The eruption that broke out on March 5, 1770, was really a clash of two differing opinions. On one side was a number of American colonists that had had enough of King George III and his sudden attempt to gain revenue for Britain by heavily taxing the colonies that he had all but neglected for the majority of their existence. On the other side were British soldiers, loyal to the Crown, who had been sent over to the colonies to put down those that were rising up against the King. After all, the colonies existed for the purpose of bettering the mother country, and Britain was in need of money after fighting the Seven Years War (also known as the French and Indian War). On March 5th, a group of Bostonians, irritated with the British soldiers guarding the Boston Customs House, decided to throw debris at them. Understandably agitated with what had occurred, the soldiers proceeded to fire at the crowd of colonists. Five colonists were killed, and news of the event spread like wildfire in the days following. Paul Revere printed Henry Pelham’s image of the clash and titled it “The Bloody Massacre”.
Looking at the facts that historians have collected surrounding the event in 1770, it’s clear that it was not a “massacre” in any way. However, this exhibit looks at Pelham’s famous image along with newsaper articles and other art portraying the Boston Massacre, and pushes us to consider how multiple people can experience the same exact event and yet take away something completely different from it. As human beings with our own experiences, it’s impossible for us to look at an occurrence with total objectivity. Therefore, this leads us as historians to question what agenda the artist or writer had and what kind of reaction he was attempting to pull from the public. And furthermore, what did it mean in the 1700s to bring people information about something that happened when there was no modern technology to instantly capture the event?
This exhibit was created by Diana Rogatch, Kimberlee Gonsalves-Laro, Thalia Rivera, and Samir Mahat for Professor Pat Reeves' class, Gateway to the Past: The Historian's Practice (HST 200), Fall 2014, Suffolk University.