Mar 252013

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.””

That exact scenario was thrusts upon the Colonists in 1765 with the passage of the Quartering Act.  The British couched the Act in terms of the necessity of providing continued safety for the Colonies after the French and Indian War. Although many of the Colonial Assemblies had provided food and shelter during the war, 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. In 1765 and 1774, the Mutiny Acts had amendments that specifically referred to the Colonies in North America.  

We think of the 1774 Quartering Act as one of the Intolerable Acts. However, the Mutiny Act of 1765 was far more intolerable than what was implemented in 1774. ­­­It required that the following places be made available to British Troops for as long as seven days if space in barracks were unavailable for them:   “inns, livery stables, ale-houses, victualling-houses, and the houses of sellers of wine by retail to be drank in their own houses or places thereunto belonging, and all houses of persons selling of rum, brandy, strong water, cyder or metheglin, by retail, to be drank in houses.” They 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” As you will learn later, originally the bill proposed in Parliament included private homes. Who paid for all of this? Local governments were required to compensate anyone who quartered the troops. Of course, that requirement ultimately resulted in taxes being placed on local residents.  

After 1500 British troops arrived in the port of New York, the New York Assembly saw the writing on the way and petitioned the royal governor for relief. They stated: “it appears to be the Intention of the Legislature to provide for the quartering Soldiers only on a March; but according to the Construction [interpretation] put on it here, it is required that all the Forces which shall at any Time enter this Colony, shall be quartered during the whole Year, in a very unusual and expensive Manner: That by marching several Regiments into this Colony, this Expense would become ruinous and insupportable; And, therefore, we cannot consistent with our Duty to our Constituents, put it in the Power of any Person . . . to lay such a Burden on them.” In a letter to Henry Home on February 25, 1767, Benjamin Franklin noted that the Quartering Act, as initiallly proposed, in Parliament included private homes on the list of dwellings in which troops could be quartered. He further wrote that the Pennsylvania Assembly had already created a tax to pay for housing troops, but New York had refused to do so because of the “internal Tax laid on them by Parliament, which has no Right so to do.” He promised if “Force is us’d, great Mischief will ensue, the Affections of the People of America to this Country will be alienated, your Commerce will be diminished, and a total Separation of Interests be the final Consequence. . . . In the meantime, every Act of Oppression will sour their empers, 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. And yet there remains among that People so much Respect, Veneration and Affection for Britain that, if cultivated prudently, with kind Usage and Tenderness for their Privileges, they might be easily govern’d still for Ages without Force or any considerable Expense. But I do not see here a sufficient Quantity of the Wisdom that is necessary to produce such a Conduct, and I lament the Want of it.” The Parliament responded to the Assembly by passing the New York Restraining Act which suspended the Assembly until it chose to comply with the Quartering Act. The Assembly chose to acquiesce despite cries of protest from individuals such as John Dickson in one of his Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies.

The situation turned out quite differently in Massachusetts. Although there were barracks for British Troops on Castle Island (built with funds provided by the Colonists), the Townshend Revenue Acts of 1767 had so angered local citizens that British Officers felt the need to have troops in close proximity to the port city of Boston. In an attempt to ruffle as few colonial feathers as possible, the officers decided to have troops “quartered” in a tent city of sort on the Boston Common rather than in private homes. However, the close proximity of the soldiers and outraged Bostonians quickly increased the level of conflict and ultimately resulted in the Boston Massacre.  

The Quartering Act of 1774 was not only shorter, but less burdensome than the 1765 act as well. In less than 400 words, Colonists were told that they must house, but not feed, British troops. They were to be 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.

Even though the Quartering Act of 1774 was a kinder and gentler version of the earlier act, it 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 from the Colonists’ reaction to the impositions thrust upon them by the Parliament in the Quartering Acts of 1765 and 1774. It was in the nature of our forefathers to resist impositions unjustly placed on them by governmental authorities. The attached image is the center square of my Conservative Principles and Tea Party Principles Bingo Games that are available at:

Read the text of the 1765 Quartering Act at:

Read the text of the 1774 Quartering Act at:



[suffusion-the-author display='description']

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.