Path to the Revolution: Quartering Acts
The Quartering Acts were one of the organizations, events and legislation in the aftermath of the French and Indian War that would lead us to the American Revolution including:
- Committees of Correspondence
- Pontiac’s War
- Sugar Act
- Quartering Acts
- Stamp Act
- Declaratory Act
- Townshend Acts
- Boston Massacre
- Tea Act
- Boston Tea Party
- Intolerable Acts
- Continental Congress
- Common Sense by Thomas Paine
- Declaration of Independence
The Quartering Acts were two or more Acts of British Parliament requiring local governments of the American colonies to provide the British soldiers with housing and food. Each of the Quartering Acts was an amendment to the Mutiny Act and required annual renewal by Parliament. They were originally intended as a response to issues that arose during the French and Indian War and soon became a source of tensions between the inhabitants of the Thirteen Colonies and the government in London. These tensions would later lead toward the American Revolution.
Quartering Act of 1765
General Thomas Gage, commander-in-chief of forces in British North America, and other British officers who had fought in the French and Indian War, had found it hard to persuade colonial assemblies to pay for quartering and provisioning of troops on the march and he asked Parliament to do something. Most colonies had supplied provisions during the war, but the issue was disputed in peacetime. The Province of New York was their headquarters, because the assembly had passed an Act to provide for the quartering of British regulars, but it expired on January 2, 1764. The result was the Quartering Act of 1765, which went far beyond what Gage had requested. No standing army had been kept in the colonies before the French and Indian War, so the colonies asked why a standing army was needed after the French had been defeated in battle.
This first Quartering Act was given Royal Assent on May 15, 1765 and provided that Great Britain would house its soldiers in American barracks and public houses, as by the Mutiny Act 1765, but if its soldiers outnumbered the housing available, would quarter them in “inns, livery stables, ale houses, victualing houses, and the houses of sellers of wine and houses of persons selling of rum, brandy, strong water, cider or metheglin”, and if numbers required in “uninhabited houses, outhouses, barns, or other buildings.” Colonial authorities were required to pay the cost of housing and feeding these soldiers.
When 1,500 British troops arrived at New York City in 1766 the New York Provincial Assembly refused to comply with the Quartering Act and did not supply billeting for the troops. The troops had to remain on their ships. With its great impact on the city, a skirmish occurred in which one colonist was wounded following the Assembly’s refusal to provide quartering. For failure to comply with the Quartering Act, Parliament suspended the Province of New York’s Governor and legislature in 1767 and 1769, but never carried it out, since the Assembly soon agreed to contribute money toward the quartering of troops; the New York Assembly allocated funds for the quartering of British troops in 1771. The Quartering Act was circumvented in all colonies other than Pennsylvania, and the act expired on March 24, 1776.
Quartering Act of 1774
The Quartering Act 1774 was known as one of the Coercive Acts in Great Britain, and as part of the intolerable acts in the colonies. The Quartering Act applied to all of the colonies, and sought to create a more effective method of housing British troops in America. In a previous act, the colonies had been required to provide housing for soldiers, but colonial legislatures had been uncooperative in doing so. The new Quartering Act allowed a governor to house soldiers in other buildings if suitable quarters were not provided. While many sources claim that the Quartering Act allowed troops to be billeted in occupied private homes, historian David Ammerman’s 1974 study claimed that this is a myth, and that the act only permitted troops to be quartered in unoccupied buildings,
Significance of Quartering Acts
A section of the United States Declaration of Independence listing the colonies’ grievances against the King explicitly notes:
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us.
The Third Amendment to the United States Constitution, expressly prohibited the military from peacetime quartering of troops without consent of the owner of the house. A product of their times, the relevance of the Acts and the Third Amendment has greatly declined since the era of the American Revolution.
The Quartering Act was probably one of the reasons for the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits infringing on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Standing armies were mistrusted, and the First Congress considered quartering of troops to have been one of the tools of oppression before and during the American revolution.
- Back to the myths of the quartering act. (2008, March 24). Boston 1775. https://boston1775.blogspot.com/2008/03/back-to-myths-of-quartering-act.html
- Founders online: Mutiny act, [4 November 1756]. (n.d.). Founders Online. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-07-02-0003
- Quartering acts. (2003, October 1). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved January 6, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartering_Acts
- Thomas gage. (n.d.). Info:Main Page – New World Encyclopedia. https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Thomas_Gage