How Did the Colonists React to the Boston Massacre?

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After the Boston Massacre, colonists were largely outraged at what they saw as a vicious attack on unarmed civilians. Supporters of the Patriot movement were quick to capitalize on this, and they released engravings and written accounts of the incident designed to portray the British soldiers in the most negative light possible. The incident was regularly cited in the years between the massacre and the War of Independence.

Patriots, in order to further inflame sentiment against the British, began celebrating “Massacre Day” on the date of the attack every year. Christopher Monk, a young boy wounded in the attack, was a regular fixture at these events. He was regularly asked to show off his wounds to the spectators. The attack helped shift a number of moderates into the camp of independence by painting the British as murderous at worst and callously indifferent to the colonists’ lives at best.

Not every colonist was inflamed, however. Many of the residents of Boston viewed the massacre as an unfortunate incident caused by a provocative mob. They credited British restraint with the fact that there were not significantly more casualties. The local community remained quiet after the funerals of those killed, even while the Patriot groups were using the massacre to drum up support for independence.