The Boston Massacre, 5 March (1770) Background

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The Boston Massacre, 5 March (1770)


These pictures show two different representations of the same event. The Boston Massacre, called the Boston Riot by the English, was an incident on March 5, 1770, in which British redcoats killed five civilian men. British troops had been stationed in Boston since 1768 in order to protect and support crown-appointed colonial officials attempting to enforce unpopular Parliamentary legislation. Amid ongoing tense relations between the population and the soldiers, a mob formed around a British sentry, who was subjected to verbal abuse and harassment. He was eventually supported by a small company of troops, who were assaulted by verbal threats and thrown objects. They fired into the crowd, apparently without orders, instantly killing three people and wounding others. Two more people died later of wounds sustained in the incident.

The crowd eventually dispersed after Acting Governor Thomas Hutchinson promised an inquiry, but reformed the next day, prompting the withdrawal of the troops to Castle Island. Eight soldiers were arrested and charged with murder. Defended by Patriot lawyer John Adams, six of the soldiers were acquitted, while the other two were convicted of manslaughter and given reduced sentences.
Depictions and reports of the event, notably the colored engraving produced by Paul Revere, further heightened tensions throughout the Thirteen Colonies. The event is widely viewed as foreshadowing the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War five years later.
The definition of a massacre: the unnecessary, indiscriminate killing of a large number of human beings or animals, as in barbarous warfare or persecution or for revenge or plunder, or a general slaughter, as of persons or animals: the massacre of millions during the war.
1. Based on the definition of massacre, do you think this incident could accurately be described as a massacre? Explain why or why not.

2. What is each scene trying to persuade its viewers to believe?

3. How does each scene demonstrate bias?

4. Which of the three persuasive appeals (ethical, logical, or emotional) is used the most in “The Boston Massacre”? Explain and give proof from the example.

5. Which of the three persuasive appeals (ethical, logical, or emotional) is used the most in “The Boston Riot”? Explain and give proof from the example.

Current Connections:
Study the image from the Newtown school shooting. This particular image has become one of the most published ones from the tragedy.
6. From whose point of view is this image?

7. What is this scene trying to persuade its viewers to believe? How does it do that?

8. Which persuasive technique is most evident? Explain.

9. Why do you believe this particular image was chosen? What do you believe was the media’s motive with selecting this particular image? What alternative images could have been chosen to tell the story.

Study the images from the genocide in Rwanda during the 1990s. The mass killings of the Tutsis tribes by the Hutis resulted in close to one million lives lost, or as much as 20% of Rwanda’s total population. Men, women and children were killed without regard. Bullets were expensive for the Rwandan rebels, so the majority of the murders were completed with machetes and knives.
10. Of the two images, which is the most persuasive? Explain.

11. What bias is present in the images?

12. What purpose would the media have for presenting an image of dead human beings, as shown in image B? Is this type of picture necessary to tell the story of Rwanda? Why or why not?

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