Day By Day

Friday, March 05, 2010

This Day In History

Today is "Employee Appreciation Day". So if you have employees try to show them that they are appreciated. If you are self-employed, pat yourself on the back and say "Good job!" If you are in neither situation, just go ahead and appreciate yourself for all the wonderful things you are.

On this day in 1770 tensions were running high in Boston. Two years earlier the British Parliament, in an attempt to raise revenues to pay the expenses of maintaining colonies in North America, had passed a series of laws collectively called the "Townshend Acts" which established duties on a number of imports into the colonies and directed those revenues to paying the salaries of British officials in the colonies. The unpopularity of these taxes led to protests and attempts to intimidate and even injure customs officials charged with collecting them. In response the British government decided to get tough on Boston, which was a center of protest -- they sent in the British army.

The arrival of British troops in the Fall on 1768 only made things worse and so, after several months, the British removed all but two regiments. That hardly solved things and confrontations between British soldiers and colonials continued. Then on March 5, 1770 the long-simmering tension exploded into open violence.

Early in the evening an altercation broke out between an apprentice wig-maker and a British officer. The issue was whether or not the officer had paid for a wig he had received [he had]. When the apprentice and his friends began to throw snowballs at the officer a sentry posted at the nearby customs house entered the fray, striking the apprentice with his musket. This attracted the attention of passers-by and soon a crowd assembled. As the disturbance escalated a relief column of troops was sent to the customs house.

This did nothing to quell the confrontation. Soon a crowd of several hundred civilians surrounded the troops and began pelting them with anything they could find to throw. One soldier was clubbed to the ground and, when he got back on his feet, he called upon his comrades to fire on the rioters. The crowd responded by chanting "Fire, Fire, Fire!" In the confusion the soldiers did loose a volley, wounding eleven of the rioters and killing five. This was the Boston Massacre, a major incident inflaming passions throughout the colonies in the runup to the American Revolution.

In the aftermath of the massacre patriots made good propaganda use of the incident. The British government responded by publicly trying some of the soldiers and their commander for murder. You can read about the massacre and trial here.

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