8 5MAHMP: Not in My House! The Quartering Acts of 1765 and 1774
What was “the Quartering Act? What was the reaction to the Quartering Acts of 1765 and 1774? In particular how did Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Dickson react to the Quartering Act of 1765 and the subsequent suspension of the New York Assembly? Which Amendment in our Bill of Rights is a direct result of the coercive Quartering acts.
What turned the slow simmer within many colonist to a rage so fierce that it erupted and led to incidents such as the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party? It was the “Intolerable Acts” which were four acts passed by the British Parliament following the Boston Tea Party. The British referred to them as the “Coercive Acts,” and they were intended to bring the Colonies back into line and compliant with British rule. Many colonists viewed these acts as a violation of their rights as British citizens
Let’s focus on one of the Intolerable Acts and the act which preceded it. It is known as the “Quartering Act.” Many view this act as the “least intolerable” of the Intolerable Acts, but in combination with an earlier act passed by the Parliament, it was absolutely intolerable to those colonists who had British troops thrust into their lives and onto their property.
“Quartering” is not a term that is commonly used today. You might think of a quarter coin, a quarter of a cup, or even a quarter horse. But the term , as it was used in the acts, referred to living quarters. Specifically, quarters that were needed to house members of the British military. In 1763, before the passage of the first Quartering Act, the British debt has soared to almost 130 million pounds. Remember that is in the value of 1763 pounds. Although I am not guaranteeing the accuracy of this to the shilling, a historical currency converter that I used converted that amount into more than 3 billon of today’s British pounds. That is more than four billion in today’s dollars. Needless to say, the British had a substantial amount of debt.
The French and Indian War had concluded and the British had the problem of what to do with all of those soldiers stationed in the colonies. Although British officials spoke for decades about the need to have military personnel in the Colonies to defend them, it was actually less expensive to leave the on the North American Continent than it would be to bring them all home, and reintegrate them into British society (read that as find them all jobs).
When you think of the term “quartering” as something akin to “housing”…Talk about intolerable! Imagine being told people would soon be knocking on your door. You would be responsible for providing bedding, food, cooking supplies, and firewood. All this would be done in the name of “providing suitable Quarters for Officers and Soldiers in his Majesty’s Service in North America.””
And that was exactly the scenario that was thrust upon the Colonists in 1765 with the passage of the first Quartering Act. Although many of the Colonial Assemblies had provided food and shelter during the war for the soldiers, they objected to the continuation of that practice during peacetime.
The Quartering Acts were written as addendum to two of the British Mutiny Acts which had been passed yearly by the British Parliament since 1689. The Mutiny Act of 1765 was far more intolerable than the Intolerable Act of 1774. The 1765 act was entitled: An act for punishing mutiny and desertion, and for the better payment of the army and their quarters.
It required that places such as inns, livery stables, and the houses of sellers of wine, be made available to British Troops for as long as seven days if space in barracks were unavailable for them. Further, soldiers could also access “uninhabited houses, outhouses, barns or other buildings.” The owners of these dwellings were also required to provide “diet, and small beer, cyder, or rum mixed with water.” If an innholder provided shelter for British troops there was the additional requirement of “candles, vinegar, and salt, and with small beer or cyder, not exceeding five pints, or half a pint of rum mixed with a quart of water, for each man per diem, gratis, and allow to such non-commission officers or soldiers the use of fire, and the necessary utensils for dressing and eating their meat” Local governments were required to compensate anyone who quartered the troops. Of course, that requirement ultimately resulted in taxes being placed on local residents. One can imagine that many of these local innholders or homeowners absorbed some or much of the costs on their own.
After 1500 British troops arrived in the Port of New York, the New York Assembly saw the writing on the wall and petitioned the royal governor for relief.
In response, the Parliament passed an “Act for restraining and prohibiting the Governor, Council, and House of Representatives, of the Province of New York, until Provision shall have been made for furnishing the King’s Troops.” The Assembly chose to acquiesce before they even knew about the restraining order passed by the Parliament. They did so despite cries of protest rose from individuals such as John Dickson. After the Quartering Act was passed, Dickson wrote a letter, published in the New York Journal under the pseudonym of “A Farmer” encouraging New Yorkers, and the other colonists to band together and resist the tyrannical acts of the British Parliament. However, the Assembly chose to acquiesce before they had learned of the suspension, but continued to deny that the Parliament had the right to require any colonial assembly to act in a way that would require them to dispense funds.
Another letter from “A Farmer” appeared in the Pennsylvania Chronicle and Universal Advertiser on December 2, 1767. In the letter, Dickson wrote: “My dear COUNTRYMEN, . . . IF the British Parliament has a legal authority to issue an order that we shall furnish a single article for the troops here, and to compel obedience to that order, they have the same right to issue an order for us supply those troops with arms, clothes, and every necessary, and to compel obedience to that order also; in short, to lay any burdens they please upon us.”
The colonial angst and upset regarding the Quartering Act of 1765 was also expressed to others in Europe. In a letter to his friend Lord Kames, , Benjamin Franklin wrote that the New York Assembly’s actions were being labled as “Rebellion.”
Franklin went onto make a great many points as to why he felt the Parliament had no right to lay taxes on the colonists, as well as the mischief that would ensue if the British attempted to bring the colonists into submission. He ended his letter with an ominous prediction regarding the colonists which the Parliament ultimately would not heed: “every Act of Oppression will sour their Tempers, lessen greatly if not annihilate the Profits of your Commerce with them, and hasten their final Revolt: For the Seeds of Liberty are universally sown there, and nothing can eradicate them.”
The Quartering Act of 1774 was not only shorter, but less burdensome than the 1765 act as well. Colonists given twenty-four hours’ notice that uninhabited houses, out-houses, barns, or “other buildings” deemed appropriate could be used. There was no language that ruled out the use of private homes.
However, the Quartering Act of 1774 fanned the flames of unrest in the Colonies. The Declaration of Independence specifically referenced the maintenance of a standing army during a time of peace, quartering large bodies of armed troops, and imposing taxes without consent from the Colonies amongst the King’s injustices. The prohibition from quartering troops in private homes, as written in the Third Amendment to our Constitution, specifically stems the Quartering Acts of 1765 and 1774.
Additionally, it was the combination of the Townshend Acts and the Quartering acts which placed soldiers in close proximaity to outraged Bostonians and ultimately resulted in the Boston Massacre.
Many of the documents I have referenced are available in their entirety on my website.
Until next time, this is Dr. Susan Rempel encouraging you to remain motivated, vigilant, and engaged in the political process. Visit my website, www.bingoforpatriots.com, with more than 500 pages of documents, products, and information designed to motivate the modern patriot.
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