Quartering Act of 1774
[14 Geo. III c. 54]
“An Act for the better providing suitable Quarters for Officers and Soldiers in his Majesty’s Service in North America.”
The Quartering Act of 1774 was one of the Intolerable Acts that precipitated the American Revolution. The quartering of troops was included in the list of grievances contained in the Declaration of Independence. Fifteen years later, America would be an independent nation with a new constitution and Bill of Rights. The Third Amendment was specifically adopted to prevent the quartering of troops during peacetime. Pictured above is an engraving by Paul Revere which was less than completely accurate but politically powerful nonetheless.
Requirements of the Quartering Acts: The Quartering Act of 1765 (the “first” Quartering Act) required the colonies to provide housing and boarding for British soldiers. If existing barracks were inadequate, soldiers were required to be accommodated in local inns, livery stables, or ale/wine houses. In addition to providing shelter, the colonies were also required to provide food, bedding, beer/liquor, candles, salt, cider, firewood, and eating utensils.
The first Quartering Act only applied to troops in settled areas, not in the frontiers. It did not obligate the colonies to build new barracks or authorize the quartering of troops in private homes.
The Quartering Act of 1774 further expanded the power of royal officials. If “public housing” was insufficient, the colonies were required to take, hire and make fit for the reception of his Majesty’s forces, such and so many uninhabited houses, outhouses, barns, or other buildings as shall be necessary:
And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if it shall happen at any time that any Officers or Soldiers in his Majesty’s service shall remain within any of the said Colonies without Quarters, for the space of twenty-four hours after such Quarters shall have been demanded, it shall and may be lawful for the Governor of the Province to order and direct such and so many uninhabited houses, out-houses, barns, or other buildings, as he shall think necessary to be taken (making a reasonable allowance for the same) and make fit for the reception of such Officers and Soldiers, and to put and quarter such Officers and Soldiers therein, for such time as he shall think proper.
Background: The Quartering Act of 1774 expanded upon the Quartering Act of 1765, which had been adopted following the French and Indian War. The global conflict, also known as the Seven Years’ War, was largely fought in North America. When the long and costly war ended in 1763, France surrendered Canada and its vast territories east of the Mississippi River to England. British Prime Minister Pitt borrowed heavily, however, to finance the war and England’s national debt nearly doubled.
Rather than returning its victorious army to England following the French and Indian War, the Quartering Act of 1765 required the colonies to provide food and lodging for the British soldiers who would remain. By keeping British soldiers housed and fed in America, Parliament could avoid the cost of sending the army home. The army could also be used collect taxes and defend the new territories.
Opposition to the Quartering Acts and defiance by New York: Many opposed the Quartering Acts as an infringement upon local authority, taxation without representation, and a violation of the 1689 English Bill of Rights. The Sons of Liberty initially organized in Boston and New York to resist the Stamp Act, but also opposed the Quartering Act. In January 1766 the New York Assembly refused to comply with the first Quartering Act, requiring new troops to remain on their ships. As the primary port for transportation of British troops, and the burden to house and feed troops disproportionately fell on New York.
In response to New York’s resistance, Parliament suspended the New York Assembly by passing the New York Suspending Act (otherwise known as the New York Restraining Act) in July 1767. [7 Geo. III ch. 59.] The Restraining Act also prohibited the royal governor of New York from signing any additional legislation until New York complied with the Quartering Act. In 1771, the New York Provincial Assembly ultimately allocated funds for the quartering of the British troops but remained defiant.
Pictured below is an engraving by Paul Revere of British ships arriving in Boston in 1768. The barracks were built in Trenton, NJ, in the 1758 to support British troops during the French and Indian War. Officers were housed in the quarters on the right. Today the building is the Old Barracks Museum.