The American Revolution for Kids - Boston Massacre Illustration

The American Revolution for Kids - Boston Massacre

For Kids: By 1770, although some colonists were still loyal to the crown, many others were upset about the taxes and the troops and the disregard the British Parliament had shown for the needs of the American colonists. Jobs were lost. British troops were arrogant. And monies were tight. Taxation without representation was the cry heard everywhere. Tension was growing.

Fights often broke out between the British soldiers and the colonists. On March 5, 1770, a group of sailors threw snowballs and sticks at a group of British soldiers. Things got crazy. A club was thrown. The British felt threatened. They fired into the crowd. When it was over, five colonial men were dead, including Crispus Attucks. He was the first man to die in what would soon become the Revolutionary War. This incident was called the Boston Massacre.

The British officers involved were arrested for murder by the colonial government in Boston. The officers pleaded self-defense, and the jury agreed. They were not charged with murder. However, two British soldiers were charged with manslaughter. Their hands were branded, burned, and then they were released. To the British, that was it. It was over. To the colonists, not so much.

This incident became a propaganda tool for colonists who were unhappy with the way Britain was treating the colonists. About three weeks after the massacre, Paul Revere distributed prints from an etching he made that showed the British as the aggressors in the Boston Massacre. Paul Revere hired an artist to draw the illustration. He created the etching from the artist's drawing. It was very effective. It was also misleading. It showed the British shooting muskets into a group of innocent colonists, with clouds of smoke and bloodied bodies on the ground. There is a small dog in the front middle of the picture that appeared unharmed, perhaps to imply the British treated the colonists worse than dogs. Blown up to its actual size and in its entirety, you can see even more detail: Paul Revere image, Boston Massacre

In truth, according to witnesses at the trial of the British, it was the colonists who threw snowballs and waved sticks and swung clubs. In colonial law as well as in British law, you had the right to defend yourself if you felt yourself threatened. The British most certainly felt threatened. Still, snowballs vs. musket balls? It was a mess.

After the Boston Massacre, British Parliament repealed all taxes except the one on tea.

The colonists heaved a sign of relief. Most merchants stopped their boycott of British goods. But colonial leaders were still unhappy with the way the British were treating the colonists. They did not believe that British Parliament had the colonists best interests at heart.

Crispus Attucks

Liberty Kids: John Adams and the Boston Massacre (cartoon video)

The Boston Massacre for Kids, interactives

Quiz: Causes of the American Revolution, interactive

What came before: The Townshend Acts, 1767

What came after: The Boston Tea Party, 1773