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This Day in History: Boston Massacre Orations

On this day in 1770, tensions between British soldiers and American colonists erupt. British soldiers fire into a crowd in an event that came to be known as the Boston Massacre.


For the next several years, an oration was given on the anniversary of that terrible tragedy. Speakers commemorated the event—but also urged their fellow colonists to action.


War against Great Britain loomed.

“If you, with united zeal and fortitude, oppose the torrent of oppression,” Joseph Warren asserted in his 1772 oration, “if you feel the true fire of patriotism burning in your breasts . . . you may have the fullest assurance that tyranny, with her whole accursed train, will hide their hideous heads in confusion, shame and despair.” 


He expressed confidence that the “SAME ALMIGHTY Being” who’d helped Americans in the past would help again.


“May we ever be a people favoured of GOD,” he concluded. “May our land be a land of liberty, the seat of virtue . . . .”


John Hancock echoed such themes in 1774. “I glory in publicly avowing my eternal enmity to tyranny,” he declared.  He, too, sought divine assistance in fighting British tyranny.


“[L]et us humbly commit our righteous cause to the great Lord of the Universe,” he concluded, “who loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity. And having secured the approbation of our hearts, by a faithful and unwearied discharge of our duty to our country, let us joyfully leave our concerns in the hands of him who raiseth up and pulleth down the empires and kingdoms of the world as he pleases . . . .”


Would our Founders still think we were resisting tyranny?  Would they wonder why we don’t seek divine assistance? Would they be surprised that abandoning some of these principles has left us so angry and divided?


Food for thought for your Tuesday.  Full-fledged history stories return tomorrow.



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