Massachusetts Historical Society


In the years immediately following the Boston Massacre, local residents began to commemorate the incident annually—on or near the date of March fifth. These tributes appeared as special orations, poetry, and visual representations. James Lovell wrote in his first anniversary oration, "The horrid bloody scene we here commemorate, whatever were the causes which concurred to bring it on that dreadful night, must lead the pious and humane of every order to some suitable reflection." Tensions between patriots and loyalists were ever present during this period, as Thomas Bolton's disparaging document, a response to Joseph Warren's 1775 oration, illustrates (see both below).

A member of the Sons of Library and a Boston merchant, Harbottle Dorr, Jr. collected and annotated the first five orations (links to each below) as appendices to his newspaper collection. (Viewing the orations listed below will take you away from the Boston Massacre area of the Massachusetts Historical Society's website.)


Letter from Thomas Hutchinson to Jonathan Sayward, 5 March 1771
An Oration Delivered April 2d, 1771 by James Lovell


The Poem Which the Committee of the Town of Boston Had Voted Unanimously To ...
A Monumental Inscription on the Fifth of March
Broadside with woodcut by Paul Revere
An Oration Delivered March 5th, 1772 by Joseph Warren


An Oration Delivered March 5th, 1773 by Benjamin Church


An Oration Delivered March 5th, 1774 by John Hancock


An Oration Delivered March 6th, 1775 by Joseph Warren An Oration delivered March 15th 1775 from the Coffee House by Doctor Thomas ...

John Adams Remembers

In addition to public commemorations where many people gathered to note the significance of the event of 5 March 1770, many individuals privately reflected on the Boston Massacre. In 1773, precisely three years after the confrontation in the streets of Boston that necessitated two trials, John Adams heard Benjamin Church's oration and wrote the following in his diary:

I have Reason to remember that fatal Night. The Part I took in Defence of Captn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right.

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