Propaganda of the Boston Massacre

By: Emma Warr

The Boston Massacre

The Boston Massacre took place in Boston, Massachusetts on March 5, 1770, at around nine in the evening. From the name, most would assume that the Boston Massacre was a blood bath in the streets. But in reality it was more or less a riot between angry colonists and defensive Brits. Its hard to believe, but only five people died.

The Boston Massacre happened because of the Townshed Acts. The Townshend Acts were placed on the colonies by British Parliament (sort of their government), to tax common items imported to the colonies. Some of these items include tea, paper, paint, and lead. These Acts were the result of the colonists boycotting and ignoring the other British acts such as the Sugar Act.

The Boston Massacre was actually started by colonists taunting the British by throwing snowballs at them. Colonists walking through the streets saw this and joined in.The British, trying to calm the colonists down, were in a sense, pinned up against the side of a building as the angry mob closed in on them.

But, you have to remember the odds of that night. You have roughly 10 maybe 20, trained Redcoats armed with muskets and probably one hundred or more furious Americans fighting with sword, clubs, and the weapon of choice, bare hands. Trying to keep the peace and feeling threatened, the British fired and the colonists fought back.

The riot ended and five lay dead in the streets.

The Propaganda

Propaganda is information that is biased and misleading to exaggerate someone's point of view. A lot of the Boston Massacre is propaganda. Witnesses of the event made up a lot of false, inaccurate information to prove their point to others, that what the British are doing is terrible to the colonies and its people.

Some of the propaganda of the Boston Massacre:
  • In the picture below, you see Paul Revere's sketch of the "Bloody Massacre." He exaggerated many of the features of this picture because he wanted the colonies to be noticed for what the British were doing to them. If he makes the British look meaner than they really are, more people could potentially side with the colonists. And what happens next? The more people that can be on the colonists side, the more they have against the British.
  • In the same picture you also will notice a British commander with a sword above his head. By placing the commander in the certain position of the sketch, he looks as if to be yelling, "Fire!" to the British troops-or at least that's what many interpreted about the drawing.
  • Some of the colonists indeed had weapons such as clubs, swords and anything else they could find. But by showing none of that in the sketch, it makes the colonists look more innocent than they really are. When people are innocent and have a good reason why, others will defend them. This is the exact attention the colonists were intending to draw with the commotion of the massacre.
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  • Another piece of propaganda from the Boston Massacre was that it was the event that triggered the Revolutionary War. In fact, many events involving hatred towards the British resulted in the Revolutionary War; a fight for American freedom. Some other events include the Stamp, Sugar, Townshed, and Quarter Acts, as well as the Boston Tea Party, boycotting, and other duties (taxes).
  • After the Boston Massacre, John Adams- a lawyer, later spoke in court to defend the British soldiers. Most saw this as a loyalist act and disapproved the act by Adams. But actually, Adams did this because if the British shared the truth of the Boston Massacre while in trial, the colonists would be seen as the evil and the Brits, as heroes. This would've greatly impacted later events in the colonies.
  • One of the people who died in the Boston Massacre was Crispus Attucks. In the picture above, no one on the colonist side appears to be colored. This was because the New England and Southern Colonies had different opinions on slavery. And if news about the Boston Massacre spread down South, there could be more issues with the colonies between race.
  • In the drawing the British look to have in fact been attacking the colonists, when in reality, the colonists were attacking them. Why did Revere do this? To attract attention towards the "menacing" British soldiers.
  • Attention was also the explanation to another piece of incorrect information portrayed by the sketch. From the image it is hard to tell that it was snowing. In fact, it is nearly impossible. The colonists interrogated the British by throwing snow and ice at them. At many trails of the British soldiers, the judges have no accurate way of knowing that snow was pelted at the soldiers. Paul Revere's artwork could've been used as evidence in the trials that there was no snow and the British were lying.

Important People of the Boston Massacre

Why Was Propaganda Used?

Propaganda was used frequently in this time period because the colonists thought if news spread that the British were evil that they would have more people on their side to fight back against the unruly taxes and acts placed on the colonists. So, by adding dramatic effects to the events that took place, more and more people were mislead into thinking the British were ruthless soldiers. If I lived in this time, I would think that the colonists are really brave and tough to fight back against the most powerful army in the world (of that time). If you think about it, propaganda is a very destructive thing. It can change the minds of many by just over exaggerating something.

My Reaction

I think if propaganda wasn't used to spread the word of the Boston Massacre, what we read in our history books wouldn't be the same. It was very clever of the colonists to use propaganda to show everyone how unfairly they were being treated by the British. Its so amazing to read about our country back then and how much has changed. I mean, the British are allies to us and we now have taxes that seem to just steal the money out of our wallets. Though a lot has changed to our country, I still think that the way we react to government changes is certainly similar. Today, there are still gangs fighting back against laws and opinions of others. The Boston Massacre was a pretty crazy reaction the British control and decisions over the colonies.

Fun Fact

The Boston Massacre was also known as the "Bloody Massacre," from Paul Revere's picture and the "State Street Massacre," in the early 1800s.


Boston Massacre: An incident in 1770, where British troops fired at the colonists, killing five.
Townshend Acts:
Passed by Parliament in 1767, the Townshend Acts placed taxes on imports to the colonies.
The main government-like body of the British.
The act in which the colonists refused buying British goods.
Sugar Act:
A law passed by Parliament that taxed on sugar, molasses and other imported British goods.
Information that is usually biased or misleading to enhance a topic.
Loyalist: Someone in the colonies who sided with the British and King George III.