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5.5.5 The bloody massacre perpetrated in King Street Boston on March 5th 1770 by a party of the 29th Regt.

Revere, Paul
Library of Congress

The bloody massacre perpetrated in King Street Boston on March 5th 1770 by a party of the 29th Regt., Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Paul Revere, a Son of Liberty, created this engraving to commemorate an event on March 5, 1770, that became known as the Boston Massacre. British soldiers were stationed in Boston, and many Americans were upset that they had armed soldiers on their streets, often competing with local men for jobs. On the day that violence broke out, American colonists had gathered in protest in front of this customs house. It was unclear who fired the first shot; however, five men died and six were injured in what Americans named the Boston Massacre. Look closely at this image. What is happening? How does each side appear to be dressed and organized? What message does it give us about the American colonists and the British? This image is considered propaganda, the spreading of information (often biased) to support a specific cause. If you were an American colonist and saw this image, would you think of rebelling against the British? How was it an effective form of propaganda for Paul Revere to label the event a “massacre” above this image?

This image was created not as a representation of events in Boston, but rather as a propaganda image to be disseminated in the American public sphere. Students can start by considering what message the title gives the reader and how this is exemplified in the image. While the events of the evening were contested, it is clear that the depiction in this image was not accurate. The image suggests that the British were organized in an orderly line, aggressively firing at the Bostonians. The Bostonians are depicted as scared, running away, and bloody. In reality, it was known that there was confusion on both sides of the event and that the riot was initiated by American protesters. Three died at the scene — Crispus Attucks (a free black man), Samuel Gray, and James Caldwell — and two men died later from their wounds. The Sons of Liberty spread information about the Boston Massacre through this engraving. Ask your students to connect this event and its promotion of anti-British sentiment in the colonies to the broader question, Why did colonists start to rebel?

The Bloody Massacre perpetuated in King Street
Unhappy Boston! see thy Sons deplore,
Thy hallow'd Walks besmear'd with guiltless Gore:
While faithless P—n and his savage Bands,
With murd'rous Rancour stretch their bloody HANDS;
Like fierce Barbarians grinning o'er their Prey,
Approve the Carnage and enjoy the Day.
If scalding drops from Rage from Anguish Wrung
If speechless Sorrows lab'ring for a Tongue.
Or if a weeping World can ought appease
The plaintive Ghosts of Victims such as these;
A glorious Tribute which embalms the Dead.
But know, FATE Summons to that awful Goal.
Where JUSTICE strips the Murd'rer of his Soul:
Should Venal C—ts the scandal of the Land,
Snatch the relentless Villain from her Hand,
Keen Execrations on this Plate inscrib'd,
Shall reach a JUDGE who never can be brib'd.
Killed. Six wounded; two of them (CHRISTR MONK & JOHN CLARK) Mortally

Published in 1770 by Paul Revere