BOSTON MASSACRE (1770). The Boston Massacre, a pivotal event of the Revolutionary Era, grew out of Great Britain's attempts after the Seven Years' War to tighten control over its North American colonies and to defray the enormous costs associated with them. After customs officials complained about unruly colonists, and cabinet members concluded that the frontier constabulary was ineffective and too expensive, the Crown redirected troops from the interior to the seaboard, with two regiments stationed among captious Bostonians. Rather than stifling dissent, the soldiers' arrival in October 1768 increased tensions. Soldiers and civilians maintained a strained but generally peaceful relationship until 5 March 1770, when nervous redcoats fired into a threatening crowd. Five townspeople died, and in prints and orations they were eulogized as martyrs to British tyranny.
Even though General Thomas Gage removed the troops from Boston and a local jury acquitted all but two of the soldiers involved, the consequences proved significant. The "massacre" embarrassed the British ministry, heightened colonial resentment, and galvanized a growing anti-army sentiment in America. To many colonists, the episode proved the tyrannical designs of the British ministry, the corrupting influence of standing armies, and the ever-present danger that free governments could succumb to tyranny--themes repeated in annual "massacre orations." Pro-British Loyalists, on the other hand, contended that scheming radicals, not abusive officials, had provoked the incident.