Historical Archives: Is It Too Soon To Use The Boston Massacre As A Source Of Humour?

Thinker, Heir to a small Fortune in the Indigo Trade

As is Custom, I spent the Even Tide of Thurs-day last at the Whore's Head, enjoying my usual Tankard of molten Chocolate in the Company of my bosom Familiars, and as the Moon ascend'd, merry grew the Mood, and Bon Mots, Epigrams, Light Verse, &c.; sailed through the Air like Mortar. My Companions & I lock'd in a Battle of Wits, trading our most piquant Quips. Mr. L——, the liveliest amongst our Junto and vaunt'd through out the Parish as a great One Ups Man, rose from the Table, and, his Bearing erect, ask'd, Why was the Boston Massacre in- evitable? Before any of us could reply, Mr. L—— answer'd his own Query with the Words, Because had not the British fir'd at the boisterous Bostonian Rascals, surely one of us would have.

Mr. L——'s Remarks were met with Gales of Laughter, tho' I suspect the amus'd Sounds were produc'd more from the Thrill of being privy to Scandalous Utterances than from the Savour of Wit. As the Laughter abat'd, however, a Serving-Wench, her Face all a-Crimson, exhibit'd as much Out Rage & Cheek as she could summon, and curs'd Mr. L—— for his Inchoateness & Paucity of Refinement, and said he had gone too far, tho' he had not ventur'd beyond our Table for Hours; she then further disclos'd that her second Cousin was shot dead by the King's Men during the bloody Melee, hence the Jest fail'd to produce Fun, and then she storm'd off with out refreshing our Tankards. A pronounc'd Chill settl'd upon the Room, and the previous Jocularity & Zest of the Night was never quite recover'd, in Spite of the best Efforts of those assembl'd.


As this Affair well demonstrates, the Events of Three-Five still lay heavy upon our Souls, tho' they happen'd nigh unto thirteen Year ago, more than Half of a Life Time. Yet the Memory of the slain five Patriots re-mains fresh, and many among us can well re-collect where we were at the moment we first heard the News, which was generally around a Week or Two after it transpir'd. Some of us were carding Wool, some of us drying Tobacco, or stirring Cauldrons of Lye; still others were twisting the Heads off of Fowl. I my Self recall taking my morning Repast, biting into a Johnny Cake and near chipping off an Eye Tooth, just as the Town Crier impart'd the grievous News under my Window.

Yet there has long exist'd an Under Current of Humour of a darkish Hue concerning the Event, of which Many are familiar, e.g., What, pray, is just as imbecilic as a Bostonian throwing perfectly good Chests of Tea into the Harbour?—A Bostonian taunting a Regiment of Soldiers bearing load'd Muskets; Or, What is another Name for a Boston Patriot, ask'd the Farmer of the Tory?—Target Practice, repli'd the Tory; Or, How many Victims of the Boston Massacre are requir'd to set light to a Candle?—None, because they are long dead; And, of-course, What is the last Thing that enter'd the Minds of the Slain? —Musket-Shot, &c.;, &c.;

Some believe that the Oddity & Perversity of such Travesties provides weari'd & dispirit'd Souls a small Means of Relief from the relent less Tedium of Propriety, Earnestness & Gentility. And, did not the late Dean SWIFT, school'd in the Satyre of his Roman Fore Bears, condemn the casual Inhumanity against the Poor of Ireland by proposing their Young be devour'd? I ask this because I have not read "A Modest Proposal," nor has any One I know. 'Tis some Thing one hears mention'd often, tho'.

As for my Self, I contend that such Humour best belongs on the Gallows, in no other Corner. For does n't making Light of the Boston Massacre open other sacred Subjects for similar Ridicule? Will the Lamentable State of poor Gen'l Washington's Teeth one Day be mock'd by our Children? If so, then I am quite glad that I will probably not live to see Thirty for I wish not to live in a World that readily finds Humour in our Country's great Hero having to wear a Pair of Falsifi'd Teeth of Wood to chew Any Thing tougher than Gruel. I ask, would you find it mirthful, to find your Self in the same Predicament? Nay, you would instead demand, and by the Grace of All Mighty God receive, the Sympathy & Succour of your fellow Brethren.


Yet I fear that, for many of our Youth, born well after War was declar'd, the Massacre is all ready passing into dim Lore & Legend, and Reverence for it is fading with Haste. Games of Boston Massacre are as freely play'd upon the Green as the Patty Cake, as little Lads & Lasses each compete for the prestigious Rôles of Capt Preston & Crispus Attucks. So too is it popularly said that Time added to Tragedy yields Co-medy. If this be True, then the Boston Massacre should be well-nigh hysterical in approximately Thirty Six Score & Seventeen Years. Yet, if one is to subtract Tragedy from Comedy, one is not left with Time. Instead, one is left with Silliness. Q.E.D.

But only Dame Posterity can serve as the ultimate Judge. Perhaps, Centuries to come, long after we are seal'd into our Tombs, Yankees shall commemorate the Boston Massacre with a great & sombre Ceremony, reciting the Names of the Dead, and vowing never to forget the hallow'd Date of Three-Five; or perhaps it shall evolve into a mere Euphemism for a Rivalry in a Game of Play, in which the Party native to Boston is vanquish'd repeatedly & with great Humiliation by the Rival Party of an other City.


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