Did 72 People Die in Boston During a Gun Raid? More Right-Wing Abuse of American History

Back in July, an article surfaced on the internet claiming that an unsuccessful gun raid occurred and that 72 people had been killed, along with 200 wounded, when the government attempted to confiscate banned assault weapons.  Some extremely conservative websites, whose hosts apparently didn’t read beyond the headline, reposted the article in full to their sites (or in snippets) and individuals—apparently excited that such an event had occurred—took to Facebook in rage over the incident.  This isn’t the first time such a thing has happened, but this one is unique in that the author attempts to replicate history by throwing it mish-mosh into a modern day setting.

The article can be found here, but included below are some snippets:

National guard units seeking to confiscate a cache of recently banned assault weapons were ambushed on April 19th by elements of a Para-military extremist faction. Military and law enforcement sources estimate that 72 were killed and more than 200 injured before government forces were compelled to withdraw.

And:

Speaking after the clash, Massachusetts Governor Thomas Gage declared that the extremist faction, which was made up of local citizens, has links to the radical right-wing tax protest movement. Gage blamed the extremists for recent incidents of vandalism directed against internal revenue offices.

And:

Gage issued a ban on military-style assault weapons and ammunition earlier in the week. This decision followed a meeting in early this month between government and military leaders at which the governor authorized the forcible confiscation of illegal arms.

Of course the article isn’t true.  It’s a fluff piece (that is, a fictional narrative); while never stating it directly (a clever ploy or just an oversight, we’ll not know).  The giveaway, aside from the last paragraph which mentions Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock, is this line at the very end:

 . . . And this, people, is how the American Revolution began… April 20, 1775

Over the past few months, I have been getting a ton of attention in Google hits from people apparently searching for this article.  The troubling question I have is whether people actually believe this to be a true story.  Even those who recognize it as a fictional polemical work seem to think that it accurately illustrates what the author suggests, that this is somehow similar—in scope and in dimension—to how the Revolution in America began in 1775.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Despite the author’s intentions, whatever they may be, they manage to simultaneously appropriate and fabricate revolutionary history by (although not transparent to some) misleading their readers and inciting fear.

While the author clearly attempts to make historical associations, he makes them in all the wrong ways.  Historians cringe when they see this sort of drivel pass across their screens.  The author does such a horrible job at drawing useful comparisons, the narrative actually reads like someone with only a very basic or elementary level education wrote it.  The political point the author is making is overshadowed by their horrendous grasp of the historical details of the Revolution, to the point that it is actually laughable.

 For example, by the time of the Battle of Lexington in April of 1775 the Revolution had already been underway for months.

The Revolution Began in 1774 and not in 1775

In the Summer of 1774, Parliament in the UK drew up and enacted the implementation of the Massachusetts Government Act, which among other items, laid out this clause:

[T]hat from and after August 1, 1774, so much of the charter … [of 1691] … which relates to the time and manner of electing the assistants or counsellors for the said province, be revoked, … and that the offices of all counsellors and assistants, elected and appointed in pursuance thereof, shall from thenceforth cease and determine: And that, from and after the said August 1, 1774, the council, or court of assistants of the said province for the time being, shall be composed of such of the inhabitants or proprietors of lands within the same as shall be thereunto nominated and appointed by his Majesty.

In other words, the free election of officials by the people of Massachusetts was dissolved and in place of said officials, the King would appoint his servants or Loyalists in charge of the legislative branch (including judges).   Out of fear that these advocates for the king, with their seats of power established, would take control of their livestock and farms (this is important—no discussion of their firearms or their ammunition is found), the citizens of Worcester County called a general meeting of all the local counties and decided to establish resistance.

Though General Gage (not a governor, but the military commander) issued a threat that he would bring in troops to subdue the revolt, he backed down.  Over 4,000 militia—militia that had been sanctioned under the Crown since the days of the first settlements (many armed by the British Government, in point of fact)—took to the County seat of Worcester and forced every Loyalist to the crown, and every new legislative official seated by the King, to recant and apologize.

