In part 1 of this foray into almost forgotten colonial history, we explored the tensions that had arisen over a period of several years over the hated Townshend Acts, laws enacted from the far away British Parliament which placed taxes, or increased tariffs, on many goods imported from Great Britain. Tax protests soon erupted throughout the British American colonies, none more intense than in and around Boston, in the British colony of Massachusetts. It was in one of these “angry mob” protests, on February 22, 1770, that 11-year-old Christopher Seider, who had involved himself (accidentally or on purpose—no one knows), lost his life and became to be considered by his countrymen as the first martyr for the cause of American freedom.
Last time, we left British Loyalist Theophilus Lillie, a Boston merchant, facing an increasingly angry mob of hotheads (incited, without doubt, by members of The Sons of Liberty), cowering in his store, praying that the British soldiers would protect him from the wrath of hordes of Bostonians who took great umbrage over his and other Loyalist merchants’ refusal to support the boycott of various British goods, upon which Parliament had placed additional tariffs (taxes) to help pay the huge debts incurred during the French and Indian War. Apparently, Mr. Lillie had a long record of pro-British, pro-tariff support, because the patriots of Boston had previously placed an unflattering effigy of Lillie outside of his store, to wam other would-be customers that Lillie was a Loyalist to the Crown, and it was considered ‘unpatriotic’ to purchase goods from him.
It was into this angry protest that Ebenezer Richardson, an employee of the Crown’s Customs Office, happened upon the protesting mob in front of Mr. Lillie’s store, a mob that was engaged in throwing stones at his windows, and carrying protest signs. Unfortunately for Richardson, he was already a hated Loyalist himself, having on previous occasions informed the Governor’s Attorney General of the activities of the patriots of Boston. The crowd of protestors quickly recognized Richardson and tumed their wrath upon him, and began throwing stones at him, at least one of which struck him in the head. He quickly retreated from the melee and ran to his nearby house, with the angry mob chasing him. Richardson barricaded himself in his house, while the large group of protestors pelted his house with rocks.
History has recorded that it was at this time that young Christopher Seider was walking back to the Widow Apthorp’s house when he came upon and joined (7) his fellow rioting citizens in front of Richardson’s besieged house. Rocks thrown by the mob broke through the windows, and Richardson’s wife was struck. Mr. Richardson later claimed that he panicked and, fearing for his and his wife’s lives, he loaded one or more of his muskets and began to fire through his broken windows into the crowd. Sadly, 11-year-old Christopher, who had come upon a decisive moment in history, was struck twice by Richardson’s musket balls, once in the chest and once in his arm. He died later that evening, never realizing that his death may have been the event that eventually precipitated our American Revolution.
Mr. Richardson’s defense of his home and life also wounded several other protestors, which so infuriated the crowd that he had to be rescued by a squad of nearby British soldiers and taken into custody. Founding Father Samuel Adams arranged Christopher’s funeral, and over 2000 Bostonians attended. The killing of this ll-year-old boy and his large public funeral totally outraged the people of Boston, and it reached its peak just eleven days later, when a squad of British soldiers was harassed and threatened by a mob of patriots, precipitating the infamous “Boston Massacre”. Ebenezer Richardson was eventually tried for the murder of the young boy and was found guilty. He served two years in prison and was then pardoned by the Royal Governor, who declared that he had acted in defense of his own life and his wife’s life. He was given a promotion in the British Customs Service. These events became the source of further major colonialist grievances against the British Crown.
There was a huge funeral parade from “The Liberty Tree” to the Granary Burial ground for Christopher. Posters were distributed all over Boston that demanded his death be avenged. The March 2, 1770 issue of the New Hampshire Gazette, described the public outrage over young Seider’s death: “This innocent lad is the first, whose LIFE has been a victim to the cruelty and rage of Oppressorsl Young as he was, he died in his country ’s cause, by the hand of an execrable villain, directed by others, who could not bear to see the enemies of America made the ridicule of boys. The untimely death of this amiable youth will be a standing monument to futurity, there the time has been when innocence itself was not safe! The blood of you Alien may be covered in Britain: But a thorough inquisition will be made in America for that of young Seider, which crieth for vengeance, like the blood of righteous Abel. And surely, if justice has not been driven from its seat, speedy vengeance awaits his murderers and their accomplices, however secure they may think themselves present. For those who sheddeth, or procureth the shedding of Man ’s Blood, by MAN SHALL HIS BLOOD BE SHED.”
A velvet “pall”, or covering, was placed over Christopher’s coffin, with Latin words on it that said: “The serpent is lurking in the grass. The fatal dart is thrown. Innocence is nowhere safe.” I can’t even imagine any representative of our present day “main stream media” saying similar things regarding the loss of innocent life that happens in our time, such as the wanton violence and murder that occurs in many of our large cities, and the continued murder of the unborn innocents for the sake of “convenience”.
Now you know at least some of the life story of 11-year-old Christopher Seider, who has often been referred to as the First Martyr of the American Revolution, although most Americans have forgotten, or never knew, his name. If you go to Boston, someday, be sure to go to Old Granary Burial Ground, right next to Park Street Church. Stand in front of the grave marker of the five patriots who were killed during the Boston Massacre, which includes a sixth name: Christopher Seider (misspelled ‘Snider’). Did his death truly start the train of events that resulted in the Creation of the United States of America? YOU decide!