On this day in 1770, British Army soldiers open fire on a mob of unruly colonists, killing five, wounding three and placing the Boston Massacre into the historical lexicon. The incident was heavily publicized by leading Patriots, such as Paul Revere and Samuel Adams, to further encourage rebellion against British authorities. Such cunning stirred both sophisticated aspirations and common resentments coming to full bloody flower at Lexington and Concord five years later.
British troops had been stationed in Boston, capital of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, since 1768 in order to protect and support crown-appointed colonial officials attempting to enforce unpopular Parliamentary legislation. Amid ongoing tense relations between the population and the soldiers, on the chilly eve of March 5, a mob formed around a British sentry, who was subjected to verbal abuse and harassment.
As the hostile taunts escalated, the sentry was eventually supported by eight additional soldiers, who were taunted with verbal threats and repeatedly hit by clubs, stones and snowballs. Without orders, the British contingent fired a volley into the crowd, instantly killing three; among these, Crispus Attucks was the first to fall, thus making a man of color the first casualty of the American Revolution.
Eight soldiers, one officer, and four civilians were arrested and charged with murder. Six of the soldiers were acquitted, while the other two were convicted of manslaughter and given reduced sentences; these men were sentenced to branding on their hand. As a final irony, the Brits were defended by patriot firebrand and future President John Adams, indelibly engraving the principle of due process into the wiser amalgams of the American DNA.