After the French and Indian War, several acts were passed by the British Parliament to overcome the challenges of the British Empire.
One of these acts was called the Quartering Act and was passed in 1765 and then again in 1774.
The Quartering Act was passed primarily to solve the problems of accommodating the British soldiers in colonial America. It was a part of a 200 year-long series of acts called the Mutiny Acts.
The seven-year long war with the French and Native Americans had drained the British resources and plunged her into debt.
The parliament tried to exact the losses of the war by levying taxes on the American colonists.
Though the Quartering Act did not directly tax the colonists in the form of money, it did impose the cost of food and housing for the soldiers on the legislative assemblies of every state.
The American colonists deeply resented the Quartering Act as they felt forced to pay for soldiers that they did not need.
The American colonists refused to comply with the Quartering Act because they felt that it was a sly tactic to force them to pay taxes to the British government.
The Quartering Act was one of the 4 acts passed by the British parliament after the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
The acts were punitive in nature and passed with the intention to exert control on the American colonies.
Hence, they came to be known as Intolerable Acts in America and the Coercive Acts in England.
The Quartering Act together with the other Intolerable Acts laid the foundation for an organized resistance against the British Empire.
The tensions caused between the colonists and the government in London as a result of these acts ultimately led to the American Revolutionary War and the independence of the United States from Great Britain.
During the French and Indian War from 1756 to 1763, the British troops had taken shelter in private homes despite the provisions of the Mutiny Act which prohibited the British soldiers from living in private homes against the will of the owner.
The British Army present in the colonies paid no heed to the Mutiny Act issued in 1723, 1754, and 1756 which worried the colonists because they viewed it as a violation of their rights and destruction of their liberties.
They also felt that the British Army should not be able to supersede the civil authorities especially because the parliament strictly forbade the illegal quartering of soldiers through the Mutiny Act.
The assembly of Pennsylvania held a meeting to reject any quartering bill that would force the owners to accommodate soldiers in their homes. They recommended that the issue of housing the soldiers can be solved by using public buildings instead of private homes.
However, due to the harsh winter conditions of that year, Colonel Henry Bouquet asked the governor of Pennsylvania, William Denny, to issue a warrant which allowed him to quarter the troops is not just the private homes but also other available buildings.
The governor of Pennsylvania allowed Colonel Bouquet to decide how the quartering of the soldiers can be conducted due to pressure from army officer Lord Loudoun.
This enraged the Pennsylvania assembly, however, instead of vetoing the bill, they requested to know how many soldiers can be housed in a single private home.
There was no satisfactory answer provided to the assembly members which made them defend their constitutional rights guaranteed by the British parliament.
Benjamin Franklin attempted to resolve the conflict by suggesting that the British troops be quartered on the outskirts of the city as there was more space there.
However, governor Denny refused the idea prompting the colonists to ask why the governor was against them when the parliament had favored the colonists under the provisions of the Mutiny Act.
A similar situation was taking place in Albany, New York where the mayor was in the process of building barracks for Loudoun’s troops.
About $1000 were allocated for the purpose, however, before the barracks could be completed the troops arrived.
Lord Loudoun asked the mayor to provide private homes to shelter the troops in the meanwhile. The mayor strongly refused which led to the forceful takeover of private homes by the British troops.
In Boston Massachusetts, the barracks were successfully built for 1000 soldiers at Castle William.
The colonists hoped that the accommodations would be sufficient and Lord Loudoun would honor the provisions of the Mutiny Act.
However, Lord Loudoun was not able to contain the French and Indians in northern New York during this time and argued that a military crisis such as this one made it acceptable for the soldiers to be housed in private homes.
The Bostonians tried to secure their rights and give in to the demands of Lord Loudoun by allowing the colonists to complain if there were too many soldiers in a single home.
This bothered Lord Loudoun enough to threaten Bostonians with the same action he took in New York, i.e. a forceful takeover of the private homes.
In December 1764, the legislature of Massachusetts was able to limit the quartering of the troops to Castle William despite Lord Loudoun’s threats, thus upholding their rights.
The colonists had provided supplies and accommodations during the time of war. They simply could not continue to do so after the war as well. Therefore, many British officers and the colonists frequently conflicted and tensions kept on growing.
Finally, General Thomas Gage along with Major James Robertson requested the parliament to come up with a solution for the housing issues of the British troops in North America.
The parliament responded with the Quartering Act on May 15, 1765, which was aimed at solving the issues between the officers and the colonists while coming up with decent accommodation facilities for the troops.
What did the Quartering Act Entail?
