The Year Was 1770

boston massacre.bmpThe year was 1770 and tensions that had been building in the American colonies erupted on the evening of 5 March with the Boston Massacre. Much of the tension had been brought on by the enforcement of the Townshend Acts in 1767. These acts imposed a tax on imported paper, lead, paint, glass, and tea, and suspended the New York Assembly for not complying with the Quartering Acts of 1765.

Although there was hostility on both sides on the night of the massacre, engravings of the incident immediately began being circulated that helped stir up American anger towards the British. Eventually the British captain, Thomas Preston, and eight other soldiers, were tried for the deaths of five Americans, including its most famous victim, Crispus Attucks, an African American who would become the first casualty of the American Revolution. 

Future American President, John Adams, was among the lawyers on the defense team for the soldiers. All but two of the soldiers were acquitted and they had their charges reduced to manslaughter under a medieval relic called “benefit of clergy” that allowed them to escape the death penalty.

Another lesser known skirmish had taken place in January in New York where a Liberty Pole had been set up. When British troops came to cut down the pole, a fight ensued that led to several injuries, but no fatalities.

In Russia, the Black Death appeared in 1770 and by 1772 it had claimed more than 200,000 lives.

Lieutenant James Cook charted and claimed for England the eastern Australian coast in 1770, which was named New South Wales. The “First Fleet” would land eighteen years later in 1788, establishing the penal colony that would eventually grow to include about 165,000 men and women who were transported there and to Tasmania. For more information relating to Australian convict records, and for links to related Ancestry databases, read Sherry Irvine’s article on the subject from the 20 August 2007 Ancestry Weekly Journal.

In England an English weaver named James Hargreaves received a patent for his manually operated “spinning jenny” that operated sixteen spindles using only one wheel. The invention increased productivity and decreased the need for labor so much that angry spinners broke into his house and destroyed the devices because it threatened their livelihood.

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2 thoughts on “The Year Was 1770

  1. Note that Captain Cook did not claim New South Wales for England. Perhaps the name he chose NS WALES should have been a clue. England is only one of three countries making up Great Britain since the union of the Parliaments of England and Scotland in 1707.

    In genealogy we need to refer to the separate countries because Scotland and England&Wales have separate registration and census records.

    Note that the United Kingdom refers to Great Britain plus Northern Ireland.


  2. My Grandson is a History teacher at High School Level, and
    he delights receiving the copies of “The year was”

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