This action inspired other Counties in Massachusetts to do the same, which then spread across the colonies in America.  Tories and those loyal to the King were ridiculed and mocked and their property seized and houses destroyed in order to get them to leave town.  It worked.  It was absolutely near bloodless (perhaps a few scrapes to the ego occurred); not a single shot was fired at anyone to the point of wounding or killing.  New County governments were installed nearly everywhere in the North and some in the South (some Counties in the South remained Loyal for a time).  And the colony of New York found itself embroiled in a political civil war (as many Loyalists fled there).   And within weeks of this event, the first Continental Congress would be held (in September, 1774).

In other words, by the time the first shot rang out on April 19, 1775 (note: not on the 20th, as the Article suggests), the provincial governments throughout Massachusetts were all run by American elected officials.  This includes the local towns of Lexington and Concord (but not in the city of Boston; another bizarre claim made by the author).  These were not ‘paramilitary radicals’ but were, in fact, representing the majority of the people in the New England.  And their frustration did not come about due to universal healthcare or assault weapons bans—but a tax on trade goods that many Americans felt was unjustified (the tax was meant to support a war with France in which the American colonists were not involved; they also had no representation in Parliament in order to vocalize their misgivings about the laws).

Militia, the National Guard, and Paramilitary Forces?

The article makes the association between the National Guard and the British Regulars, which is hard to swallow.  The ‘paramilitary force’ which the author holds up as the victors are not in any way remotely similar to the militia or minutemen at the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

The militiaman in the eighteenth century was not an unofficial fighting force that worked outside the government (as paramilitary armies usually do), but were THE military force of the colonies.  The militia were regulated by the government (locally and regionally) and by parliament prior to the Revolution.  There were strict laws set forth by the legislatures of Great Britain which required the provincial colonial committees to organize, to arm, and to train the militia regularly.  In fact, the militia–particularly in New England and Pennsylvania where the threat of invasion by the French from Canada and native tribes from the West and North was all too common–were so well regulated that when the provincial governments set up by Great Britain were dissolved in 1774, the new colonial committees utilized the British system for some time until a new system, under General Washington and Baron von Steuben, went into place at Valley Forge later in the war.

Of course there was a difference between the militia and the Continental Line, particularly upon Washington’s arrival at the Siege of Boston in July of 1775.  When the first fighting broke out, the only troops were militia.  When the Continental Congress heard of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, they put out a call for troops for a new Continental Army.  Many of the soldiers who had initially joined militia units would later join the Continental Line once their enlistments ran out.

So the notion that the militiamen were like the unsanctioned, backyard “militia” of our modern day is just as backwards and anachronistic as the notion that the revolution started over gun control.

Incidentally, the National Guard of today are the descendants of the American militia force.  Many of the older Guard units can trace their “lineage” back to specific units during the American Revolution.  Why the National Guard—which is state run (until called into actual service of the United States)—would be associated with the British Regulars is beyond me (and anyone who knows anything about the history of the Guard).

If the author were trying to replicate a modern setting, wouldn’t it be law enforcement that would confiscate illegal firearms?  After all, law enforcement is meant to enforce civilian legislation (as all Americans should know); the military has its own branch of legislation (JAG—which happened to have been instituted by general Washington).  The National Guard would not be called up to confiscate illegal weapons (in fact in all the state-run buy-back programs for firearms, it is civilian law enforcement taking back the weapons).

This whole section of the article is rank with misconstrued details and terrible research.  But what comes next is perhaps the worst bit of it.

Samuel Adams and Paul Revere?  

What is most frustrating about the article’s content is the author’s ignorance about the political structure of the early American government.  In his narrative, this paramilitary group is clearly the group of protagonists against the government (antagonists).  And yet as leaders of this paramilitary group, set in our modern time, he includes legendary Federalist (pro-central government) Paul Revere and also Sam Adams, who famously wrote that “the man who dares rebel against the laws of a republic [as opposed to rebelling against monarchies) ought to suffer death,” and incorporated this very language into his Riot Act, which was meant to severely punish any mob (you know, like nonsanctioned, paramilitary groups) that would rise up against the United States in any form.  This was widely supported and passed by the state government (made up of elected officials), along with a Militia Act, which threatened court martial and death upon militia officers and soldiers who refused to muster to quell riots and usurpers upon direction of the governor.

