Just as the Granary Burying Ground and the grave of Christopher Snider symbolize Phillis Wheatley’s growing support of the patriot cause, the Old State House also represents the turmoil Boston and other colonies experienced leading up to and during the American Revolution. The Old State House served as the seat of the British colonial government, a representation of Great Britain’s oppression of the colonies’ rights as British subjects. Today it is also associated with another infamous event in the American Revolution: the Boston Massacre. On March 5, 1770, another unruly mob of boys and young men began harassing and throwing snow, ice, and other debris at the British soldiers tasked with guarding the customs office. In all the confusion, a musket fired followed by continuous rounds from the British soldiers, which killed five colonists and wounded several others. The victims of this tragic incident would forever be venerated for years following its initial occurrence in the form of memorial orations and sermons.
John Lathrop, son-in-law of John and Susannah Wheatley and Reverend of the Old North Church, gave one such sermon on March 5, 1775. Lathorp’s personal views of the British and the events of March 5, 1770 shine through in this sermon. Entitled “Soldiers Cautioned against committing Violence,” the sermon recalls the incident in graphic detail. It reads, “Although five years are this day completed, since that tragical affair was acted among us, the horrors of it are still full in our view. – We see the pavements crimsoned over with innocent blood!” Lathrop’s use of the collective “us” as victims of the Boston Massacre and his belief that those who died were innocent illustrate his support for the patriots’ cause. It also reflects the views of many colonists. The statements made in this sermon also echo many of the sentiments Wheatley expressed in “On the Death of Mr. Snider Murder’d by Richardson” published immediately following that tragic event in 1770.
Lathrop, John. “Soldiers Cautioned against committing violence,” 1775. Ms N-1552, Box 7, Folder 1775 Sermons, John Lathrop Sermons 1758-1816, Massachusetts Historical Society.