Paul Revere's Etching "The Bloody Massacre": Fact or Fiction? (the Importance of Primary Sources).

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The American Revolution is one of the biggest events of American history. It resulted in the independence of those who no longer saw the queen as their ruler. What lead to the free people of the British Empire to revolt? One major turning point was the evening of March 5th, 1770 a fight between British soldiers and the townsfolk of Boston. This skirmish lead to the death and injury of civilians and the soldiers arrested for murder. However, the immortality of the Boston Massacre and growing dislike of British troops was cemented by Paul Revere’s etching. It depicted the events of March 5th in such a way that pushed people’s resentment over the edge. Through artistic manipulation, poetic technique and mass-marketing ideas Revere thrust upon the public his own agenda. Discussed in this essay will be his success and the accuracy of the etching. Despite the obvious inaccuracies of eyewitness reports, they are an easy way of comparing and contrasting multiple accounts, giving a better interpretation of what occurred. In the case of the Boston Massacre, the trials of Captain Thomas Preston and the soldiers allowed eyewitness depositions. Revere’s etching when compared to the depositions given by Preston, James Bailey and John Jeffries tell very different stories. Revere’s etching shows the soldiers as aggressive, organised, nonchalant and gleeful and the citizens of Boston, caught up in a skirmish that they could not succeed in, weaponless, hurt, dead and begging for mercy (Fig 1). Whereas, from reports given in court, throngs of people (increasing in number throughout the ordeal) surrounded the soldiers, taunting, attacking and threatening their very lives. Many citizens gave witness in defence of the British saying that Preston did not order his men to fire and that the soldiers fired in self-defence. Fig. 1: Organised British soldiers, with looks of glee and

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