In other words, the author failed to take into account the fact that in our modern society, we live in a free republic—not a monarchy.  In other words, if laws by the government are made (FYI, such laws don’t exist, nor have they ever) to strip Americans of their assault rifles, those laws would come from publically-elected government officials (as in, the majority voted for those officials and, therefore, voted in support of such legislation) and, by extension, the populace of the country.  Sam Adams understood the difference between this form of government, the government we currently live in, and the form of government that the King of England ruled (a monarchy) where rules were placed on people (i.e., the majority) without the need of their vote or consent.  And for Sam Adams, anyone who went against these practices were not only committing treason, they deserved death (read more about uprisings in American history and how misconstrued is the political movement of the tea party patriots here).

Paul Revere, the Federalist that he was, would not have supported a paramilitary organization against a Republican government.  No, he would have been the one with “Governor Gage” calling in more backup to suppress the paramilitary troops for not abiding by the laws of the land.

Conclusion

The most puzzling part of this narrative is why the author felt so inclined to write the piece to begin with, as their knowledge of the period is so narrowed and limited.  It seems that, as I said earlier, the only reason such a narrative exists at all is to incite fear in the readers; especially those who fall in line with the silly and unsupported arguments made by David Kopel and David Barton (who both falsely believe the Revolutionary War started over gun control in 1775).  This fictional story seems to appeal most with those people who want to make the Revolutionary War–and that era in our past–about modern social issues.

I’ve isolated these anachronisms and falsities in this author’s narrative to illustrate clearly the problems of this narrative.  The real irony here is that the author is attempting to ‘lecture through narrative'; his underlying theme is “This happened once, it can happen again”.  But he fails to draw upon accurate history, so in turn the past he is attempting to recreate is one of his own fancy.

It reminds me of the time when Herman Cain, while lecturing on the importance of knowing the Constitution, confused the Constitution for the Declaration of Independence.  Perhaps the element is true—Americans are very ignorant about their own government’s founding—but the execution is terrible and ill-contrived. Indeed it is so because the persons lecturing on the ignorance of Americans are, themselves, horribly ignorant.   That, my dear reader, is the real scandal about this piece of fiction.

10 responses to “Did 72 People Die in Boston During a Gun Raid? More Right-Wing Abuse of American History

  1. I have news for the crazies out there. If the US government ever decided they were coming for your guns they would get them easily. Yes, they would do it over your dead body because that wouldn’t bother them any if they were a totalitarian form of government. However, it is not a dictatorship nor is it in any danger of becoming one. What these loonies fail to understand is that the real danger is from the right wing itself. They fail to understand how contradictory their positions are on just about everything.

    I laugh at the idiocy of their state’s rights mantra because that is the defense used by the party that is not in power. Once a party gains power it seeks to use that power to consolidate itself and enact its agenda. See Bush II, all eight years. Or see Wisconsin, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, etc. It’s the same principle there as well as national. Now they’re trying to prevent people from voting…at least people who disagree with their agendas.

    The gun debate centers on background checks to try to keep firearms out of the hands of crazy people. The people who participated in creating and ratifying the Second Amendment disagreed on many things, but they pretty much to a man agreed that crazy people had no business possessing or even handling a firearm. That is documented fact. So if the originalists want to whine about the Second Amendment they need to accept ALL of the facts, not just the ones they love to cherry pick and parade around in public.

    Furthermore, the Constitution as a strict constructionist concept was completely destroyed by the man who said he would be a strict constructionist, Thomas Jefferson. When he needed something done that wasn’t part of the Constitution, he went and did it. So anyone living west of the Mississippi River needs to point this out.

