Examining the “Boston Massacre” Through Primary Sources
A Lesson with Support for English Learners
By Amy Culler
Alta Loma School District


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Teacher Resource:

Reading Questions Answer Key

1. Compare the authors of each document. Who wrote the American point of view and who wrote the British point of view?

The British point of view was written by Captain Thomas Preston. The American point of view is from an anonymous source.

2. Why do you think the American point of view was written by an anonymous source?

Answers may vary. One thought might be an American’s fear of retaliation. The date of the Boston Massacre was March 5, 1770, over six years before the Declaration of Independence was written.

3. Explain each viewpoint about the bayonets.

The British point of view states that, “They advance to the points of the bayonets, struck some of them and even the muzzles of the pieces, and seemed to be endeavouring to close [to remove space between people] with the soldiers.”

The American point of view states, “In passing to this station the soldiers pushed several persons with their bayonets, driving through [stab] the people in so rough a manner that it appeared they intended to create a disturbance.”

4. How many soldiers were involved in the incident?

British point of view states, “a non-commissioned officer and 12 men (and a sentry)….”

The American point of view states, “The officer on guard… who with seven or eight soldiers….”

5. Who ordered the first shot?

British point of view states, “They then asked me if I intended to order the men to fire. I answered no, by no means ….” “On my asking the soldiers why they fired without orders, they said they heard the word fire and supposed it came from me.”

American point of view states, “Captain Preston is said to have ordered them to fire, and to have repeated that order.”

6. If you were John Adams whose point of view would you choose for the trial? Why?

Answers need to argue reasonableness of the testimony

7. If you had been on the jury, whose testimony would you have believed more? Why?

Reasons will vary but need to relate to one or the other documents or pictures.