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Dr. John is a ticking time bomb of fury and he’s about ready to explode.
It is no secret that the Revolutionary Era of American Patriots were obsessed with Roman republican ideals. So when Dr. Joseph Warren showed up at the Old South Meeting house to give his Boston Massacre Anniversary speech dressed up as Cicero, it wasn’t nearly as bizarre or seemingly random as it would be to us.
Cicero was a philosopher, orator, and politician, just like Dr. Warren. And just like Dr. Warren, he fought for republican ideals against the established powers that be– Caesar or King George III. Warren’s toga and olive wreath were symbols of peace on a politically charged day when the citizens of Boston and surrounding towns assembled to remember the tragedy that had happened five years prior. Accounts vary as to whether he wore a white or a black toga. A black toga would have been worn for mourning. Which certainly was the reason thousands turned up for the event.
That the British officers attended at all was looked on as poor taste by both Patriots and Loyalists alike. The Boston Massacre occurred when a group of British soldiers fired into a mob of civilians, and five Americans were killed, including a young boy. The British Army had been sent home not too long after the Massacre. But after the Boston Tea Party, Parliament closed down Boston’s port, prohibiting the city from engaging in trade, and the Army was sent to re-occupy the city. As you can imagine, this only inflamed tempers more.
But the colonies were beginning to unify. Rather than leave Boston to suffer her punishment alone, relief came in from not only the Massachusetts countryside, but from every single one of the other twelve colonies. The Colonists were beginning to view themselves as a “we” for the first time.
And on this day, the day that the 5th Anniversary of the Boston Massacre was remembered, the officers in attendance fully expected Sam Adams and Joseph Warren to use the opportunity to incite another crowd riot. Allegedly, there was even an assassination plot against Warren if such a thing were to happen. Many expected the Boston Massacre to repeat itself.
Behind the scenes, Warren and the other Patriots leaders were preparing for war. They were hardly trying to prevent such a thing. In fact for years they had worked to inflame the populace through propaganda, the press, politics and protests. It seemed that at long last their efforts were paying off. The schism between Boston and Britain seemed irreconcilable.
But on this day, Warren and Adams attempted to keep the peace. Adams showed the officers to their seats, extending them a welcome of sorts, even if most of the people in attendance didn’t want them there.
But this tentative peace was only destined to last a few more weeks…
Besides his death at Bunker Hill, Dr. Joseph Warren is perhaps best known for the speech that he gave on this day. I saw a copy of his Boston Massacre Oration inside of the Old South Meeting House. You can see a picture of it here, from when I visited Boston’s Freedom Trail.
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