    The guy who videotaped himself loading a shotgun in Washington DC was arrested today. Mr. Kokesh wants to be a martyr. He is nothing but a criminal. The only people who will think he is a hero are delusional. Those people fortunately are a minority. They’re loud, they’re vocal, but they exist in a small way. If it wasn’t for the Internet they would be really obscure.

  2. Interesting take on the Battle of Lexington and Concord; I will have to disagree a bit with your assessment of the confiscation of the weapons, After altercations in 1765 Stamp Act and 1770 with the Boston Massacre to name a few, there was great tension between Colonial America and Great Britain, but Colonial America was at that time still under the dominion of the British thus still it’s subjects,and thus their government was impeding on their English constitutional rights as British citizens.

    If you take a look at both the Declaration that list the grievances as well as the Bill of Rights one can wonder why the colonist stressed certain points in those documents. ( “the Right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”) You claim that at the Battle of Lexington in Concord the British sought to collect a militia stash of weapons correct? Let’s examine that claim with the 2nd amendment: Many progressives will always point out the preamble of the second amendment in defense to disarm private citizens ( “A regulated Militia”); Many gun-rights activist will cite the part I mentioned above citing the rights of the people. Studying the constitution as well as constitutional law/ constitutional rulings one can find that the phrase “The People” means in that context “Citizens”. Also examining dictionaries of the time and private correspondents of George Washington in reference to regulation of arms, one finds that it simply mean, “Well supplied”. Now a word that throws a lot of progressives for a loop is, “militia” Most definitions of militia has something of the nature as any able body male from the age of somewhere between 17-49 give or take some years. So you have in the 2nd amendment (example) juxtaposed to events as the Stamp Act, Boston Massacre,Battle of Lexington Concord, and other altercations. “Well supplied able body males, that are citizens, and shall not have their arms taken away.” However; of course, progressives are for equal rights so I would assume that they wouldn’t take weapons away from women and the elderly.

    You have a really thought out piece here, and I enjoyed it. I disagree with a lot of it but I can still see the merit of the work. I saw in your about me that you had a Classics background; Which is also what I went to college to study. I will continue to follow you post!

    • Thanks for the comments. Just so you know , I’ve dealt with a lot of your points elsewhere on the blog (I even linked to them in the post above at various areas–I always include links to support my arguments because I feel it is important). I think your analysis is a bit too anachronistic for the period; in most states ‘militia’ was a well-defined entity. In Pennsylvania, where I live and where my ancestors lived, there was no determinable ‘militia’ as a state-run and funded organization until 1777 when the Militia Act passed (along with the Test Act). There was, however, a military Association which was less of a militia and more of a defense force. However in New England, there were extremely well-regulated militia units. Men were called up to serve and drill and defend their lands against the French and Indians before even the F&I War–the process went back to the establishment of the edict under the King of England that all colonies in the New World have a well-equipped part-time fighting force. They were commanded to have weapons (bow and arrows at first–but guns were issued later or bought by the local county seats for a magazine that would be available in each major city) and to train often. In fact they followed these orders so well that when the British arrived in Lexington and at Concord they were amazed at how disciplined and well-drilled were the militia (we have the correspondence in which these remarks were made). However, I also think it is important to differentiate how the 2nd Amendment is understood since the 1980’s when SCOTUS revised the meaning to fit more modern understandings of gun laws in the US and those of the original founders and how the law was interpreted by legal dictionaries (which I provided in my post) and setting legal precedence (also included in my post). Those indicate directly that ‘bearing arms’ has only to do with the function of militia–as a soldier, to fight–and not owning or carrying or possessing a firearm (cf. the example of Justice Nathan Green above–just 64 years after the 2nd Amendment was penned on the Declaration of Independence and only 53 years after the Constitution was ratified in Philadelphia in 1787). And according to William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1766):

