Most 18th-century ports had a town "mob" (Boston, notoriously, had two) whom local politicians ignored at their peril. On the evening of 5 March 1770, members of one Boston mob began stoning a lone sentry outside the Customs House. Other soldiers who came to his aid were treated similarly, many of the crowd striking the soldiers' muskets with clubs and sticks. Eventually, a musket went off, at which point the other soldiers also fired, killing five "ordinary citizens", at least three of whom were known troublemakers.
Each year thereafter, an oration was given in the City Hall, reminding everyone of the "massacre" and other British "atrocities" which, within two years, had come to include rape, arson, the slaughter of women and children, and - most serious of all for Bostonians - wanton destruction of private property.
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