Massacre or Riot: What Say Ye?

Revere's engraving of Boston Massacre

Activity Three
There had been problems between many of Boston's workers and the British troops, such as the brawl at Gray' ropeworks. Apprentices were used to seeing their masters short-changed by British officers who often did not pay their bills, and who showed little respect toward masters and their apprentices. Sailors and others whose lives were connected to the sea and the bustling port of Boston were confronted by British sailors and soldiers enforcing British colonial trade policy. Even worse, some colonists were subjected to impressments; the hated British practice of taking Americans and making them work on British naval vessels. The British navy was frequently seeking replacement sailors because desertion was high due to harsh working conditions and poor pay. Laborers in Boston faced competition for jobs from British soldiers, also poorly paid and harshly treated, who looked for work on their time off. With tensions mounting between the British and the Patriots, combined with the British practice of quartering troops, a light was about to be set to a powder keg.
In the afternoon of March 5, 1770 British soldiers posted a handbill to the Town of Boston informing the rebellious people of Boston that they were determined to join together and defend themselves against all opponents. Examine it. (Click on image to enlarge.)


image courtesy of the Boston Public Library
Why do you think it was created?
How do you think the citizens of Boston felt?
What might have happened just before the handbill's appearance and just after?

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