Spotlight on the Collection: An Oration to Commemorate the Bloody Tragedy of the Fifth of March, 1770

Fri, 03/15/2019 - 3:03pm -- baglio

This week's spotlight on the collection, written by Katherine A. Cassetta, focuses on a copy of an oration provided by Dr. Joseph Warren on the events known today as the Boston Massacre. This commemorative speech will be known officially as An Oration; Delivered March Sixth, 1775. At the Request of the Inhabitants of the Town of Boston; to Commemorate the Bloody Tragedy of the Fifth of March, 1770.  The details of which will be described below.

Photo Coutesy of Brandon Aglio

Dr. Joseph Warren delivered his oration on March 6, 1775. This was five years after the

Boston Massacre which occurred on March 5, 1770. Dr. Warren had been asked to deliver this

oration at the request of those in Boston. He gave it at a meeting which occurred in the Old South

Meeting House.

Request of the Freeholders of Boston to deliver the oration.

Photo courtesy of Brandon Aglio

Captain Thomas Preston was the officer on duty who commanded the men of the 29th Regiment of Foot, the British regiment who

fired into the mob on March 5, 1770.

Dr. Warren doesn’t focus on the massacre itself however,

although he does mention the grief experienced by the families of those killed. Instead his

oration is a call to action. He speaks about how Britain did not care for the colonies until the land

was cultivated, and once this happened, Britain benefitted from the colonies’ success. Warren

argued the colonists had a right to the fruits of their labor, but Britain wanted to tax them for

these. Along with taking what the colonists owned, he stated that Britain envied America

because of America’s success.

When he describes the grief the massacre caused, Warren makes it clear Britain is the one

who caused this. Instead of submitting, he calls for a stand to preserve liberty since God made

men free and will aid them. He emphasizes that hardships bring out the virtues in people unlike

ease which only encourages sloth.

Photo Courtesy of Brandon Aglio

Dr. Warren states his reason for giving this oration as being an obligation to his country.

This is the same reason he gives for agreeing to the copy made of his oration which the press

wanted. The publisher of this copy is S. Southwick in Queen Street. Solomon Southwick lived in

Newport, Rhode Island. He worked as a printer and publisher, and he was the one who published

this copy of Dr. Warren’s oration. Southwick was a Patriot who later printed copies of the Declaration


of Independence and Common Sense by Thomas Paine. He also served the Newport Mercury as editor and publisher.