers to ‘Quakers’ (The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1954, “About the Autobiography”), which was a Christian sect in the ancient times. As such, Adams describes the British soldiers as innocent people who had the right motive and that the incident was a mistake on the side of the colonists. In the excerpt, he does not condemn the actions of the soldiers since he regards these actions as a defense mechanism. In other words, the victims who died during the incident deserved it because they posed a greater degree of danger to the soldiers. He reinforces this sentiment by saying “As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right” (The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1954). Adams was playing his role as a defense jury, and it was logical for him to defend his clients in order to triumph upon the issuing of the verdict.
This primary source of the incident is reliable because the information within is in line with the assertions in other sources. Adams points out that the jury acquitted the British soldiers of their alleged crimes. Indeed, Captain Preston and other British soldiers accused of manslaughter during the incident were exculpated, according to the other sources on the event (The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1954). Given this, the up-to-dateness of this primary source presents its reliability.
4. The Boston Massacre (News Paper Article)
The article in the Boston Gazette was intended for a large audience because newspapers emerge as one of the major sources of information for the general public. In this sense, this article was meant to give insight on the unfolding of events during the tragic incident. Moreover, being a featured in a Boston-based newspaper, the intention of the article was to give a perspective that favors the colonists who were involved in the incident.
The purpose of a given source dictates the side that it will be biased on. This article presents several forms of biasness against the British soldiers. The article depicts the colonists as the victims by rendering the actions of the soldiers as abusive, as well as emphasizing on the wounding. The author does present the side of the British Soldiers in his analysis; rather, the British soldiers are condemned for the vengeance role they played after a young lad was attacked British soldier, and the colonists came to help and outweighed the soldier. As such, the incident would not have happened were it not he soldier who assaulted the young lad. Through such a depiction, the author tries to suggest that whereas the colonist were innocent and calm, the British took advantage of their power and oppressed them. Further, the author asserts that the British soldiers shot into the crowd of colonists following a command from Captain Preston (Hughes, 2015). The article justifies the assault on the sentry by the colonists as a good deed since they were helping the young lad who had been attacked without considering the consequence of this action on the soldiers himself.
This newspaper article is not reliable because it greatly varies with the assertions of other primary sources on incident. The article asserts that the shooting orders were given by Captain Preston; however, after the trial, it is established that this was not the case, and the Preston was even acquitted of all he charges against him (The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1954). Given this, the reliability of this source is hampered.
Avdellas, L. (2013). The Boston Massacre: You be the judge! Everyday Americans Exceptional
Americans. Retrieved from http://chnm.gmu.edu/tah-loudoun/blog/lessons/the-boston-massacre-you-be-the-judge/
Holypark Media. (2007). Boston Massacre Engraving by Paul Revere. Paul Revere Heritage
Project. Retrieved from http://www.paul-revere-heritage.com/boston-massacre-engraving.html
Hughes, T. (2015). The Boston Massacre: The Definitive Report in a London newspaper. Rare &
early Newspapers. Retrieved from http://www.rarenewspapers.com/view/569662?acl=781008561
Kellogg, L.P. (1918). The Paul Revere Print of the Boston Massacre. Madison, Wisconsin: The
Wisconsin Magazine of History.
The Massachusetts Historical Society. (1954). About the Autobiography of John Adams. Adams
Family Papers. Retrieved from http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/archive/autobio/.