- Museum number
- Object: The fruits of arbitrary power; or the bloody massacre, perpetrated in King-Street, Boston, by a party of the XXIXth regiment
A larger version of Paul Revere's celebrated print better drawn and with minor differences. Seven soldiers (r.) urged on by an officer with a drawn sword fire at a crowd of citizens (1.), three of whom lie dead or dying, a fourth is carried off wounded. The soldiers are surrounded with smoke, some of which is intended to emerge from the Custom House, the building immediately behind them and on the extreme right. The architectural background depicts King Street, Boston. In the foreground is a dog. 'Butchers [In Revere's print there is an apostrophe]' Hall and 'Custom Hou[se]' are inscribed on the façade of the house as in Revere's print but his "G.R." is omitted. Instead of Revere's waxing crescent moon there is a waning moon. After the (printed) title is printed, "In which Mess. Sam Grey, Sam. Maverick, James Caldwell, Crispus Attucks, Patrick Carr were killed. Six others were wounded, two of them [Christopher Monk and John Clark] mortally". This inscription, with slight differences, appears beneath the verses on Revere's print. The same verses [In Revere's version 'Preston' (the captain) is printed "P------n" and 'venal Courts', venal C------ts.'] are here printed in two columns instead of three, and on the 1. and r. margins of the verses is an etched design; on the left a skull and crossbones within a wreath, beneath it is printed, "How long shall they utter and speak hard things? and all the workers of Iniquity boast themselves? They break in pieces thy people, O Lord, and afflict thine Heritage. Ps. xciv. 4, 5." On the right., enclosed in a circle, a flash of lightning emerges from clouds and strikes two broken swords; in the centre of the clouds is a cap of liberty irradiated; beneath is printed, "They slay the Widows and the Stranger, and murder the Fatherless. Yet they say, The Lord shall not see: Neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Ps. xciv. 6, 7." 1770
Etching with letterpress, printed within one plate mark
- Production date
Height: 351 millimetres
Width: 249 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', V, 1935)
For the so-called Boston Massacre on 5 March 1770 see Van Tyne, 'Causes of the War of Independence', 1921, pp. 285-90. See also 'A Fair Account of the late Unhappy Disturbance at Boston. . . '. London, 1770 (B.M.L. 8175. b. 78), which controverts the inflammatory 'Short Narrative . . .'; Walpole, 'Memoirs of the Reign of George III', 1845, iv, p.120. "It was shown clearly at the trial that the soldiers had endured threats, gibes, insults, and actual violence before they fired in what they believed was self-defence." Van Tyne, p. 289.
This plate, folded, was used as a frontispiece to an English reprint of 'A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston . . . Boston, printed by order of the Town . . . and re-printed for W. Bingley in Newgate Street, London, 1770'. The Museum copy is inscribed in MS. "Presented by Thomas Hollis [Hollis wrote of the 'Boston Massacre' "the business of White Rose is to inflame everywhere". 'Memoirs', 1780, p. 379] Esq. May 14, 1770" (B.M.L. 1061. h. 11). The impression in the Print Department has not been folded, Bingley doubtless selling separate prints.
Revere's practice of copying English prints and the correction in his plate of the astronomical error in the drawing of the moon suggest that this was not copied from Revere. The origin of both was, perhaps, the plate of the 'massacre' engraved after a drawing by Henry Pelham, which Pelham accused Revere of copying in a letter of 29 March, 1770: ". . . after being at the great Trouble and Expence of making a design paying for paper, printing &c, find myself in the most ungenerous Manner deprived, not only of any proposed Advantage, but even of the expence I have been at, as truly as if you had plundered me on the highway." 'Copley-Pelham Letters', Mass. Hist. Soc. Collections 71, 1914, p. 83; see also pp. 84, 86, and Stauffer, i. p. 206. For the Revere, often reproduced, e.g. M. Waldman, 'Americana', 1926, frontispiece, see Stauffer, No. 2675.
For another version of this design from the 'Freeholder's Magazine' for May 1770 (1 June) see BMSat 4378. The subject is a narrower upright than J,1.123 or the Revere, showing more sky and more ground. There are no inscriptions on the houses. Reproduced: Andrews, 'Portraiture', p. 28.
A third version, BMSat 4378 A, apparently copied from BMSat 4378, and with the same titles, has additions: a dog as in J,1.123 (and the Revere) and an inscription on the house farthest r. of "G.R. (?) Boston". It is the frontispiece to another English reprint of the 'Short Narrative . . . Re-printed for E. and C. Ditty in the Poultry; and J. Almon in Piccadilly. 1770'.
- Not on display
- Associated events
- Associated Event: Boston Massacre 1770
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number