J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Ezekiel Price Enjoys a Massacre Oration

Last night I had the pleasure of hearing nine students from Boston Latin School deliver extracts of orations heard in Boston from 1771 to 1858 on the anniversaries of the Boston Massacre. They did a fine job of expressing the slippery-slope political arguments of the Revolutionary Whigs and the patriotic outrage of the ante-bellum Abolitionists. This event took place at Old South Meeting House, and was co-sponsored by the Bostonian Society.

Boston 1775 offers thanks to William Thompson, Eli Brown, Stephanie Rufo, Jacob Meister, Azia Marie Carle, John Wall, Cristhel Santillan, Kevin McCaughey, and Finora Franck, as well as their teacher at Boston Latin, Wendy Ann Holm.

As a tribute to such oration, I quote from Ezekiel Price’s diary for 6 Mar 1776. Price was a court official and marine insurance broker in pre-Revolutionary Boston; he thus knew every businessman in town. Because in 1776 Boston was occupied by British troops (who in turn were occupied with plans to evacuate that day), the town didn’t commission an oration on the Massacre that year. Instead, the tradition was moved outside the town to Watertown, where the General Court was meeting. Price wrote:

Yesterday, went to Watertown, and attended the delivery of the annual oration of the 5th of March on the horrid massacre in Boston in 1770. The meeting was opened with prayer by the Rev. Dr. [Samuel] Cooper, and the oration delivered by the Rev. Mr. Peter Thacher.

A considerable number of Bostonians were assembled on the occasion; which was a most agreeable sight, especially as there appeared an affectionate regard for each other.

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