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Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Seider’

On April 12, 1770, British Parliament repealed the Townshend Acts.  That’s Today’s History Lesson, and you’re free to go.  Enjoy your evening.

For those of you that would like a wee bit more information, you’re welcome to hang out for a couple minutes longer.

The Townshend Acts were a series of laws passed by the British in the late 1760s.  Their function (like many of the “acts” of the time) involved some form of taxation.  The British were carrying an enormous war debt and needed help paying for it.  They also maintained a sizeable military force in the Colonies, and one of its functions was (ostensibly) to protect the Colonies.  So Parliament believed that the protected citizens should help defray the costs.

The Townshend Acts included the Revenue Act of 1767, the Indemnity Act, the Commissioners of Customs Act, the Vice Admiralty Court Act, and the New York Restraining Act.  In the past, it had been notoriously difficult for the British to collect the taxes it levied against the Colonies, because people didn’t want to pay and found ways around them.  The Townshend Acts were designed to make the people kind of feel better about paying up.

The taxes from these acts were used to pay the salaries of judges and governors, the idea being that the money collected came from the Colonists, so the people in power would be independent of British rule.  Yeah, it seems a little fishy to me, too.  The money was also used to improve enforcement of other trade rules (in other words, to make sure taxes from other laws still in place were collected).  And, in the case of the New York Restraining Act, there was a bit of punishment for the response to the Quartering Act.

Like most other tax laws of the day, these were met with serious opposition.  This led to the call by local British officials for more soldiers.  This led to more unrest, and eventually the city of Boston was occupied by the British.  This led to more angst, and then there was the death of Christopher Seider which, along with the strong British presence, culminated in the Boston Massacre.

At this point, debate began on at least a partial repeal of the “revenue” parts of the Townshend Acts.  That repeal was passed a month later, on April 12th.

One interesting note as we close.  The one tax that remained was the tax on tea, and we all know how that ended up.

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Little Christopher Seider probably just wanted to play.  I will wager that, like any ten-year-old boy, he was short on attention and long on energy.  Running through town with his friends, throwing whatever he could fit in his hands, and yelling were not strange activities to him.

I can say all that because I was ten once, though it was quite a while ago.  I did all those things.  I also rode a bike, played with toys, watched a little TV, and so on.  The biggest difference between myself and Christopher Seider (besides the year in which we were ten) is that I lived to see my eleventh birthday.

Christopher Seider did not.

In fact, little Seider died on this day in history.  But his death was not just another in a long line of deaths that has plagued a world where death rates run pretty close to 100%.  This young boy lost his life at a significant time in history, and while you may not have heard of him, he was famous.

To know Christopher, you must also know Ebenezer Richardson.  Well, we can’t fully know him, because there isn’t a lot to know.  He was something of a shady character with a spotted reputation around Boston.  He was a Loyalist, which should give you a hint that we’re heading toward the time of the American Revolution.  He also was an informant to the Attorney General, giving up information about “rebel” activity in town.

February 22, 1770 was a cold, bleak, wintery Thursday that found the Boston townsfolk in an uproar about a local Loyalist merchant.  The standard action was to raise a ruckus at the shopkeeper’s home, yell a lot, throw some rocks, break a window or two, and make their point.  Ebenezer Richardson, wanting to protect a fellow Loyalist, tried to stop the mob, but they simply threw rocks at him, at least one of which hit him in the head.

So Richardson did what all too many people do when something doesn’t go their way:  get a gun and shoot somebody.  More specifically, he went to his house, grabbed his musket, and headed for the shopkeeper’s house, where the mob had gathered.  He climbed to the top of a neighboring building and…

Christopher Seider had little idea what the mob was about, but here was a chance to run down the streets of Boston and throw some rocks.  He and his friends were having a ball.  The people they were with were not only going to let them throw rocks, they were going to do it themselves.  For a ten-year-old, this was pretty exciting.  Exciting, that is, until the bullets started flying.

Richardson, in an effort to break up the mob, began firing randomly into the crowd.  He hit Christopher twice, in the chest and head, and the little boy died that evening.  Ebenezer was immediately apprehended and jailed, but later acquitted.

Needless to say, Seider’s death galvanized Bostonians against the British.  Where there used to be vocal exchanges between the two groups, there now snowballs, which became rocks and homemade spears.  The tensions rapidly reached the breaking point.

Two weeks later, the rocks and snowballs morphed into a physical group attack, as angry citizens charged into a group of British soldiers.  This most famous of events, which we know as the Boston Massacre, left another five people dead.

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