The first Quartering Act issued in 1765, reinforced the provisions of the Mutiny Act which allowed British troops to be housed in American Barracks and Public houses.
However, if the barracks and public houses fall insufficient then inns, livery stables, alehouses, victualing houses, wine and rum houses, barns, outhouses, uninhabited houses, and other such buildings are to be used.
Under no circumstances were the private homes to be used for the purpose of housing the soldiers. The housing and food costs, however, would be borne by the colonial authorities.
The colonists were satisfied that the Quartering Act of 1765 prevented the forceful occupation of their homes by the soldiers, although they still resented the presence of troops on American soil post the French and Indian War.
In 1766, about 1500 British troops were sent to New York City but the New York assembly was not ready to receive them. The troops were stuck on the ships and eventually, a quarrel between the colonists and the troops resulted in injuries.
As a punishment, the parliament suspended the governor and the legislature of New York, however, a deal was reached and the assembly agreed to pitch in money for quartering the troops.
When the first Quartering act expired a new one passed in 1774 took its place. It was one of the 4 Intolerable Acts passed with the intention to punish the colonies after the Boston Tea Party incident in 1773.
The Quartering Act of 1774 applied to all colonies equally and was formed to create better arrangements to station British troops in America.
The new act was different from the first one because it allowed the governor to accommodate the soldiers in appropriate buildings if the colonial legislatures failed to do so.
Many people believed that this act allowed the British parliament to occupy colonial homes against their wishes, but in truth, the act only allowed the governor to use unoccupied buildings.
The Quartering Act of 1774 came along with 3 other acts that were viewed as violations of the natural and constitutional rights of the American colonists.
They were The Boston Port Act, the Massachusetts Government Act, and the Administration of Justice Act.
Causes and Impacts of the Quartering Act
The French and Indian War came to an end in 1763 after seven years of continuous battle In Europe as well as in the colonies of North America.
The victory of Britain against France and Spain meant that all the colonies in North America and the Caribbeans which belonged to the rivals were under the British authority.
The colonials had fought alongside the British troops against the French and the Native Americans in the war. They did not object to the British take over of the colonial provinces.
However, trouble began to brew when King George III issued the Proclamation of 1763. It restricted colonial expansion into the Ohio Country without the permission of the Crown.
It also put restrictions on the trade and commerce activities with the Native Americans.
This interference of the British government was not welcome by the colonists and it did not stop them from settling in the Indian Reserve.
Things became tenser when the British government began imposing taxes on the colonists in order to pay off the debts incurred during the war.
The British felt that the war was fought for the colonists, therefore, it is only fair that they are made to pay their share in the losses. The cost of stationing soldiers and other officers in America was also to be borne by Americans according to them.
The colonists, on the other hand, argued that they contributed to the war as much as the British and suffered equal losses due to it. They did not believe that they owed anything to the Crown.
Moreover, they argued that the presence of British troops in America was unnecessary after the war as there was no standing army before the war.
The distrust against the British government grew with the introduction of the Sugar Act in 1764 and the Stamp Act in 1765 which forced the colonies to pay taxes to the British government.
The colonials responded with several protests that forced the British government to concede to the demands of the people. However, another attempt to tax Americans was soon made in 1767 through the Townshend Acts.
The Americans objected to the taxes on the motto of ‘No Taxation Without Representation’ because they feared that the British government was trying to enslave them and enrich the British coffers.
Their resistance again forced the British parliament to backtrack on their actions. The Townshend Acts were repealed shortly thereafter and the Tea Act was passed instead.
Even though the Americans understood the need to raise taxes in order to run the government, they did not want to comply with the British laws as they took away the autonomy of the Americans and supported the corrupt politicians of the British regime.
This anguish could clearly be seen in the Boston Tea Party incident in 1773, where a group of colonists called the ‘sons of liberty’ boarded the ships that contained the tea and dumped it into the water.
This act of rebellion sent shockwaves through Great Britain and the parliament unanimously passed a set of acts that were meant to punish the colonies and isolate the American rebels.
The Boston Port Act was passed to exact the losses for the destruction of the tea, the Massachusetts Government Act dissolved the legislative assembly and brought the state under the British parliament while the Administration of Justice Act allowed British officers to hold their trials in Britain or any other place except America.
Though the Quartering act was applied to every colony, it was viewed with the same repulsion as the other three because it infringed on the Americans’ rights to refuse accommodating soldiers in their home or other property.
Quartering of soldiers in homes was considered as one of the tools of oppression used by the British against America.
The Intolerable Acts ultimately led to the formation of the committees of correspondence and set the stage for the American Revolutionary War.