Pretty much everybody has heard of the Boston Massacre. Even if one doesn’t know all the details, almost anyone can put enough facts together to get the gist of the story. Way back in 2008, when Today’s History Lesson was newborn, my good friend Michael covered the Boston Massacre. I don’t feel any real need to add to his very good synopsis, but let’s take a couple minutes and cover a related issue.
The Fifth Anniversary of the Boston Massacre.
March 5, 1775 was the date and the Old South Meeting House was the venue. The gathering included, of course, Samuel Adams and John Hancock. There were several men that spoke, including Hancock and Benjamin Church. They were followed by Dr. Joseph Warren, wearing a white toga (reminiscent of the orators in the ancient Roman Senate). He spoke of the Pilgrims leaving Europe, comparing it to Noah’s year in the ark, leaving a sin-stained world for a fresh, new existence. He talked about Britain’s committment to its taxation of the Colonies.
But Warren’s most colorful language was spared for the memories of those killed on that fateful day five years earlier, and Ira Stoll records it in his biography of Samuel Adams. “Take heed, ye orphan babes, lest, whilst your streaming eyes are fixed upon the ghastly corpse, your feet glide on the stones bespattered with your father’s brains. . . . We wildly stare about, and with amazement ask, who spread this ruin round us? what wretch has dared deface the image of his God? has haughty France, or cruel Spain, sent forth her myrmidons? has the grim savage rused again from the far distant wilderness? or does some fiend, fierce from the depth of hell, with all the rancorous malice, which the apostate damned can feel, twang her destructive bow, and hurl her deadly arrows at our breast? no, none of these; but, how astonishing! It is the hand of Britain that inflicts the wound.”
Warren’s goal of winding up those gathered was achieved. But more than that, the British officers that were present (and seated towards the front) also got excited, but for entirely different reasons. As he finished, Samuel Adams told those assembled to return the following year to again commemorate the bloody massacre.
And it was the word “bloody” that set the officers off. A bit of a melee ensued, and some report that Adams was challenged to a duel. Others report that Adams accepted. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and a second Boston Massacre was avoided…barely.
But there is little doubt that Colonists like Church, Adams, and Hancock left the Meeting House with big British targets on their backs. And you could add Joseph Warren to the list as well. He joined the Massachusetts militia, but his Revolution (and his life) ended just three months later when he was killed at Bunker Hill.
Recommended Reading: Samuel Adams: A Life