Concerning Crispus Attucks

— There is a singular appropriateness in the time chosen by the Massachusetts legislature to vote a monument to Crispus Attucks and his fellow-rioters. The present year has been signalized by dangerous riots at various points, in some of which property and life have been in serious peril. As mob-law claims and threatens ascendency, it is certainly most fitting that a State which has not yet erected a monument to a single patriotic statesman or general should give precedence to men whose merit consisted in their making their own law and endeavoring to carry it into execution.

In studying the history of their case, I am surprised at having reached conclusions entirely at variance with my previous belief and feeling. I had always regarded the quartering of British troops in Boston as a piece of audacious tyranny. It now seems to me the very measure which the peace and well-being of the town imperatively required. Mobs had gutted, sacked, and plundered several houses and offices of public functionaries ; had stolen or destroyed all the lieutenant - governor’s plate, furniture, pictures, and papers, and driven him and the governor to take refuge in the Castle. Even Samuel Adams denounced these doings as “ high-handed outrages,” and we have abundant testimony that they were wrought under the maddening stimulus of strong drink. The proportion of “ roughs ” to the population of the then small town was menacingly great, and there was no organized or efficient police. The orderly citizens needed protection. The crown officers needed and rightfully demanded support in the discharge of their imperative duties. It was a state of things in which, if ever, military force was not only justifiable, but necessary. To be sure, the soldiers ordered to Boston were “ British troops,” but what else should they have been? No one then denied that Boston was under the British government, or even anticipated independence of it. The leaders of legitimate opposition to the existing rule must have been sensibly relieved, and have slept more quietly, for the presence of disciplined soldiers.

So far from any gain having accrued to the patriot cause from the rampancy of mob-law, the country probably lost by means of it many who would have been among its most valuable citizens. Hutchinson, born in Boston, a graduate of Harvard College, and, as his posthumous papers show, friendly to the last to his native province, had his house attacked twice, pillaged, and well-nigh demolished, on suspicions which remain to this day unproved. It is not at all unlikely that he would have cast in his lot with the friends of liberty, had it not been for arguments, illogical indeed, but for this none the less cogent, urged upon him by unmerited wrong, indignity, and obloquy. Among the emigrant Tories there were many natives of Massachusetts, with strong local attachments, worthily respected and beloved in their several communities, — precisely such men as would have deemed peace and order indispensable to social well-being, and as were likely to have the scales, nearly equipoised, turned against the cause so largely buttressed by irresponsible brute force. But for the Boston mobs, a large proportion of these men, now recognized as among the members of society whom their fellow-citizens could least afford to lose, might have been saved for their country.

When the proposed monument is erected, it is to be hoped that full justice will be done to the parentage of Attucks. He is commonly called a negro. It seems certain that he was a half-breed Indian, his mother having been a negress, or, more probably, a mulatto. Thus, as regards the non-combative African race, he may have been only a quadroon. It was by virtue of his Indian ancestry that he was a man of gigantic stature and of unsurpassed strength and ferocity, that he led the mob with a savage war-whoop, and that, had he not been shot, he would undoubtedly have slain the soldier whose gun he had seized, and whom he had already knocked down. Let the monument render honor to the race to which the prime honors of that illustrious night are due.

We might claim also, in behalf of our Irish fellow-citizens, that Carr, who was an Irishman, have his name either omitted in the commemorative inscription on the monument, or inserted with the explanatory statement that he lived long enough to repent of his part in the affair, and to justify in full the action of the British soldiers.