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Boston`s Revolutionary Past

Monday, November 14, 2011

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The city of Boston is known worldwide for its seafood, especially lobster. As any resident or visitor of Boston would note, the city resembles a European costal city, decked with cathedrals and Gothic and Victorian buildings. Little do people know that Boston is one of the oldest cities of the original 13 colonies and houses the Old State House, which played a pivotal role in fostering the American Revolution.

The city of Boston was founded in 1630 by Puritan colonists from England. After having built the first school in America and the first college in America (later became Harvard college) in 1636, the size of the city swelled dramatically. It would take another hundred years, however, before Christian denominations other than Puritans were accepted in Boston. This eventually resulted in a number of churches to be built in Boston.

In 1657, the Old State House was built in Boston. After two fires, it was restored in 1747 to what it is today. In 1761, James Otis begins lecturing people against the British and stirs patriotic sentiment against the British rule. His famous quotation of “no taxation without representation” was born in the Old State House. At this point, the citizens of Boston were rallying for their rights as British subjects. However, after the Boston Massacre in March 5, 1770 in front of the Old State House, where five Bostonians were killed by British soldiers, the cries for independence grew louder. This was especially troublesome for the British, since the main station for their army in the 13 colonies was Boston, home to more than 3,000 British soldiers. It was under this atmosphere that Samuel Adams, James Otis, John Hancock, and John Adams gathered in the Old State House regularly to debate the future of the 13 colonies.

In an effort to disarm the American militias, which were growing in number around Boston, the British governor of Boston ordered the attack on the American militias in what became known as the Battle of Lexington and Concord in April 1775. Although this was not a major engagement, it soon resulted in the Siege of Boston which lasted 11 months (1775-1776). In an effort to contain the British military forces, the American militias quickly surrounded the town of Boston and prevented the bulk of the British army from moving out. In other words, the American militias besieged their own city as to not allow the British garrison in the city to mobilize and be an active fighting force. It was here that General George Washington became the commander in chief of the militias and oversaw the siege. Nearly a year later, the British finally made a desperate push to break the siege and take control of a hill overlooking Boston, known as Bunker Hill. This resulted in the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 17, 1775. Although the British succeeded in seizing the hill and ending the blockade, their losses were heavy and it bought the American militias elsewhere 11 months of time to assemble an army of 17,000 men and adequately solve their logistical problems. Bunker Hill Monument, which is a 67 meter high obelisk, was erected in 1825 on the 50th anniversary of the battle and is now one of Boston`s most important historic monuments.

After American independence in July 4, 1776, the Old State House served as the first state house for the newly formed Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where John Hancock became its first elected governor. It was later to serve as other functions such as a shopping plaza, city hall, and a post office. In 1798 it was no longer used for government functions and was later converted to a museum in 1881.

Today, the Massachusetts State House, which replaced the Old State House in 1798, serves as the seat of government in Boston. It is noted for its golden dome and is strategically located across the gardens of the Boston Commons (a large public park today). The dome is made of 23 karat gold and sheathed in copper. The land was once owned by John Hancock, Massachusetts’s first governor. Inside the chambers of government is a wooden fish that symbolizes the importance of the fishing industry to the city. Boston is not considered to be the largest city in the United States, but it does have a unique feel that makes it the American capital for history and architecture.


  • [1] Vorhees, M., Boston Encounter, Lonely Planet Publications: Oakland, CA, 2008.
  • [2] Allison, R., The American Revolution: A Concise History, Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK, 2011.

  • Keywords: Boston, United States, Old State House

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