|Timeline of United States History|
Every fire needs a spark to light it. Many say that the conflagration that became the American Revolution in 1775 started with the Boston Massacre in March 1770. However, the Boston Massacre had its own spark. That spark flashed on February 26, 1770 during the funeral procession for young Christopher Seider, killed by two bullets fired from a musket held by British Loyalist Ebenezer Richardson four days earlier. Richardson had fired on a mob that formed to protest his friend's role in importing goods from England that Boston merchants had agreed to boycott. Furor over the Townsend Acts of 1787 was reaching a head.
The Townsend Acts
The Townsend Acts take their name from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Townsend. At Townsend's urging, Parliament passed these acts during the years 1765 through 1767. The two most objectionable to the Americans were the Quartering Act and the Townsend Duty Act. The Townsend Acts of 1767 had imposed taxes on many important items imported from Britain, including paper, paint, lead, glass, and tea. Many colonists considered these taxes unlawful because the American colonies had no representation in Parliament and believed that body had no right to tax them. The duties met with widespread resistance. Parliament repealed all the taxes except the one on tea in 1770, but by that time, the Colonies were inflamed almost beyond reconciliation.
Boston merchants banded together to form a boycott of the taxed items. The boycott took effect on January 1, 1769. Some merchants in the city did not join the boycott and continued importing goods. At another meeting in October 1769, four merchants were identified as importers, John Bernard, Theophilus Lillie, John Mein and James McMasters. These men, exposed publicly, became the subject of derision. In late February 1770 some parties placed signs with the word, "Importer" written on them in front of the businesses. The sign placed in front of Theophilus Lillie's business was fated to create the spark. Ebenezer Richardson became the man that struck it.
Ebenezer Richardson (March 31, 1718 - ?)
Ebenezer Richardson was Theophilus Lillie's friend. He had noted the sign in front of his friends business and tried to induce a passing teamster to knock it down with his cart. The teamster refused. A crowd began gathering and the crowd soon became a mob, hurling rocks and insults at Richardson and Lillie. A thrown rock hit Richardson in the head. He fled to his home with the mob following him. The mob continued throwing rocks and bricks at his house, breaking windows. Richardson grabbed a musket and ascended to a second story window that had been broken out by a thrown rock. He loaded the musket and fired several random shots into the crowd, to scare it off and disperse it. Two of the bullets struck eleven year old Christopher Seider. The boy died hours later.
The Funeral Procession
On February 22, local patriots like Samuel Adams had worked to use the incident to incite furor against the British. By the time Christopher Seider's funeral procession took place, the incident had enraged Bostonians. A crowd of almost two thousand people accompanied Seider to his grave in Granary Burying Ground. Adams declared Christopher to be "the first martyr to American liberty." There would be more. A few days later, another angry mob, incensed over the murder of young Christopher Seider, gathered around some British soldiers. The seeds of the Boston Massacre would soon sprout flames.
Timeline of United States History