837 | From Thomas Hutchinson

    Boston 12~ March 1770


    My Dear Sir

    A most unfortunate action of the Troops in firing upon ye. people who were insulting them, and killing & mortally wounding five or six and wounding in a less degree as many more has answered the purpose of those who call themselves Patriots and with infinite difficulty, the people have been kept from an open attack upon the Troops. This action was between 9 & 10 in ye. Eveng of ye. 5~. Immediately after it, numbers ran down to my house begging of me to go out to save the Town from ruin, the Inhabitts. having determined to arm themselves and the Town would be all in blood. I went out among them, I think since, rashly enough, and after great difficulty, prevailed on the Troops to go into the Guard Room and their Barracks, and upon the populace, notwithstanding many of them appeared absolutely distracted by the sight of ye. dead bodies and blood in ye. Streets, to disperse and go to their homes, except a hundred or more which attended the Examination of poor Preston who is charged with giving the Orders to fire and committed to Prison with 7 or 8 privates charged with firing.1 The circumstances are so differently reported that I am not capable of giving you a true relation of them if I had time. I think, admitting every thing in favour of it, that the action was too hasty though the great provocations may be some excuse.

    I was up until 3 o’Clock that night and foreseeing the confusing2 of the next day I summoned a Council and directed the Justices to attend me there before noon.3 The Justices, several from ye. country coming in, had met and agreed that the people could not be restrained whilst the Troops were in the Town. The Inhabitts. of several near Towns had many of them armed, upon an Express being sent out in ye. night and were stopt upon advice of the people of ye. Town being dispersed, and for the same reason the Beacon was not fired; a Barril of Tar was carrying up for that purpose & recalled. The Selectmen I found waiting, without any orders, for me in the Council Chamber. I was immediately applied to by them & acquainted that ye. Inhabitts. would presently convene in Town Meeting and that there would be no possibility of appeasing them whilst the Troops were among them and they expected the most terrible consequences. The Justices expressed their opinion also by Colo. Quincy of Braintree who spake to me in the presence of the rest.4 I told them all immediately I had no authority to direct where the Troops should be placed, I would send for the Commanding Officer and for Colo: Carr to be present whilst ye. Council were sitting and they should be informed of this application; and then all withdrew, except the Council, who represented upon Colo: Dalrymple & Colo: Carr’s coming, the absolute necessity of an immediate seperation between the Troops and the Inhabitants. But ^as^ I desired the Secretary to recollect that Eveng. what had passed and reduce it to writing I beg leave to refer you to that account which I shall inclose. I would have desired the Commissioners and Judge of the Admiralty to have been present but I knew the Council would not admit them. The Captain of the Rose & Colos. Dalrymple & Carr, with ye. Secretary were of opinion I could not make myself responsible for all consequences of the Troops remaining without being liable to blame, for it had been brought to that issue in Council, that Colo: Dalrymple would order their removal provided that upon their application or advice to me to desire it of him I would consent to do it.5 I have met with no body since who thinks I could have avoided it. The Commissrs. who are most affected by it are convinced that it was necessary, and that the consequences of the opposition between the Troops & ye. Inhabitts. would probably have been more fatal to them than the consequences of ye. Troops removal to the Castle, seeing they can remove to them when they please, if they should apprehend themselves in danger. All this must be surprizing in Engld., but surprizing as it is you cannot find one Man in fifty who makes any doubt of ye. determined design to remove the Troops by force or that the Inhabitts. of this Town would not have been in arms that night and ye. Country alarmed, and in Town, the next day to their assistance. I have feared ever since the Ships and two Regts. were ordered away what the consequences would be, and it would have been much better if they had never been sent than to have gone when they did go.6 I considered the intention of placing this small body of men here to be in aid of ye. Civil Magistrate7 for suppressing Riots &c. and protecting the Kings Servants, which intention it was now impossible to carry to effect, that it was never imagined a general design would be formed by the people to overpower this small body8 and that it was the opinion of the Council and of the other Servants of the Crown present, that it was necessary for me to join in desiring they might be removed, and in a choice of Evils I took that which appeared to me to be least, at the same time disclaiming every degree of authority with respect to their removal.

    This Crisis might have been kept off some months if it had not been for this fatal stroke upon the Inhabitts, but the leaders of the people would never have been rest until they effected their design unless they had found that the force was greater than they could hope to Conquer. I inclose a Copy of my Lettr. to Genel Gage. I have not yet wrote to Commodore Hood, Caldwell declines sending a Schooner which lyes ready until the return of the Express from General Gage.

    I am with the most sincere regard & Esteem, Sir Your most obedt. huml Servant

    Tho. Hutchinson

    Mr Robinson will deliver you this and tell you what I have not time to do of the particulars of our confusion.9 I just now hear they are in little better state at New York.10

    L, AC      Mass. Archs., 25: 380–382.