America: 1763-1776

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To the Brink: The Boston Massacre and the Committees of Correspondence

Summary To the Brink: The Boston Massacre and the Committees of Correspondence

John Adams' defense of the seven soldiers tried for the Boston Massacre is a well-known story of the pre-Revolutionary period. Adams was an opponent of crowd actions, preferring instead non-violent protest by elite businessmen and political bodies. His intent in defending the soldiers was to demonstrate the colonists' commitment to impartial justice and to "lay before [the people of Boston] the Law as it stood, that they might be apprized of the Dangers ... which must arise from intemperate heats and irregular commotions." In effect, he was appealing to the masses to await a higher level of political organization.

The committees of correspondence provided this organization. The first large- scale attempt at close and continuous pan-colonial political cooperation over a large area, the committees linked all of the colonies as one political force. In Massachusetts the committees worked especially well. Linked to all of the interior communities, Samuel Adams was able to spread his message of political education, advancing the principles of colonial rights. The committees convinced local citizens that their rights were in danger and encouraged voting. The colony-wide committees provided a method through which colonial leaders could communicate, and established the framework of the colonies' early attempts at independent government.

The reaction to the Townshend duties spawned a gradual, drawn-out worsening of Anglo-American relations. Colonial allegiance was broken down substantially between 1767 and 1773, and the colonists grew increasingly defensive against the impositions of the mother country, eventually forming the committees of correspondence to coordinate a pan-colonial defense mechanism. With the colonies on guard and fed up with British meddling, the stage was set for the descent into rebellion, if the British did not back down. In late 1773, that descent began, and the American Revolution began.

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