“AND WHEREAS our Commisioners for managing causing to be levied & collected our customs subsidies other duties have by Commission or Deputation their hands & seal dated at London the 22d day of in the first year of our Reign deputed and Charles Paxton Esq to be Surveyor & Searcher of all rates and duties arising and growing due to us at Boston our Province aforesaid and in & by said Comision Deputation have given him power to enter into any Bottom Boat or other Vessel & also into any Shop Warehouse Hostery or other place whatsoever to diligent search into any trunk chest pack case truss any other parcel or package whatsoever for any wares or merchandize prohibited to be imported or ex ported or whereof the Customs or other Duties have been duly paid and the same to seize to our use In things proceeding as the Law directs.”
The above text is of a writ of assistance issued by a Massachusetts provincial court in 1761. Imagine living in a time when your home, your business, or any property which you owned could be entered and searched at any time. So it was for the American Colonists. It was this particular writ, issued to Charles Paxton, that led to the five hour argument by James Otis in another courtroom in 1762. His oration is often referenced as a spark that fanned the flames of discontent which led to the American Revolution.
Please take a moment to consider what life in America would be like if we did not have the guarantees given to us by the Fourth Amendment. Those liberties assured for us in the first ten Amendments to the Constitution are What IS Right With America.
The attached image is a 1751 drawing by Nathaniel Hurd of the Old State Court House in Boston where James Otis delivered his famous speech against writs of assistance.