Old State House

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Old State House

The Old State House in Boston, Massachusetts, is the oldest historic building in Boston that is still standing. A part of Boston's historic Freedom Trail, it was the location of the New World's first elected legislature. Constructed in 1713, it originally served as a Merchant's Exchange. The Royal Governor's Council Chamber was on the second floor, as was the chambers for The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the Courts of Suffolk County. In 1761, James Otis gave one of his great speeches against the Writs of Assistance in a trial in the Royal Chamber. This speech was one that led to the American Revolution. This is also the location, where on July 18, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read aloud from the balcony to a joyous crowd gathered below.

For the next few years, the building served as the home of the Massachusetts State Government until a new building was constructed for this purpose in 1798. Soon after, use of the building converted back to strict commercial use, until it's exterior appearance was restored in 1881. The building, since then, has remained a historical landmark dedicated to the history of America. In modern times, the location of the Old State House is in downtown Boston, and the gleaming glass towers of the city's Financial District surround it, dwarfing it's size. Directly underneath the State House, a subway station for the MBTA Blue and Orange Lines was built, and to that end, the State House remains a very important location in modern-day Boston. Directly in front of the Old State House, along the Freedom Trail, is a cobblestone traffic circle. This cobblestone ring is significant in Boston history as being the location of The Boston Massacre.

The cobblestone ring is where, on March 5th, 1770, British troops attacked the colonists citizens. This reasons for this attack took place a short time before, due to the reaction of Britain's Townsend Acts. These acts, passed in 1767, demanded a large tax to be placed on all common products that were imported to America. This treatment, viewed as largely unfair by the colonists, made everyday products painfully expensive. With the Americans resenting the tax, more British troops were sent in to make sure the laws were upheld. The increased military presence caused several smaller fights between the civilians and the soldiers in the days before the Massacre. Peace seemed to rest on a pinhead, and the shooting of civilians by British troops was the climax of the uneasy tension.

The initial confrontation begun when a colonist yelled across the street to a British officer about an overdue barber bill (the colonist worked in the barber shop). In reality, the account had already been paid but the young colonist was not aware of this, and continued in his vocal, public criticism of the officer. Eventually the officer and his troops responded to the colonist by clubbing him on the head. The colonist companions returned with a mob of more colonists, which eventually included dockworkers and sailors, all of whom begun throwing items such as ice and bottles at the also-growing gang of soldiers. This led to a tense stand-off between the two angry groups. In the commotion, an officer whom was struck by ice fired his weapon, as did most of the other soldiers, into the mob of colonists. Eleven men were hit; five died and six survived. This event led to an ever-escalating cause of colonial uprising against the British, culminating in the American Revolution within five years.

Today, many years after the eventual defeat of the British, The Bostonian Society houses a museum in the building, as well as preserves the upper floor chambers. It is open almost daily for tours.

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