      The fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject, that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defence, suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law. Which is also declared by the same statute 1 W. & M. st. 2. c. 2. and is indeed a public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.”(3)
      “And, lastly, to vindicate these rights, when actually violated or attacked, the subjects of England are entitled, in the first place, to the regular administration and free course of justice in the courts of law; next to the right of petitioning the king and parliament for redress of grievances; and lastly to the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defense. And all these rights and liberties it is our birthright to enjoy entire; unless where the laws of our country have laid them under necessary restraints.”(4)
      “That the subjects which are protestants, may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions, and as allowed by law.”(5)

      And also this from James Wilson (one of the framers of the constitution and also one of the first Supreme Court Justices):

      1. Homicide is enjoined, when it is necessary for the defence of the United States, or of Pennsylvania. At present, it is not necessary for me, and, therefore, I decline to examine the general and very important subject concerning the rights of war. I confine myself merely to that kind of war, which is defensive: and even that kind I now consider solely as a municipal regulation, established by the constitution of the nation, and that of this commonwealth.

      “The constitution of the nation is ordained to ‘provide for the common defence.’ In order to make ‘provision’ for that defence, congress have the power to ‘provide for arming the militia,’ and ‘or calling them forth,’ ‘to repel invasions:’ they have power ‘to provide a navy,’ ‘to raise and support armies,’ ‘to declare war.’ Whenever the primary object, ‘the common defence,’ renders it necessary, the power becomes the duty of congress: and it requires no formal deduction of logick to point to the duty, when necessity shall require, of military bodies, ‘raised, supported, and armed.’ In Pennsylvania, it is explicitly declared upon the very point, that ‘the freemen of this commonwealth shall be armed for its defence.’

      2. Homicide is enjoined, when it is necessary for the defence of one’s person or house.

      “With regard to the first, it is the great natural law of self preservation, which, as we have seen, cannot be repealed, or superseded, or suspended by any human institution. This law, however, is expressly recognised in the constitution of Pennsylvania. ‘The right of the citizens to bear arms in the defence of themselves shall not be questioned.’ This is one of our many renewals of the Saxon regulations. ‘They were bound,’ says Mr. Selden, ‘to keep arms for the preservation of the kingdom, and of their own persons.’

      With regard to the second; every man’s house is deemed, by the law, to be his castle; and the law, while it invests him with the power, enjoins on him the duty, of the commanding officer. ‘Every man’s house is his castle,’ says my Lord Coke, in one of his reports, ‘and he ought to keep and defend it at his peril; and if any one be robbed in it, it shall be esteemed his own default and negligence.’ For this reason, one may assemble people together in order to protect and defend his house.”(6)

      Notice that Wilson, one of the first interpreters of the 2nd Amendment, makes the very clear and necessary distinction between the militia and arming of a militia force and the justification of homicide in war versus the one who defends his home and commits homicide; notice what is missing from the emboldened bit? That’s correct: No discussion of the allowance of a firearm for use in defense of one’s home. Instead, he says, one may acquire additional people to defend their home. And what is most important is that Wilson is drawing from legal sources about a hundred years old or more, and his sources (see the link in the article above) indicate that the carrying around weapons on the streets is illegal (and this precedence was set in the Western frontier). Also note that Wilson specifically dictates that the 2nd Amendment applies to a fighting force of volunteer militia–in the course of war only. And that is very powerful given that he would have been the best source we have for the founding father’s interpretations (since he was one).

      Anyway, I would direct you to read my other articles on this issue on the blog and I welcome your feedback! I appreciate you taking the time to write out a comment; I know it isn’t easy responding to an article or a person whose opinions are different and I respect that. Hope you keep reading and stick around!

  3. During the period of time that the Association was the working system in the colonies firearm confiscation was a matter of course. The Association was created via the First Continental Congress in 1774 and consisted of local committees that basically decided what was right and what was wrong. As the resistance increased in 1775 the royal government basically was thrown out of the most regions and in some cases the completely out of the colonies.

    During this time many of the committees began to disarm anyone that they didn’t trust. This is documented. In fact it is well documented. There was no second amendment and nobody felt like bothering with the finer points of law. You were either against the British or you were disarmed.

    The colonists didn’t stress anything in the Declaration. Thomas Jefferson and the others present from July 2nd to July 4th did, but they were the elites of the colonies. The Declaration is really sort of a propaganda piece mingled with an announcement to foreign nations of America’s independence. It was forgotten for many years until Jefferson needed something to make him look good. His terms of governorship in Virginia were pretty bad.

    • Jimmy, good point! In Northampton, where my ancestors resided, the royalist government was overthrown a year prior to Lexington (1774) and replaced with a Colonist-elected (in a loose sense) government (which at times was just as corrupt as the royals). I blogged about weapon confiscation under the Colonial government here.

  4. T.H. Breen covered some of this ground in American Insurgents, American Patriots. He is not the only historian to note this as most write about how the royal governments had been evicted from the colonies by the end of 1775. The only authority left to the British was where they had troops which was practically nowhere except Boston in early 1776 and even then they left. The local committees formed in the vacuum left by the British did so at the request of the Continental Congress in late 1774.

    What is more interesting that what the committees did is what they did not do. They did not kill their opponents and they had every opportunity to do so because they had the power. This is the most intriguing part of the Revolution because in other revolutions it is this stage where repercussions and retaliations begin to take place such as the French Revolution. Once the choice is made to kill your enemies, it just gets easier and easier to use murder to get rid of enemies, settle old scores, and consolidate power.

    The committees did not do this and it may be looked at in two ways. One is the Congress did not sanction killing anyone so committees may have felt constrained from doing so. The second is that the colonies had a very strong legal tradition established by 1774. They weren’t revolting over murdering British officials who killed colonists and threw them in dungeons and things like that. They were revolting over political issues and used economic methods plus intimidation to control the back areas followed by the cities as the British withdrew. They didn’t get rid of the courts as much as they took them over and began to operate them on their own although some were shut down indefinitely.

    They didn’t revolt over the issues of taxes because they felt they had to pay taxes for the common good. They revolted over the issue of representation and this is a key issue that needs to be stressed. This is spelled out in the Declaration of Independence and was debated at the Constitutional Convention.

    Now later when the War for Independence got into high gear we can find where reprisals and other things got into high gear, but that’s when the Loyalists were armed by the British to fight and the Patriots were armed as well. Choosing sides meant actually fighting and killing your opponent at that point so old scores and grudges then came to the forefront and in many places that was more important than American or British especially in the backwoods areas. However, this was a clear gap between what the Committees of the Association did and what went on later in the actual war.

  5. Pingback: Misinformed: How Divisive Politics are Reshaping American History for the Worse | American History and Ancestry·

  6. Pingback: Updated Post! Did 72 People Die in Boston During a Gun Raid? | American History and Ancestry·

  7. I too grew up in Northampton County; In Easton, to be exact. I went to Wilson Borough JR/SR High School, and learned quite a bit there. One of the things our history and socio-economics teachers stressed was that the history being taught was that of the winning side. There was much more to history than what was presented, and it was up to us to dig and search it out.
    I find your blog a very interesting site. You present a lot of wonderful historical information, some of it completely new to me. I like what I’ve read so far, and I hope to continue enjoying your blog.

    My question to you is this: Do you dig out and post the whole history, or just what lines up with your personal belief system? I ask not to be accusatory but as a way of forcing you to check yourself.

    Have yourself a great day.

    • Hello Greybeard (in lieu of a real name),

      Glad to see another Northamptonite reads ye ol blog! Thank you for the comment.

      As for my methodology, I’m pretty thorough–and to be thorough you have to analyze ones own perspective to make sure you aren’t misleading or giving false information. I don’t take your question to be an accusatory one; it is prudent to ask those questions of everything we read when it comes to history and I’m glad to see you are conscious enough to consider asking it! Most will just accept what they read without consideration. SO kudos for you. I give all my sources as best as I can so that you, the reader, can fact-check me. If I’m wrong, of course I want to be the first person to know so I can correct it as soon as I can.

      I hope you enjoy my many blog posts about the history of Northampton County!

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